tom moody

Archive for the ‘general’ Category

edison waltz research

Another snippet from Curtis Roads' book Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic, on the topic of the conventionality of Western melodic forms:

Conventional classical and popular styles exhibit a great deal of redundancy in melodic patterns (i.e., parts of many melodies are identical). The tendency of composers to borrow or reinvent an existing tune has been long studied by musicologists. As Thomas Alva Edison (1917) once observed: "I had an examination made of the themes of 2700 waltzes. In the final analysis, they consisted of 43 themes, worked over in various ways." [citations omitted]

You gotta love that hubris of the dilettante one-percenter: "I had an examination made..." What are servants for, after all. If only Bill Gates would examine 2700 waltzes instead of mucking about in charter schools; the world might be a better place. He could even have interns doing it.

- tom moody

April 30th, 2016 at 8:45 am

Posted in general

curtis roads on 12-note ET

Am continuing to read Curtis Roads' book Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic. He has this to say about conventional Western harmony:

A formidable advantage of 12-note ET [equal temperament] over its predecessors was the equality of its intervals. For example, an ET “perfect” fifth interval will sound equivalent no matter which pitches are used to form it; this is not generally true of non-ET tuning systems. Such flexibility means that a composer can write functionally equivalent melodies and chord progressions in any key. It also enables harmonic modulation (i.e., a transition from one key to another by means of a chord common to both). The same flexibility fostered the rise of atonal and serial music and the promulgation of increasingly abstract operations on pitch class sets.

The mother lode of 12-note ET has been mined for 500 years by millions of musicians in innumerable compositions. The tuning is so ingrained that it is virtually impossible to musically express anything new about it. Consider a work for piano; it is constrained by its tuning and timbre from the start. If it is to find novelty, it must seek them not in tuning or timbre, but in other aspects of the composition. This is not to say that it is impossible to express anything new with 12-note ET. However, the new thing is not about the tuning. Rather, the novelty lies elsewhere, for example, in a new interpolation between existing genres, an unusual rhythmic organization, an atypical formal structure, a fresh combination of timbres, a philosophical message, etc.

The pop music industry sometimes manufactures songs that are attractive despite the use of 12-note ET in worn-out harmonic and rhythmic formulas. Yet some combination of elements in the voice, lyrics, audio production, fashion, face, camera angle, lens, setting, hairstyle, body language, stage show, animation, or attitude spawns mass fascination. The familiar melodic and harmonic formula—like the formulaic beat—serves as a comfortable backdrop.

- tom moody

April 30th, 2016 at 8:45 am

Posted in general

stephen fry on leaving the grid

A fine post by British actor/comedian Stephen Fry on "going off the grid" in the Facebook era deserves a moment of your time. This is a man who has paid some dues to say "get off my lawn" -- he has a million Twitter ex-followers. He also uses Linux Ubuntu as his desktop OS, per Wikipedia, so he's taking some steps towards that unwired wired state he is describing. His intended audience is "young people" but everyone should be thinking about this.

But first, what would motivate any young person today to pull the plug?

Well maybe they should consider this for a moment. Who most wants you to stay on the grid? The advertisers. Your boss. Human Resources. The advertisers. Your parents (irony of ironies – once they distrusted it, now they need to tag you electronically, share your Facebook photos and message you to death). The advertisers. The government. Your local authority. Your school. Advertisers.

Well, if you’re young and have an ounce of pride, doesn’t that list say it all? So fuck you, I’m Going Off The Grid.

More stating the obvious but fun to read:

I and millions of other early ‘netizens’ as we embarrassingly called ourselves, joined an online world that seemed to offer an alternative human space, to welcome in a friendly way (the word netiquette was used) all kinds of people with all kinds of views. We were outside the world of power and control. Politicians, advertisers, broadcasters, media moguls, corporates and journalists had absolutely zero understanding of the net and zero belief that it mattered. So we felt like an alternative culture; we were outsiders.

Those very politicians, advertisers, media moguls, corporates and journalists who thought the internet a passing fad have moved in and grabbed the land. They have all the reach, scope, power and ‘social bandwidth’ there is. Everyone else is squeezed out — given little hutches, plastic megaphones and a pretence of autonomy and connectivity. No wonder so many have become so rude, resentful, threatening and unkind.

- tom moody

April 20th, 2016 at 6:42 pm

mean youtube comment of the week

In response to Venetian Snares showing off his exorbitant modular synth setup for a live demo [YouTube], commenter lukas vojir asks:

Did your fruityloops trial period run out?


- tom moody

April 15th, 2016 at 7:48 am

Posted in general

grisey on music's perceptible value

Another excerpt from Curtis Roads' recently-published book, Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic (Oxford, 2015):

[Gérard] Grisey based his rhythmic theory on perception, rejecting approaches based purely on simple mathematical abstractions such as prime numbers, Fibonacci series, and so on. He did not reject mathematics, but he felt that algorithms needed to take perception into account. As he pointed out, in Stockhausen’s Gruppen (1957) for three orchestras, the work’s rhythmic structure is highly organized in terms of tempi but unfathomable to the listener:

The tempi have great structural importance. Who perceives them?
—GRISEY (1987)

Grisey took issue with rhythmic abstractions promoted by the integral serialists, who were strongly influenced by Messiaen’s book Technique de mon langage musicale (1944). One of the techniques described by Messiaen was non-retrogradable rhythm, or rhythmic palindrome (figure 6.4). He defined these as follows:

Whether one reads them from right to left or from left to right, the order of their values remains the same.

[illustration omitted]

Messiaen’s student Pierre Boulez experimented with related methods of generating symmetric and asymmetric rhythmic figures by transformation of rhythmic cells. For example, he created figures that were the rhythmic inverse of another figure (i.e., notes replaced by rests and vice-versa).
As Grisey (1987) pointed out, these kinds of rhythmic abstractions (i.e., permutational and symmetrical note relations) make absurd assumptions about perception:

Such a distinction, whatever its operational value, has no perceptible value. . . . What a utopia this spatial and static [notion] of time was, a veritable straight line at the center of which the listener sits implicitly, possessing not only a memory but also a prescience that allows him to apprehend the symmetrical moment at the time it occurs! Unless, of course, our superman were gifted with a memory that enabled him to reconstruct the entirety of the durations so that he could, a posteriori, classify them as symmetrical or not!

- tom moody

April 12th, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Posted in general

roy edroso's zinger re: a. sullivan

From Edroso's Village Voice column on "rightbloggers":

It is something to consider how completely [Andrew] Sullivan flipped on Bush; in 2003 he was comparing him to Winston Churchill, and by 2007 he was comparing him to Neville Chamberlain. In the interval Bush himself hadn’t changed in any appreciable way, but a stink of failure did come upon him, which would be anathema to any careerist in his vicinity.


- tom moody

April 11th, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Posted in general

unpublished link to Paul Slocum's surf club history

Paul Slocum compiled an internet surf club history, where he explains the "clubs" as the product of a particular technological moment, specifically, the use of PHP and MYSQL in the late '90s/early '00s to make dynamic websites, a practiced that flourished in the mid-'00s. His listing of the main group blogs employing these techniques for "art," including sites that preceded and followed them (for context), is thorough, if lacking in value judgments. All these sites can't be good, in fact many of them weren't.
Slocum's original, clean HTML design for the history can be found on this archive page at
Rhizome posted the history on its blog, where it added a second side scroll, made navigation more awkward, and kiboshed the "retro" effect of the HTML page. Their blog, you may recall, is the result of a recent redesign by Coca Cola's ad agency, which added zany upside down fonts and rendered past content on the site invisible. The blog is also now published separately from the Rhizome front page, for some reason.
There was back channel discussion of the possibility that Slocum's survey would coincide with the "official" archiving of the surf club Nasty Nets. Rhizome saved all the posts from that site and published them on their back pages but never finished the conservation. Curiously, the far more art-world-friendly (some might say conservative) site Vvork was lovingly preserved for future generations (or until the next site redesign).

- tom moody

April 2nd, 2016 at 8:17 am

Posted in general

more trump on foreign policy

Posts keep appearing from the left side of the spectrum noting refreshing Trump heresies. John Feffer at Lobelog quotes the exchange below, on the subject of military bases, which took place when the Orange One sat down with Washington Post staffers. "Trump point[ed] out that South Korea is a rich country and wonder[ed] why the United States is paying for military bases there," Feffer writes. "Charles Lane, the columnist, point[ed] out that South Korea covers 50 percent of the costs." Then this was said:

TRUMP: 50 percent?

LANE: Yeah.

TRUMP: Why isn’t it 100 percent?

HIATT: Well I guess the question is, does the United States gain anything by having bases?

TRUMP: Personally I don’t think so. I personally don’t think so. Look. I have great relationships with South Korea. I have buildings in South Korea. But that’s a wealthy country. They make the ships, they make the televisions, they make the air conditioning. They make tremendous amounts of products. It’s a huge, it’s a massive industrial complex country. And —

HIATT: So you don’t think the U.S. gains from being the force that sort of helps keep the peace in the Pacific?

TRUMP: I think that we are not in the position that we used to be. I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country. And we’re a poor country now. We’re a debtor nation.

You aren't supposed to say this in official Washington. The "US as world cop" is the accepted position, whether or not it's a dated paradigm.

- tom moody

March 31st, 2016 at 1:23 pm

Posted in general

trump on trade

As the appalling possibility of another Clinton presidency looms into view, several writers have taken revisionist turns on Trump. None of Matt Taibbi, Thomas Frank, or Paul Street (in Counterpunch) are apologizing for the candidate's naked racism but all have noted the economic populism in his campaign. According to Taibbi, Trump talks more forthrightly on trade issues than the bought politicians:

[Trump's] pitch is: He's rich, he won't owe anyone anything upon election, and therefore he won't do what both Democratic and Republican politicians unfailingly do upon taking office, i.e., approve rotten/regressive policies that screw ordinary people.

He talks, for instance, about the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by insurance companies, an atrocity dating back more than half a century, to the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945. This law, sponsored by one of the most notorious legislators in our history (Nevada Sen. Pat McCarran was thought to be the inspiration for the corrupt Sen. Pat Geary in The Godfather II), allows insurance companies to share information and collude to divvy up markets.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats made a serious effort to overturn this indefensible loophole during the debate over the Affordable Care Act.

Trump pounds home this theme in his speeches, explaining things from his perspective as an employer. "The insurance companies," he says, "they'd rather have monopolies in each state than hundreds of companies going all over the place bidding ...  It's so hard for me to make deals  ... because I can't get bids."

He goes on to explain that prices would go down if the state-by-state insurance fiefdoms were eliminated, but that's impossible because of the influence of the industry. "I'm the only one that's self-funding ...  Everyone else is taking money from, I call them the bloodsuckers."

Trump isn't lying about any of this. Nor is he lying when he mentions that the big-pharma companies have such a stranglehold on both parties that they've managed to get the federal government to bar itself from negotiating Medicare prescription-drug prices in bulk.

"I don't know what the reason is – I do know what the reason is, but I don't know how they can sell it," he says. "We're not allowed to negotiate drug prices. We pay $300 billion more than if we negotiated the price."

- tom moody

March 29th, 2016 at 8:06 am

Posted in general

zombie imperium

John Robb, who advises the military on so-called fourth generation warfare issues and blogs at Global Guerrillas, has this to say about the Trump/Sanders applecart upset:

The American Imperium in Zombie Mode

The policy wonks are up in arms over the NYTimes and WaPo interviews with Trump on foreign policy and trade. They simply can't say enough about how uninformed Trump is on this topic.... but there's something wrong with this picture.

The same wonks who claim to "know" everything have gutted the US economy, gotten us into wars we can't win, and plunged entire regions of the world into chaos & terrorism.

Personally, I like that both Sanders and Trump are isolationists. People profoundly out of step with the demands of an "Imperial Presidency." In my view, the Imperial Presidency beloved by the policy wonks should have died with the end of the cold war.

Yet it's still here, eating our future, in Zombie mode.

Have fun,

John Robb

PS: What if, and this is a crazy notion, we simply focused on making the United States a success story, rather than a poorly run Imperium?

"Non-interventionist" is the preferred term over "isolationist" but Robb has nailed it here. It should have been swords-to-plowshares after the USSR broke up but too many (self-)important sinecures in the US were at stake to just end all the militarism. As a wise blogger said years ago, the US should be less like the Romans and more like the Swiss. But no.

- tom moody

March 28th, 2016 at 9:16 am

Posted in general