Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lecture 7: Critical Thinking, Maxine Armstrong

Weiss, D. (1994) Feminist Philosophy and the Digital Culture

Dr Dennis Weiss is a Professor at York College in Pennsylvania, who has published a number of articles, lectures and conferences presentations (Weiss, 2007). He currently teaches critical thinking and philosophy and wrote this text for his course in feminist philosophy.

It is relevant to our discussion on the critical thinking of feminist theory and digital cultures, as it uses feminist theories to explore digital cultures.

The first half of this text is referenced but the second half has none, so it is difficult to judge how valid his opinions are or where they come from. It is also 14 years old so digital culture has hopefully moved on in the meantime.

Booth, A. and Flanagan, M. (eds) (2002) Reload: Rethinking Women and Cyberculture, MIT Press.

A collection of critical essays and fiction exploring how women relate to virtual technologies, so again highly relevant to our discussions. It even includes an extract from Correspondence by Sue Thomas.

Only the introduction is reproduced on the Amazon website but it does introduces feminist science fiction, which is a genre I have never heard of. The index lists a number of people who could be investigated further.

Luesebrink, M.C. and Coverley M.D. (2000) The Progressive Dinner Party

A selection of hypertext and hypermedia literature works by women, written in English by international writers. The theme is a progressive dinner party inspired by the project The Dinner Party by Judy Chicargo. Each place setting is a contributor to the hypertext world with a link to a piece of their work, the Glenn Miller soundtrack does get a little annoying after a while. The website does not appear to have been updated recently as many of the links are broken, but it does still provide a useful list of women who are worth following. Sue Thomas, with Teri Hoskin, is one of the place settings with Noon Quilt. Commentary is provided by N. Katherine Hayles and Talan Memmott.

I would have liked to have seen this website updated with the links repaired and more recent work. The broken links and poor displays from some of the work shows how quickly technology had moved on.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lecture 7: Critical Thinking, Paul D. Found

The Feminist Theory Website

This website is basically a website whose intention is to “provide(s) research materials and information for students, activists, and scholars interested in women's conditions and struggles around the world.” It is basically a database of links to articles and individuals in the feminist movement.

Although the articles are arranged by theme, not all the links to them are active. There are however, links to external websites concerned with that theme. The links to individuals do provide biographical information and a bibliography.

The website is hosted by Virginia Tech University’s Center for Digital Discourse and Culture, so one would expect that the articles it lists are academically robust. It was created and is edited by Kristin Switala. She is also U.C. Foundation Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

I am not sure the site has been updated since 1999 though. This could well render much of the site out-of-date.

A website which aims to monitor international ICT policies which effect women. It aims to be a forum of knowledge sharing, to raise awareness and encourage activism and lobbying on issues of gender and ICT. It is a repository for resource links, journal articles and case studies concerned with women's, gender and social issues in connection with the internet.

This link gives a general overview of why this is important:

Association of Progressive Communication

"The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is a global network of civil society organisations whose mission is to empower and support organisations, social movements and individuals in and through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs)." It is a non-profit organisation based in the US.

The APC not only covers gender/feminist/women's issues, but also culture, media, technology and open source software, among others. It provides news, a blog, reports and papers, and a newsletter and so on. The content is kept very up-to-date.

There is also an interesting link provided, which is a guide to evaluating the use of ICT on the basis of gender:

Also of note is that the content is available via CreativeCommons License.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How to spot logical fallacies...By Kieren Boddy

Just some resources on logic, logical fallacies 
Logic Websites

If you cannot be bothered to read (or if you want something playing in the background whilst surfing the net) (WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE, INSULTING IN SOME PARTS, FUNNY IN OTHERS, REFERENCES RELIGION)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"what is the difference between a scientific experiment and a musical experiment?" _Mandy Sellers

Hmmm. My knee-jerk reaction was “a lot!” but then I started thinking more… and really, the process could very easily be the same (hypothesis, testing, etc) except when it comes to the evaluation of the data. It depends, how do you evaluate a musical experiment? When I think of classic scientific experiments they seek to prove a constant… that is, there is something they want to prove that exists 100% of the time. Everything has to be reproducible, yielding the same results. For example, if you want to prove alcoholism has a genetic component… well, you can use humans but usually this is too tricky and it’s easier to use a similar genetic model (which, sadly for rats, works out well for scientists). In music, you may not be able to do testing on similar genetic models (guess it depends on what you’re trying to prove) and instead have to involve us more tricky humans.

I guess in the end scientific experiments are easier, more cut and dry because of the controlled conditions they can be carried out in. Musical experiments I would guess are probably pretty difficult to conduct (perhaps like psychology experiments which are notoriously difficult because of the human factor). There would be qualitative data vs quantitative. And reproduction would likely be challenging.

Lecture 7 "Critical Thinking": Kieren Boddy

Feminist Theory Websites

1) The Feminist Theory Website, the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture
at Virginia Tech University,

This website was created and maintained by a Dr. Kristin Switala, a Professor at the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture at Virginia Tech, USA. It was the first website to appear in the google search of the term "Feminist Theory". It is a trustworthy website, in my opinion, because it was created by an academic at an accredited University and has reputable contributions by other academics.

Unlike some websites that opt to inform the user everything, in the authors words, what the subject is all about, Dr. Swatala only uses the briefest of paragraphs relating to the Feminist Theory and the different fields in Feminism as a cue for the 5425 bibliographical entries, 0593 links to Internet sites, and 0684 paragraphs giving information. It is quite different from what I am used to, but easy to follow, if you know how to use a bibliography to find academic texts and text books.

This though makes a lot of work for the reader who may just want a 'quick quote' for a simple understanding of the theory, but it is an extremely good website for finding references in the field. Unfortunately, it seems that the website rarely updates as it was in 1999 the website was last copyrighted. 

2)Feminism and Women Studies,

The Feminism and Women Studies webpage is an online resource for researchers into the subject and is ran by people associated with the Carnegie Mellon University Womens Centre. The website is a greater resource than one that is just about feminist theory, which in my opinion makes it a better website in that it gives more background information about the subject than just the theory as I feel that to have an understanding of a subject, you must know some detail about the circumstances in which the theory applies to. 

As the website was created by members of the Carnegie Mellon University, ones who knew about the subject (they where Masters Students who operated the site for four years) and it cites information and courses from other universties with similar courses, such as one from the university in 1). All this tells me that it is a worthy resource for the subject, even though compared to the whole, there is a small amount to do with feminist theory. 

It is easy to navigate the website as it has been represented in a hierarchical fasion of overarching concepts within the subject which then forks off depending on how many articles and theories are available within those concepts. That said, the few articles about feminist theory where quite old, compared to the rest of the content within the site. 


Would the use of a male dominated search engine resource affect the validity in my findings into the subject???

Response from Professor Hugill: Music & Digital Cultures

Following on from his lecture on the 16th of Feb., Professor Hugill has taken the time to read your comments and is including a response. He addresses a variety of questions which stem from your own blog responses. Please read Professor Hugill's thoughts and respond to his question (via the comments on this post) which you'll find at the end of his letter.

"Dear Jess, Thank you for asking me to respond to the student comments following my lecture. I thought your post about the importance of critical thinking and logical argument was excellent. I'm ill in bed at the moment, so the brain is not firing on every cylinder, but on the other hand I have some time to write!

I agree very much with Mandy's comment that we covered a lot, maybe too much, in two hours, and of course none of the students has studied music, so somehow they had to rapidly assimilate both technical and aesthetic information about some of the most challenging music of the past 100 years. I thought they listened well - attentive and diligent and, given the content, relaxed, which was not always my experience when I covered similar ground with music students, who often became quite agitated.

Andy P. seems to have had the most extensive reaction and makes a number of points. I'll try to approach these in the spirit they are intended.

Let's tackle the 'definition of music' thing frst. Bear in mind that what we are seeking here is a definition. Definitions have pretensions to being objective, verifiable, and universal (applicable in all situations). In practice, there are many types of definition (see for example) but they all share that sense of rational aspiration to the absolute.

Music as 'organised sound' is not my definition but that of Edgard Varèse in his lecture/essay 'The Liberation of Sound'. He had very specific reasons for making the statement, arguing in favour of the inclusion of sounds not considered 'musical' in the traditional sense (i.e. not necessarily produced by instruments). No doubt this has inadequacies, but it *is* a definition. Notice he is not ascribing any particular value to the 'music' he defines. He is not attempting to say 'this is good music' or 'this is bad music'. He is trying to be factual and objective in order to expand our understanding of what music might be. The affective layer (such as emotional impact, aesthetic judgement, etc.) is largely put aside.

The word 'organised' is somewhat loaded. The first question we might ask is 'organised by whom'? Some might hear organisation in natural sound (which takes us into soundscape, which I had no time to mention in the lecture), but I think for Varèse the idea was that a piece of music is organised in the same way as a living organism - made up of many related elements. This suggests intentionality. One standard definition of a work of art is that it is evidence of an artistic intention (if an artist calls it art, it's art). In the postmodern world, we might also argue that it requires a suitable reception (people have to agree).

The point Andy P makes that music has no material existence is of course correct. Sound is a disturbance in a medium. I don't think Varèse is being materialistic, but I do think he is being scientific. Phenomena, such as electricity, may be observed empirically. Music is a perceptual phenomenon, certainly, but that does not necessarily mean it has only *emotional* existence. (Notice that the statement 'music is a perceptual phenomenon' is not a definition either, because it is incomplete).

Analysis of emotion is a vast field. Academic and scientific approaches range from the neuroscientific to the psychological. The one that seems to be causing the objection here is the James/Lange idea that emotion results from experiencing bodily changes, rather than causing them. There simply is neither time nor space (nor do I have the expertise!) to attempt to summarize these theories, but I think it is true to say that we still lack an accurate and consistent mapping of musical gesture to emotional response, probably due to social, cultural and individual variations. This is what makes emotion shifting ground from which to attempt a *definition* of anything. In what would an 'emotional definition' consist?

This is not a denial of the importance of emotion in music. It is simply a rejection of that as a basis for a definition. One person's 'emotive sound' is another person's 'indifferent noise'. I, for example, find some of Merzbow's 'noise music' emotionally affecting, whereas much pop music leaves me indifferent (which puts me in a minority). But I still think pop music is music. My opinion matters not if I am seeking to define 'music', but it matters a lot when I am choosing what to listen to! Perhaps an interesting variation on your question would be 'what is music *for* - something I tackle in my book.

One final point of accuracy - Cage's music was not 'unorganised'. It was organised using chance procedures. That may seem like splitting hairs, but chaos theory has shown us that there is organisation behind 'chance' and that randomness is predictable. On a historical note, 'organised sound' has stood the test of time as a definition and is still widely used. In fact, there is a journal published by Cambridge University Press under that very title and edited by Prof Leigh Landy, who heads the Music Technology and Innovation Research Centre here at DMU.

Turning to the discussion of serialism, let's have a crack at the statement:

"since it can be generated by a computer with no inspiration need at all and (at this time to me) sounds terrible, how can we say it is any different from what we would accept as patterned 'noise' from any other aesthetically unpleasing machine?"
There are a set of assumptions underpinning this which need to be challenged. The first is the rather 19th Century idea of 'inspiration'. In fact, much of the world's music is written without inspiration and is really the product of some kind of process or formula. Even those people who acknowledge inspiration are famously modest about its true value ("99% perspiration, 1% inspiration", said Thomas Edison, discussing the nature of genius). This is not to say the results of these formulae cannot be inspiring. Think of Javanese gamelan, for example. Or hymn tunes. But neither does inspiration guarantee good music. In fact there are many pieces that are highly inspired, yet unconvincing as music. Believe me, I've written some of them myself!

The next is the assumption that computers cannot write pleasing music. I wonder how much music written by computers people have actually heard? I don't mean music played off laptops, I mean music actually composed by computers. For early examples, try Xenakis, Koenig or the celebrated 'Iliac Suite' by Lejaren Hiller from 1957. For more recent examples (and these I am pretty certain will be found 'pleasing') try the many samples of fractal music, evolutionary music, generative music, algorithmic music, etc. that can be found online. Check out 'Changing Weights' by our own Dr Ron Herrema as an example

Finally, and this is what Varèse was arguing about, why is it necessarily the case that a machine produces 'noise'? If we accept that noise is unwanted sound (one can challenge that definition, by all means), then there are situations where machines do not produce noise, and sounds that are 'musical' might be considered noise. I think the perception of noise changes depending on circumstance.

It is true that total serialism was very well suited to computer composition, and in fact grew up alongside the development of early computers and dominated computer music. Perhaps the biggest figure in this field was Milton Babbitt, who is definitely worth a visit

By the way, I'm not sure that additive synthesis is a good analogy for Steve Reich's phasing method in 'Come Out' and other pieces. Really, the crucial thing there is layering of sound and an audible process. It's a shame I had no time to play that piece - you really need to hear it to understand how it works. There is a copy in the library.

I could go on, but I feel the need of rest. Let's end with a question: what is the difference between a scientific experiment and a musical experiment? That should give people plenty to chew upon!"

Note, the image is
part of the score of Varèse's 'Poème Electronique' (1958).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lecture 7: Critical Thinking_Mandy Sellers

Three websites pertinent to Feminist Theory:

Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society

This is a supporting website for the journal. I’ve seen this journal sited several places (at least 3 different University websites with Women’s Studies programs) so this kind of peer acceptance (at least in a university setting) legitimizes it.

This online resource gives access to current feminist articles and has a section announcing calls for papers and other upcoming events. It also has a section on book reviews. And, I’ve found the people contributing have been sited themselves elsewhere (by looking them up in JSTOR). This one is very legit.

Women's Studies Online Resources

This is a website listing Women’s Studies Online Resources. The links work and page is maintained. It has been created by a university professor, Joan Korenman, from Univ. of Maryland. She is legit (ie, have checked she’s a real person with valid University credentials). She’s even written a book, “Internet Resources on Women”. Which led me to this: A website for Women and Information Technology recognized by one of America’s top 3 news providers (ABC news) of which she is the Founding Director.

This page is probably the most topical for our class from this site. It is titled “Women-Focused Cyberculture and Internet Information”. It provides several links to related websites and gives a brief description of the site. I’d say this would be very helpful to studying feminist theory and digital cultures. ☺

The Fword

This looks to be an important feminist website simply because it is an open community space for discussing feminist topics. Well, take that back, it’s a webzine edited by Catherine Redfern, who was at least recognized by the Guardian as a ‘woman to watch’ in 2003.

As far as this being sited, I haven’t seen anything. I suppose I could’ve done this the other way around, looked up articles on feminist theory and follow up any citations given.

The reason I am posting this one is because it came up first on my Google search. I figure if that’s the case a lot of people are at least looking at the site if not reading and contributing to it. Because it's less academic I can't validate it in the same way... it's more like a cultural artefact. It's the average person writing and discussing feminist topics... a discursive site.

Lecture 7 'Critcal Thinking': Amanda Moffat
"Rosi Braidotti" Wikipedia Entry
I deliberately chose a Wikipedia page to be controversial! This website provides a summary of Rosi's biographical information focusing on an impressive array of academic achievements, publications and related work - claiming that throughout which, "Braidotti asserts and demonstrates the importance of combining theoretical concerns with a serious commitment to producing socially and politically relevant scholarship that contributes to making a difference in the world." These credentials give her credibility and leads the uninitiated to believe that the content is accurate and to be trusted. As with all Wikipedia pages it is up to date (last modified on 19 September 2008) and there are a number of working links to other Wikipedia entries, as well as related external links to other sites (including her own) which list her work and corroborate her credentials (e.g. the Utrecht University site where she is a 'Distinguished Professor'). Interestingly though, there are no academic references directly on the Wikipedia page!
"Cyberfeminism with a difference" by Rosi Braidotti
This article talks about feminism in relation to a post-modernist approach to technology and culture. Written in 1996, it is well referenced and cited by academia. I particularly found the section entitled 'Post-human bodies' interesting, where Rosi selects three 'cyborg goddesses' - Dolly Parton, Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Fonda - suggesting that these 'emblems of postmodern femininity' symbolise the culturally enforced icons of white, economically dominant, heterosexual Americans - and more specifically a 'Californian 'body beautiful' ideology'. I can see where she's coming from with Liz and Jane, but I'm not sure about Dolly! To further legitimise this text, this section has been published as a chapter in 'The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader' (2003) by Amelia Jones.
"The Old Boys Network: The mode is the message - the code is the collective"
After reading Rosi's piece on cyberfeminism I decided to google the term and found this website which is a feminist collective forum, ironically entitled 'Old Boys Network'. It claims to be the first international alliance of cyberfeminists 'aimed at contributing to the critical discourse on gender-specific aspects of new media'. The people involved include an array of individual academics and artists (mainly women unsurprisingly), as well as whole agencies and societies, which suggest it is legitimate. After checking out some of the founding members I found this article on Jstor which corroborated their credentials, and they (Claudia Reiche and Verena Kuni) have also published a book on the subject entitled 'Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols' (2004). However, this book is yet to be published according to the website so it is clearly not maintained regularly (last updated 28.07.02) and some of the links no longer work, rendering it a less reliable source - although it still makes some interesting points and is relevant to the module.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lecture 7: Critical Thinking and Essay Preparation

What is critical thinking?

“Reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do”
-- Robert Ennis

“Active, presistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends”
-- JohnDewey

What is reflective thinking?

“Judgment suspended during further inquiry”
-- Dewey

Think of the scientific method as a way of organising your argument in your essay:

  • Definition of the problem
  • Proposal of the hypothesis/hypotheses
  • Observation
  • Measurement
  • Qualitative/Quantitative Analysis
  • Testing
  • Interpretation

An "ideal" critical thinker should employ these attributes:

  • Inquisitive
  • Open-minded
  • Orderly
  • Focused
  • Persistent
  • Devise testing strategies
  • Formulates alternative solutions/hypotheses
  • Judges acceptability of premises and inferences
  • Draws conclusions

Classic way *not* to structure your essay:


All X are Y. Z is X.
Therefore, Z is Y.


All X are Y. No Z is Y.
Therefore, no Z is X.

For next week: critically evaluate three websites/online resources that fit with feminist theory and digital cultures. Title your blog post: Lecture 7, Critical Thinking, Name.

Coursework Essay DUE DATE: 7th May, 4:00pm

Lecture 6: Music and Digital Culture. Amanda Moffat

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................The Silent Blog?

Lecture 6: Music and Digital Culture, Andy P

i forgot to take a picture....alas. so instead i offer a video of prof hugill 2003

the lecture ran at a nice relaxed pace. not too slow or too complex so as to discombobulate, even though i am no musician or even critic myself. so where to begin? the beginning? seems to easy. while the fundamentals are important, the lecture contents importance was not chronological to me (though personal taste only)... so we'll start with (can carry on with) issues that mattered to me the most. note that for each section i suspend belief in the other sections written. as you will see, since i can talk about something that doesn't exist;

music is organized sound?:
"music is organized sound" was the definition Prof hugill preferred. a phrase coined by anton webern (known to us for his use of the twelve-tone technique also explained in the lecture). the problem i find with this definition is that if music is simply organized sound, then the very act of writing anything at all down makes it music notation though the shear intent of communicating something "as it was intended". this of course means that anything ever written is music (presumable if spoken/played out loud).
a point that goes even further than this is the work of john cage, who's sense of music transcended 'organization' and was composed by chance happenings in a very post modern statement about opposing organized structures of sound(though arguably was in fact organized the moment he wrote it down). so what we have in the end is music is both organized and unorganized sound.but then if everything is music, then surely nothing is music, so why study music at all?
upon first thinking about it, i prefer a music defined as organized emotive sound. to organize is not enough, but to have feelings about it (any feeling at all) is what places value on music to me. it was argued however that to say it is emotive is to say it is subjective (such as emotions are). therefore to say music is subjective is to say music is undefinable, which in itself is not a definition. to this i have a few thoughts:

1, if music is art, then to this effect i have not found any satisfactory answer to 'what is art?' or 'what is music' for that matter. therefore both are undefined at this moment to me other that to say it is an emotive expression.

2, emotion is definable. subjective, yes, but definable. this simply means that they vary in intensity: mild amusement, overjoyed etc are states of happiness in varying intensity. if emotion were undefinable, there would be no difference between happiness and depression and all emotion could be viewed as chemical imbalances in the brain, yet to artists (though not one myself) im sure emotion is more than this.

3, the examples for 'music is organized sound' are two extremes of music is organized sound (12-tone) and music is also unorganized sound (cage) (which i assume is music since it was brought up and we were told as much).

4, break down everything in the universe into atoms, break all the atoms down to the subatomic and anywhere in between, i challenge anyone to show me one gram of music. sound may exist as compressions of particals, but nowhere does music exist except for in the realms of emotion as we perceive it. so i don't think its unfair to say that music is emotive.

so to restate, if anything is music, then nothing is music(therefore everything is sound/noise), so why study music at all and if so, what to study?

total cerealism - the crunchy nut flakes of music:
'total serialism' was the next logical step to the twelve tone technique. the twelve tone technique used 12 notes in a scale, each played only once to avoid putting any importance one any one note. however, it was noted that not only could one play notes, but pitch, duration, tambre, volume and articulation also played their parts for the sound of each note played (i suspect there are more things that could alter how a note is played, but these 5 where given in the lecture). total serialism then, proposed that each of these affect a note in a manner similar to the twelve tone technique (so its really like the twelve tone technique to the 6th power, ergo a 6-dimensional matrix of note variations played one after another).
since total serialism is a very logical, if not mathematical process, why do we need humans to make this 'music' at all? a computer could easily generate every combination of the twelve notes with twelve (for the sake of argument) variations for each parameter:

eg (in pseudo code for ease of understanding).

create 2d array 'music' of 1 to x; //(where 'x' is 12 to the 6th power... or make it dynamic)
y = 1;

for note(1 to 12);{
for pitch(1 to 12);{
for duration(1 to 12);{
for tambre(1 to 12);{
for volume(1 to 12);{
for articulation (1 to 12);{
music[y] = note,pitch,duration,tambre,volume,articulation;
y= y+1;

within that output for the program would lie every possible 'total serialism' piece of music that can be created with those parameters. unfortunately, since it can be generated by a computer with no inspiration need at all and (at this time to me) sounds terrible, how can we say it is any different from what we would accept as patterned 'noise' from any other aesthetically unpleasing machine? this being it really music?

the (anti)modernism of music:

john cage has already been discussed above (the man who wrote 'music' though chance). personally, i really like this guy. not for his music but for the fact that he appears to have a fantastic sense of humor while managing to present his so called work in a sensible way. but then i guess that's post modernism for you. if total serialism is structured and ordered, then cage is chaotic and almost anarchistic. true musical modernism versus post modernism, but to the naked ear, resulting in exactly the same thing.

can you hear me?.....110001101:
microsound music('glitch' and other like phenomena) is the culmination of inaudible noise, either so short or so quiet that psycho-acoustically, we as humans cannot pick it up. i say psycho-acoustically, as the ear itself will in fact pick up the sound and in turn our brain will dismiss it as unimportant. apparently it has been shown that the playback of these sounds can have an effect on peoples moods despite being inaudible. this leads me to an interesting thought. we know that subliminal messaging is not allowed in advertising. but to define subliminal messaging we need an audio/visual actual message (be it words or images). microsound affects mood (i am lead to believe), but has no message per sae. therefore could we use microsound as an almost empathic subliminal messaging to make consumers 'feel good' when viewing a product?.... unfortunately, one could never regulate it if it were possible, since it is essentially just noise.

how did you make/hear that?:

since noise is the topic at hand, other things of note include additive and subtractive methods of sound synthesis.
think of 'sound' as a block of wood.... the sound you want to make is a particular shape made of wood. subtractive sound synthesis would strip away the wood until the shape is reveled (like whittling) while additive sound synthesis would use tiny bits of wood (sawdust perhaps) to build up that shape. now replace the word 'wood' with 'frequencies' (frequencies being sine waves of correct wavelength and amplitude) and you have a decent explanation of additive and subtractive methods of sound synthesis.

come out, come out, wherever you are:

steve reich “come out". lots of pieces of work where discussed, and while it was all quite interesting, this is the one that made me want to seek it our to hear it. the work consists of a single line (taken form the harlem riots if i remember correctly: "I had to, like, open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them" .... specifically "come out to show them" ) looped and replayed in parallel with versions of the same phrase at varying speeds. each version of the phrase introduced at specific intervals. the net effect is to have a single voice that builds into 'out of sync' voices to (as prof hugil puts it) 'create a wall of sound'. while i love the idea (especially with the social context of the phrase) is it not remarkably similar the the additive methods of sound synthesis described above? each speed of voice can be seen as a different frequency that is added until we get the final 'sound'. this is perhaps not completely accurate as the sound is (or becomes) out of phase with it predecessor. in this respect it is very much like OFDM (another topic entirely that could take hours( in any case, i cant bring myself to think of it as new information or even a new style, though i do love its simplicity.

all of this was based on a single 2 hour lecture and therefore may be incomplete in places. i am not an artist, musician, formal critic or superhero. and please remember: flame responsibly.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lecture 6: Music and Digital Culture, Paul D. Found

Thanks to the sterling efforts of Mandy and Maxine, I'm not sure there is anything I can add. I certainly cannot add a photo because I do not own a camera and my phone has neither a cable nor Bluetooth so I did not take any.


It took a while for me to "get into" this lecture because I am not a musician, and although I listen to and even write reviews for loads of music, I do not as it were, know how it works.

There was a very interesting comment to open the lecture, with Andrew stating that he believed Digital Cultures is a reaction against modernism.

The first piece of music was "Concerto for 9 Instruments" (1943) by Anton Webern. Although only 2.22 minutes it seemed much longer. Musical time can, due to the density and compression of the piece distort the impression we get of real time. I would say that current bands can achieve a similar effect - The Mars Volta producing very dense music which seems to last much longer than it does. It is a phenomenon I had noticed but not really thought about. I digress...

Edgard Varese offered the following definition of music - it is "organised sound". I actually quite like that definition but could disorganised sound also be considered to be "musical"?

There followed some discussion on the formal structure (organisation) of music which is the part where musically inability meant I started to get a bit lost...

Western music was invented in the 15th century with the introduction of major and minor chords, and triads. There are high and low notes. There octaves (8 notes between each octave) which are the same "sound", whereas intervals have 5 notes (the 5th). All this occurs naturally in nature (acoustics) but Western music is merely an approximation and allows key changes/pitch. Not all music uses this system. Indian music for example, has a constant note - the drone - around which the piece is built.

At the end of the 19th century, music changed. Instead of being "pantonal" where all the pitches are used at once, modernist music became "atonal", i.e. music with no sense of pitch or key. There is no structure as such, but it is far from random. It is very organised, uses merkered pitches (1 - 12) within an octave. The order might read 3-6-8-1-11-9-10-4-2-12-5-7 ensuring there is more no repetition and no note is more important than any other. This called serial music and is pure mathematics - a universal language or law. The purpose is to remove any cultural association between the listener/composer and the structure/form of how music "should" be created. This led to a split between the composers of traditional music and modernist music.

Music is either vertical e.g. pop music, or horizontal e.g. jazz music.

Pitch, duration, timbre (sound), volume, articulation are the basic components of music, not melody and harmony. This led to total seriaism where very parameter of music became organised as a series. Messiaen was the first to attepmt a fully serialised piece but Boulez said this was not good enough as there was repitition. Iannis Xenakis and Boulez used computers to compose music. Although much of it sounds random, it is not.

Incidentally, Damon Albarn used serial methods to compose some of the score to Monkey: Journey to the West.

John cage used "chance" to compose music. For example, he would flick ink at blank sheets of muscial score paper, and discovered that his work sounded very similar to that of Boulez. Boulez took 5 years to compose his work, Cage took a week. Cage also experimented with with "aleatonic" music - that composed using the rolls of dice.

Cage also famously composed a piece of silent music (4' 33") which forced the audience to listen to the sounds around them. This could be said to go against Varese's definition of music being organised sound, as Cage did not organise sound, but arrange silence. the sounds the audience heard were not organised as such - it might consist of the sound of the audience coughing, shuffling, booing and so on.

Pierre Schaeffer coined the term "musique concrete", in which real-world sounds were/are manipulated to create music. The were no instruments, just timbre. It used analogue and very early computer technology. He was also the first DJ and invented turntablism in 1945 (to learn more about modern turntablism, borrow the documentary "Scratch" from me!!).

Delia Derbyshire of the BBC polyphonic orchestra created, around 1962, the first electronic dance music, as well as creating the famous "sound" of the Dr. Who theme. Derbyshire and The Beatles on their White Album used looped tapes to create the sounds.

The unwanted "noise" removed from remastered music is now used as an art form/music genre called "glitch" or "micro-sound".

There are 2 ways to create digital sound - "subtractive" whereby you start with white noise (every pitch played simultaneously and in equal amounts, then filtered to get recognisable "notes". Synthesisers do work in this way. The opposite method is the "additive" method where you start with silence and add frequencies or "sine waves".

"Granular synthesis" takes a small sounds, to create "music" which although inaudible to us still effects our moods (see Richard Chartier).

Minimalism is made from the least possible material, but it is not necessarily simple. LaMonte Young's piece X for Henry Flynt (1967) involved nothing more than the performer playing a single note repeatedly until it changed, then stopping. It could be either the music or the listener which changed, and rendered the piece "finished".

Steve Reich's "Come Out" consists of a phrase played on two tape recorders played at different speeds so they start in-sync, then out, then back in until they eventually form a wall of noise.

Fluxus was heavily influenced by Dada, the idea being to be staunchly "anti-establishment". Practitioners of the fluxus movement are "intermedia" - they are concerned with how different forms of media intersect.

There was a lot of information to take in...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lecture 6: Music and Digital Culture, Maxine Armstrong

Prof. Andrew Hugill
Mandy has summarised the lecture so here are a few more details about some of the composers mentioned.

Edgard Varèse (1883 – 1965)

Born in France, invented the term “organised sound”.

He was very influential and a leading pioneer of electronic music.

'Poeme électronique' (1957-8) was composed for the Philips Pavilion at the Universal Exposition. Loudspeakers were placed throughout a walk-through installation. Some sounds were recorded, whilst others were from electronic instruments.

Anton Webern (1883 – 1945)

Austrian composer and conductor

'Concerto for 9 Instruments' (1943)

Twelve-tone method – serialism.

Pierre Boulez (born 1925)

French composer and conductor

Student of Olivier Messiaen

History is Dead

Wanted to remove all repetition. Thought music traditions were irrelevant to the new language.

‘Structures’uses serialism.

Composed ‘Répons’ (1980-84) at IRCAM – a research institute where computer scientists and music technologists study electronic music.

To be continued ...

Lecture6: Music and Digital Cultures _ Mandy

Summary of Andrew’s lecture

The basic concepts of Musical Modernism

• Music had developed much like literature
• Music is organized sound (from a definition of Anton Webern)
• A key aspect of Modernism is the use of sparse notes but a lot still packed in

History of music
• 14-15th centuries music marked by maj/minor triads
• western music marked by dividing octaves into 12 equal steps
• This allows ‘transpositioning’, you can transpose, cycle around w same note dispersion to get

Webern (1943, concerto for 9 instruments) – “pantoneality” – all the keys at once

Atonal – music without any sense of key

Webern used complex mathematics to devise a score that didn’t repeat, going through al 48 possible variants of all 12 notes. This began musical modernism

Why? “pureism” essay 1934 by Busia (spelling?) example of the sphere as a universal symbol everyone understands regardless of culture. This is along the same lines as what music modernism tries to do.

Harmony – a relative concept… vertical (stacked base, chords, tune) and horozontal (jazz a good example, can hear each instrament)

Pitch, duration, tambre, volume, articulation – all aspects of music

Musical modernism ends up with “total serialism” - first played 1949
Pierre Boules “History is Dead”
Messiaen (taught Boules)

Then came John Cage, American who used chance (termed Aleatoric by Boulez) vs compex mathematics to achieve same things as Webern. He’s known for his piece called “scielence” – proving there is no such thing. In this piece no music was played. Forces audience to hear other sounds around them.

Boules and Cage clashed – modernism against post modernism. Cage believed in the equality of ALL sounds

Then comes Varese (1957) – born ahead of his time… tried to make music with machines making sounds… he simply didn’t have the instruments to play his compositions. He was a leading pioneer of electronic music and “Music concrete” – use of sounds from real world

Tambre becomes a major quantifying tool. Varese progress was very slow and hard, hard to produce at the time.

Pierre Schaeffere – first DJ 1945 (used turn tables to create sound)
Delia Derbyshire – came up with the futuristic sound of the Dr Who theme
Beatles – experimented with tape loops (looping) to produce interesting sounds

Analog vs Digital sound

Analog is physical; magnetic tape, record groove, a physical substance read by a machine.

Digital uses a computer, converting 1’s and 0’s into anaolog, ie physical sound so we can hear it;

“Glitch”, microsounds, sine waves… these elements underpin digital music. → connects to Musical Minimalism, repetition of sound, droning. But, no such thing as repetition, either the sound changes or we change.

Richard Chartier – makes ‘bat music’ or sounds that are our of our hearing range, but you can still feel the vibes

Steve Reich – “come out” a piece that starts simply then ends up with a wall of sound. Wrote music for 18 musicians, harmony pulse

Terry Rielly – westcoast minimalist

Bauhaus – artists/designers/engineers/ product design / interior design… Phillipe Dause (the lemon squeezer guy)

Fluxux, Dada, Marcel Duchamp, Percy Granger

We covered a lot in 2 hours!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lecture 5: Derrida Differance and Cut-up, Kieren Boddy

Original Text
It will be objected, for the same reasons, that graphic difference itself vanishes into the night, can never be sensed as a full term, but rather extends an invisible relationship, the mark of an inapparent relationship between two spectacles. Doubtless. But, from this point of view, that the difference marked in the "differ( )nce" between the e and the a eludes both vision and hearing perhaps happily suggests that here we must be permitted to refer to an order which no longer belongs to sensibility. But neither can it belog to intelligibility, to the ideality which is not fortuitously affiliated with the objectivity of theorein or understanding. Here, therefore, we must let ourselves refer to an order that resists the opposition, one of the founding oppositions of philosophy, between the sensible and the intelligible. The order which resists this opposition, and resists it because it transports it, is announced in a movement of différance (with an a) between two differences or two letters, a différance which belongs neither to the voice nor to writing in the usual sense, and which is located, as the strange space that will keep us together here for an hour, between speech and writing, and beyond the tranquil familarity which links us to one and the other, occasionally reassuring us in our illusion that they are two.

eludes both vision same reasons, that happily suggests that the ideality which the other, occasionally be permitted to here we must sensibility. But neither between speech and order which no or understanding. Here, between speech and this opposition, and an invisible relationship, refer to an differences or two order which no of philosophy, between that resists the the sensible and opposition, one of the founding oppositions here we must longer belongs to vanishes into the therefore, we must and hearing perhaps an invisible relationship, Doubtless. But, from view, that the a) between two therefore, we must to one and is announced in the mark of objected, for the the mark of the sensible and the "differ( )nce" affiliated with the and hearing perhaps between two spectacles. for an hour, this point of the "differ( )nce" a full term, affiliated with the the strange space in the usual reassuring us in and the a is not fortuitously an inapparent relationship between two spectacles. difference marked in Doubtless. But, from and the a this point of the "differ( )nce" to an order the ideality which can it belog affiliated with the objected, for the letters, a différance be sensed as in the usual therefore, we must us together here us together here the mark of the tranquil familarity but rather extends vanishes into the resists it because to the voice can it belog resists it because which links us to one and to one and or understanding. Here, eludes both vision between speech and our illusion that nor to writing view, that the an invisible relationship, is located, as order which resists opposition, one of to one and a movement of or understanding. Here, the "differ( )nce" objected, for the to intelligibility, to sensibility. But neither It will be graphic difference itself différance (with an that will keep night, can never they are two.eludes both vision order which resists it transports it, to the voice that resists the the sensible and to intelligibility, to a full term, is announced in is announced in and the a us together here the intelligible. The between the e night, can never of philosophy, between writing, and beyond let ourselves refer to an order a) between two and hearing perhaps sense, and which graphic difference itself refer to an can it belog sense, and which the strange space between the e which belongs neither they are two.between speech and that will keep happily suggests that a movement of the other, occasionally the strange space same reasons, that graphic difference itself the intelligible. The to an order objectivity of theorein the tranquil familarity

Three sentences
The cut-up technique, when left to a computer algorithm is a bit hit an miss when it comes down to deriving a coherent and/or deeper meaning within the random sentences that are generated from Derrida's source text. Whilst trying to interpret and understand the cut-up paragraph, I asked myself, when reading intelligible sentences (interpreting the whole was difficult, so I just interpreted the few sentences that I could decode to read correctly), "what does this mean", "does it mean anything", and "If X really means something, does it change my opinion on Y and Z". The amount of 'flowery' text Derrida used means that there is more chance of the text being understandable (in comparison) than a more dryer and succinct text being cut-up and ending up as total gibberish. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lecture 5: Derrida, Difference and Cut-Up, Maxine Armstrong

Original Text
Thereby the text of metaphysics is comprehended. Still legible; and to be read. It is not surrounded but rather traversed by its limit, marked in its interior by the multiple furrow of its margin. Proposing all at once the monument and the mirage of the trace, the trace simultaneously traced and erased, simultaneously living and dead, and, as always, living in its simulation of life's preserved inscription. A pyramid. Not a stone fence to be jumped over but itself stonelike, on a wall, to be deciphered otherwise, a text without voice.

Cut-Up Text
not surrounded but erased, simultaneously living by the multiple in its interior and to be its limit, marked a text without fence to be be deciphered otherwise, and dead, and, Thereby the text of metaphysics is voice.furrow of its monument and the simultaneously traced and rather traversed by trace, the trace read. It is of life's preserved Not a stone in its simulation as always, living comprehended. Still legible; inscription. A pyramid. mirage of the margin. Proposing all jumped over but a wall, to itself stonelike, on at once the

My response
The cut-up text does not add any insight to me of the original, just creates more questions. The original “text of metaphysics is comprehended” and “a text without voice” becomes “Thereby the text of metaphysics is voice”. So what was the origin, the spoken word or written text?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Derrida: Differance and Cut Up_ Mandy

Paragraph 1:
I will speak, therefore, of the letter a, this initial letterwhich it apparently has been necessary to insinuate, here and there, into the writing of the word difference; and to do so in the course of a writing on writing, and also of a writing within writing whose different trajectories thereby find themselves, at certain very determined points, intersecting with a kind of gross spelling mistake, a lapse in the discipline and law which regulate writing and keep it seemly. One can always, de facto or de jure, erase or reduce this lapse in spelling, and find it (according to situations to be analyzed each time, although amounting to the same), grave or unseemly, that is, to follow the most ingenuous hypothesis, amusing. Thus, even if one seeks to pass over such an infraction in silence, the interest that one takes in it can be recognized and situated in advance as pre-scribed by the mute irony, the inaudible misplacement, of this literal permutation. One can always act as if it made no difference. And I must state here and now that today's discourse will be less a justification of, and even less an apology for, this silent lapse in spelling, than a kind of insistent intensification of its play.

Paragraph 2:
What we know, or what we would know if it were simply a question here of something to know, is that there has never been, never will be, a unique word, a master-name. This is why the thought of the letter a in différance is not the primary prescription or the prophetic annunciation of an imminent and as yet unheard-of nomination. There is nothing kerygmatic about this "word," provided that one perceives its decapita(liza)tion. And that one puts into question the name of the name.

Cut up:
situated in advance jure, erase or necessary to insinuate, can always, de of this literal reduce this lapse always act as time, although amounting to situations to law which regulate writing and keep its decapita(liza)tion. And of a writing the inaudible misplacement, be, a unique been, never will the course of difference; and to grave or unseemly, not the primary if it made a kind of that one puts What we know, I will speak, facto or de be recognized and its play. a kind of find it (according follow the most one seeks to ingenuous hypothesis, amusing. in spelling, and This is why nothing kerygmatic about here and now an apology for, would know if nomination. There is apparently has been a writing on prophetic annunciation of an imminent and this silent lapse pass over such permutation. One can word, a master-name. the mute irony, here and there, as yet unheard-of will be less initial letterwhich it that today's discourse it seemly. One gross spelling mistake, this "word," provided that one takes the thought of it were simply the discipline and a lapse in letter a, this do so in I must state prescription or the different trajectories thereby a justification of, in différance is to the same), Thus, even if there has never name. in it can insistent intensification of be analyzed each writing, and also a question here that one perceives know, is that of the word no difference. And into question the as pre-scribed by silence, the interest the letter a that is, to and even less therefore, of the in spelling, than name of the find themselves, at within writing whose certain very determined an infraction in into the writing or what we of something to points, intersecting with

My three sentences of commentary:
I think you can first of all see all the flowery words Derrida uses in his writing... some how this chopping up makes them stand out more to me. Secondly, it's just about as coherent/understandable as the original text (ha!). Lastly, the paragraphs I chose came from the very beginning and very end of his essay; I think he could've made his point a little quicker. :)

Lecture 5 : Derrida, Differance and Cut up: Paul D. Found

This translates roughly as: “Hobby-horse (Dada) does not mean anything. One finds it futile and a waste of (his) time for a word which does not mean anything”.

Original Text Paragraph One

I would say, first off, that différance, which is neither a word nor a concept, strategically seemed to me the most proper one to think, if not to master - thought, here, being that which is maintained in a certain necessary relationship with the structural limits of mastery - what is most irreducible about our "era." Therefore I am starting, strategically, from the place and the time in which "we" are, even though in the last analysis my opening is not justifiable, since it is only on the basis of différance and its "history" that we can allegedly know who and where "we" are, and what the limits of an "era" might be.

Cut-up Text Paragraph One

of an "era" neither a word nor a concept, justifiable, since it me the most I am starting, can allegedly know strategically seemed to "we" are, even most irreducible about time in which opening is not last analysis my proper one to "history" that we might be.what the limits limits of mastery first off, that différance and its think, if not though in the strategically, from the "we" are, and maintained in a our "era." Therefore who and where différance, which is I would say, place and the thought, here, being - what is is only on that which is certain necessary relationship the basis of with the structural to master -

Original Text Paragraph Two

In a language, in the system of language, there are only differences. Therefore a taxonomical operation can undertake the systematic, statistical, and classificatory inventory of a language. But, on the one hand, these differences play: in language, in speech too, and in the exchange between language and speech. On the other hand, these differences are themselves effects. They have not fallen from the sky fully formed, and are no more inscribed in a topos noetos, than they are prescribed in the gray matter of the brain. If the word "history" did not in and of itself convey the motif of a final repression of difference, one could say that only differences can be "historical" from the outset and in each ot their aspects.

Cut-up Text Paragraph Two

and of itself that only differences in the system convey the motif the exchange between from the outset can be "historical" and are no one hand, these more inscribed in gray matter of Therefore a taxonomical the brain. If fallen from the and in each repression of difference, the word "history" of a final prescribed in the They have not sky fully formed, too, and in But, on the operation can undertake than they are of a language. differences play: in a topos noetos, In a language, hand, these differences are themselves effects. language, in speech and classificatory inventory On the other of language, there of their aspects. are only differences. language and speech. did not in one could say the systematic, statistical,

The standard text makes no sense to me whatsoever (I still cannot read beyond about 5 pages of the version I printed out), so the cut-ups do not lose anything of the original - it still makes no sense. Maybe this proves Derrida was right about language not representing reality and words being arbitrarily assigned. The meaning certainly changes and has left only a "trace" of the original...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lecture 5 : Derrida,Differance and Cut up; Rachael Folds

Min cut length 2: Max Cut length 8

Original Text 1st Paragraph

And it is a tomb that cannot even be made to resonate. In effect, I cannot let you know through my discourse, through the speech being addressed at this moment to the French Society of Philosophy, what difference I am talking about when I talk about it. I can speak of this graphic difference only through a very indirect discourse on writing, and on the condition that I specify, each time, whether I am referring to difference with an e or différance with an a. Which will not simplify things today, and will give us all, you and me, a great deal of trouble, if, at least, we wish to understand each other. In any event, the oral specifications that I will provide - when I say "with an e" or "with an a" - will refer uncircumventably to a written text that keeps watch over my discourse, to a text that I am holding in front of me, that I will read, and toward which I necessarily will attempt to direct your hands and your eyes. We will be able neither to do without the passage through a written text, nor to avoid the order of the disorder produced within it - and this, first of all, is what counts for me.

Cut-up text 1st Paragraph

through my discourse, through the speech "with an e" or "with an a" that I will will not simplify things today, and of the disorder produced or différance with an a. Which and your eyes. We will be able neither difference only through a very indirect and me, a great deal I will read, and discourse on writing, - will refer Society of Philosophy, what difference the oral specifications am referring to difference with at this moment to the French me. text, nor to avoid the order uncircumventably to a written text that keeps watch condition that I specify, each time, whether I to do without the passage through a written toward which I necessarily at least, we an e will attempt to direct your hands over my discourse, I cannot let you know of trouble, if, being addressed to resonate. provide - when I say and on the about it. I can speak of this graphic In effect, even be made within it - and this, first counts for will give us all, you to a text that I am about when I talk wish to understand each other. In any event, And it is a tomb that cannot of all, is what I am talking holding in front of me, that

Original Text 2nd Paragragh

In a language, in the system of language, there are only differences. Therefore a taxonomical operation can undertake the systematic, statistical, and classificatory inventory of a language. But, on the one hand, these differences play: in language, in speech too, and in the exchange between language and speech. On the other hand, these differences are themselves effects. They have not fallen from the sky fully formed, and are no more inscribed in a topos noetos, than they are prescribed in the gray matter of the brain. If the word history did not in and of itself convey the motif of a final repression of difference, one could say that only differences can be "historical" from the outset and in each of their aspects.

Cut-up text 2nd Paragraph

the exchange their aspects. language. But, on the one hand, these differences "historical" from the outset and in each ot final repression of difference, one could say that only in a topos noetos, than they are prescribed in the gray matter of the differences can be inventory of a brain. If the word history between language and speech. On the other a taxonomical operation can undertake the systematic, statistical, from the sky hand, these differences are themselves did not in and of play: in language, in speech too, and in and classificatory fully formed, and are no more inscribed In a language, in the system of itself convey the motif of a language, there are only differences. Therefore effects. They have not fallen


Using the cut up technique on two paragraphs of Derridas’s Differance, the resulting text seems to make more sense on the second paragraph. When I say sense, I mean that the essence of what he wrote is not lost to such an extent as the first paragraph. This, in my opinion is due to the first section of text is structured in more as a dialogue and the second section more as something to be read.