little tongues

"linguini" are what im calling this family of objects. originally their shape comes from analyzing a very short section of recorded audio. since the analysis divides the single burst of audio into many hierarchically organized streams (some bigger/more influential than others, in a tree format), and also due to their noodle-like appearance, i'm calling them "linguini" (little languages). they've all been constructed the same way, so they look pretty similar. at first, i was going to assemble each one slightly differently, but this is the layout that i kept coming back to. even so, each one is different simply due to their physicality-- that and my incompetence with regard to fabrication. i made these in an attempt to play with the idea that a sculpture could serve as notation for something else. already, without further realizing, the linguini are transcriptions of a previous event. they are inscribed with the representation of that event's micro-worlds. since they are the result of an analysis process (the Haar wavelet transform), the details are encoded rather than directly represented. i find the form itself to fairly reek of musicality: there are 8 layers, with each successive layer (after the first two) doubling in complexity, with most complex layers approaching the look of a noisy, organic surface.


there is, as always, a fairly rich precedent for visualizing sound, even into sculpture. formally speaking, the linguini do not break new ground. it's their proposed function that does.

what does calling an (otherwise formally pleasing, sculptural) object a notation really accomplish? musical notation is a system that contributes to the creation of worlds pertaining to specific roles, artifacts, and events. Cage and others categorize the roles involved as "composer" /"performer" / "listener", while still others prefer categories that favor other aspects of this dynamic. the artifacts of music could be things like instruments, venues, and notations. (i even begrudgingly concede the inclusion of the grammy award as an artifact.) events may include composition, audition, practice, participation, experience, etc. semiologically, notation participates in an infinite regress of meaning, and, especially in the thoroughly fragmented worlds of contemporary thought on the subject, notation implies a relationship between events, any of which must be potentially resolvable to another notation. because of this troublingly recursive nature of the system at play, a piece like Paik's "Zen for Head" can be positioned as a realization of La Monte Young's "Composition 1960 #10", and Young's piece "Second Composition for David Tudor" a pithy realization of Cage's 4'33". in the continuum of African American creative music, this practice may be observed as well, for example in the work of restructural master Charlie Parker. notation is essentially incomplete, by which i mean it is almost always analogic to its signified, and often there is a loss of clarity at the more homologic end of the spectrum. examples of more homologic notational practices include the concrete arts, where tape-splicing or typography have the tendency to 'point to themselves'. pop musics may often allude to this practice as well.

despite its apparent ambiguity as a notation, a physical object has mass, texture, fragility, uniqueness, and an abundance of other attributes that can constrain the variety of approaches to realize it. while the set of legal realizations remains infinite (just the same as, say, the set of legal realizations of a Bach fugue), the notation's physicality both enriches and limits the variations among set members.

against my better judgement, i have attempted to realize the first linguini, "A", by amplifying it with a contact microphone and rubbing it. using that sound material as a source, i produced a sonification of the most recent TDAT system. this sonification only responds to the pauses that happen as the result of a player hitting the end of her text without further re-triggering. i actually sonify each unit with a different grain lifted from the source material, but i constrained the amplitude such that we only hear the pauses, and perhaps part of the following and preceding units. each player's stream is differentiated by a filter that emphasizes one of four resonant tones of the object, derived from a fourier analysis.

i'm very excited to distribute these notations among friends to see their decisions. that's such an essential part of this idea: that a tool that was such a normalizing force, one that eventually grew up to encompass the property aspects of a piece of music, could be used in a way that confounds traditional forms of ownership, and meanwhile, lets us try to disentangle (or re-entangle) the idea from the technology.

One thought on “little tongues

  1. notice the 'precedent' i have listed for visualizing sound into sculpture is intentionally outside the world of avant garde music. i think the site is a great example of the bizarre ways people try to monetize ideas that come from the intersection of technology with the arts. it definitely made me laugh.

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