Category Archives: Music

Spending More Time with Better Information

In the book You Are Not a Gadget Jaron Lanier talks about the unrecognized value of ideas generated by individuals, and the unintended effects the internet is having on musicians, visual artists, writers and other professional creative people. One way he describes it is the the “digital flattening of expression into a global mush“. Another is the “adoration of fragments“.

From Jaron Lanier at the RSA uploaded to Flickr by PSD.

One of the best examples he uses is what MIDI did to music “squeezing all of musical expression through a limiting model of the actions of keys on a musical keyboard“. All of the nuances, individual interpretations and stellar performances are gone. Every performance is the same.

People are not spending enough time with better information because some parts of the internet design do not allow for multiple iterations without ditching the previous versions, or any way to see how an idea or the information surrounding it has evolved.  There is no variation of the same, there are only exact copies and links.  A new digital architecture is needed with provisions for continuity, and coming back to an idea again with a fresh perspective, to promote the slow building and appreciation of work that takes longer than a few minutes or hours to create or interpret. There is hope though, with organizations like the Long Now Foundation working on projects to foster long term thinking and responsibility. It is a monumentally large challenge to consider more efficient ways to process infinite data fields intersecting – in such a way that better data might rise up out of the fray.

From The Effects of Digital Crosstalk in Data Converters
by Maxim where Innovation is Delivered

For better data to be created in the first place, professional creative people need to be paid reasonable rates to be ABLE to spend more time making work that in turn lasts longer out in the world. Consider for example these beer taps, an actual designer was paid a reasonable rate to figure out a shape, they were free to use any typeface, the only design requirement was a universal hookup. That is all internet standards should be, universal screw threads that allow designs to be professionally created, manufactured, and distributed.

Dr. Dremo Donut Beer Tap from the Quest for the Holy Grain

It truly is a conceptual and mathematical problem to devise a system of standard access points that allow data to slowly evolve, and get better, in ways that enough people can become truly engaged in what hand crafters have made.

Some designs will last longer than others but there is no inherent functionality in the design of the internet currently to let digital cross talk start eliminating what should sticks around longer or pop up in searches faster because it is actually better or supported by people who have actually looked at some thing from all sides. The idea of what fits is underused because there is no geometry around data forcing some information to stick around certain areas or flow through and keep on going.

Processes need to be developed to start dealing with the pace ideas and information fly around.  Data flow needs to be treated more like music. Like many people have observed – the symbolic encoding can be very simple and the same everywhere – but more time and attention is needed for actually the shapes and architecture of what supports a digital idea or lets it exchange faster, slower, closer, further away.

Yale Research, Breakthroughs in the Water, the Science of Swimming

What would such an ideal exchange architecture look like? Where would the universal screw threads be and how can the visitor experience be directed through this information space like a museum design? Where are the long axial views? The hints of what might be around the corner? Where do you pause and consider individual works? There is a flatness to digital information, everything is in your face on the same plane. There needs to be a better way to get a longer perspective on what surrounds ideas and information. Where they came from, how they have evolved, and which parts need to stay connected so they can hold together and stand the test of time.

DNA from Emergent Culture


Capturing and Communicating Flow

penderecki1 penderecki2 penderecki3

Krzysztof Penderecki communicates flow in his musical compositions through his own annotation system. Eventually his drawings are translated into traditional notes and lines so performers can play the work. But for his own purposes, and maybe to explain the details and overall patterns to performers and patrons – Penderecki’s own system captures his ideas best.

The scores above are from wood s lot, Sinepost, and the gallery of music at WFMU.
A set of images from Mattmo‘s Inspiration Set on Flickr are presented in contrast below. They also capture flow. At one point maybe only to the artist or mathematicians but at some point later, perhaps to others interpreting or performing the work…..maybe even machines performing work that has a flow.



Making Sense of the Past, Streaming to the Future

Music collaboration and community storytelling are different today. Not only can participants be in different locations, they can also be from different eras, with dramatically different memories and interpretations of the same piece of music or story.

For example, look at Dust-to-Digital whose mission is to “produce high quality cultural artifacts, which combine rare, essential recordings with historic images and detailed texts describing the artists and their works.”










Victorola Favorites, Artifacts from Bygone Days

Melodii Tuvi: Throat Songs and Folk Tunes from Tuva 


and compare to YouTube where any one can broadcast themselves as opposed being brought forward from the past by an archivist.

Ayo – Life is Real

Compare these situations to Accuracy&Aesthetics Director Ken Fields tag798 project, a semantic community model being constructed through user-created tagging methodologies, also known as folksonomies.

Participants will be building a community ‘portal’ – but the portal IS the physical community; the map is embedded in the territory. All is based on the premise:
1. Humans are taggers.
2. Creative online practices will migrate into the real world.
3. Enabled by mobile devices.

All of the examples above are about music, but typical ontologies are not geared for processing music, most interpret words. In terms of story telling, which uses words, see the Center for Digital Storytelling based in Berkeley CA. Even the logo is perfect with a divide between the organic human side and machine processing.


Diverse stories are able to be recorded and distributed far and wide….past where the readers own memory or interpretations come into play and the machines preserving and distributing the words have no understanding of which stories are “better” or “truer” or “more meaningful”. Today, machines and networks can only understand higher or lower rankings, ease of processing may make minor works seem more popular and important than they are. The situation will only get worse as time goes on.

The Center for Digital Storytelling helps people to listen deeply through their mission that every community has a memory of itself. Not a history, nor an archive, nor an authoritative record…a living memory, an awareness of a collective identity woven of a thousand stories.

What depiction works for this semantic construction?

Digital Arts & Humanities Project, Nora Social Network Demo

Can the ultimate shared map include a break or reflection between the organic human side and machine processing like the Center for Storytelling logo?


Go back to Africa again and compare this work to the Centre for Popular Memory in Cape Town.


How many breaks and reflections are needed once the issue of translation and transcribing enters the scene?


Renate Meyer
Digitising African Oral Narratives In A Global Arena
Museums and the Web 2004


Hi Deborah,

Thank you for mentioning us. I think it looks and reads great.

Best regards,