Thursday, September 25, 2008


I've spent my afternoon at th Herbert Brün House a.k.a. th Parkhouse, where I sometimes work to digitize old reel-to-reel recordings in th collection of Herbert Brün, a founding thinker of th School for Designing a Society. I sit amidst not only his experimental music compositions (temporarily trapped in analog), but also his words. On th shelf sit several books that he wrote, which th Herbert Brün Society (my teachers & friends) disseminate.

As I work, I sneak little peeks into his book my words and where i want them; so, while I have temporary access to this little wonder, let me take a moment (off th clock, don't worry) to share some bits w/ you. I haven't gotten too far into it, but I do already have favorite bits:


I consider words innocent until proven guilty. Once they are proven guilty, however, I consider their meaning to be irredeemable. Thus words form the limits of personal freedom. While I may be free to express my thoughts in a free society, the words at my disposal may not be free at all. Ignorance of this fact is what turns the thoughts of free people into the thoughts of slaves.


As long as we do not claim the knowledge of absolute truth, and while believers can not but make liars, listeners make storytellers tell stories and make composers compose music.
And they know it.


All I am is not objective.
All I am is said by an observer.
I am said observer's all.
My observer: is it observing me
or is it I observing
or is it I observing me
and does it say what it observed
or am I my observer's language?


Belief turns everything into lies, even the truth itself.

Many people intend to lie occasionally. However, even the best intentions and the finest diction can not turn a statement into a lie unless a believer can be found. No believers - no liars. And the inverse, astonishingly, also says what I want it to say.


Instead of
finding ourselves
in yesterday's future we
find ourselves in tomorrow's
We cannot afford what
we want today
because of
those who can't buy it and
therefore don't want it.
What is it?


Today's daily discourse is the punishment for our obedience to our society's daily orders.


The law which you don't break will break you.
The language which you don't speak will speak you.

Th book contains a total of 387 bits. I look forward to more bafflement.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

22-tone guitar, a project begun

I yanked th frets off my Fender Stratocaster this week & started tying wires on to serve as new frets for a new tuning (!!): 22 equal divisions of th octave. Th wire frets buzz, break, & shift position when I don't want them to, but otherwise, I feel very pleased w/ how this project has turned out so far! I have started formulating plans for a multi-movement something-or-other to come.

Pix: a pile of frets on my bedroom floor:

Some frets on, some frets off:

A closeup of th neck. You can see dark slots where th original frets used to sit:

Th body of th guitar, w/ decorations left over from when th instrument belonged to teenage Andrew Heathwaite:

Why 22?

I like 22edo because it fits somewhere between very familiar & very strange. You can get some familiar sounds, eg. major chords (w/ more restful-sounding thirds, as 22edo thirds fall closer to th just third of 5:4). But you cannot build a direct analogue to a 12edo major scale. If you try to build a major scale w/ a circle of fifths, you get this:

0 4 8 9 13 17 21 0

Th third in this scale, at 8 degrees of 22, sounds much higher, brighter, than 12edo thirds. In fact, it sounds more like th septimal supermajor third, 9:7, which falls 35% of a half step (35 cents) above a 12edo major third. (That means 435 cents, instead of 400 cents.) This sounds very different & ear-bending.

Th 22edo major third, which comes much closer to 12edo & just, comes at th 7th degree, rather than th 8th (one degree below th supermajor third). It comes closer to just than 12edo does, which, as previously mentioned, makes it sound more restful. But, if we use it in our scale, look what happens:

0 4 7...

See how th major third gets sliced into two differently-sized intervals, a 4 degree interval & a 3 degree interval? That means that we effectively have two different major seconds to play around w/. That sounds odd to those of us accustomed to 12edo, where we have only one major second, but in just intonation, this kind of thing comes up frequently. Some other microtonal scales do what 12edo does, make those two different major seconds th same size. But 22edo does not.

This means that you can't build chord progressions in th same way. It forces you to do something xenharmonic. & that rocks.

22edo has other intervals that do get represented w/ th same step. Th 3 degree step, for example, can function as 10:9, 11:10, & 12:11 for example, which in just intonation would all sound a little different. In this way, it takes a complicated system & makes it simpler. But in a completely different way than 12edo does.

I could go on & on, but it will make even less sense to th uninitiated (& I have to leave soon for class!). But I'll give a few more reasons why I love 22edo.

  • It contains 11edo, another wonderful scale!
  • It contains several interesting moment-of-symmetry scales, including Orwell & Porcupine temperament.
  • It demands smaller frets, but I still find them manageable. (A tuning w/ more notes might feel more awkward to play).
  • It contains approximations of a few delightful higher-level JI intervals: 7:6, 11:8, 20:11.
  • It has a bit of a following in th microtonal world. By writing music for this tuning, I would automatically have people interested in hearing it & playing it. Indeed, some 22edo guitars already exist (& most of them probably have real frets).
  • It cannot play music conceived in 12edo!

I don't go for th "one true tuning" or "one new standard to replace th one old standard." I still love, for example, 17edo, & plan to continue writing & performing w/ it on th cumbus. I would like to invite other tunings into my life as well: Bohlen-Pierce, 14edo, 15edo, & eventually 31edo, for example. But 22edo calls to me now, so I answer.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

run-down of a week of newnesses

Hi. I have had a week of newnesses & I will report on things as they have gone.

Monday - an open house for th School (Jacob suggests "a school," as surely other "schools for designing (a) societ(y/ies)" exist(s)). Instead of describing SDaS, Susan Parenti (w/ accordion interludes) described eight predecessors, showing th threads of art, cybernetics, sociology, etc. that went into this latest weaving. People generally schmoozed. I forgot several Korean names (all of which I have since learned well).

Tuesday - "A School! Uncertainty!" wrote I in my class notes. Indeed, th willingness to accept uncertainty - indeed, to encourage it to organically enter th space & allow us some divine Chaos to begin from - we take as a starting point (Discordian flavor mine). "TRUE FALSE TEMPORARY" wrote I also - a fine reminder. Each false statement contains a seed of potential. We can make th false true. We began a study of theatre in designing a society & gestures - what do our gestures say about us? Synthesis! Estrangement! We reconvened for a shared dinner at Danielle Chenoweth's house & did more schmoozing.

Wednesday - I & three of my housemates spent th morning w/ th Prairie Monk, a local legend 1000% devoted to restoring th prairies that used to thrive in this area. He came from Australia decades ago to study them, but none remained! So he has a foundation, & he has taken to hiring folks like us to visit his prairie & pick seeds - in this case, th seeds of th New Jersey Tea plant - to use for replanting prairies. So we followed Dave Monk around as he showed us dozen of local landmarks & a few tiny prairies, & we picked seeds for 2 hours. Not bad work!

In class we discussed CHOICE. Not a small undertaking! Words like "alternative", "decision", & "criteria" look very different to me now. We had some rather tense discussion about what "best alternative" & "best decision" might possibly mean. (I could get into some of th interpersonal craziness going on w/ classmates & opinions, but I best not). After a much-needed break, we did some breathing & focus exercises (Zip Zap Zop; Dibby Dibby Dip - Dip Dip Dip; Zip Zap Boing). We wrote wee bits of dialogue in which th first three lines do not appear to have any connection - BUT - th fourth line makes a connection possible. Classmate Jian & I wrote this one:

A: We've been walking in circles all day.
B: I am hungry.
A: Penguins sure are silly-looking
B: Let's come back to th zoo next weekend.

We had a lengthy house meeting at La Casa, th co-op I now live at. We got a few things accomplished. I feel good about th people I live w/ & how things have worked out so far.

Thursday - change of topic, change of teacher. A class called "Political Economy." We picked apart th concepts of "capitalism" & "property" for a good long while. Susan wonders how we can have business w/o monsters (WalMart & friends). Much yet to discuss to discuss.

We rehearsed music for a concert yet-to-come: in particular, a piece of Jacob's: "In Something Else," a take-off on Terry Riley's "In C." Folks visited for a run-thru & much beautiful did take place in our very (red) living room.

Friday, yesterday - in class, more discussion of criteria - that which we consult when making decisions. Mark introduced two principle kinds: appointed criteria, that we choose consciously to take into consideration, & inherited criteria, which we cannot choose, because we have grown up w/i a culture that insists on telling us how we ought to make our decisions. We touched briefly on th concept of "problem," & I had a million questions bubbling up, but they will wait. In my notes, I wrote "problem - ???". Problem presents a problem for me.

We presented our work for th week - first, to find & capture common gestures that we see around us. Second, to write a list of false statements that we'd like to become true. By making these desires explicit, we make it possible for us to adopt new criteria when making decisions, & thus to create society (one decision at a time). My list:

False Statements I Want to Become True.

  • People, all people, recognize th interconnectedness of all things.
  • When they need it, every person has a shoulder to cry on.
  • I always know how to take a joke.
  • Every day I experience something beautiful & take a moment to appreciate it.
  • Everyone in this room has hugged everyone else.
  • All people have enough food to eat.
  • Animals do not get tortured to provide food for humans.
  • Whoever wants to can fly into outer space.
  • I can take any shape I can imagine.
  • Human beings simply do not kill

I expect I'll revise that list a bit as I go, but anyway, I started w/ that. & that gets me thru my class notes up till now.

That evening, Jacob & I emceed an "Opening Night of Fun" at th Red Herring Coffee House - five hours of eclectic music, poetry, games, coloring, conversation, coffee, exclamation points, & joy! We had pop songs, udderbot, bluegrass, avant-garde guitar, a minimalist jam, a one-man band, xenharmonic keyboard, poetry, Just Intonation song settings, 7-line poetry, dictionary oracle readings, & a LEGO table. I read poems, (including a few in th invented language Great-Ape by Oulipian Jacque Jouet), played Nodal Nim tunes, & attempted to play my Cümbüş songs but broke too many strings (ah well, another time). We had a great turn-out, & generally felt very satisfied about how things went. We look forward to hearing constructive feedback from our classmates & teachers.

Saturday, today - life rolls on. I woke up late, so didn't make it to th farmer's market. SDaS students visited th Parkhouse where Rob Scott had invited us over for painting & "vibes." Indeed, it felt positively vibey. I slapped some colors onto a page & a piece of fabric, then assembled a short poem. We'd have stayed longer, but we wanted to do some more seed-picking. Jacob & I met up w/ Steve (another student) & Michael (a former resident of La Casa) & zippy zapped back to th prairie. Good pickings today, I say.

I took a nap & a bath, & now I report my doings to you. My run-down doesn't capture much at all, I think, but there you have it. I'd love a visit from good friends. Come to my place & meet th strange new people in my world. All things go.

Much lovesacks,

Monday, September 1, 2008

room house dog bana

In Urbana, I now live, & no where else - in a room & a house - w/ dog & dog - w/ art-doers - whereat pianos get burned on pyres to celebrate anniversaries of birth & livingtogetherness. We have a living room w/ newly-painted redwalls. We make delicious togetherfoods & grand musicks pour out of pores.

Jacob & I have done a bit of playing - on udderbot, he, & also recorder - on stringthings I - at farmer's market for happyfaces - futurized to do a show at Red Herring Coffee House on September 5 (& do come!). We begin classes for School for Designing a Society on th morrow - & today th school holds an "open house" to which we intend to infinitive-splittingly go.

Playing: yes. I continue to write wee 17edo cumbus tunes incorporating Book of Days. One more since moving I have written. Computer troubles keep me from immediately recording, but I want to share when I can share. Jacob & I wish write togetherthings. Perhaps strange collaborative wonders will also emerge.

My beagle loves it here. She got lots of pets from lots of humans at partything last night. So it goes.

I want visitors! Those of you round about Chicago will find it easy to Greyhound or Amtrak to me. Elsewise, you can travel first to Chicago, then down here from there, easy as pi.

Ten thousand lovebuttons,