Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Khaen/ Violin Duo #6" - The Most Eloquent Machines

chapter 2
Chapter titles (working chapter titles ~ who knows at this point what is skeleton, what is scaffolding?) are taken from this CD.

I'm having trouble finding the voice to carry me through.  At this point I couldn't / don't want to write a straight biography of Jaron Lanier.  Whom I don't know, am not researching in depth, and over whom I'm not personally obsessed.

I'm just playing.

I'm not sure I could make a useful character of him.  But his territory of thought certainly gives plenty of space to play.

Says Lanier in last week's Wall Street Journal "On the Threshold of the Avatar Era":


People can inhabit awfully odd avatars. One of the early avatars was a lobster—a creature with more limbs than a human. By mapping values from body poses, it turns out people can learn to inhabit other bodies not just with oddly shaped limbs, or limbs attached in unfamiliar places, but even bodies with different numbers of limbs.

This phenomenon is called "homuncular flexibility." The homunculus is the mapping of the body into the motor cortex, which is a portion of the brain located approximately under the portion of the scalp that would be occupied by a Mohawk hairdo.


That the mapping of the homunculus could be so flexible as to adapt to non-human bodies was initially a shock, but a delightful one. The sensation of inhabiting a nonhuman avatar is a new kind of pleasure. Think about what it would be like to wear wonderful clothing, combined with driving a superb vehicle, combined with mastering an extraordinary physical skill. It is like all those things together, but more expressive.

When we can successfully inhabit a nonhuman avatar, we are exploring not only the brain's deep history, but also the potential far future of all the creatures for which it is preadapted—what might happen in hundreds of millions of years. Becoming an avatar is a form of extreme time travel for the brain.
Meanwhile, I'm playing his music over and over whenever I write on this project - outline, notes, chapters themselves - to disengage the ordering mind, to re-engage the ordering soul.


Says Lanier in his liner notes for this piece:

As the most eloquent machines, instruments predict the future of culture, when we will communicate increasingly through machines.
This piece is a structured improv between violinist Barbara Higbie and Lanier on a mouth organ from Laos/ Northeast Thailand, of which he writes:

The instrument looks a little like a hand held bamboo forest and sounds like a whole wind section. It has a keyboard-like agility and the expressive power of the voice.


1464 words down  |  48,536 words to go

5 comments:

Lisa B. said...

I know now is not the time to suggest things, and maybe I already suggested this to you, but have you read China Mieville? Perdido Street Station? I thought that book was unbelievably good, and it inhabits at least some of this territory you're roaming in.

Well done! Lots of words!

ArtSparker said...

Oooh! Look at this video on youtube about Nick (not that Nick Cave) Cave's soundsuits (please), applies to inhabiting

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwupTQt9zxY

Emma J said...

OH, Art Sparker - yes! Thanks for this link. Love it.

Lisa B. - you did suggest Perdido Street and I am actually saving it as my reward for 50,000 words. (Perdido and Kraken). Maybe it will be better to have already written my inhabiting novel before reading his? Or am I in danger of engaging in a pale copy?

Clowncar said...

it's fun to watch you try to arrange the pieces here.

Finding "plenty of space to play," and then playing, is a good definition of the artistic process. Though it does leave out the hard work part.

Lisa B. said...

no risk, just thinking you'd enjoy. what a lovely reward!

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