Wednesday, June 5, 2013

the genesis of FLUX: Music That Is Never The Same Twice.

may 28, 1978. marseille, france.
on tour as a member of david bowie's band.
the night before we had played a concert at palais des sport.
it's a day off. I have never been to marseille before
so in the afternoon I wander down to the famous port area.

I sat outside between two cafes.
beautiful day. the cafes both had their doors open
and both of them had different radio stations playing.
in fact, one of the radios seemed stuck between stations
and seemed to be jumping from one thing to another.
one second it would be an accordian song, then static,
then it would turn into a cello performance,
then it would return to the accordian song, and so on.

in front of me was the harbor, full of activity.
the sound of boats, motors, water, seagulls,
people walking by talking in french (of course),
cars driving past, children playing, a boat bell ringing,
and all of this interrupting the different types of music
playing on either side of me.

I remember closing my eyes and listening
to this beautiful cacophony; the sound of life.
and I thought "this is how I want my music to sound someday.
music being interrupted by life being interrupted by music."
from that moment on I began working out how
that could ever be possible.

over time I added in other ideas.
what if, just like life, the music never repeated itself?
what if it was always different, surprising?
how could you do that?

over the decades since may 28, 1978 I returned again
and again to this idea until it became a mild obsession.
I knew sooner or later it would be something I had to do.

above is the postcard I bought that day.


  1. make it so!
    (and then tell me where i can buy it!)

  2. Right on! A similar concept led me to algorithmic composition, and then the frustration of [not]dealing with algorithmic composition led me somewhere else, and I'm still on a detour!

    Good Luck! enjoy the journey!

  3. Wow, this sounds amazing, fresh, exciting! Can't wait to hear it!

  4. This sounds hauntingly familiar. I read an article about soft ware companies working to develop a program that would allow you to type in any style (genre, mood, etc.) of music and it would provide you with that music at any length and intensity. It would also learn your taste. No longer would you purchase music; you'd always have a new supply of your favourites. One day there won't be any artists. Professional musicians will be superseded by software. Such software will probably be supplied by Big Brother.

    1. Recorded music isnt going anywhere. There will always be DEFINITIVE versions of a piece for some people, and thanks to technology there are now more to choose from than any before.

      The art in algorithmic composition, which is the basis of what you mention here, is in the algorithm. They truly are either as complex or as simple as the gamut of human approaches to music. No matter how hard I try to accomplish a similar feat as Mr. Belew, we would never get it to sound the same because our approaches and understanding of music is as individual as our minds. That being said, there are plateaus in such developments, but its often by examining the differences in approaches which drives the process forward.

      If a composer chooses to go into software/algorithmic/computer composition and there is a limit to his/her coding ability; the approach is usually defined by the 'goal' which is defined by the composer, the programmers would be analogous to musicians in an ensemble.

      Further study may involve looking at John Cage's chance procedures, Iannis Xenakis' formalized mathematical functions, macro formulas of Stockhausen, aleatoric free jazz (and where improv and form intersect- e.g. Zorn's game pieces which are as much about politics as they are about music,) dice-music, natural sound structures (from whales to static,) and noting the overlap in form between such musics and traditional formalized musical forms, the stuctures, approaches in composition, and their subsequent outcomes.

      There is another interesting facet of the outcome of such musical endeavors, and that is one you skirt, James.
      Its the function of art in society, and the statement one makes, either intentionally or unintentionally through unification of music from so many subsets of humanity under one roof. Commonly, music is used as a unifying or dividing 'flag' for social purposes, and creating such genre defying music bridges gaps in social contexts, providing a mechanism for commonality among disparate groups (of course, if the groups are unified, how separate are they actually?)

    2. after thinking about it still more, trends start to emerge through action/reaction principles.

      Periods of simplicity tend to follow periods of complexity, anti-commercialism following commercialism (of course, these trends also exist coincidentally, to some extent)

      In other words, after a period of computer composition we may see people arrhythmic-ally banging on pots and pans for variation from the monotony. This is an oversimplification of one trend.

      The success of the art may have more to do with financial backing and the dynamics of the marketplace, Im not sure anyone know what those may be. Art is being democratized by technology at the rate greater than any other industry, and industry uses art to push its agenda- usually technology. In this scenario, a cycle of devaluing proceeds due to the lack of any strong unified social context for art prevailing outside of industry. Since before '1984,' there has been a fear of a monopoly on communication- the real world exit from such a monopoly is in the marketplace.

      The thing about art is its an idea- and once ideas are in the human psyche, they tend to stick around- for better or worse.

      Interesting subject, though. Begs for further research.

    3. Cannot predict the effect of an art which hasn't been experienced; even though its tempting. Too many variables.

  5. Looking forward to hearing this.

  6. ahhh! the secret project is finally coming out!!
    -can't wait!

  7. Just received the pre-release. Thanks Ade! Looks like a Classic to me.

  8. it's like the old adage, stop to smell the roses, but now stop and hear the noises. looking forward to it.
    being a long time fan of yours and general lover of all things experimental and unique i'm always pleased to discover something cool and new. I hope i'm not overstepping the blog etiquette and listing a link to an interesting artist named Diego Stocco...

    I have no affiliation to him just saying he reminds me of your guitar as orchestra days and has a unique way of making music with everyday objects.

  9. very exciting times!!!!, the mutation is arriving, I felt this change specifically in music, I thought it involved something about the air, and how sound is transmited, or something about our brain wired in certain new way to perceive time, and also human experiences, feelings, uncouncius-colectivity (dreams included), a whole living, not just listening, I jut wondering, but FLUX I can feel is this new thing, a great day in the magical Marseille thanks

  10. great blog! just saw an awesome elephant project i thought you or fellow commenters may like - have a look :)