The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

January 7, 2017

(Potentially) from LIMIT (Public Eyesore, forthcoming)
Azure Carter, Alan Sondheim, photo by Luke Damrosch
Azure Carter, voice, Alan Sondheim, viola,
Supercollider program by Luke Damrosch

LIMIT (notes)

Reverse reverberation in real time is an impossibility; the
physics of space-time doesn't permit it. That said, Luke
Damrosch has developed programs that approach the impossible;
the result is a new form of music dynamics. The general idea is
that you can reverse shorter and shorter segments 'almost' as if
they were real time in reverse, but you're really dealing with
fundamental limits of spacetime; only on a quantum level is
reversibility possible (for example a positron as an electron
moving temporally backwards in Feynmann diagrams -
retrocausality in Wikipedia), and that's up for grabs. In any
case, I've been interested in processes that operate at the edge
of this sort of dynamics, where physics, acoustics, and
philosophy meet. And here is a resulting cd, using acoustic
instruments, where this is a guiding principle.

A second example involves the use of dynamics processing (I'm
using Adobe Audition), in which the louder something is, the
quieter the output - reversing the usual dynamics. I've been
doing this in post-processing, but with voltage-controlled
amplifiers, it's easy to do as analog in real time. The result
is fascinating - if I'm playing shakuhachi or guqin for example,
the sounds of breathing, of the body, of string slip, etc., come
to the foreground and the traditional musical 'content' recedes.
The body becomes a fundamental source of sound, almost as if it
were playing itself.

Again there are a lot of contradictions here; since a slow
sinewave, for example, varies in amplitude, it might disappear
or become increasingly dominant itself, depending on the
settings (frequency ranges employed) for the dynamics

I'm also working with pitch reversal, so that, for example, a
frequency F is transformed into 1/F; the basis of F can be set
so that the range as a whole is inverted. You can see how this
is almost the same as dynamics processing; the two are deeply
related. (This hasn't been implemented yet.)

All of this connects to my interest in philosophy and the
foundations of mathematics. Most acoustic transformations are
'surface' transformation, as if the physical acoustic
environment were itself changing (larger or smaller room, etc.),
or as if parameters were changing holistically (raising or
lowering pitch, etc.). There are exceptions, but this is done,
for the most part, in terms of musical or other aesthetics. I'm
interested in something fundamental in a different way.

Traditional foundations of mathematics begins with such things
as logic, set theory, etc. - as you know, anomalies appear all
over the place (Godel's theorem is the most obvious example).
But the tendency now is to look at dynamics based on things like
category theory - in which there are objects and arrows, or
objects and morphisms and rules and structures emerging from
these. Arrows are also objects, objects can be morphisms, etc.
etc. I understand very little of this, but it's really relevant
to the kinds of global transforms that revrev or inversions
represent; I tend to think of dynamics applied through acoustic
spaces for example - at least that's where I'd like to go...

The LIMIT cd

The examples would be through reverse reverberation (the
real-time revrev programs); inverted dynamics (post-playing,
through Audition's digital manipulation, but if I can get an
analog synthesizer, I can do this in real time), and
experimenting with inverting pitch. Whatever emerges will be of

Instrumentation would be bowed instruments, woodwinds, string
instruments. I want to experiment with playing both slowly (so
that the transformations dominate), and as fast as possible (so
that the transformations 'clot'). I also want to work with
Azure's voice with and through all of this; what I've done
before with this sounds incredble.

I owe so much to Luke Damrosch and the Supercollider programs
he's created, as well as to Azure Carter for her songs and

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