The raccoon was invited to chair a panel about “New Media” a few years back. The speakers were all talented hackers/artists. It was an unexpected honor to chair such a group.
To get things started and to incline the panel in the direction I have been obsessed with — performing live visuals — I exclaimed and promoted “Blues Graphics.” (The same screen on which also appears footage taken at the fictional Veli’s Graphics bar in West Oakland). I used the chairguy’s brief intro to play SRV’s version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, while simultaneously showing a moving montage from the outside of Veli’s. This set the stage for joy and sharing.
It turned out that for me, it was not so.
First, let’s mention that the panel was successful and all panelists gave outstanding presentations/demos.
After the panel, however, I found out that it was impossible to improvise graphics on guitar ala SRV because “the parameter space is too big to map onto control space”.
Yikes. It’s embarrassing.
I had no idea what that phrase meant. It was said with such authority that it paralyzed me in cognitive thrall. I stumbled into some answer I don’t remember. I then sank to my knees, licking my brain fissures, and contemplating the mistakes of my visually obsessive behavior.
Later that day, however, I was away from the crowd, and after reflection, I realized the slogan & the dictum were bullshit.
Here’s the proof: substitute musical performance for visual performance. As my counter example, I use the good ol’SRV.
You could also say the exact same thing regarding musical performance. Think of all the possible sounds and then think about how you might design an instrument to produce them. Pretty hard, huh? One of the problems is the sheer number of settings that can be used to control the incredible range of sounds. It’s a lot of space.
Then, a bozo appears and claims he wants to build that instrument. He then suggests to play it in real-time, or even improvise with it.
He would need to be told, “I’m sorry. Such a performance is impossible because the parameter space too large to map onto control space.”
It was a good thing that you were there to alert him, it saved him a lot.
Bumble bees cannot fly.
Here’s how music can be improvised
It’s true, the space between all sounds is a vast parameter space. Let’s add timing. There are many ways to create and sustain sound effects over time. Double yow. But, I wanted to throw in the time, because that’s where performances happen.
But, let’s not forget that we are merely talking about frameworks. They limit creativity and make it difficult to create. Art is creating within constraints.
We can also use the Western diatonic to reduce that infinite sound space and on temporality, impose time signatures. This narrows the possibilities. Then, invent an instrument that further narrows the sounds and maps it onto a control space (strings or frets). is a working example of how to map the trimmed parameter area onto a playable control zone.
Bumblebees are able to fly and visuals can easily be improvised using randomization or algorithmic slaves.