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Archive for July, 2009

Indian Music

As part of my university assignments this semester I have been reading about the system of Indian music. The reading is based on a research paper written in 1950 by Arnold A. Bake. Without going into too much detail about the theoretical concepts behind Indian music (mainly because its bloody confusing) what strikes me most about traditional Indian music is firstly its ancientness (their music has been written over thousands of years) and its striking similarity to certain Western musical systems. If you want to know more about this read the paper I have linked above. This is further evidence in my mind of the interconnectedness between humanity. That different cultures could develop musical expressions containing similar fundamental approaches is remarkable – it suggests that all humanity in some way is expressing underlying absolutes. Furthermore I wonder if there is any relation between this and the music inherent in all of existence as suggested in my blog about string theory (it’s a long shot, but why not)!

The sitar

The sitar

Much debate has raged in the West about the exact mathematical nature of the intervals between notes in the Indian octave, known as a grama (which contains 22 intervals). In Western music there is a mathematical relationship between the intervals in an octave know as frequency ratios. Now the reason I’m bringing this up is not to bore you to tears, but to note that the obsession with mathematical perfection in music is a very Western concept. Bake tells us that the early Indian scholars who wrote about music:

leave arithmetic and geometry to their astronomers and properly discourse on music and art confined to the pleasures of the imagination’.

This is wonderful stuff! The raga (made up of jatis which is like the Western system of modes) makes up much Indian music. Their are hundreds of ragas, each one creating a special atmosphere through its own particular musical features and characteristics. The point of all this is that traditional Indian musicians have tried to convey emotion through their music without being restricted by mathematical relationships in their musical theory. This enables the existence of microtones, bending of strings and other expressions that until recently would have been anathema in Western music.

More importantly to Indian music was the raga, which is musical colour. Inherent in raga is rakti or musical charm. This is the essence of traditional Indian music and as a musician I find it inspiring; to find the appropriate emotional expression rather than being too restricted by precise musical theory. I will finish this blog with a quote by Bake referring to a 17th century Indian scholar called Damodara:

Rakti is the common quality of vocal music, instrumental music and dance alike. Hence that which is devoid of rakti cannot be called music.

I will leave you with this piece – a traditional Indian raga. Enjoy!

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Peter feeling the Passion

Peter feeling the Passion

Peter Garret, once an anti-uranium campaigner, has given his support to the creation of a new uranium mine in Australia. He is in big trouble with his ex-activist friends. They seem to think Peter Garret should single-handedly turn the neo-conservative Labour Party into a radical left-wing machine. This is pretty unfair. No one can join a machine like the Labour party and expect to retain their individuality. The party, like most organisations, swallows you up and forces you to relinquish your independence. We all experience this to some degree in our lives. Peter Garret is an extreme example of this familiar process.

For this reason, I never understood why he didn’t join the Greens. He could have helped the Greens in their pursuance of extra senate seats in the 2007 federal election enabling them to hold the balance of power in the senate. Richard Di Natale with a profile not nearly as large as Garret narrowly lost his fight for a senate seat in the 2007 elections. Imagine if Garret fought for such a seat. Not only would he have been a good chance of winning, he would have helped the profile of the Greens around the country. If the Greens had controlled the senate, Garret would be in a better position to fight for the views he sang about in the Midnight Oils.

I met Peter Garret at an anti-uranium mine protest in Jabiluka in the late 90s. He played along with a couple of other bands out in the bush before an illegal walk onto the Jabiluka site. He seemed like a serious and passionate individual who wanted to hear the stories of the long-term activists. He was keen to give them support. So on a personal basis I have no doubt about Peter Garret’s passion about the views he fought for in the past. At this time he was a rockstar, and in the 1980s he was a member of the Nuclear Disarmament party. These positions made it easy for him to shout and scream about single issue causes. He did it well and nearly won a senate seat (polling 9.6%), as did other members of the party. So why didn’t he join the Greens and try it again?

Obviously he thought he could make more meaningful change through the Labour Party. I respect him for making this difficult choice which will inevitably leave him isolated from many fans and his activist friends. Unfortunately I think it is proving true that the ‘Power and the Passion‘ are being sucked out of this wonderful man as he becomes the victim of the Labour Party machine. No one can resist that pressure. I’m sorry Peter, you will always be a hero of mine, but we need you out here, with the people on the ground who are fighting for purposeful change. You could of done this in the Senate – and you still could!

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String theory. Yep, I’m gonna do some physics today. And I love string theory. Don’t know what it is? Well neither do I [because all physics is complex mathematics which only a few people can understand, which is why science is an article of faith; but that’s for another blog], but I can do a good impression of someone who acts like they know what they’re saying.

ever_thumb_illustration

This sums it all up!

String theory is in direct competition with the Standard model (are you bored yet?). The standard model basically tells us that all of existence is made up of incredibly small particles with Sci-Fi names (some, like proton, we all know; others like Z bosons are just plain weird), which act on each other with forces (the most famous being gravitational). This is handy as it means everything exists – isn’t that great! But it’s also a bit boring as it basically says existence is just material stuff and there is nothing more to it than that; however, the Standard Model always loses the infinite regress argument down the pub because scientists just keep finding smaller particles that make up the last lot of smaller particles that were discovered in a particle accelerator. Where does it end?

Well, string theory reckons they’ve got it sorted. They say, yes there are this family of elementary particles that make up all of existence; however, these particles are actually made up of (non-material) vibrating strings. Depending on how the strings vibrate determines the nature of the elementary particle the strings make up. So all of existence is dancing, and depending on how particular strings dance the types of particles are determined (including us). How cool is that!

Shiva, like strings, love to bogey.

Shiva, like strings, loves to bogey.

There is a problem though. These strings are so small they are impossible to see, so the Standard Model scientists are like: ‘Yeah right, what a load of hocus-pocus [you probably guessed that was a paraphrase]. But I believe it. And you know why? It’s the musician in me! I love the idea of the whole of existence being akin to a giant orchestral event playing a song that never ends! I am reminded of the Hindu god Shiva. Shiva is most often seen in a pose where he is dancing – the dance of creation & destruction. Is Shiva dancing to the vibrations of the strings our Western Scientists postulate? I say yes! [An aside – when unrelated worldviews begin to overlap, I reckon the thinkers are on to something].

The moral of the story is, we should all dance a lot more, because then we will do what our body is constantly doing – dancing. Great idea! Your employer probably won’t go for it, but hey, give it a crack.

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For those of you with background knowledge of hiddensounds you will know it is a project that has been alive for approximately 5 years. This of course makes the 1,300 myspace profile views highly embarrassing. But hey, if ya’ gonna make experimental sounds what the hell do you expect? As I wrote in last weeks post hiddensounds has divided into three different projects. This meant removing a number of songs from the hiddensounds catalouge as they had been absorbed into my other projects: ‘The Infinite Ox’ and ‘Bulke’ (Confused yet? Check last weeks blog. I don’t guarantee this will alleviate your sense of confusion though!).

composing

composing

I have gone back to ‘The Hidden Sounds of Electricity’, an album hiddensounds completed in 2005. It was recorded using a Nord synth and behringer delay modulator, piano and bass guitar with effects. The overall result is droning and surreal. I have added three songs from this album: ‘A pleasurable scream’ which is a cacophony of synth noises; ‘Dugong swimming in an Electric Swamp’ which mixes bass booms with high-pitched synth sounds; and ‘Wave Rising’ which is a spoken word piece.

Other songs include ‘Hello’ featuring my son and partner on vocals; ‘When a Date Turns into a Disaster’ which is a satirical track that makes very little sense; ‘A Stroll in Complex Park’, the sort of song Eraserhead would have fallen asleep to; and ‘Quite Correct’, a philosophical song based on recorded conversations between myself and postmodernist philosopher, Simon McCart. The other three songs you will probably be familiar with; they are the ‘highly’ produced electronica songs.

You can find all these songs at my reverbnation page or my homepage. If you would like a copy of any of the songs mentioned above drop me a line and I will email you mp3s of the songs (except the three electronica songs at this stage). I am happy to share my hiddensounds tracks with you!

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