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    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2007 edited
    @MJSM, re: cosmic sounds. I've been experimenting with them in my new band (The Myoclonic Jerks). Nothing viable yet, but lots of potential. Then again, I think all kinds of found sounds are pretty neat.
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2007
    "I guess I have two points, one is I would like to know what people think about how music is treated in sci fi and if you are annoyed by the fact that sometimes writers who seem to be very cutting edge in so many ways seem to only draw on their college music experience?"

    Interesting. I hadn't thought about that.

    One of my favorite science fiction/rock 'n' roll novels is Little Heroes (1987) by Norman Spinrad and though he was great with the dystopic corporate technology bit, the music descriptions smacked of cybersized 'Sixties pop.

    On the other hand, that may have been intentional.

    What other SF novels revolve around music?
    • CommentAuthorJeff P.
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2007
    The fantasy novel Glimpses by Lewis Shiner, but it too sticks with 60s.

    The comic Savage Henry by Matt Howarth also comes to mind.

    And I'm having horrible memories of the future disco music of the Buck Rogers TV show...
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2007
    "There was also an artist (the specifics escape me) who released a six album set on vinyl with the intention that all six albums be played on different turntables simultaneously."

    I know that the Flaming Lips did something like that, but I think it was more like three seperate albums.
    • CommentAuthorpygmy
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2007
    What other SF novels revolve around music?

    I don't know if it specifically qualifies as sci-fi, it was kinda more fantasy, but Mieville's "King Rat" was pretty much centered on jungle and techno music.

    I always found the musical references in Transmet amusing.

    But I always figured that in the future, pop music would get crappier and crappier, and strange music would get stranger. But I'm all for there being more choices. I can enjoy a wide range of things I like from the last 300 years or so.
  1.  (35.6)
    J. Thaddeus “so a sci fi story where they listen to something much older is completely doable.”

    I’m not saying at AAAAALLL that there isn’t reason to use older music or whatnot in sci fi, I just feel that for a genre that is “trying to find the future” it does not seem to fully develop music as a futurist idea.

    I’m not really asking writers to always invent new styles or genres but looking into how we may soon be buying, selling, performing, collaborating, and writing music in the future is very much within their purview and I would like to hear more of it.

    On that note I keep waiting for William Gibson to drop his noise-fuck novel because I hear many people tell me they have played the Cobalt in Vancouver with him in the room and most of these bands are pretty skull huffing.

    Mike - “Frankly, other than Finntroll you're not missing much.”

    I know it’s not exactly Kvlt but I have been digging Circle quite a lot, Warren if you have time check it out, weirdo-drone-psych-(sometimes)metal from Finland.

    Also your points about ShoeDoom like Isis, Neurosis, Pelican, Mike, made me think about my new recent purchase Nadja. Have you heard em? What is your take?

    Tulpa – You should totally post that!

    Red Sharlach – OH absolutely the history of noise/no wave/krautrock…etc totally fascinates me and I love digging through all of it. What I was talking about was more the recent movents happening on a social level where four kids from the Midwest can blow up in Venice even though they only have hand made cd-rs. Also it does seem like with that added internet layer it has become easier for people to try many types of music which has added a nice air of who gives a fuck to it all. I mean no reason to be hardline attached to any one genre these days so more people are probably going to be checking out the weird shit. Vice versa as well where the hardcore people are totally picking and choosing what parts of the pop matrix appeals to them and leaving the rest to rot.

    Jeff P. – “Given as there are now videogames that change with each play, we can hope to someday see digital music that differs with each play.”

    Isnt Eno doing a purely generative soundtrack to Spore, or am I making that up?

    “This will inevitably lead to bands releasing music as viruses”

    I love this sentence more than your examples but HELL YES!

    Pygmy – “I always figured that in the future, pop music would get crappier and crappier, and strange music would get stranger. But I'm all for there being more choices. I can enjoy a wide range of things I like from the last 300 years or so. “

    I believe its more that the membrane between pop music and strange music would get thinner and thinner and honestly I think nobody would notice because it becomes the paradox that if weird music is pop doesn’t that mean it isn’t weird anymore? I dunno?
    • CommentAuthortulpa
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2007
    While I can't find a copy of the video anymore, I do remember it was called something like "The worst idea for a band, ever."

    Also, Music as Viruses would be great. I would love a music player that would have a completely new playlist every morning, because the viruses that day were different, or were modified by other viruses, or something.

    Last I heard, everything in Spore would be purely Generative, but it'll be that sort of ambient that's very easy to configure procedurally. It won't be anymore complicated than that.
  2.  (35.8)
    i personally disagree that making ambient sound good is easy even when programming generative music, but i will say that making bad ambient is easy...but I wouldnt expect Eno to do much of anything half assed.
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2007
    Yes, music as viruses. That's lovely.

    I like the way Kage Baker handled future music and art movements in her Company novels. It would just be subtle references to names of artists and genres without any explicit attempt to describe or define what they were.

    Shit, I have trouble describing music I like now, so there's no way I'd be able to write about imaginary future music.
    • CommentAuthortulpa
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2007
    Nothing critical aimed at Ambient, Sam. I was mostly thinking more that the music will be in the same vein of generated soundscapes that have been done before, rather than an innovation, thus making it easy.
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2007
    It would just be subtle references to names of artists and genres without any explicit attempt to describe or define what they were.

    In a story I did for Nature I used the genre's innate tech advances to talk about the music of the future. Specifically, there's a band featured that uses subdermal magnets implanted in their fingertips to basically dig noises out of the pickups' magnetic fields of their guitars. It seems to me that you'd have to talk about strange methods of playing current instruments or creating completely new instruments that can be played in order to create the idea that the music would be strange, rather than trying to describe the sounds themselves. I think you can always talk about pop music, because pop is essentially immutable. Varying from a formula too much and you'll end up outside the pop mainstream anyway.

    Also, I'm pretty sure the Flaming Lips did the six record simultaneous play. Boris did a double LP gatefold that also is intended to be played together, though both records stand alone as complete objects. And it's awesome.
  3.  (35.12)
    Seems to me that there's a couple of ways it could go. We've reached a stage where anyone who can afford a computer can record music, and the only real limitations (aside from the technical know-how) are imagination and physical space, and the second only applies if you're trying to record acoustic instruments. But the main area we've not advanced hugely in is the physical interface between a person and the noises they make. More often than not we're looking at a traditional input method, something you hit or pluck or blow air into or bow or whatever. I would imagine the future will see more innovative input methods: a dance troupe where every move is mapped and transferred into audio, for example, would be fascinating. People have been experimenting with this kind of thing, although I'm struggling to think of examples off the top of my head, using MIDI triggers, light beams and pressure sensitive pads and drum pads and the like. But I'm thinking of something more to do with the total position of the body, the way a person moves, the speed they move at, the angle they hold a finger at and so on.

    As far as ambient background music goes, supposing we all end up implanted with systems to monitor our health in realtime, blood pressure, hormone levels, brain chemistry, whatever, and what if you then repurpose those parameters onto some kind of sound generator? What if you can tune into the music made by the person nearest you, or listen in on the noises made by a politician giving a speech, or what if you can take the outputs from everyone in a club and synthesise a music based on the way their bodies are reacting at any given moment? It would certainly up the stakes for podium dancers. What if your home created music based on your physical and emotional state, either to counter distress or to enhance a feeling you wanted to hold onto?

    The maths would be terrifying, as would the bandwidth and processing requirements. But we are talking about the future. Anyway, just some random thoughts.
  4.  (35.13)
    there's a band featured that uses subdermal magnets implanted in their fingertips to basically dig noises out of the pickups' magnetic fields of their guitars. It seems to me that you'd have to talk about strange methods of playing current instruments or creating completely new instruments that can be played in order to create the idea that the music would be strange

    What Exploder said. I went to make breakfast halfway through composing my post and ended up missing this gem.
    • CommentTimeNov 30th 2007
    I can't remember the exact site name at the moment (it was a Boingboing post a month ago or so), but there's a website where you can use black and white and greytone images to create sound. You started with a large black square and time and tone were laid out with high tones at the top and low tones at the bottom, left to right for about a half a second. Inputting various different tones at different locations would develop a looping electronic noise. Fun to play with for a little while, though not all that musical. Still, it was an interesting way to come up with interesting sounds (though all 8bit).

    How about the future of the record? Why even make studio recordings when you have access to immediate recording and distribution of a live show? You could play a new set of improv noise every show and sell it as mp3s within fifteen minutes of finishing your set. Even the construct of the band could become fluid, changing instruments and members constantly, a kind of amorphous sound-making juggernaut.
  5.  (35.15)
    Sam: I know and like Circle's work, yeah.
    • CommentTimeNov 30th 2007
    I don't have the text on hand to cite verbatim; however the liner notes of the Eno Box (Instrumental) explains something about him being in the hospital all doped up and listening to Opera(?) very quietly. He decided he wanted to make music that sounded exactly what he thought he was hearing.

    Did anyone follow through with the urge to rip out the mail-in form for L. Ron. Hubbard's "soundtracks" while younger? I couldn't bear the thought of tearing up a book (and I especially hated the impending spine crease), but was always intrigued by the idea of an authour composing a score to a book... (i actually couldn't wrap my head around how he knew how long it would take everyone to read a specific passage at a specific time - i thought the score must have been huge!)
  6.  (35.17)
    On the space sounds into music tip the circuit bent duo I play in has a song that at it's core is the NASA website Saturn radio sounds put into our Casio SK-1 sampler and spit back out all chopped up and distorted like a deeper space transmission. When I got near my old college radio grounds I had to hop on a friends show and play some of that in hopes it bounces off of someone that makes something of it deep into the future.

    With the advent and ease of home recording personally I've noticed kind of a death of the style of mid/late 90s IDM (that saddens me) but in rebellion to this computer overload we're seeing some really awesome postpunk (to life the phrase from Warren) fuck with old sturdy technology and lets spit out something magical. The ironic part is that back when bending started Reed Ghazala was very big on circuit bending being a common denominator. That anyone could do it and make some interesting noises / music and we're seeing that now on these deceptively advanced music making programs with genius simple interfaces.

    Maybe I'm tainted by all the solder exposure from bending but currently I play in one group that is all constructively broken toys and early digital keyboards and my solo material largely revolves around the awesome sounds you get pushing audio through old reel 2 reels and a modified boom box. (If your interested I rewired the boom-box to run a line in stright into the tape head. Tape heads are designed to run on a very low signal level so when you blast it with a normal or loud signal you get a super overdriven distortion)

    A really cool circuit bending documentary video

    A really cool circuit bending video of a cheep kids toy level casio
  7.  (35.18)
    Can you imagine all the shitty music you'd have to wade through if it was all coming at you in viruses. It would be harder to find good stuff than it is now.
    • CommentAuthoreggzoomin
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
    I think there is a problem with new music. In fact, let me rephrase - when I say new, I actually mean innovative - I don't mean regurgitating something in a setting you've not heard it in before, I don't mean something that has been released recently.

    The problem... perhaps I'd better start with an apology. I'm about to try and solidify some things that have drifted around me, brainbound, for quite a while. This may not make sense and it may be muso bollocks. I think there will also be reference to music theory. My grovelling done, here we go.

    Right. I would define music as deliberately arranged sound. "Deliberately" is a loose word - I don't care whether it's through-composed to the finest detail or generated by coding, abstract or concrete. Conventionally, we think of music in terms of melody, rhythm and harmony (yeah, I know, I know, but bear with me).

    The 12 chromatic tones that our conventional Western instruments produce are the result of a tone divison system devised by Christian composers to sound "nice." Every possible mathematical permutation of them has been mapped - Slonimsky saw to that neatly. It's perfectly possible to rearrange this temperament - in simple terms, more than 12 notes per octave. Various non-Western musics have used microtonal systems for thousands of years. Unsurprisingly, it has also made its way into the West - John McLaughlin's work with Shakti and even the work of Steve Vai have both featured these ideas. Harmonically pleasant or dissonant, it's been explored. Found sounds, sampling... there are parallels everywhere, analogies to be drawn.

    Rhythmically, the boundaries have been pushed, from the aforementioned Shakti to Meshuggah's polyrhythmic grinding to Zappa's SynClavier compositions which play divisions that no human (to my knowledge) could ever hope to. Fast and slow, both have been taken to extremes.

    In a world that's seen Stockhausen, Pierre Henri, John Cage, Zappa, Coltrane and (ohfuckitjustputyourownnamesinhere) where can you actually go?

    Our brains are socialised with music as much as anything else. Minor/sadface, major/happyface. Let's not be confused by timbre here - I don't care whether you play C,E, B and D on a Les Paul through a Marshall, a synth or a set of tuned milk bottles, it's still a Cmaj9 chord.

    I know about the possibilities for control methods - I know that our current methods can be imperfect, so that technique influences composition sometimes and - even worse - sometimes things are conceived that cannot be played; Allan Holdsworth has complained of this on many occasions and his technique is as dazzling on his instrument as anyone that's ever played the damn thing. (Aside: yeah, I know these examples are a bit guitar-centric, but it's what I do; no surprise that it springs more readily to my mind than other things) However - if a control method is just that - a vehicle for expression, not expression itself - then it is the content that we should be concerned with. Would my words really be fundamentally any different if I wrote in French rather than English?

    On reviewing this, I'm concerned that it appears fussy and unclear, that it sounds like the whining of an "old world" musician confused and frustrated by the new world and that it involves too much jargon. I'm groping around concepts here. Help me out.
    • CommentAuthorNecros
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
    If you want to read a science fiction novel that makes music a major focal point try reading

    by Jon is published by Nightshade Books in San Francisco

    It is a truly impressive first novel, and it really looks at music, culture and fashion in more depth than most science fiction. It is satirical, but at the same time his ideas are truly fascinating and worth thinking about.

    Oh yeah, and if you don't want to buy it he has podcasts you can listen to chapter by chapter.