Experiments with 12 tone serialism

For my final project in Coding for Emotional Impact I have decided to continue working with sound. In high school I took a music theory class in which we spent a month on composition. As a math enthusiast and violinist I enjoyed experimenting with 12 tone serialism. I would like to revisit this method of composition - a sort of algorithmic composition before we even had computers - and employ some of the functions we have learned to programmatically adjust rhythm, dynamics, and the voicing of the work. I have randomly generated my primary sequence and worked out the corresponding matrix.

12 tone matrix

I also recently ordered a ton of surface mount microphones. It might be interesting to bring this work into the physical world and do a twist on Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music that uses the relationship of the speaker to the microphone to “play” the piece.

12 tone works "kill tonal perception". By giving each note an equal share of the piece the piece drifts along and challenges our harmonic expectations. I would like to try to harness this effect. I would like the piece to begin with a playful feeling but to then devolve into something seemingly unordered / out of control / unpleasant only to be once again redeemed.

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Compost

I love these illustrations from The Rodale Book of Composting. I had read previously that urine is compostable but this reading helped me to better understand how it functions in compost (as a source of nitrogen and organisms to activate the compost). It is also exciting to see that NYC is beginning an organic waste collection pilot program! This paper was quite enlightening about the politics in NYC that are holding composting back. It’s difficult to believe that there could be any barriers or opposition to diverting compostable waste from landfills but apparently that’s the world we live in. I have been collecting my own food scraps for the past few weeks and it is already a natural part of my routine. I hope that the pilot program is successful - the main barrier for me is the inconvenience of having to tote the scraps around the city to a drop-off location.

Sculpting (energy) data into (light)

Over the past month, I have been working with world energy data from 41 countries over the past 20 years to create a light. The countries are sorted into a circle based on the percentage of energy they use from renewable sources. Surface-mount LEDs will illuminate each of the 205 data points to demonstrate when a country is at their daily peak energy usage (4-7 PM). The brighter the LED shines, the closer the country is to these hours, creating a map of when and where energy is being consumed.

The data was processed in Python then brought into Rhino via RhinoPython. I will be 3D printing the final design in the next week!

Polyphonic composition

I have been wanting to do some algorithmic composing so this seemed like the perfect week to get that started while experimenting with polyphony! I used Mimi Yin’s Chorus sketch which uses the SoundCipher library. I played around with the various parameters and changed the voicing. I like the sound of the natural cycles that occur - the way it builds and falls off is nice, though unexpected. I thought it would be much more chaotic and difficult to control. I think playing more with dynamics and progressing past just an ocarina sound would help. I’d enjoy combining these generated sounds with my wave graphics from earlier in the semester as a visualizer. Play with the code on Github and listen below.

Polyphonic composition

I have been wanting to do some algorithmic composing so this seemed like the perfect week to get that started while experimenting with polyphony! I used Mimi Yin’s Chorus sketch which uses the SoundCipher library. I played around with the various parameters and changed the voicing. I like the sound of the natural cycles that occur - the way it builds and falls off is nice, though unexpected. I thought it would be much more chaotic and difficult to control. I think playing more with dynamics and progressing past just an ocarina sound would help. I’d enjoy combining these generated sounds with my wave graphics from earlier in the semester as a visualizer. Play with the code on Github and listen below.

Knit your own drug test (or, The Ammoniacal Fermentation of Urine for Use as a Drug Test and Dye)

In The Fungus Among Us, I experimented with mushrooms dyes. I later realized that I could substitute the ammonia that I had been using as a mordant with my own fermented urine. Metals and other substances can affect the color of your dye so for my final in Soil as Medium I would like to make dyes with fermented urine collected from people with a variety of diets and other habits. Ammonia is also the basis of many fertilizers (used a lot on leafy greens due to its high ammonia content). My plan is to try growing my own vegetables. One set will be pre-fertilized with the urine from my test subjects, the other group will have the ammonia added later as a mordant. In this way, I am testing the absorption of the ammonia and other substances for use later in the dye across multiple urine samples.

I’m not sure what these tests will show but above is one outcome that I have dreamed up. Drug tests bother me because I believe they are an invasion of privacy and I also oppose drugs’ illegal status. We should tax and regulate drugs and spend our money on treatment for those in need. To call attention to this I have designed a hypothetical “Knit your own drug test” kit. It is THE slowest way to test yourself for drugs, is highly inaccurate, all natural, and wearable! It is also a way to raise awareness of the natural possibilities of dyeing and the science of ammonia / fertilization.

Worms, etc.

This week I read The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the action of worms with observations of their habits by Charles Darwin, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, and the recent The Mental Life of Plants and Worms, Among Others in the NY Review of Books. Darwin’s depictions of worms reminded me of my own encounters with our slimy, segmented friends as I was growing up in Georgia. A heavy summer rain, which my mother might call a ‘gully-washer’, would draw hundreds of worms out to the streets after which a heatwave would fry them all to a crisp on the dark tar pavement of my cul-de-sac. Darwin observed a similar phenomena, “After heavy rain succeeding dry weather, an astonishing number of dead worms may sometimes be seen lying on the ground. Mr. Galton informs me that on one such occasion (March, 1881), the dead worms averaged one for every two and a half paces in length on a walk in Hyde Park, four paces in width.” Back in my neighborhood, worms fare much worse. You might find a dried up worm every 3-6 inches. When my dachshund was a puppy we used to catch her chewing on these ill-fated creatures as if they were beef jerky! I had no idea how hydrophilic worms are, but looking back it makes sense. “M. Perrier found that their exposure to the dry air of a room for only a single night was fatal to them. On the other hand he kept several large worms alive for nearly four months, completely submerged in water.” In his talk last week, James Sottilo mentioned that salt fertilizers are very drying which results in weak plant cell walls but I imagine this also effects worms - that is, if there are many left from all of the tilling and plowing.

Stray thoughts

The above image is an 1882 caricature of Darwin by Punch magazine parodying Darwin’s book.

Sue van Hook came to speak earlier this semester and mentioned that the only difference between blood and chlorophyll is the central atom (Iron for blood and Magnesium for chlorophyll).

I have been wondering how sound effects soil - does city noise pollution have any noticeable effect on soil biology? I have recently been interested in ultrasounds and am wondering if taking an ultrasound of some soil would reveal anything interesting…

Field guide of fungi crafts

I have had a lot of fun playing with fungi this semester. My focus has been on craft applications of fungi such as growing paper from mycelium and making dyes from mushrooms. I found it very difficult to find reliable sources of recipes for dyes but I now believe that there are countless ways artists could use fungi as a medium. Thus, for my final project, I proposed a field guide for fungi crafts. This site would rely on the contributions of individuals who are already experts in this area as well as those who are complete beginners, myself included. It is through this melding of perspectives and experiences that we might arrive at a guide that is useful to all. It would consist of tutorials each with a visual archive of user-contributed related works.

Above is a diagram based on Donella Meadows’ leverage points diagram. My main contributions to this system - in which artists are not exploring the full potential of fungi - are to enhance the culture of the system and to alter the flow of information. Wikis obviously achieve what I am to an extent but I think that wikis are not perfect and the system could be better designed. I haven’t really fleshed out how this user contribution process would work but I am beginning to develop this website in my dynamic web class.

As for my own personal fungi crafts— I had trouble finding ammonia that was not “soapy ammonia” which means that the ammonia did not act quite like it should in my dyes. I jokingly mentioned during my presentation that I could just let my own urine ferment for a few weeks to make my own ammonia and have since been reflecting on this idea. Metals and other substances can affect the color of a dyebath so I am now planning to gather urine samples from a variety of persons to test whether or not I am able to detect anything about them based on the resulting dye.

Soil sampling

Soil as Medium: Engaging the Urban Commons from the Ground Up has begun and seems like it will be a nice complement to The Fungus Among Us. I collected a soil sample from Gilbert Ramirez Park, a tiny park in my neighborhood. After the layers settled, I measured and tried to identify the soil type based on this diagram. I seems like it is closest to sandy loam but it doesn’t fit perfectly within the sandy loam ratios. Perhaps I’ll try again soon!

Last week I read The Soul of Soil and The Ideal Soil. The former text emphasizes a biological view of soil health while the latter encourages chemical analysis for treating soil. It was interesting to hear the rhetoric both use to make their points - “The basic aim of soil management is to provide hospitable conditions for life within the soil” as compared to, “Our physical reality is made of minerals, also known as elements […] The health, growth, and reproduction of all living things is dependent on the availability and proper balance of mineral elements.”

Soil sampling

Soil as Medium: Engaging the Urban Commons from the Ground Up has begun and seems like it will be a nice complement to The Fungus Among Us. I collected a soil sample from Gilbert Ramirez Park, a tiny park in my neighborhood. After the layers settled, I measured and tried to identify the soil type based on this diagram. I seems like it is closest to sandy loam but it doesn’t fit perfectly within the sandy loam ratios. Perhaps I’ll try again soon!

Last week I read The Soul of Soil and The Ideal Soil. The former text emphasizes a biological view of soil health while the latter encourages chemical analysis for treating soil. It was interesting to hear the rhetoric both use to make their points - “The basic aim of soil management is to provide hospitable conditions for life within the soil” as compared to, “Our physical reality is made of minerals, also known as elements […] The health, growth, and reproduction of all living things is dependent on the availability and proper balance of mineral elements.”