Tuesday, 27 March 2007

The Way of Writing

A very useful foil to the thinking of David Abram.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Moving the Goalposts

Kabir sings of the body as an instrument of measurement, a balance, scales.

How can musical apparatus be an instrument in the sense of a scientific measuring device rather than in the sense of an instrumental agent, a tool by means of which to achieve an end?

Of course it can be both. But I'd like to readjust the balance.

Emergent Design

The sarod, or indeed any musical instrument, is a perfect example of co-evolutionary technology.
I was just thinking of the length of the strings. In Bhairav the distance from Risabh to Gandhar (D flat - E) on the fingerboard is a stretch. My hands must be of average size - if not slightly larger than the average in the Middle East and Asia over the last few hundred years. I don't think anyone arbitrarily decided out of the blue that this was a good size for the instrument. If that had been the case then the first one would probably have been abandoned as too difficult to play. The concomitant innovations needed to be developed in tandem at the bodily, cellular level. The fingers needed to be trained to work with this machine. And of course the actual music also evolves and accommodates simultaneously, becoming the exploration of what is realizable.

So the biological, the technical and the metaphysical all push and pull one another along a path of development that can only be seen in hindsight. Relatively small, iterative adjustments in each eventually lead to a complex, interdependent system. This is evolution. A cycle of innovation, discovery, construction and obsolescence. It is also music.

CeC & CaC (sekansak)

This is what I was doing a couple of months ago.

Terrible time lag, this blog has...
Anyway the organizer's idiosyncratic but lively report is now up.

It was a very interesting event which certainly moved my thinking on with regard to the technology/innovation/language/music nexus.
And some exciting new collaborations are growing out of it.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

The yoga of music

Feeling a tremendous rush of energy from the satisfaction of being able to do something that had seemed completely mysterious or impossible.
Have now finally got pretty well under my fingers the sthai of a gat in raga Bhairav. It's a complex dancing pattern of intricate movement. It's a fractal process. Now that I have (after much effort) the skeletal infrastructure of it, bends and slides, expressive movements around and between, are beginning to reveal themselves. The process of learning has a beginning but no end.

After a period of intense concentration when I get up for a loo break I examine the quality of mind in which I'm suffused. It is taught and sharp - like a steel string. And, like a string, it is a line with no breaks. If a space appears, of cloudiness or haziness, there is no string, no tightness. Just a flapping, flabby, floating meander.

Interesting that right concentration - samadhi - is often described as a laser. A string of light. Pointed, focused, sharp. And ordinary, untrained awareness is a generalised, diffuse, dim light. I wonder if there is a universality about this experience. And if so, does that imply some physiological structuring? Is there a material line being drawn somewhere in my body? Thinking in terms of neurons, what is the difference between the electrical activity in the body when it is in an ordinary lax state, and that when it is focussed, as in musical performance.

But I have played lots of kinds of music and this feeling is rare. There is something very particular about the quality of mind cultivated through this particular technology. The sarod requires a tremendous amount of concentration because of its fretlesness. There is a lot of rhythmic complexity in the right hand picking. And the gat I am learning, because it is a single melodic line within a raga, has a very clear structure but also tremendous openness to expansion and contraction. New twists and turns and weaves grow in response to this particular moment of perception. It combines structure and improvisation.

Yoga is to yoke. The spirit hitched to something fixed. Freedom by itself is amorphous, indistinct, ultimately without content. The structure of a technology gives a form to consciousness. The asana acts as a lens to focus the mind. The instrument is an asana.

So is the core use of technology. It's a yoke for the oxen of one's will. Not a means to an end but a hitching post, a marker, a medium. Of course ends inevitably result. They are indeed the catalyst. Eg, I want to practice yoga asanas in order to look fit on the beach, or to achieve immortality, or to feel comfortable. Of course a laser can be pointed in any direction - by a surgeon or a soldier. Technology is inherently dangerous. So it must have an ethical basis.

Even a musical instrument can be mastered with a view to winning applause or wealth. The long term viability, the sustainability of any technology rests on it's ethical foundation. WHY is it?

A sarod is relatively inactive in the world - in comparison with a plough, say, or a spear. So it has many of the benefits of a technology to which to yoke consciousness, while avoiding many of the dangers. But still the motivation behind it's mastery needs to be constantly examined. This is vipassana - the binding together of concentration and detachment, awareness and equanimity.
Language consists of grunts, tics, gestures, tones, melodies, flourishes, as much as discrete words.
Sounds are fuzzy haloes of meaning rather than fixed objects. Writing obscures this fact.

I'd like to make a landscape of words. A text somehow melded with a junglescape. Huge scale, sumptuous like a book. A lightbox?
Perhaps a series, some using non-Roman script. Or a palimpsest.
Some in which the text is readable, poetic even.

Monday, 19 February 2007


January 11th. That's when the wind got knocked out of this blog. That was my first sarod lesson.

It was like discovering a whole landscape to explore. I felt I was running into the hills.
A rollercoaster I'm building as I go. Hammering like crazy, pulling rails out of a back pocket. A cartoon figure. Building a path through the air, suspended amongst the forest so as not to disturb it. No footprints. The rail is invented in space.
That's what it's like, learning something.

The laying down of keratin at the roots of my fingernails echoes the construction of neuronal pathways as I build my knowledge of the sarod at the level of bodily practice. And absorb the body of knowledge embodied by the instrument.

Watch a plant grow in this light.
A tree of learning.

interesting site...


Interesting bloke...

'Atau Tanaka is researcher at Sony Computer Science Laboratories (CSL) Paris, spanning cultures and encompassing domains of artistic expression, scientific research, and industry. He holds degrees in science and music from Harvard University and Stanford University's CCRMA. He has conducted research at IRCAM in Paris and was Artistic Ambassador for Apple Computer Europe. In Japan he has been in residency at NTT/ICC and taught Media Art at Keio University. He is known for his work with sensor instruments and network music installations, in artistic exhibition as well as scientific publications. His current work is focused on harnessing collective musical creativity on mobile devices, seeking the continuing place of the artist in democratized digital forms. He has received support from the Fraunhofer Institute, Japanese Telecommunications Ministry, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation. He has served on committees of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME), and ISEA.'




As a time-based art, music occupies time and composers manipulate temporal structures. Sound art, meanwhile, represents a movement where audio is treated as a plastic medium. As sound is by nature a temporal medium, it will always traverse time. Acoustical sound is also physical, and is able to fill volumetric space. Ultimately time and space are not independent domains, but are endpoints in a spectrum in which audio works of various forms can be situated. Concert performances are temporo-centric, taking place at a specific time and for a certain duration. Installations are more spatio-centric, on exhibition and available to the spectator to explore at volition, free of time constraints.
Time and space, then, map out a continuum within which performance and installation can by considered. With this as a basis, we retrace examples of the author's work over the last decade in musical compositions created with interactive technologies. This spans a body of work starting with sensor systems as musical instruments, through networked performances and installations, looking on towards musical artworks conceived for communities of mobile devices.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

The Roots of Writing

(from Dene Grigar's course blog on 'Language, Text and Technology')

This image of a horse, from the Caves of Lascaux located in Southern France, is believed to have been created around 1400 BCE. The caves are filled with such images. Some scholars argue that the images represent pictorial stories of hunting expeditions humans undertook. Others argue that they represent rituals humans engaged in to guarantee successful hunts. The truth be told, the silence of the images tells us little. Hence, when we think about the notion that texts speak, we are more apt to think about texts whose writing technologies offer more exacting information.

Below are images of various writing technologies or artifacts that recall them.


Communication Models



Mayan Hieroglyphics

Phaistos Disk

Rosetta Stone


Printer's Mark


Essential readings:

The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present
By Eric A. Havelock
Yale UP, 1988, Paper $17.00
ISBN: 0300043821

The History of Writing
By Steven Roger Fischer
Reaktion Books, 2003, Paper, £9.95
ISBN: 978 1 861 89167 9

Writing Machines
By N. Katherine Hayles
The MIT Press, 2002, Paper, $19.95
ISBN: 0-262-58215-5

Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness
Edited and with an Essay by Edward A. Shanken
By Roy Ascott
University of California Press, 2003
Downloadable eBook version available:
Adobe E-Reader at ebooks.com, $15.95
Dene Grigar's book 'New Worlds, New Words: Exploring Pathways In and About Electronic Environments' (with John Barber, Hampton Press, 2001) speculates about the ways in which writing and thinking change when moved to electronic environments, such as the World Wide Web, MOOs, and email.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Inside-out and upside-down

My last post was on Makar Sankranti. This is on Maha Shivaratri. The long night which belongs to ascetics, tantrics, fakirs, all those who are willing to plunge, fully awake, into the darkness.

Apologies for having been absent for a month. Once again now the blog reveals itself as an inversion, an upside-down, inside-out thing. You read it backwards, starting at the end of a sequence of thoughts. It is an exposure of interiority, a display of private musings. And now in its pattern of entry and absence it shows the negative space of my life. It is when there is most going on that this blog becomes empty. And it is when I disappear from the immediate world of firends, colleagues, family, students, that this blog swells and writhes into life.

So let me now try to stay close to the boundary between the two worlds. Between the positive and negative, at the flat plane of the looking glass itself, I'll try to trace some of the thoughts and events that have filled my absence.

Of course many things are jotted in my notebooks. Pen and paper have often been faithful companions when a portal to the internet, or even a portable computer, has been remote. So I'll give you a few snippets from those...

Monday, 15 January 2007

Makar Sankranti

January 14th/15th has been pious, festive and cosmic. I'm glad to be living in a country which is so conscious of astronomical movements that it closes its banks, businesses and schools and instead prays to the heavens at this time.
Makar Sankranti is a time of Sun worship.

I accidentally watched a film on the TV. It happened to start in my field of vision and I was gripped firstly by its visual style, then by the story. It was called ‘The Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within’ written and directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi. I'd never heard of it before. Apparently it comes from the world of gaming.

Anyway it got me thinking about my piece 'Array' and about recent conversations with Stephan Harding at Schumacher College (whose new book 'Animate Earth' has recently appeared) and David Abram (whose book 'The Spell of the Sensuous' has been influencing me for the last ten years.)

One of the final sequences in the movie particularly caught my imagination. It reminded me of those sumptuous ISKCON paintings in which the soul of each living being is pictured as a small golden light glowing in its heart. In the movie the soul force is pictured as a little light, like tinkerbell, floating up to meet other souls in a field of stars. As this inner fairy rises out of the body of a scientist, he gasps, 'It's warm!'

I can't see any stars from my Bangalore city centre apartment but on Makar Sankranti I'm reminded that they are there.


So it’s good that at least we are beginning to acknowledge our mother and our siblings on this planet. This is a small beginning in the search for intelligent life.

The contemporary re-acquaintance with Gaia is useful in helping to alleviate some of the suffering caused by self-centredness. It reminds us of the more-than-human world.
But it does not go far enough. In fact it is the Sun that sustains even Gaia.
The Sun is the Father
And our Mother, his Daughter.
And he himself just one amongst councils and communities.
And each one of us is, to oneself, a star
Making the lights of others almost invisible.

seen from far away
appears as an insignificant pinprick.
But it is experienced as heat.

Stars are burning crucibles
Creating from their bodies the material of life
And giving rise eventually to spirit.

While we are consumed in the sunshine of the self
We do not feel the heat of the countless stars around us
But in the cool detachment of the moonlight
We can broaden the mind to see the millions of souls hanging in the heavens
And know that each is a fire in space.

That is unless we light the night as if it were day.

Falling into the Milky Way
I see my own little heat as if from afar, as a point of light.
And if I lose that viewpoint, I lose my place.
And it will not be long before I am lost altogether
Blinded by my own fires.

Language, Embodiment and Self-Hypnosis

I've been thinking recently a lot about how to make an image of the literate, symbolic scene overlaid, underlying, or embedded in the 'natural', ie non-human, embodied landscape. Like the 'code rain' from 'The Matrix' movies which has become almost a visual cliche now.

Here are a couple of beautiful plays on the idea that other people have made.
I think both of these artists have amazing bodies of work, in terms of range, depth and lightness. And, considering I'd never come across them before, it's extraordinary how much sympathetic resonance I feel.

Thomas Broomé's ModernMantra drawings.

And here you'll find three text pieces which seem to be realizations of my recent daydreams, 'Written Forms', 'Composition', and 'Text Rain'

The work of both these artists are well worth exploring in depth, so I'll leave you now to wander around their websites.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Technologies of the Self

Here's a course description I've just written for students at Srishti. Start teaching next week.

Technologies may be considered very broadly as means towards ends. They can help in the constant striving towards health and wholeness. Their inherent danger however, is that the tools may overshadow the purpose. The design challenge is to discriminate between means and ends, to keep the end in view, and to negotiate the narrow path between useful and dangerous technology. This path has become razor sharp and it is now time to reassess the value of our technologies in terms of personal well-being and the health of the entire planet.
In this lab we will look at spiritual as ecological technologies, emphasizing their complementarity. We will identify as a key issue the relationship between oral and literate culture, between listening and looking, between the vernacular and the institutional, between wisdom and knowledge, between science and superstition. We will trace, in the history of technology, a progression from embodied, participative experience to disembodied, abstract symbol. And we will also conjure future technologies to help to re-integrate and re-invigorate the body of the self and the world.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Practice based Research

Writing is an invaluable aid to memory. But it can also be misleading. Over the weekend I've been working on a konnakol pattern beginning with ta-kitekitetake digutarikitetake...

The 'kitetake' phrase moves the tongue from the back of the throat, across the roof and right up to the teeth. It's very useful to have the written/visualised word as a marker of this movement. Particularly helps in those brain crash moments when everything becomes confused and all structure is forgotten. (Is that some kind of wholesale reconfiguration of the neurons?)

The words can engender a false sense of definition however. In fact it's the movement and the feeling which is important, a tiny part of which is photographed in the word. I have been discovering the immense variation that is possible even within this tiny phrase. It can be voiced at an infinite number of pitches, or unvoiced, in which case it functions almost as a stop to previous sounds and a coiling preparation for future ones. Different parts of the word take on different roles in the rhythmic flow. When it is whispered the 't' sound approaches an 's' and the phrase becomes almost a hiss - like the suck and sizzle of a hi-hat. The 'ka' becomes like the click of a rimshot and the 'ta' like a strong snare stroke. And this whole phrase is simply a substrate around which the bass and melody weaves in the 'Ta' 'Di', 'Thom' and 'Nam' sounds.

I used to think the fingers and limbs were capable of subtle expression and modulation - and indeed they are when they have been trained by a master musician - but the mouth, tongue, lips, throat, face, shoulders and breath are capable of mind-boggling permutations which I am only just realizing. The system is so finely interdependant that I can clearly hear the difference in my facial expressions. And I love the immediacy and constant availability of the voice. I now have a khanjeera and a bamboo flute but even those seem too bulky, fragile, expensive, complex, clumsy and limited in comparison to the voice. With the most fundamental resource, the body itself, direct work is possible on consciousness and musculature.

A question that keeps arising is whether I am pronouncing things properly. I'm seduced by the idea that there is one correct pronunciation. But perhaps, like any language, it is alive in the mouths and ears. It keeps wriggling and echoing in response to the changing environment. Any particular pronunciation is an instantiation by one particular person at one particular time. The joy I experience in my konnakol practice is in the mesmeric fascination with the effects of variations that orbit around the notated marker. The more stable and permanent the marker appears the more stultifying it is to my joyful freedom - or else the more vigorous and confident I must be in pushing and pulling it.

So I can imagine in some Dreamtime, where the words and rhythms originate, that they come in a spirit of pure, unbridled creation. The marks of the environment then help to remember the creation, human oral formulae fix it further, followed by handwritten notes and then printed texts. Finally when it becomes the object of 'scholarly' or 'scientific' study it becomes preserved. Having had some 'education' in this memory game which is so highly regarded in our culture - the ratification of knowledge - I notice the tendency to feel slightly alienated from the material being studied. Eg., I wonder how nasal the end of the word 'Thom' should be, or how aspirated the 'Di' should be. But then I throw off the data collecting -ologist and immerse myself in the performative moment in which the truth shines out. Is this practice-based research?

Sunday, 7 January 2007

The Digital Wild

In The Vital Machine, scientist-historian David Channell says, 'One of the most important issues facing us as we move toward the twenty-first century is a new relationship between technology and organic life.' Pointing to medical procedures and engineering technologies that extend life and make survival possible, he argues that the boundaries between the natural and artificial have become less clear. This ambiguity - which he calls 'liminality'- between humans and machines brings discomfort to humans, and for that reason he argues that we need to engage in a reexamination of the relationship between humans and technology so that we can 'intelligently and responsibly deal with [the new technical developments]' (3-4).
The dichotomy of machine and organic suggested in Channell's argument is interesting when we consider that a driving force underlying much of what we humans do is a need to set ourselves apart, not only from the artificial but also from other organic life. As far back as Aristotle, we have classified, categorized, and codified organic life, arriving at the idea that what sets us apart from other life forms is that we 'liv[e] by art and reasonings' (Metaphysica 980b 26-7).
So, in a sense what this special issue, 'Wild Nature and the Digital Life' is meant to do is to refine Channell's call for reexamination by stepping back from distinctions of humanity and technology and looking instead at the liminal spaces between nature and humanity mediated as both are (or can be) through computer technologies.
Perhaps by doing so we will come to understand that that technology is not a category of objects that exist outside of humanity but within it. The essays, art, and ideas that Sue and I have put together for this issue tell us that a more productive response to new technical developments may be one that does not focus on distinctions between the natural and the artificial but rather one that articulates what humanity gains and loses when the natural and artificial come together. Is it not the unknown, the lack of understanding of their relationship, that makes either (and both together) "wild"?
Dene Grigar

"In Wildness is the preservation of the World."
Henry David Thoreau
In the introduction to the "Wild Nature and the Digital Life" Special Issue of the LEA, Dene Grigar asks: "How are humans reinventing 'the wild' digitally? What is the relationship between humans and wild nature, and has it changed with the advent of computer technology?"
The terms "wild", "wildness", and "wilderness" have undergone quite a few transformations -- from a designation of the beastly and savage to the sublime antithesis of "culture" to the rare and endangered spaces that need to be preserved. But in all cases, the "wild" has represented an instance that was opposed to civilization and the problems of humanity - a form of uncontaminated purity.

Both last two LEA's look very relevant to me.
New Media Poetics

and the November issue - Digital Wild

Friday, 5 January 2007

Making Sense

The ultimate lonely desolation is to be surrounded by nothing but reflections of my self and my own creations. Such a psychosis is the opposite of awe.
To inscribe the more-than-human into our writing we now need a computer that breathes.
For a computer language to be more than what we have decreed it to be it must be susceptible to more-than-human influence.
A computer with a multitude of sensors all affecting it would be capable of surprising, inspiring and frightening us.
A radio antenna, ECG electrodes, barometer, molecular analysers, cameras, thermometer, humidity sensors, vibration sensors, ultrasound sensors, mics, compass, spirit level. These would make a computer sensitive and emotional.
Communication with such a machine would be sensible. It would be possible to enter into conversation with such a machine. And what if it had the senses of bats, ants, potatoes? Or even rivers, beaches and mountains? How might it's logic be informed?

Saturday, 23 December 2006


Being a percussionist is a contemplation of transferability of skills. Knowledge exchange occurs within one's own body. Practicing konnakol I deal with all the same issues I might deal with when using any external instrument but somehow, because the materials are simplified and pared down until only the tongue and breath is left, it seems close to the heart of musical structure. From here it is a simple(r) process to coordinate the strengths, sensitivities and contortions involved in particular instruments.

For a percussionist concentration on the simplest of structures leads to an infinite variety of sound making technologies and tendency towards cultural pluralism. But even for a percussionist it always seems to come back ultimately to the experience of the embodied voice. This is the root. All other technologies are emulations and amplifications of aspects of this source.

It seems more useful to me to work at the level of the soil than the leaf. I feel more soul in a berimbau than in a santoor, in a harpsichord than a pianoforte, in a midi controller than a sequencer window. Increasing technological sophistication demands more effort to collaborate with the conceptions and designs of many others, to reconnect the present means with the core purpose.

Is there a music that resides in an ideal, Platonic realm that is variously, imperfectly realized through different technologies? is this a description of the relationship between thought and language? What happens when the link between word and heart is weak or severed?

Once a movement or architecture is grasped in the heart (by heart?) it can find expression by whatever channel is most appropriate and available. It is important to get close to the insight, the experience, the breath, to the stuff of the body. This is to deal with the basis of the mind - it's primitive animality in the slime of the amygdala, it's neocortical strategies and aspirations.

This fact is more or less explicitly stated in many musical traditions. In Carnatic percussion it is clear that the human voice is central, followed by the drum, the mridangam. From these all the other instruments flow, each with its own character and sophisticated technical demands - ghatam, khanjira, moorsing, tavil, etc.

And memorization is important. Something learned by heart becomes embedded and embodied. It finds myriad expressions in an infinity of changing contexts. The same information written down leaves the body empty, makes it into simply a mechanical playback device.

The technology of the piano, or the computer is a form of writing, like a painting-by-numbers kit. The player need not perceive any truth, before expressing it.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Dopey & Grumpy

A couple of people expressed an interest in the Tagore-Einstein conversation I referred to in my talk at HP on Monday. So here are a few links:


Part of the conversation is reprinted in Einstein Lived Here, by Professor Abraham Pais (Oxford University Press, 1994) in Chapter 9, "The Indian Connection: Tagore and Gandhi."

and a fuller version can also be found in the Kenyon Review of Spring 2001

Neuronal Plasticity

What actually happens when I learn?
Repetition is like the burning in of a brand.
The hand that slaps taalam on my knee rubs away some fibres of cloth at each matra.
By repetition and concentration I immerse myself in a bath of information. I open my pores to absorb as much as possible into my mind. What is it that absorbs? And what is absorbed?
The textures of skin and muscle and bone change like weeds in a mountain stream. Their stiffness is smoothed and guided by the strength of the flow.
The conscious effort to remember a squence of sounds marshalls references and allusions. I use tricks and references to systematise and discern patterns in what at first seems random. Part of me wants to resist the extraneous thoughts in order to be true to the given information. But perhaps those extraneous thoughts help to tether it in a web. Otherwise it disappears into meaningless free space. Do I invent the pattern or discover it? Either way gradually I forget the external resonances, correspondences and connections and eventually the new pattern just becomes part of me. It gets tied into my fabric.

For instance yesterday I was struggling to remember the order 'Ta Di Thom Nam' forwards and backwards at different speeds. Which is aspirated and which is not? Nam reminds me of the bengali word for the english 'name'. Thom sounds almost exactly like an english boy's name. But is it exactly the same sound? Or is the 'm' more nasal. And there are so many ways to think about the hand choreography. Remember to start from the little finger. But that's actually the second clap so in fact it's as though the index finger is the main beat. Is it the fingers that beat or the palm which beats while the correct finger is raised away from striking?

Like this, thoughts crowd in while I try to repeat the sequence without mistakes. Some more related, others seemingly completely random. Each mistake creates a flurry and a twinge of despair. Anger and upset on top of this despair become layers on a wart obstructing the stream and becoming ever more annoying until I feel like giving up. But if I observe it calmly without giving it importance, soon it disappears. The patience to start again is the key thing. And then each repetion is like water on a stone. And the flow gathers its own joyous momentum. Eventually I am grooved. Today's lesson already made yesterday's feel like subconscious, automatic action.

Practicing 'kitakitatake' in the auto after my lesson is a series of revelations. There's a rolling movement like a breaking wave from the back of the tongue to the front, along the palate. How close the 't' is to an 'r'. I wonder fleetingly about the huge variety of 't', 'r' and 'd' sounds in South Indian languages. I can choose how hard to press the toungue against the palate. This is partly determined by the speed of the movement and it's fluidity. Where does the fluidity come? Partly from analysing the movement very slowly in order to clarify its constituents, partly from a synthesis, attending to it as a whole.

The tongue is a fluid muscle, hardening and softening in its different parts, curling, flicking, blocking and tapping with amazing flexibility. And then, in the noisiest bits of traffic when I was not worried about being overheard I put my voice into it and was amazed again by the weight of the breath that gives the tounge heft and weight, gives it a current to swim in. The konnakol patterns gradually reveal themselves as intricate choreographies of weight and sound.

Where does this realization reside? Is it in the tongue, whose nerves must be painstakingly reconfigured? In the breath which drives everything? In the heart which directs.

Patterns of muscle fibre must be changing somewhere in my body, the flesh coming under the control of conscious design. The combing out of knots in streams of electricity. The knotting of neural nets.

After the lesson today I walked from 15th to 18th cross to the Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala. The doctor told me he suspected arthritis in my knee. That was a shock. My mum's becoming virtually immobilised by it. It's quite scary. I feel angry that my body will not do the things it used to find easy. I've haven't sat easily cross-legged for months now, ever since feeling that click in my knee. Arthritis can be triggered by a sudden trauma apparently, as well as being gradually degenerative.

What is the use of learning? I wonder which body I am trying to pack with knowledge. This decaying one? Or is there something alse which also grows, apart from this body? Beyond this tongue and fingers which will soon become cold and stiff, is there another material to carefully tune and compose?

Wednesday, 20 December 2006


I've decided to look a little more closely at konnakol, the South Indian spoken rhythm performance. It pulls together many of the themes running through this Diffraction placement.

Firstly it is an examination of a pedagogic methodology, not from the outside but as an active participant. I'm interested in what learning is. One aim is to very consciously observe the experience of my own learning. I will also be assessing the similarities and differences between this method of learning and other models, ancient and modern. Some references, guiding stars, and conceptual yardsticks will be Ivan Illich, The guru-sisya parampara, S.N. Goenka, and the (soon to be unveiled) School of Everything.

Konnakol is a language with a strictly defined grammer and syntax, and yet it is completely abstract. In fact it is an abstraction based on the sound of the drums, which themselves are an abstract of the complete musical experience, which is one aspect of the whole drama.

Konnakol is without utility. And it does not mean anything. It is a sophisticated way of speaking without referring to anything. It's beaty is almost purely mathematical. I wonder if in this respect it is like the flow of logic inside a computer?

Konnakol neatly problematises perhaps the central theme of my time here. That is, the place of technology in an emergent economy. What is the relationship of music and technology? What is the relation of technology and music to the body? What answers can be found which are indigenous, time-tested, and perhaps unacknowledged before modern, alien methods are imported? These seem to be very important questions, in India generally and at HP Labs specifically.

In Anlo-Ewe cultural understanding, a drum is a super projection of the human voice. In this view, the role and power of the drum in play embodies the Sub-Saharan concept of combining natural forces of the universe in forming the supernaturals. In the composition of this conscious experience, human force is combined with other natural forces - skin of animal, hollowed solid tree-trunk, etc. - as a medium for arousing the attention and reaction of mankind. In a variety of tonal properties - pitch, timbre, intensity, and intricate rhythms - the drum and the drummer, in mutual cooperation, create patterns of consciousness that give a moment of inspiration to those they touch.


Konnakol is also not a million miles from things I know a little about already. Just as coming to Bangalore from England is a little like coming home - as I said in my first entry in this journal - so coming to konnokal is a liitle like delving further into the roots of a language I'm slightly familiar with. Th process is a movement from the margins to the centre. I began to study North Indian drumming almost twenty years ago as part of an attempt to move closer to a centre. I'd started playing drums by accident (they fell out of the sky and landed on me while I was asleep in bed, but that's another story). Soon I found I was playing with a samba band in Manchester and realizing that to take my playing any further would require a deeper engagement with Brazilian culture. I chose to delve into my own heart rather than someone else's and began tabla lessons.

Now, in South India, it seems to make sense to learn something about Carnatic music and I'm finding that it appears to subtend the North Indian tradition. I feel like I'm uncovering strata in an arcaeological dig. Carnatic percussion grows out of a very ancient Dravidian culture. It's elements of this tradition which have developed in the North and absorbed a lot of mughal influence and the two traditions have mutated independently over hundreds of years. It's useful and fascinating to find the archetypal core.

One thing I've always wondered at is the strongly monophonic tradition of tabla drumming. There are two drums but they are conceived as having one voice and it has a highly sophisticated solo repertoire. Or, as an accompanist, the tabla player has typically had a strictly metronomic role. Even when drummers play together they trade figures or play in unison. I've never seen the kind of polyphonic, polyrhythmic percussion one finds in say Japanese, Arabic or African classical forms. It's a compositional dream of mine to find a way of growing this kind of polyphony - inspired by sub-Saharan cross rhythm and Balinese Gamelan - in the rich soil of Indian percussion. It's taken twenty years of study so far, but now I think an important piece of the jigsaw has appeared. I can begin to see a glimmer of the development of the virtuosic, solo form out of the archetypal shamanic/folk drumming which seems to me to be the energizing core.

It has to do with ways of conceptualising and organizing the context, community, or network of voices. In short, the tabla functions in a strongly hierarchical context in which one or other partner is subservient to the other. Either the tabla keeps theka as a basis for the expressions of a melody instrument, or else the melody plays a continuous ostinato as a basis for the tabla player's rhythmic display. By contrast in the South Indian tradition the basic pulse and the metrical structure are kept not only audibly by other percussionists in an ensemble but also very visibly with hand gestures, which are often also made by almost every member of the audience. This means that the drums can be much freer to explore the time within a communaly held structure.

These two kinds of organizational system lead to quite different kinds of development.

Anyway today I learned the clap pattern for Adi Taalam:

Eight beats, consisting of:
Clap, little finger, ring, middle, Clap, back of hand, clap, back of hand

And the syllables
Ta Di Thom Nam Nam Thom Di Ta

to be spoken in single, double and quadruple time against the hand pattern.

It was my first lesson wiy Mr. T.A. S. Mani who runs the Karnataka College of Production.

I first came across the KCP about fifteen years ago in a second hand record store in Oxford Road, Manchester. I bought a record on spec, knowing nothing about the band. It was Sankirna by the amazing Turkish drummer Okay Temiz with his band Oriental Wind and the Karnataka College of Percussion. I'd never heard anything like it before and in fact haven't heard it for a long time since because it's on vinyl and it's been a very long time since I've had a servicable record player. That record is one of the reasons I've been wanting to get one.

Anyway the KCP proved quite a job to track down. I found an address omewhere on the internet and then, a few days ago, after an ayurvedic massage in Malleshwaram went for a wander to see if I could track down the street. It took me a morning but eventually I found the place. I introduced myself to Mr. Mani who was very warm and friendly. I also met his wife Ramamani, a wonderfully soulful singer, and a couple of students. A girl from Dublin is living in the room upstairs for a few months and has recently started singing lessons. While I was there Christian arrived, a German musician who has been studying mridangam for the last ten years. Clearly Mr Mani has a lot of foreign students and his teaching style will be correspondingly slanted. We discussed what I wanted to learn and how long I had. Today we started on Konnakol. I'll let you know how I progress...

Tuesday, 19 December 2006


Where is the sensor in a lift door that warns it of an obstruction?
Just now, someone ran up to the lift at the last moment and waved his hand between the doors to stop them closing. His gesture was decisive and yet slightly unsure. Would it work? It was a communication - not between man and machine, but between one man and lots of others, since the lift was not made by a lone inventor, but by many people who decided together what kind of gesture should stop the doors from closing. And in so doing privileged and reinforced a certain kind of gesture amongst the kind of people who travel in this kind of lift.

So this sensor, is it an infra-red beam? Where is it in the doors? Top? Middle? Bottom? Are there many? What if they miss a finger or belt? I guess there's a whole industry to work all this out and implement it. How much does it cost?. What would it cost to walk?

The human body and 'objects-to-climb' evolved together. One did not design the other. All natural systems are co-responsive. One thing fits into the gaps of the other. Even wilful manipulations conform to pre-existing laws. Can this will stray too far? Can it become over-zealous in it's designs? What about an evolutionary design? Perhaps this is what Siddharth at Srishti means by emergent design. I should talk to him. What does this do to the arguments of Richard Dawkins and the Bible belt bashers about Intelligent Design and the existence of God?

Not only action but perception itself must also be entwined and co-dependant. This point is made most persuasively in David Abram's landmark article, David Abram, "The Perceptual Implications of Gaia" first published in 1985 in The Ecologist, 15, no. 3.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Stone cutters

Three stone cutters were asked about their jobs.

The first said he was paid to cut stones.

The second replied that he used special techniques
to shape stones in an exceptional way,
and proceeded to demonstrate his skills.

The third stone cutter just smiled and said,
"I build cathedrals."

I wonder which of these was the artist, and which was the designer?

Art or Design?

I felt something clarifying during Ashoke Chatterjee's speech at Srishti's Graduation Ceremony last night.
I've always had an ambivalent, not to say cynical, attitude to 'design', as opposed to 'art'. To my mind design has been about branding, commodification, market forces, the creation of desire, the commodification of pleasure. Art has been about a free, agenda-less space of exploration and and non-alignment. That's why I've thought of Business and Art as being a binary opposition. I've wanted to challenge the orthodoxies of contemporary capitalism, expose the ideologies that masquerade as givens.

India teaches so many lessons in so many, often unexpected, dimensions. I knew I was coming here to learn something and to grow. I also I wanted to be sharply critical of globalization, middle class spread, and 'India Inc.' Now I'm beginning to see that the ideologies that need to be dropped are my own. It's my own ignorance that needs addressing, not that of others. I new nothing about the Eames Report, commissioned by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958. And I was completely ignorant of the meaning of design in India, at least as institutionalised in the National Institute of Design, confusing it with my garbled disgruntlement at the advertising and marketing saturation of the urban west. Ashoke Chatterjee made design sound like revolutionary work.

Here, in the world's largest democracy, waste and want are in sharp relief. Whatever issues Europe is grappling with - multiculturalism, terrorism, secession, urban/rural divide, food production, ecology, intellectual property, education, healthcare - they all seem writ larger and more urgent here in India. Would I call myself an artist or a designer if I took Agenda 21 as a manifesto. http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/documents/agenda21/english/agenda21toc.htm
And who would care anyway?

I've grown up as an immigrant in the West and have always felt to some extent uncomfortable there. A little brown boy dressed up against the cold in a smart, ill-fitting suit. The steady sun does what the violent wind cannot, and now I'm starting to feel my real body again. I'm an Indian and proud of it. That means embracing my colonial history and the wild diversity of this place. There are so many things that I disagree with, that I'm horrified by, that I'm dismayed by. But nevertheless somehow there seems to be a deep commitment to truth here. I feel a responsibility to do whatever I can to express that truth in the face of the bigotry and narrow-mindedness that is also rife. I need to engage in the debate. This debate is more live here than I've ever experienced it in the insulated west.

There, I took refuge in my role as an artist against the overwhelming materialism, complacency and individualism of popular culture. Art was a firewall against the deluge of spam in my mental space. Here that role seems flaccid, irrelevant, and even decadent. The free space of enquiry is just as precious here, surrounded as it is by poverty and distress but it is not self-sufficient. it demands commerce with it's environment. In the third world ethical engagement is unavoidable. And the transcendental quality that artistic work affords is here available everywhere in living spiritual practices. They need neither apology, disguise, or material justification. So what's the point of being an artist?

And what about design? During Ashoke Chatterjee's lucid discourse it became clear that Design might simply be what I'd always thought Art might hope to be - engaged, ethically grounded, socially relevant, responsible, practical, fun. Design might be concerned with the creation of deep beauty, not the self indulgence, frippery and ornamentation that I've become resigned to in the art scene of the west.

That's not to say that there isn't a tradition of 'community art', 'social realism', or 'socially engaged practice' in the the UK. I've had my brushes with those. In fact just before coming to India I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Jeremy Deller, one of those who are most intelligently weaving economics and social dynamics into the art market. And I've also been closely involved in setting up the new MA course in Arts & Ecology at (the now seemingly doomed) Dartington College of Arts http://marcus-brown.blog.co.uk/2006/12/08/a_decision_made~1415183/. But somehow, notwithstanding miner's strikes, inner city depravation, social stratification, Jamie Oliver, and freak tornados in Kensal Green, the canvas just seems so much tinier than it is here in Asia. And perhaps, after all, I feel a blood bond. The biggest issue of the last hundred years - perhaps overshadowing even the Holocaust - is the still hardly acknowledged reality of British Imperialism.

Here's Poonam Bir Kasturi, one of the Srishti faculty I keep hearing of but with whom I've yet to have a conversation.

Here's Niti Bhan on the relevance for designers of the recent Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change

Here's Ashoke Chatterjee:

And here are some excerpts from the Eames Report itself which Ashoke Chaterjee referred to. The full report, which led to the foundation of the National Institute of Design, is here http://www.nid.edu/aboutus_eamesreport.htm

'The change India is undergoing is a change in kind not a change of degree. The medium that is producing this change is communication; not some influence of the West on the East. The phenomenon of communication is something that affects a world not a country.

The advanced complexities of communication were perhaps felt first in Europe, then West to America which was a fertile traditionless field. They then moved East and West gathering momentum and striking India with terrific impact – an impact that was made more violent because of India's own complex of isolation, barriers of language, deep-rooted tradition.

The decisions that are made in a tradition-oriented society are apt to be unconscious decisions – in that each situation or action automatically calls for a specified reaction. Behaviour patterns are pre-programmed, pre-set. It is in this climate that handicrafts flourish – changes take place by degrees – there are moments of violence but the security is in the status quo. The nature of a communication-oriented society is different by kind – not by degree.

All decisions must be conscious decisions evaluating changing factors. In order to even approach the quality and values of a traditional society, a conscious effort must be made to relate every factor that might possibly have an effect.

Security here lies in change and conscious selection and correction in relation to evolving needs. India stands to face the change with three great advantages :

First: She has a tradition and a philosophy familiar with the meaning of creative destruction.

Second: She need not make all the mistakes others have made in the transition.

Third: Her immediate problems are well defined : FOOD, SHELTER, DISTRIBUTION, POPULATION.

This last stated advantage is a great one. Such ever-present statements of need should block or counteract any self-conscious urge to be original. They should put consciousness of quality – selection of first things first – (investigation into what are the first things) on the basis of survival not caprice.'

The report goes on to extol the qualities of the lota, qualities which seem to me to add up to beauty.

Later on is this passage:

'Buckminster Fuller, a man of great perspective, gave this problem to a group of students – Design a package of services and effects which will be the most essential to salvage from a city about to be destroyed – the program was of course limited – but it was not an exercise in civil defence. It was a careful study of relative values – what do you take with you when the house burns down ?'

Here in India, and in the context of this placement at Hewlett-Packard, I'm consciously confronting myself with the question 'what am a professing to do?'. Everything about this country only amplifies this question. What is my true profession? Am I part of a problem or of a solution? I wonder what kind of art I should hang on the walls of my burning house...

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Modelling Complexity

Have been learning about Schilling's theorem and population dynamics today.
Here's some impenetrable (to me) notation which I like the look of.

It's in relation to cellular automata.
Thinking about networks and communities, diversity, similarity and collaboration.

Avatars and Singularities

Here's something suggested by Shekhar as a very useful resource in thinking about global consciousness. http://www.avatarepc.com/index.html
The essence of it, from what I understood of our conversation this morning, seems to be about really 'feeling'. I hadn't heard of Harry Palmer before. I shall go and mug up. On the other hand Shekhar hadn't heard of Ray Kurzweil who's idea of the singularity seems very relevant to the thinking happening here at HP. http://sss.stanford.edu/
Shekhar thought I should just talk about the notion of the singularity in my talk on Monday, it's so relevant to HP Labs ethos. I'm not sure I have the balls to teach a bunch of mathematicians and engineers about exponential curves though...
Here's a bit of classic Ray I think is worth repeating:

"An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense 'intuitive linear' view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the twenty first century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The 'returns,' such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light."

"To describe these changes further, within a quarter century, nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. It will then soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge. Intelligent nanorobots will be deeply integrated in our bodies, our brains, and our environment, overcoming pollution and poverty, providing vastly extended longevity, full-immersion virtual reality incorporating all of the senses, “experience beaming,” and vastly enhanced human intelligence. The result will be an intimate merger between the technology-creating species and the technological evolutionary process it spawned. But all of this is just the precursor to the Singularity. Nonbiological intelligence will have access to its own design and will be able to improve itself in an increasingly rapid redesign cycle. We’ll get to a point where technical progress will be so fast that unenhanced human intelligence will be unable to follow it. That will mark the Singularity."

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Success and Failure

One of the most significant ideas I've heard in the last few weeks came from a conversation with Rama who sits in the next cubicle to me. I'd watched a demo of the printcast technology which HP has now licensed out and which is changing the way local government happens in this hugest of democracies. I was asking her about the process of identifying new projects to work on in the field of education.

I have no idea how one comes up with new ideas and asked whether she started by looking for the failures in current practice. On the contrary, Rama said she preferred to find what was really working and think of ways to scale it up. This has stayed with me and continued to be a useful conceptual tool. It's a brilliant encapsulation of the creative method. Suddenly I can see the point of technology. It's the means by which we actively participate in our evolution.

Beginner's Mind

This morning the toughened, bidi smoking, sun-blackened rickshaw driver cracked into a beaming grin and starting waving inanely. I thought he was a dangerous nutcase until I peered out and saw the busload of chattering and gesticulating schoolkids fizzing in their schoolbus next to us at the traffic lights.

Everyone here seems to love children. People are willing to immediately drop the persona of public reserve in order to relate to a child. On the tube in London, or on the Clapham omnibus I used to notice an initial avoidance and uncomfortable embarassment before people would respond to my son's insistent attention seeking. Here no one pays any attention to me or Barley but goes straight for Oshin. There's none of that politeness and deference to parents. Here children belong to everyone.

Oshin's always been a particularly cute kid but he gets a lot more attention here than he ever did in Europe. Wherever we go people are winking at him, pinching his cheeks, giving him things, dancing with him and all but pulling him off us. And children are much more welcome in all sorts of contexts here than in the west. From rock concerts to dinner parties, cinemas to building sites, kids are just around as part of the fabric of society rather than tucked up in bed or locked in nurseries.

This is the country, after all, in which children are worshipped. Or, to be more precise, god is worshipped as a child. At this time of year in the west we remember the infant Jesus, but the mischievous Krishna, on the contrary, seems to be up to his tricks all the time.

And there's a corollary devotion to education. A four-year-old playmate of Oshin's who had come to visit us, had to pack up his toys and go home at 6pm to do his writing homework. And not just any old writing, but cursive script, his mother told us.

There are a number of reasons I'm so interested in language at the moment - HP's focus on it, a couple of recent publishing projects, the linguistic diversity of India, living in a foreign country, my cross-cultural marriage. But a really important inspiration is watching my son as he discovers language.

So this morning it occurred to me that it would be interesting to approach this whole art-making thing from the perspective of a child. I remember quite vividly learning to draw the Bengali alphabet It was drawing then, rather than writing. Over the last couple of days since looking at the GKB <>, I've been thinking of the Tamil script. I wanted to treat it in the way I used the crop circle patterns for my Portsmouth Cathedral book for Art and Sacred Places <>. Layering and superimposing the letters on one another. One of the original ideas for the 'Basket of Fish' was to make some kind of animation in which sharp words and letters would coalesce and then blend again into an ocean of noise. Perhaps that might work with Tamil letters, particularly given their rotundity.

This kind of technique might also make a lovely children's book, revelling in the sumptuous gestures of the script. There could also be a sound associated with each letter. And there could be an interactive element whereby consonants could be paired with their vowel modifier signs. Numbers could be used to specify note lengths. And perhaps pitch could be manipulated in some way too. Could a digital tuner be used to read the note input via a microphone and then generate an appropriate audio sample?

Eventually, with a text to speech module, this could develop into a songwriting machine, or a generator of Bob Cobbingesque poetry <>.

It might even be (oh horror!) educational. But of course the first requirement is fun. I'm not sure it's possible to learn anything if it isn't fun. So this could be a kind of hybrid etch-a-sketch<>, Stylophone<>, Roland TR808<>, HAL<>, tamagotchi<>.

The tamagotchi bit would be if it could talk back. Like the entity Yashas installed at Srishti for the interim semester show. Now THAT provoked a lot of thoughts. What kind of conversation can one have with a machine? Of course this is a question at least as old as the Turing Test. But what kind of answer do we get if we think of the conversation as being a musical one as much as linguistic. Could one collaborate with a machine? Jam together? A generative compositional tool , like Eno's 'koan'<>, that responds to subtle cues - say Heart Rate Variability<>?

In light of Shekhar's thinking about the human internet - if we could reliably converse with a machine might we be in a better position to share our strengths, rather than competing with one another. If as Ray Kurzweil opines, we're heading for the singularity whether we like it or not, why not make it a convivial merger? Surely robots can read Illich<>?

Performance Notation

Paper sensitive to pressure and movement begins to look like cloth.
And a moving scroll begins to look like a roll of fabric.

Could designs be drawn on this that would sound like music?
Or could pre-printed fabrics be used as scores?
Or could a musical performance be recorded as a visual trace?

Can paper reify the field in which the theremin works?

The pen simply records the intentions of the finger.
Which itself is simply the point of the body.
Which is simply the manifestation of the mind.

Writing is remembering the one-pointed concentration of consciousness.

Drawing is direct communication, through a wormhole, in an instant.

Music is drawing in time.


Talking with Shekhar a question arose about evolutionary models of growth or progress. Survival of the fittest or collaboration/symbiosis? I remember reading about evolutionary models of neurological organization somewhere. Where? Also was it Arnab Chatterjee (now at Shell) with whom I had a conversation about evolutionary chemistry? Ah no. I've just remembered it was with a fellow sitter on a long car journey home from a vipassana course. He described a Darwinian method of doing organic chemistry in order to isolate enzymes for use in bio-fuels. Can't remember the details now, or even the guy's name. This is when I need the internet to be on the tip of my tongue with perfect memory and instantaneous retrieval.

On networks, resonance, living internet:
Conference at Indian Institute for Science - Computational Insights into Biological Systems http://www.serc.iisc.ernet.in/~cibs06/
One of the participants, Dr Upinder Bhalla's might be interesting brain to pick:


Another idea arising out of talking with Shekhar
Talk Show/Voice/Con-versation/mantra
a work for the anechoic chamber at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Connected with CAT, this iteration could involve speaking continuously for ten days.
What is the function of mantra?
With whom does one collaborate?
Singing to the devas.

Wonder if it would have any connection with a collaborative piece I'm developing with fellow artist/mediatator Raksha Patel for the Hayward Gallery? It's called 'Peace'. What is that moment like when the voice in your head finally falls silent?
What would the internet be like with no content?

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Pure Intention

Watching Sivamani at the Bangalore Hubba in Palace Grounds I realized that music - perhaps particularly percussion - displays clarity of thought. His phrases are so crisp and forthright. Particularly as contrasted with some of the other performances which were flabby and unconvinced, and therefore unconvincing. Music in general seems to be the abstraction of pure intention. Percussion seems to abstract this even further, fractionating out the sentimentality of melody.

Is music the engine under the bonnet of language?

Brave New World

I just stumbled upon something I wrote years ago. Before I was as internet and communications savvy as I am now. Reminds me of a hypertext poetry project I was so excited by at that time. Now it's part of my mundane experience.

Mark up

One day we will have the confidence
to look at the world
and see it through each other’s eyes.
Behind every object will be chanting ghosts
in the echoing caves of libraries.
Behind every reflection
the shadows thrown by countless suns.
Offset colours will drift
in parallax around each thing
and at a nudge and a swing
we will move from opinion to opinion.
We will be planets orbiting like clouds,
disappearing in the instant of perception.
A donkey’s tail twitching
beneath the prick of the moment’s attention.
One day we will be called
to dance with distant friends,
leaping in the faith
that grounds will condense
at every footfall.
There will be no loss in loneliness
when your face is in every touch.
One day from this dry land
we will crawl into another sea
And our bodies will be transparent
to wave after wave.

Friday, 8 December 2006

barcode music and new writing

One of the technologies they're exploring here is 2D bar graphs printed along the bottom of a page of text (like US tax forms and Driver's Licenses, and Japanese Visas)
Might it be possible to store a small sound file which could be printed along with a graphic score or conventional notation? I've often been trying to learn a piece of music by reading it, and thought it would be useful to be able to hear how it should sound too. This would be especially useful for Indian music which is famously impossible to notate.


Here's an interesting new way of writing a book. It's intended to be more of a conversation than a monologue. In Chapter 7 he really gets into his stride. Talks about the nature of writing itself.

Writing and Talking

Am focussing in gradually on something interesting. It's emerging as a core concern out of all sorts of seemingly disparate elements. Basically it's something to do with writing and talking.

Got skype set up last night and managed to link up with some friends involved in some really interesting social sculpture - although I'm pretty sure thay wouldn't call it that. It's in an early design phase now so not in the public domain but I think it will be hard to miss once it is. Charles Leadbeater's thinking is key. And the idea of the network is central to it, which has already been in my thoughts because of the work with dialogue and conversation I've been doing. But talking with one of the group in particular highlighted the connection with language and writing that seems important. Check out sebastian mary's blog here http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/


Been tooling around the HP Labs intranet looking at various white papers, research seminars, and presentations. Eg, one on 'Machine Readability and Security of Paper Documents'. It's about the connections and transpositions between the computer screen and the piece of paper.

Made me think of this morning's shenanigans as I finally managed to open a bank account. At last I had all the documents I needed. My PIO card, a photograph, and a piece of paper from Airtel with my Indian address on it. Then I needed to go across the road to get photocopies. (They didn't have a photocopier in the bank.) And it turned out that their printer was broken so they couldn't issue me with a passbook. There was also a huge scrum as other people fought for balance enquiries and statements from a single information point who couldn't print anything out. The queuing practice consisted of either a highly ordered numbered ticket system at the cashiers' windows, or else a sharp-elbowed free-for-all at the general enquiries counter. A poor beleaguered clerk did her best to field the chits, cheques and challans that were constantly shoved uner her nose. I stood over her in an encouraging manner to make sure she dealt with my form on one if its turns of the wheel of samsara around the bank, when it came back for another life to her desk. And it was lucky that I did because I was able to correct a data entry mistake as she went from handwritten form to computer database. This is exactly the kind of situation HP Labs is working to solve by trying to obviate the time consuming process of copying out a handwritten form into the computer.

I followed my documents around the whole building, from one official to another, trying to charm and cajole it over the jumps. It worked eventually - only took about three hours and I still have to go back on Monday for my passbook... Hope they manage to fix their printer over the weekend.


Ok here's an example of a paragraph I'm struggling to understand as I try to absorb this culture. It's the kind of jargon that people here speak fluently, but which I am struggling to unpack.

'We are also developing tools for effective delivery of application and
infrastructure management services. Research in this area focuses on service and
service infrastructure, modeling techniques and languages, application
discovery, access control, ITSM and service oriented architectures (SOA).'

It's a question of referents perhaps. I need concrete examples of things I've experienced when I read a noun. Of course specific examples are precisely not the point of this way of talking. When a word like 'service' is used in this context it's precisely not a particular service which is meant but the widest possible range of services. The problem is that I'm not even sure what the range of services might be. Presumably it has very little to do with the kind of service waiters or car mechanics do. Although I suppose it might. I can just about understand it in the sense of 'goods and services', ie, anything a business does which is not an actual object. Say teaching perhaps, or a performance, to draw from my own experience. But then what is a 'service infrastructure'? And how does it relate to the kind of service which might manage an infrastructure? And what's the difference between an infrastructure and an architecture?

I'm oscillating between awe at the fluency and power of this language which seems to make sense to so many people, shame that I'm too dim to understand what they're talking about although it's obviously important, and anger that people can blithely spout such gobbledygook which might obscure or even wilfully conceal real ethical problems.

Is there a simple way of saying this? Or is this as simple as it can be to catch the complexity.


Anti Tech

I worry that I might be an anti-technologist. That I might be here under false pretences. I feel suspicious of my own fascination with gadgets. And slightly relieved that it's a fascination I seem to be growing out of as I enter my forties - in the same way as the raging fires of my adolescent sexuality are dimming and allowing my senses to adjust to subtler glows. It's not a loss but a gain. Or perhaps that's just the dessicated ascetic in me speaking out of some weirdly distorted view of the middle way.

A fact is that I used to go everywhere with a Palm V, writing notes in Graffiti. Now I'm happy to flick through notebooks of random jottings and sketches, in colours and spacings and moods of handwriting that reflect much more than the mere words can.

I wanted to write on the rickshaw this morning but it was too jerky. I've become thankful for the five-minute traffic lights, even if they mean sitting in the sunlit swirl of incense from the exhausts of a hundred vehicles. I've now filled up a notebook that was a departure from my usual moleskine. Its a wire-o bound book which has enough space inside the hoops of its spine to hold a biro. It's the perfect combination of pen and paper, constantly to hand. Now I'm starting on a new moleskine which means I'll have to carry a separate pen. This is always a problem. Loose pens mean the danger of ink. So now, in the search for the simplest solution I'm thinking of going back to a pencil. My old Palm V isn't even in the running. I coveted an iPod for months before I got one thinking it might be good solution for carrying notes. Somehow I've always come back round to the always accessible, rapidly scannable, universally applicable, infinitely responsive, maintenance free, rugged, cheap, pen and paper. Of course my phonebook is in my phone and I can live without my entire database until I can open up my laptop, so my notebook is just simple enough. Fifteen years ago I used to carry around a fat filofax.

I'm thinking of all this now in the context of simplicity and with a spirit of awe for the beautiful solutions to basic needs which have been developed in India over thousands of years. This is a place where an old way of doing things is not dropped just because something new and supposedly better comes along. People do not scrap fridges and cars and computers just because a new model is out. On the other hand this place has an amazing capacity to absorb new people, new cultures, new philosophies and new technologies and make them seem completely natural. Which layer of this country is the real India? The jungles, plains and mountains? the tribal? the Dravidian? the Aryan? the Mughal? the British? the American?

John Maeda talks about stuff being as simple as possible and as complex as it needs to be.

I need to get to the bottom of this to work out what I'm doing in a company committed to technological solutions to India's problems.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Here's Ellie Epp, the Canadian film maker and philosopher on writing a journal
Chomping at the bit I've placed in my own mouth. I'm the rider and the horse here. So where shall we go? Feels like it's time to hoik the ideas out of the ether into a material form. Also time to really engage in conversation with others in the lab.
Yesterday's conference call with Warren, Kenton and Clare has stirred up some thoughts, clarified some things, and injected some energy. I haven't introduced them to you before - partly because I'm trying, as far as possible, to keep specific others out of this public display of my thoughts. But they are my main contacts/managers/advisors on this placement. Warren is from HP Labs, India, although he's currently in Beijing setting up a Lab there. Kenton is from HP Labs, Bristol and has run a number of these collaborative placements there. And Clare is the Project Manager based at Watershed Media Centre in Bristol.

Communication is emerging as the key issue. It became clear that I need to make a precise and transparent plan of action. (The TLA is not POA but SOW.) Chendana asked me for an SOW yesterday and I thought I was pretty quick on the uptake, though the fact that she should think I knew what on earth she was talking about is interesting. A month or two ago I felt an idiot when I had to ask in a meeting what a BPO was. http://www.sourcingmag.com/content/what_is_outsourcing.asp
TLA's seem to be more numerous in Bangalore than nano-particulate airborne pollutants. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-letter_abbreviation
I'm thinking of making some alphabet soup. Or maybe alphabet jilipi would be nice.
Anyway here's a good description of an SOW. I'm realizing what a touching departure it is from standard business practice for me to write my own statement. My hosts/bosses(?) are prepared to be very open about what my purpose might be.
While feeling like I really must get on with my work at HP I've been running around all morning sorting out doctors and medicines for my wife who has not been well for the last few days. Meanwhile I've been getting frustrated with other people who seem not to do much except a brilliant impression of Harry Enfield's 'Ooh! You don't want to do that' character.

Started me off on a train of thought to do with how, in all sorts of harboured resentments and actual arguments, whether domestic or foreign, it's so difficult to see things from the other party's point of view. And yet everyone behaves as sensibly as they can. Even the liar and the thief and are simply acting in the best way they can under the circumstances as they see them. There is simply no point in trying to force my point of view since I will simply be fitted into the other's worldview in whatever distorted way, and then reacted to accordingly.

Much more constructive would be for me to just try to understand their viewpoint. And this exercise can become fascinating in itself. It's so difficult when I am being attacked of course, but then that's also when I have the most to gain by trying to understand. Someone who seems slothful, demanding and critical to me now may in fact feel that that they are at last having the well-earned rest they looked forward to, and worked so hard for.

How to convince someone to do something they don't want to? Do I actually have the best strategy? Perhaps I'm not seeing the whole picture. Or I may even be proved right in hindsight, but what good is that? Clearly the only person I can really control - and that far from satisfactorily - is myself. So then what is my relationship to others?

The keyword that struck me this morning in the auto-rickshaw ride to the office
was 'service'. Strangely I'd been teaching others about it but never quite got it myself. One of the interesting pivotal points in the Srishti Interim Semester workshop was the moment when, having coaxed the students to come up with an idea that was really heartfelt and personally meaningful, I asked them to give it away. A background idea to this process was the series of workshops I'd done fifteen years ago at Dartington with Chris Crickmay. They were collaborative sculptiral installations. A group of people working together by individually entering a space to change it in some way - adding, removing or rearranging objects - and then leaving it for the next person. Just last October I was invited by Alan Boldon to make a piece along the same lines for the Gallery at Dartington during the Desire Lines Conference. It was a dialogue between five artists, who took turns to make an intervention into the gallery space. In each case, the previous artist’s work was available as material to be removed, manipulated, destroyed or added to. It became unclear to the viewer who had the idea, whose work was whose - and did it really matter?

I kept emphasizing, for the Srishti students that art might be not simply a means of self-expression, but an offering in the spirit of service. That it might recognize it's context rather than impose itself.

Perhaps I should try to practice what I preach.

Suddenly my job here at HP Labs seems much clearer if I think of it in terms of service. How can I help people? Yesterday's conference call focussed me onto this question of the mutual benefit in a collaborative relationship. As long as I am comfortable and free how can I direct my energies into the project of understanding and furthering intersubjective goals. And how to do this without going completely soggy and abandoning any internal compass or critical perspective?


Have just been doing some research into the history of Hewlett-Packard. http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/abouthp/histnfacts/timeline/index.html
It's a good apple pie story of a couple of down home California boys who made good. Apropos of what I've just been saying in the last paragraph here's a slice of Dave Packard's home baked wisdom, typed up in 1958 in preparation for the company's second annual management convention. It's called 'eleven simple rules'. Here, in short, are the headings:

1. Think first of the other fellow.
2. Build up the other person’s sense
of importance.
3. Respect the other person’s
personality rights.
4. Give sincere appreciation.
5. Eliminate the negative.
6. Avoid openly trying to reform people.
7. Try to understand the other person.
8. Check first impressions.
9. Take care with the little details.
10. Develop genuine interest in people.
11. Keep it up.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Have been looking at the Tamil alphabet today, in which the Gesture Keyboard has been developed.
The curliness of it is striking. Forests of mellifluous tendrils everywhere.
Tamil was originally written on palm leaves. As a result, the letters are made up mainly of curved strokes so as not to rip the leaves.

I'm wondering now not only about the gestures and dances recorded in a notation but also the attitudes. What do I write on and what do I obliterate even now?

Dialogue and Disruption

A significant factor in the appeal of Bohm's vision was the promise that Dialogue could increase and enrich corporate activity – in part through the exploration and questioning of ‘inherent, predetermined purposes and goals’ (Bohm et. al. 1991). There was a clear parallel here with Argyris and Schön’s work on double-loop learning, but interestingly one of his associates has subsequently suggested that their view was too optimistic: ‘dialogue is very subversive’ (Factor 1994).
No organization wants to be subverted. No organization exists to be dissolved. An organization is, by definition a conservative institution. If you didn't want to conserve something, why would you organize? Even if an organization runs into serious trouble - if, perhaps, its market or reason for existence vanishes - there remains a tremendous resistance to change. (And, by the way, our larger culture is also an organization.) I suggest that the most one can hope for is a change in the more superficial elements which would naturally occur as an organization co-opts … some of dialogue's ethic of inquiry. And maybe that is all that is required to accomplish its aims. But any deeper change, any change that might threaten the very meaning and therefore the existence of the organization or its power relations would tend to be rejected - perhaps subtly and tacitly - because such vulnerability would not only be threatening to those within the group, but almost certainly to those who perceive from without - perhaps from higher up the corporate ladder - what this subgrouping of their organization is getting up to. (Factor 1994)
The presentation of clear guidelines, the publication of actual dialogues, and Bohm’s social and spiritual concern struck a chord. It led to the his work being used by a number of key writers especially around organizational development e.g. Senge (1990), to the formation of groups to engage in ‘Bohmian dialogue’ (and a thriving web community), and a Dialogue Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His particular innovation was to link Dialogue into a view of ‘reality’ as involving ‘unbroken wholeness in flowing movement’.



Ashok Sukumaran was one of the people Gordon Knox spoke enthusiastically about at the Diffraction conference in Liverpool when I was initially researching this HP labs residency. http://www.diffraction.org.uk/
Ashok has been artist-in-residence at Sun Microsystems in the last few months.

It also turns out that we’ve been tag teaching over the last few weeks. We’ve been running a module together although we haven’t actually met yet. I kicked off the Srishti interim semester with the workshop on ‘conversation’ partly with the intention of opening up a space in which Ashok would be able to work. His proposal was to use cellphone technology in some way. Just before I went to Delhi for a few days my students were in the early stages of a creative explosion. A week of sensitization, trust-building and prising opening of collaborative possibilities had seemed to fire them up. I wonder what they did with that energy in the subsequent week? I’m back from Delhi now and about to find out. Ashok is finishing up today, then I take over and there’ll be a final presentation on December 2nd.

I’ve also just this morning been invited to take part in an art/cartography project at InIVA in London which it seems Ashok might be a part of. Hopefully this afternoon we’ll actually get to connect in person…

Asking "Why?" at Sun Microsystems Laboratories:
A Conversation with Director, Glenn Edens


You are quoted as saying that you can run a research lab, but you can't manage one. What did you mean by that?

A research lab attracts a different personality than a pure product group. And pure academic research and big science attract an even different personality type. So, we're kind of in the middle. My joke about this -- and I get a lot of grief over it, but I still think it's a good metaphor -- is that product organizations are mostly staffed with engineers. And engineers are mostly nerds, who ask: "How are we going to get this done? How does this work? How can we make it better?" How, how, how.

A research lab tends to consist of hippies, and hippies just ask why. Why, why, why. Why do I have to do it this way? Why should I do that? Why do I need to fill out this form? Why do I have to -- anything. Everything is a question. There is nothing that happens here without an argument. But that's part of our robust culture, and it's the "why" versus the "how". The reason I get in trouble with that analogy is, of course, there are very good engineers in the labs, and there are very good hippies in the product groups.

When managing a set of independent people, you can't tell them what to do. There are only three areas that I directly affect: First, I have some control over the people we hire. Second, I can present questions we ask, bringing in customers, suggesting something to discuss in Sun's Executive Management Group. And third, I can decide what to fund. But that's about it. That's why I say that you can run Sun Labs, but you can't manage it.


Spent a very interesting day wrapping up and drawing together the Srishti Interim Semester project. A revisitation of the energy of dialogue, with a very warm welcome back from the students.
An afternoon seminar on Kabir from Shabnam, with Tara Kini and – of all people – David Clarke, my old tutor at Dartington, now Head of Music at Newcastle University. We had some deep chats about Music and Consciousness, which might lead to me contributing something to a publication of his.
An afternoon with pirate market radio station ‘Yellabella’
Then wandering the streets between power cuts to documenting the lanterns lit for neighbourliness.
The wrap party…

And the night before was in Hypnos having a very well lubricated meeting with Rebecca Gould and Kate Sparshatt. Ended up laying a monster egg with a Kolkata residency and a new piece of poetic invention curled up inside it.

That was after spending the day at Srishti introducing Bec and Kate to Geeta (sparky!), and also meeting with Ashok at last, and discovering the magical collaboration that has happened accidently on purpose between us. (that’s a lovely phrase isn’t it? ‘accidently-on-purpose’)
The foundation-laying and trust-building that was done early on in the process allowing the growth of some subtle, elegant and really moving blossoms. There were sweets from an anonymous donor, a festive atmosphere on the streets with space-filling music and conversation emanating from shops all around, and constant, quiet lanterns fluttering outside homes in dark residential streets.

A day spent re-grouping. Catching up at last with correspondence and picking up threads of thought. One of which I think everyone will soon hear lots about. A big problem with my pluralistic, diverse practice is how to use my energy strategically. How to combat fragmentation and distraction. I’m always looking for the most simple, elegant organizing principle. It’s nice when things converge. I’m glad to be yoking together my work at HP labs and my work at Srishti through this notion of conversation. Now I’m seeing another connection happening with a bunch of very interesting young social entrepreneurs from the UK. The world will be hearing a lot more from them soon I feel. In the meantime, here’s a link to one of the people they are strongly influenced by. Charles Leadbeater has some interesting ideas on social networks and collaborative thinking. I’d like to tease out the connections with interdisciplinarity and dialogue. http://www.wethinkthebook.net/book/home.aspx

I’m reminded of a dialogue between John Allen and Anthony Blake hosted my friend Chili Hawes at the October Gallery (last October as it happens).

Language is more intelligent than people and never came out of grunts. It is the magic that evolved humanity. Language's alien power shows us that more actions exist in heaven and earth than people and things. It is our worst enemy and our best friend, a parasite and a medicine, an enigma that baffles perhaps because it comes from elsewhere.

Could any of this be true?

This led me to an interesting article on The Politics of Conversation at http://www.duversity.org/library.htm.

Here’s a bit from towards the end of a video conversation on the Social Dreaming Matrix
between Gordon Lawrence and Anthony Blake http://www.duversity.org/Gordon.htm

Blake : Let’s get to organizations. How is it possible to ask a question, which is bound to be loaded with a point of view or ideology, out of which is to come some kind of information? How is this registered by people, the people you are involved in? Is it a matter of making them feel better? Is it a matter of them affecting the decisions they make? Is it a matter of how they communicate together and form a group? Can I get you to ask better questions?

Lawrence : I think one way of answering you is why does one do consultancy and it seems to me that what one is doing consultancy for is to be engaged in revelation. That’s a rather grand word but is opposed to salvation where you solve that problem for them. So if you hold onto the idea of revelation—finding and expanding and so on and so forth—the evidence is that everybody in an organization dreams and once you listen to these dreams, then you begin to see what is really going on. So dreams of violence will mirror actual violence in the workplace and so on and so…
When I worked in Shell, it always used to amuse me. I used to think there’s 3,000 people work here, suppose they dream five, that’s 15,000 dreams coming into this building every day and they just disappear.

Blake : They don’t quite disappear of course . . . I think it is very powerful to acknowledge the dream and give it voice in the social conscious state. This is something—a very radical step to make which is going to affect how people are together.


Just been looking through Stanza’s journal at http://www.dshed.net/studio/residencies/clarkbursary/archive/stanza/proposal.php
In his very first entry he talks about the ‘painting-by-numbers’ that can happen on technology led projects. Presented with bits of kit by excited engineers eager to see multicoloured sparks an artist can feel like an entertainer. ‘Here you are! Show us what you can do with this!’ I felt a bit like that at the Srishti student party the other day when I was handed a guitar with insistent expectation and everyone sat around desperate to be impressed.
After all, what am I asking for when I consume the art of others? Am I asking to be transported? And what obligation does the artist have?

I’ve been holding myself away from the nitty-gritty of the technology for as long as possible, wanting to understand the dynamics of all technologies, rather than the specificities of one or two. But then I’m led into the thickets of a question about all art. What is the value off abstraction, of conceptualization, of the permanently floating query? Is art not an exploration through things which are accessible to others, and are thus communicative? Are technologies not just the media, without which there is no art? It’s precisely my commitment to interdisciplinarity which is leading me to this question. If the work hovers above and between various practices and definitions where, if ever, does it come to ground?

But also the need I’m beginning to feel more acutely, for solitary space. How can the communicative media of art be created except out of emptiness? It is emptiness which spins to form a thread. It is silence which gathers round to make a sound. It is space which presses into service a form.

I’m reminded of this Martin Heidegger thought I heard recently from Andrew Brewerton (Principal of Dartington College of Arts):

The jug is a thing as a vessel – it can hold something. To be sure, this container has to be made. But its being made by the potter in no way constitutes what is peculiar and proper to the jug insofar as it is [in its capacity as] a jug. The jug is not a vessel because it was made; rather, the jug had to be made because it is this holding vessel.

The making, it is true, lets the jug come into its own. But that which in the jug’s nature is its own is never brought about by its making. Now released from the making process, the self-supporting jug has to gather itself for the task of containing. In the process of its making, of course the jug must first show its outward appearance to the maker. But what shows itself here, the aspect (the eidos, the idea), characterises the jug solely in the respect in which the vessel stands over against the maker as something to be made….

…We become aware of the vessel’s holding nature when we fill the jug. The jug’s base and sides obviously take on the task of holding. But not so fast! When we fill the jug with wine, do we pour the wine into the sides and base? At most, we pour the wine between the sides and over the base. Sides and base are, to be sure, what is impermeable in the vessel. But what is impermeable is not yet what does the holding. When we fill the jug, the pouring that fills it flows into the empty jug. The emptiness, the void, is what does the vessel’s holding. The empty space, this nothing of the jug, is what the jug is as a holding vessel….

…but if the holding is done by the jug’s void, then the potter who forms sides and base on his wheel does not, strictly speaking, make the jug. He only shapes the clay. No – he shapes the void. For it, in it, and out of it, he forms the clay into the form. From start to finish the potter takes hold of the impalpable void and brings it forth as the container in the shape of a containing vessel. The jug’s void determines all the handling in the process of making the vessel. The vessel’s thingness does not lie at all in the material of which it consists, but in the void that it holds.

Martin Heidegger, ‘Das Ding’ (1950), lecture given at the Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Kunste, June 6th, 1950, translated by Albert Hofstadter, ‘The Thing’, in Poetry, Language, Thought (Harper & Row, Harper Colophon Edition, New York, 1971), pp. 168-9

I suppose having spent the last month in pretty full-on activity and focusing so strongly on conversation I’m starting to feel the burden of so much information. Started reading John Maeda’s book on the ten laws of simplicity last night. The first Law is ‘Reduce’.

We are so surrounded by the stuff of life that it seems silly to pick out a medium to make art out of. Today I’ve been looking at the international banking system. I want to open an account here so I can pay my rent. My landlords would like to keep the payments shaded from the sun so the international transfer hasn’t quite worked as smoothly as it might. It all takes time. My options are opened a little because I bought a PIO card before leaving the UK. A ‘Person of Indian Origin’ card to slip alongside by British Passport. That in itself brought revelations. I don’t think I’d ever seen my Indian passport – didn’t know I even had one - but my father dug out my ID as a fourteen year old a few months ago and I presented it at the Indian High Commission in Aldwych. Now, through a contortion of nation states, I can own anything I want in India except a farm. Actually that’s what I’d really like.

Anyway ricocheting around offshore banking websites, taxation arrangements, wealth management advisors and Indian economic protocols propels me right back into a centre of my research – the flow of global capital. I am part of the phenomenon I am seeking to understand.

There’s a tension in me though. I’m aware that an expectant crowd is arrayed around me looking to be entertained by my artistic use of the new technologies being invented at HP labs. In my heart though the technology seems so trivial. The other day, for instance, in a discussion around Cathy Lane’s work on sound in the Srishti Interim Semester workshops, I heard about a new kind of paper being developed at HP on which you can draw sounds. I can immediately think of a thousand applications. Graphic scores for instance, and the connection between music and notation that I’ve discussed a bit with John Hartley. I’m also hatching a plan to do something at a Neolithic rock art site in Karnataka which has been rediscovered lately to have a strong acoustic dimension.

This would be a nice place to do the recording of his ‘Pebble Music’ that Mat Martin has asked me to make. Here, by the way, is Jeff Cloke’s version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-yGHCNbn28
This new kind of paper might also be an interesting way of examining all sorts of relationships between, language, sound and mark-making which is a major constellation in my thinking at the moment. But somehow the actual stuff seems so much less exciting than the idea. Maybe I’m not really an artist. Or perhaps I’m really a conceptual artist rather than a craftsman. It used to be called poetry I guess.

Is it called programming now? http://www.interdisciplines.org/defispublicationweb/papers/4

Actually something’s just occurred to me about how my version of Pebble Music might be made. I want to get away from the performance of the score in the manner of a nineteenth century chamber musician. I’d also like to hint at the hugeness and slowness of the rock formations. I’ve been thinking of writing onto the rocks themselves and perhaps recording the sound of that but now I’m wondering if I could use tripod mounted long durations of video with ambient sound which is only structured in accordance with the score at the editing stage. It would become a sound portrait of the site.
I wonder how Shakespeare would work there?

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,
Crooked elipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.