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on October 5, 2011 at 8:37:31 am

a time to swim....

"Swimming,” Avital Ronell (1989) tells us in the classified directory of her Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, and Electronic Speech, “creates a sonic space” (p. 432). Martin Heidegger's What is Called Thinking? (as cited in Ronell 1989) offers swimming as the exemplar of activities that we can only learn about by full immersion. “We shall never learn what 'is called' swimming...or what it 'calls for,' by reading a treatise of swimming. Only the leap into the river tells us what is called swimming.”


a time to press pause....

there's no hurry


Press pause. Let the silence build. Hit rewind. Pause again.



 In a paper that applies a stigmergy model to the idea self-organizing music and describes two computer applications of the stigmergy model (Swarm Music and Swarm Granulator), Tim Blackwell and Michael Young emphasize the importance of taking pause (really, they are speaking to the functionality of their applications: programming pauses) when the present state of affairs is particularly granular and most certainly on the move (Organised Sound, Volume 9 ,  Issue 2  (August 2004), pp. 123 - 136). Blackwell and Young are interested in creating applications whereby “particle swarms” become events:


This is accomplished with two timing functions which operate on two components of a particle position vector. The other components of the position vectors provide event parameters. The timing

information for event start and end is therefore internally derived from the swarm thus allowing for

temporal organisation of events due to spatial organisation of the particle positions” (Blackwell and Young 2004).


For these applications to run, every pause[1] is a timing function coupled to a second timing function that determines duration, thus creating an “event.”:


In order to extract temporal information from the spatial information x, two timing functions are intro-

duced, g1 and g2. The swarmer pauses for a time dtt=g1(x(t).e1) upon generation of state x(t), where e1 is the unit vector along direction 1. The required output from the swarmer is a stream of swarm events q1, q2, commencing at times t1, t2, t3 ... Events, however, must have a beginning and an end. A second timing function g2(x(t).e2) extracts an interval dtt, event from xk, where dtt, event is the duration of event qt, i.e. qt ends at tt+dtt, event. The event timing information dtt and dtt, event is packaged in the N-dimensional event vector qt=(dti, dti, event, xk.e3, xk.e4 ... xk.eN) (Blackwell and Young, 2004).

Sustaining a writing practice in dynamic and distributed contexts means you're going to continuously find and lose your rhythm. Therefore, it might be the case that "you" don't even need to "press" pause...until you get lost!


At the same time, it may be that developing writerly capacities in such contexts involves some sort of of techne, something akin to what Harihar Rao, in his liner notes to Ravi Shankar's Three Ragas LP, describes as "rhythmic aesthics." Rao emphasizes the subtlety in Shankar's way of mixmastering the topoi of the rhetorical canon of raga, and stands amazed by "his facility and ease in creating exceedingly complicated rhythmic patterns and the accuracy with which he culminated them" (liner notes Three Ragas, World Pacific 1438, WPS 21438). Good timin'. Nano-scale kairos. Rhythmic aesthetics is liner-note idiom for Raga and Tala. Raga and Tala are a living oral tradition, and signify the entire sonic canon of Hindustani classical music. This tradition goes way back, and it's transmission strategies constitute a rhythmic and melodic pedagogy embodied now as always through the medium of sound. If we pursue the immediately obvious analogue in the Western rhetorical canon of style, we notice right away that the stylistic practices and rhetorical choices we make when we participate in new and distributed media have gone distributive, and the rhythms that pattern this open-sourced and utterly musical scene of writing, are the network tropes schemes and figures that give us form and feeling. Our rhythmic aesthetics are the narrative that emerges when we press pause and hit playback, and reflect on our patterns. Making sense of rich and dynamic media requires good timin', an ability to play the available means of percieving/ordering/persuading, and of sampling, playing, replaying, reconfiguring information into purposive, playful, persuasive forms--or just plain in any way novel forms. Rhythmic aesthetics here draw our attention to forms--or more precisely, to time itself, as a format.


a time for sound


"When Mao swims across the Yangtse Kiang, his body makes noise, the opposition between inside and outside crumbles...swimming the crawl in the bay, breathing right and then left, consequently every one-and-a-half-strokes, there are: 1) sounds propogated underwater, for example, the high-pitched sounds from very far away (boat propellers) along with their harmonics, the low-pitched sounds of bubbling left by kicking feet, especially the carillon of exhaled air bubbles that slide and burst, along the ears 2) alternately: a) when the ear out of the water is turned toward shore, all the rumblings in the city, the beach, with singular bursts of noise, a bell, fire sirens, a horn, a loudspeaker, the squeals of children taking a dip nearby, b) when the ear opens onto the open sea, the nearby lapping of waves that lick the ear, small masses of water rubbing against one another, farther away the purrings of a motor, the cries of seagulls. While doing the crawl , the body pivots, turns entirely on its longest axis, and this opens up one ear while closing the other, alternately. This movement serves as a machine for producing sounds, a musical instrument, but the noises produced by the movement itself belong to these sounds" -Jean-Francois Lyotard, "One or Several Silences" in Driftworks, page 99-100.


  1. Here, I want to press pause for a moment on the idea of building metaphors, analogies, or other connections between digital and analog ideas about “stopping time,” and about the possible connections between wyrding in non-Euclidean space and programming computers to generate musical events from “swarms” of defined points and moving vectors in an N-dimensional Euclidean space. When programming any kind of swarm to take pause, it would also seem important to take into account the definition of “pause” offered in another article in the same issue of Organized Sound, "Spontaneous Organization, Pattern Models, and Music," by Yon Vissell: "Any state may be marked as non-emitting, in which case no parameter will be produced by it, allowing it to act as a pause, temporal gap, or rest. Furthermore, a state is allowed to have a duration of zero. A typical application of a zero-duration non-emitting state is to act as a proxy gateway, assigning probabilities for various states in the network to act as an entryway. A state may also be identified as an exit to the network, so that no subsequent transition takes place, thus serving as a possible terminus for a sequence” (“Spontaneous Organization, Pattern Models, and Music” in Organised Sound, Volume 9 ,  Issue 2, August 2004, pp. 151-165).

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