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Twelve Tapes (collaboration)
  • the idea of infinite expressions is self evident and is in place on everything that is ever performed more than once. As soon as something has a score, if the exact synchronisation of performers, and the overlay of background noise is to be 'important' then everything has an infinite number of intepretations.

    That doesn't detract from the idea that something that has a complex number of intepretations (3^12 -1) [or if you including playing no tapes then 3^12] at the outset is somehow interesting. That every version of tape arrangement would take 30years and 4 months, is surely something worth considering, making the piece vaster than is reasonably recognised by the 12 tape concept. Car Park's are vast things, lasting decades, it ties in with that.

    Just because there is a mind boggling aspect to this doesn't mean it's unimportant and that the concept should be reduced to 'pick a number of tapes and which sides to play' because it misses the scope that the modular design allows.

    I know Kev doesn't see the interest in 'the complexity' of a piece, but that's because he's a heathen, (despite enjoying the length of a 36 hour performance).
    it's something that is already there.

    If people are already choosing a set of tapes and sides to play, then they're just choosing a half an hour period within the 30 years, it's the same thing, just the specifics are recognised.

  • - if you go for multiple scores then I can happily construct a non-trival tour around 3^12-1, and thus would enjoy composing one of 12 scores.

    on the other hand I enjoy the concept of their being a "single piece" which is vast but also greatly intepretable.

    I'm not sure how many scores for 12 tapes can be realistically proposed without going over the same ground multiple times. Especially as the ideas of each tape being played over the others seems to be standard.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    TheZeroMap said: I'm not sure how many scores for 12 tapes can be realistically proposed without going over the same ground multiple times.

    I'm not either! That's why it could be interesting to see whether it's possible to squeeze out twelve distinct pieces. Challenging...

    Still mulling over the rest of your post... chewy.
  • If 12 ideas can be constructed, and are suitably distinct then maybe 12 scores is the way forward.

    Otherwise with the concept of choosing some of the 12 tapes and some of the sides, then it is just 1 out of 531,440 possible ways of doing this anyhow - it makes it a mere simple formula to calculate where in the 30yrs and 4months the half an hour that you have chosen should occur. That is a sorta compromise on the subject? appending this idea/information to the whole - it also means that each performance is just a momentary fragment of the whole, an insignificant aspect yet not at the same time. Personally I feel it gives weight, but maybe that's me seeing beauty in combinatorial complexity.
  • Personally I think the complexity is there anyway and we don't need to explain it to people - they'll see it.

    "where in the 30 years" there's no non-arbitrary way of sequencing this set. Any combination could occur anywhere in that idealised 30 years. Sure, you could make a rule - maybe you start from 1 tape, run through all 24 sides alone then all the combinations of 2 etc. But why that way? And why is tape 1 tape 1? There's no reason to choose any sequencing of the 1/2 million possibilities over any other, that's the nature of a statistical set.
  • Maybe you're right,
    you're right that there's no non-arbitrary way of doing, but there are more or less logical methods, and anyway, that is the idea of composition; a decision where a decision needs to be made. Why are we playing B, because that was a throw-away example but it stuck, but it is essentially an arbitrary choice.

    I was in a bit of a mood yesterday, hence the persuassive(or attemptingly so) rants. The thing is I don't think people would notice the complexity of their own accord, personally I think something need be made of it, a catalouge or an order - "Hey, I'm now gonna listen to version 00aabb0ab0ab" which makes it (in an order of my own devising which I won't elaborate on for the moment) the 51,133 possible version, which would make it 1,065 days into the performance - (just short of 3 years)

    Total tangent aside - I think this is an interesting aspect, but if people don't get it then it can be dropped....
    Posts: 1,231

    Maybe you're right,
    you're right that there's no non-arbitrary way of doing, but there are more or less logical methods, and anyway, that is the idea of composition; a decision where a decision needs to be made. Why are we playing B, because that was a throw-away example but it stuck, but it is essentially an arbitrary choice.

    The precise tonal value 'B' was arbitrary but the idea of everyone using it has clear, explicit and apprehensible affects - it articulates a given space, in both recording and playback. This would be true of any note value, but the idea of everyone playing the same note isn't 'arbitrary' (except in a kind of cosmic-existential sense that we're all lumps of flesh deluded into believing in our own existence beyond hapless entropy) because it has indeterminate but palpable effects with the given/ likely/ achievable assumed parameters of each musician. It relies upon what people have, what they can do, doesn't exclude on the basis of possessions ('I don't have a tuba') or virtuosity ('I can't play the tuba'). At the risk of sounding like my Dad, it's a practical and practicable idea.

    As a subtext of that, there's numerical complexity. In a similar way to there being a visual aesthetic to car parks, or a number of other things that some people are interested in. I don't care about car parks to look at but I like the sonic environment.

    I don't really vibe with the sublimity of combinatory complexity because, to me, any given set of any numbers can be conceptually manipulated to illustrate that it is or potentially could be 'very large'. I can count indefinitely (or at least until my death) using just the numbers 0 and 1. That's not to dismiss the interest in that, but I think in terms of an aesthetic project, it's kind of to one side - conceptual trimmings rather than the crux of how this could be interesting for a group of musicians. The idea of everyone playing B, and the recording/ playback articulating the space through the physical affects of overtones, timbre, resonance, wave-shapes (etc) is a palpable effect, something that everyone can apprehend cognitively (it could also have a Lucier effect of making people aware of the sonic complexity of given spaces).

    I mean, perhaps I'm misunderstanding - presumably if you restricted everyone to 5 notes in C major and insisted upon a 5 second gap between them over 30 minutes then the playback would assume masses of complexity based on where you start each tape. 12^30, at least. That doesn't really do anything for me, and doesn't make a piece of music any better because, to me, it's putting the horse (complexity) before the cart (aesthetics). Can you perhaps explain a bit more?

  • TheZeroMap said: there's no non-arbitrary way of doing, but there are more or less logical methods, and anyway, that is the idea of composition; a decision where a decision needs to be made.

    I dunno - from the point of view of the maths, the very condition of a statistical distribution is that it is non-ordered. Any could appear at any point. If the order of events is determined then the probability of the event is 1.
    So imposing a set timeline for events in the distribution goes against the combinatorial aesthetic for me. You could be 1/2 hr in, you could be 400 hours in, you can't determine the order without just saying "this is how I choose to determine the order" and if you do that I think it loses that weight of extra-human inevitability that is attractive about the idea in the first place.
  • I don't think having an order is against any combinatorial aesthetic. From a statistical point of view maybe, but then I was never talking about statistics, and won't.
    Combinatorially there are many ways to apply an order, logical considerations would involve wanting to play side a of a tape and then next time side b; wanting a systematic process so that the next arrangement is easily calculable; and also so that a given order can easily have it's value calculated. There's also possible considerations of 'count through' meaning that in some sense lexigraphically the first tapes counts through more than the second etc. (this I haven't totally incorporated, although I have to an extent) and ideas of a 'gray code' (which I havent really incorporated but through choice).
    There are questions of symmetry, which are very interesting, and of development and dynamics, which ties in nicely with the lexigraphical count through.

    - also I was never saying an order had to be given, I was merely suggesting that in whatever accompanies the 12 tapes that there perhaps could be reference to such ideas.

    I'm not trying to impose anything, I just see there to be a wealth of discussion and beauty in such concepts.

    In response to Kev, yes it is easy to make a piece complex by will power alone, that's easy, but I wasn't suggesting any alteration of the planned ideas of use of the tapes, but rather wishing to highlight an aspect of beauty within the modular design that may not otherwise be visible.

    But, it doesn't matter, I'm more looking forward to hanging around in NCP Churchill Sq Carp Park.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    TheZeroMap said: also I was never saying an order had to be given, I was merely suggesting that in whatever accompanies the 12 tapes that there perhaps could be reference to such ideas.

    I'm not trying to impose anything

    You're not trying to impose anything at all - the way I see it, you're riffing on something I suggested: that the number of tapes, and specifically which tapes, used in the performance be determined by the throw of a twelve sided die. You can't do that without numbering the tapes, which means there's already a predetermined tape one, which then gives rise to the notion of order, which then gives rise to notions of total durations and total combinations (although there's probably a few ways of working that out, some would be more logical than others. I think... I tend to find that kind of thing confusing).

  • For die rolling - it depends whether we want an equal chance of any choice being made, or an unequal chance. A 12 sided die will lead to an unequal weighting if it's used as I would imagine (unless I'm missing something).

    The best view I can see is to take a 6 sided die, treat it as a 3 sided die (equate sides) & related these to off, A or B and to roll it 12 times.


    Total durations & total number of combinations are fairly simple to calculate:
    Each tape has 3 states it can be in, not being played, side a or side b. As there are 12 tapes this gives 3^12 combinations, but we exclude no tapes being played and this gives 531440 combinations. Each being half an hour, so 265 720 hours which is approx 30 years.

    Once an order on the tapes is decided, the 'best' ordering of 'all' combinations becomes a question. A lexigraphical ordering seems good at first, 0 before A before B, but the problem with this is it isn't 'performable' that is, there becomes the problem of instantenously rewinding tapes. Alternation of 0s As and Bs would make more sense.

    (before I explain my proposed ordering - I'd like to say issues with this are a) the subtle repitition of it for 'lower' tapes b) the lack of touring the space - that is nothing with the twelth tape being played would happen for the first 1/3rd, this can either be seen as a disadvantage or as a dynamical advantage, that nothing happens for so long and thus as the 'piece' (really only imaginary) continues there becomes a developement and a dynamical build.)

    Thus, if an ordering were to exist, I would propose that tape 1 loops between 0AB and tape 2 loops between 000ABABAB and tape 3 000000000ABABABABABABABABAB and so on. This is 'close' to the lexigraphical ordering and is easy to implement (each tape only goes back to 0 when it's on side B and all tapes 'lower' than it are on side B):
    In such the first 26 orders would be:


    thus each tape would have it's own standard loop, of length 3, 9, 27, 81 etc. with the first 1/3 silent and the next 2/3rd alternating A,B.


  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    Isn't that more complex than it needs to be?

    First choice - 30 min or 60 min performance. Two options, throw once, odd or even.

    Second choice - how many tapes used. Twelve potential results, D12, one throw.

    Third choice - which tapes. Throw D12 as many times as you need in accordance with result of second choice, discounting repeat throws.

    You could add a choice 1a if you wanted to decide which side gets played, or which side gets played first. Although I'd just opt for the least rewinding.

    That's if we use dice at all. I quite like dice because it means the performers have to work harder, it's harder to rehearse. Others might hate it for those reasons.

    One big disadvantage of random generation is that this piece will almost certainly sound better - or at least, more complex and involving - the more tapes are used. But with random generation you can always throw a one, and you might be stuck with that one tape for an hour. But conceptually it feels somehow wrong, if there are twelve tapes, not to use a D12 or to stack the odds in favour of 3+ tapes.

    So perhaps this is one of those situations where the concept has to give way to the music - maybe the performer's preference should be the deciding factor, with the dice/random factor being just a little too cute to make for a decent listen.

    Spot the ex teen roleplayer.
  • The problem with with this method is it doesn't give each possibility an even likelyhood.

    Say (for argument) we forget about the sides of the tape, and just it take that a tape is played or not played.

    If we roll "11" tapes, then there are 12 ways this can happen (ie. each possible tape being the one un-chosen).
    If we roll "12" tapes, then there is only 1 way this can happen (all tapes played).

    But these two events happen with equal liklihood. So all 12 tapes being played is as likely as the combined liklihoods of 11 tapes being played.
    And thus 'in the limit' we'd get the arrangement of all 12 tapes being played happening 12 times more often than any specific arrangement of 11 tapes.

    Now if this is a method you wish that is acceptable, but I think it would have an aesthetic downside. Being that it discriminates against middling number of tapes, and as the modular design will probably mean 1 or 2 tapes could be sparse and 11 or all 12 tapes could be rather dense, it seems a little bit silly to favour these.

    For example there are 12 ways only 1 tape could be chosen, and there are 66 ways that 2 tapes could be chosen... and 924 ways that 6 tapes could be chosen. And so your method would give those 924 ways an equal combined chance of happening as the combined chance of the 12 ways that 1 tape could be played.

    I just think it would be a shame to favour a 'simple way' of choosing the tapes, which is unfair of the combinations and also favours the sparse or dense selections when there are in fact a wealth of possibilities in the middle.

    p.s. sorry to be a maths troll, it is sorta my day job.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    No worries - I think it's highlighting further that the notion of random operation was probably just a cute idea that got thrown into the mix early and wasn't particularly thought through... ultimately, what's the point of it? It forces a performer to improvise, and it adds a (fairly cheap, now I come to look at it) sheen of indeterminacy. Do either of those things improve the music? Not in and of themselves, no. Whereas one thing I am sure of is that a large number of these tapes, played together, will sound very pretty indeed - so why leave open the possibility that an audience might have to sit through one single C60 in B? In that light, throwing in improvisation and indeterminacy on top of everything else that's already in the mix could just be overegging the pudding.

    Whereas... leaving the choice up to the performer/s actually confers on them a lot of responsibility. How far are they prepared to wing it? How much of a familiarity with the twelve tapes do they really want to have before they think they can stage an adequate performance? How much do they think should be added, by whom and where? Leaving those options open to the performer throws up a lot of interesting creative dilemmas, and those dilemmas would seem to be abdicated by reducing all those possibilities to throwing dice and improvising. Everything becomes winging it, with a surface gloss of having a couple of superficially interesting compositional strategies in the mix. That's probably why I suggested it - I understand throwing dice, I understand improv, they're my defaults. Part of me has to admit that I like them because it's easy to use them as get-outs when it comes to making tough decisions. Is that something that I want to replicate here? Typing this now, with hindsight, makes it feel a little cheap.
  • Removing defaults is a good idea,
    the fact stands that a random throw would ultimately bring up a combination of tapes unknown to the performer, (especially if fairly distributed), and as such would be unpreparable for.
    A design of density by the performer makes more sense.

    Maybe if someone 'colour codes' the tapes, labels them with some desinguishing or catergorising factor - "this tape is sparse and echoy" - "this tape is treblying and sharp" - "this tape its dingy and gravelly"
    colour is not neccasarily the right idea, but some information or hint towards the content - so that the performer decides on a 'receipe' for performance "today, matthew, I will be accompanied by the happy vibe of leeds underground carpark, the dinge of southampton multistory & country joy of a pay and display in the middle of the yorkshire moors"
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    That could be an interesting exercise if the intent is to divide the men from the boys (apologies for the sexism). So if you were an improviser you could wing it based on whatever approximated, impoverished description was written on the tapes; your performance would fall along the lazy-unwilling-to-listen-to-the-tapes/master-improviser-responding-with-lightning-speed axis. Or if you carefully selected and prepared/researched/rehearsed based on listening, you'd be somewhere along the careful-considered-musician-with-something-to-say/terrified-OMG-I-need-a-safety-net axis.

    What's good here (alongside the fun of clarifying ideas in debate) is that I don't read anyone disputing how the tapes are assembled. So as far as I'm concerned, people can start straight away with this as their brief:

    Assembly of the tapes

    The aim is to make something separately that will sound beautiful when bought together. So the emphasis shouldn’t be “How far can I stretch the idea while technically remaining true to the brief?” It should be “This is the brief, what’s the best way I can fulfil it so that the whole sounds of a piece.”

    Recording should be in an enclosed car park – underground, multi-storey, inside a building, whatever. Don’t try to manufacture the environment, to force it to include or exclude noises – let it be itself.

    Record for either thirty minutes or an hour, using whatever recording media you have available.

    Record the environment just as much as the playing – make sure the microphones pick up both.

    Everyone should play B. We'll supply a 30 minute reference tone – a sine wave on B. It will help keep the whole thing together if you listen to it while playing. If you're playing a tuneable instrument tune your instrument as close to this as you can by ear before you start. Play this note, its octaves and overtones only, bear in mind other people will also be playing, don't be afraid of silence. There is room to deviate expressively a short distance from the pitch (much less than a whole note) but it might be best if this is used sparingly.

    Any number of participants per session is fine. Make sure we know who, so we can credit people.

    Additional sounds are okay if they are detuned, and if they don’t overwhelm either the main note B or the environmental sound. These are secondary, to be used sparingly.

    Anyone can contribute as long as they abide by the above. Broadcast to whoever you reckon will be interested. If you wanted to be involved but haven't been keeping track of the conversation then you're in danger of snoozing and losing, I'm not going to assume we'll be getting a recording from you until it arrives in the BtB inbox or we get a download link here (made that mistake with 20/20 and we didn't get 20). People who really care about this project are welcome to submit more than one to make up for any who don't deliver. Work ethic pls, not interested in mere good intentions.

    No deadline, we're after quality, not speed of response. We'll call it a day when we get twelve; if there are more in progress when we call time... then we'll jump off that bridge when we come to it. If it emerges that we need a deadline to galvanise people into action then we'll impose a structure on your pansy asses, but no need for that straight away.

    If you've got any reservations about this then speak now or forever hold your peace. I'll probably be broadcasting it for people to get involved within a couple of days, so you've got that long to chip in.
    Posts: 1,231
    Karl/ Duncan/ other Brightonians: any of you got recording gear that's not shit? I don't but I'll get someone involved who does if y'all haven't got stuff that's portable/ passable.
  • Duncan
    Posts: 349
    I have an olympus DS-40 which has been giving surprisingly lovely results lately. Even has its own external mic for that xtra quality. So I'd say we'd be good to use that.

    I'll probably need one/both of you to explain what we're actually doing though cus the insane tl;dr of this discussion has rather passed me by. I trust all of your creative visions implicitly however and rather look forward to the opportunity to simply adhere to a framework like a whore.
    Posts: 1,231
    Play a B, record it. Give or take that's pretty much it.

    (Or if you want something a bit more meaty, the post 2 above yours puts it in clear terms without you having to read a pile of gack).
  • Are we brightonians gonna do it together. I have a specific section of a specific car park I would like to use & preferably in the early hours of the morning (3 o'clockish), but this is merely my own preference due to having worked it.

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