Shut up and eat your Disney…

Based on the written works of a formidable tradition of writers like James AgeeShakespiereMoliereFlaubertBernard ShawJonathan SwiftJ.R.R. Tolkein and Miguel Cervantes, what would you say distinguishes men from Rowling’s muggles or Tolkein’s hobbits?

I’ve felt that the most damaging event in American cultural development was the censure of Al Capp related to the popularity of his character, the shmoo, which caricatured the cupidity of a culture of people who derive their core values from mass media, a description that fits the psychological conditioning of nearly all Americans since the 1940s.

Because Capp’s caricature so perfectly revealed the imbecility of the compliant creatures we become as consumers and willing participants in the infantile military orientation of our society, rendering us hilarious in our absurd willingness to be ourselves consumed, living to be consumed by dint of our worship of consuming products, Capp was considered “bad for business”. He was told by his publishers to cut the shmoo or lose his contract, this despite that the shmoo made Capp’s comic strip the most successful cartoon in history.

Nathaniel West’s Day of The Locust, Woody Guthrie‘s and Bob Dylan’s songs, like those of Patty Smith and Pete Sieger, and the monologues of Lenny Bruce and Richard Lord Buckley attacked the tattered fabric of our cupidic values and resonated with something deeper in our souls: our aspiration to feel and express life, no less than the does the flower of the field aspire to bloom. This was the message of William BlakeWordsworthByron and all the romantic poets and composers.

As a culture, what we have become in our worship of cupidic values might at first glance appear to be a race of idiots but at birth, we are no different now than in Whitman‘s time, with the exception that the muggles of the 19th century at least were made aware, ironically by their religious institutions, that they are muggles and so they knew and supported Whitman, Blake and Poe and their spirit surmounted ignorance. We live in a culture that disdains the enterprise of art like Blake’s because its not good for business.

Read. By all means, read. Read the subversives of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Russians, French and Italians; read Dinesen, McCullers, Garcia Marquez, Mann, Faulkner,  West, Ionesco, Stendahl, Cummings… Alternatively, shut up and eat your Disney.

Fmod Uber Alles

Fmod is actually a supercool if somewhat clunky, probably very early version of a Graphic User Interface (GUI) for software called, middleware, in the process of inserting sound into game programs.

What fools these software engineers be! Or maybe they know and its the marketing people, as usual, who have their heads in the past or some other dark place.

Maybe the engineers realize that, what they have on their hands with Fmod, a creative tool for modifying, merging and remixing tracks on the fly, is a new kind of music/sound sequencer that automates the scoring of media. I wouldn’t bet on it.

From the perspective of the engineers that make it, Fmod is an app running on a Mac or PC that game developers can use to program sounds and music into a game so they will be triggered by input from players and adapt to changes in the “game state” caused by the progress of the game or if a player goes up or down a level, wins or loses, goes from one scene to another, fires a weapon, misses or hits the target,  and so on.

Fmod is an off-the-shelf sound programming GUI that saves you the laborious trouble of writing code that triggers sound into the game by writing the code for you. You lay in audio tracks using the graphic user interface by dragging and dropping audio files and by setting automation for the audio files is triggered by game states and player input.

If your mind can contain the concept and try looking at Fmod as a purely musical tool, a  sequencer that uses audio files instead of midi controlled samples and with a modest range of DSP plugins. Instead of just having a single timeline as in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), which is a one-dimensional view, Fmod has a vertical axis as well, call it the y axis. Music occurs sequentially, one note or arrangement of notes after another. With Fmod, you can also program notes or changes to notes on a perpendicular coordinate, which isn’t time based. For lack of a better simile, call it world-based.

You may imagine it in a colorful way somewhat like this: you are making love to a woman (or man), doing this, doing that and things are moving along in the direction of orgasm and suddenly, you change partners or reverse roles or change genders, maybe flip back and forth in a tempo. The sensual example isn’t just for humor or venal interest but to be honest about the sensual qualities and purposes of music and the part that music plays in our lives and especially in manipulating viewers in advertising, promotion and propaganda. I speculate that in the near future, since scoring for media has been reduced to cliche musical solutions, a program like Fmod will be programmed by engineers to score TV melodramas, ads and YouTube videos automatically, programmed by machines.

However, the hidden value of Fmod, which is of little interest to the marketing department of Fmod, whether or not the engineers understand it, is that this GUI is an interesting tool for other kinds of users than game developers, people who are artists for whom the facility Fmod provides for real-time adaptation, interactivity provides an ability to eventually take Messaien to the stars.

The moral of this story is that all marketers live in the past, worshipping success rather than the source of the success. They revere Mickey Mouse, Forest Gump and Lady Gaguh as if the human circumstances that gave these invention life. Check out Fmod.


Music for a Scene in Hoquiam

On the ground floor of a turn of the century commercial building in Hoquiam, Washington (a cultural landmark, ignored today but with a possible great future), in what was originally a plush lobby of a major bank, replete with Italian marble floor and polished redwood coamings, there is today an ad hoc museum of vintage curiosities for sale, a business operated by the owner of the building, a congenial man of about 50, who in his own better times, before the most recent economic crash, was an important  professional before his budding IT company failed. An educated man, he is one of three sons of a dentist, who with his wife, a scientist, came to America from Hungary during the brief interval of freedom before Stalin sent the tanks. His son, now also out of work, is a Harvard MBA. He bought the building with his personal bonus after the IPO for the failed enterprise with the intention of restoring it to prominence. After the collapse of the real estate market, unable to sell the building because of an environmental issue he wasn’t aware of when he bought it, he began to use the former bank lobby to sell furnishings he’d imported from Hungary for his home, which is 30 miles away in the state capital. Through his many contacts with others trying to survive similar defaults, he branched out to help them liquify their wealth.

Capital Treasures - Hoquiam, WA
Capital Treasures – Hoquiam, WA

Ken is a good man, frank in his politely spoken, slightly midwestern accent. I liked him immediately when we met because he is curious about people in a way that only those who withhold judgment are able to be. There’s a comfortable steadiness in his composure and movements on which a film director could rely and he has a quietly witty, dry sense of humor, suggesting possibilities for the imagination of a writer.

About him and this building and this small town at the mouth of the Hoquiam river, at the base of the Olympic Peninsula, a rich panoply of stories may be imagined and during the 30 days I visited Hoquiam, I imagined a few that are suggested in images like the one above that I captured with my Canon digital camera.

So, here is this image, or scene, if you will, and in the story, we are, so far, introduced to a character, this man, whose name is Ken Myroslav, and his environment, and a few aspects of his history, his family, the town, including its geographic, political and cultural location, in fact a significant amount of detail, each of which is a pathway leading to a myriad possibilities. The story could go anywhere. But it doesn’t. Music could shape that.

My considerations regarding the music in this case might be: 1) to evoke a compassionate sense of this character and how he views his life in the fractal edge of time when this image was made, which could include his relationship to a person taking the picture that frames him; 2) the word spoken, action or image that immediately precedes this one and 3) the next thing that happens.

Depressed About The Recession?

An economic recession is what happens when people are not rewarded for fitting in. A person who doesn’t fit in feels alienated, like they don’t belong.

Experience of community is conjured as a myth held by those who fit in and those who want to fit in. People that believe in the myth and don’t fit in are depressed.

This is the link between economic and clinical depression.