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structure of the sonic hologram

On October 6 2016, Six Canticles were transmitted from Dwingeloo Radio telescope in the Netherlands outwards directed towards the Lyra Nebula. A month later the same set was transmitted towards the Andromeda nebula.  The Fourth canticle is contained in the MoonArk project and the transmission at Dwingeloo acts as an opening gesture for that broader piece of work.  The work at Dwingeloo is now known as The Rotterdam transmission and was made in collaboration with Daniella de Paulis and Jan van Muijlwijk [email protected] ([email protected])

Burgess halo Banded
The Canticles began as sonic structure designed using techniques of electronic music composition to represent an aesthetic and poetic form based on the Toroid sculpture as created by Lowry Burgess.

The Canticles now exist as sculptural forms in the media of electromagnetism, moving away from the earth at the speed of light. The Six Canticlestaken together are the first iteration of a liturgical construct that syncretizes human experience, poetic feeling and our emerging awareness of galactic structure.  

What is the place of consciousness?  The Rotterdam Transmission assumes a consciousness that transcends the boundaries of human mortality, whether that is defined by the fragile constraints of our metabolic time on earth, or whether it resides in perception beyond the commonly held sensorium.

A second question arises:  is this a message delivered towards some extra-terrestrial  civilization that may receive and interpret each of the canticle forms.  The Rotterdam transmission is not  message except as an aesthetic gesture.  it is metaphor and poetry; to hold the full design and device of the Canticles requires  confrontation with scale that deliberately extends the boundaries of humanity.  There is a teleological direction.  This is the liturgical process.  

Each of the canticles are defined first with a mode and second with mechanics.  The mode of the canticles expresses the soul-full language, the poetic and lyrics intent.  the mode of each canticle will locate the form in an ever-extending sequence from start to finish.  The mechanics of each canticle explain some of the specific techniques used to realize the forms.  In each case, those techniques will be realized s deeply simple, driven by the need to inscribe a poetic ideal in a sonic structure.  


more details next week, for now here's a link to the sonic realization ( here with the working title 'forms ina etheric halo 27 minute remix)




episode 39

In this episode, more on psychogeography and the meditative expanse, as well as a reading of W H Auden.

Listen to "Psychogeography, meditative expanse: unintended intimacies and WH Auden" on Spreaker.

First off, I know the sound was garbage last week.  I hoped to get away with it but several of you mentioned how poor the podcast sounded.  My microphone is broke, and I'm avoiding the effort to figure out what to get next.  I made some adjustments this week so it should be better but I promise that in the new year you will be astonished by how crystal clear my voice sounds. 

Second off, I made a big deal about consistency in scheduling and that I would livestream every Sunday morning.  I broke that already, because this was actually streamed on an early Friday morning.  Oh well... consistency is a goal, always in sight but rarely achievable.  

You can see the video saved on my channel here

To the moon!!


I'm going to Paris next month for an event at the Pompidou center ( check out this  cool article from CMU. ) The Moon Ark is an object designed to land on the surface of the moon onboard the Astrobotics Lunar Lander.  It's been a decade of work lead by Lowry Burgess who first had the vision of the interaction through aesthetics between humanity on the earth and that first step onto the lunar surface. (You can see Lowry seated across from me  at the Dwingeloo radio telescope for the Rotterdam Transmission. )

Enormous engineering and philosophical questions go hand in hand.  If I were forced to summarize those challenges and discussions I would say that the size of  the piece and the duration of the piece forced everything into a crucible of invention. It is very small; and it will last forever.  

The Ark can fit in your hand and is made up of 4 'chambers' each chamber capped by discs about the size of a US half dollar coin.  Inside each chamber are thematically connected pieces of art, poetry, nano-sculpture, hundreds in all etched and carved on the cylinders ( inside and out) and on the capstone discs.  Set aside the complex aesthetic relationship, the engineering is a marvel.  Some of the works themselves required new techniques to realize, on top of which everything has to fit within the payload constraints for actual launch.  Nothing can rattle around, and everything has to be super light.  

There are two Moon Arks.  One will end up on the moon, the other will stay here on earth.  The MoonArk on the lunar surface will not be visited by the ravages of terrestrial erosion and is expected to maintain it's current state for hundreds of millions of years barring asteroid of future human impact.

I've been slow to publish any records of this myself for reasons I hope to explore.   To summarize the pieces I've worked on: 

In the 'Ether' chamber, the Sonic Hologram to Andromeda   As described in the catalog, "A visualized sonic halo of stereo sound broadcast from radio telescopes in Rotterdam in October 2016. The radio-wave form will expand infinitely as it moves outward toward the Andromeda Galaxy. The music is derived from a three-dimensional holographic image of the Gate Into Ether translated into a musical form."

In the 'Lunar' chamber, the 'Moon Ballet'.  As described in the catalog, "An original ballet performed to music derived from a three-dimensional model of the moon translated into a musical score. "  The walls of the cylinder are etched with the photographic representation of the choreographic shape of the piece.  

The Moon Ark is a trigger for all kinds of other work.  Lowry and I went to the radio telescope at Dwingeloo  two years ago where the sound structure  of the middle 'Mystery' was broadcast to Andromeda.  That 'mystery' is the sonic hologram carved on the fourth chamber, but it is also the middle of 5 pieces constructed for the transmission to Andromeda.  

That starts to get in to a very different languae, right?  The CMU article doesn't talk about 'liturgy' or 'mystery'.  Maybe that's why I've held off on writing and publishing.  I was talking to Lowry recently and what it boiled down to is the imperative to  recognize the lineage that this work comes from.  It's an ecstatic, transcendent strand of art, and art in space in particular.  There's a hint of this in my podcast episode on Sputnik but I owe you all a full explication .  

I've got a notebook of material on The Rotterdam Transmission.  Some of my earliest conceptual pieces involved radio astronomy, and the idea of using 'sound' to model a 'structure' that extends beyond the commonly held vectors of scale associated with the mortal framework is central to what I consider my remaining tasks.   When I say I've got writing projects to do in 2019, this is top of the list. I've considered starting with my notes as a script for a mini-series of podcast episodes.  I do find it easier to riff  on ideas verbally and often find well-articulated ideas emerge in a lecture setting that otherwise would not have come out in a strcutured writing exercise.  So we'll see.  

Kathryn and I will spend 4 days in Paris and then another 4 days in Iceland.  I expect Reykjavik in January will be wonderful but
I am anxious about flights in and out.  More to come.    I may even try to record a podcast episode from the Northern Atlantic coast, avoiding dangerous rip tides.

thoughts after playing Red Hat Stick Man

Kaiser plays red hat stick man

I'm nearly fifty - just past fifty counts as near to fifty, right?  These pieces had been on my desk for years. Picking at them, avoiding the hard decisions required to finish. making the commitment to finish writing, practice sufficiently and extend to everyone I wanted to hear has been an effort for most of 2018.  

I've had the title for a long time, and I tell this  following story often.  One winter morning I was walking across the plaza at the PPG building in Pittsburgh.  PPG stands for Pittsburgh Plate and Glass.  The headquarter building is a glass plated castle with four pinnacled towers reflecting the light from off the surrounding rivers.  I was walking across the plaza for a cup of coffee with a work colleague.  Someone I didn't know called out "Hey!".  I suppose there are different people in the world and one difference is how you respond to a "hey!".  I peer around, wondering what is happening.  Not so much do I think it is directed to me, but maybe something observable and interesting is happening.  "Hey!"  More emphatic now.  "Hey you!"  "Hey!!  Red Hat Stick Man!"  

I was as I often am wearing a red hat and I was as I always am walking with a stick.   So I stopped, turned and looked.  "I know you" he said.  He didn't ( know me).  " I saw you play at Hard Rock cafe last week".  No.  No he didn't.  "Yeah man you played bass".  Sorry, I said, but you don't know me.  Three times denied, right?

So maybe he did know me, better than I know myself. Red Hat Stick Man is about as good a description of me as I ever did hear. I've adopted Red Hat Stick Man as an avatar, a moniker, a general emblem and distillation, a brand for my music.   Navigational beacon:  What Would Red Hat Stick Man Do.  

During the concert, I spoke before each piece for a bit mostly to let off my nerves but also because I want people to feel about the music the way I do.  

Poulenc  The most extraordinary composer.  He is like a beauty-producing machine.  Stop at any randomly defined  point in any of his pieces...anywhere, it doesn't matter what....and let that sound reverberate.  it will be the most beautiful sound you ever heard.  Ravel, you expect it.  But really it is Poulenc who moves throw this flow of elegance.  

Duckworth.  I first heard these pieces on an album that had Philip Glass etudes on Side A, and a selection of the Time Curve Preludeson Side B.  I picked the three I played quickly one day, knowing I wanted to play three and not having a thought which three to play.  Each piece is an intricate pattern that is both immediately apparent on the surface, but at the same time distant and ethereal.  A single slip and that dynamic is broken.  While I was learning the pieces, I saw a video of the magicians Penn and Teller working with a nail gun.  The gun was randomly loaded with nails.  The trick was to have 'memorized' the sequence of nails and then slam it into either wood or your hand depending.  Each of the Duckworth pieces have that life and death balance.

This Troublesome Bard I wrote these three pieces at first thinking it would be a longer rhapsodic single movement but decided eventually that it was better to keep each sketch separate.  Maybe some day I will return and build up that larger piece but for now, each of the three sketches has a separate 'mode' of interaction with the electronic components.  It is really important to me that electronic sounds with acoustic instruments are organic.   So to start with, all the sounds generated in these pieces begin directly with a live feed from a contact mic on the piano soundboard.  There's no sound that isn't controlled somehow by how I play the piano.


Red Hat Stick Man  I feel like these pieces represent a stability in my musical language.  From here on, those larger pieces that I've had in mind since I was 20?  I feel like I have the capacity to run through my writing and be coherent.  Does that make these my 'Journeyman' portfolio? 


 Writing is very different from playing .  There's a gymnastic quality  that felt wonderful to get under my fingers.  y friend Lowry - he lives in Flordia now and saw the video, commenting on how good it was to see me exercise at the keyboard.  When it comes down to it, I think every  piece I ever want to write is based on this same kinesthetic kernel.  The measure of my craft is how close the piece actually ends up that way (rarely).