Sunday, February 5, 2023


I'm thinking about migrating to Substack.

Would anyone care to talk me out of it?

Saturday, February 4, 2023

On AI Art: Remember, We Asked For This

Pianola advertisement (1909)

As per Professor McLuhan, any technology can be thought of as an "outering" of human capacity, or otherwise as a prosthetic extension of one or more body parts.

The original musical instrument was the human body itself. We can rhythmically chant words, vocalise, click our tongues, clap our hands, and stamp our feet. Drums, flutes, idiophones, bullroarers, and every other instrument of prehistoric origin don't represent any invention of music so much as an expansion of technical possibilities and the ramification of social practices surrounding instruments and their use.

Music in preliterate "primitive" societies was seldom made unless it served some purpose exterior to mere aesthetic enjoyment. Nor was it very often devoid of improvisation: a long, complex piece might be developed, rehearsed, and laboriously transmitted to a student, but variances between one performance and the next were inevitable when a composition's only template was the musician's recollection of the last time he played it. If a song wasn't composed on the spot, it must have been either fairly simple or otherwise composed of stock "phrases," patterns that could be memorized and chained together in the manner of a Homeric bard's repertoire.

With literacy invariably came some form of musical notation, and the means to give the evanescent event of the instrumental performance some semblance of object permanence. A composition could not only be made repeatable, but eminently transmittable. Figuratively speaking, notation mechanizes music-making: trained human performers and the tools of their trade become a living, composite nickelodeon that accepts a coded input and produces a concert as its output.