Language and thought are not the same thing

Evidence from neuroimaging and neurological patients
April 29th, 2016

Via National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Is thought possible without language? Individuals with global aphasia, who have almost no ability to understand or produce language, provide a powerful opportunity to find out. Surprisingly, despite their near-total loss of language, these individuals are nonetheless able to add and subtract, solve logic problems, think about another person's thoughts, appreciate music, and successfully navigate their environments. Further, neuroimaging studies show that healthy adults strongly engage the brain's language areas when they understand a sentence, but not when they perform other nonlinguistic tasks such as arithmetic, storing information in working memory, inhibiting prepotent responses, or listening to music. Together, these two complementary lines of evidence provide a clear answer: many aspects of thought engage distinct brain regions from, and do not depend on, language."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Getting clients

Jason Fried’s 13 unconventional rules
April 25th, 2016

Via Medium: "Much like Ogilvy’s approach, Jason Fried’s rules are timeless and apply to selling anything. And like Ogilvy, not all that much has changed in the world of selling services to clients. [...]

1. Sell your service like a product by removing the barriers and unknowns about what you’re selling.
2. Make your portfolio about ideas not pretty pictures of your work.
3. Take a shot at being yourself.
4. Don’t try to act bigger than you are, if you’re a freelancer use the word “I” instead of “we”.
5. Write and sell with short 1-page proposals.
6. Think about what you can get away with NOT doing.
7. Get things done without worrying about layers of red-tape.
8. Hire yourself and be your own client.
9. Don’t rush away from client work until it’s clear it’s the right choice.
10. Get a solid budget before you create a proposal.
11. Don’t work with bad clients.
12. Know when to say no.
13. Hire your clients."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

The serendipitous brain

Study directed by Prof. Fabrizio Doricchi, Lasaponara and colleagues
April 8th, 2016

Via Elsevier: "Sometimes you accidently find something new or valuable, for example an interesting idea for a new study or money in the pocket of an old coat, when you are actively looking for something else. This is called serendipity. [...]

This shows that when one is actively looking for an event with loose probabilistic and temporal expectancies on its occurrence, the awareness of otherwise unnoticed events improves. This finding provides new insights on the attentional mechanisms behind the initial stages of serendipity."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Romantic Agony of Modern Life

by Eva Illouz
April 3rd, 2016

Via brainpickings: "In the same way that at the end of the nineteenth century it was radical to claim that poverty was the result not of dubious morality or weak character, but of systematic economic exploitation, it is now urgent to claim not that the failures of our private lives are the result of weak psyches, but rather that the vagaries and miseries of our emotional life are shaped by institutional arrangements… What is wrong are not dysfunctional childhoods or insufficiently self-aware psyches, but the set of social and cultural tensions and contradictions that have come to structure modern selves and identities. [...]

Modernity sobered people up from the powerful but sweet delusions and illusions that had made the misery of their lives bearable. Devoid of these fantasies, we would lead our lives without commitment to higher principles and values, without the fervor and ecstasy of the sacred, without the heroism of saints, without the certainty and orderliness of divine commandments, but most of all without those fictions that console and beautify.

Such sobering up is nowhere more apparent than in the realm of love, which for several centuries in the history of Western Europe had been governed by the ideals of chivalry, gallantry, and romanticism. The male ideal of chivalry had one cardinal stipulation: to defend the weak with courage and loyalty. The weakness of women was thus contained in a cultural system in which it was acknowledged and glorified because it transfigured male power and female frailty into lovable qualities… Women’s social inferiority could thus be traded for men’s absolute devotion in love, which in turn served as the very site of display and exercise of their masculinity, prowess, and honor. More: women’s dispossession of economic and political rights was accompanied (and presumably compensated) by the reassurance that in love they were not only protected by men but also superior to them. It is therefore unsurprising that love has been historically so powerfully seductive to women; it promised them the moral status and dignity they were otherwise denied in society and it glorified their social fate: taking care of and loving others, as mothers, wives, and lovers. Thus, historically, love was highly seductive precisely because it concealed as it beautified the deep inequalities at the heart of gender relationships."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

New master's degree program

Form und Forschung, Master of Music
March 15th, 2016

In close collaboration with my inspired colleague Prof. Julian Rohrhuber we created the amazing Form und Forschung master's degree program at the Institute For Music And Media. Deadline to submit your application is 15 April.

Via Institute For Music And Media: "Following the principle of the unity of research and teaching, the Form und Forschung master’s degree program combines aesthetic, technical and theoretical approaches. The program benefits from the unique academic situation at the Institute for Music and Media: the multiple facets of time-based art, such as composition, performance, and algorithmic art forms, have been established here for many years.

IMM students autonomously develop their own stance, and learn to integrate it with a range of artistic, technological, economic, scientific and cultural contexts. Graduates of the Form und Forschung master’s degree program are ideally prepared to shape, influence, advance and even anticipate developments in the 21st century.

Musicality is not attached to musical instruments exclusively – it includes many aspects of artistic and scholarly work. That is not least of all the reason why this degree program is generally open to graduates from all disciplines.
It is therefore particularly appropriate for those who are interested in the diversity of media forms, schools of thought and topics. The institution of a Musikhochschule is ideally suited for promoting exchange among interests and abilities in different domains.

Student projects play a vital part in this exchange. In the course of their studies, students learn to re-conceptualize their proposed project on the basis of critical and differentiated feedback and to bring it to fruition at a high level through collaboration with other students. They carry out their project in one of two areas of focus – Artistic Research or Time-Based Form – both of which open up completely new perspectives in the environment of a state conservatory."

The fabulous flyer was designed by Double Standards, Berlin.

Filed under: Projects > Research

3900 Pages of Paul Klee’s Personal Notebooks

Presenting his Bauhaus teachings (1921-1931)
March 5th, 2016

Via open culture: "Paul Klee led an artistic life that spanned the 19th and 20th centuries, but he kept his aesthetic sensibility tuned to the future. Because of that, much of the Swiss-German Bauhaus-associated painter’s work, which at its most distinctive defines its own category of abstraction, still exudes a vitality today.
And he left behind not just those 9,000 pieces of art (not counting the hand puppets he made for his son), but plenty of writings as well, the best known of which came out in English as Paul Klee Notebooks, two volumes (The Thinking Eye and The Nature of Nature) collecting the artist’s essays on modern art and the lectures he gave at the Bauhaus schools in the 1920s. [...]

More recently, the Zentrum Paul Klee made available online almost all 3,900 pages of Klee’s personal notebooks, which he used as the source for his Bauhaus teaching between 1921 and 1931. If you can’t read German, his extensively detailed textual theorizing on the mechanics of art (especially the use of color, with which he struggled before returning from a 1914 trip to Tunisia declaring, 'Color and I are one. I am a painter') may not immediately resonate with you. But his copious illustrations of all these observations and principles, in their vividness, clarity, and reflection of a truly active mind, can still captivate anybody — just as his paintings do."

Filed under: People

It’s all there for you now! Go forth!

Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise (1963-67)
March 3rd, 2016

Via The Hum: "Treatise, which was composed between 1963 and 1967, is considered to be Cornelius Cardew’s greatest achievement. It’s also a total head-fuck for anyone who attempts to approach it. It’s a 193 page graphic score with no instruction – completely in the hands of the conductor and musicians who interpret it. Whatever you make of the music that grows from it, Treatise is an undeniable thing of aesthetic beauty. The work is rarely realized in its totality. Performers tend to focus on distinct passages. It can be performed by a single player, or by as large an ensemble as possible. There is no indication of preferred instrumentation or duration. Because the work bears no description beyond itself, there is little to say about it. Wanting to share it, I’ve included three realizations focused on pages 1-14, 57-58, and 140-165, by separate ensembles respectively. I’ve also included a series of images which depict the score in its totality, an image of the original bound score made by Cadrew, and scans of the each of its entire 193 pages. I hope you enjoy."

Filed under: Visual Music

The Third Brain in Autism

by Dr. Rajalakshmi Kandaswamy, Autism Expert
February 17th, 2016

"The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena; it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence." – Nikola Tesla

Via Journal of Neurology and Neurobiology:
"The First Brain - The Brain Occupying the Space in the Skull
All of us are familiar with the general presence and functioning of this brain as a receiver of information which then gets processed.

The Second Brain - The brain in the gut
It has been proven that the very same cells and neural network that is present in the brain in the skull is present in the gut as well and releases the same neurotransmitters as the brain in the skull. Not just that, about 90 percent of the bers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around.

The Third Brain - The Global Brain
This is connected to the neural network that extends from each being on this planet beyond the con nes of the skull and the anatomy of the gut. It is inter-dimensional in nature and contains all frequencies of energies (low and high) and their corresponding information. […]

Every human being is born with the three brains described above, but Autistic Beings are more connected and more in-tune with all three simultaneously. But make no mistake – most autistic beings are not necessarily aware of the existence or their connection to these three brains beyond their volitional control although they are accessing information from all three to varying degrees almost all the time.

One of the manifestations of being tuned-in to this third brain is Telepathy."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Everyone on Earth is actually your cousin

it's all relative
January 24th, 2016

Via Quartz: "So in this frenzy of procreation we’re all a part of, what’s the deal with our relation to the other people on this Earth today?
The simplest way to think about it is that every stranger in the world is a cousin of yours, and the only question is how distant a cousin they are. The degree of cousin (first, second, etc.) is just a way of referring to how far you have to go back before you get to a common ancestor. For first cousins, you only have to go back two generations to hit your common grandparents. For second cousins, you have to go back three generations to your common great-grandparents. For fifth cousins, you’d have to go back six generations until you arrive at your common pair of great-great-great-great-grandparents."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

End of 2015

Ten out of ten
31st December, 2015

Book I spend a good part of my summer break reading Infinite Jest. The first 300+ pages were tough but once Madame Psychosis was introduced the book had me. I can't remember any other book that made me laughed so hard I cried. It's themes evolve around addiction, entertainment and competition. Critics called it a profound study of the postmodern condition and I consider it a must-read if you want to get a grip on the times we are living in.

Cycling This year I did three day trips on my bike through Cologne with a group of friends. Guided tours by Frank Dommert from the infamous a-musik record store, who showed us parts of the city which I have never heard of. I organized he first one to celebrated my fiftieth birthday. It was the first day of spring, blue skies, and I couldn't have asked for more – including perfect company plus a yellow glowing canola field.

Exercise Looking myself in the eye with all my respect, and saying "My dear" [Meine Gute] did implode my concept of the Other and the Self. Try it.

Film A summer flu opened the opportunity to watch many Ozu Yasujirō films. Amazing grace with just one 50mm lens.

Lake Learned about a secret, forbidden lake and spent many wonderful hours there during this hot summer. To compensate for breaking the law I collected the garbage of other humans.

Law and Order Spent a day at court to experience myself as part of the people when the judge said, "in the name of the people". Totally recommended experience. One judge even asked us if we would have ruled the same way.

Let’s plays Discovered a new addiction and learned that computer games evolved into an inspiring, original and independent genre. For instance, check out Stanley’s parable.

Quote Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.  –Robert A. Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land

Reality check I teached a masterclass, and won’t say where because when I asked the 50+ students none of them had ever heard about John Cage. Whoa. Guess this is telling me in a polite way that I am getting older.

Resource The over 300 talks from the Aruna Ratanagiri Buddhist Monastery in the north of England are an enormous well of deep insides, contemporary pointing, and great humour. Highly recommended for everyday life, and beyond.

So, here we are... And what is next?

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Consciousness or awareness is non-algorithmic

Quantum systems can also rapidly solve perception problems
December 6th, 2015

By James A. Donald: "Animals, including very simple animals, can rapidly and effortlessly perceive objects, whereas computers take nonpolynomial time to do this by all known algorithms [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Our persistent inability to emulate perception gives reason to doubt the current paradigm and to look for an alternative paradigm.

Penrose[7] and many others [8, 9, 10] argue from practical considerations, Godel’s theorem, and on philosophical grounds, that consciousness or awareness is non-algorithmic and so cannot be generated by a system that can be described by classical physics, such as a conventional computer, but could perhaps be generated by a system requiring a quantum (Hilbert space) description. Penrose suspects that aspects of quantum physics not yet understood might be needed to explain consciousness. In this paper we shall see that only known quantum physics is needed to explain perception.

Bialek[11, 12] and Frolich[13] suggested on very different grounds that cells process information using quantum mechanical processes. Frolich suggested a class of mechanisms that might enable them to do this despite the high temperature and large size of biological membranes and macromolecules. Deutch[14] showed that quantum systems can solve some problems that computers cannot solve in polynomial time, but he did not show that quantum systems could solve perception problems. Penrose[7] conjectured that some areas where animals are superior to computers are of this class, but did not find any examples. Bialek[15] argued that perception is inherently non-polynomial if done algorithmically, and therefore neurons must be doing something remarkable, but he did not show that quantum mechanics would enable them to do this.

This paper will show that quantum systems can also rapidly solve perception problems, closing the gap between Bialek’s argument and Deutch’s result, and demonstrating Penrose’s conjecture. This result supports the idea that animals perceive by processing sensory information quantum mechanically in hilbert spaces corresponding to many strongly coupled degrees of freedom."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Why do we forget names?

by Tom Stafford
December 3rd, 2015

Via Mind Hacks: "First, you should repeat any name said to you. Practice is one of the golden rules of learning: more practice makes stronger memories. In addition, when you use someone’s name you are linking it to yourself, in the physical act of saying it, but also to the current topic of the conversation in your memory (“So, James, just what is it about fishing that makes you love it so much?”).

Second, you should try to link the name you have just learnt to something you already know. It doesn’t matter if the link is completely silly, it is just important that you find some connection to help the name stick in memory. For example, maybe the guy is called James, and your high school buddy was called James, and although this guy is wearing a blue shirt, high school James only ever wore black, so he’d never wear blue. It’s a silly made up association, but it can help you remember.

Finally, you need to try to link their name to something else about them. If it was me I’d grab the first thing to come to mind to bridge between the name and something I’ve learnt about them. For example, James is a sort of biblical name, you get the King James bible after all, and James begins with J, just like Jonah in the bible who was swallowed by the whale, and this James likes fishing, but I bet he prefers catching them to being caught by them.

It doesn’t matter if the links you make are outlandish or weird. You don’t have to tell anyone. In fact, probably it is best if you don’t tell anyone, especially your new friend! But the links will help create a web of association in your memory, and that web will stop their name falling out of your mind when it is time to introduce them to someone else."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Life is different for people who think in metaphors

A proclivity for metaphors has real consequences
December 1st, 2015

Via British Psychological Society: "Some people are literal minded – they think in black and white whereas others colour their worlds with metaphor. A new paper published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports on the first standardised measure of this difference, and it shows that having a proclivity for metaphors has real consequences, affecting how people respond to the world around them and even how they interact with others. [...]

Remember, too, that metaphors are supposed to illuminate, particularly when it comes to abstract concepts that can be hard to pin down, like the subtleties of emotions. In another experiment, Fetterman’s team measured participants’ ability to correctly judge most people’s typical emotional response in different situations, such as when something unpleasant was happening that couldn’t be stopped. In this example, the correct response was distressed. Crucially, people who scored highly in metaphoric thinking style tended to perform better at this task. This suggests their colourful thinking style actually gave them greater insight into emotions."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Talk @ Goethe Institute

A Perfect Match? On The Alliance Of Sound And Visuals
21st November, 2015

Jörg Süßenbach, head of the music devision at Goethe Institute Germany, invited me to give a talk on on the relationship between sound and visuals on 28 November 2015 for a congregation of international Goethe Institute members in Darmstadt.
The delegation will be in Darmstadt to attend the cresc Biennale 2015 which is focused on the topic of Images of Sound.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

Talk @ MSD / Münster School of Design

A Perfect Match? On the Alliance of Sound and Visuals
19th November, 2015

On 20 November 2015 I will be giving a presentation at the Münster School of Design of Münster University of Applied Sciences on the historical development of my discipline Visual Music and will be focusing on the significance of the close interrelation between sound and images. I initiated the Visual Music major concentration at the Institute of Music and Media (IMM) of the Robert Schumann School of Music and Media and am also the founder and editor-in-chief of the important Visual Music Archive online forum.
Prof. Nina Juric and Prof. Gregor Kuschmirz are hosting the event, both alumni of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg who majored in Motion Design, a concentration I have been responsible for since 1998.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

The Stanley Parable

Let's play
October 21st, 2015

Game with an amazing narrative, and a great Let's play by SgtRumpel.

Via Wikipedia: "Within two weeks of its release, the modification was downloaded more than 90,000 times. Responses of most players were positive, and Wreden became "an overnight internet sensation among hardcore gamers."
The Stanley Parable modification was praised by journalists as a thought-provoking game, praising it for being a highly experimental game that only took a short amount of time for the player to experience. [...]

Brighting's voice work was considered a strong element, providing the right dry British wit to the complex narration. Alex Aagaard from What Culture believes that The Stanley Parable 'will be regarded as one of the most pioneering games of all time' during videogames' transition from entertainment to a legitimate and respected art form."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Anger Expression

...increases influence for men, but decreases influence for women
October 20st, 2015

Via American Psychological Association: "We investigated whether expressing anger increases social influence for men, but diminishes social influence for women, during group deliberation. In a deception paradigm, participants believed they were engaged in a computer-mediated mock jury deliberation about a murder case. In actuality, the interaction was scripted. The script included 5 other mock jurors who provided verdicts and comments in support of the verdicts; 4 agreed with the participant and 1 was a “holdout” dissenter. Holdouts expressed their opinions with no emotion, anger, or fear and had either male or female names. Holdouts exerted no influence on participants’ opinions when they expressed no emotion or fear. Participants’ confidence in their own verdict dropped significantly, however, after male holdouts expressed anger. Yet, anger expression undermined female holdouts: Participants became significantly more confident in their original verdicts after female holdouts expressed anger—even though they were expressing the exact same opinion and emotion as the male holdouts. Mediation analyses revealed that participants drew different inferences from male versus female anger, which created a gender gap in influence during group deliberation. The current study has implications for group decisions in general, and jury deliberations in particular, by suggesting that expressing anger might lead men to gain influence, but women to lose influence over others (even when making identical arguments). These diverging consequences might result in women potentially having less influence on societally important decisions than men, such as jury verdicts."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Workshop @ Peter Behrens School of Arts

Listening attentively
October 12th, 2015

On November 11, as part of the annual Intra Muros week at the Peter Behrens School of Arts in the Architecture department of the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences, I will give a lecture on attentive listening. In my workshop I will juxtapose the concept of Silence by John Cage, the piece I am sitting in a room by Alvin Lucier and the graduation commencement speech This is water by David Foster Wallace and together with students practice listening while reserving judgement.
Oliver Kruse, Professor of Perception and Design Theory at the Peter Behrens School of Arts already initiated workshops and presentations on the topic of attentiveness and concentration as part of the Intra Muros week last year. This year he shares responsibility for the program with graduate designer Nicola Richter.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

What Happens at the End of Infinite Jest?

by Aaron Swartz
October 3rd, 2015

Via Aaron Swartz: "JOI also created DMZ as part of an attempt to undo the effects of Hal’s eating mold as a child (recall: DMZ is a mold that grows on a mold). He left it along with the Entertainment (recall: ETA kids find JOI’s personal effects (670: 'a bulky old doorless microwave…a load of old TP cartridges…mostly unlabelled'); the tapes and the DMZ are delivered together to the FLQ) which is about this goal (it stars a woman named Madame Psychosis (a street name for DMZ) explaining that the thing that killed you in your last life will give birth to you in the next). The DMZ and the Entertainment were meant to go together for Hal. Now that the Entertainment has escaped, he needs to get Hal the DMZ."

Via Wikipedia: "Aaron Hillel Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was an American computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer and Internet hacktivist who was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS and the Markdown publishing format, the organization Creative Commons, the website framework and the social news site, Reddit, in which he became a partner after its merger with his company, Infogami. He committed suicide while under federal indictment for data-theft, a prosecution that was characterized by his family as being 'the product of a criminal-justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach'.

Swartz's work also focused on civic awareness and activism. He helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism. In 2010, he became a research fellow at Harvard University's Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption, directed by Lawrence Lessig. He founded the online group Demand Progress, known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by MIT police on state breaking-and-entering charges, after connecting a computer to the MIT network in an unmarked and unlocked closet, and setting it to systematically download academic journal articles from JSTOR using a guest user account issued to him by MIT. Federal prosecutors later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and eleven violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution, and supervised realeas. 

Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison. Two days after the prosecution rejected a counter-offer by Swartz, he was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment, where he had hanged himself.

In June 2013, Swartz was posthumously inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame."

You might also be interested in The Infinite Jest Liveblog (massive spoiler alert !!), Erowid on DMZ, and How to Read Infinite Jest Chronologically.

Filed under: People

Prefrontal cortex

And the self model
September 30th, 2015

Via Wikipedia: "The self-model is the central concept in the theory of consciousness called the self-model theory of subjectivity (SMT). This concept comprises experiences of ownership, of first person perspective, and of a long-term unity of beliefs and attitudes. These features are instantiated in the prefrontal cortex."

The phenomenal self-model (PSM) "is an entity that 'actually exists, not only as a distinct theoretical entity but something that will be empirically discovered in the future- for instance, as a specific stage of the global neural dynamics in the human brain. Involved in the PSM are three phenomenal properties that must occur in order to explain the concept of the self. The first is mineness, a higher order property of particular forms of phenomenal content, or the idea of ownership. The second is perspectivalness, which is a global, structural property of phenomenal space as a whole. More simply, it is what is commonly referred to as the ecological self, the immovable center of perception. The third phenomenal property is selfhood, which is the phenomenal target property or the idea of the self over time. It is the property of phenomenal selfhood that plays the most important role in creating the fictional self and the first person perspective. Metzinger defines the first person perspective as the existence of single coherent and temporally stable model of reality which is representationally centered around or on a single coherent and temporally stable phenomenal subject. The first-person perspective can be non-conceptual and is autonomously active due to the constant reception of perceptual information by the brain. The brain, specifically the brainstem and hypothalamus, processes this information into representational content, namely linguistic reflections. The PSM then uses this representational content to attribute phenomenal states to our perceived objects and ourselves. We are thus what Metzinger calls naïve realists, who believe we are perceiving reality directly when in actuality we are only perceiving representations of reality. The data structures and transport mechanisms of the data are transparent so that we can introspect on our representations of perceptions, but cannot introspect on the data or mechanisms themselves. These systemic representational experiences are then connected by subjective experience to generate the phenomenal property of selfhood. Subjective experience is the result of the Phenomenal Model of Intentionality Relationship (PMIR). The PMIR is a conscious mental model, and its content is an ongoing, episodic subject-object relation. The model is a result of the combination of our unique set of sensory receptors that acquire input, our unique set of experiences that shape connections within the brain, and our unique positions in space that give our perception perspectivalness."

Thanks to Sylke Rene Meyer!

Filed under: Wunderkammer

A Groundbreaking Idea About Why Life Exists

by Jeremy England, a 31-year-old physicist at MIT
September 27th, 2015

Via Business Insider: "At the heart of England’s idea is the second law of thermodynamics, also known as the law of increasing entropy or the arrow of time. Hot things cool down, gas diffuses through air, eggs scramble but never spontaneously unscramble; in short, energy tends to disperse or spread out as time progresses. Entropy is a measure of this tendency, quantifying how dispersed the energy is among the particles in a system, and how diffuse those particles are throughout space. It increases as a simple matter of probability: There are more ways for energy to be spread out than for it to be concentrated.

Thus, as particles in a system move around and interact, they will, through sheer chance, tend to adopt configurations in which the energy is spread out. Eventually, the system arrives at a state of maximum entropy called thermodynamic equilibrium, in which energy is uniformly distributed. A cup of coffee and the room it sits in become the same temperature, for example.
As long as the cup and the room are left alone, this process is irreversible. The coffee never spontaneously heats up again because the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against so much of the room’s energy randomly concentrating in its atoms.

Although entropy must increase over time in an isolated or closed system, an open system can keep its entropy low — that is, divide energy unevenly among its atoms — by greatly increasing the entropy of its surroundings. In his influential 1944 monograph What Is Life? the eminent quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger argued that this is what living things must do. A plant, for example, absorbs extremely energetic sunlight, uses it to build sugars, and ejects infrared light, a much less concentrated form of energy. The overall entropy of the universe increases during photosynthesis as the sunlight dissipates, even as the plant prevents itself from decaying by maintaining an orderly internal structure.

Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, but until recently, physicists were unable to use thermodynamics to explain why it should arise in the first place. In Schrödinger’s day, they could solve the equations of thermodynamics only for closed systems in equilibrium. In the 1960s, the Belgian physicist Ilya Prigogine made progress on predicting the behavior of open systems weakly driven by external energy sources (for which he won the 1977 Nobel Prize in chemistry). But the behavior of systems that are far from equilibrium, which are connected to the outside environment and strongly driven by external sources of energy, could not be predicted.

This situation changed in the late 1990s, due primarily to the work of Chris Jarzynski, now at the University of Maryland, and Gavin Crooks, now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Jarzynski and Crooks showed that the entropy produced by a thermodynamic process, such as the cooling of a cup of coffee, corresponds to a simple ratio: the probability that the atoms will undergo that process divided by their probability of undergoing the reverse process (that is, spontaneously interacting in such a way that the coffee warms up). As entropy production increases, so does this ratio: A system’s behavior becomes more and more irreversible. The simple yet rigorous formula could in principle be applied to any thermodynamic process, no matter how fast or far from equilibrium. 'Our understanding of far-from-equilibrium statistical mechanics greatly improved,' Grosberg said. England, who is trained in both biochemistry and physics, started his own lab at MIT two years ago and decided to apply the new knowledge of statistical physics to biology."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Black Mamba

Dominick Fernow and William Bennett: A Conversation
September 20th, 2015

Via Red Bull Academy: "William Bennett: I became very interested in the technology of drama, particularly method acting and building scripts and performance techniques and things like that. I found it fascinating how much could be applied to music.
Dominick Fernow: Like what?
William Bennett: Well, this is very influenced by Stanislavski, but what they call mask work. Where you just work in a mask or you literally go without a mirror for a couple of days – and how that affects you psychologically. Because so much of what we do, whether it’s in the real world or in the music world, is filtered through our illusion of identity. This illusion that we’ve created about how we see ourselves. When people say, I am this kind of person or I don’t do this, it’s really all an illusion because everything in actual fact is affected by what’s around you rather than what’s inside you. And so a lot of these activities I found very interesting for creating music, because you can get past these obstacles and enter a different domain where you can find very unexpected things.
Dominick Fernow: But is it about losing identity?
William Bennett: It’s not about losing – because there is such a thing as your core identity, the way I see it. But that’s very different from the illusion of identity – what we believe we are. The kind of person we think that we are is very different to what we really are. But it’s very difficult to bridge that gap and, artistically, I find that a very interesting place to explore."

Filed under: People


Roland Nebe

Six visual music clips for Grandbrothers

August 25th, 2015


How can artistically shaped worlds of images and the live performance of a band be combined into a music video? The motion picture designers WARPED TYPE, who specialize in Visual Music, explored this question. The group, which includes the two Music and Media graduates Andreas Huck and Roland Nebe, and the Audio and Video alumnus Florian Breuer completed a series of clips for the Grandbrothers duo, who also studied at the IMM.


The track Naive Rider marked its video premiere as a pre-release to the Grandbrothers' debut album Dilation on the website of British music magazine FACT TV. The video for the piece Arctica was presented by the US music magazine XLR8R and  reviewed in the well-known music blog Stereogum and elsewhere. The images prepared for the clips were also used as visuals during the release concert at Düsseldorf's Salon des Amateurs and at the Contre-temps Festival in Strasbourg.


Visual Music major Roland Nebe prepared the series of six visual music clips as his bachelor thesis under my supervision at the Institute For Music And Media.


Filed under: Students

Birth of Music Visualization

The Clavilux by Thomas Wilfred
August 13th, 2015

Via Modern Mechanix: "The Clavilux has three manuals and a triple light chamber, corresponding respectively to the keyboard and wind chest of the pipe organ. Disk keys appear on the manual, moving to and from the operator and playing color and form almost as the pipe organ plays sound.

There are 100 positions for each key, making possible almost infinite combinations of color and form. The music, or notation, is printed in figures upon a five-lined staff, three staves joined, as treble and bass clefs are joined for piano, to provide a clef for each of the three manuals. A color chord is represented by three figures as, for example, 40-35-60; and movement of the prescribed keys to the designated positions on the numbered scale of the keyboard produces the desired figure.

The artist sits at the keyboard with the notation book before him. He releases the light by means of switches. By playing upon the keys he projects it upon the screen, molds it into form, makes the form move and change in rhythm, introduces texture and depth, and finally injects color of perfect purity in any degree of intensity.

The light is concentrated into a beam which is projected through a form-producing device for depth and texture, then filtered through colored screens. And then in a darkened hall, through the three – dimensional projection of the color organ, the light pours from lenses at the back of the instrument and the flat white screen is made a window into space where fluid light-forms are built up in fantastic compositions. The result on seeing it for the first time is the same as if music had never existed and one were suddenly to hear the strains of a violin."

Thanks to Joost Rekvelt!

Filed under: Visual Music

What Did the Lady Forget?

The awesome work of Ozu Yasujirō
August 11th, 2015

A summer flu gave me the opportunity to watch Ozu Yasujirō films.
Via Wikipedia: „Ozu Yasujirō became widely recognized internationally when his films were shown abroad. Influential monographs by Donald Richie, Paul Schrader, and David Bordwell  have ensured a wide appreciation of Ozu's style, aesthetics and themes. Ozu was voted the tenth greatest director of all time in the 2002 British Film Institute's Sight & Sound poll of Critics' top ten directors. [...]

In the Wim Wenders documentary film Tokyo-Ga, the director travels to Japan to explore the world of Ozu, interviewing both Chishū Ryū and Yuharu Atsuta."

Filed under: People

Invinite Jest

by David Foster Wallace
August 9th, 2015

Via Infinite Summer: "There’s no wrong way to read Infinite Jest: front-to-back, upside-down, cut in half, or skipping around. But here are a few tips for the Infinite Jester.

Read the endnotes: Please. They are not boring bibliographic details, but rather an integral part of the text. And the bouncing back-and-forth is a feature, not a bug.

Use bookmarks: Yes bookmarks, plural: one for the main text and one for the endnotes. Doing so will save you hours of searching, and the aggravation of losing your place several times an hour.

Persevere to page 200: There are several popular way stations on the road to abandoning Infinite Jest. The most heavily trafficked by far is The Wardine Section. Where the opening pages of IJ are among the best written in the book, page 37 (and many pages thereafter) are in a tortured, faux-Ebonics type dialect. 'Wardine say her momma ain’t treat her right.' 'Wardine be cry.' Potentially offensive (if one wants to be offended), and generally hard to get through. Hang in there, ignore the regional parlance, and focus on what the characters are doing. Like most things in the book, you’ll need to know this later. Likewise for the other rough patches to be found in the first fifth of the novel.

Trust the author: Around page 50, you’re going to feel a sinking sense of dread, as it dawns on you how much stuff you’ll be asked to keep track of: lots of characters coming and going, subplots upon subplots, page long sentences, and more. You have to believe that what seems at first like a bunch of disconnected vignettes (like The Wardine Section) will in fact come together; that the connections among what seem like radically disparate plot lines really do make themselves apparent in time. But at first, it requires something of a focus on the local plot lines, and a leap of faith in the fact that the global picture will eventually resolve.

Flag, copy, or bookmark page 223: Page 223 of the novel contains some information that you will either need to internalize or refer to frequently to make sense of the narrative. Once you reach it, flag the page with a stickie, dogear the corner, photocopy the material, stick a (third) bookmark there –whatever will ensure that you can find this information when you need it.

Don’t do the thing you’re dying to do right now: Namely, flip to page 223 to see what we’re talking about. David Foster Wallace ordered the book the way he did for a reason, and part of step 4 above is respecting that. In fact, we encourage you to take the fingers-in-the-ears 'LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU' approach to spoilers in general.

Abuse your copy: When you are finished, 223 should be just one of many mutilated pages in your novel. Liberal use of tape flags, post-it notes, highlighting, or your anal-retentive page marking device of choice, as a means of keeping track of key passages you think you might like to come back to (or share with others), is encouraged. (Note: the preceding advice is not recommended for those reading on the Kindle.) If you can’t bring yourself to work over your only copy of Infinite Jest, consider investing in a second.

Keep notes: As if lugging around a book the size of a 2 br. 1¼ bath apartment isn’t enough, you may want to carry a notebook as well. You won’t always have the requisite Oxford English Dictionary within arm’s reach, you know.

Brush up on your Hamlet: It’s no coincidence that the first two words of Hamlet are 'Who’s there?' and the first two words of Infinite Jest are 'I am'. Even the novel’s title was lifted from the play.
As you read, it behooves you keep in mind the relationships between the characters in Shakespeare’s drama (the ghost, poor Yorick, etc.) and the central themes of the play. You can find a brief primer here.

Employ a reader’s guide: There are two companion guides that you may find helpful. One is Stephen Burn’s David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest: A Reader’s Guide. Burn’s guide is rather short (96 pages), but it includes a helpful chronology, as well as sections on the novel’s critical reception and key plot points.
Another guide is Greg Carlisle’s Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. [Full disclosure: Bucher is the editor & publisher of the Carlisle book.] Elegant Complexity is different than the Burn guide in that it offers a summary and exegesis on every section of the novel –and that it’s 512 pages long. Also included are chronologies, family trees, thematic discussions, and a map of the tennis academy.

Use online references: There are copious webpages out there that the first-time Jesters will find useful. Here are a a few:

You can find links to more resources at The Howling Fantods.
Obviously many of these sites contain spoilers, so poke a hole in an index card and only view your monitor through that while visiting one."

Filed under: Reading

The Dada Baroness

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
August 7th, 2015

Via The MIT Press: "Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927) is considered by many to be the first American dadaist as well as the mother of dada. An innovator in poetic form and an early creator of junk sculpture, the Baroness was best known for her sexually charged, often controversial performances. Some thought her merely crazed, others thought her a genius. The editor Margaret Anderson called her perhaps the only figure of our generation who deserves the epithet extraordinary. Yet despite her great notoriety and influence, until recently her story and work have been little known outside the circle of modernist scholars."

Via Wikipedia: "The Baroness was one of the characters, one of the terrors of the district, wrote her first biographer Djuna Barnes, whose book, however, remained unfinished. In Irrational Modernism: A Neurasthenic History of New York Dada, Amelia Jones provides a revisionist history of New York Dada, expressed through the life and works of The Baroness.
The recent biography, Baroness Elsa: Gender, Dada and Everyday Modernity, by Irene Gammel, makes a case for the Baroness’s artistic brilliance and avant-garde spirit. The book explores the Baroness’s personal and artistic relationships with Djuna Barnes, Berenice Abbott, and Jane Heap, as well as with Duchamp, Man Ray, and William Carlos Williams. It shows the Baroness breaking every erotic boundary, reveling in anarchic performance, but the biography also presents her as Elsa’s friend Emily Coleman saw her, not as a saint or a madwoman, but as a woman of genius, alone in the world, frantic.
In 2013, the artists Lily Benson and Cassandra Guan released The Filmballad of Mamadada, an experimental biopic on the Baroness. The story of The Baroness' life was told through contributions from over fifty artists and filmmakers."

Thanks to Swantje Lichtenstein!

Filed under: People

Typical Dreams

August 4th, 2015

Via TheLucidDreamSite: "One simple yet powerful approach to examining to what extent dream themes vary or are similar across regions, cultures, and time periods is by having sample populations respond to the Typical Dreams Questionnaire (TDQ), a forced-choice list of dream themes. In contrast to Hall and Van de Castle’s (1966) comprehensive dream coding system which scrutinizes complete individual dreams for such criteria as characters, aggression, fortune and misfortune, failures and successes, etc., the TDQ supplies a list of succinct themes which the participant acknowledges as having had or not. Unlike the pain-staking method of coding entire dreams for specific content, the use of TDQ’s in research allows for the rapid acquisition of useful information from many participants. The TDQ can be used to assess the lifetime prevalence of particular dream themes in a population or reveal the frequency for earliest, most personally meaningful, or other types of dreams."

Via Springer Link: "To investigate the dimensional structure of dreams, the Typical Dreams Questionnaire (TDQ) was administered to 1181 first-year University students in three Canadian cities. A profile of themes was found that varied little by age, gender or region; however, differences that were identified could be interpreted as due to developmental milestones, personality attributes or sociocultural factors. Factor analysis produced a solution consisting of 16 coherent factors that were differentially associated with demographic variables and that accounted for 51% of the variance. Women loaded primarily on negative factors (failure, loss of control, snakes-insects), men primarily on positive factors (magic-myth, alien life). Results support the concept of typical dream themes as consistent over time, region and gender and as reflecting the influence of fundamental dream dimensions that may be influenced by sociocultural, personality, cognitive or physiological factors."

Thanks to Stefan Scheer!

Filed under: Wunderkammer

An Autobiographical Statement

by John Cage
July 19th, 2015

Via John Cage: "I determined to give up composition unless I could find a better reason for doing it than communication. I found this answer from Gira Sarabhai, an Indian singer and tabla player: The purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences. I also found in the writings of Ananda K. Coomaraswammy that the responsibility of the artist is to imitate nature in her manner of operation. I became less disturbed and went back to work. [...]

We are living in a period in which many people have changed their mind about what the use of music is or could be for them. Something that doesn't speak or talk like a human being, that doesn't know its definition in the dictionary or its theory in the schools, that expresses itself simply by the fact of its vibrations. People paying attention to vibratory activity, not in reaction to a fixed ideal performance, but each time attentively to how it happens to be this time, not necessarily two times the same. A music that transports the listener to the moment where he is."

Filed under: People