Existing Outside the Box
- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE — December 30, 2021
In this day and age, there is no excuse, other than the unacceptable one of laziness, for not trying to address other people in their own language. We have translation applications, they do not exist for every language, but the software developers and the translators are doing an excellent job of adding more and more. With this in mind, I have decided to write this simple text and to use the translators to put it online in a plethora of languages. Perhaps what I have to say is not important enough to merit this but the fact of reaching out to so many people seems important enough as it is.
In English, there is an expression: “To think outside the box”: the idea is to try to imagine something without resorting to the usual limiting reflexive prefabricated ‘thoughts’ that people seem to somehow think are ‘their own’ even though these ‘thoughts’ could just as easily come from almost anyone.
I will give you an example: Recently, I was invited to make a one minute silent movie for a series in which moviemakers make silent movies for which musicians then provide the soundtrack. Typically, the moviemakers just make a movie as they usually would & then the musicians just play as they usually would and very little thought is given by any of them to the relation between the two. I made a movie called “Catatonias” that provides a score for the musicians. Here’s a frame from the first second:
The score calls for the players to play the number of notes specified per second. That means that in the first second 60 notes are to be played, more specifically: 60 ‘white key’ notes, to put it in keyboardist language.
The curator of the series who invited me to make the movie rejected it saying “I don’t think I’ll be able to provide what you want/expect music wise for this piece so I’m going to pass on this one.” Then I sent out the links to the Score Movie (online here: https://youtu.be/DAYkTbdx3Kw and here: https://archive.org/details/Catatonias ) to 160 musician friends of mine with this introduction:
“I’m looking for someone who’d be willing to try to perform “Catatonias”. Playing 60 notes in one second is definitely intimidating but there are ways to do it — such as the one I explain below. Why, I’m sure, David Tudor would’ve accepted the challenge (too bad he’s dead) so, HEY!, what about somebody on my email list? Or somebody that someone on this list knows?”
Only four friends replied, all of them negatively. I DID specify that I was “looking for someone”, that is: a SINGLE person — but as I thought about the challenge I realized that there were many ways that “Catatonias” could be played and that the playing of it did not have to be confined to a single player. This was where Thinking Outside the Box came into play. I replied to one of my four friends with this:
“The thing about this challenge is that, so far, no-one’s thinking outside the box — everyone’s imagining ONE performer playing 60 notes in succession. There are MANY ways of doing this. I’ll be making a realization by myself. It doesn’t even seem to’ve occurred to anyone that this could be performed by 60 musicians, all but one of them having only 2 notes to play: one natural, one accidental. Think of it this way: Player 60 has 1 natural note to play, for simplicity’s sake I’ll say C4. Player 60 plays that note in the 1st second & then drops out. Player 59 plays their natural note during the 1st second (their 1st of 2 notes) & then their accidental note during the 2nd second & then drops out, etc.. By the time that the last second appears only Player 1 is still playing, they play their accidental note & then it’s done. Logistically, it’s difficult to get 60 players together but, technically, it’s easy to perform.”
I mention that “I’ll be making a realization by myself.” The idea is to make a set of samples. The first sample would have 60 notes, the last would just be one note. I can record my playing 60 notes, load them into a computer, and tempo-change them (without having to pitch-change them) in an audio-editing program then turn them into samples playable by any instrument that is MIDI-controllable that has a minimum 60 note range. Because I play sampler it is natural for me to problem-solve in this way, it would be much more difficult for a saxophonist, for example, to do so.
Okay, with that as an example, let us Think Outside the Box a little more dramatically. I am sick right now, I am experiencing what I would describe as a mild cold. It started two and a half days ago. I am sneezing more than usual, that makes my nose run, my head is a little hotter than usual. I am not alarmed, I do not think I am going to die from this, I attribute it to a virus.
Since I am a HERETIC, I like to think differently than in prefabricated facsimiles of thoughts. In the past, I have imagined viruses as like building inspectors: they check the condition of our physical home, if it is found on the verge of collapsing, the order for demolition happens & we die. NOW, let us think about viruses in a different way as a thought experiment, we do not have to believe what we are thinking, the idea is to use our imagination and to learn where it takes us:
Let us imagine that a virus is yet-another natural thing that we take into ourselves in a way similar to the way that we take in air, water, and food. Let us imagine that the virus serves a function that we do not understand, not necessarily a negative one. Perhaps, it functions as a purgative, perhaps my nose needs to sneeze more right now, perhaps it is a sort of ‘house cleaning’. It will be over in another day or two and I will feel better, the virus will have done its job.
The Thinking Outside the Box that is required by the above thought experiment involves not thinking in the terms that the Medical Industry has established for hundreds of years now. I am not talking about reverting to religious concepts in which the virus is an ‘evil spirit’ either. Let us take these thought experiments a dramatic step further:
Imagine a world in which we no longer have a Medical Industry, a Legal Apparatus, and a Political Machine. Imagine no more big pharamaceutical companies using their massive economic clout to frame reality in terms good for their continued profiteering. Imagine no more doctors, no more lawyers, no more judges, no more police, no more criminals, no more sadists, no more masochists, no more armies, no more politicians.
Imagine that the most harmful things for humans are human-made: then imagine no more Chernobyls, no more Fukushimas, no more Bhopal disaster, no more slaughter of the Move Family, no more genocide in Waco, Texas. No more war, no more capitalism exploiting labor to its own detriment, no more socialism turning into a police state.
To many people, such imaginings will be a nightmare — “No more doctors? Who’s going to take care of our health?! What a stupid idea!!” These thought experiments ask the thinkers to imagine the possibility that many aspects of our civilization may be the very basis for the problems that the civilization then tries to correct. Imagine getting a treatment for a disease that produces side-effects that then require a different treatment that produces side-effects that require yet-another treatment. What if the original treatment had never been applied? A whole chain reaction would be avoided.
Again, I am NOT expecting you to BELIEVE what you imagine, I am just asking you to try a little non-pre-fabricated thinking. Then imagine what it would be like to EXIST Outside the Box. It might be fun.