Looping and decay

In contrast to dramatically slowing a recording down and extending its length, artists have also explored the possibilities of repeating short recordings over and over. The history of looping in modern composing is a story of the accidental beauty of technological imperfection and decay.

~ Ahmed Kabil from, https://longnow.org/ideas/02019/03/26/transmissions-from-the-ambient-frontier/

It’s worth the click just for the first photo, which has nothing directly to do with sounds nor music. And then further down you get a photo of a tape loop—the physical device that can play a section of tape forever without interruption. Along the way is a mention of sound art created as very-old [magnetic] audio tape sheds it’s coating. Plus 5 other sound-related shifts in perspective. I read this piece over and over, as if it were itself a tape loop. I see—hear?—several magnificent halls of exploration… which I’m running away from because I do not. need. another. hobby. New genres of music to explore, a full 24hrs [uninterrupted] that I could spend on Beethoven’s 9th, …

I’m a sucker for things which gift me with any shift of perspective. That’s a big part of why I love conversation: Every encounter with another mind is ripe with opportunity for my own growth.


Total control

In Part II of our series, we move out of the 01960s to explore the work of three artists who created their major works during the 01970s and 01980s. We see a shift with these artists to a focus on complete control over the exhibition of their work and meticulously curating the experience the viewer has coupled with a goal of permanence of the artwork in situ.

~ Ahmed Kabil from, https://longnow.org/ideas/02018/07/30/lightning-stars-and-space-art-that-leaves-the-gallery-behind/

I’ve little to add here, other than to attempt to convey how arresting I find the artwork in the article. The older I get, the more I find myself being delighted into pausing, often at the smallest coincidences. An alignment of trees, the color of the light, or sound traveling long distances or being altered by terrain and structures, are just a few things that catch my attention.



There was, for about 10 years I think, a dedicated Parkour space, called the Chain Store, on Trinity Buoy Wharf. That’s right smack on the Thames, in the Docklands (far eastern) part of London.

I’ve been there several times, and the first time I went there—as I often do wherever I go somewhere new—I took the time to stroll around the surroundings. Around two corners of the building, I found this odd little display. It was sort of like a wooden phone booth—American-style I mean, not the British style—or sort of like a little shed. It had a sign on the little door, in a pinkish or perhaps simply very faded, sort of printing. It was odd. There’s absolutely zero foot traffic at that spot. It’s around the back of a building, facing directly out onto the Thames. (Which at this part, is a huge wide muddy dolorous river with these enormously high wharf sea walls going straight down into the water. i.e., unapproachable by water.) The spot with the sign is off a light-rail transportation, turn the easy-to-miss “other” way on the platform, down those other stairs, hug a huge fence, walk around a traffic circle, down a side street, round a corner between high walls fronting on construction sites . . . out onto the end of a wharf that’s surrounded by “water” . . . you get the idea. Way out nowhere.

Anyway. Little shed. Sign. I open the door. If memory serves, it was literally a shed. With a little phone in it. Looking behind me—seen too many movies, so I’m watching for someone to sneak up behind me while I’m distracted by the phone… Looking behind me I pick it up to listen…


I read the sign again. It has this circular sort of design that looks like an elementary school drawing of the solar system. And says, “Longplayer.” I took a photo, and went back to my wandering the surroundings.



That escalated quickly

The answer from computer science is precise.

~ Stewart Brand from, https://blog.longnow.org/02016/07/01/brian-christian-seminar-media/

‘When to stop’ is an insidiously difficult problem. Which has been solved. Whether or not you want to read that and learn some crazy heuristics, you already know the power of heuristics. They’re great when they work, until they don’t. So many Americans—whose heuristic is to glance left then step off the curb and then glance right—get wacked by cars in parts of London, they paint, “Look right,” in the street.

…which is great. Unless you’re Craig and your heuristic goes: Look left, look right, look left, and then step off. I look left, notice the words on the street, and look right. Then I go to look left, notice the words again… and look right, instead of left… then my brain screams OMGBECKY look left! Then I go to look left, notice the words again… and look right.



Most of us are content to live in a world where time is simply what a clock reads. The interdisciplinary artist Alicia Eggert is not. Through co-opting clocks and forms of commercial signage (billboards, neon signs, inflatable nylon of the kind that animates the air dancers in the parking lots of auto dealerships), Eggert makes conceptual art that invites us to experience the dimensions of time through the language we use to talk about it.

~ Ahmed Kabil from, https://blog.longnow.org/02021/05/18/how-long-is-now/

Thinking about the nature of time always feels like trying to find the other edge of the Mobius strip. At first, I’m mildly excited to be reminded of such a simple thing. It’s such an interesting thing to think about. I go around and around trying to grasp different time scales, and the entire expanse of time. But soon I realize that I’m really only thinking in circles. Is there a takeaway beyond, “being mindful is good”?

Or does simply performing the awareness of time and the circular thinking, somehow reset—or recenter, or realign?—my thinking? Reset my thinking in the same way that one resets the drum-brakes on your car, by backing-up and then braking firmly causes the drum brakes to adjust their grip on the brake cable.

Also, see other branching from when.


Tick tock

Because we can look back and see that the way time has been measured throughout history has changed, it’s reasonable to imagine when looking forward that it will continue to change – our current use of hours, minutes, weeks and months may be as obscure and forgotten as the nundina, the akhet, or the gesh several millennia from now. The day, the year, and the movements of the other planets in our solar system, on the other hand, aren’t at the whim of the powers that be or of passing cultural trends. The 10,000 Year Clock, therefore, keeps track of these robust and durable units of time. The Clock’s main dial keeps track of the Sun, Moon and stars while The Orrery models our solar system.

~ Austin Brown from, https://blog.longnow.org/02014/06/27/orrery-prototype-long-now-interval/

Immediately before reading the above article, I read something about the eastern Sahara Desert. About a researcher who managed to extract a 50-foot core-sample from a lake bed spanning 11,000 years of seasons. What is now a desert was once a lush paradise.

The projects and updates from the Long Now Foundation always fill me with awe and wonder. They always make me try to imagine 10,000 years from now. And that makes me feel like a slightly better person for having spent some time trying to think bigger-than-myself. But that core sample? …it covered still more. 10,000 years is but a blink in geologic time.


Zoomed way, way out

It’s true that such adaptations are now anachronistic; they have lost their relevance. But the trees have been slow to catch on; a natural consequence of the pace of evolution. For a tree that lives, say, 250 years, 13,000 years represents only 52 generations. In an evolutionary sense, the trees don’t yet realize that the megafauna are gone.

~ Whit Bronaugh from, https://blog.longnow.org/02014/06/24/ecological-anachronisms/

There’s an effect in film making which you’ve seen but may not have realized exactly what you were seeing: The dolly zoom shot. “The dolly zoom is a famous technique invented by Alfred Hitchcock for his 1958 film Vertigo. The shot is achieved by simultaneously tracking backwards or forwards while zooming in or out.”

The narrator is too breathless for my tastes, but still, take a few minutes to watch this explanation of the dolly-zoom. You can thank me later: https://nofilmschool.com/2017/05/watch-what-dolly-zoom-can-do-you

Ahem. Now, back to my top-quote and what I wanted to say in the first place…

Text-based, disorienting dolly-zoom!


Very Long-Term Backup

Then it will remain at rest as the comet orbits the sun for hundreds of millions of years. So somewhere in the solar system, where it is safe but hard to reach, a backup sample of human languages is stored, in case we need one.

~ Kevin Kelly from, https://blog.longnow.org/02008/08/20/very-long-term-backup/

There are several things about this post from the Long Now Foundation which are exceptionally cool. One aspect of doing backups well is to store at least one copy somewhere “offsite.” That is to say, far enough away from what you are backing up, so that it is unlikely that the original and all of the backup copies can be lost due to the same event. Now, this project is partly, (maybe even “mostly,”) a technology demonstration intended to get us to think longer term. But since they’re backing up all of the human languages where’s a cool spot to put an offsite backup?

On a freakin’ comet! The cherry on this hot fudge sundae of awesome is that they put a copy on a freakin’ comet. Humans are awesome.


As SLow aS Possible

St Burchardi church, in the eastern German city of Halberstadt, has played host to the performance since 5 September 02001 (the late composer’s 89th birthday), when it kicked off with 17 months of silence. Cage originally wrote ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible) in 01985. Its maiden performance by organist Gerd Zacher lasted 29 minutes, but Cage didn’t specify a maximum, so in accordance with the piece’s title, musical scholars and scholarly musicians since decided to stage a multi-century version, approximating the lifespan of an organ.

~ Stuart Candy from, blog.longnow.org/02008/10/02/as-slow-as-possible/

Ok, but exactly how slow are they playing it? …the halfway mark is in 02319.


Partly I’m sharing this because it’s just really cool. But also because I like the mission of the Long Now Foundation; I agree [with them] that one of the key ingredients to solving mankind’s challenges is for individuals to be good at thinking long-term. Evolution has given us brains that are crazy-good at short-term—particularly acute, fight/flight type threats real or perceived—problem solving. But to figure out a good course of action day to day that leads to own’s own flourishing over your life is really hard. To begin to mix in what’s good for humanity is whatever-is-larger-than-really level of hard.