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13/08/13 The incommensurable magnitude of Wikipedias recent changes World of Music Medium

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MASH OF INCOMMENSURABLE MAGNITUDES COVER & SCREENSHOT OF WIKIPEDIA CHANGES SONIFICATION

Heard/Read/Seen in World of Music 3 min read

The incommensurable
magnitude of
Wikipedias recent
changes
A (first) note on very, very, very long pieces of
music
I love infinity.

One of the truly revolutionary contributions of the webs


digital machinery to the arts is that it has made the
infinite potentially accessible. There are no longer any

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practical objections to conceiving of a piece of music


that, in theory, will continue to develop and sound
forever. Infinite compositions are algorithmic: their
description (the score) is of finite length. They are tiny
machines which continue to play until we no longer are
able to provide the power needed to keep them going.
The objection that a single human being will only be able
to hear an insignificant, an almost-nothing, part, of an
infinite composition, and that such a thing therefore can
not be called music, is interesting, but philosophical.

In practice,accessible infinity will remain highly


limited. Along with the rest of you, I would not put my
stakes on a bet that there is even one thing in this
universe that takes forever and ever; something that
maybe once had a beginning, but that is without an end.
In view of the little time that we are given: very, very,
very long for us mortals counts as a good enough
approximation.

As there is little reason to believe that the growth and


modification of our favorite online encyclopedia will
soon come to a grinding halt, the sonification-in-real-
time of Wikipedias recent changes is a good example of a
potentially infinite piece of music. Sonifying the 24/7
world wide editing processes of Wikipedia is also an
interesting idea: one might be able to fine tune it to
convey useful information, like signaling edit wars over
debated and controversial topics. So far, however, it
makes for a lousy piece of music. The endless stream of
MIDI bells and strings sounds as stale as the soundtracks
in the corridors and hallways of a New Age & Wellness
center. Id imagine the industrious sculpting, molding,
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writing, re-writing and re-re-writing of our worlds


collective knowledge to emanate a music quite a bit
more uplifting and energetic.

Infinitely less infinite, but still very, very, very long is


the 24 hour music format, which continues to gain in
popularity. Over the past couple of days I managed to
hear almost all of Incommensurable Magnitudes
(C C C), a newly released 24
hour album by Andrew Liles, who, among other things,
is known as a sometime member of Nurse With Wound.
The mention (on Twitter and elsewhere) of
Incommensurable Magnitudes had me fantasize about a
lot of different things. They all sounded fast n bulbous.
But already after less than a mere couple of hours I
realized that but little of Liless Incommensurable
Magnitudes would be fast. And that even littler would
turn out to be bulbous. Like almost all of the very, very,
very long pieces of music that I know, also these 24
hours consist in lng slow stretches of ambient
droning, with lots of looping, with little variation and
with a lot of repetitions. Its sole real difference, like in
Tangerine Dreams Alpha Centauri from 1971 (which
back then seemed to go on forever, thoughh, hit
lasts but a little over 20 minutes), is the sudden
appearance, like a deus-ex-machina, of a reciting voice
about halfway the 22nd track (20:00).

But why? Is there one good reason why a very, very, very
long piece of music should be of the slow and ambient
droning kind? (Except for the obvious, psychological,
reason; which I do not consider a valid one. I will come
back to this in a next note on very, very, very long pieces
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of music.)

Originally it was little more than childish mischief that


earlier today made Wikipedias Recent Changes blast from
my speakers at the same time as Liless Incommensurable
Magnitudes (around its 11th hour). But in these mashed
streams, the self-similarity of Wikipedias random bells
and strings functions as a unifier for Liless collection of
26 long ambient drones. It provides all parts of this 24
hours album not only with a single sonic horizon but
also with a firm, relaxed but steady, pace. This makes of
Wikipedias Incommensurable Magnitudes a very coherent
mash. Bigger than the sum of its parts.

Go on now!
Give it a try!
If not for the full 24, then at least for a couple of hours

Suggest further reading

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Heard/Read/Seen Updated
The SoundBlog's log of
August 13, 2013
things read, heard, seen; by
Harold Schellinx. (Dutch
tweets & following you
@hefferman). Archive:
http://t.co/QaR8mSLt ...

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