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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tapestry Thread: WHAM!

Since a week or two ago, I've been watching J. Michael Straczynski's magnum opus, the science-fiction TV show Babylon 5. It's been a long time since I last saw any B5 episodes, and I've never actually seen the story in full, from start to finish, until now. The show feels unrefined: it often has horrendous acting, and there is the occasional unbearable plotline. Worse, it too often has sudden changes in cast for no good reason, and all sorts of external problems in the making of the show pushed the story very far from the perfection it might have been hoped to aim for. But none of that matters too much; it's the most brilliant show (SF or otherwise) I've ever known. Little details which seem insignificant prove to be hints; details which seem to be hints prove to be red herrings. A show which at first glance seems to be a simple Star Trek rip-off proves to be a classic in its own right.

For the past week, I've been analyzing what I have of my musical composition Variations on V.O.V.. It's been a long time since I set aside the piece, and I never did get around to finishing it. The work feels unrefined: it can get very hard on the ears, and its shifts in style and tone can be much too abrupt and contrived. But none of that mattered to me too much as I wrote it- I was aiming for nothing less than structural perfection, not anything as trivial as aesthetic value. Every note is connected intimately to every other note; every seemingly random shift in key, tone, musical style, and even philosophy is part of the larger pattern.
The word becomes reason.
Smilie has not been going so well. When I'm writing a blog post, the tricky part is getting started. The tricky part is coming up with the first piece of the puzzle. It might take hours or even weeks to find that piece. But once I find that piece, everything else tends to fall into place naturally. Sure, there is a lot of time and effort involved, but it is spent travelling on the path I have already laid out- Even if that path branches into infinite directions, I always know I will eventually get to where I should be. Smilie is not like this. I have started, and I've decided on a notation system to use, and just continuing takes an obscene amount of frustration. This is not a native language for me, this language of complex and thorough logic. I'm more comfortable with random associations.

I ran into a small problem. The sixth variation needed to repeat the theme four times in completely different styles, with an extra recitation of the theme in between each style bridging the gap. Next, the seventh variation would include two measures of improvisation. Sounded perfect on paper. And it was. Thinking about shifting between styles is no big deal. Thinking about somehow writing in rules for an improvised section which will flow with the rest of the rigidly-defined piece is no big deal.

I agreed with Benjy that it would behoove me to do chores around the house. I pictured the monotony of doing dishes, and thought: No big deal. I'm sure it wouldn't be a big deal. My mother has been gone for a week now. My father said I'd be doing dishes. I thought: No big deal. It's in the mind.
No time to think, no time to look ahead...
For months I've been playing around with the area between musical composition and improvisation, which has led to my Improvised Sonata in three movements. If I strive for perfection, I lose spontaneity. Without spontaneity, improvisation is worthless. Perfection has no depth. An improvised course with branching paths I invent as I go along- now that's deep. This is my new philosophy, which follows a reason and pattern which I do not care to understand.

My mother went to Florida for the week to celebrate her father's eightieth birthday. This is considered a milestone for some reason. I made a CD of my music, including a rendition of the Improvised Sonata, as a birthday present. I'd never recorded my music before; the demands of the microphone pushed me to improve my playing. I didn't expect her leave to be a big deal, and it hasn't been. I do my own laundry. My father never seriously asked me to do the dishes, for which I have relief but no brakes. Acceleration is in the mind. I was starting to lose my grip.

I looked over the piece, and saw pure genius. With the exception of one or two careless mistakes which were easily corrected, every note had purpose. How could I, a chaotic human mind, possibly complete this image of perfection? I had been unable to do it before. But as I stood and considered, a path appeared before me. The seventh variation required an understanding of improvisation, which I now possess, and an understanding of gamistic notation, which lies just ahead.
The story - motivation; interpretation of the thread...
The blog would be celebrating its 39th post. What was the first piece to the puzzle? Once I had that, everything else would fall into place.

I haven't played any videogames in a while; it's impossible to get any for a good price here in Israel; I've been waiting for an opportunity.

The sixth variation required only velocity and the spontaneity to deal with obstacles. I agreed to settle for mere brilliance, to choose artistry over perfection.

The house has been silent and darkened. The atmosphere demands progress.
Ordered: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, Luigi's Mansion, LEGO Star Wars, Super Monkey Ball, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Metroid II: Return of Samus

My mother will return in two days.



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