blog

Technique of Art – Reich/Shklovsky

Reich may not have been directly influenced by Shklovsky, but his 1967 work Slow Motion Sound exemplifies Shklovsky’s Technique of Art. In his Writings on Music, Reich notes that the work ‘has remained a concept on paper because it was technologically impossible to realize.’ However, rudimentary time-stretching was possible already in 1966, when J. L. Flanagan and R. M. Golden of Bell Labs invented the phase vocoder (original paper here). Modern time-stretching algorithms combine frequency- and time-domain approaches. For percussive material, the framing of transients continues to poses challenges…

 

___

Another Oblique Strategy – 99 Poems

The staple, the ingredient, the grain of literature – the word – is mostly used in non-literature. Ninety nine postcards are written; perhaps half a poem takes place.
– Rajeev Taranath, ‘The State of the Art’ lecture, CEPT University, 1991 (see this post).

In Queneau’s 1947 Exercises in Style (English trans. Barbara Wright 1958), two banal incidents occur and 99 poems take place. One of the founder Oulipiens, Queneau offers another strategy for creativity under constraint. He relates the two incidents – an encounter on a bus, followed by an exchange regarding an overcoat button – in 99 different styles, predominantly liguistic, but also thematic, from Alexandrines to Olfactory via Logical Analysis and Ignorance.

 

___

Technique of Art – Taranath/Shklovsky


The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception
–  Viktor Shklovsky, ‘Art as Technique’ (1917) 

How does one innovate within a classical form? In his 1991 address ‘The State of the Art’, Pandit Rajeev Taranath, master musician and virtuoso of the North Indian sarode (and some-time professor of literature) chanelled Russian formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky’s ideas for innovation within a grammatically-bound form. Specifically, Taranath describes, and later illustrates musically, three key techniques – defamiliarisation, defacilitation, retardation. In Taranath’s words: ‘What is facile? I know the raga, and suddenly the musician there seems to come out with a movement which makes me bite my tongue in embarrassed shame. I seem to know this raga, and this lovely, simple movement I didn’t know. And sometimes he* pushes the raga to the edge, by which I mean, the edge where, if you are less than expert, it ceases to be that raga. Defamiliariation. Push it, push it – till the familiar becomes unfamiliar. Then bring it back to an enriched kind of familiarity, to a re-cognition.’

The lecture was part of a series at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.
*pronoun used in the original

 

___

Oblique Strategies Revisited

Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt’s celebrated card set is occasionally wonderful, but even six editions in, gains from editing and enhancement. Here are some suggested additions and enhancements that sharpen the ideas and broaden the context. Various editions of the deck are documented here and Eno’s handwritten version is here. 

BEING HUMAN
What if you were 1m tall? 3m?
Sensory restriction (enhancement)

PROCESS & CHANGE
The smallest change you can get away with (what is the difference that makes a difference?)
Exchange form & function / process & structure
Phase change (e.g. melting)
Fix a different variable
Maximin / minimax

STRUCTURE/FORM
Greatest common denominator / lowest common multiple  
Encrypt / decrypt
Two points define a line (three a plane)
Reflect, rotate, translate, reverse, invert, evert, fold, twist
Move up/down a dimension
Try another space (spherical, toroidal, hyperbolic…)
Exchange space and time (or other dimensions)
Stitch up the holes
Loop (join up the ends)
Traverse the whole tree
Reduce a choice at each node
Make the continuous discrete (sample), & v.v.
Build hierachy
Flatten (every part is of equal importance)
Decentralise / centralise
Orbit the perimeter
Radial motion: go to an extreme, come part way back
Different curves (rates of change)
Plot it as a graph (2D, 3D…)
Distribute information spectrally
Balance shapes/hues/volumes…

CONTEXT
What is the bigger problem? Is it easier to solve?
Make a smaller model (scale or restrict)
Who is the ‘we’? (who is it for?)
Perturbations – of what field? (radio communication requires a electromagnetic field)
Try a different scale (molecular, human…)
Abuse your instruments (telescopic inversion)

SOUND SPECIFIC
Change the style / intonation / tuning / scale / bandwidth
(Reverse) echo / reverb
Hydrophonic sources, – treatments
Ping pong across multiple channels
Make it mono
Wow and/or flutter

LINGUISTIC
Reverse of the tapestry / black of the mirror
Make something implied more explicit
Reinforce, duplicate
Analogy from a distant field
Yes, No, Maybe
Exploit homophones
Purge mannerisms
Is it a metaphor? 
Push the AI (iterate MS Word’s Autosummarise, Google Translate…)

 

___