Monday, December 24, 2012

Autumn 2012 from The Seasons

(Listen while you read.)

Did you survive December 21, 2012?

That date was predicted by some to be the end of the world.  It had something to do with the Mayan calendar.

Today, three days later, it's safe to say that their predictions were off.  But off by how much?  As long as my personal life span is shorter than the earth's remaining time as a planet I don't much care when the world ends.  I hope to stay around quite a while longer.  Eventually, once I'm gone, you people are free to do whatever you want with the place.

This wasn't the first prediction of universal fire and brimstone.  It won't be the last.  As eminent a scientist as Sir Isaac Newton predicted that the world will end in the year 2060.  Some contemporary scientists have suggested that time will eventually just stop . . . billions of years from now.  Probably, in a few hundred years, their ideas will seem as kooky as Sir Isaac's ideas seem right now.

Meanwhile, the cycles of existence are still spinning.  Days, months and years just keep on coming, one after another.  We call these phenomena "time" and we are all forced to lived through them at exactly the same rate.  (Although I've discovered, quite subjectively, that listening to opera can slow time down quite a bit. And watching a televised presidential debate can stop it completely.)

One particular cycle of time which has become important to those of us here at Mixed Meters is the Season.   There are four seasons in an Earth year.  In most places on our planet seasons are marked by shifts in the patterns of daylight and weather.  This is a result, I'm told, of the globe's precarious tilt to one side.  Humans make big deals out of seasons.  They vary their sports, their clothing and their religious celebrations to accommodate them.

Here at Mixed Meters we've been celebrating seasonal change with my ongoing musical composition The Seasons.  Every day I compose a short bit of music - usually a few seconds, very rarely a whole minute.  These bits are played sequentially separated by silences of approximately 45 seconds, more or less.

At the end of every climatic season I post the recently completed musical season here.  Today's post marks number four in the series.  It's called Autumn 2012.  I started it the day after the last Equinox and completed in on this Winter Solstice, December 21, the day the world was supposed to end.  The world didn't end but Autumn 2012 did.

Click here to hear Autumn 2012 - © 2012 by David Ocker, 4091 seconds

Musically Autumn 2012 focuses on tonal harmony.  There are lots of simple chords.  Like some of its predecessors, there's also a new Garbage Day Periodicity (i.e. a weekly cycle).  Each Monday, which is the day I take the garbage out, I chose a new pitch center at random from the twelve possibilities.  I used that for one week of harmony.  As a result, at the end of Autumn 2012 you'll hear a twelve-tone row, the musical distillation of the entire season.

Here's news.  I've begun my fifth season.  I've called it Winter 2012 and it begins with the tone row from Autumn 2012.   I doubt Winter 2012 will be similar to the previous winter, Winter 2011.  If you check back in about three months you can find out what it's like for yourself.

Regular MM readers (all three of you) will remember that my seasons are intended to be played simultaneously.  They can also be combined with other music.  Any music is fine.  It's completely your decision how you use The Seasons.

However, because four seems to be a magic number of sorts for seasonal thinking and because seasons are cyclical (they repeat over and over and over again) one rather uninventive way of listening would be to start the four pieces of The Seasons simultaneously and let them each repeat over and over and over again.

Using a calculator and a list of prime numbers I calculated how long the four files would need before they completed one meta-cycle and returned to the identical synchronization with which they began.  The answer I came up with is 4,693,633.7 years.   Far less than that scientifically projected "end of time".

If you could travel 4,693,633.7 years into the past you'd be in the Zanclean geologic era, which began, I'm told, when water rushed from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean "basin" forming what we now know as the Mediterranean "sea".

What about 4,693,633.7 years from now?  Supposedly Africa and Europe will have merged so the Mediterranean will have disappeared, although Egypt's application to join the EU won't have been approved yet.   New species will have evolved.   I have serious doubts that human culture can last that long.  I have no doubt that I won't be around to find out if it does.

Do you have an interest in extended works of music?  In January the infuriatingly mis-spelled, pro-business Weird magazine published a list of long musical "songs", the longest of which lasts only 1.6 million years.  Here, with frightening disregard for their corporate copyright, is the chart which accompanied that article.

Cage's ASLSP has appeared in Mixed Meters previously.
You might enjoy a six-hour recording of Satie's Vexations.

Seasonal Tags: . . . . . .

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