SHTAR MANIFESTOThink about the bumper sticker "this machine kills fascists." The most appropriate place for this sticker, according to Woody Guthrie and your own good conscience, is on a musical instrument.
Music affects our emotions. Overly simple music is emotionally manipulative. Think of war marches, pop music, and religious (not esoteric) mood play. The core flaw of Western Music is its division into happy and sad, major and minor.
In America, we are musically bipolar. The simple message of Islamic music, I feel, is offering a most sublime alternative: analog gradience between minor and major. Like non-representational art, it leaves out the extremes of hate and love.
Our research into 17 tone equal temperament (17tet) goes back a decade, when Carson Garhart and I built our first Namastitar, fretted in just intonation according to the ratios outlined by Zalzal. Our goal was to respectfully recreate neutral seconds and thirds.
The affect of netural intervals is one of yearning, perpetuity, and eternal motion. -Ron Shalom
Foucault admired the Iranian revolution because of its return to irrationality in the face of modernism, and its spirituality. The way to transmute our president begins with this irrationality and ends with solving global imperialism.
Protest music has always been termed "noise" and "irrational;" It strikes a dissonant chord. In the Bush years, it was literally "noise music." We seek an evolution of protest noise that is not literally noisy.
The band "Sun City Girls" termed their music as "disorientalism:" an appropriation that makes you dizzy, or a misinterpretation that creates new appreciation for the world. When we first fretted an instrument in 17tet, we heard its neutral thirds quite clearly.
If I had made the SHTAR in 12tet, it would not have 33 frets, because that would be impossible on any instrument but a berimbau. 33 frets is a lucky number, because it uses a 32-bit computer, and there is an extra one for emergency situations. -Peter B
The Persian Tar's neck is made of walnut and its body of mulberry, which are also common American fine hardwoods, so we can understand this instrument materially. Whereas the tar uses goat, the SHTAR uses acoustic plastic for its skin. Likewise a bridge in bone became one of black gold: smoked polycarbonate.
It is strung in bronze: although it is weaker it is more resonant. The bronze age of music was like the Baroque, offering microsound for soft touchers. What Foucault saw as the creative force in Iran was to skip modernism and reconnect spirituality to the bronze age. He also admired closeness to danger.
A computer music system in Islamic tuning requires an intellectual commitment. Contrasted to analog culture, offering instant and intuitively fun sounds, this instrument must take years to develop a relationship. That's the epitome of computer music; it's a different business plan encompassing hacking and the idea of the recipe.
Everyone knows that taking pictures of a modular, or trying to write down the patch system, is bogus. The dial's gradience is the true basis of the composition, and it is anti-semiotic. but in computer music, a score, or text, is truly a legitimate thing.
Musically, Christianity prefers intervals of salvation, and Islam those of yearning; one is simplifying, the other is subliming. In Phillip K. Dicks "Divine Transformation," a major world religion is Islamo-Christianity. In this world, what would the pop singer Linda Fox sound like?
-Control NYC, November 2017 (Thanks to Rachelle)
BibliographyAfary, Janet and Anderson, Kevin B: Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islam.
Farhat, Hormoz: The Dastgah Concept in Persian Music.
NoteDuring the time of the SHTAR development, my friend Daniel Fishkin invited me to have a lesson with Professor Shahrokh Yadegari, at UCSD. Miller Puckette also stopped by, who immediately recognized the "fret-scanner" nature of the instrument. Shahrokh's response was from an Iranian who had left that country to live in the alien shores of California, and likewise had spaced out in the basements of IRCAM, a formidable French presence. The fact that he knows well the Persian Tar made his response that much more heartfelt. Understanding the populist nature of my computer music controller's gesture, he cautioned that the neutral third is chosen by the musician, so fixed frets could never accommodate the truly esoteric nature of seeking the sublime neutrality; the ancient Tar uses rawhide sinews tied on the neck, that can be moved anytime according to the tarrist.
As a junior to these professors, I prepared my thesis defense. I explained that radical cuts are to be made in the 70s matrix of technology, so I could produce a lightweight instrument that stabs at esotericity, a compromise. And that adding computer music to the heart of the instrument is an attempt to regain this esotericity "lost" in the body of the instrument. That the fret-scanner is not for each string, but is "monophonic" is not a detriment but a simplification of an important bottleneck in a string synth: too much data. At this point in my defense, I pointed out that Pat Methaney had a six-string scanner-synthesizer, but his solos are usually monophonic. So are Fripp's, concluding my 70s references. The tar had doubled strings, but this one does not; the chorusing and tremolo effects are to be regained in a new way from the computer music.
POST SCRIPTDear Charlemagne Palestine,
i saw your concert last Fall in Sophienkirche.
I had been waiting a long time to hear your organ performance live,
ever since my friend Ezra Buchla gave me a CD in college,
when I apprenticed to organ builders in Oregon and Ohio.
I noticed that your current work has more glory-of-god dominant modulation,
and I wonder if you think so too ?)
I am not Muslim, in fact my middle name is Christian.
However, I often meditate on how immigrants enrich my country,
even though some were slaves to it.
Your name is composed of a holy roman emperor and a trodden Islamic state,
have you ever thought of it that way ?)
I am a synthesizer builder, and honestly
I wanted to show you one but I am cautious after shows,
so I stood outside instead.
I have released a string instrument with embedded computer music,
in an tuning good for Islamic music,
like the neutral intervals in the call to prayer:
17 tone equal temperament, have you heard of it?
My dream project is to convert a pipe organ
(for the glory of Fid)
retuning it to this scale, with neutral intervals.
If you ever notice a mosque in Berlin that wants this radical project,
let me know!