The incommensurable magnitude of Wikipedia’s recent changes
I love infinity.
One of the truly revolutionary contributions of the web’s digital machinery to the arts is that it has made the infinite potentially accessible. There are no longer any 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 Wikipedia’s 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. I’d imagine the industrious sculpting, molding, writing, re-writing and re-re-writing of our world’s 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…