(The English Edition)
by Radu Pintea
This is no mistake: there is something between us. Definitely. It is unavoidable. It is everywhere. The days when technics were a help to the people are over. There are pieces of hardware craftily patched together to make the users’ daily chores easier, their lives better. They are littered just about everywhere from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, from Tai Pei to Timbuktu, a huge mass of man made things, tools, instruments, mechanisms each one endowed with its own precise logic, point and functionality. They have accumulated in time, used, discarded, recycled, invented and reinvented until they have grown to end up as an aggregated, compact, hard crust, shell or husk around the soft, still juicy and frail core of the humanity that has designed and conceived them and built them to serve a specific purpose, to make work easier, secure the rest or the travel more comfort and faster a pace.
‘Fast’ and ‘faster’ maybe were the key words since things and machineries accelerated it all cycles, rhythms, deeds and expectations, pushing the envelope beyond all limits and toying today with the very chaos such brazen infringement obviously stirs.
Locked into this friendly, mechanical husk, humanity soon came to a gasping, lilting halt just to hold its breath. While the later days the ‘animated’ so to speak things under full blast in these last few years, with their bogus ‘intelligence’ and nano size completed for good or for worse the choking job with their osmotic drive reaching unheard of degrees of intimacy with biology itself to the point of blending in or still worse, seeming to have sunk already below to the abysmal level into the very marrow of the body and, alas, the mind of their creator.
What next? would sound a fair enough question, raised just rhetorically, as no one seems to know or care to go for an answer – any answer.
On October 22, 2016 an e-mail message hit my Inbox. It came from Jip de Beer, a young Dutchman who most politely notified me that his computer randomly selected some wordage in my review to the Margin Call movie I have posted on the IMDb’s web page, and used them (i.e. the computer) as a primary input to find rhymes and string them together in a project Jip has baptized ‘Rapping Reviews’. I gladly acknowledged the news and curiously clicked on the blue font hyperlink provided by Jip de Beer in the body of his message to see and hear the result.
And I have ‘seen’ and I have ‘listened’ the product. Jip insisted it was art of some kind, although his mention of a basic algorithm made his allegation to sound eerily alien. Even if we concede eventually the rapping footage was musical art it was a cross breed to be sure, or second hand so to speak as Jip was the programmer and the computer did his (or rather its) ‘compusition’ (a composition made by a computer – any composition be it visual or auricular as was Jip’s Rapping).
Reading Jip’s message I had the distinct and chilly, absolutely queer feeling of yet another twice margin call (on the Margin Call): it came from a cross breed of allegedly misty limits man-machine binomen, for one, and two: it came from a cross breed output between computer science mathematics and a liberal if not the most liberal piece of crafty footage one can hardly admit to be termed as art snugly occupying its proper frame in its field under the classical sun, I mean.
However, we should not forget computers are mere some algorithms-based accelerators and multipliers with an innate gift of rushing things at speeds uncommon to humans. Whereas asking computers to compute is trivial, rigging the computing systems to wipe your crap and rinse after visiting the loo could be the next to the natural thing to do, prodding the IA to take over the HI helm and ‘make’ decisions based on large numbers crunching digital assessments rings a dangerous solution for man to wade in, but to harness this huge, literally and mathematically overwhelming capacity to churn numbers to deliver some form of art, of sorts (either visual or auricular or both) is farfetched, pushing on the fringes of mental sanity albeit could be some exotic item to stare at and even muse and mutter in a half dazed half awake near breakdown tripping condition.
I stood standstill, mesmerized by this finding I hardly perceived as simply coincidental: the Margin call at the power of cube. And for a long time I mused and rummaged on this approach until eventually I found the breakthrough I needed in order to escape this dire quandary I seemed to be mired in since the receipt of the first message from the programmer & artist Jip de Beer.
Suddenly I had the strange feeling the revelation was somehow older, Jip only triggered for me with his or rather its compusition the entire reaction. Briskly I had the proper name of the reasons why rappers like Eminem and Jay Z were so highly popular and becoming: they were so that popular and adulated because rapping they were actually tapping on the most basic elements of ecstasy experienced by the primeval man on his tiny planet Earth he found apt, from the distant beginnings lost way back in the misty past times, to express his joy of simply being alive: rhythm and rhyme.
The programmed masterpiece by the young Dutch programmer was an authentic rap stock rattled naturally artificially by a synthetizer crammed with rhythm & rhyme to the fullest perfection to be encountered in the digital realm only, that is the basic and only bricks of any rapping stream.
I stood agape while listening and seeing the product of this cross breed compuser (unlike composer). Anyway the stream of Rapping Reviews soundtrack lasted long enough as to plunge me head first in some hazy, nondescript trance where not, notwithstanding the rhythm & rhyme were abundant, the point (the human point, I mean) seemed to be missing. As most kindly and openly Jip had told me, the computer-compuser had been instructed to dive in a database (the IMDb in this case) and pick out the rhyming words only and spell them out taking in account just the rhythm and rhyme only, no cantus firmus! Just the basic, atavistic ingredients of the ancient ecstatic trance.
Listening to Jip’s computer rapping compusition was an awesome, deeply troubling experience. In just a few seconds I was thrown back in the time old age of all tribe incantation, only this time, however, the entire world and its silicon based allies joined voices in this mineral Carmina Burana, in this bone dry, synthetic Ode to Joy of sorts lacking any flimsy scrap of melody to resemble to any human vintage cantus firmus no matter how farfetched, how lame or how derisive.
I was listening somehow echoing from a not so far a future the choir of the people rebuked to a revolute past raising to the sky hallelujahs of gratitude for just being alive – in those long gone days alike in the days ahead to come …
A circle was closing, a loop completed, past and future joined in a melting point beyond any reasonable explanation.
That synthetic ululation was simply out there, bearing perfectly balanced characteristics of both biological pulses and the mineral rhythms scattered everywhere in the non biological realm.
After eons of run in sense-seeking with the biological cell expecting everything should have some point, I struggled to decipher in that hypnotic litany some hidden link rallying back to the human comprehension no matter how ethereal or abstract. I failed.
What he succeeded instead perfectly, and for this I warmly congratulated the proxy human compuser from the Tulip Land was the hypnosis induced by the rhythm & rhyme flawlessly rendered by some synthetic voice very much similar to Eminen’s, Jay Z’s, Sean Paul’s, or else maybe it was the other way around, they were those who change in mockery the timbre of their voice to mimic the one of their metallic rapping acoustic clones?
This is a rather hazy zone to me, a limit I am still eager to find some light some day. Basically, the only thing that seemed to make a difference between Jip’s compusition and the famous hits of the human rappers aforementioned was the total lack of sense in the non human output in opposition to those ululated by the human rappers we mentioned who obviously were barking with some point be it obscene or as a vocal expression of social disgust of extreme flavor.
Coming from a margin zone (a zone of choice to make manifest my curiosity briskly inflamed by this second hand creation from Jip de Beer) with ur-sources in a media pool which is probing a limit as well (or limits) where you’d be better off if not venture if you aren’t buckled enough to gulp whatever you’ll find out there, the things I had once written a paper (digitally speaking, of course) and whereof Jip’s computer had fished that particular phrase (it has no relevance here which phrase exactly – it’s the idea the one that counts) – so, the things seemed to me having some inner resonance sort of, so deeply troubling I felt like finally and happily pushed at last to doing something I had always wanted to do but I had missed the fomenting element.
And this had just appeared, and even more, under the most compelling cloak: the pure communication, a synthetic exchange, bereft of any scrap of allusive content of nudging revenge or contest outcry, free of pushing people to rebel or assassination, free of every hint of blasphemy or vituperation, free of damnation or slander, featuring zero trace of ‘intelligent’ syllogism so to speak. It was a straightforward, traffic light type communication, flagging just two status lights: ’run!’ or ‘stay!’. It was just a rhythm & rhyme issue, nothing more, nothing less. It was the very basics of the most ancient incantation.
When its contents hit my brain, and the rap issue rang a bell to me. With my head hot and my ears crimson with so deep concentration I sucked air deeply into my lungs and decreed there must be some hidden point into this pristine pure communication. All one has to do is someone should keep on searching forward until this reason will be found.
The Jip de Beer message and even more so his creation (compusition) confirmed and reinforced substantially with the convincing force of the reality the inner feel that people will eventually quit reading to hearing instead and then sight and this will be done because the inner symbols decoding process (with reading) is dramatically simplified, by their total removal from the mindwork.
The auricular communication, on the other hand, is the ground land of the next gen education, it chisels behaviors, reactions and types to match some archetype of vibration harmonies tucked deep down in the core of the being, in some place sheltered from mystification, decoy and falseness.
The repeated tries along the entire paleohistory of evolution to encode and decode the reality data through the optical apparatus hit the levels of perversion by overloading.
The rap’s worldwide popularity in converse ratio with just any other type of learning action based on syllogistic concatenations of codes, decodes and generalizations may be interpreted as an atavistic remission back to some tribal rhythms of confirmation and preservation of identity as tribe, clan, family you name it and, we’d dare say– reign identity, this last stand conquest asserting as superior valence of this tribal rite re-discovered at the onset of the Third Millennium its full fledged and certain spirituality (the one which in fact counts). The Rap is today’s authentic Ode to Joy and live in your reign with all the pulses, spurts, flows and tides, explosions and implosions of life as it delivers itself undeclared, unadulterated by a television which reached the hallucinogen peak of its lifespan which already telltale everywhere the original point in knowledge and education.
Yep, rap is a mystic incantation, yep, rap is a reaction (which may be babbling or harsh) of taking a stand against leniency prone of the intellect the one that found the easy and proper way to dump on the Artificial Intelligence the charge of finding solutions to all the problems so that, relieved out of bored pride the human mind to allow itself to throttle down its engines and afford the rather steep luxury to let itself go banana by deliberate and highly damage prone choice, an option picked, unfortunately, not as a simple, exercise of sovereign showing off of a flaunting free will, but rather out of a way more severe and tragic reason: the secular exhaustion. However, if a sleeping reason breeds monsters, as Goya deeply troubling warned us, the laziness of the intellect will populate the world with these monsters at a ration way bigger than may bear the vigilance of the minds still running in the overspeed of a hurtful state of awareness .
The absence of such a push will force the problem of man back to a solution specific to natural gases laws teleologically offensive to this, however, supreme reflexive build of the matter we call ‘man’.
Listening to Jip’s Rapping Reviews today made me suddenly realize why, why their fake, obsessive minimalism, the Lodovico Einaudi’s works gave me the creeps and even more, gave me dire fits of vomit. Composed by a man, their vector pointed to an alien electronically generated sound, unlike RR which on the contrary was not only electronically generated ‘compusition’ yet its vector pointed to ‘sound’ like human neo-Palestrinas such as Eminem and Jay Z we should be perhaps obliged to see them this way some day.
At these two vectors intersection in time and space, with Einaudi playing the role of missing link between the two bodies in contrary drives, we’ll witness (hopefully not me) the final assault on the last stronghold of man on Earth: Art.
Some Jip (or maybe this one since he is still very young) will somehow manage to tinker code and feed in some super hyper bloated CPU Johann Fux’s lectures on the Art of Counterpoint and J.P.Rameau’s knowledge wrapped in Traite de l’Harmonie, and doing so to bless our ears with a ‘compusition’ blindingly smart and which in all gimmicks of the trade boastfully trying to impress on us, listeners of those days to come, and persuade us it doesn’t sound queer and strange, but plainly beautiful instead.
I do believe this is possible, however. I fear that day when, based on say, Fux and Rameau Algorithm, anyone could listen (or even create for that matter) synthetic Beethovenlike masterpieces. They’ll be, I’m afraid, as I say, simply proxy-pieces, as the true masterpieces are way more than just a summing-up of algorithm routines, no matter how smart, they are wholly human, not just a second hand draft.
The difference between queer and beautiful nurtures in me the hope that the last stronghold of Art will keep on standing up unscathed and unmired. At his most liberal whim, man is toying with mighty forces and he knows he could dare and go for it. But he won’t cross that line no matter how close to it he’ll wade and rub. Simply, the sublime is no one’s mocking stock. And never will.
Trying to crack the secrets of beauty using the tremendous leverage power of mathematics and computing science and technology may be a Herculean task if it is approached from one corner, and a plainly stupid endeavor of a dumb head if tackled from the opposite corner. In between these two conflicting angles there is not such roomy leeway for maneuvering with these conceptual or formal tools required when dealing with these matters.
Last year, in spring, at Seoul, a go-playing AI powered machine apparently beat the human world champ, Korean Lee Sedol. The machine, however, was just another extra go marble piece in the game and not the real opponent. This year, another AI driven opus compused by maybe the proxy-Bach from the Silicon Age outbest the output of other classical rappers such as Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Jay Z, the Notorious BIG to select just a few from those who got the sting and have taken that feel to the limit. The competition is fierce. The place is tight. The clash head on. In due time AI will end up delivering whatever HI demands. High quality variations apt to stir awe, but never the emotional wave surrounding the real, human Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
All this information age paradigm seen against the realm of the substance gain so much momentum it became hard to push it back to the number crunching box where it most rightfully belongs. It grew up at such high rate in helping people coping with real world problem solving and backing the decision making process it enforced practically any solution to take into account this superfast lane to and from the El Dorados of knowledge people have amassed in all civilizations that swept the face of the Earth.
The computer science with its plethora of derivatives wound up to usurp in no time every single discipline, station or office it was supposed to help with making the right decision at the right time, reeking everywhere, oozing in every single place with its lingo, with its little pieces of cozy, glossy hardware all endowed with small screens ever open eyes to the very innards of the infinity at all scales as so many dual purpose sockets made to feed and to suck …
The Rapping Reviews compusition is a piece (a proxypiece unlike a masterpiece) at the border in many and troubling ways, I dare say it is a landmark between the realms, a warning sign.
This gigantic trumpet blaring the entire listing of rhymes according to the proper rhythms, bespeaks of a job of a slave, typical computer – specific chore brilliantly completed. Under the guidance of and prodded by man, the inanimate began to sing like the animate once, something unnerving enough in itself. ‘Sing’ might be an overstatement with this, maybe, since RR still lacks a melody – cantus firmus – (the must of any piece of music beside rhythm) which make rates the RR as an ur-song revived at a tremendous scale with an apparent lineage from Eminem and Jay Z.
So, rest in peace, readers, rap up, you, listeners ! If not, your computing machines would rap it for you. As of today, this is not a warning, but a fact. Whatever it means to whoever.