Tone Paw – MIDI by Hand

The Tone Paw is hand-made MIDI instrument inspired by the interface of the pedal steel guitar. It uses a long strip of Bare conductive paint as a slide potentiometer which controls pitch bend. Each side of the instrument is outfitted 5 assignable buttons and three assignable slide potentiometers. Finally, the top of the interface features two 5-position selector switches (such as are found on electric guitars) which multiply the possible MIDI configurations by a factor of 25. Tone Paw is powered by an Arduino and Max/MSP running into Ableton Live.

I performed with the instrument along with Stephanie Hsu as a part of the 2014 ITP NIME show, which took place at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on December 10, 2014.



A Comprehensive Catalog of Rights

this project represents the confluence of several interests:

– the distinction between the virtual and the possible (in which “virtual” represents the infinite range of potential actions and processes that a thing can undertake, and “possible” refers to a discrete set of prescribed states that an entity can enter. virtual:possible::analog:digital::evolution:taxonomy::politics:voting::platonic ideals:actual things etc.)

– the tension between general principles and particular instances of their embodiment.

– the feeling of intense vertigo that one experiences when trying to understand that any one thing exists as it does and not some other way.

– the futility of systematizing reality insofar as to render reality in any systematic way is to introduce artificial limits, shortcuts, data compression – in short do violence to the infinite violence of reality.

– “less is more”; the notion that artfully removing information from a piece can produce a more beautiful work by introducing gaps that the audience fills with by bringing their own imagination to bear on the piece (the imagination is a faculty of virtuality)

– the idea of the umwelt understood through the lens of virtuality. the shape of one’s virtuality determined by the affordances of the physical/chemical/anatomical structures and processes that conspire to describe a body.

– the dominant ideology of techo-utopianism (embodied in every TED Talk ever) which hold that all of our social and political problems can be solved by the increasingly sophisticated interventions of technology – another name for the increasingly invasive interventions of consumerism and market-thinking – which conveniently disregards social and political means of addressing these problems while at the same time disguising its cynical motives platitudinous principles (“freedom,” “openness,” “choice,” “efficiency,” etc.)


you set up a system and it might work for a while. that is, if you have calibrated it correctly, the differences between the the actual world and the possibilities encoded into the system are negligible. but over time the gap between virtual and possible will widen – because the virtual is associated with reality in a way that is fractal and therefore infinite – and eventually actual events will wear out and break the system. it no longer functions the way it was originally designed to. its shortcomings have been replaced by hacks and ersatz modifications. to ask whether it is the same system as it started out – who cares? the question should be “does it work?”

in the case of a social and political system, the question could be reframed as “does this system allocate provide for the basic needs of its citizens?” or “does it allocate libidinal excess in a way that is acceptable to us?” or “what does it do for us, and at what cost? is it a fair price?”

what even is a “social and political system?” well, to take a local example, in America i would say that the social and political system is the product of a few foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, combined with “American ideology” which is itself composed of many different microbes such as Judeo-Christian teachings, capitalist propaganda, Freudian perversions, frontier mentality, etc. “the system” in other words, is a complex network of mutually interacting processes – a million virtualities actualizing themselves and modifying one another in the process.

what the… huh?

okay. but so what i’m thinking is this – the bill of rights identifies certain rights that i have as an American. over the years the supreme court has chipped away at some, posited some others. some rights have been brutally eviscerated and remain only in cruel effigy. but whatever. as they were formulated, these rights were so general and vague that they were almost asking to be modified, and besides, their generalness and systematicity prevented them from entering a direct dialog with our actual, day to day potential in the present.

what has imposed restrictions on our movements, our behaviors, our actions, and increasingly our virtuality itself is not the laws (Americans have enough of an outlaw streak with respect to the government that this was never a real threat.) the real restrictions do not today come from the government, they come from the market. it is the market that introduces products, manipulates demand, and coerces mass action in a way that we would never EVER accept from a government. i’m talking about cars, telephones, radios, smartphones, face-computers, corn in every food, obesity, fracking, air pollution, suburban sprawl, etc.

“but eamon, the market isn’t like one entity. its an aggregate of a lot of different behaviors by a lot of private actors acting more or less independently to -”


anyways but so i feel that market interventions have been slowly chipping away at our quality of life. it does this in a million tiny, unseen ways every day. what follows is my attempt to identify what those undiscussed, unapproved, undemocratic degradations of life are, and to reassert our right to them as explicitly as possible.

my method is imprecise, unsystematic, and ongoing. basically i list rights in an automatic and stream of consciousness way (or as close to that as possible.) i ask myself only two questions: 1) would the elimination of this thing represent a significant blow the quality of life? 2) do i feel comfortable extending this right to everybody else?

i have not reviewed this list since it began, and i do not plan to review it until it ends.


the right to drum circles
the right to modular spiritual operativity
the right to unrestricted movement of our physical bodies
the right to violence
the right to give (and take) chase
the right to hide
the right to burrow
the right to remain crouched, quivering, breathless
the right to remain stoic
the right to cradle a fox under our tunics, and remain unflinching as it gnaws its way through our intestines
the right to rope swings
the right to carve, and to possess carving implements
the right to freely trade carving implements
the right to speak from the diaphragm
the right to lie openly and without shame
the right to sleep on the street
the right to live in squalor
the right to sadness
the right to extended conversation
the right to digression
the right to suicide
the right to profit from social marketing
the right to negotiate loans and contracts in a public arena
the right to mob justice
the right to torches and bricks
the right to trees
the right to hammers and nails and screws sold in aluminum tubs
the right to worry
the right to fear
the right to chest puffery, erect posture, and focused manners
the right to believe in angels and other agents of the spirit world
the right to rasslin’
the right to scavenge
the right to scrap
the right to delayed gratification
the right to bodily excess
the right to modify language at its core
the right to access, analyze, and publicly explain our data trails
the right to confront our surveyors in a public arena
the right to whisper
the right to listen without responding
the right to remain absolutely motionless
the right to feel safe
the right to feel endangered
the right to declare personal sovereignty
the right to corporate sponsorship
the right to state censorship
the right to levitate
the right to transubstantiate
the right to sacrifice
the right to tell ones story before an audience of attentive listeners
the right to be confused about what you want
the right to retreat from view
the right to demand thorough explanations of a products origin and eternal impacts before entering into any purchasing agreement
the right to count to any number no matter how high
the right to ululate
the right to equal tool-access
the right to implements
the right to self-defense
the right to retribution
the right to “let’s settle this after class”
the right to lose a fight
the right to feel inadequate because you are inadequate
the right to ecological ruination
the right to disintegrate into sub atomic particles and then reappear somewhere else in exactly the same configuration as you were or perhaps a configuration only very slightly changed
the right to write a sequel that doesn’t suck
the right to see the guts, and to feel them wriggle in your unsure hands
the right to imagine how the jellyfish understands things to be
the right to buy liquor on sundays
the right to sit on any stoop at any time for any reason
the right to gaze at the moon
the right to pop it in the microwave
the right to unencumbered respiration
the right to
– 10/30

The right to savor chemicals

The right to paint our faces
The right to legislation
The right to walk down any street
The right to night air
The right to altitude and its encumbant sickness
The right to pretend
The right to withhold
The right to extend
The right to announce along curves
The right to trust
The right to hatred
The right to lust
The right to envy
The right to decay
The right to be impressed
The right to be arbitrary
The right to be arbitrary
The right to repeat ourselves
The right to silence
The right to throw ourselves parabolic
The right to establish value
The right to maintain equilibrium
The right to beat the game
The right to be famous
The right to regional accents
The right to bottle it up
The right to imaginary friends
The right to run processes simultaneously
The right to rain fall
The right to watermelon
The right to Pisces rising
The right to speak to exactly one person at a time
The right to gratitude
The right to privacy
The right to singularity
The right to multiplicity
The right to seeds and seediness and file sharing
The right to Buddha
The right to our lady of Guadalupe
The right to syncretism
The right to yell “bustin heads!” at random intervals
The right to define and establish intervals in weights and measures of all kinds
The right to accept or decline
The right to deny service for any reason
The right to design and user-test incantations
The right to go barefoot
The right to operate heavy machinery
The right to “become electric”
The right to swim in then ocean
The right to fucking hate that guy so fucking much
The right to be a stripper if that’s what we really want
The right to steer clear of Connecticut
The right to wake up before sunrise or stay up until sunrise and to watch the grocery trucks make deliveries
The right to empty parking lot
The right to space
The right to prairie
The right to play on half sunken schooners as the sun goes down
The right to barter
The right to not bring an umbrella
The right to receive all messages by post, once a day and only once a day
The right to paint the colors of smog
The right to come close
The right to establish contact
The right to void
The right to return
The right to an honest day’s work
The right to become transfixed by the light
The right to study history
The right to uselessness
The right to the rush of blood
The right to warped wood
The right to aspirational striving
The right to secure advantage
The right to bet big and lose it all
The right to fall from grace
The right to rock steady
The right to summer
The right to smell cigarettes on cold concrete
The right to city dust
The right to perform before a jury of our peers
The right to peer around corners
The right to shorebirds
The right to low tide
The right to boxcars and shipping containers
The right crepuscular
The right to forge and shred
The eighth to mimic others
The right to the spirit that moves us
The right to make ourselves useful
The right to peel potatoes
The right to taste the gravy
The right to earthquake weather
The right to waive our rights
The right to throw like a girl, or like a boy, depending
The right to call white people “crackers”
The right to atone
The right to dissolve grudges in strong acid
The right to count all the leaves on all the trees
The right to have hot sauce with our rice and beans
The right to grieve according to our customs
The right to read the lawbooks
The right to the occasional coconut cream
The right to share what we have
The right to sundials
The right to shake in our boots
The right to watch the water
The right to jump
The eighth to swim the channel
The right to hallucinatory loneliness
The right to saturdays
The right to clean water
The right to become your truest and beat self
The right to leave traces
The right to adjudicate basic principles
The right to an uncaused causer
The right to exquisite qualia
The right to chop am onion along any axis we damn well please
The right to view identical brick or concrete structures move in parallax fashion
The right to visit decommissioned warships
The right to a fitting nickname
The right to treat bureaucratic realities as our ancestors treated features of geology
The right to upend Adam
The right to seize forbidden rights
the right to sound the alarm
the right to doze off
the right to basic dental care
the right to say “whip” instead of “car”
the right to unplug indefinitely
the right to hang a participle or two here and there
the right to train diligently
The right to wait patiently
The right to remain standing
The right to commence with the shenanigans
The right to grow our own
The right to embellish freely
The right to slake our thirst
The right to be seen by a competent professional
The right to role play with/as a bureaucrat
The right to speak English and only English
The right to “
for line in list
Nunn = len(line)
The right to be “not fully spectral”
The right to a protective exoskeleton
The right to stay up late
The right to balletic movement
The right to suspect
The right to confess our sins
– 11/3
The right to extend through space
The right to smell the dry cleaning
The right to implement changes in hardware and software
The right to design and build tools
The right to ersatz functionality
The right to bricolage
The right to survivalism
The right to deal
The right to perform gender
The right to Americana
The right to speak pidgin tongues
The right to Hurricane Season
The right to explore the old industrial
The right to heightened olfactory
The right to exclaim “that’s horse shit!” when that is horse shit
The right to close the place down
The right to kick back
The right to “be cool”
The right to decide how we want to spell it
The right to cohere around basic principles like skin around flesh around bone
The right to be puppetee by ghosts and demigods
The right to think it over and change our minds
The right to make any type of YouTube video out of any type of YouTube video
The right to become alienated and bitter and eager for a new order
The right to play hooky
The right to map it out
The right to fugue
The right to have certain fundamentally un-decidable choices made for us
The right to submit first drafts
The right to accept the punishment
– 11/4
The right to assemble the pieces
The right to decide what the parts are part of
The right to alternate tunings
The right to expose and uncover
The right to straightlace
The right to conform to standards
The right to render
The right to macaroni seashell
The right to longjump
The right to crawl inside a hollow log
The right to fully submerge
The right to light candles and watch the flame dance
The right to force the issue
The right to Rest Ice Compression Elevation
The right to assign value
The right to declare variably
The right to write
The right to forage
– 11/5




We consider a “habit” to be a routine action, perhaps even a subconscious one, undertaken with predictable regularity. The etymology of the word gives some indication of how we may have come to this understanding. The sense of habit as a practice derives from the nun’s habit or the monk’s habit – literally the clothing they would wear to symbolize outwardly their spiritual commitments to the Church. “Habit” comes from the Old French “habiter” which means to live, not in the bare, biological sense but in the more impressionistic sense of abiding somewhere, maintaining a residence, “inhabiting” a space. Habit also has the added sense from the Latin “habere” meaning to manage or to keep. A habit is a holding – a commitment to maintain with respect to one’s own dwelling place.

The habit has always had a connection with the home, and so it is not surprising to see it in connection with another cluster of words who make their homages to home maintenance – economy and ecology (both of which are derived from the Greek “oikos” meaning “villa” or “dwelling.”) Both economy and ecology are ways of thinking about and managing our homes, although their methods and scale are a little bit grander than what we often imagine when we think about household care. The Duhigg reading for this week bears this out this connection quite elegantly I think. Take an example from Target:

1) As a regular part of its business practice, Target collects and holds vast amounts of data about its customers. (Cue)

2) From this data, it is able to make reasonably sound conjectures about customers’ household habits, and use these conjectures as the basis for sophisticated marketing strategies. (Routine)

3) Target’s revenues grew by $23 billion dollars in 8 years – that’s almost $3 billion a year! (Reward)

Target is in business to sell as many household products as possible, and as much of them as possible. They’re way of caring for their own home (i.e. economy) is to influence shoppers to care for their own homes (also economies) by maximizing the amount that shoppers habitually consume. But we know that the consumer economy is essentially wasteful  (in consumer capitalism, commodities do not have inherent value but instead only exchange value, derived from their position in a market schema; as soon as a product is consumed its value is extinguished and a new product must come into existence to reestablish that commodity’s former value and restore balance to the market) so that there is no way for Target’s economy to achieve harmony with a vision of ecology that understands our proper relationship with the environment to be one of managerial stewardship. In other words, Target’s habit of manipulating our habits is detrimental to the condition of the environment that holds us, in which we dwell.




The habit that I would like to focus on creating is bringing lunch to school instead of paying a bunch of money food every day.

Currently the loop looks like this:

Cue – I am hungry. I am working in the shop or on my laptop, or else I am in class. Perhaps someone says “Hey do you wanna go grab some food?” I am feeling frazzled, frustrated. I am looking for an excuse to go somewhere else for a while. It could be any time of day.

Routine – Ignore this feeling until things are really not going well. I cannot focus on my work. I am not paying attention. I am thinking about tacos.


I go out on the street. There are no tacos. I go to M2M or Pizza Mercato, and spend ~$7.50 on not-very-good not-very-healthy lunch. Sometimes I go to the halal cart and spend $5 on good-in-a-bad-way very-not-healthy street meat. If I am feeling especially celebratory or especially despondent, I go to Chipotle or Mom’s Cooking where I spend ~$11 on very-satisfying probably-not-terrible-for-me food, but I cannot afford to do this ver often.

Reward – I can now go back to work. Sometimes the food is good but usually it is not-great. If I go with someone it is nice to socialize off-floor.


An alternative loop might look something like this:

Cue – I am hungry. I am working in the shop or on my laptop, or else I am in class. Perhaps someone says “Hey do you wanna go grab some food?” It could be any time of day.

Routine – I go to my bag and get out the tupperware that I have prepared earlier in the week and brought with me to school today for just this exact occasion. I pop it in the microwave, then I eat it on the floor somewhere.

Reward – I feel bored. I feel hemmed in. I still want to get off the floor. I have likely not socialized with anyone, but just eaten by myself at my laptop. I feel claustrophobic in my own mind. I have saved ~$7.50. I am already thinking about what else I can spend that $7.50, and when.


PROBLEM – THESE REWARDS SUCK! I don’t like them at all.



Working backwards, the way the diagram suggests I might get something more like:

Cue – I am hungry. I am working in the shop or on my laptop, or else I am in class. Perhaps someone says “Hey do you wanna go grab some food?” It could be any time of day.

Reward – I get to eat a meal that is more tastier, healthier, and cheaper than the options within walking distance of Tisch.

Do I enjoy this reward? Meh.

Reward – I save ~$7.50. If I am at school 20 days/month that is $150 spent on nonsense food (probably actually a little bit more.) At the end of the month then, I should have an extra $150 if I start bringing lunch to school. I could buy a sweet jacket or something.

Do I enjoy this reward? Yes and no. It is nice to have money, but I lose money so much faster than I make it. Thinking about money is extremely at all is discouraging, anxiety provoking, uncomfortable.

Reward – I get to get back to my work immediately. I don’t have to spend any time thinking about food, which I find to be boring anyway, and then I can focus my break time on something I actually do enjoy. For instance, I could take 20 minutes and make a quick beat. At the end of the month I would have 20 mini-beats!

Do I enjoy this reward? In principle. But I doubt I would follow through in practice.

Reward – For every meal I bring to school, I credit myself $5 towards a new book. I get to read the book while I eat the meal that I’ve brought to school. This way I direct my savings somewhere tangible and not-unhealthy (instead of just abstractly “saving” which doesn’t make any sense to me given how much debt I’m in.)

Do I enjoy this reward? Yes. This one is good.

So now it looks like:

Cue – I am hungry. I am working in the shop or on my laptop, or else I am in class. Perhaps someone says “Hey do you wanna go grab some food?” It could be any time of day.

Routine – I eat the lunch I brought for myself, and make a note of it in my calendar. Then I read my book for a while.

Reward – After Persuasive Design class on Thursdays, I go to Strand with a budget of # of home-meals x $5 and get a new book for the next week.


The one thing that occurs to me is that this habit is dependent on the successful adoption of another habit viz. cooking the food in the first place.

That habit would look like this:

Cue – It is Sunday afternoon.

Routine – I come up with a menu for the week, and add all the items to a shopping list. I go buy everything I need. Then I put on Law & Order SVU, the greatest show in the history of television except for all of the actually good shows, and cook what I will be bringing to school this week. I package everything up and watch more Law & Order SVU while doing the dishes.

Reward – I get to watch a bunch of Law & Order. Also now I have food for the week, which can enable my book habit, above.

O Muriqui Pilot (Act 1)



Written by Eamon O’Connor



All is quiet in the canopy where MURIQUI sleeps. As the camera pans down towards the forest floor we begin to hear birds, insects, frogs, and the cacophonous roar of machinery. A bull-dozer crashes into frame, uprooting trees and snapping branches, funneling. MURIQUI wakes with a start.



Reveal: The bull-dozer is downing trees at an astonishing rate, followed by a caravan of identical bull-dozers. They are heading straight for the branches where Muriqui is napping. Muriqui bounds from tree to tree, frantically, only just behind the pack of wild machines.


Shit! Shit! Cinnamon-scented shit!

Muriqui is agile, leaping between branches and swinging by his tail, but he the bull-dozers are gaining. Her hand grasps around a branch but her vestigial thumb can’t maintain the grip. She slips, falls in slow motion. Swell of strings begins, slowly at first.

NARRATOR (V.O. affecting an accent)

One never thinks of oneself as the last, just as one never considers oneself to be the first. We are all of us born in medea reas, cast as it were, headlong, into the thick, matted nest of vertiginous reality. So dense the foliage of our days, and so tight their tendrils upon our minds, that rare indeed are the moments when our spirits can partake of true reflection. But if we can gain purchase upon that part of our souls which is most hospitable to truth, we can from that vantage reconcile ourselves the most unhappy reality, that if mountainous forests can be razed to barren earth, if the skies and the oceans can become foul and toxic, then all pride and all our shame, our public joys and private sorrows, all our histories and those of our dearest kin are undone as easily as –

The bull-dozer crushes Muriqui’s skull. 




1 INT.(?) – CAVERNOUS MAW OF THE UNDERWORLD                1

It looks something like the DMV, if the DMV were made out of porous, viscous, constantly-shifting-and-bubbling asphalt. There are rows of plastic chairs extending all the way to the horizon, which despite the thick sulfurous haze, is still pretty goddamn far away. A different kind of animal sits in each chair. Some are terrified beyond words, but most are glumly looking about or half-heartedly reading back-issues of People, Scientific American, or something called The Hades Times-Star. Stan Getz is playing for some reason, although it is barely audible over the roar of the (completely ineffectual) AC.

Muriqui is seated between OCTAVIO, some weird goat-looking thing who is reading a magazine, and CHESTER, a golden mouse who is sitting with his arms crossed, scowling to the best of his mousely abilities.


Um… excuse me?

Muriqui gets no response from either Octavio or Chester. 






Hi, I’m Muriqui.




Spix Macaw. Will a Spix Macaw please report to the front desk immediately. Spix Macaw.


Hahaha! “Spix Macaw”! Can you believe that boy’s mama named him “Spix.”


His mother didn’t name him Spix, Octo. Georg Marcgrave named him, and I’m sure he doesn’t really like to go by that name anymore now that he has the, y’know, ability to speak and all that.


Who’s Georg Marcgrave?


Your name’s Chester? I’m Muriqui!

CHESTER (Exasperated)

Christ – you name is not “Muriqui.” You are a muriqui, or I should say, that’s what you were.

Muriqui is confused, taken aback.


You know, “Georg Marcgrave” – that’s a pretty silly name too, Chester.




I mean, not as dumb as “Spix Macaw” … but shit! I wonder who named him “Georg Marcgrave.”

Chester holds his head in one hand and slumps down in his plastic chair. This is hard for him to do, since he is a mouse. Meanwhile, Octavio is earnestly considering who could have possibly given a German naturalist his name.


Where are we?


Where’s it look like we are? We’re in the underworld dummy! H-E-double-motherfucking-hockey sticks.


“Hell” is derived from the same Germanic root as “cell.”


What the hell are you talking about?


Hell, right. Yeah.






I’ve never been anywhere like this before…

CHESTER (mocking)

“I’ve never been anywhere like this…” What have you never been dead before?




Yes, stupid, we are dead. All of us. All of these magnificent creatures you see around you (gestures at Octavio, who is picking his nose) are dead.


Holdridge’s Toad and Aleotra Grebe, please report to the front desk.


And the reason, by the way, that you’re here, is the same reason that you’re dead, is the same reason that you’ve never been anywhere like this before, which is, to whit: that you’ve probably never left whatever idyllic ecotope you were born in.

Muriqui does not know what to make of this knowledge. She cannot take it all in.

CHESTER (temporarily softening)

Listen – I get it. It’s your first time around the old mortal coil. Let me explain something: you died. Okay? So you’re not – how do I put this? – you’re not “alive” anymore?


But I –

CHESTER (holding a finger up to Muriqui’s mouth)

Shh! No talking! You’re dead. Game over. So now all you do, you just sit here, and shut up, and when they call your name you go up to the desk and they’ll tell you where you can go to be reinc’d.

Muriqui understands almost none of this.


Reincarnated. You’re gonna be reincarnated. Actually, you should have been reincarnated already. Usually it doesn’t take this long but then I’ve never seen it this crowded…


Muriqui Brachyteles, please report to the front desk. Muriqui Brachyteles to the front desk please.


There you go kid. Knock ‘em dead. Ha!


Hey did you know they used to have complimentary salt pillars down here?

2 INT.(?) – CAVERNOUS MAW OF THE UNDERWORLD                2

Muriqui negotiates endless rows of chairs, with much less facility than she showed earlier in the trees. Her prehensile tail is getting in everybody’s face. It’s embarrassing.

She makes her way up to the front desk, which is staffed by a hominid with a PARAKEET on its shoulder.


Muriqui Brachyteles?


Third door.

Muriqui tentatively opens up the third door and enters, closing the door on her tail behind her.




Muriqui stands on a tiny, nearly invisible platform. She is entirely dwarfed by a LUMINOUS PRESENCE several trillion times her size. The light emanating from this presence is deafeningly loud.


Hello, yes please come in. Make yourself comfortable. This shouldn’t take long we just have a little bit of paperwork and processing to go through and you should be on your way into the next world.




Well shall we? No time like the present! Ha! That’s a little joke we timeless entities like to tell. To ourselves, mostly. Anyway, first question, let’s see what were you in your previous life?


My previous? Oh yes – I was a Muriqui Brachyteles.


And what was your diet like?


My diet?


Yes what you ate.


I guess I ate leaves. Fruit.




Was it what?


Was it organic? Did you, on your short time spent on Earth, confine yourself to organic, locally grown, conflict-free, non-GMO foodstuffs?


I mean, I guess?

The Luminous Presence seems to erupt. It grows in size and its fiery heat singes the hairs on Muriqui’s face.



MURIQUI (cowering)

Oh my god! Holy shit! What are you even talking about right now?

The Luminous Presence returns to “normal.”


Haha! Relax, I’m just fucking with you. It gets old, omniscience does. That, and literally being older than time.


What are you?


Don’t be fatuous. Anyway I brought you in here because it seems there has been a little hiccup in our usual procedures. It looks like (checks celestial list) it looks like you are, or were, you were the last member of your species.


You mean we’re –


That’s right. You are not only dead. You are extinct.

Muriqui faints.

NIME Final Project Proposal

For my final NIME project I’d like to develop an instrument inspired by the pedal steel guitar. The instrument will be electric, and capable of producing a variety of sounds, but the affordances will take their cues from the interaction of the pedal steel.

For those not familiar with the pedal steel, it is an early predecessor to the electric guitar that evolved from the Hawaiian “slack key” tradition, in which the guitar is played with a bottle, knife, or other heavy rounded implement that allows the player to slide fluidly between notes (rather than being limited to the discrete pitches imposed by the fretboard.) However unlike its Hawaiian ancestor (or the intermediary lap steel guitar) the pedal steel added a system of pedals and levers that allowed the player to raise and lower the pitch of different strings, and thereby achieve different chords from the same “fret” position. The end effect is a keenly expressive instrument that is capable playing an astonishingly wide range of musical roles.




Although the contraption itself is somewhat complicated, the interaction is fairly straightforward: sound the notes with the right hand, alter the type of chord being played with the feet and knees, and modulate the chord up and down with the left hand.:


Several aspects of the pedal steel I admire and would like to replicate in my NIME final:

– The variety of tones it is capable of producing.

– The division of musical roles across the player’s body (i.e. left hand does this, right foot does that, etc.) In a digital instrument these affordances can be exploited to control a variety of parameters not possible in the traditional pedal steel.

– It’s ability to mimic the human voice. See the following:



I would like my instrument to consist of the following components:

– A slide operable by the left hand

– 5 pressure sensors (or buttons/ pads) operable by the right hand. (1 for each finger.)

– A volume expression pedal for the right foot.

– 3 “pedals” (pots that modulate the pitch of 3 of the 5 tones, as controlled by the right hand)

– Multiple voices, including voices inspired by: the original pedal steel, pizzicato strings, some obscene synth bass, fake horns, a 5 piece drum kit…

– In an ideal world I would like to be able to multitrack the thing so that I could record a sequence of MIDI notes and manipulate them in various ways before “unleashing them.” For instance I could record a phrase in one voice, pitch it up an octave and assign it to a different voice, and then offset them by a certain amount of time. Or I could play a chord progression and side-chain it to a drum pattern.

I know that there is a device that COULD achieve everything I want this instrument to do, but I’m not sure that I will end up building that device.


What needs to be done?

– Choose sounds

– Decide analog/digital

– Finalize design

– Order parts

– Build the thing

– Make sure that the slide is expressive enough

– Figure out how to implement the looping/multitrack function in Max

– Write performable composition



10/7 – Get a working prototype of the basic interaction: slide with 5 tones, no pedals. (Is the slide responsive enough? Do I have sufficiently fine control over the notes that I can play a piece?)

10/14 – Continue to refine design. Have a finished diagram of the system that you would like to implement for tone switching, phrase cloning, etc. Implement pedals into prototype.

10/21 – First iteration of complete project (i.e. what are ALL the sensors you will need to implement the multitrack system?)

10/28 – The tone  switching system should be entirely built in Max.

11/4 – You should have an order in for all of the parts you will need.

11/11 – The looping and effects system should be built in max.

11/18 –  Get it all working.

11/25 – The piece should be completely built and working. Begin writing and practicing a composition for the show.



Exemplification – What do the Muriqui exemplify? Of what are they examples?

An extremely endangered species. A bifurcated population. A tribe estranged from itself. Two, formerly one. The potential for polygamy to function harmoniously in primates. The adverse effects of deforestation. The the consequences of humanity’s unthinking carelessness. Victims of ecological crisis.  A matriarchal society.

Comparison – To what can we compare the Muriqui?

To other endangered species. To ourselves. To one another (on an individual basis, and northern to southern.) To indigenous peoples. To the Israelis and the Palestinians. To glacial shelves. To nodes in a network. To components in a circuit. To Oreos. To gods. To heros. To slaves. To philosophers. To poets. To pets. To cats and dogs. To figures of speech. To streams and rivers. To “each life is a shadow.” To germs.

Metaphor – What are the Muriqui (but not really)?

The Muriqui are farmers. The Muriqui are statesmen. The Muriqui are brahmins. The Muriqui are seahorses. The Muriqui are human children. The Muriqui are just like you and me. The Muriqui are Wittgenstein’s lion. The Muriqui are what it feels like to be a bat. The Muriqui are C-fibers.

Allegory – What is an allegory about the Muriqui?

Once there was a rich man who lived alone with his two daughters. On the eve of the first day of Spring, a beggar came to his doorstep. “I am a lowly beggar,” he said. “Won’t you please give me shelter this evening? For I am cold and weary of long-traveling.” “Of course,” replied the rich man, and sent his oldest daughter to prepare a bed for the beggar. Later that evening, while he and his daughters were eating their supper, there came a knock at the door. The younger daughter answered it. “Father,” she called from the hallway, “Another poor man seeks refuge with us this evening.” The rich man’s face turned a chalky white. He removed his napkin from his shirt and placed it on the table, and made his way down the hallway. At the end of the hallway a man in haggard attire stood mutely. The rich man turned back to cast a glance at his daughters. “My time has come,” he said. At the doorway, the Angel of Death brandished his sword of fire.

Parable – Wait– how was that an allegory about the Muriqui?

It wasn’t really. It was just a story that I half-remembered from somewhere else. I embellished it a bit but I still like the original better.

Why are you being so difficult about this? 

Dude, I’m not.

You absolutely are – what’s your deal?

I guess I’m just having a really hard time getting into this topic. Like relating to the little monkeys, you know? I don’t know, maybe I’m just hard-hearted but I basically don’t care about them. I mean I feel bad for them and everything, they’re going extinct whatever, but like, shit dude, we’re all gonna die, and it doesn’t make any sense, and it’s fucked up, and there’s no reason for it, and the people who deserve it least get it first, and the animals (who deserve it even less) get it even before the people, and the water and the air before them, and there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do, and even if you do manage to save a few monkeys here or a slime mold there the world is gonna get you whether it’s second law of thermodynamics or Murphy’s law or the law of supply and demand or the law or just a vengeful god there’s no way around it and sometimes it feels like the attempt to make sense of any of it is worse than doing nothing at all but as humans it is literally the best and only thing we can do.

You’re discouraged, is what you are trying to say.

Yes, I am discouraged. Deeply fucking discouraged. I’m sorry I really don’t mean to be negative. I know I can come off as flippant sometimes, but I’m actually just an extremely earnest surrealist. I believe the unconscious —

All right that’s fine. That’s fine. We’ll skip Parable. How about Metonymy? 

Metonymy… That’s a part for the whole? Or whole for the part?

Metonymy is just any substitution of one thing with something that is closely related to that thing. What you’re thinking of is synecdoche, which is a specific metonymic figure in which a component part of something stands for the whole thing.

Ah, okay. So metonymy, so “tails in the trees,” “the mottled faces,” — or at this point isn’t the forest itself a kind of metonymy for the Muriqui? Insofar as its disappearance tracks with their own?

Conflation – with what other entities might we confuse the Muriqui? Which of their lines can we most favorably blur?

Well, it might be kind of funny to imagine the Muriqui as people. That anthropomorphic turn is always pretty extreme conflation. Ecological systems demand that we engage in a certain degree of conflation, that we suspend our focus on the individual creature, or individual species, and consider instead the role that the species plays in a broader ecological context.

Juxtaposition – What resonates when placed next to the Muriqui?

I think I actually did this in the last post, when I was pretending to do analogy.

Okay, well then why don’t we do analogy for real now?

The Muriqui are like us in that they will die and we will die. They will go extinct and we will go extinct. The humans will kill them and the humans will kill us (the humans).

The Muriqui are like mischievous children, trickster figures in world mythology (as, according to Tupi folklore they were originally people, banished to the trees by the gods for their mischief.)

The Muriqui really are like the untold jobless, in that, when presented with the injunction “Evolve or Perish,” the Muriqui chose the latter. That is perhaps less informative about the Muriqui; what that really says is that late-capitalism is like the radical deforestation that accompanies it and propels it forward.


Junior Ish, The very last Muriqui. He dies and goest to Muriqui heaven, which is like New York City except that everyone is a member of some endangered species. It’s already extremely crowded but somehow more and more people (animals) are showing up every day. Rents are unbelievable. Everyone is complaining about how much various neighborhoods are changing. The Dodo are being pushed out, this neighborhood used to be all Basilosaurus cetoides, etc. We follow young Junior Ish as he tries to find an apartment, get a job, and eke out a meager existence in Muriqui heaven.




The Muriqui are like steamed herring meat. The Muriqui are like the stars. The Muriqui are like diplomats. The Muriqui are like the Fraudulent Premise. The Muriqui are like one another; they are alike. The Muriqui are like fiscal conservatives, social liberals. The Muriqui are like hovercraft. The Muriqui are like gluten-free vegan. The Muriqui are like effervescent liqueurs. The Muriqui are like the 1989 Chicago Bears. The Muriqui are like to a crumpet. The Muriqui are like that which is old-timey and warm in hue. The Muriqui are like Sir Edwin Forsythe. The Muriqui are like home field advantage. The Muriqui are like ghosts. The Muriqui are like silent rainfall. The Muriqui are like calcium deposits. The Muriqui are like divine illumination. The Muriqui are like advice columns. The Muriqui are like a second line during Mardi Gras in old New Orleans. The Muriqui are like whisky-scent. The Muriqui are like a golden sitar. The Muriqui are like windmills. The Muriqui are like aristocrats. The Muriqui are like the untold jobless. The Muriqui are like diaphanous Djiboutian.The Muriqui are like the husks of corn.The Muriqui are like chimpanzees, orangoutangs, and other varieties of primate. The Muriqui are like us. The Muriqui are like demons or demigods. The Muriqui are like right angles. The Muriqui are like Gladys Knight and the Pips. The Muriqui are like BREAKFAST SERVED ALL DAY. The Muriqui are like memories.  The Muriqui are like clowns. The Muriqui are like acrobats. The Muriqui are like circus elephants.The Muriqui are like the loneliness of city life. The Muriqui are like tiny beatniks. The Muriqui are like monsters, or aliens. The Muriqui are like the girl in darkness who ate what was given her. The Muriqui are like the seasons. The Muriqui are like the earth.


Carrots & Sticks: The Disappearing String

Interesting fact from the reading: “carrot and stick” used to refer to a single contraption (a carrot dangling from a string tied to a stick) but at some point the string disappeared and the carrot and stick became two separate and opposed entities in the modern-day figuration – the carrot became the incentive, the positive motivator, the desired goal; the stick became the instrument of punishment, that which is to be avoided, the disincentive, the anti-incentive. We might be tempted to view our contemporary use of the idiom “carrot and stick” as being richer, more descriptive than the old understanding. The phrase, it seems, only described one half of the psychological equation that governs motivation (the incentive), but could not account for the opposite of incentive.

But! It is no accident that the phrase became cleft around the same time that we collectively began to forget about the reality in which it was based (that is, actual work-horses being drawn forward by the promise of a carrot dangled just out of reach until they returned to the barn.) In short, we lost our familiarity with horse-drawn carriages, we lost forgot about how the carrot and stick actually worked, we forgot about the string that connected the carrot and the stick. At the time it didn’t matter, because the carrot and stick were not separate (thanks to the string) and so when we severed the two we eliminated the string from the equation without even realizing it (a severed string loses its string-ness, no longer functions). We then invested the stick with symbolic content that it did not have before (viz. it became the agent of punishment, whereas previously it simply a part of the carrot-dangling mechanism.) Thus the new carrot-stick complex, in order to make itself legible, had to posit a connection between carrot and stick, to fill the functional void left by the abandoned string. The new connection was an abstract one – the carrot and stick became related only through their mutual bearing with respect to the task at hand.

It may seem trivial but the decoupling of carrot from stick, accomplished by the elimination of the string, corresponds to a psychological decoupling with potentially devastating consequences. First of all, the task itself, the sought-after behavior, the goal (formerly the whole point of the endeavor, the end to which the carrot-stick was a means) now occupies the position of the string. The task has become abstract, serving only to establish some relationship between the carrot and the stick, to locate the incentive and anti-incentive with respect to one another, and, having performed its function, is just as negligible in nature, just as disposable, as the string had formerly been. The task becomes the invisible ghost of the string, no longer pursued as an end in itself but now as the means for attaining the carrot, avoiding the stick. The carrot and the stick themselves, disengaged from the disposable string, are free to grow monstrous and multiply, to imply any number of tasks by which they relate, to attach themselves by a thousand invisible strings. Without the string the carrot and the stick can bear any relationship, imply any desire, and circumscribe any task.

As designers, we should be aware of this radical bifurcation, and leverage it to our advantage. We have a carrot, we have a stick, and we have a task that connects them like a string. But that task is our carrot, and the consequences of poor design our stick. The design itself is the act of fashioning an appropriate string that will bring the two into proper relationship. And so on…