Wednesday, 30 December 2009


Good musical party the other day. Will post improvisation later as currently in Harpenden for new year...

Monday, 21 December 2009

Thinking about games

I've been playing through a possible game for managing well-being. I'm a bit stuck on the differences between someone making a 'coercion' or an 'exhortation', and the coercion that comes back. Is it one player saying "you have to make me" or "you have to inspire me" or "surprise me", and then the other obliging (if they can). More thinking about this...

Saturday, 19 December 2009


Remembering that utopian thinking is still important (even if it's misguided!). It is the engine that moves things forward.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Art and Music

Again trying to tie musical exhortation, coercion and disruption to visual. Actually, on watching this, there seems to be a counterpoint which is a bit like choreography. Each on its own can justify exhortatative, coercive aspects. But together, they are something new. Structural coupling.. or something like it.. is going on. Interesting to think what this might mean for the analysis of computer games and film.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Chagall Games

There are many things on my mind at the moment. On the one hand, I did this video of a Chagall picture to illustrate the exhortation, disruption and coercive aspects of art. The original idea was to tie it to an improvisation, but I simply tied it to a Schubert sonata movement instead (was going to use that as an example of exhortation in music). Will do more of this.

I've been reading Nigel Howard's 'Paradoxes of Rationality' and been thinking about game theory. What about the games we play with our
selves as we seek to maintain our viability?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Coercive and disruptive harmony: an analysis of Ravel

I did this on the 'Forlane' of Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin.

What's puzzling me is the nature of his exotic harmony. The melody is memorable, or at least seems it. It is very modal, and clearly centred on E. The middle section prolongs in the same way that any classical binary movement would (taking to new places, harmonic exhoration, disruption, etc). I think the E is prolonged through harmonic disruptions right from the start. The cadences are more harmonically coercive. What's the difference?

  • A coercion is about enforcing a disposition: a regular rhythm, a clear harmony, a repeated motif.
  • A disruption suggests extending/enlarging a disposition: A new motif, a strange harmony, an unexpected rhythm.
  • An exhortation transforms a disposition: a new key, new theme, new mood

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Can the Viable System Model make anything viable?

This question came up concerning the role of the Viable System Model as an explanatory principle (EP). By Bateson's definition, EPs can explain whatever you want them to explain. Can 'viability' explain anything we want? The VSM relies on distinctions - particularly about what to make viable. These can appear strange.. for example...
a. arbitrary distinctions between individuals
Distinctions between individuals through System 2 regulative and legal frameworks, social planning and coordination can be conducted accordingly where some individuals are seen as instruments of others. This would make slave societies, or even cannibal societies (for example) entirely viable.
b. arbitrary distinctions about ways of living and dying
The kamikaze tradition sees nobility of suicide in the face of defeat. Modern terrorism sees nobility in suicide and murder as a political statement. The maintainance of this belief is made viable through S2 regulation and social structures (particularly religious (S3 - S4)) which emphasise particular attitudes to individual identity (S5).
c. The phenomenon of 'bugchasing' where the contraction of HIV is deliberately sought is similar. The community of bugchasers in maintained (and viable) through regulation at S4 (a sort of pseudo-religion), and S3 (prioritising social connections within a group) and codes of practice within the community (s2).

It should be said that Beer takes this on in Platform for Change. The pathological situations I have described would count within his 'Ethics with a busted-gut'. He argues instead for 'relevant ethics'. (Note that the Algedonic loop would play a crucial role here - I'm sure experiences in Chile would have focused his mind). This is very Habermasian (communicative vs strategic action). But actually, the bustedness of the gut can play a role in the viability of the pathological situation (education is a classic example!). I wonder if Beer cannot decide if he is retroducing viability or whether he is designing utopias. There seems to be some ambiguity.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Initial Reflections on Kant's Aesthetics and Roger Scruton

Saw Roger Scruton's film about beauty. Very interesting. Read that Kant believed the aesthetic judgement is regulative rather than constitutive. What does that mean? Coheres well with what I'm thinking at the moment...
I disagree with Scruton. He seems to see an idealised beautiful world as something separate from the world in which he lives. This view seems to me to be dangerous (potentially fascist), and will contribute to the maintenance of the separation which it contains. For me, beauty is there to be seen if we choose to see it. If more saw it (the planners, the architects, the artists, the teachers, the parents, etc), the world would indeed be more beautiful in the way that Scruton imagines. In other words, beauty is political: it is about seeing the difference you can make by seeing things as beautiful. I see this as a more pre-Kantian/Scholastic/Catholic perspective.

Why can't you develop a tune?

I really wondered about this when I was a teenager. Using the ideas of prolongation that I'm developing here, the answer is quite straightforward: a tune is a coercion of tonality as well coercion of patterns. It can be disrupted harmonically (jazz harmonies for example), or can be disrupted rhythmically (percussion, syncopation). But it's essence is its own coercion. This makes other coercions difficult, and exhortation (taking into another world) even more so (unless perhaps it's done like a passacaglia)


I did this analysis of Haydn Piano Sonata in Eb Hob XVI:49 as a way of exploring development. Clearly from a Schenkerian perspective, development prolongs. I think this isn't as interesting as understanding how development prolongs. It exhorts by shifting tonalities. It coerces with rhythm and motifs which are repeated. And it disrupts - particularly and wonderfully in Haydn. Rather like the Lachenmann, there are moments where mini-prolongations are perceived, and mini-disruptions occur. But here there is a clear sense of movement(helped by the increased coercion - would the development be the same without that insistent alberti bass?). A sense of progress. An illusion of progress perhaps. And the illusion is borne out of the fact that some essence is prolonged as a result of all this activity, but we don't get to see what it is until the recapitulation.