Disquiet Junto Project 0305: Three Princes
Explore chance by exploring the roots of the word “serendipity.”
This week’s project explores the concept of serendipity. I was unfamiliar with the word’s etymology until I recently read the book Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions, by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths, which I recommend. Those language origins figure into this project’s formulation.
Step 1: The word “serendipity” has an interesting origin. Its coinage is credited to Horace Walpole, who apparently made it up based on a Persian fairy tale, “The Three Princes of Serendip.” In turn, “Serendip” is itself a Persian word for another place entirely, Sri Lanka, or Ceylon. To explore the nature of serendipity, we’re going to apply randomness to samples of Ceylonese music.
Step 2: Choose three tracks — one for each prince in the fairy tale — from this collection of music from Ceylon:
There’s a lot of it, 138 tracks in all, so it might help to employ chance routines to select both the the tracks you’ll use, and which segments you’ll extract from them.
Step 3: Extract a short piece of audio, between two and seven seconds, from each of the three tracks you selected in Step 2. Each extract should be of a different length from the other two. Again, you might do this by ear, or you might do it based on some sort of chance routine.
Step 4: Create a roughly two-minute loop of each of the three individual extracts from Step 3: that is, a two-minute loop of the first extracted piece, a separate two-minute loop of the second extract, and a separate three-minute loop of the third. (You might also accomplish these loops in some other manner.)
Step 5: Layer the three loops from Step 4. Do so in a way that might allow you to subsequently manipulate the loops individually, should you choose to do so. Notably, the three tracks will be out of sync with each other.
Step 6: Listen through to the layered piece in Step 5. Pay attention for moments of chance intersection, of rhythmic ingenuity, melodic unlikelihoods, and textural congruence, among other potential results.
Step 7: Create a short piece of music, based on the observations you made in Step 6, that builds on those serendipitous results. This may be as simple as using relative volume to highlight the highlights, or you might add other musical elements.
Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:
Step 1: If your hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0305” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.
Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.
Step 3: In this following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track.
Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.
Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.
Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on Monday, November 6, 2017. This project was posted in the early afternoon, California time, on Thursday, November 2, 2017.
Length: The finished track’s length is up to you.
Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0305” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.
Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.
Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).
Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:
More on this 305th weekly Disquiet Junto project (“Three Princes: Explore chance by exploring the roots of the word “serendipity”) at:
More on the Disquiet Junto at:
Subscribe to project announcements here:
Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:
There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.
Photo associated with this project is a stereo image of a Ceylon sunset, courtesy of the Tekniska museet account on Flickr, thanks to a Creative commons license: