In the wake of last summer’s LCRP theme of hylozoicism, @jasonw22 and I discussed an idea I ran across in an article exploring the challenges of identifying non-terran life – a topic of increasing scientific interest as space exploration and the discovery of exoplanets increases in pace and sophistication. It was the Latin phrase vita ignotum, or life that is not recognized as such (literally, it means “unknown life,” but the context in which I heard it used shaded this meaningfully). It struck me as a potentially interesting departure point for a future LCRP and we aimed for the next solstice as maybe a good spot for it.
Researchers have a generally agreed upon sense of what defines life on Earth, but even the most abstracted aspects of it are based on familiar concrete structures (e.g., carbon, DNA, water, etc.). What if similar operations function off-Earth using other molecules? What if other operations, regardless of their material substrate (and, indeed whether terrestrial or extra-), produce behaviors and cycles that parallel what we think of as life? How might we recognize these life forms as such?
The history of exploration has been a carousel of discovery: the world and the universe is ever surprising, ever different from what we think, ever less centered on humans and Earth. Life, too, arises in places and forms that parallel the pattern of our geographic (and oceanographic) discoveries: unexpected. It seems intuitive that the same dynamic would be played out on an astronomical scale.
As the concept of vita ignotum has been borne out in our exploration, one might imagine a parallel in music. The history of Western music has certainly followed a similar enough pattern: from Gregorian chant to sound art, music development has manifested a back-and-forth of rigid structure intruded upon and broken down by new ideas, which in turn calcify until they are themselves infiltrated or rebelled against, etc., through new instruments, new sounds, new activities. Each iteration of the cycle includes a new venture into a musica ignotum.
For the current LCRP, we might explore aspects of both of these, vita and musica ignotum: music made by unknown life or music that we have not yet discovered.
- What might a music be if it were based on something other than what we know?
- Vibration in/of another medium?
- Timbral, harmonic, or rhythmic structures other than those we know?
- Music for perhaps a terrestrial life form but one which we don’t normally associate with music, e.g., trees or jellyfish?
- How might a (non-terran, intelligent) brain built radically differently from ours process vibrations in its living medium (gas, liquid, rock or ice) and what implications might that have for a music such a brain creates?
- Sonification might fit in here, too: how might one translate/transpose a time-based art (dance, narrative) or event (solar flares, gravitational waves) that occurs in another medium into sound?
All of these questions have of course been asked by other artists, in one form or another, and the task is by definition impossible (to imagine something unimaginable). Nonetheless, I found the concept of musica ignotum to be an inspiring starting point and hope others will as well.
In terms of logistics, the deadline for this is, of course, December solstice 2018, or December 21/22. Send @jasonw22 links to your finished work by that date and he’ll manage the production end of things (as he has been generously doing for some time now!).
As always, in keeping with the spirit of the LCRP and the Lines Community, I’d like to state for the record that there are no hard rules here. If you find the above ideas inspiring, go with them; if something else grabs you by your musical intuition and runs off, follow that. Participation is really the main theme.
20181225 edit: Final compilation is here.