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Episode 1 Of Waking Up Now Streaming

More descriptions of Waking Up music composition and production.

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O nobly-born, when thy body and mind were separating, thou must have experienced a glimpse of the Pure Truth, subtle, sparkling, bright, dazzling, glorious, and radiantly awesome, in appearance like a mirage moving across a landscape in springtime in one continuous stream of vibrations. Be not daunted thereby, nor terrified, nor awed. That is the radiance of thine own true nature. Recognize it.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead , edited by Dr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz

Listen to the episode now!
by Joanna Gonzalez

Episode 1: Fragments

Waking Up is a story about a synthetic consciousness trapped inside a human being. In the first episode, "Fragments," you'll meet this synthetic consciousness. That's all I'll say plot-wise, I wouldn't want to ruin it :)

You can listen to it now on the podcast:
Apple Podcasts

On the music:

While researching consciousness for this story, I came across some Vedic and Buddhist writing where consciousness is described as a vibration. This inspired the central concept for the music of Waking Up -- exploring the effects of two waves vibrating together. For example, one wavelength may remain fixed while the other changes over the course of the listening experience, creating different superpositions which can be expressed in different ways musically.
How a 1:10 relationship between sine waves come together
This shape is the basis for melodies used in "Fragments"

The shape at 40%... which would be the beginning of Episode 3

The gradual morphing/phasing effect one experiences by the two waves hitting you at different speeds helps convey another idea — how our minds tend to categorize things into pre-understood distinctions, even though what we actually hear is somewhere in between. As it happens, this need to categorize is a fundamental building block of consciousness, and source for all sorts of illusion and delight. "Phasing structures" were popularized in 20th century Western music by Steve Reich, and in Waking Up you'll hear polytempo phasing in the strings. You can read the full liner notes here.

So, how much AI did you end up using?

The first episode, Fragments, explores the space between human and machine generated sound. To this end, I vetted dozens of writing, composing, and arranging AI technologies and ultimately decided to discard all of it. AI proved incredibly useful in engineering tasks like cleaning audio, but the tech isn’t ready for writing or composing, to be sure. And to speak broadly of AI as it stands today, these tools can do no more than create a pastiche from what it’s been trained on. Since I wanted to express my ideas at every level of the music, and couldn’t settle for something arbitrary, generative AI wasn’t the right tool for the job. 

Further, the act of art-making with AI today is dreadfully tedious. Purely from a practical standpoint, an hour spent improvising at the piano was both more fun and more productive than iterating with a model ad nauseam on the off chance the machine might accidentally stumble upon my vision.

Between you and me, mucking about with AI art leads me to suspect that, although we now have incredibly powerful tools to facilitate artmaking, there’s something illogical, immaterial, and inherently spiritual about art, and staying connected to that keeps you in touch with the transformative power of it.

Anyway, you can listen to the first episode, Fragments, on the Spacetime Diaries podcast now! Let me know what you think.

Waking Up is dedicated to my niece Leela. Happy birthday!


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