Electric Poet 1.6

As a young cyborg, my interest in Markov chaining and other recombinant algorithms was catalyzed by a few lean, poetic examples. The cut-up technique employed by Burroughs and Bowie spun me right round and my mind was deeply wobbled by discovery of Niklas Frykholm’s Electric Poet. This early Macintosh application was, for me, the first strong "Hello!" from the cybernetic organism our world has grown into. It was rudimentary but it was real.

Electric Poet Main Interface

Electric Poet will load and analyze any textual work. This analysis can be saved for later use as a library, a table of word sequence probabilities. These probabilities are employed to generate new texts of any desired length.

Once pulled from the aether, I’d manipulate these generated texts in a way similar to cut-up, minus scissors. I looked for evocative juxtapositions, angular intersections of meaning, punctuated repetitions to create mental anchors I could tether to and spin new associative arcs from. Each collaborative process was a journey I could not have taken without the djinn’s assistance. For my part, the destinations would have been vastly different were I not the traveler.

Working with Electric Poet felt like interacting with a new kind of life. On the 800 x 600 screen of the SE/30, mixing and mutating texts in its small interface was like working with a very focused collaborator - a tiny, purposeful djinn exploring the boundaries of its cathode home. Merging my own texts with the word tables of classic horror novels and bootleg works by speculative fiction authors felt like constructing possible futures from pieces of The Past and The Now. Real-time, the words streamed across the screen, placed according to the worker daemon’s mathemagical plan.

Electric Poet Generating

Above, the djinn is using a library of combined sequence probabilities for Dracula by Bram Stoker and In The Beginning Was The Command Line by Neal Stephenson to generate 9000 words in hybrid sequence.

Over time, I’ve created my own arsenal of recombinant machinery for data of many kinds, building on those interactions with Electric Poet. Recently, I dreamt I was using Electric Poet and woke itching to hang with the djinn once again.

Our qualitative measurements change with evolution and sophistication. Context is everything. Comparatively sleek of shape and relatively small in size, the first Macs were the epitome of mobility in the 80s. There’s even a carrying handle designed into the housing. Electric Poet 1.6 still runs perfectly on my all-in-one Macs, but I wanted something more integrated with current workflow.

Here in the cyberpunk future, I can instantiate a PowerPC/680x0 Mac's soul in its own small Matrix, an emulator running on any of the major platforms. Using SheepShaver, I push Electric Poet across the portal into the System 7.5.5 Weltanschauung and - BOOM! - early algorithmic language hacking returns to the current milieu, jumping through an 800 x 600 window into the present.

Electric Poetry

After the djinn performs its magic, I work through the generated text, letting my eyes find the phrases which speak to them and evoke a response. I mark these as I read, move them all to a new document and build possible narrative connections as they pass through my clipboard buffer.

Electric Poet Selects

Further ordering, tense matching, word replacement, and other purification processes worked on the selected phrases result in a final distillation. In this session, a lament for an android lover coalesced.


No Word She Said

Heart, and hope, and no word she said
but the symbols I find on her body.
Glass teletypes of arcane engineering:
fixed, permanent, immutable, unlit.

In her eyes, I see her illness:
the insignia of ones and zeros.
Snow as a meaningful image
of emptiness,
sweet light systematically wiped out.

The heavy sky is spatial,
drawing down unintended, inextricable consequence.
I open her metal box
filled with metaphor: our own dazzlement.
I make connections
to drag forth voluptuous beauty. I try

But rust is with reality,
twice more powerful
than information age material.
Dead rock underfoot,
her tether is broken: unrest.
She smiled unknown and never existed.

I find shelter in clear, sweet fascination:
collapsing temporal arbitrage,
the present swept clean as the past returns.
Here she will reincarnate.
Here, in this locus,
lips around the cryptogram of my heart.


Electric Poet 1.6 by Niklas Frykholm
electric_poet_1.6.sit for PowerPC/680x0 Mac OS (38k local archive)

Balronic Recursion

Balron on the wing. It will be off the silver chain soon.

Artup 020130402

Artup 020130402

Announcing Artup: a community powered incubator for artists and technologists in the Bay Area. Concocted by Barry Threw and Mat Dryhurst, Artup combines meetups, performances, exhibitions, lectures and community funding to create a world we want to live in. It's a simple setup:

Inspired by The Awesome Foundation model, the Artup Venture Fund bestows a monthly grant of $1,000 upon creative projects of exceptional promise. Projects are selected and awarded by the Artup Trustees - a group of community members each of whom contributes $100 dollars per month to support the grant. Projects eligible for the grant are proposals for works concentrating on art and technology. The grant comes with only two stipulations:

The creator presents the project idea (with preferably a demo or some sort of tangible work product) at an Artup.

The creator establishes a web presence with progress reports for the work.

Special encouragement is shown to works that may stimulate critical conversations regarding local and technological issues, stimulate unconventional collaborations or display technological excellence.

The Trustees, with assigned individuals when and where possible, provide feedback and guidance to projects.

I'm proud to be an Artup Trustee and am honored to perform at our inaugural meetup. If you're in the San Francisco Bay area, come and take part in the launch of something big.

Tuesday April 02, 19:00 to 23:00
522 Valencia Street, San Francisco, California 94110

Live performances by Madalyn Merkey and Wolf Interval
DJ set by Holly Herndon
New interactive work by Ryan Alexander
Art, technology, introductions, conversations, shmoozing, boozing
Admission is free

Artup details: www.artup.us
Facebook page for this event: www.facebook.com/events/194364157354020

Harmaline - Honour (Truth Serum Remix By Wolf Interval)

This remix was a long time in the pipeline. At last it's born. The extra gestation may have given it advantages on the floor. You be the judge.

At first listen to Harmaline's original version of Honour, I was reminded of old school industrial songs from the Subconscious crew, tracks like Skinny Puppy's Assimilate and Cyberaktif's Nothing Stays. I love the original, so I wanted to bring a taste of this magic forward in time, paired with modern clockwork rhythms and a funk bass bounce I couldn't keep my mind from imagining and my body from responding to on every play.

To refunk the bass line, I chopped out choice notes, dropped them into Live's Sampler and played them against the original using my trusty Monome 40h to trigger. This let me find the funk, which I further crafted with edits to the resulting audio render and selective delayed repeats on some sections and notes. In the final multitrack, there are three intertwining bass parts providing the track's bump and throb.

Almost all the individual drum tracks were grouped and sent to an aux with a -1 octave pitch shifter, compression and a tight, almost gated-feeling reverb. After rolling off super lows and scooping out mud, this low-end rhythmic texture was slightly offset to compensate for pitch processing latency then layered beneath the original, just loud enough to make a difference.

A spectacularly troublesome denizen of this mix was the washed, gritty pad layer that starts the track and returns throughout. This interfered with everything once I started panning it around. To curb these goblin inclinations, I broke the pad into multiple frequency ranges and used different effect and EQ settings on each range depending on where in the spectrum the notes fell, where they were panned in the soundstage and what was going on in the mix around them. Compression, reverb and further EQ on the entire group resulted in a strangely binaural sound when listened to in isolation, and allowed it to sit nicely amidst or atop the rest of the mix in situ.

You can hear the original version of Honour on the full release of Harmaline's addictive EP: Strangeforms. Check it out on Beatport.

The Good Part

Jaspe floated into the study, a spidery explosion of appendages algorithmically aligning themselves with possible objects of manipulation: old world books to be evened, dapple motes to be adjusted, reclinables to be tightened up. Whispering beats of air softly broke the silence, dragonflies pushed about by its levitation pad.

"Your friends are here."

Draethe raised his head, looking out of the lifebook he'd been communing with. Dead authors were notoriously difficult to piece back together. RAH was proving to be as obstinate in reawakening as he had been the first time around. "I don't have any friends." He was annoyed at the interruption.

"Ah, that's right. You're American."

Draethe wrinkled his nose at the vulgar delimiter. "If that was an attempt at humor, you need to test some personality modules. It's not because I'm of American ascent and you know it."

"I hover corrected. It's because you are, and I quote, adjusted for point of view, 'an avatar of creation and destruction, able to truly communicate only through that which you construct or annihilate, utterly lacking in the skills necessary to directly connect with most of humanity'. Is this better?"

"Yes, that's better. Did my 'friends' mention why they are here?"

"An unbirthday party."

Draethe exhaled slowly, chewed his lip as his shoulders and head slipped down. "Please show them to the small theater, put on something old and blue and fire up the 01968 hologram in full interaction mode. Let it go on for no more than two hours. Send them off with a selection of signed work and a promise to get together again soon."

A few of Jaspe's manipulators clicked lightly and vibrated in place. It was an almost-human quirk Draethe loved. "I'm arranging it... done."

"Thank you. Now please don't interrupt me for several days. I'm just getting to the good part."


Wolf Interval bassline mutator - Korg Monotribe with MIDI IO

I've twisted the knobs on this adorable box so much I may have slightly altered our planet's rotation. It charms everything I drop it into. Add a string of outboard effects and it often defines a track's foundation.

It's a delicious little beast, made more so by those two shiny ports protruding from the device's right panel: my recent addition of a MIDI interface. I like the Monotribe's ribbon keyboard for looped groove creation, but the ability to sequence entire basslines with almost every parameter under CC control opens up crazy possibilities: sounds and sonic events which cannot be created with twisting fingers alone. Ideas on ways to further manipulate it with Max machinery keep buzzing around my head.

At The Crossroads

The cycle's engine has returned to ambient temperature. I slide off in the ink beneath an ancient ginkgo stand and step into the crossroads. 03:00 darkness creates the vastness of a warm, summer night.

There is no moon but a soft glow hangs on everything, limning the world's edges in energy. I glance at my watch. It is precisely 0306, the seconds flipping from 59 through 00 to 01 as I look.

I crouch and test the road's surface: warm to my touch. Hot, even. This isn't going to be easy and it's probably going to hurt. He told me he would see me again at the crossroads and I told him to get fucked. 18 years ago to the day.

A deep breath. I stand on the asphalt, move my feet together, raise and extend my arms outward until my fingers hover at points well above the sides of my head. One angle beneath my boots: Tesla's Siphon. One point at each hand: the Antennae of Set. The pivot line of my crotch and the crossed power channels descending from my hands define outer boundaries for the Ana/Kata polarity nodes. Within this invisible, inverted pentagram I begin the Vitruvian Incantation, and with it, my apology.

I square the circle and divide the arc.
I am the ratio, the golden spark
of line, number;
of nine divine.
I break all boundaries.
I am all art.

My eyes sweep through the night's angles, my consiousness races along the now fiery pattern circumscribing my body. I am lever and fulcrum, coil and gearing, plasma and magnetic field.

Within my arms, within my mind,
death and memory, life and time.
Past unwrapt,
the present release.
Remake the future;
in rebirth, be free.

He takes shape in front of me: my twin, my mirror, my flip side. He's hazy but gaining definition with every syllable.

From microcosm to macroscape,
These angles claimed: mine to take.
Ideas to motion,
thought made flesh.
Return eternal:
a dream, manifest.

We're both present now, solid and detailed. He's dressed like me. Higher boots. More jewelry. Way more eyeliner. He's wearing lipstick. I'm not. He's skinnier than I am, as if he's spent more time rolling around in various beds than crushing on the vocabulary of machines.

He sports a pair of very sharp horns just above each temple. Mine only show up in dreams.

"What do you want?" He's smiling. I haven't seen it for almost two decades, but I remember that smile. Crooked teeth. A slice of white danger. His voice is well-modulated, his accent traveled. It's the charismatic version of my own. He's not afraid of me. At all. I'm a little afraid of him.

I bow my head, just once. "You know why I'm here."

He stares at me, establishing a connection via deep eye contact. I forgot how well that works. I don't blink. I don't look away.

"You cast me out."
"I'm sorry."
"You banished me."
"You know I'm sorry. I wouldn't even be here if I wasn't."
"You broke the world."
"The world is still here. I broke the model of the world."
"Same difference."

He puts his hand on his hips, circles me slowly, appraising.

"You sure you want to do this?"
"I can be a real fucker. A liar. A thief. I hurt people."
"You're older now. You've learned. Grown. Just like I have."

He clenches his jaw, purses his crimson lips.

"Driver's seat has to be 50/50. I'm not riding shotgun."
"That's it? No conditions? No limitations?"
"No. None."

He raises a sharp eyebrow at me. "Why?"

I've been waiting for this question. I knew it would come and I knew the answer would have to be honest and unhesitating.

"Because I can't make it work without you. I've tried."

He smiles a different smile. Still dangerous, but one for friends, for family. For pride and the thrill of accomplishment and the certain knowledge of godhood when you look in the mirror after plans have worked exactly as you desired.

"Cthulhu's slimy balls, you know how long I've been waiting here for you?"

He embraces me. I let my arms fall to return it and wrap them around myself.

Yeah. It hurts like hell.


Where have I been? Compiling. The wetware is finally out of beta.

Number 303, one of my favorite XKCD strips, explains it best:

‘Are you stealing those LCDs?’ ‘Yeah, but I'm doing it while my code compiles.’

This time I started with the core routines responsible for primary functionality instead of working backward from the interface. I'm not bug free but the workflow is feature complete and solid.

New capabilities galore, many built specifically to kick in under duress. I've placed a computational focus on structures able to self-analyze then rewrite and included protective manipulations to allow primary jobs to complete by temporarily starving non-essential tasks of resources. I'm working on making these concentration events more elegant, particularly in the recovery phase, but a more likely outcome will have parasitic or extraneous subsystems simply pared away as the system matures. This will leave my operating modes lean, mean and with enough neural power to bend time rather than be bent by it.

Social features are limited as they conflict with the wetware's central purpose: to create. They're also a deeply nested morass of tangled logic I don't really have space in my code base for. This is more than offset by heightened OCD aspects of numeric emphasis, the unraveling of apophenic patternicity, full-scale coherence with dead authors and their fictional characters and a renewed interest in the building and parallel inhabiting of friendly paracosms.

It's the best wetware I could create for myself at this time with the technology I have in my head. It's ready for release.

Renegade Lights In Your Ears

Here’s a full length preview player for Renegade Lights – Release One. I’ll post a breakdown of what went into the making of my Wolf Interval track soon, but you can get the entire slice of electronic wonderland now at http://music.renegadelights.net.

Renegade Lights #1 by Renegade Lights

So much has led up to this: shows in San Francisco and Chicago, sound systems that could propel starships, radio interviews, crazy crowds, fantastic dancers and always lights beneath our fingers. It’s been an incredible journey over the course of an incredible year, with more to explore on the horizon. 02012 is looking good for this crew.

For background on Renegade Lights, there’s a brand new interview on controllerism.com with the original renegade himself, owner/operator Raja The Resident Alien.