Saturday, July 31, 2010

When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors

Jim Morrison in 1970.
Image via Wikipedia

Great website about the movie "When You're Strange". Go to:

Here is a further tribute to The Doors

The Doors: Alive Forever in Cyber Space
Starbucks, 8th Steet @ University Place, NY
R. L. Norman Jr.
November 29, 1997

For many years I've listened to and enjoyed the music of the Doors. In my first college years, my then girl friend lived about 100 miles from the school. I would listen to the first album and Morrison Hotel on 8-track as I eased through the darkness in a 1966 GTO. I felt a real sense of personal loss when Jim Morrison died. When my own dear father died in 1996, Doors music in some ways helped me deal with the terrible pain.

Two members of the original Doors are touring again, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek, but drummer John Densmore refused to join the tour, saying that the absence of the lead singer Jim Morrison hurt the music.

Below are possible ways of continuing the musical model of the Doors, which are not only technically feasible, but is faithful to the original music. As musicians of great rock bands die, more and more of their members could gradually be replaced with virtual versions. The music could theoretically exist forever, with new virtual songs created periodically. The music would never be over. I will never forget the feeling of driving through the night listening to 'Light My Fire' and 'Break on Through'. I'd like to pass the feeling further down the line.

These notes were originally written in November 1997 near New York University.

R. L. Norman Jr,
July 27, 2004
On the Road in South Georgia


David Cope and Experiments in Musical Intelligence

Recently a computer program was written which is able to create new versions of classical music, by absorbing the original music of a great composer and creating what is known in the computer field as an 'algorithm'. An 'algorithm' is a mathematical approximation of something. For some cultural elitists, it is heresy to try to convert human creativity into a mathematical formula. This view goes back to the Enlightenment dichotomy between mathematics and cultural creations, yet other ancient philosophers spoke of the 'music of the spheres' when describing the universe.

David Cope, a music professor at UC, Santa Cruz, designed the program, called EMI or Experiments in Musical Intelligence. This particular algorithm was able to create a likeness of Chopin. Naive listeners responded favorably to the ersatz Chopin. Also, he has fed the program works by different composers. This merging of influences drives EMI to create music in its own 'syncretistic style'. The system was not perfect; Beethoven 'productions' were not as well received as the Chopin.

This system did not itself create new human-like algorithms, it simply took the essence of a previous creation-creator and tried to find the strands which largely defined the creativity of that individual. As vast online, digital libraries of all previously existing music are created, the possibilities rise for doing statistical analyses of individual artists, as well as analyses of multiple artists, even from different eras. The system does not threaten human creativity, it merely extends the mental processes of those who have stretched their souls and created something worth expanding further.

The extension of this technology to cultural forms is almost limitless. Already a drawing program has been written by Harold Cohen of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts, UC at San Diego. As vast online, digital libraries of all previously existing music are created, the possibilities rise for doing statistical analyses of individual artists, as well as analyses of multiple artists, even from different eras.

Although original music today is usually copywritten and the unique music patterns may be copywritable, it is questionable whether new music created from the algorithm of a dead rock and roll star might also be copywritable. It has recently become a settled matter that heirs of dead film stars may control the further use of the film star's image. The descendants of the Marx Brothers had problems in this area, as have descendants of The Three Stooges. I understand that this has been true of Fred Astaire's heirs.

Algorithms arising from analysis of individual artists might be controllable by heirs. However algorithms from multiple artists would be very difficult to ascertain by anyone other than the statistician who ran the analysis, much as it is difficult to determine which previous music has been expropriated by rap artists who 'sample' from existing music.

The 1960s, Rock and Roll and LSD

During the early and mid 1960s, popular music underwent a revolution, prompted as much by psychodelic drugs as by the ferment tearing apart the then existing modern capitalist system. LSD or acid was one of the more popular drugs in Haight Ashbury. Gurus such as Timothy Leary praised the effects of acid. Acid in the American rock scene had a major impact on the music and later on the musicians themselves. It is arguable that acid helped composers such as Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and perhaps the Beatles. The price for such drug use however was severe for many, including Wilson, who has gone through major emotional problems since the mid 1960s. Drug use may have shortened the lives of artists like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.

Groups like the Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco would have concerts where almost every thing was spiked with acid. Their long guitar sequences were the perfect background for groups of people tripping on acid. The L.A. group, The Doors, also used acid as part of the base for their music, sometimes performing under the influence, if the Oliver Stone movie can be believed.

The Doors of Perception: The Road to the Infinite with the Internet

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.
Plate 14, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,1790-1792, William Blake (1757-1827), English poet, painter and engraver

William Blake

The Doors were different from other groups of the 1960s era, in that some of the band members had college educations. I don't know the backgrounds of either Robby Krieger or John Densmore, but both Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison attended film school as part of their college.

Looking at other rock groups, such as the Stones or the Animals or the Cream, many of these band members came from hard scrabble, working class backgrounds, where college was not usually on the career itenerary.

The Stones Mick Jagger apparently studied at the London School of Economics, but he was probably an exception. I don't think that Keith Richards had many hours at Oxford, nor did Eric Burden of the Animals. It was said of Ringo Starr, that he was unsure early on whether the Beatles would survive, and he wanted enough money to open a woman's hair salon. This from a member of the group which would later have a member knighted by the Queen, Sir Paul no less. I bring up this difference of the Doors, not to put down the music of other singers, such as Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix, but to point out the very different themes which the Doors brought, that of classical Greek mystic thought and Freudian sexual images of father and son battles.

The very name the Doors, was taken from the above section by William Blake. The importance of acid for some rock writers, was that it lifted previously existing mental blinders, opening the doors to the infinite. The brain has a built-in way of allowing all sorts of data move into the mind from our senses, but then to filter the information needed for the present task, sorting out the rest to some storage area in the brain or to oblivion.

Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead described this differentiation as the difference between the mode of 'casual efficacy' and that of 'presentational immediacy'. It is a serious question as to whether or not the human mind is capable of simultaneously focusing upon all the information our senses are able to send into the mind. It probably is not possible for any human mind to able to do so, and that a major function of the mind is to do exactly the opposite- to filter out information not needed for the immediate task at hand. Perhaps in our evolutionary development, those members of our species best able to focus upon that mastadon approaching or that landslide nearby, were the members which lived long enough to reproduce themselves.

Drugs which tended to break down this evolutionary system of focusing, such as acid, could easily lead to all sorts of problems in people under the influence. On the other hand, many primitive religions or at least what we know of them, often had means by which they escaped the day to day realities. Peyote, mescaline and almost all primitive societies has some version of alcohol for consumption. The human mind may have evolved with a means of focusing the vast array of incoming information, particularly under the stress of a violent confrontation, but also at different times, primitive man seems to have also evolved using substances to escape that mental focusing system, so necessary for day to day survival.

When combined with existing tapes of concerts, holography, it becomes to possible to imagine a new music form, in which a holographic image of Jim Morrison 'sings' both the old Doors music, as well as the new songs created with a surviving Doors members, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger working with a 'Doors' algorithm and a synthsizer. It is now conceivable to create a virtual image and voice of Morrison within cyberspace, and then project that image onto a stage in three dimensions. With the three living members of the Doors playing and singing as before, the band could again get on the road. This possibility would go a step further than the recent Elvis 'concert' with old video and audio images of Elvis, and live music with members of his backup band.

As musicians of great bands die, more and more of their members could gradually be replaced with virtual versions. The music could theoretically exist forever, with new virtual songs created periodically. The music would never be over.
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