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Cube Culture: Samay Chakra

by Bart Woodstrup

"Samay Chakra" is a program written with the MAX/MSP programming language. This program uses the basic rules of Indias Classical Hindustani music to guide its composition. The fundamental element of this music is the raag. The literal meaning of this word is color or coloring of the mind.

Musically, a raag is a system of scales and melodies performed according to specific times of the day and during certain seasons of the year. These melodies are the fundamental basis for Indian music, which does not use chords or polyphony. The mood of the raag is not to change, meaning it centers on one particular emotion. The raags emotion is known as the raas. There are nine general emotions that are recognized as the main raas to be achieved. They are sexuality, humor, pathos, valor, violence, fear, disgust, surprise, and peace.

The relationship between the raag and the raas is most important in Indian music. The ability of the performer to communicate the raas is the foremost goal in a raag. Through proper pitch, intensity, timbre, form, and rhythm the performer can appropriately render a raag.

The raags that have been incorporated into "Samay Chakra" are Raag Lalita (sunrise), Raag Todi (noon), Raag Marava (sunset), and Raag Bihag (midnight). The variations between these raags are primarily within the notes that are played and how the notes are stressed. These differences in scale contribute to the development of the raags character. The scale, along with variations of tempo, timbre, and melody, defines the raas of the raag.

In order to achieve the raas of the various raags, certain parameters had to be configured in MAX/MSP that would control elements of pitch, timbre, velocity, and duration. To do this, the I-CubeX interactive sensors from Infusion Systems were used. Specifically, the sensors that respond to light, temperature, and distance were incorporated. Therefore, when "Samay Chakra" is used in a public venue, the audience members and the environment control the performance of the raag.

"Samay Chakra" is to be performed continuously in a public architectural area, such as a hallway or foyer, where it can be allowed to interact with people and the environment. Ideally this area would be exposed to natural light. The sounds would be played at a low volume and be ambient in timbre. When programmed to run continuously, the raags will change at the appropriate times of day or in response to changes in the weather. Although, the program does not, necessarily, have to run continuously.

6 september 2000

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