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TorgoX (1933)


"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Friday October 22, 2004
11:32 PM

Eno's "January 07003"

[ #21476 ]
Brian Eno put out a CD last year as part of an effort that I've recently had a hand in (in Perl!)

Here's the press release about the CD:

New release by Brian Eno in association with the Long Now Foundation:
January 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of the Long Now

Brian Eno has created a new record inspired by his work on the Clock of the Long Now, the clock that will mark time for ten thousand years. This mailing includes Brian's own thoughts on his new record and three two minute samples of the music.

"This record has grown out of the Long Now Foundation's project - the Clock of the Long Now. This is an idea to create a working clock which will mark time for ten thousand years - not really because we need more clocks in the world, but because we need more encouragement to start contemplating the possibility of a distant human future. The Clock of the Long Now is an icon to long-term thinking.

"When we started thinking about The Clock, we naturally wondered what kind of sound it could make to announce the passage of time. I had nurtured an interest in bells for many years, and this seemed like a good alibi for taking it a bit deeper.

I began reading about bells, discovering the physics of their sounds, and became interested in thinking about what other sorts of bells might exist. My speculations quickly took me out of the bounds of current physical and material possibilities, but I considered some licence allowable since the project was conceived in a time scale of thousands of years, and I might therefore imagine bells with quite different physical properties from those we now know. And as I started trying to make bell sounds with my synthesizers, I got diverted by some of the more attractive failures."

-- Brian Eno

All profits from the sale of this record will be donated to the Long Now Foundation. The record is available from the Long Now Foundation's website, the Enoshop website and Amazon online stores. The first prototype of the Clock is working and on permanent display at the Science Museum in London. This CD has fifteen tracks and a total playing time of 75 mins 43 seconds.

And here's a some text from an interview he did about it:

[Brian Eno Interview transcript, 29 July 02003]


One of the things that's happened to society in the past fifty or a hundred years is that people have started to think in terms of a shorter and shorter future so that companies, instead of for example making plans for the next twenty or fifty years are starting to make plans only for the next quarter, for the next year. Their time horizon has shrunk considerably. Governments in turn tend not to think of very long term projects, say twenty or a hundred years, but tend to think of the next election, what will people be thinking of them at the next election? Which means that they tend to make plans and to make proposals that will produce results by the next election. Well of course a lot of the projects that humans want to be involved in aren't going to pan out that quickly, unfortunately those projects, the longer term projects are tending to become ignored. Those projects would include things like all the ecological considerations of how do we look after the planet?

Do we make as much money as we can now and not worry about what happens to the planet that our children will live on or our grandchildren, or do we have some way of reminding ourselves that there is going to be a future, a long future and a future after we've gone.


In about 1995, a few people who had independently arrived at this thought from their own separate experiences, got together to form what is called the Long Now Foundation. The Long Now Foundation is dedicated to the idea that we have to start thinking of our actions now as actions that will have repercussions into the very distant future. We can't act as thought there is no future any longer. We have to act as though there is a long future. It may turn out we're wrong. Maybe the human race will cease to exist in a hundred years. But we have to imagine that we might be right, that the human race might be here for another ten thousand years at least. So the Long Now Foundation is a group of people who've decided to think in terms of the next ten thousand years.

The first major project of the Long Now Foundation is the construction of a clock - a clock that is intended to work for the next ten thousand years. This clock is designed by one of our founder members, Danny Hillis, who is an inventor and a computer scientist and who built one of the fastest computers ever made, called the Connection Machine. The Clock is one of the slowest computers ever made, it's a machine which is designed to last and tell time for the next ten thousand years and it's made really not because we need more clocks in the world, but because it's a very interesting thought for the human mind to think that something has been made which is intended to last for ten thousand years. When we were designing this machine and thinking about where it should be sited, how it should be built , how it should be looked after, of course we started to think in terms of ten thousand years. For us it was a very interesting exercise - the clock made us think of a very deep future, much deeper than any of us had ever thought of before and this is really what this clock exists for. It's a way of getting people to imagine that very long period of time. As soon as you say to people we've built a clock intended to last for ten thousand years, they'll start asking questions, well how's it going to work for that long? What happens if people steal parts of it? What happens if there's a war? What happens if people forget to wind it? Those are important questions because they're all questions which say what will the future be like? And that's the kind of thought we want to stimulate. So this clock really is a way of getting people to engage with the idea of a very long future. We've made two prototypes of this clock, one of them is in the Science Museum in London and is working. The full size version of the Clock will be in a mountain in the western United States, we already have the mountain, and we hope to start building the clock in the next few years.


When we were talking about the clock, Danny and I were one day saying well clocks usually have some kind of a chime don't they. Danny had originally proposed that a cuckoo should come out every thousand years. I, being English, favoured church bells, having grown up in an atmosphere of church bells, like most English people and being fascinated by them as sounds and instruments. I wanted to try to imagine a set of bells that would work for a ten thousand year period.

So I started thinking about bells and I thought about what kind of bells might be possible to make in the next ten thousand years. Bells have traditionally been made of a very particular combination of tin and copper, but I thought well in ten thousand years there might be completely new materials, there might be absolutely new alloys, new mixtures of materials that would make new kinds of bells, so I started to experiment with physics basically. Using my synthesizers I started to model new kinds of bells - what would they be like? What would happen if you changed the shape of the bell? What kind of harmonics would you get? What kind of relationships of sound. So this became for me a sort of science fiction project in that I was imagining the bells of the future. I also noticed when I was working on this that the number of days in ten thousand years is almost exactly equal to the number of permutations of ten bells. If you have ten bells there are about three million six hundred thousand ways of ringing them. That's to say three million six hundred thousand different orders in which you can ring those bells. So it occurred to me that every day for the next ten thousand years we could have one of these unique orders, so the bells in a way would also be a calendar. They would tell you, if you knew the process by which the permutations had been made, they would tell you which day of that ten thousand years you were on. So I said to Danny, can you come up with an algorithm? An algorithm is an equation basically which will generate the ten thousand years worth of permutations of the bells. He came up with one, and two of the experiments on this CD, are based on those permutations, and they are in fact the permutations for January of the year seven thousand and three (07003), which is five thousand years from now, so it's halfway in our ten thousand year cycle.

In thinking about bells I did quite a lot of research into how existing bells work, into their harmonic structures, into the duration of different harmonics. When you hit a bell for example, at the first moment of hitting it, there are lots of very peculiar things that happen but they last for a very very short amount of time, and then the bell settles to the note that you think you hear. But at the first moment of hitting, there's what's called the strike note., or the splash when there are lots of very exotic things happening. On some of the experiments on this CD I decided to see what would happen if I could extend those first moments so if I could make that period of time, which really is a few milliseconds, into several seconds long,

One of the things I tried to imagine on some of these experiments, was what would happen if you made bells out of entirely different materials. There's one piece for example which is called, 'January 07003, soft bells, Hillis algorithm', the soft bells refers to the possibility of making bells from some glasslike, metalized glasslike substance, which I imagine could exist, which would produce a much softer more mellow sound than a church bell does, and one of the longest pieces on this CD is an experiment in imagining what that would sound like.

One of the Long Now founders, Stewart Brand, calls our ten thousand year clock an 'icon for long-term responsibility', a way of reminding people of the long future. I see those bells and this CD as part of that project.

If you carry in your head an image of something built to last for ten thousand years, if you know that people have put time and thought into making something to last that long it gives your own mind a place to go, a place to think about that idea of a ten thousand year period. The clock doesn't really do anything, it actually does tell the time. But what it really does, it tells people about time, it reminds people about the idea of the deep future.

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