SEMANTIC SYNTACTIC

There is a process of translation in all dialog and interaction.

First, we translate our instinct, our subconscious impulse or primal reaction, into a conscious thought. Parsing the preconscious into a realised concept where the conscious mind interprets and deciphers it.

Then there is a translation of that thought or idea into appropriate action or wording, where it is vocalised or acted upon. Here we attempt to communicate and convey the essence of that initial idea to the outside world.

Those who interact or observe us will then go through a reversal of this process, first through a conscious process of comprehension on a direct level and then on a level where a reaction is formed. They must translate the immediate response of their experience, where the action or words are observed, into something that can be assessed and placed in context. This surrounding context is related to in a way that fits their prior knowledge before being absorbed at the deepest cognitive level, ready to frame an appropriate response.

Within this relationship of shared exformation lies the connections between semantic, where the words communicated deal with an inherent meaning, and the syntactic, where the rules that govern the structure of the words implies the meaning. This same process applies to artificial intelligence and computing to some degree.

The Bible, which has so many translations fundamental to its present understanding seemed a perfect choice. With its text beginning at 'the beginning', Genesis and the Creation myth, I thought it would form a good argument set against Darwin's Theory of Evolution. I chose to use the concluding paragraphs of Origin of the Species, which forms the final summation of a lengthy argument.

I should mention that the crux of this work does not lie with the existence of God but in the formation of life. The prevailing idea was that each life form was unchanging and that only God could set things as they were. Darwin went about explaining the immense age of the earth as he had discovered from his study and that of the immense journey that all creatures would have made to reach their current form.

First, I took the written text of these works. The first few paragraphs of Genesis and the last few paragraphs of Darwin's Origin of the Species. To make the sound begin with a warmer, human tone I found recordings of these available to the public domain. These were passed through a clever 'speech to text' software to create a transcription of the spoken word. It is not a perfect replication though it quite close, but it is these slight differences or misunderstandings that I am interested in. The resultant text was run through a piece of 'text to speech' software, creating a second evolution of the original words.

As I ran through numerous iterations of this process the differences and mistakes consolidated themselves, eventually resulting in a set text and artificial voice that could easily be understood by the software. I went through about four circulations before it was clear that the final speech output was not changing anymore.

"God's Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters."

became...

"Cuts spirit was hovering over the circus of the waters."

and

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one..."

became...

"...the Iraqis ranch there in the CPU of money with its federal powers having been originally bred by the creator into a few forums on and one..."

This vocal track, switching back and forth between the two arguments, is the core of the work.

I was struggling to find a musical underpinning of the vocals. I wanted to continue to enhance the duality of the voices and of the message but at the same time find a musical common ground or blend,

I started looking at the DNA sequence and its seemingly random structure formed from Adine, Cytosine, Guamine and Thymine (AGCT).

There have been many interpretations of this kind of sequence as a basis for a musical piece. Very often the DNA sequence forms the music itself and the musicality comes from how the composer chooses to translate the AGCT; first into four individual notes, or twenty, then adding layers of information extracted from the sequence to produce a jazz like sequence music.

I wanted to blend it with musical aspects of Bible reading, namely the cantillation of the Torah. Cantillation finds its musicality from a series of tropes. Small musical structures joined together into larger patterns governed by their own grammatical rules, implied from the language. These grammatical rules, that of Hebrew, seemed both correct for my purpose but also a little too complex for how I wished the music to be created.

Plan A was to look at patterns in DNA that matched and corresponded to trope connections. Plan B was to create my own form of cantillation rules, paired down to something closer to my needs. I took a long time and a lot of hard work to try and create flexible, working understanding of DNA and Hebrew; enjoyable study, but it was not bringing me any closer to what I wanted.

In the end it seemed that Neumes were closest to what I needed. A midway point between cantillation of Hebrew and modern musical notation. Neumes used for liturgical plainsong do not represent melodies but instead are indications of relative pitch alteration. I tried three experiments along these lines.

  1. Start at a note, alter the pitch according to one of four neumes assigned to the four indicators of the DNA sequence. A harmonic line then extends over consecutive connections. This produces an amorphous sound that rolls up and down but disrupts any attempt to remain in a key. The seeming randomness of the DNA line means a melody is as difficult to see as the patterns inherent in the DNA itself.
  2. Begin with four, more complex, neumes that repeat based upon an initial pitch set by the four indicators of DNA. This allows the pattern to remain in a set key and creates a folksy roll to the melody. There was a level of defined repetition due to overlapping notes, that disrupted the ability to track the individual notes and rhythms.
  3. I settled instead for tropes based within a key. A set series of harmonic chord progressions were created, then divided into four sets. This essentially creates a group of four harmonious tropes that are grouped together and repeated in a sequence based on the structure of human DNA.

D Minor: i iv VII III VI ii- v i