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 rameses 2000

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Number of posts : 1
Registration date : 2006-08-27

PostSubject: rameses 2000   Sun 27 Aug 2006 - 18:45

hello all,
this forum is a great idea 'cause I LOVE Steve Coleman's approach and spirit in doing/thinking music/rythms ; thanks a lot Dim .
I've been enjoying some of his concert here in France and I have many of his discs ... but I know I have some more to get ;-)
I am also a member of Ircam's forum and a user of Max/MSP (cycling74 software ) .
I woud love to experiment/play with the Rameses piece of computing tool , I would also love to see/learn how Steve had architecured that computing process .
Could it be possible to have a specific exchange on that deep subject with Steve ?
Could it be possible to get the patch (Max piece of programm ) or the app. (executable) for educationnal/experiment purpose ?


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Number of posts : 20
Registration date : 2006-09-28

PostSubject: Re: rameses 2000   Thu 28 Sep 2006 - 2:26

Hey Zoomak,

That program is huge and there are many stages to it. It is impractical to try and give you a particular version of it. Believe me when I tell you, its huge! Besides my own programming it also included subroutines programmed by Gilbert Nouno (works at IRCAM and did most of the work of integrating the complete program), Takahiko Suzuki (programmed all of the Astronomical routines and much of the music programming, and translated most of my early code from the Forth language to MAX) and Sukandar Kartadinata (worked on some of the early music subroutines and translating some of my early code from the Forth language to MAX).

The question you ask is very complicated and I will just try to give a brief overview here.

I conceived all of the musical and Astronomical routines and how they worked together as well as the way the program interacted with members of my group. I also did a fair amount of coding, mainly of the musical routines.

Its way too much to explain all of it. One thing we did with Rameses was the computer could develop some harmonic cells (chords) by listening to the melodic improvisation of the musician also. I used symmetry for this idea and its too complicated to explain now. The basic idea is that the computer would look in a certain time widow and then find the axis of what the improviser was playing melodically, then with this information it would create some chords. I preferred this approach over the obvious one where the computer would form a chord out of the notes that the improviser was playing. However if I were to do this again I would probably do a combination of both were the computer would look at the information played by the improviser and calculate what the root is at that moment. Then it would form the harmonic cells based on the root combined with the symmetrical formation method.

The musical ideas just follow some parts of what I was doing anyway with my band (or some things that I ‘wanted’ to do).

The melodic ideas were the things you mentioned below, I call them Symmetry, Golden Mean and some symmetrical things that the composer and saxophonist Henry Threadgill showed me.

Harmonically I was working on several ideas, again some symmetical things that Threadgill showed me, and also some ideas I got from studying some ancient writings, some things dealing with different kinds of balances. Specifically I was dealing with the Harmonic Mean, Arithmetic Mean, and Geometric Mean. The great Astronomer Johannes Kepler talks about these three means in his treatise called Harmonices Mundi ('World Harmonics', but usually translated as 'Harmony of the World'). This is a very important work, if you can get a complete translation of it. Typically you can only find translations of the Astronomical parts of the treatise but there are Astrological and Musical parts also that are generally ignored. But Kepler was really just following a path that was very common in ancient times and you can find translations from ancient Greek philosophers like Ptolemy that talk about some of the same things. I believe that this information goes back at least to the ancient Egyptians and Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations. Also there is a lot of evidence that it was known in ancient China also (particularly the Han Dynasty). Both of these harmonic concepts I was using on CDs like ‘The Sonic Language of Myth’ and ‘The Ascension to Light’, so you can hear this stuff on there also. The Rameses version was just more complex and included more direct information from actual Astronomical derivation.

Rhythmically I was just following some ideas of rhythmic balance that I have always done, but I don’t really have any names for this stuff. But what I did some time ago is that I analyzed what I was doing myself when I was improvising. I mean I have definite ideas, but so much of what I do spontaneously is based on ‘feel’ that I had to examine it in detail. Especially when you go and try to put something in a mathematical language (which is what a computer language is really) then you have to be able to ‘exactly’ describe what you are doing from a numerical perspective. When you do this you always fall short of what a human can actually do, I mean there is always some ‘quantizing’ that goes on. What I mean is that you can build a model mathematically, but that model is only an approximation of the true nature of what you are doing. No matter how great the model is, it is still an approximate version of the version from Nature. So what I mean by quantizing is like rounding in numbers, when you say that 7.999538 is really 8! Know what I mean? This is what humans do when they build their models, to try to understand Nature, but the model is not Nature! So what we create when we are truly spontaneous, is more similar to Nature, because We are Nature.

Regarding modes, I consider rhythmic and melodic modes. Literally mode for me means mood, and the technical structure of a mode has to do with the interval structure of the constituents of the mode. In number it can be very similar, when people hear this it can have very effects. Rhythmically, in Rameses or in my group, I don’t really consider time signatures, just time-spans, rhythmic modes and phrases. I have noticed recently that a lot of groups are now doing some version of this kind of thing. For example 2-2-3-2 is for me a rhythmic mode with a time span of 9. Now of course, you can have any version of this and you see many people, Vijay Iyer, Henry Threadgill, Magic Malik, myself, doing this kind of thing in some version. And of course it existed in Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa even before this. But there is still the ‘how’ that is involved when you do this, and each person or group of people approach these ideas a little differently. I approach it in an almost melodic way of thinking because for me melodic modes are the same approach. Rhythmic modes are various structures of rhythmic intervals, Melodic modes are various structures of melodic intervals. But Rhythms and Melodies are very different than rhythmic modes and melodic modes. Many times people are very stiff and can only play the modes (rhythmic or melodic) and do not really learn about rhythms, melodies, rhythmic voice-leading and melodic voice-leading. Drum chants are really just rhythmic melodies that are fixed and played on the drums, but in my group everyone should know the drum melodies and be able to play them on their own instrument.

So what I did with the computer and with the Rameses program is just to figure out how to translate these ideas into the numerical language that the computer can deal with. In the process I learn a lot about how computers work, about numerical languages in general, and a lot about myself and how I think about things. This process forces me to be very detailed with my ideas, because the computer can only deal with something if it is expressed in a very detailed manner.

I used the following information to derive harmonic and rhythmic information for Rameses to create its musical forms. The program would look at a particular moment in time (given to it as a list of dates, times and places) and would then create as a kind of score based on technical and symbolic (astrological) information that was programmed into it. This information would be translated into melodies, harmonies, tonalities and rhythms, each date lasting a certain amount of musical time before the program would move on to musically describe another date. How long we stayed on each date was determined by variables inside the various relationships between the Sun, the Moon and the Seasons.

I chose a group of 31 1st and 2nd magnitude stars (listed below), plus the Sun, Moon and the 8 planets in our Solar System (listed below), the phases of the Moon (1st quarter, half moon, 3rd quarter, new moon), some imaginary geometric positions called Ascendant, Midheaven, Descendant, Nadir; the four Cardinal points which are Vernal Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumnal Equinox, Winter Solstice (this allowed me to deal with the seasons of the year). To measure things in space I used the various measurement systems that are used in Astronomy, Right Ascension and Declination, Longitude and Lattitude, Azimuth and Altitude

What I did that was a little different was that I followed the ancient Egyptian (i.e. Kametic) way of looking at Astrology because I divided the sky into 36 divisions called Kametic Decans, and I considerd the rising, culmination, setting and articulating of the starts and planets within this division. So we can say that the 36 divisions was a kind of temperament or grid upon which the various configurations of the planets and stars formed their geometric patterns. I then interpreted this information musically as time-span forms and harmony.

Notice that in Astrology the Sun and Moon are considered planets, the word Planets means Wanderers, meaning they changed their position in the sky, as opposed to the Stars which appeared to be in fixed positions in the sky to the ancients.


1st Magnitude Stars

2nd Magnitude Stars
Deneb Adige
Zuben elgenubi
Zuben elschemali

I worked on working out a way for Rameses to be able to receive Right Ascension information in degrees of arc from the astronomical external (a program in the C programming language) and to correlate these coordinates with the 36 ancient Kametic Decans that Rameses references. The program first uses a reference coordinate (I used the position of the star Sirius plus 5 degrees of arc as my reference point in the sky) as the starting point of the first Kemetic Decan. Then when it receives any Right Ascension (RA) coordinate it will play the corresponding musical tones that correspond to the Kametic Decan. Conversely it will also output the RA in degrees of arc when creating any Decan progressions. This information can be input into a spatialization software created by IRCAM and this will then project the sound into the proper location in virtual space. If you are using four speakers situated in four corners of a room the sound of the Decans will come from the proper location in the room given the offset. In other words if Decan number one is directly in front of you then the sound of Decan number 19 will be directly behind you, Decan number 10 will be directly to your left, Decan number 28 will be directly to your right and so on. This is a dynamic effect that is constantly being changed in real time by the Rameses software as the relative Decan is being played. In the case of the Decans the virtual space axis is a flat (horizontal) circular space.

The main part of my personal melodic ideas regarding symmetrical movement and balance in general are here (best viewed in Internet Explorer or Netscape web browsers)

As you may know many musicians use symmetrical ideas from Bach to Bartok, from Palestrina to Bartok, from Charlie Parker to John Coltrane, so I just have my way of using this stuff and I’ve gotten my ideas from meditation on principles (inside yourself is always a good source).

As well as the Harmonic Mean and the Arithmetic Mean there are two other Means which the ancients used, the Geometric Mean and the Golden Mean.

Its really too much to discuss in total (I'm sure its already too much for some people even now) but you will have to ask very specific questions so that I can answer you.



Last edited by mbase on Thu 17 Jul 2008 - 17:54; edited 1 time in total
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Number of posts : 20
Registration date : 2006-09-28

PostSubject: Regarding Rameses 2000   Sat 4 Aug 2007 - 16:36

I get a lot of questions about this, so I may post an edited version of this response on my new blog also ( ).

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Dimitri E.B.

Number of posts : 351
Localisation : Paris
Registration date : 2006-04-03

PostSubject: Re: rameses 2000   Fri 17 Aug 2007 - 2:41

Awesome Shocked

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