Dub equipment and dub philosophy pt. 3

Our thoughts are usually made of images and/or words. Wordy thoughts are abstract and linear, because compared to reality, words are simple abstractions. As a species, humans use abstract thought for their fundamental survival strategy: design. Unlike animals, we think about the design of weapons, shelter, clothes, food etc. And when there's time left, we design musical instruments and music.

Nature is also a great designer. Just look at all those other species, like butterflies, zebras and baobab trees. The best designs are the most efficient ones. Darwinism is the discovery that the cycle of life evaluates efficiency. Even the design of the building blocks of life (matter etc.) is based on efficiency, but the underlying principles of physics are a bit harder to describe, so let's skip that part for now.

Science is (simple, linear) abstract thought about the bigger design: universal laws of life and physics. Dub is about direct intuitive design and engineering. Western science can't handle dub, but for dubheads, all western science is fair game. By the way: do we like sugar because Nature decided it's good for us? Or because it's sweet? Or is it sweet because Nature wants us to like it because it's nutricious?

A side-effect of design by flat linear thought is the tendency toward simple abstraction. Humans (especially engineers) like to design using dead straight lines, because these Euclidian either/or things are symbols of efficiency. Nature on the other hand rarely uses simple straight lines. This reveals an interesting difference between stuff that grows naturally and stuff designed and made by humans.

Since our designs become a part of our environment, sooner or later they start to mess with our minds. Suddenly we are surrounded by too many straight lines and cheap designs. Now we become bored.

Bored people have two choices: you can adapt and be straight and bored for life, or say ENOUGH = ENOUGH and start designing your own stuff, using curves and wiggles. But hey, eventually too many wiggles are boring too! Art history is full of this: a curly jazzy style like Jugendstil is followed by dry rectalinear stuff like Modernism.

So what does this have to do with dub music?

Boredom reveals a fundamental principle of musical design: we need surprises, movements, contrasts etc. but we also want balance. Music can't do its healing work if there's no pattern or rhythm. This balance is called the edge of chaos nowadays, and it is dynamic.

The straight-lines-everywhere-syndrome is just one example of lazy design by simple abstract linear thought. The remedy is to have more design by direct intuition. That means getting in touch with the inner design-logic of a composition. This is of course the domain of dub.

The principle of intuitive design is unity: we want to be on the edge of chaos but we also want our designs (for example in music) to be whole. Unwhole music produces unpleasant resonances and side-effects, like uncanny valleys and other types of uneasiness. Unity in a composition is like having a microcosm that follows its own unique inner laws in such a natural and convincing way that you actually feel everything is in place and fully aligned to its own funny design-logic. Straight or curly doesn't matter, as long as it feels ok.

The first part of the process of creating a composition is about experryments with interactions between potential inner design-laws and raw sonic material and debris. After some trial and error, suddenly a threshold of meaning is passed and the composer retreats, to let the newly created inner design take control. The composition can now finish itself by accumulation of inner gravity, which manifests as additional synergies between form and content. Musicians often say that a song wrote itself. And its the same thing with books and paintings. A divine flash of inspiration is optional.