I Give You A Tool

I give you a tool. We don’t know who made it. You use it.

I give you a tool that I made. You use it.

I give you a tool that someone made. You use it and study it, and come to know its strengths, its shortcomings, its unexpected or unintended benefits.

I give you a tool and show you different ways of using it. You try them out and use them.

I give you a tool and show you different ways of using it. You try them out and use them and improve on them. Ideally, you then teach me.

I show you how to make a tool. You build it and use it.

I show you the thinking behind the tools I and others make. You study their history, traditions, the conditions that led to their inventions, the needs they adressed when someone first thought of them. Now you come up with your own tool.

Then you invent your own way of making tools according to your ideas and needs. You build them, refine them, and use them.

You document why and how you made your tool, and how I can make one myself.

You give me a tool.

All different ways of relating to one another, different distributions of authorship, power and influence. This does not just apply to art, but the consequences can be particularly striking there. The things we work with can be the things we think with – if we see the opportunity.

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Everyday Application of Arcane Skills, Exhibit #387

Sometimes the skills we learn as adventurous artists seem very ephemeral and arcane, but even these may eventually be of help in very mundane situations. I’m typing this in my hotel room on the morning of a pulp.noir rehearsal day. Waking in the night I had realized that my phone’s battery was going to run out before my alarm was supposed to wake me, and that I’d left the charger at the space where we rehearse. Needing to make sure I’d still get up in time, I made this little Max patch that would wake me by playing a sound file at 8 o’clock.


This took me about thirty seconds I should say, rather than going online and spending time looking for, downloading and setting up an existing app.

And this, of course, is pretty much the most basic way to use [date], the object that allows you to use the computer’s clock to trigger and control events in (the programming environment) Max. If you want to compose music that changes according to the date and time of day, this is the place to start.

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