Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Stack Synch

I'm just full of geeky posts this week, sorry.

Entrainment is when two regular systems become synchronized. For example, two pendulums swinging near each other will transfer energy - via air pressure, I believe - and end up getting in synch. And staying in synch. It's actually kind of creepy.

People are the ultimate synchronizers. Given any kind of pattern, we synchronize rapidly and fully.

This is most clearly seen in the "purer" patterns. For example, if you play a complex board game, like go or chess. Or if you play an instrument, or paint pictures. Chances are, you've been in an entrained state. Some people call it "flow", but that's a really dicey word.

How long you stay in that state depends on your proclivities. I stay entrained for about half an hour. I've seen people that stay entrained for days, and some that only have five minutes. I think it's a combination of neural chemistry and how well you comprehend the pattern, but that's a totally different post.

What I'm trying to say is that, given a regular system, people will synch with it.

Music, for example. Most music is a regular system. So are games. And books. And dancing. And boating. And so many of the things we consider enjoyable.

The thing is, humans don't just synch. Unlike pendulums, we don't generally just "tick-tock". Eventually, we start to go "tik tik tikkitock tock tikki tock tock tock".

I'm pretty sure it can be modeled as interacting standing waves.

Stacked synchronicities.

A simple sin(a) + sin(2a), regularly sampled, produces a fun beat - bam ba beh beh beh beh ba bam! Dramatically more interesting than either alone.

I think it has to do with complexity. The brain enjoys complexity. Whether your brain prefers to walk, jog, or run might vary from person to person, but a brain likes to get moving. Also, how much complexity of what types you consider complex varies from person to person. But the basic idea is simple and universal: stacked synchronicities.

At the "first tier", you might consider this to be a song. It's got a bunch of things to synchronize with - a complex drum beat, that snazzy lead guitar, some girl singing in German for a chorus. They come and go in various patterns and strengths. Typically, somewhere after the 60% mark, they all come together for the main event, where the song swells to a crescendo. The best songs send a tingle up my spine when this happens.

But things really start to get interesting when you start to add in more kinds of standing waves. For example, a music video. It's music, but there's also video to it. How well the visual "wavelengths" mesh with the audio can radically enhance both of them. A well-cut music video will seem like it's part of the song - forget the crap you see on TV, that's just bands prancing for the camera.

Perhaps a movie is a better example. In a movie there is music, visuals, plot, characters, dialogue... so many things that can form complex regular systems for people to synch with.

Some people approach this with the idea of making one of them complex and supporting it with simple harmonics from the other systems. Others set out to make all of them as complex as possible. Others set out to make them all simple, but combine them in beautiful ways.

An example of all complex might be the Matrix or Clockwork Orange. An example of one complex, rest simple might be any action film ever. An example of all simple might be the simpler Miyazaki films or Lost in Translation.

They are all viable ideals, but they require different approaches. All-complex requires shifting gears continually. One-complex requires a steady shifting of background situations/tensions and a palpable escalation. All-simple seems to require a floating, dream-like situation which regularly combines simple aesthetics from different kinds of "wave".

The thing is, I don't see any reason why this can't be applied to virtually any media.

For example, this blog is "all-complex". It bounces from topic to topic like a weeble on steroids.

Think about your favorite movies, games, blogs. Are they the bouncy all-complex, the focused one-complex, or the drifting combination topics which herald the rare all-simple?

I'd love to hear what you all think.

Plus, I've noticed that comments tend to synch up, too, and form a one-complex system... I'd like to study that some more, so I'll need some data from all of you. :)


Patrick Dugan said...

I think my blog is one-complex, I generally post on theory relating to social/dramatic play, and the rest are fairly light news bits or personal observations.

The Zazen Boys, great music, or at least I like it because they're all complex.

BTW, you happen to re-read a Brian Moriarty lecture in the recent past?

Craig Perko said...

Never heard of him.

Wikipedia sez... ah, LOOM. I liked that game. I was ten, though...

Wait, I have tried to read these lectures before, a year or more ago. I recognize the rhythm. I couldn't read them last time, either.

Textual Harassment said...

Interesting thoughts. I agree that many different media can be described in this way.

I think I like one-complex the best, expecially when the small threads reflect and resonate with the big one.

Too often "all-complex" works don't work because they just pile on a bunch of unrelated stuff and it comes out as a confusing mess of discordant notes.

All simple can be good but the threads have to really come together in an interesting way, otherwise it gets boring

Craig Perko said...

"Too often "all-complex" works don't work because they just pile on a bunch of unrelated stuff and it comes out as a confusing mess of discordant notes."

Heh, yeah, pretty much.

Personally, I like a well-done all-simple.