Having spent almost two weeks trapped in the throbbing FTL Drive of Stellar OM Source’s Joy One Mile has led us to develop a theory about the constitution of its sound. Here we outline this theory, contrast it with the reality of its making, and find a poetic way of integrating both things.
The theory: There is something about the elements of Joy One Mile and how they fit together that fascinates us. Their essence is artificial but their form is organic. They define the framework for a dance, but the connection between the parts wiggle, have a flexibility and a slack; they are loosely coupled in such a way that the reality of the song mutates with every listen, like particles that jaunt when Heisenberg pays them too much attention.
We contend that the reason for this is that Joy One Mile, made as it was with machines, and encoded as it is in a more or less stable digital or analogue substrate, is nevertheless not a physical system but a (xeno) ecological one.
We have created a taxonomy of the many alien species that inhabit it purely through their noises and songs. The four to the floor rhythm of ponderous herbivores with legs as tree-trunks, the broken wail of feline-like predators camouflaged in their angular patterns, the hi-hat staccato of social insects as they build totem-like hives, the melody of paradise birds cavorting under a saffron sunset, and the pervasive hum of vegetation transforming light into growth.
Together they form, through complex feedback loops of matter, energy and empathy, a harmonious ecosystem. Each of the songs you hear in Joy One Mile is a day, a week or a season in the alien planet where this ecosystem is set – it is the sound of this place playing itself. It is a pretty place. Proteus comes to our minds, again.
The reality: The biography of Christelle Guaraldi aka Stellar OM Source outlined in RVNG Intl.’s excellent press release describes her ‘unlearning’ of the knowledge acquired in formal studies of electro-acoustics, music theory and architecture, and classical practice. Her joining of a tribe of synthesiser navigators, and her serendipitous acquisition of a mint Roland TB303 for a very cheap price indeed, the eventual deployment of this machine in live environments to generate what would become the kernel of the songs in Joy One Mile. The rearrangement of these songs by Gunnar Wendel (aka Kassem Mosse): their liberation from Guaraldi herself.
An integration: Each of the milestones in the process through which Joy One Mile came into being is a phase transition, an environmental shock inducing a mutation in the ideas and emotions on which it is founded. These mutations are path-dependent because they contain within them the history of all that came before. The outcome is stochastic, but structured, like the trajectory of a living system.
There are schema for buildings that become electronic cathedrals. The arrival of a strange technological attractor jolting the situation with its exogenous acid shock. A migration to a live environment where the instant feedback between creator and collective becomes another selection mechanism. The induction to (invasion of) a techno civilisation.
After this odyssey, we should not be surprised to find to find the sonic manifestation of these ideas and feelings coming across and together strangely but naturally, like beautiful parts of the ecosystem we describe at the beginning. Or like music arrived from humanity’s distant future, if we save ourselves.
Perhaps Joy One Mile is not just a beautiful ecosystem, but also a history, and a prediction. We can but hope.