Detour: Your Pal in Drones, Goodiepal

I’m not exactly sure how to introduce Goodiepal. He has been cropping up in various incarnations and wigs in Denmark, the Faroe Islands, England, Scotland and the United States, holding lectures at universities and releasing a handful of LPs in the early 2000s. Without having received any formal academic qualifications himself, he was a professor at the Danish Institute for Electro-acoustic Music as part of the Royal Academy of Music in Åarhus, Denmark. These are simplified facts, and present Goodiepal as a musical artist and lecturer, when his potency is  more as a provocateur and radical thorn in modern media art’s side.

Most of Goodiepal’s artistic products arise from progressive strategies of computer communication: how humans interact with and control computer technology. His assumption that in the matter of a decade or less computers will be smarter than humans tries to dignify the language of programming and digital interfaces with that of an alternate intelligence. Eschewing the term “artificial intelligence” as a condescending term for technological language, he is fascinated with the pedagogy of developing computing, of how humans create computers and how computers absorb and learn from human thoughts.

He believes that converting thought and commands from human language to the alternate intelligence of computers does not dignify the computers as sentient beings. Like talking to a beloved child, we should communicate with computers as naturally as possible without trying to condescend to an audience that may operate on different linguistic tendencies.

This understanding of computer-linguistics arose from completely non-academic background, and is a theory that has generally been mocked or dismissed by professional academics. This has certainly not dissuaded him from trying to reach a large audience of artists and students, lecturing at universities and performing at festivals throughout Europe. Aside from lectures and informational booklets, delivered in a highly pressurized, almost fanatical tone, much of Goodiepal’s ideology is enacted through electronic music.

The conventions of electronic music composition, of how music is abstracted in the visual and auditory media of data and interface, is cast as a condescension to computer alternate intelligence and ultimately an artistic limitation in the production of music. Certain enormous philosophical problems are taken for granted in the representation of music on a computer screen, such as the linear progression of time, and, for most of the western world, from left to right. Sound is sequestered into frequencies and then samples and settings, catalogued into a library of what could have remained an infinitely flexible set of applications and origins. After the sounds are visually arranged, they are pressed out through stereo channels, emulating the human ear but incapable of replicating it.

The solution, to both dignify the computer’s alternate intelligence and to invigorate modern computer music, is to try and trick the computer into finding its users “unscannable,” or unknowable. Goodiepal assumes that humans successfully communicate despite shifts in grammatical conventions or accents, an adaptation that computers are less adept at. There are no fixes offered, no Goodiepal-endorsed compositional theory, only the priority of unpredictability. Just as language is a living and flexible thing, the conventions of electronic music composition should be descriptors of musical expression, not rigorous prescriptive symbols.

While Goodiepal’s radical compositional bent is indebted to artists such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, his theory dwells more in creation and less in performance. It’s as if he is trying to authenticate computer music by dignifying the computer’s own intelligence, not a human’s abstraction of it. There will never be a rubric for Goodiepal composition, but his demand that humans challenge their prescribed representations of music in computers must be kept fresh, for musicians and machines alike.