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Dionysian Industrial Complex

CPLX20 : Gilbert Lister Research (Micro laboratory)

Dionysian Industrial Complex co-founder, Phil, has, for the last few years, admitted an increasing fascination with, and desire for, melody.

And in his personal musical projects Ovnilounge and, especially, Mentufacturer, he’s striven to experiment with bringing more melodic lines into his existing matrix of dance-inspired beats and electronic noises.

Last year, the germ of an idea formed, around a number of his projects and goals : to give this desire a more formal shape and identity. Hence the foundation of Gilbert Lister Research, a kind of online micro-laboratory simultaneously focused on investigating melody and software innovation in music.

For a while it seemed that this was a quite distinct project from Dionysian Industrial Complex which describes itself as a netlabel of “experimental beauty, devotional noise and techno-shamanism”. But in more recent months the overlap has become more apparent. While much of the D.I.C. output has been experimental noise and drone music without significant melodic content, there have always been some gestures towards tunefulness.

And there’s no reason that any of the label’s values should be antithetical to melody. We strive to create interesting and innovative syntheses of the ancestral and the Avant Garde. And at some point traditional melodic conventions pass beyond everyday banality to become exotic signifiers of an ancient past.

That’s how Phil is rationalizing this, anyway. 🙂

Gilbert Lister Research‘s approach to melodic music is far from conventional. Mentufacturer, currently the laboratory’s official “investigator in residence”, is more a computer programmer than trained musician. And he, and the laboratory, are focused on learning the traditional language of functional harmony and melodic composition through implementing “GoldenPond”, a code library for generating chord progressions.

To be clear, this is NOT an “AI project” about getting computers to write music. (Although, in 2024 it is already standard to use AI to help write the library’s code) Instead, the focus is on making and testing tools to help computer based musicians to understand and work with music theory. It’s an unusual approach for humans to learn what has been a very human language by appealing to machines for help.

But in this sense Gilbert Lister Research can be seen to be just as much a practice of unifying experimentation with tradition, and futurism with ancestrality, as Dionysian Industrial Complex itself.

Finally there is a dark, science fiction twist at the heart of this project. Gilbert Lister Research is named after the hero of an Arthur C. Clarke short story : “The Ultimate Melody“, who believes that popular tunes are approximations to an ideal melody that synchronizes perfectly with the waves in the human brain. He uses a computer to search for this melody, immediately rendering himself catatonic upon hearing it. It’s ultimately a horror story where melody is the monster.

This is very much the kind of storytelling around music that we like around here, and which is at the heart of the Dionysian Industrial Complex aesthetic.

For all these reasons, we’ve now decided, perhaps perversely, that Gilbert Lister Research, the laboratory itself, should be a “release” on Dionysian Industrial Complex and, as such, be given its own catalogue number. This doesn’t quite make it a sub-label or other subsidiary. Rather it is an offshoot; a peer that has been “spawned” by the D.I.C. community. It will have its own independent existence, participants, goals and projects. But these may sometimes intersect with those of this label.

If you want to know more about Gilbert Lister Research, then visit its site, join the mailing list and start checking out its own products. However Mentufacturer’s first experiments with GoldenPond will soon be released here on D.I.C.

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