Interviews – Pluto

I’ve interviewed three people so far in my quest for Plutonian knowledge.

The first was Aaron Taylor Kuffner, creator of the Gamelatron, an amazing robotic set of Gamelan percussion instruments (bells, gongs, etc.). I recently attended Burning Man where, in the Burning Man Temple, a Gamelatron was set up. There were instruments all over, up in the rafters, on the walls, all around the people inside. For most of the time, a gong wold sound every now and again, or a bell would chime, but every so often a rhythm would start, and a song would unfold. It had peaks and troughs and dynamics, and was truly inspiring to hear. It definitely influenced me in my direction with this proposal: I want to create an immersive sound composition such as that. So I decided to contact him. He was in Hong Kong but happily replied to my questions via email. We talked mainly about how he composes for such a format. For the Burning Man installation he had an 8-hour composition, that just continued looping. He composed it all himself, it was non-generative. His style of composition seems to be to improvise with the Gamelatron via a midi controller, and record those MIDI values to trigger the instruments later. He also explained how, using varying sizes of capacitors, he could get solenoids to move hammers at various velocities, creating strikes of varying volumes, pretty neat!

The second was astrologer Jonathan Robarts. He went into detail about the duality of destruction and regeneration which is at the heart of Pluto astrologically. The destruction is something that has to happen in order for regeneration to occur. He added “Psychologically, it is about the transformation of what is hidden, disassociated and pertaining to one’s shadow into awareness and new life.” I asked him about how Pluto is interpreted in other traditions of astrology. There are two main branches of astrology, Western and Vedic, according to Robarts. Both now accept Pluto, but traditional Vedic astrologers still do not, because the ancients had no idea that Pluto existed (it was discovered in 1930). Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet in 2006 and now is seen as one of tens of thousands of objects in the Kuiper belt. However, it still is considered a strong influential astrological body. I asked Jonathan why this was, and why don’t other, even larger bodies, become accepted in astrology and he said “good question!”

The third interview was with a post-doc astro-physicist turned climate science researcher at Cal-Tech named Peter Kalmus. I interviewed him by email as well, and he was not very elaborate with answers, at one point saying he was too busy to really answer my questions and that I could learn just as much by reading Wikipedia. I asked him about gravity waves, gravitational waves, what are they?? He had studied both, one as an astro-physicist and the other as a climate scientist. Gravitational waves are little ripples in space-time that no one has been able to detect yet. Basically space gets longer in one direction and then pulls back in the other direction, creating waves. Gravity waves, on the other hand, are important in climate science. They are intermediate scale phenomena that transport energy in the atmosphere. I asked him why it is important that we can see gravity waves on Pluto? He said that people tend to think that each little piece of knowledge that we gather will accumulate into greater and greater combined pieces of knowledge, and that great achievements can be made, but that it was seemingly doing little good, since we cannot take care of our planet and are making the environment we depend on toxic.

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