SITTING DOWN TO CREATIVE WORK OFTEN MEANS A CONFRONTATION with a hideous beast — the blank page. You probably like particular sounds, rhythmic patterns or melodic schemes; color combinations, subject matter or formal techniques; or lyrical concerns and beat-flows. Yet the need to proceed makes you wish that, at least temporarily, you weren't you.

You need a jolt to see new sights within yourself, to get into the habit of breaking habits. And Akira Rabelais' Argeïphontes Lyre software, a number of versions of which he's made available in recent years, can help with that. A.L. is a Mac application that creates an environment in which sound, words and images (and various combinations thereof) can be generated, ripped open, melted down, subtly enhanced or annihilated. The running theme is that, though the user can specify the parameters for manipulating the sound file or images or text, most likely the result will be entirely unpredictable. This elevates Argeïphontes above being a mere digital-effects software; you might think of it as an ideas machine. But your own good or even mediocre thoughts are what allow it to collaborate successfully with you — you have to feed it first. The experience is humbling; as you shovel in a favored sound or video image, you're conceding that you hunger to interact with something/someone outside of yourself. In the process, though, you get to know yourself by asking yourself questions.

Argeïphontes Lyre is roughly based on the concept of granular synthesis, a means of making a big new sound by breaking apart and reordering smaller amounts of audio material. The user determines the new sound's parameters (timing, pitch, envelope, etc.) with a set of puckishly named functions such as Eviscerator/Reanimator (chunk-based file blending), Convolved Concatenation (chunk-based convolution), Dynamic Reamplitudeuingly (probabilistic amplitude remapping), the Lobster Quadrille (probabilistic sound file playback engine) and Replacementedingly (file blending based on amplitude triggers). In addition, Rabelais has taken these ideas about sound potentials and broadened them to visual and text milieus. Perhaps most interesting about Argeïphontes is its ability to dissolve borders between artistic modes via utilities tools like Shifting Paradigmatically, which can translate audio to text, text to audio, audio to video and video to audio. He has also included a function called Argeïphontes Recalcitrance, which is his own gigantic assortment of arcanely amusing file names whose current categories include Aristotle & Plato, Constellations, Diseases, Dostoevsky, Female, Finnegans Wake, Greek Mythology, Le Monde Dieu, Logodaedalian, P. Neruda, Romance Novels and When I Asked the Cat.

To paraphrase Thomas Pynchon: There is more randomness in life and the universe than any of us can admit to and stay relatively sane. Embracing the randomness, however, helps us see the possible in daily creative expression.

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