Marcus Schmickler
Studio Piethopraxis

Politiken der Frequenz Composition based on sonifications of modern mathematics, commented by mixed choir. 

Collaboration with Julian Rohrhuber

5.1 channel audio. 
Duration ~52 minutes. Premiere November 2011 

Commentators: Anne Gehrig, Marcus Schmickler 
Composition: Marcus Schmickler 
Sonification: Julian Rohrhuber  
Photo: 'volatile smile' © Geissler/Sann 
Comissioned by WDR3  Studio Akustische Kunst , 2011

COMMENT: Is it possible to perceive changes in a society through changes in its music? Is it possible to understand contemporary music through its implicit relationships with money? Music and economy share a fundamental object, number. Accordingly, it seems, through number, the simultaneity between musical and political-economical development becomes evident: the semitone was accepted not before the Rennaissance, at a time when the merchants appeared; Russolo wrote his "Arte dei Rumori" in 1913; noises found their way into music immediately before the onset of the wars of the 20th century; the unrestricted rise of large orchestras occurred during times of enormous industrial growth. Music serves as a mirror of a time, but it is also a shadow that a changing society projects into the future. And how better could we describe the disciplines of music and economics than through mathematics, their common foundation? In order to understand this relationship better, we draw an acoustic diagram between mathematics, abstraction and affect, the politics of frequency. Through the sonification of a series of mathematical problems, their rendering as an acoustic process in time, we may gain an understanding of the limits of  intuition and the character of the correlation between music, economy and mathematics. We pursue the impossible goal of making abstract and descriptive terms congruent. The subversive desire to follow this path of impossibility is the formal core of this idea: a world is not structured by things but by events.  
Perhaps, the necessity to calculate has its origin in the beginnings of the abstraction of trade. A simple example: two farmers are trading seventeen geese versus five sheep. The shepherd owns temporally enough geese but is still willing to give away the sheep. In doing so, trust is an important factor. The farmer could still give away the sheep, anticipating that he will receive the seventeen geese whenever he needs them. Modern economics, dealing with consumption, capital, debt and interest as forms of symbolic reproduction, relies on trust, speculation and rhetoric. Thus, many of the foundational economic theories come from moral philosophy rather than from mathematics.  

In his book 'Number and Numbers', Alain Badiou sets out how numbers serve, strictly speaking, for everything. They provide a norm for all things. Number governs our conception of the political, of suffrage, of opinion polls, of the majority. What counts, in the sense of what is valued, is that which is counted. Conversely, everything that can be numbered must be valued. Political thought is numerical exegesis. Number governs the quasi-totality of the 'human sciences'. Badiou asks: 'Isn't another idea of number necessary, in order for us to turn thought back against the despotism of number, in order that the subject might be subtracted from it? And has mathematics simply stood silently during the comprehensive social integration of number, over which it formerly had monopoly? In our situation, that of Capital, the reign of number is thus the reign of the unthought slavery of numericality itself. The reverse side of the abundance of capital is the rarity of truth, in every order where truth can be attested to: science, politics, arts, love. 
As early as the time of the Pythagoreans, a concept of number for a harmonic relationship between mathematical and musical proportions as constitutional element for an ontology of the cosmos was acknowledged. This idea of music is based on the fact that simple proportions would create the most harmonic intervals from the vibration of a string. In essence, 2000 years of musical history have revolved around the problem of how to minimize numerical paradoxes arising from the desire to make music with multiple fundamentals, or multiple 'Ones'.  Around the period of the Pythagoreans, an early second strand in philosophy was formulated by Heraclitus and Lucretius, which we could call the strand of minimal deviation and of continuous change. 
Interestingly, it is the problem of the continuum, the dialectic of the discrete and the continuous, which, saturating and subverting the ancient opposition between arithmetic and geometry, compelled mathematicians around the second half of the nineteenth century to rethink the idea of number. The question still remains: is there a concept of number capable of subsuming, under a single type of being and by means of a uniform procedure, at least natural numbers, real numbers and ordinal numbers, whether finite or infinite? 

In 1888, Richard Dedekind wrote "Was sind und was sollen die Zahlen?" (What are numbers and what should they be?). A generalization of numbers can be approached by regarding the different number classes as proper parts of sets. Revising Dedekind, Alain Badiou lists three fundamental causes that mark the collapse of Greek thinking about numbers: first, the irruption of the problem of the infinite; second, the problem of the ontology of number, zero, the void; and third, the dislocation of the idea of the One. We find ourselves under the jurisdiction of an epoch that obliges us to hold that being is essentially multiple. Consequently, number cannot proceed from the supposition of a transcendent being of the One. 
By discussing the concept of Conway's 'surreal number', he aims to 'limit the glory of number to the important, but not exclusive, glory of being, and thereby demonstrating that what proceeds from an event in terms of truth-fidelity can never be, has never been, counted.' The surreal numbers describe an arithmetic (dis-)continuum containing the real numbers as well as all infinite and infinitesimal numbers respectively larger and smaller than any real numbers. In set theory, surreals are the largest possible ordered field; other ordered fields, such as the rationals, the reals, the rational functions, the superreal and hyperreal numbers, are all subfields of the surreals. Surreals also contain every transfinite ordinal number reachable from within the set theory in which they are constructed. We therefore find the program of unification of the concept of Number (one sole concept which subsumes the natural whole numbers, the negative whole numbers, the rationals, the reals and the ordinals) to be wholly realized, firstly in multiple-being, and then in the operational dimensions. This way, this specific notion of Number mirrors the swirling nature of music. 
Exploring the relationship between this world of music and economics becomes evident in the structure of the institution, WDR Studio Akustische Kunst. Where does the world of frequencies end and the world of numbers begin? It was impossible to separate method from result. Here, it could not come down to the production of theory; instead the limits of intuitive understanding are explored. The intelligible and the sensory are inseparably interlaced, but their unity is unattainable.  
(SURREAL) NUMBER ..................... 
DEDEKIND CUTS ............  


PRIME FACTORS ...........  
 א0 \ALEPH_0 .............  
ONE (UNITY) ................  


2023 Nov 17 Rome Italian premiere presented by European Pavilion @Villa Massimo 
2016 Sep18 Köln Photoszene presents Politiken der Frequenz with Greek Choir inside an installation "Volatile Smile" by Geissler/Sann. 
Aug28 CD new mix CD by Objekt containing a track from "Politiken der Frequenz" on legendary Technolabel Tresor 
Apr 09 Athens Borderline Festival presents Politiken der Frequenz with choir in Greek language 
2015 Mar 07 Los Angeles Noise and the Possibility for a Future conference at Goethe Institut LA. 
2014 Apr 14 Release Marcus Schmickler/ Julian Rohrhuber 'POLITIKEN DER FREQUENZ' ( Tochnit Aleph / editions Mego
Apr 10 Berlin Politics Of Frequency - Record Release Presentation at KW Kunstwerke for Contemporary Arts 
2013 Apr 28 Print MusikTexte 138 "Sonification in the Context of Composition" by Marcus Schmickler (German) 
Apr 20 Providence Performance and Talk at Brown University
2012 Dec 14 Radio ORF presents 'Politiken der Frequenz' as performed at Steirischer Herbst, Graz 
Oct 5 Graz Concert Performance Musikprotokoll im Steirischen Herbst 
May 25 Frankfurt "Politiken der Frequenz" Lecture at Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. 
Jan 19 Bielefeld Kunstverein: Presentation/Talk: Politiken der Frequenz / Concert 
2011 Nov 4 Köln Premiere of Politics of Frequency, WDR3 Radio 
Nov 3  Radio  MACBA webradio Mix: Interruptions 6 / Ontology of vibration : economics, music and number.