Monday, August 31, 2015

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

_This Is Your Brain on Music:  The Science of a Human Obsession_ by Daniel J. Levitin
NY:  Dutton Books, 2006
ISBN 0-525-949969-0

(9)  Music listening, performance, and composition engage nearly every area of the brain that we have so far identified, and involved nearly every neural subsystem.

(14)  The basic elements of any sound are loudness, pitch, contour, duration (or rhythm), tempo, timbre, spatial location, and reverberation.

(24)  The lowest note on a standard piano vibrates with a frequency of 27.5 Hz.  Interestingly, this is about the same rate of motion that constitutes an important threshold in visual perception.  A sequence of still photographs - slides - displayed at or about this rate of presentation will give the illusion of motion.
NB:  24 frames per second

(29) ...every culture we know of has the octave as the basis for its music, even if it has little else in common with other musical traditions.  This phenomenon leads to the notion of circularity in pitch perception, and is similar to circularity in colors...

When men and women speak in unison, their voices are normally an octave apart, even if they try to speak the exact same pitches.  Children generally speak an octave or two higher than adults...

The octave is so basic that even some animal species  - monkeys and cats, for example - show octave equivalence, the ability to treat as similar, the way that humans do, tones separated by this amount.

(30)  Intervals are the basis of melody, much more so than the actual pitches of notes;  melody processing is relational, not absolute, meaning that we define a melody by its intervals, not the actual notes used to create them.

(34)  Every tone is 6 percent higher than the previous one, and when we increase each step by 6 percent twelve times, we end up having doubled our original frequency (the actual proportion is the twelfth root of two=1.059463...)

The particular placement of the two half steps in the sequence of the major is crucial;  it is not only what defines the major scale and distinguishes it from other scales, but it is an important ingredient in musical expectations.  Experiments have shown that young children, as well as adults, are better able to learn and memorize melodies that are drawn from scales that contain unequal distances such as this.  The presence of the two half steps, and their particular positions, orient the experienced acculturated listener to where we are in the scale.

(36)  what psychologists call declarative knowledge - the ability to talk about it [recognizing different keys]

(37)  Although it has been claimed that Indian and Arab-Persian music use "microtuning" - scales with intervals much smaller than a semitone - close analysis reveals that their scales also rely on twelve or fewer tones and the others are simply expressive variations, glissandos (continuous glides from one tone to another, and momentary passing tones, similar to  the American blues tradition of sliding into a note for emotional purposes.

(40)  So if you pluck a string and its slowest vibration frequency is one hundred times per second, the other vibration frequencies will be 2 x 100 (200 Hz), 3 x 100 (300 Hz), etc.  If you blow into a flute or recorder and cause vibrations at 310 Hz, additional vibrations will be occurring at twice, three times, four times, etc, this rate:  620 Hz, 930 Hz, 1240 Hz, etc.  When an instrument creates energy at frequencies that are integer multiples such as this, we say that the sound is harmonic, and we refer to the pattern of energy at different frequencies as the overtone series.  There is evidence that the brain responds to such harmonic sounds with synchronous neural firings - the neurons in the  auditory cortex responding to each of the components of the sound synchronize their firing rates with one another, creating a neural basis for the coherence of these sounds.

The brain is so attuned to the overtone series that if we encounter a sound that has all of the components except the fundamental, the brain fills it in for us in a phenomenon called _restoration of the missing fundamental_.

(41)  And because the electrodes put out a small electrical signal with each firing - and because the firing _rate_ is the same as a _frequency_ of firing - Petr sent the output of these electrodes to a small amplifier, and played back the sound of the owl's neurons through a loudspeaker.  What he heard was astonishing;  the melody of "The Blue Danube Waltz" sang clearly from the loudspeakers:  ba da da da da, deet deet, deet deet.  We were _hearing_ the firing rates of the neurons and they were identical to the frequency of the missing fundamental.  The overtone series had a instantiation not just in the early levels of auditory processing, but in a completely different species.

(43)  Timbre is a consequence of the overtones.  Different materials have different densities.

(50)  Timbre was what defined rock for [John R] Pierce [whom Levitin introduced to rock n roll]

(51)  The introduction of energy to an instrument - the attack phase - usually creates energy at many different frequencies that are not related to one another by simple integer multiples.  In other words, for the brief period after we strike, blow into, pluck, or otherwise cause an instrument to start making sound, the impact itself has a rather noisy quality that is not especially musical - more like the sound of a hammer hitting a piece of wood, say, than like a hammer hitting a bell or a piano string, or like the sound of wind rushing through a tube.

(52)  The third dimension of timbre - flux - refers to how the sound changes after it has started playing.  A cymbal or gong has a lot of flux - its sound changes dramatically over the time course of its sound - while a trumpet has less flux - its tone is more stable as it evolves.

(55)  At a neural level, playing an instrument requires the orchestration of regions in our primitive, reptilian brain - the cerebellum and the brain stem - as well as higher cognitive systems such as the motor cortex (in the parietal lobe) and the planning regions of our frontal lobes, the most advanced region of the brain.

Rhythm, meter, and tempo are related concepts that are often confused with one another.  Briefly, _rhythm_ refers to the lengths of notes, _tempo_ refers to the pace of a piece of music (the rate at which you would tap your foot to it), and _meter_ refers to when you tap your foot hard versus light, and how these hard and light tapes group together to form larger units.

(56)  The rhythmic ratio of 2:1, like the octave in pitch ratios, appears to be a musical universal.

(57)  The word _beat_ indicates the basic unit of measurement in a musical piece;  this is also called the _tactus_.  Most often, this is the natural point at which you would tap your foot or clap your hands or snap your fingers.

(59)  As a baseline, we considered how much variation in tempo the average person can detect;  that turns out to be 4 percent.  In other words, for a song with a tempo of 100 bpm, if the tempo varies between 96-100, most people, even professional musicians, won't detect that small change...

(63)  Whenever a note anticipates a beat - that is, when a musician plays a note a bit earlier than the strict beat would call for - this is called syncopation.  This is a very important concept that relates to expectation, and ultimately tot he emotional impact of a song.  The syncopation catches us by surprise, and adds excitement.

(65)  When people clap their hands or snap their fingers with music, they sometimes quite naturally, and without training, keep time differently than they would do with their feet:  They clap or snap not on the downbeat, but on the second beat and the fourth beat.  This is the so-called backbeat that Chuck Berry sings about in his song "Rock and Roll Music."

(66)  A fundamental principle of cognitive neuroscience is that the brain provides the biological basis for any behaviors or thoughts that we experience, and so at some level there must be neural differentiation wherever there is behavioral differentiation.

(69)  A lot of people like really loud music.  Concertgoers talk about a special state of consciousness, a sense of thrills and excitement, when the music is really loud - over 115 dB.  We don't know yet why this is so.  Part of the reason may be related tot he fact that loud music saturates the auditory system, causing neorons to fire at their maximum rate.  When many, many neurons are maximally firing, this could cause an emergent property, a brain state qualitatively different form when they are firing at normal rates.  Still, some people like loud music, and some people don't.

(112)  We have to reject the intuitively appealing idea that the brain is storing an accurate and strictly isomorphic representation of the world. To some degree, it is storing perceptual distortions, illusions, and extracting relationships among elements.  It is computing a reality for us, one that is rich in complexity and beauty.

(113)  An important way that our brain deals with standard situations is that it extracts those elements that are common to multiple situations and creates a framework within which to place them;  this framework is called a schema.  The schema for the letter _a_ would be a description of its shape, and perhaps a set of memory traces that includes all the _a_'s we've ever seen, showing the variability that accompanies the schema.

(141)  This led Rosch to conclude that (a) categories are formed around prototypes;  (b) these prototypes can have a biological or physiological foundation;  (c) category membership can be thought of as a question of degree, with some tokens being "better" exemplars than others;  (d) new items are judged in relation to the prototypes, forming gradients of category membership:  and the final blow for Aristotelian theory, (e) there don't need to be any attributes which all category members have in common, and boundaries don't have to be definite.

(184)  Part of the "astonishing hypothesis" of [Francis] Crick's book was that consciousness emerges from the synchronous firing, at 40 Hz, of neurons in the brain.

(193)  Memory strength is also a function of how much we care about the experience.  Neurochemical tags associated with memories mark them for importance, and we tend to code as important things that carry with them a lot of emotion, either positive or negative.  I tell my students if they want to do well on a test, they have to really care about the material as they study it.  Caring may, in part, account for some of the early differences we see in how quickly people acquire new skills.

(202)  We also know that, on average, successful people had many more failures than unsuccessful people.  This seems counterintuitive.  How could successful people have failed more often than everyone else?  Failure is unavoidable and sometimes happens randomly.  It's what you do after the failure that is important.  Successful people have a stick-to-it-iveness.  They don't quit.

(221)  ...gray matter is that part of the brain that contains the cell bodies, axons, and dendrites, and is understood to be responsible for information processing, as opposed to white matter, which is responsible for information transmission.

(222)  Mothers (and to a lesser extent, fathers) do this quite naturally without any explicit instruction to do so, using an exaggerated intonation that the researchers call infant-directed speech or motherese.
NB:  Cross-cultural?

(239)  As Internet radio and personal music players are becoming more popular, I think that we will be seeing personalized music stations in the next few years, in which everyone can have his or her own personal radio station, controlled by computer algorithms that play us a mixture of music we already know and like and a mixture of music we don't know but we are likely to enjoy.  I think it will be important that whatever form this technology takes, listeners should have an "adventuresomeness" knob they can turn that will control the mix of old and new, or the mix of how far out the new music is from what they usually listen to.  This is something that is highly variable from person to person, and even, within one person, from one time of day to the next.

(242)  In architecture, a designer might plan for a dome to be held up by four arches.  There will necessarily be a space between the arches, not because it was planned for, but because it is a by-product of the design.  Birds evolved feathers to keep warm, but they coopted the feathers for another purpose - flying.  This is a spandrel.
NB:  Is language the spandrel of music?

(250)  Music predates agriculture in the history of our species.  We can say, conservatively, that there is no tangible evidence that language preceded music....

The best estimates are that it takes a minimum of fifty thousand years for an adaptation to show up in the human genome.  This is called evolutionary lag - the time lag between when an adaptation first appears in a small proportion of individuals and when it becomes widely distributed in the population.

(251)  One striking find is that in every society of which we're aware, music and dance are inseparable.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places

_The Great Animal Orchestra:  Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places_ by Bernie Krause
NY:  Little, Brown and Co, 2012

(18)  We're so sight-oriented that most of us who have reasonable vision tend to hear what we are looking at.

(22)  …and we know that the attributes of many sounds include frequency (sometimes referred to as _pitch_, but that tends to be a more relative term), timbre, amplitude, and envelope….

Pitch is closely related to frequency, but the two are not the same thing.  _Pitch_ is mostly used in the comparative framework of sounds or tones that make up a musical scale.  So while frequency is a physical property of sound - it's a measurement of the number of cycles per second of a sound wave - pitch refers to what we hear.

(23)  Timbre is the emblematic tone, or voice, generated by each type of instrument or biological sound source.

(24)  Loudness, or amplitude, is measured in decibels.  One decibel, or dB, is the smallest discernible unit by which humans can detect a change.

(25)  The fourth major sound property, acoustic envelope, determines the shape and texture of a sound through time, from the moment it is first heard to the time it fades out.

(44)  A friend and fellow recordist Martyn Stewart, who had gone to the Louisiana shore along the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 BP oil disaster, remarked on the surf's odd sound at the beaches affected by oil.  He described it as having a slurpy, muddy, sluggish signature, almost as if the water were choking on itself or gasping for air.  Aside from the initial absence of wildlife sounds, the muted slosh of the water-oil mixture at the beach was the most devastating impression he came away with - what he heard was far more powerful than what he saw.  I had a similar chilling acoustic experience in Prince William Sound in the late spring and summer immediately following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.  I had never before heard any part of Alaska so eerily quiet.

(61)  Complex listening is one of the few operations that advanced life forms can do simultaneously with other functions - the organisms interpret information that conveys complex data, can change the coding of the signal instantaneously, and perform other tasks such as determing the usefulness of the received information relative to aspects of their survival.

(66)  With the snowy tree cricket, for example, you can count the number of chirps that occur in fifteen seconds, add forty to the number, and arrive at the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

(70)  A year later, after the logging operation was complete, I returned to Lincoln Meadow on the same date, at the same time, and under the same weather conditions to record again….  When I arrived I was delighted to see that little seemed to have changed.  However, from the moment I pushed the "record" button it was obvious that the once-sonorous voice of the meadow had vanished.  Gone was the thriving density and diversity of birds.  Gone, too, was the overall richness that had been present the year before.  The only prominent sounds were the stream and the hammering of a Williamson's sapsucker.  I walked a few hundred feet back into the forest from the meadow's edge, and it became quite apparent that the lumber company had wrought incredible devastation just beyond the meadow's sight line, where extensive patches of ground had been left exposed.  While not exactly a clear-cut, many more tree were taken than had been promised…  Over the past two decades, I have returned more than a dozen times to the same spot at the same time of year, but the bioacoustic vitality I captured before logging has not yet returned.

(71-72)  Photos represent two-dimensional fractions of time - events limited to available light, shadow, and range of the lens.  Soundscape recordings, if done right, are three-dimensional with an impression of space and depth, and over time can reveal the smallest feature along with multilayered ongoing stories that visual media alone can never hope to capture.  A well-tuned ear and attention to minutiae within the larger picture will always uncover any deception.

(78)  Currently, at the time of this writing, the poles are reported to be moving at a rate of almost eight-tenths of a mile a week.  The consequences are not immediately clear, although if true this type of phenomenon alone may already be affecting some migration patterns.

(88)  Gradually the growing body of my work validated the idea that creatures vocalize in distinctive kinship to one another, particularly in older, more stable habitats.

(92)  The gibbons of Indonesia are sunrise singers.  Their songs are so beautiful that ancient Dayak myths speak of the sun rising in reply.  In the remaining viable rain-forest habitats of Borneo and Sumatra, every dawn chorus is filled with the near-field and distant strains of long descending and ascending vocal lines as bonded gibbon pairs connect through elaborately developed vocal exchanges unique to each couple - alluring duets of affectionate concord.

(94)  In older, healthy habitats, where the biophonic bandwidth is well established and all the animals are more likely to vocalize together, each call is heard distinctly and each creature thrives as much through its voice as through any other aspect of its behavior.  The connections of a particular species' vocalization to survival and reproduction only become clear when we understand the function of an animal's voice and its relationship to all others in its natural habitat.  If an organism needs to be heard to successfully defend its territory or to communicate its viability to potential mates, then it requires clear acoustic bandwidth or noise-free time to do so.  The same kinds of relationship occur in marine environments, such as flourishing coral reefs, where multiple species of fish and crustaceans thrive and generate acoustic signals.
NB:  a bloat of hippos

(99)  It turned out that nearly every tropical and subtropical habitat I had captured on tape was made up of a variety of partitioned voices that formed collective sound signatures, each of which uniquely defined a place and time and served as a unique voice print - a territorial sound-mark.  I had made thousands of recordings before my Kenya trip, and subsequent travel to many wild sites over time added weight to my thesis, which, by the late 1980s, I had renamed the _niche hypothesis_ - thanks in large part to the inspiration of Ruth Happel. who was still a graduate student at Harvard studying primatology during our trip to Borneo.

(101)  On listening to playback, analyzing the notes from on-site observations, and comparing spectrograms, we found that the combined creature voices defined territorial boundaries quite differently than the geographically detailed maps we held in our hand.  For one thing, it was clear that the margins characterized by the soundscapes didn't align with the human grid lines of other rational borders we might create.

(103)  While mapping, we noticed again that insects tended to create niches that remained constant in each biome for long periods during each day and night.  Also, when one sound source dropped out at the end of its cyclical performance, another usually began to vocalize, typically within seconds, leaving the impression that replacement was necessary to keep some underlying acoustic-bandwidth structure intact.  Over these "group" performances we could hear animal "soloists" who appeared for brief periods - often transient birds, mobile amphibians and mammals, and other organisms that would move in and out of the primary acoustic field. Like an eight-bar blues solo on guitar, their voices, too, seemed to fit into acoustic channels or temporal niches where little or no conflicting aural energy was present…..

Sometimes all that insect and amphibian racket creates _intermodulation_, where two or more signals are so close in pitch that they occasionally beat against each other, momentarily canceling each other's signal - a totally different acoustic effect than any of the original sources sounding individually.

(110)  …music, in the human realm, is simply nonlinguistic and conscious _control of sound_….

In the end, it turned out that our definition was missing at least two other important factors:  structure and intent.

(119)  But in the 2006 book _The Singing Neanderthals:  The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body, the archaeologist Steven Mithen elaborates on the possible evolutionary origins of music by suggesting that language was preceded by something neither specifically linguistic nor musical but an amalgam he termed "Hmmmm":  Holistic, multimodal, manipulative, musical and mimetic.  Another researcher, Christopher Small, devised an even better term, _musicking_, by which he meant "to music."  He asserts that singing, humming a tune, tapping one's feet to a rhythm, playing an instrument, performing in an orchestra, and composing music all reflect a single activity that can be captured with the verb _to music_.

In a review of Mithen's book, William Benzon, a cognitive scientist and musician, walks us through his own discoveries and hypotheses on the origins of music.  His explanation begins with rhythm, specifically that of walking, where the coordination of biped muscles is central to balance and pacing.  Drawing from rhythm, members of modern human groups would synchronize their pacing, clapping, shuffling, walking, or leaping in coordination with one another, a kind of musicking that resulted in the united of individual personalities and in their merging harmoniously with the group - a cooperation with reciprocal benefits.

(128)  A bone flute found in a cave in Germany and fabricated from the wing bone of a vulture dates back nearly forty thousand years.  Yet the five holes carved in the length of the tube generate a crude pentatonic sequence of notes, and the V-shaped notch at one end presumably allowed the musician to create various tones and textures.

The pentatonic scale itself comes directly from the wild, reflecting not only the rich biophonies of the forest but also certain animal soloists such as the common potto and the musician wren….

(146)  Luc Ferry, the French ecophilosopher, put it more succinctly when he observed in _The New Ecological Order_:  "Nature is beautiful when it imitates art."
NB:  Probably the other way around.

(148)  The third movement of Ives's Fourth Symphony is one of my all-time favorite pieces of twentieth-century music.

(149)  Unexpectedly, the best performance [of Ives' Fourth] of all was the Oakland Symphony Orchestra's 1967 version conducted by the late Gerhard Samuel… [unavailable]

(161)  Our auditory processing system is conditioned over time to know which signals are meaningful and which are not.  Yet even as our attention is focused on what we see, our brains are working overtime to retrieve and process desired information, eventually causing a consequential effect such as the onset of weariness.  In a 1998 Swedish noise study of fifty thousand state employees, twenty thousand of the respondents working in environments where the random background noise level was measured between 60 and 80 dBA - considered moderate (like an average residential city street) in the United States - commonly complained of fatigue and headaches, even after just a couple of hours of exposure.

(164)  The report [WHO report of March 2011 "Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise"] went further, concluding that exposure to excessive noise not only impairs learning in young humans but can also - due to epidemiological level increases in blood pressure and release of stress hormones - lead to heart attacks, a negative environmental condition rated second only to air pollution.
NB:  A beneficial side effect of zero net energy buildings is sound insulation

(186)  The impact of noise on my work has increased exponentially:  taking into account the effect of habitat loss due to land development or resource extraction, I'm sorry to say that to record one noise-free hour of material now takes more than two hundred times as long as it did when I first began more than four decades ago.

(209)  Later, in another recording, Elizabeth [Wilson from the Nez Percé] also made a remarkable comment about a melody revealed in the misty breath of a buffalo in winter-morning sunlight.  "A kind of whistle and sigh," she said, her eyes looking off into the distance.  "A whole song in a whistle and a sigh."  She didn't elaborate.  Yet these types of meaningful aphorisms were innate parts of every story she told…

Angus and Elizabeth mused how the wind taught the water to sing sad songs, an emotion expressed often.  Then the water, lonely because it wanted to sing with spirits other than the wind, taught the insects, who in turn taught the frogs, who taught the birds and the bears and the squirrels.  The Nez Percé learned their music and dances from the geophony and their animal guides - the sounds of the natural world always driving forces in their lives, until contact with "modern" humans altered the soundscape.

(210)  When I began recording in 1968, fully 45 percent of our old-growth forests in the Lower 48 were still standing.  By 2011 there were less than 2 percent of those forests remaining.

(216)  [Chris] Watson's further investigations, involving medical practitioners and psychologists, confirmed that there were certain sounds - such as breathing, footsteps, a heartbeat, birdsong, crickets, lapping waves, and flowing streams - that people described as tranquil.  Researchers demonstrated that such sounds stimulate the limbic system in the brain, resulting in the release of endorphins and a feeling of serenity.  Watson eventually concluded that tranquillity refers to a basic layer of sound - an elemental acoustic foundation - upon which we can rest our mental processes.  The content of that base sound is akin to the impression of hearing the rhythmic patterns of rain on a roof.  It's nearly always a muted but harmonically rich low level of ambience.

(217)  In fact, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), founded in 1926, devoted itself to those places [of tranquillity], promoting a "sustainable future" for the English countryside.

(225), the Nature Sound Society (, and the World Listening Project (world

(233)  Frank Keim:  In the spring, whenever sunlight warms the ice, it travels through the surface, first warming up motes of surface dust that absorb heat more quickly.  Bits of dirt or dust penetrate the ice vertically, causing the ice to melt in pencil-thin shapes.  At the base of the ice, there's an awful lot of algae, and the algae begin to bloom.  With the blooming of the algae, the crustaceans - like copepods - eat the algae.  The fish eat the crustaceans.  The seals eat the fish.   And then, of course, the polar bear and humans eat the seals.  If this ice doesn't exist - and it's quickly disappearing because of global warming - if you don't have the ice, you don't have any of that.

(251)  Chuma McIntyre's Drums Across the Tundra

(255)  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge soundscapes

(264)  Bernie Krause world soundscape collection
Louis Sarno _Bayaka:  The Extraordinary Music of the Babenzélé Pygmies_, Ellipsis Arts, 1996
Elizabeth Wilson _Nez Percé Stories_ Wild Sanctuary, 1991,
British Library of Wildlife Sounds:

(265)  Macaulay Library (Cornell University):
Michigan State University Envirosonics program:
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources:
Wild Sanctuary:
World Forum for Acoustic Ecology:
World Listening Project:  world listening@yahoogroups

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Voice of Memory: Primo Levi Interviews 1961-1987

 The Voice of Memory: Primo Levi Interviews 1961-1987
Edited by Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon
NY: The New Press, 2001

(204-205) We must remember that these faithful followers, among them the diligent executors of inhuman orders, were not born torturers, were not (with a few exceptions) monsters: they were ordinary men. Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions, like Eichmann; like Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz; like Stangl, commandant of Treblinka; like the French military twenty years later, slaughterers of Algeria; like the Khmer Rouge of the late seventies, slaughterers of Cambodia.

(232) So now I'd like to ask you some questions: can you tell me why, why we go to war, why (because this is war too) we crucify our enemies, as the Romans did and the Nazis after them, why, although we've had a brief half-century of sanity, of respect for prisoners of war, it lasted so briefly and now we've returned to the cruelties of before?

(244) I understood that it was foolish to talk of evil Germans: the system was demonic, the Nazi system was capable of dragging everyone down the road of cruelty and injustice. The good and the not so good. It was extremely hard to break out of, you had to have heroic strength. What I don't understand is why the same things did not happen in Italy: in short, is there such a thing as a home-grown demon, intrinsic to Germany, which makes the demonic at home in Germany? Recently I was interviewed by Ferdinando Camon on this subject, in a written interview, and he bought up the question of the demonic side that is intrinsic to Lutheranism. I don't know about such things, it's something I don't understand.

It's the herd instinct that is frightening.

The herd instinct, yes. The consent, the always saying yes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked by Upton Sinclair

_I, Candidate for Governor:  And How I Got Licked_ by Upton Sinclair
Berkeley, CA:  University of CA Press, 1934, 1935
ISBN 0-520-08198-6

(vi)  "I say positively and without qualification, we can end poverty in California...  I know exactly how to do it, and if you elect me Governor, with a Legislature to support me, I will put the job through - and I won't take more than one or two of my four years."

The new government would establish a network of cooperative colonies for the state's 700,000 unemployed, basing them in idle factories and vacant farmland, which the state would seize under its powers of eminent domain or through confiscatory taxes.  The state would capitalize and manage these cooperative, which would exchange their products within a giant, cash-free network.  Modeled, although Sinclair did not say so, on Soviet collective farms, the EPIC colonies were not envisioned as temporary projects.  They were to be the seedbeds of a new cooperative economy, an economy of "production for use" that would ultimately supplant the old economy of "production for profits" as workers, farmers, and even businessmen realized the efficiency and numerous personal and social advantages of cooperation.

(xiv)  The barter clubs that had sprung up by the score in Southern California in the early Depression were a still more important source of ideas, for it was there that Sinclair saw the basic model for the cooperative network that would be EPIC's answer to unemployment and California's gateway to socialism.

(xv)  Master of the clever phrase and powerful slogan, Sinclair was unmatched in his ability to bring ideas down to the level of common sense, while persuading his audience that no other level was valid.  The intellectuals of his day found his style annoyingly egocentric, but for hundreds of of thousands of modestly educated Californians, his self-presentation as a teacher-with-all-the-answers was powerful and self-affirming.  He was the teacher, but taught that they were the experts, insisting that the so-called economists were fools, and that the only kind of economics that made sense had to be based on common sense.  Thus he set up his appealing equations:  that cooperation was more efficient than competition; that capitalism begot overproduction, which in turn begot unemployment;  that putting people to work made more sense than giving them handouts;  that state management and planning would balance production and consumption;  that "production for use" would end the Depression.  It was all so straightforward.  "I have spent my whole life studying the idea of production for use,"  he assured his audiences.  "It is to me as obvious as arithmetic, as certain as sunrise.  If you give hungry men tools and access to land, they will grow food;  if you give them access to factories, they will turn out goods.  Who but a lunatic - or a hireling - would question it?"

(12-13)  It is easy to imagine the unemployed of California in a system of production for use because of the efforts which they have made to establish such a system for themselves.  All over the State self-help and barter groups have sprung up.  There have been literally hundreds of them, and for a year or two I had been hearing stories of their achievements.  In Compton, an industrial town south of Los Angeles, they served 19,745 meals at a total money cost of less than one-half cent a meal.  My friend, Hjalmar Rutzebeck, author of "Alaska Man's Luck," was active in the UXAA (Unemployed Exchange Association) of Oakland, and told me marvelous tales about the complicated procedure whereby a group of several thousand hungry men would manage to make something out of nothing.  They would find a farmer with a crop of peaches rotting on the trees, and who needed to have his barn painted.  They would find a paint merchant who would accept some canned peaches in return for paint.  Some of these operations were extremely complicated, involving an elaborate circle of activities with a dozen different participants.

One would have expected such efforts at self-support to be welcomed by the entire community.  The cooperatives of Los Angeles county maintained 150,000 members for five months on a cash expenditure by the Government of only seventeen cents per family per month.  Since a family is found to average 3.6 persons, this was less than one-sixth of a cent per person per day.  Here was Los Angeles county drifting into bankruptcy;  here was the board of supervisors being besieged one day by hungry men demanding doles, and the next day by taxpayers clamoring against further taxes.  For persons on the dole who did not belong to cooperatives the State of California was paying out in one way and another forty-five cents per person per day, or 270 times  as much as the cooperatives were costing.  One would have expected that everybody in the county would hail the cooperatives as the most progressive, the most American, the most helpful of all the developments of these depression years.

But it was not so.  The cooperatives were handicapped and hamstrung in a hundred different ways.  Their funds were cut off, their leaders were bribed, they were broken by dissentions deliberately fostered.

A story was told to me by one of the leading society ladies of Los Angeles.  a self-help group had got hold of some old baking machinery and got it to working and were turning out several thousand loaves of bread per day.  Another group had got some land and grown some vegetables.  They had an old truck and were exchanging bread for vegetables;  but the bakery concerns objected to the bartering of bread, and the produce concerns objected to the bartering of vegetables, and the politicians forced the relief workers to cut off the gasoline supply of the truck, and so the operation was brought to an end.

This is how it is in our blind, anarchic society.  When the State gives money to the unemployed and they spend it for bread in a store, that amounts to a subsidy for the stores;  and in their greed for that subsidy the store-owners are willing to see the taxpayers driven out of their homes and the State driven into bankruptcy.

Even relief itself has become a racket.  As I write, Senator Borah tells the American people that of the money which the Government gives for relief of the unemployed not more than one-half actually reaches the unemployed.  The rest goes to the politicians along the line.  In Democratic States it goes to build up a Democratic machine and in Republican States it goes to build up a Republican machine.  California has been a Republican State for forty years and remains so, and the relief money serves to build up a machine of President Roosevelt's enemies and to bring the New Deal to futility.

(38-40)  I must not forget "Depression Island."  In my book, "The Way Out," written before the EPIC movement started, I had used the illustration of three men cast ashore upon a tropical island;  I imagined what would happen to them while they were free, and then the situation if one of them came to own the island.  I made a story out of it - three or four pages - and when the EPIC movement got going people began begging me to take up this idea and make it into a play or motion picture.  I wrote it as a scenario for a picture, a two-reel comedy.

Since the picture producers refuse any story which suggest any thing wrong with the profit system, we decided to raise the money and make "Depression Island" for ourselves.  I spent five days visiting in the palaces of the rich, begging for a loan of thirty-five hundred dollars.  I was able to get pledges amounting to seventeen hundred - of which five hundred was withdrawn two or three days after it was pledged!  So the motion picture version of "Depression Island" still waits.

Some of our people demanded it as a stage show, which could be made to pay for itself.  So in due course the Shrine auditorium was rented and our clubs were put at work selling tickets.  We borrowed the "set" of a tropical island from a motion picture concern, and one evening an audience of three or four thousand assembled.

The curtain went up on three castaways searching for water and something to eat.  There was an entirely practical cocoanut tree and highly realistic fish, both fresh and dried.  There magically arose a hut.  The three men were happy, because if Abie charged too many cocoanuts for a fish, Bing and Crunk could go out and get their own fish;  and the same with cocoanuts and huts.

The only trouble was they became bored and took to gambling, and Crunk, a realtor from Los Angeles, won the ownership of the island and also the fishing rights.  At once everything was changed, for Crunk put Abie and Bing to work for him, and paid them only one cocanut and one dried fish per day for their labors.  He made them pile up dried fish and cocoanuts for him, and when they had piled up more than he could use, he told them he was very sorry but there was no more work for them.  When they asked the reason, he said there was a depression on the island, and when they wanted to know what they should do about it, he told them that was their problem, not his.  Crunk was a believer in "rugged individualism."

So of course there arose the problem of social unrest.  Abie, a little Jewish song writer from New York, insisted upon helping himself to cocoanuts, whereupon Crunk, owner of the island, hired Bing as policeman and ordered him to put Abie into jail.  When Abie tried to persuade Bing that this was all nonsense, and that he and Bing should take the island away from Crunk, the latter called that criminal syndicalism, and urged Bing not to listen to any of that red talk.  Bing was a taxicab driver from Chicago, and told Abie that he was a Democrat and a patriot, and believed in law and order;  he obeyed the owner of the island, and Abie had to surrender, and be put on a dole of half a dried fish and half a cocoanut a day.

You can imagine how an audience of EPIC enthusiasts roared over these sallies.  The story went on to satirize all the developments of the depression.  When Crunk started to publish a newspaper and hired Abie to write editorials to tell Bing that the social system was ordained by God, the actors had to stop and wait for the audience to get over laughing.

Finally Abie hit upon the idea of persuading Bing to political action.  Bing, a loyal one hundred per cent American, would not listen to red talk, but he was quite ready to hear that they needed an election on that island.  So they founded the Democratic party, and Abie wrote a platform, and elected himself Governor and Bing Lieutenant-Governor, and proceeded to impose an income tax on the rich, to cover the deficit and pay salaries of the public officials.

The master of ceremonies at this show was my friend, Lewis Brown, and he helped in the ending of the play.  I had really been too busy to think up an ending, and had quit at the point where Crunk refused to recognize the government, and he and Bing got into a civil war.  At that point the master of ceremonies came running onto the scene protesting that brawling would not solve the social problem,  The actors said that that was as far as the script went, and it was up to the author to tell them what to do next.  So then there was  a shout, "Author! Author!" and the author of "Depression Island' was dragged onto the stage, and persuaded to tell the audience how this problem of want in the midst of plenty could be solved by majority consent.

(203)  "The future, if it remembers me at all, may forgive blunders caused by a too impetuous desire to stop the starving of men and women, and especially of little children, in a world which has learned to produce more than it can consume."

Final Statement of EPIC Plan: