Apotome

Khyam Allami (GB), Counterpoint (INT)

Apotome is the catch-all title for a transcultural music project highlighting the cultural asymmetries, biases, and non-neutrality inherent in modern music-making tools, alongside their interconnected web of musical, educational, cultural, social, and political ramifications.  

Created by Khyam Allami and Counterpoint, the creative studio of Tero Parviainen and Samuel Diggins, it is focused on two browser-based non-commercial applications; Apotome, a generative music system focused on transcultural tunings and their subsets (scales/modes), and its sister application Leimma, which allows for the exploration and creation of such tunings.  

By relying on innovative narrative-style design, implementing the relationship between tuning systems and their subsets in a clear way, and utilizing novel web-audio, web-synths, and web-MIDI, Leimma and Apotome can be integrated into any music-making or music-learning environment. Being browser-based they are easily accessible, excellent for teaching, and having clear, intuitive interfaces makes them inviting for those new to the subject, all the while remaining capable of satisfying the advanced user.  

The project was launched in manifold forms at Berlin's CTM Festival 2021 including user-submitted compositions for a 24/7 live audiovisual stream, commissioned works, video essay, live networked trans/local performance, and panel discussion. 

Tuning is one of the most fundamental elements of music making. It is also the least taught, least understood, and most veiled. It is a harborer of cultural identity and a key concept in the progressive development of music. 

Although today’s music-making technologies allow for incredibly complex renderings of tunings from all cultures, these capabilities are rarely implemented. What DAWs, synthesizers, audio effects, notation programs, or even AI and machine learning models have in common is that they are almost all exclusively based on Western music theory and Western musical concepts. 

There is no such thing as neutral technology. Cultural bias inscribed in music technology mirrors the bias that runs through Western music theory, which to this day has not yet succeeded to address and dismantle its non-neutrality and the colonial framework that informed many of its canonical 19th century works. 

The hegemonic use of equal temperament and grid-based expression of rhythm that most music technologies impose, has cemented cultural asymmetries that restrict the creative possibilities of music makers from non-Western musical traditions and scenes and is testimony to the normalization that the diversity of musical traditions in the West have been subjected to in recent history. 

The Apotome project, as a whole, is a call to critically address and dismantle these inherent cultural biases that are hard coded (and wired) into today’s digital and electronic music-making tools. It interrogates and proposes solutions for an artistic problem that is deeply intertwined with the colonial, imperialist, and supremacist legacies of Europe, imposed upon itself and other world cultures. Though indirect, these legacies are remnants of inherited biases within European ideologies, proliferated through the technologies used to facilitate music-making across the world.  

Across Europe today, many are discussing the necessity to decolonize music, music curation, and music education. But how can we begin to decolonize these before we decolonize the tools we use to teach, learn, and make music? 

By investigating the disruptive powers of knowledge and technology, Apotome utilizes hybrid formats with novel web-technologies to bring simplicity, accessibility, and a progressive forward thinking perspective to the act of musicking that we all take for granted. Leimma and Apotome tackle these complex problematics at their core, proposing deceivingly simple and innovatively designed visual solutions to millennia-old ideas.  

Apotome is the catch-all title for a transcultural music project highlighting the cultural asymmetries, biases, and non-neutrality inherent in modern music-making tools, alongside their interconnected web of musical, educational, cultural, social, and political ramifications.  

Created by Khyam Allami and Counterpoint, the creative studio of Tero Parviainen and Samuel Diggins, it is focused on two browser-based non-commercial applications; Apotome, a generative music system focused on transcultural tunings and their subsets (scales/modes), and its sister application Leimma, which allows for the exploration and creation of such tunings.  

By relying on innovative narrative-style design, implementing the relationship between tuning systems and their subsets in a clear way, and utilizing novel web-audio, web-synths, and web-MIDI, Leimma and Apotome can be integrated into any music-making or music-learning environment. Being browser-based they are easily accessible, excellent for teaching, and having clear, intuitive interfaces makes them inviting for those new to the subject, all the while remaining capable of satisfying the advanced user.  

The project was launched in manifold forms at Berlin's CTM Festival 2021 including user-submitted compositions for a 24/7 live audiovisual stream, commissioned works, video essay, live networked trans/local performance, and panel discussion. 

Tuning is one of the most fundamental elements of music making. It is also the least taught, least understood, and most veiled. It is a harborer of cultural identity and a key concept in the progressive development of music. 

Although today’s music-making technologies allow for incredibly complex renderings of tunings from all cultures, these capabilities are rarely implemented. What DAWs, synthesizers, audio effects, notation programs, or even AI and machine learning models have in common is that they are almost all exclusively based on Western music theory and Western musical concepts. 

There is no such thing as neutral technology. Cultural bias inscribed in music technology mirrors the bias that runs through Western music theory, which to this day has not yet succeeded to address and dismantle its non-neutrality and the colonial framework that informed many of its canonical 19th century works. 

The hegemonic use of equal temperament and grid-based expression of rhythm that most music technologies impose, has cemented cultural asymmetries that restrict the creative possibilities of music makers from non-Western musical traditions and scenes and is testimony to the normalization that the diversity of musical traditions in the West have been subjected to in recent history. 

The Apotome project, as a whole, is a call to critically address and dismantle these inherent cultural biases that are hard coded (and wired) into today’s digital and electronic music-making tools. It interrogates and proposes solutions for an artistic problem that is deeply intertwined with the colonial, imperialist, and supremacist legacies of Europe, imposed upon itself and other world cultures. Though indirect, these legacies are remnants of inherited biases within European ideologies, proliferated through the technologies used to facilitate music-making across the world.  

Across Europe today, many are discussing the necessity to decolonize music, music curation, and music education. But how can we begin to decolonize these before we decolonize the tools we use to teach, learn, and make music? 

By investigating the disruptive powers of knowledge and technology, Apotome utilizes hybrid formats with novel web-technologies to bring simplicity, accessibility, and a progressive forward thinking perspective to the act of musicking that we all take for granted. Leimma and Apotome tackle these complex problematics at their core, proposing deceivingly simple and innovatively designed visual solutions to millennia-old ideas.  

isartum.net

Concept design and direction, research, composition: Khyam Allami 

Software development, UI engineering, concept design, generative music system design: Tero Parviainen 

Design and creative direction, concept design, UI engineering: Samuel Diggins 

OBXD, DEXED, and Yoshimi Web Audio Modules: Jari Kleimola 

With support from: AHRC Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership as part of Khyam Allami's PhD research at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, UK, and additional support from CTM Festival, Berlin, DE.  

Khyam Allami (GB) (born in Damascus 1981) is an Iraqi-British multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, researcher, and founder of Nawa Recordings. Primarily a performer of the Oud, his artistic research focuses on the development of contemporary and experimental repertoire based on the fundamentals of Arabic music, with a focus on music technologies, tuning, and microtonality.  https://khyamallami.com

Counterpoint is a creative studio run by Samuel Diggins and Tero Parviainen. Navigating the intersection of design, music, and technology, the duo uses generative systems, interactivity, and artificial intelligence in their work. https://ctpt.co 

Khyam Allami (GB) (born in Damascus 1981) is an Iraqi-British multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, researcher, and founder of Nawa Recordings. Primarily a performer of the Oud, his artistic research focuses on the development of contemporary and experimental repertoire based on the fundamentals of Arabic music, with a focus on music technologies, tuning, and microtonality.  https://khyamallami.com

Counterpoint is a creative studio run by Samuel Diggins and Tero Parviainen. Navigating the intersection of design, music, and technology, the duo uses generative systems, interactivity, and artificial intelligence in their work. https://ctpt.co