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Catalog No: FLX16
Title: K5
Sound Artist: Frank Rothkamm
Visual Artist: Nina Schneider
Holger Rothkamm
Label: Flux Records
Length: 33:30 (2010s)
Composed: 2004
Location: Hollywood
New York
Los Angeles
Instruments: Kawai K5m
Release Date: 3/3/2013
Edition Size: 100
Format: Compact Disc
Parts: Vinyl style sleeve(4/4)
Compact Disc(4/4)
4to booklet
File Under: 5th state of matter
additive Synthesis

Frank Rothkamm [ K5 ]

K5 as the Fifth State of Matter (2013)


K5 is a synthesizer built by the japanese company Kawai in 1987. In their own literature with the aptly titled “Kawai Owner’s Manual” the unnamed author salutes our choice of machine by stating, “Congratulations. You now own one the world’s most sophisticated digital musical instruments: the Kawai K5 Digital MultiDimension Synthesizer. [...] The K5 is an exceptional investment in digital synthesis technology. It will give you many years of musical enjoyment.”

In these three introductory sentences the word “digital” is featured as many times, giving us a clue to what concept was of great significance to the Japanese at that time: Digitalization. In metaphysical or conceptual terms it means this notion: The continuously infinite world of perception can be represented by a finite series of numbers, which in turn can be read by a machine which in turn produces an ideal form of the infinite back into the world of perception.

With the K5” , the manual exclaims “, you can control the relative amplitude of up to 126 harmonic sine waves!”

I personally in 1987 West Germany do not recall any keyboardist who wanted to sit down and manually dial in amplitude values for 126 sine waves instead of playing the melody from the Pet Shop Boys’ – “It’s a Sin”. This amount of self sacrifice would indeed be a sin, and that might have been the reason why the K5 was a commercial failure not only in Germany, but in the whole synthesis investing world.

The K5 uses a rare form of digital synthesis called “additive synthesis”. The manual explains this: “The “purest” most basic sound in nature is a sine wave. It is a S-shaped waveform that is constant in its frequency (pitch) and its amplitude (loudness). Most of the sound we hear whether from musical instruments or other sources are much more complex, of course. But if you were to analyze any of these complex sounds, you would find that they are actually made up of several sine waves...” This analysis and in reverse this synthesis of adding many simple waves to form a complex waveform is not the invention of Kawaii’s engineers but of the, here uncredited, French mathematician and physicist Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier, who lived from 1768 to 1830. He is known for the mathematical series that bears his name: the Fourier series that decomposes periodic signals into the sum of a set of simple sines.

The idea is quite striking: Fourier proposes the existence of some kind of fundamental and indivisible simple matter, a sine wave “atom” or “element” if you will, that, if added to itself in various proportions ceases to be a collection of separate elements but becomes a new entity: a complex matter, a complex signal, a complex waveform. Presumably, the sensation of complex continuous reality can now be explained and computed as additive synthesis from type identical elements or sinusoids.

Two points are of great interest here: identity and sinusoid. In contradiction to the revered Kawaii’s Owner’s manual, sine waves do not exist in “nature”, even if we are generous and read the 1987’s japanese concept of “nature” to mean the world of sense perception, which includes any sound, even man made. Sine waves do not exist in nature because perfect circles and perfect straight lines only exist, platonically speaking, in the world of ideas, eternally unmovable perfect forms. Reality only partakes in them as imperfect copies, as the world of sense perception is corrupted and deceitful but never a true sinusoid. So the very element that as a sum makes up all periodic signals is not of this world. Interestingly, the synthesis can only succeed if all of the waves are of the same otherworldly type. To formulate Fourier here via Plato: Sums of form identical otherworldly waves can produce any complex signal in the world of sensation.

For Plato this ideal elemental matter is a triangle, the whole world is literally made of identical triangles, in a very additive way. “Fire and earth and water and air are bodies,” he wrote in his book Timeus, “and every sort of body possesses solidity, and every solid must necessarily be contained in planes; and every plane rectilinear figure is composed of triangles”.

Now, Plato ends up with a triangle as the most basic element, but Fourier shows mathematically that the end is found in a circle, which is the same as The Kawai’s Owners Manual concept of the “S-shape”. It describes the same perfect circle in motion (as a identical repetition in time). A priori, this gives rise to the notion that the K5 is, in method and science is nothing but a method a Platonic Machine. Plato warns us in the same Timeus book that , “excessive pains and pleasures are justly to be regarded as the greatest diseases to which the soul is liable[..]”. This solidifies the notion that the K5 synthesizer is a Platonic Machine because I can personally assure you a posteriori that while working with it you do not experience any pleasure or pain whatsoever, only the numbing sensation of tedious repetition, which is quite sinusoidal.

How Plato got his idea of method, his science, we do not know, but as art historian and theorist, Whitney Davis writes in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, “The tradition of Platos’s visit to Egypt, as the reader will undoubtedly remember, is a strong one, that is , it has been repeated many times” This description could also be that of a periodic waveform and henceforth it appears that the tradition of Plato’s visit to Egypt itself came about via additive synthesis into the minds of Egyptian archaeologists everywhere.

How Fourier got this idea of method, his science, we do not know, but we do know that he went to Egypt with the first expedition of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 and was made governor of Lower Egypt and secretary of the Institut d'Égypte. Lingering there in isolation, his support cut off by the British Navy, Fourier contributed several mathematical papers to the Egyptian Institute at Cairo which Napoleon founded. We can only speculate how he wandered around in the hot blazing sun to look at the triangular shaped pyramids and returned from Egypt in 1801 with many artifacts including a transciption of the Rosetta Stone.

How the Kawai engineers got their method, their science, we do not know, but in the competitive climate of the mid 1980s two other highend synthesizer manufacturers, Kurzweil and Synclavier, were working on additive synthesizers of their own, with only Kurzweil to actually name it the K150FS, were FS stands for Fourier Synthesis. But what we do know is that in 1986 the Bangles, who left a great stimulus impression upon the male-dominated corporate world, released “Walk like an Egyptian.” We also know this was at a time when Raymond Kurzweil was still with his company and dealt in discrete mathematics instead of speculative philosophy. Personally, I can also attest to the stimulus impression of the Bangles upon me as a young man in Vancouver, Canada. We will not speculate any further here, as tempting as it is.

I may remind you however that only the mind can perceive a Platonic form. So the promise of a Platonic Machine via Fourier, the promise of the Kawai K5 digital multidimension synthesizer is that any complex, worldly signal can be created by summing up in different proportions one simple ideal platonic form, which is otherworldly. This includes the creation of signals that are either inbetween and closer to the Platonic forms or are on the very border of categories, on the border of sensations, or both.

The perception of sound as an extra auditory, perhaps even visual, substance is not new. We constantly see and hear therefore making it difficult to separate one sensation from the other. For the human consciousness there literally is no picture without a sound and no sound without a picture. We can never eliminate sense perception, we can only minimize it. Many experiments in psychophysics have shown that auditory perception is always relative and therefore if, as in an aeonic chamber, any external sound stimulus is absent, we perceive auditory signals like a “ringing in the ears” or tinnitus. The same holds true for visual perception as anyone who has ever closed their eyes can attest to. You don’t see nothing. The border between perceptions are not as clear cut as the 4 states of matter in physics. But what are these border sensations?

It is quite surprising that among the famous states of matter, that is solid, liquid and gas there is one state of matter called plasma. “Unlike gases” wikipedia tells us, “plasmas are electrically conductive, produce magnetic fields and electric currents, and respond strongly to electromagnetic forces. [...] Plasma is the most common form of visible matter in the universe.” This counterintuitive notion is quite interesting, in our worldly perception on this planet Plasma was definitely the rare occurrence until the age of electricity.. Lightning and the sun were the only common sensations of Plasma and both were associated with deities. in particular in ancient Egytp the sun was Ra, quite literally an otherwordly God. I would like to point out the obvious: To the human perception the sun’s shape is never changing and is perfectly round, has no edges and as a circle has no beginning or end. Not perfectly sinusoidal, but perhaps as close as we going to get in this corrupted world.

As the 4 famous states of matter solid, liquid, gas & plasma were always known even in antiquity, a continued search has been going on for the account of border sensations, a search for the unknown, a search for the 5th element. This is a rare pursuit outside the world of physics, to perceive unknowns, which the wisdom of any given age could not reduce to the 4 elements, to the 4 states of matter. The pursuit has a long tradition in the regions of Europe where I was born, but certainly not only there. In the German language of the 14th century it was called the “Königliche Kunst”, which literally translates to the King’s Art, but it is known in common English as the Royal Art. As the original Germanic symbol, the emblem for it would be K5. Just as in the Kawai K5. If this isn’t a coincidence of the greatest magnitude, I don’t know what else could be, but I do know one trick I learned from the Freemasons: The best way to hide a secret is in plain sight.

This “K├Ânigliche Kunst der Fünften Materie”, Royal Art of the 5th matter or here K5 for short, perhaps alludes to the fact that the pursuit of something so elusive and rare as the 5th state of matter could only be accomplished by Royalty. At least this might be the opinion of Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey. It hides the word King under the umbrella of hereditary Royalty. The original meaning of the word king, so wikipedia’s “Royal and noble ranks” tells us, is from the Germanic "kuningaz, roughly meaning "son of the people." You do not even have to be the King of Kings, just plain King, son of people will do.

Here I can only hint at 5 examples of the Royal Art, the search for the perception of the unknown, the 5th state of matter, the “Königliche Kunst”. In the context of my 33 minute and 33 second electronic music fittingly also called K5 and made up, of course, from additive synthesis with multiple identical copies of the Kawai’ K5 synthesizer you could call these examples the “song titles”. I call them singles, as many singles make up a Multiple.

Historically and chronologically they appear as follows:

Single Number 1: Ancient Mariners concerning the Egytpian Nefarté, the solar boat. In ancient Egyt, the unknown authors of wikia.com write, “The Passion of Osiris was reenacted at all of his temples during his annual festivals. On a stele at Abydos erected in the 12th Dynasty by IKherNefert, a priest of Osiris during the reign of Usertsen III ([..]about 1875 BC) we find the principal scenes of the mysterydrama depicted [...]. In the first scene, Osiris is slain, no one knowing what happened to his body, and the onlookers weep and mourn [...],. Isis and Nepthys then recover the remnants and return to the temple. In the second scene, Thoth, Horus and Isis revive Osiris in the [hidden] sanctuary. [...] Then Osiris emerges, to much rejoicing. Horus then places Osiris in a solar boat, the Nefarté, to proceed directly to the eternal regions, known as the “coming forth by day” mentioned so often in the Book of the Dead.[...]

Single Number 2. Dead Metal concerning the early alchemist’s Prima Materia, the First Matter. In the Golden Tract by the selfproclaimed “Anonymous German Philosopher”, it reads: “As concerns the Matter, it is one and contains within itself all that is needed. Out of it the artist creates whatever he wants. It’s “birth is in the sand”[...] as the philosopher Anastratus says in “The Crowd”:”Nothing is more precious than the red sand of the sea; it is the distilled moisture of the Moon joined to the light of the Sun, and congealed.”[...] Nature is satisfied with one thing, and he who does not know it is lost” In “An open Entrance to the closed Palace of the King” yet another “anonymous Sage and Lover of the Truth” writes in 1645 “Whoever wishes to possess this secret Golden Fleece, which has virtue to transmute metals into gold, should know that our Stone is nothing but gold digested to the highest degree of purity and subtle fixation to which it be brought by Nature the highest effort of Art”.

Single Number 3. Tuba Pacifica concerning Albert Einstein’s Ether. wikipedia knows: “The hertz (symbol Hz) is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave[...] Heinrich Rudolf Hertz [...] was the first to conclusively prove the existence of electromagnetic waves by engineering instruments to transmit and receive radio pulses[...].” In Ether and the Theory of Relativity, physicist Albert Einstein confronts Hertz’s notion of the Ether: “[...] dualism still confronts us in unextenuated form in the theory of Hertz, where matter appears not only as the bearer of velocities, kinetic energy, and mechanical pressures, but also as the bearer of electromagnetic fields. [...] The ether appears indistinguishable in its functions from ordinary matter [...]

Single Number 4. Spirit Level concerning the Engram. German zoologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Semon coined the term engram in 1904 and defined it as a "stimulus impression”. He proposed a psychophysiological parallelism according to which every psychological state corresponds to alterations in the nerves. [..] Semon experimented with phonography, that is the recording of sounds, to explain the uneven distribution and revival of engrams.

Single Number 5. Threshold Magnitude concerning The Edge of the Unknown. Author and spiritualist Arthur Conan Doyle’s was friends for a time with Harry Houdini, magician and a member of the Cecilia Lodge of Freemasons in New York. Doyle became convinced that Houdini had extrasensual perception and claimed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930) “[Houdini] told me that a voice which was independent of his own reason or judgment told him what to do and how to do it. So long as he obeyed the voice he was assured safety. "It all comes as easy as stepping off a log," said he to me, "but I have to wait for the voice. You stand there before a jump, swallowing the yellow stuff that every man has in him. Then at last you hear the voice and you jump. Once I jumped on my own and I nearly broke my neck."”

In the end I can only personally vouch for Houdini as I was a Master Mason in good standing at Houdini’s lodge at the time I composed K5 in 2004 in Hollywood and New York.

To conclude in Plato’s words: “ We may now say that our discourse about the nature of the universe has an end”, but the unknown author of the revered K5 Owner’s Manual will undoubtedly add to this, to sum it all up: “Now that you’ve been introduced to the all the K5’s features and controls, let’s take a look at some of them in action

[K5] Image
[K5] 4to
[K5] Art Work