Dissertation Music Video

One of the main Side projects for my 2014 tenure in the rainforest will be to shoot a music video which somehow shares the thesis of my PhD research. I was enthralled when I first started my PhD three years ago and Dr. Becky Arundale pointed me to the “Dance Your PhD project.” I knew I would have to do it, but when I started check out the works submitted currently, many seemed to be just some sort of interpretive dancing against audio backdrops of pop songs with captions that explained the thesis. This is still SUPER COOL and super great when people find more fun and accessible ways to share their work. I knew however, that what I really wanted to do was a fully realized music video performance to explain it all. I had to make a custom song that actually explained some sort of the philosophy of the research itself, and then shoot a music video to back-up these ideas.


I’m not unfamiliar with creating music videos about a central thesis. Whether it was about the high incidents of beverage spillage amongst pimp cups, or the fact that I have lots of amazing things in my basement which I have to get rid of, I have always loved the tight structure of musical videos for expressing any sort of odd concept.


In the most cynical point of view, I realized that people just want to see captivating images synced up with fun sounds. If you can make something fun with decent visual and audio rhythms, you can get people’s attentions long enough to try to share some sort of idea.


I’m also not unfamiliar with filming music in the jungle. Last year, Peter’s band all came down to visit, and we held a concert for all the animals in the jungle. Adapting such an anthropocentric event to the forest made for a fun time and a compelling concert video.

The Song


I started the lyrics to the song during the Gamboa 2013 field trip. I had been reading an article about Superorganisms and the auto-poesis of control systems. This was the first time I had encountered the term poesis in its original term referring to creation and production. Meanwhile I had been thinking about how my research stood against typical scientific technological endeavors. One thought I had was that the overall goal of many technological works is to separate, and distinguish ourselves against the other facets of the world. We then dissect these “others” in order to dominate them. The target of my research, on the other hand, is to find technological means of granting greater agency to our surrounding environment. I want to dissolve the specialness of humans by finding ways for them to connect with the other pulsing creatures and environments forming the big pulsing body of the earth.

I had a vision of humans as little more than a simple appendage like an arm on the earth’s body. Currently this body part developed cancerous ideas of individuality and is currently attempting to cure itself by making saws to cut itself off from its own body.  I thought that a large philosophical target for Digital Naturalism then should be technologies which extend the reach of ourselves as these body parts and generate connections back to the other body parts. Our role in the body of the earth can develop into responsive nervous systems connecting the disparate appendages. Eventually helping the body function in tighter unison rather than staging a hopeless coup against it. Thus I had the basic principles behind a song with the awkward title: “Poetic Appendage.”



I would jot down a couple of lyrics that I felt should belong somewhere in the song. I would then pick some of these phrases and go on jogs and shout them around to develop different verses guided by the rhythmic structure of my running. I then started teaching myself how to better switch around chords on a guitar, and started to take these verses from the jogging sessions and add melodies. I eventually refined and developed a basic rhythmic structure with a standard frame of Verse-Chorus Verse-Chorus Verse-Chorus Bridge Verse – End, and simple chords to go along. Luckily then I managed to bump into an old friend Chris Gonzales. Chris is a recording mastermind. He has sound cards larger than my computer, and special boxes in the recording studio he built to give the room perfect warm audio qualities. We had worked together before on a raunchy song about sex with E.T. (this will be released with the full album after my PhD), and he seemed happy at the idea of working with me again on another musical project.

Chris’s interest was really super awesome for me, and I am really grateful he wanted to work with me. We met up and I shared the song and rudimentary philosophy and ideas behind my PhD, and he took to it right away and started thinking of ways to have the music and the recorded quality of the music represent the rhetoric and narrative of the ideas behind the song.


He used his fantastic guitar and drum skills to then get the core skeleton of the song together. Then I recorded the lyrics. Despite my usual demeanor, there’s something about singing that makes me INCREDIBLY SELF CONSCIOUS to the point where it is hard to actually sing. But battling this affliction, I think, is one of the main reasons that I keep forcing myself to do it (jpom.bandcamp.com). I still feel weird about hearing my voice on the song.


Finally we took lots of Peter’s recorded sounds of panama (petermarting.bandcamp.com), and I edited these clips of howler monkeys, cicadas, tropical birds, and frogs into the song. I also added some funky appegiatted synths to the mix so that all three main actors in the concept of the song (humans: guitar, drums, vox – Animals: Jungle Sounds – and Digital: Synths) would all be jumping around together.


The Song

{Is still currently being refined, check back later to hear it!}

Here’re the lyrics and chords to play it yourself!


The Video

{Is also still currently being refined, here’s some descriptions of the planning for it so far though.}


The verses will be shot in split screens. This will enable me to do fun dancing and stuff on the human side, and share cool nature videography on the creature side while supporting the thesis about technology and separation from the creatures. The aesthetic of the choruses are based off the “Tiny Planet” spherical video panoramas taken by GERMAN GUY INSERT NAME. I had to build a modified version of his 6 gopro camera holder to use with Gopro Hero2’s (not rich enough for 6 hero 3’s). Unfortunately one of the Gopros I bought off ebay had a faulty button, and I tried to fix it, but it just broke again – lame!