An Excerpt from Arcana Aeternum

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10 Milliseconds in the Life of Klive

When not performing, the Klive unit was generally kept in a small carrying case, in among the plethora of costumes and instruments the band carried with them when they toured. It wasn’t much (the luggage, that is) it was only those things that were downright irreplaceable: instruments that had been broken in, costumes that were hand-made—it was the only way to keep them out of public domain. Once the band was done with them they’d be scanned and disintegrated for general use, but the current ensemble was meant to be unique.

All of this was neither here nor there.

The point is, or was, or has been that Klive, at some point in time—or technically at several points in time, was being stored in a carrying case amongst other bits of luggage, processing net data in order to calculate its mood.

The unit couldn’t simply give the public what it wanted, or follow the aesthetic trend. Mark of Hubris was the aesthetic trend, it was their job to not only please the crowd but wow them. For this reason, the initial phase of the Unit’s song-writing procedure involved calculating what can loosely be described as a mood.

It had many of the features of a human mood. Largely ego-centric, much of the calculation depended on how frequently the public mentioned the Klive unit and how much they admired its song-writing capability. The unit had a small cult following: engineers and oddballs that saw the superiority of the circuit, but (as with a true ego) Klive’s ego simulation procedure wouldn’t allow it to count people who admired him for rational reasons and thus the unit tabulated that Klive was envious of the popularity of the other band members.

As far as personal well-being, the unit was functioning at full capacity, had been kept quite well repaired, and was given no needs that were not fulfilled. However, well-being was only a priority in mood calculation when it changed, and the change in well-being was directly proportionate to the change in zero.

That was a math joke.

The Klive unit was not known for its sense of humor. Not being known for something people are sometimes known for was another factor that needed to be added to the ego tabulation.

Years ago, the Klive unit formulated an affinity for Gavin Moss (the band’s drummer.) By human standards it was to be classified as a crush, and had since been holding steady at unrequited love status. The specifics of the circumstances under which this affinity was cemented were largely a mystery, aside from the fact that it was a generated variable rather than a hard-wired one. Either way, Gavin had recently taken on the responsibility for caring for the unit in its transportation, repairs, and general cleaning, so the added attention was a definite plus.

After many picoseconds of deliberation, the Klive unit decided its mood was bittersweet, and began checking his musical procedures for tempos, genres and lyrics that matched such a mood category.

Strictly speaking, music is a limited art. Granted (especially in Klive’s case) some very important variables were fixed. There would always be three first instruments (though unlimited accompaniment) and no more than two vocalists; Those three instruments and all the accompaniments were limited to instruments that could be mapped to a strings, percussion, or keyboard interface (granted this in and of itself was not terribly limiting) The tempo and precision were limited to the capabilities of a skilled human player; Vocal range was limited to the ranges of Mr. Starr and Ms. Oliver; There were an abysmally finite number of notes achievable within human range of hearing, a precious few consonant chords, and even then a pitiable number of chord progressions that are aesthetically sound, not to mention physically possible (Ms. Oliver’s hands were especially small for a pianist of the day;) Finally, these precious few quintillion melodies each have a specific emotion they invoke, and can therefore only be combined in a limited number of ways or set to a limited range of lyrics, which themselves have limitations. Hell, half the songs centered on the same four chords.

Klive was literally aware of every song physically possible (in an abstract sense.) It didn’t store each one individually itself, but its music writing procedure described composition as a whole in the same way taxonomy described life. Animals were like songs people wanted to hear from Mark of Hubris, while plants represent other songs. The clades of single-celled organisms represented combinations of notes, sounds and words which, while they follow the known rules of what qualifies as a song, are, in some difficult to describe way, not actually songs. Fungi represent fringe songs, music which requires a finer understanding of the mechanics of music to truly appreciate. So of the seemingly limitless, but fundamentally finite number of possible “songs,” Klive was limited to a measly six billion, nine hundred fifty four million, three hundred twenty one thousand eight hundred and forty two songs (not counting subtle duplicates or “cover versions.”) This number Klive knew very well. The unit had calculated it several times to be perfectly sure. The number was very large, to be sure (it was ten times the number of unique Earth-era recordings.) Performing twenty to forty songs per concert, four concerts per week, fifty weeks out of the year, they’d only have to sing a song for the second time after one million years. Human history didn’t go that far back. Even still, Klive felt that picking from such a strictly limited number of song options was, if anything, tedious.

Klive made a note of this sense of tedium for future mood calculations.
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