30 October 2012

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Provide the appropriate soundtrack of your our choosing.

27 October 2012

Interludinal Interlude

A passage from some (co)incidental reading...

'Oceans are only oceans when they move. ...Waves are what keep oceans from just being very big puddles. Oceans are just their waves. And every wave in the ocean is finally going to meet what it moves toward, and break. ...A wave, breaking on a rock, giving up its shape in a gesture that expresses that shape.'

Perhaps so. But in my experience, the beaches on the southern West Coast kinda suck if you're used to those of the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, the waves in the latter are smaller. And colder. But no matter, because there's still the sound of those waves. The ceaseless lulling crash that nullifies everything aside from where you are right then; the sound of an agelessness and of the outerness of an expansive otherness; a sound that erases all the things that led to your pathway there, the anesthetizing assertion that -- providing you've reached the right place -- that you're one the outermost rim of civilization, the point at which all things drop off or fall away into oblivion. Over which the stars so brightly spatter the sky at night.

The air here is never still, and the landscape -- the slant and shape and texture of it all -- reflects this in innumerable ways.

Some common wildlife: Pelicans, either in flocks gliding on the coastal winds or plunging singly into the surf with a dramatic splash. Sandpipers and the occasional heron. Dolphins just past the foaming of the waves. Various species of migratory birds. Seasonal ghost crabs with their burrowings and their slo-mo T'ai-Chi dances and flexations and their comical zipping sideways evasions. Coyotes what roam the dunes after sundown, evident only by their tracks as seen in the sand by daylight the next morning. Alligators and armadillos, but only if you venture inland into the marshes. This time: butterflies and dragonflies among the morning glories and reeds. People, seldomly. With the sound of the surf only occasionally being drowned out -- perhaps once a day -- by the overhead droning of a small-engine aircraft.

Wifey long ago said she'd find a landlocked existence alienating, that she'd dread life far away from the coast of a large body of water. I hadn't given it much thought before then, but in my mind had to agree with her right away. This even though she'd once been on a small boat in a storm where the waves towered above the mast (reminding all aboard just how small and fragile and easily extinguishable they were), whereas I hadn't. But now again wandering and climbing the miles of dunes, you encounter the remnants of prior outposts previously swept away by the lashings of hurricanes and tropical storm surges, being reclaimed by the ever-shifting and -piling sands. The names of entities that shape landscapes like these stacking up like a litany of malignant tsars -- Frederick, Ivan, Katrina, et al.

In the face of which (I suppose) that sound, that constant churning mentioned above, is little more than a whisper, a wispy rumor of what could be, otherwise might be, but what -- at least for now -- isn't.

Debussy offered only the most slapdash of sketches.

So: My own batteries in need of an extended recharging, moreso than I would've guessed. How much can a person sleep? Apparently quite a lot, a surprising amount, when induced under the best of circumstances, and when the backlogged deficit was -- it seems -- chronic, severe. What I can take from these few of days of offroadness will have to do. Thus the recent lag, partly on account of a hiatus. Some family matters to attend to, but the sort that also allow for some getaway time. Remoteness, off-mappish, no internet or media, accompanied by the most pleasantly loud version of quietude.

16 October 2012

On either side of the hush

David Toop on sound and cinema, noise and silence, music and text, and a new work by Christian Marclay:

"A knock on the door in a film; think about it. There is dread, maybe for one party or both, or there is desire, maybe for one party or both. Maybe dread and desire are the same. The knocking may be reversed invitation, the prelude to an opening, or death knell, ...A knuckle strikes wood and on the other side of that resonant wood surface another story is set in motion by the unknown part of a sound, the drum and its interior. Simple. ...Last night I was woken from a dream, not a nightmare, by three thunderous bangs. They forced me to get up, prowl the house yet they came out of sleep and a beating heart, not the house, and who is to say that their origin was not a convergence of my currently troubled mind and the rapid sequence of rat-a-tat door knocking that opens Marclay’s Everyday ? [...]

"Sound in cinema can silence both music and text. A gap in the script. Voices fall silent; the empty orchestra offstage is given a well-deserved rest. Theatre dies (finally) to make way for the everyday. Jacques Tati was the master of this. Complex surfaces, Michel Chion says, writing of Tati, describing scenes as if they were Duchamp’s nude, descending the stair in planes and fragments of time. 'CLANG goes the now famous swinging door in Les Vacances.' A thousand other noises of the everyday besides, all noises quiet deafening short extended and silent raised to the brief intensity of fireworks. The founding myth of contemporary art, Duchamp’s readymade, is caught up in this everyday. A door swing, CLANG, nothing. But Tati makes it swing again, then again, then again. Now we hear it, not as a special door that would compel us to book our own holiday just to be able to hear it, but as all doors: CLANG."


15 October 2012

Les fleurs du 'meh'

"The contemporary artist now functioned as a sort of lubricant, as both a tourist and a travel agent of art, following the newly liberated flows of capital while seeming always to be just temping within the nonstop tempo of increasingly flexible, dematerialized projects, always just passing through. This was all vaguely political, too, in a Negrist sort of way that promoted the emancipatory possibilities of connection and communication, linking the new speed of culture to the 'convivial' spirit of everything relational. The mutation of the artist continued to follow its irrevocable logic until we eventually arrived at the fully wireless, fully precarious, Adderall-enhanced, manic-depressive, post- or hyperrelational figure who is more networked than ever but who presently exhibits signs of panic and disgust with a speed of connection that we can no longer either choose or escape. Hyperrelational aesthetics emerged between 9/11 and the credit crisis and so can be squarely situated in relation to the collapse of the neoliberal economy, or more accurately to the situation of its drawn-out living death, since neoliberalism continues to provide both the cause and the only available cure for its own epic failure."

- from "Next-Level Spleen" by John Kelsey
Artforum, September 2012 issue  [ .pdf ]

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Also, in relation to my prior post: Tim Maly at Quiet Babylon with some thoughts about "the Leakiness of Surveillance Culture, the Corporate Gaze, and What That Has To Do With the New Aesthetic."

14 October 2012

The Projective Eye

Sam Jacobs at his Strange Harvest blog, in a reprint of his essay "Nostalgia for the New":

"Ironically for something positioning itself on the bleeding edge of newness, the New Aesthetic reeks of something suspiciously like nostalgia. It’s intoxicating vapours contain soothing notes of antiquated art historical ideas including the quaint notion of aesthetic movements and a belief in linear cultural progression. And that’s even before we even get to its content, which to anyone whose been around the cultural block, seem strangely familiar."

The essay originally appeared under the title "The Future as a Historical Fiction" in the UK publication The Commonplace, as part of a discussion on the 'New Aesthetic.' On the same topic and trailing by a few weeks, Curt Cloninger posts his own critique via the Mute site entitled "Manifesto for a Theory of the 'New Aesthetic'," in which he argues:

"'What might things make of the New Aesthetic?' is not a very useful question. 'What might humans make of the New Aesthetic once we realise that we have been entangled with things all along?' is a more useful question. Bruno Latour says that modernism was simply a time when humans thought we weren't entangled with things, when actually we were. What we made of that time unawares was an even bigger entangled mess (Latour's term is ‘a proliferation of hybrids’) – atom bombs as inverted guardian angels, global warming debates as orthodox scientific catechisms. At this point, it seems unlikely that we are going to avoid further complex human/thing entanglements, so trying to avoid them is probably something we should try to avoid. On the other hand, we should also avoid passively sitting around, techno-fetishistically dazzled by these 'spectacular new developments', blithely watching a real-time documentary of ourselves watching a real-time documentary of ourselves. Probably, we should spend some time figuring out how these systems flow and function so we can more effectively modulate them (or sabotage them), hopefully for reasons other than making more money."

"It bears repeating," Cloninger asserts at one point, "'Things' don't affectively suss New Aesthetic images. Only humans 'get' NA images. There is no machine 'aesthetic', no robotic 'vision.'" This has been a common riposte to the buzz surrounding NA over the past several months. Jacobs has his own criticisms, a number of which -- as with the above by Cloninger -- effectively echo those initially voiced by Bruce Sterling in his Wired essay this past April. Which is fitting enough, seeing how in the same edition of The Commonplace, Jacobs's essay runs alongside an interview with Sterling as conducted by editor Jack Self:

10 October 2012

Objets sonore

Confluential cross-posting. I stumbled upon this clip last week and been meaning to post it. And Simon pops up with a posting of the a related BBC 1979 program, "The New Sound of Music," which I happened across at the same time as the above.

Simon points out that BBC Radiophonic Workshop is about to be relaunched. According to a statement by Matthew Herbert, who's now the Workshop's Creative Director:
"Instead of being confined to rooms full of equipment in Maida Vale studios in London, the new radiophonic workshop will instead be a virtual institution, visibly manifested as an online portal and forum for discussion around the challenges of creating new sounds in a world saturated in innovative music technology but lacklustre in terms of actual original output. we will primarily bring together two key disciplines: music composition and software design and as such its members will be drawn from the cutting edge of both."

Between that and Mordant Music's current reissues of two LPs of library music by Tod Dockstader (originally done for the music publishing firm Boosey & Hawkes back in 1979-81), it looks like previously elusive histories and legacies are perpetually being maintained and rediscovered.

08 October 2012

The Secret Life of Plants

Contra Marinetti & co., contra the notion of an 'industrial sublime':

"Today, when the truly wretched aesthete, at a loss for objects of admiration, has invented the contemptible ‘beauty’ of the factory, the dire filth of those enormous tentacles appears all the more revolting; the rain puddles at their feet, the empty lots, the black smoke half-beaten down by the wind, the piles of slag and dross are the sole true attributes of those gods of a sewer Olympus. I was not hallucinating when, as a terrified child, I discerned in those giant scarecrows, which both excited me to the point of anguish and made me run sometimes for my life, the presence of a fearful rage. That rage would, I sensed, later become my own, giving meaning to everything spoiling within my own head and to all that which, in civilised states, looms up like carrion in a nightmare. I am, of course, not unaware that for most people the factory chimney is merely the sign of mankind’s labour, and never the terrible projection of that nightmare which develops obscurely, like a cancer, within mankind. Obviously one does not, as a rule, continue to focus on that which is seen as the revelation of a state of violence for which one bears some responsibility. This childish or untutored way of seeing is replaced by a knowing vision which allows one to take a factory chimney for a stone construction forming a pipe for the evacuation of smoke high into the air — which is to say, for an abstraction. Now, the only possible reason for the present dictionary is precisely to demonstrate the error of that sort of definition.

"It should be stressed, for example, that a chimney is only very tentatively of a wholly mechanical order. Hardly has it risen towards the first covering cloud, hardly has the smoke coiled round within its throat, than it has already become the oracle of all that is most violent in our present-day world, and this for the same reason, really, as each grimace of the pavement’s mud or of the human face, as each part of an immense unrest whose order is that of a dream, or as the hairy, inexplicable muzzle of a dog. That is why, when placing it in a dictionary, it is more logical to call upon the little boy, the terrified witness of the birth of that image of the immense and sinister convulsions in which his whole life will unfold, rather than the technician, who is necessarily blind."

From Georges Bataille's "Factory Chimney" entry in the Dictionnaire critique, c. 1929.

07 October 2012

Navigation by Dead (W)reckoning

Right. It's been a long while since I last did one of these.

The usual: some recent things interspersed with some vintage material, the latter of which flaunts its share of severely broken beats. Started out as one type of mix of assorted experimentia, but whimsy dictated that it end up as another variety. Download enabled, click on the arrow...

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05 October 2012

This is Entertainment, Pt. III

Throbbing Gristle in the studio recording Heathen Earth, circa 1980. [ Via Dangerous Minds, thanks to BLCKDGRD for the heads-up. ]

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Somewhat relatedly, the Blackest Ever Black label has an upcoming round of anticipated releases in the pipeline for the next couple of months. As part of their promo rollout, they've dropped about four hours of audio in the past several weeks, in form of various mixtapes and the like. Of which perhaps the most enjoyable was this two-hour session they did last week for NTS Radio; which is nicely heavy on obscure DIY, kinda dark & dubby leftfield guitar pop of a certain vintage. (Curious to know who this Dalhous [sic?] act is that turns up in the tracklist, marked as a forthcoming release on the label, because searches for info on said artist yields absolutely nothing. Very nice track, it is.)

Not sure how much the soundfile will remain posted, so grab as grab can. Tracklist up at the label's blog.

04 October 2012

Painter Man (Can I Join Your Band?)

"I hate music. I always have."    - Don Van Vliet

02 October 2012

Sounding Out the Territories (The Idea of West)

Bill Viola, "Anthem," 1983.

{ Fair warning: If you have cats, the audio for the above might get 'em spooked. }

01 October 2012

Habitat #3

Work by photographer Dan Dubowitz, shot last year in Brazil, for the series "Fordlândia," which is apparently the first in a trio of projects to appear under the title Megalomania. The title and location refer to Henry Ford's aborted attempt at setting up an industrial town for rubber harvesting in the heart of the Amazon. As author Joe Jackson writes in the text that accompanies the photos:

"In describing his project, Ford asserted he would transform the world's rubber industry and save Brazil's economy in a single stroke; he would civilize the wilderness, a task that would stretch through the generations to his sons and grandsons. To dramatize the venture, he planned to drop from the clouds like a god, flying into Amazonia aboard his friend Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. In 1928, Lindbergh planned a 9,000-mile tour of Latin America in Spirit, and was more than willing to take Ford along. A midwestern bungalow was built for Ford's use, with all the comforts of home. Lindbergh made the trip -- but Ford never came."

The enterprise quickly languished, ceasing operations, with Ford's grandson selling off the plantation's two-and-a-half million acres at an estimated loss of about $20 million in 1945.

And yes, I posted about some of Dubowitz's prior work a good while back, in relation to his series "Fascismo Abbandonato." Trained as an architect at Sheffield University, Dubowitz has a acute fascination with abandoned environments, with disused spaces that history has left behind. To view more of his work, have a look at Dubowitz's web site.

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