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    Will Schrimshaw – Infraesthetics

    written on February 25th, 2016

    I found this talk Will Schrimshaw did at Tuning Speculation: Experimental Aesthetics and the Sonic Imaginary in 2013 – a conference that had a lot of talks by people whose work I am still getting acquainted with.

    The term infraesthetics is proposed in order to describe a prominent and `reductive’ domain of work that takes a functional approach to sound and signals wherein the aesthetic is understood to be a kind of residual congealing or crystallisation, an unavoidable byproduct of more fundamental and primarily functional processes.

    Infraesthetics is the way in which art dealing with the infrasonic boundary orients our thinking away from interiority (and immersion) toward exteriority. The aesthetic is treated as a necessary interface to the inaudible conditions of audition. In this talk, Schrimshaw’s concurrent aim is to implement infraesthetics as an ontology of sound based on movement – not the artwork’s pictoral qualities, as is the case in cymatic artworks. It’s an ontology of the vibrational aspects of sound art, removed from its visual appearance.

    Infraesthetics is concerned with the concept of the noumenal.

    Later, Schrimshaw talks about an aesthticist engagement with aesthetics based in Deleuze’s statement that »experimental practices are primarily concerned with ideas« and that »white noise is the idea of sound.« This is something that recently has become clearer to me – the need for a more experimental and alternative approach to my research.

    Now I need to figure out how I am going to implement this in my own upcoming PhD-research. Both in terms of institutional and personal limitations.

    || filed under: Academia, Sonic Materialism, Sound Studies




    The Future of Festivals

    written on February 15th, 2016

    9 Futures: Sounds Fragmenting

    »So all of these festivals that the film looks at, they are more or less – in my mind – run by people who come out of the late 80s and early 90s. The European techno scene. And that idea of music as a seismograph of societal change – that’s really important. So the film tries to look at – or prompt – each different festival – the organisers, the artists involved – to try and rethink it and go ‘Where are we? Are we succeeding at this?«

    —Nathan Budzinski, The Future of Festivals

    Lately, I’ve been writing quite a few articles for Seismograf – a journal for contemporary music and sound art. I’ve just submitted a piece on SØS Gunver Ryberg’s newest album, AFTRYK, which should be out next week. I’ll do my best to translate the Danish articles and bring them for you here. But for now, I’d like to share this longform interview I did with former contributor to The Wire Nathan Budzinski, about his film 9 Futures: Sounds Fragmenting and the current state of experimental electronic music festivals.

    It’s all about what festivals actually are – why they exist, who creates them and for what reason. There’s a good bit of Jacques Attali’s Noise in there and we talk about how capitalist society needs these breaks from the boredom of everyday life. How you go to festivals to escape into an alternative space of dreams, insobriety and sound.

    In any case, you can read The Future of Festivals here.

    || filed under: Festivals, Interviews, Music




    Museum of Endangered Sounds

    written on February 3rd, 2016

    Museum of not-so-endangered soundsRecently, this website has been doing the rounds on sound and archive-related circuits. The Museum of Endangered Sounds was created in »January of 2012 as a way to preserve the sounds made famous by [Brendan Chilcutt’s] favorite old technologies and electronics equipment.«

    This blend of digital amnesia and our sonic past should be right up my alley, yet navigating the site I’m uncomfortably writhing in my chair. There is a playful and nostalgic element to this that I emphasise with. It’s fun going back to those – even at the time – terrible ICQ notifications or the operational noises of the ZX Spectrum computer. I can even enjoy the still very present sounds of my life, such as the turntable, film camera or cassette tape hiss. With fear of sounding like grumpy old man, I think there is something dangerous in this idosyncratic approach to preservation. This very narrowly curated selection of sounds does not a museum make.

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    Just as James Scott will tell you that we need not worry about the preservation of Super Mario, many of the sounds collected by Chilcutt are in no way in danger of being lost. The Nokia ringtones, the Tetris soundtrack, the vinyl turntable and the Windows 95 startup sounds are not “advocate-less items” – we’re set on major OS startup sounds.

    And this is where The Museum of Endangered Sounds becomes trite or even harmful. It canonises our recent technological past in a mere 33 popular sounds. Since every inclusion to the archive is an exclusion of something else, projects like these instill a false sense of security that the past is “taken care of.” If you want to see endangered sounds look to Jason Scott and Archive.org’s work on netlabels and software emulation/collection, or Lori Emerson’s work on the Media Archaeology Lab.

    || filed under: Archives, Sound




    Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi on the Necro-Economy

    written on January 12th, 2016

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    Are we heading into the Third World War? Yes and no: war has been with us for the past fifteen years, it promises to be with us for a long time, and it threatens to destroy the last remnants of modern civilization. The exacerbation of xenophobia across the West and the rise of nationalism in countries like France are causes and effects of a looming war whose sources lie in the past two hundred years of colonial impoverishment and humiliation of the majority of the world population, not to mention neoliberal competition and the privatization of everything—including war itself.

    Pacifism is becoming irrelevant as the conditions of war become irreversible.

    —Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, “The Coming Global War: Is there Any Way Out?

    At this moment, there is no longer any need to describe how far Europe has fallen into xenophobic greed and insecurity. Bifo says in an interview for Radio MACBA that if we look at the environment, the arctic ice caps, the Greek debt, and the Spanish debt we realise that we are committing suicide – financial capitalism is a path to suicide. And I must admit, that this is how it feels to live in Northern Europe now. It is not a sudden realisation, although many leftist voters seem surprised at every national election, murder, or war for the past 15 years.

    Are we heading toward a global war? Not exactly: no declarations of war are being issued, but innumerable combat zones are proliferating. No unified fronts are in sight, but fragmented micro-conflicts and uncanny alliances with no general strategic vision abound. “World war” is not the term for this. I would call it fragmentary global civil war.

    And the fragments are not converging, because war is everywhere.

    This is perhaps more clear in the US where – as Nicholas Kristof writes – “in the last four years more people have died in the United States from guns (including suicides and accidents) than Americans died in the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined.” This is the beginning of the worldwide necro-economy, which is the result of neoliberal deregulation.

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    In Europe, these combat zones are proliferating and we shall soon become just as jaded to the news of gunshots as our North American brothers and sisters. So far, the biggest fear is not physical violence against our own, but the rise – and not least normalisation – of nationalist parties and their opposition to a European coalition and globalisation. These pervasive political parties have more in common with Putin’s Russia than they might currently realise.

    This anti-euro front of European forces is converging with Russian nationalism under the authoritarian leadership of Putin and the banner of national populism and unrelenting Islamophobia.

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    Though I do not feel particularly Danish (culturally, politically) I cannot help but speak from a Danish standpoint. The Mohammad cartoons, the war in Iraq, the sale of energy company stocks to Goldman Sachs, casual racism, the 2015 shootings in Copenhagen, ads in Lebanese papers dissuading refugees from coming to Denmark, the 27% vote for the Danish People’s Party, and overall move towards xenophobic neoliberalism has long since made pacifism irrelevant. Aside from a lack of understanding, tact, acceptance and humanity, Denmark currently suffers from a lack of sophistication.

    Capital flows freely everywhere and the labor market is globally unified, but this has not led to the free circulation of women and men, nor to the affirmation of universal reason in the world. Rather, the opposite is happening: as the intellectual energies of society are captured by the network of financial abstraction, as cognitive labor is subjugated to the abstract law of valorization, and as human communication is transformed into abstract interaction among disembodied digital agents, the social body is detached from the general intellect. The subsumption of the general intellect into the corporate kingdom of abstraction is depriving the living community of intelligence, understanding, and emotion.

    As Danish universities cut back class time to as low as two hours a week, freeze PhD-admissions, and rush students through their degrees and into a non-existent labour market, we clearly see the capture of sophistication and intelligence by financial abstraction and individual valorisation.

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    At the moment, it is hard to foresee an awakening from this nightmare.

    The only imaginable way out of this hell is to end financial capitalism, but this does not seem to be at hand.

    Nevertheless, Bifo sees no other prospects in these times. He calls for solidarity amongst the bodies of cognitive workers worldwide, and the construction of a techno-poetic platform for collaboration in order to liberate knowledge from religious and economic dogma. The only way out is through irony and autonomy. Bifo also speaks of a desire to move beyond ideas of revolution, and instead talk of reprogramming – how to reprogram ourselves out of automation and abstract power.

    A social reprogramming through withdrawal in order to sow the seed of compassion and autonomy…

    || filed under: Capitalism, Essay, Necro-Economy




    Sonicity

    written on November 24th, 2015

    During his talk last year at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal, Wolfgang Ernst mentions the concept of sonicity. This was the first time I’ve heard Ernst mention aspects of sound (aside from the few passages in Digital Memory and the Archive) and it got me excited. Especially since Ernst was a big influence on my MA-thesis about new media art archives with his media archaeological and deconstructive approach to (computer) archiving.

    With the announcement of his new book Sonic Time Machines (date of publication set for 2016), I am excited to see how Ernst will combine two great interests of mine; archives and sound.

    Yet after watching the talk, I am left with a tame feeling that this idea of sonicity is not the novel idea I was hoping it to be. Ernst starts to discuss what he means by this concept at 46:55; “There is an implicit sonicity in computational architectural silence. A sounding latency. Like a gothic cathedral waiting for the organ.” By this definition, sonicity is little more than a way to describe the oral/aural history of objects. How even an unplugged modem still contains within it the croaking and wheezing clicks, whirrs and beeps we remember so vividly. As interesting as the archived object’s potential for sound is, I fail to see what academic insights can evolve from this? Doesn’t it seem kind of.. old.. to you?

    Later, in talking about the magnetic tapes on which archives used to be stored, he takes another stab at defining sonicity, as the sounds coming from these tapes. (49:03) “If we listen to computing, we are not listening to content but to memory itself.” The sounds of the archive itself. So now we’re not talking about the sound of the objects, but the sound of the collections holding the objects? In a sense, what I think Ernst is trying to get at, is a acoustics of computational architecture. The resonance or reverberation of software – the rhythm of algorithms.

    And just as he seems to be tapping into intriguing territory, he shuts down and starts talking about computer architecture again. Ernst covers a lot more sonic ground in his talk, but it lacks focus and he keeps trailing off about silence (temporal, culturally negative), sound-as-signal/noise (Kittler) and other slightly dusty ideas.

    Maybe I’m being too harsh here. I do think that Sonic Time Machines will hold the academic clarity and rigour needed to explore what I hope will be the vibrations of software. A rhythmanalysis of the algorhythms of digital architecture.

    || filed under: Academia, Archives, Essay, Sound Studies