Tag Archives: Observations

Yield To Total Elation

Indeed I will, I shall and I have been for the last hour.

The track (YTTE by Matmos) is only 9 minutes and seven seconds long. It is rare that I repeat a track this many times. But it’s just so damn good. Before I start talking about the music though..a bit of background.

Here’s what the artists themselves have to say, from their wonderfully detailed ‘discography’ 

Y.T.T.E.The title of this song refers to the imaginary city that visionary draftsman Achilles Rizzoli spent his life depicting. He peopled his city with skyscrapers, cathedrals and vast public buildings that symbolically represented the tiny group of friends and family members who supported his art and attended his occasional exhibitions. The letters Y.T.T.E. stand for Yield To Total Elation. We weren’t planning to copy it, but the opening synthesizer sound is a wee bit reminiscent of the synth intro to Madonna’s “Lucky Star”. Dunno why, but it is. Many people say the drums and bassline sound a bit like Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”. Others point out a certain (Robert) Fripp-ishness to the guitar solo. Pop music=total elation. The freaky guitar solo was made through an elaborately layered process: Mark Lightcap played a screaming psychedelic distorted guitar line through a rack of pedals and wahs and whammies, which was then burned as a soundfile on a CD, which was then physically scratched; the resulting skipping CD was recorded and then further chopped up in SoundEdit16 and then re-edited and manipulated in Digital Performer. We were told (jokingly?) the other day that the German electronic music magazine De:Bug refused to review “The Civil War” at all because there was a guitar solo on the record. Ha ha!

http://outsider.art.org/01intuit/americanmasters/010.html

Which is cool in itself. Some of the links are dead. I found some info and pics by Rizzoli here. Go to the full page on the album as well. Just click on the links…there’s so much here even if you haven’t heard the music.

A little bit of background on the artists. This is a brief excerpt from their label site.

Matmos is M. C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel. They have toured with Lesser, Labradford, The Rachels and Bjork, shared stages with Terry Riley and Wire, remixed The Melvins and Otomo Yoshihide (and most recently Erase Errata), and are still working on an ongoing collaborative project with The Kronos Quartet. They have taught seminars on sound art at Harvard University and DJed at proms for homeless teenagers. They have had pieces in the Whitney Museum of American Art, and have scored the soundtracks for five gay porn films.

Bless ’em.

Anyway, know we know a little bit about them we’re almost ready to get on with the show. One last link though…if you don’t like music then just read this. It’s a wonderful bit of art talking by Otto Muehle, I’d never heard of him but they link a site from the discog excerpted above. Basically this made me laugh like a mule and at the same time I think it’s brilliantly intelligent…and covered in shit. What more could you want. I’m still touring the site…well, I will be once I’ve finished writing.

Anyway, it’s real time review time. I’m unlikely to be able to type fast enough to explain just how good this is. Really, there’s so much miraculous energy in this song. These guys have such a detailed ear for production. The subtlest things are lying around everywhere like a million little bits of magic hiding in a beautiful giant haystack. You dive in and enjoy the hay, then get hit on the head by a bit of magic and it turns you into a kind of primitive beast experiencing happiness for the first time and not quite being able to work out what it is.

Maybe.

Here goes…oh…and this is just one track of one of the best albums I’ve heard in a while. This is the one I think all of you should buy a thousand times. And I hate consumerism.

Get ready to Yield.

Tiny little toy box style noise. Just a little reverberating ting to start..then a couple more, then a magical floaty noise, some synth or other. Sounds like somethings being eaten by something large as well. Or maybe fireworks in the distance. Strum a guitar a coupla times. We’ve got a lot going on here…and it’s still just the intro.

Drums

Oh yes. Lovely drums, really lovely drums. Indeed the rhythm from lust for life.

But that’s not the point…it’s slower..its got much mroe energy though. Guitar part….looooovvvveeeeellllyyyyy riff. Like eating Love with your eaars.

I kind of want to cry at this point. Bass just adds to the drums. Occasional harp style glissando in the background. The guitar line is actually a coupkle of interlocking guitar lines at different levels. Finger picking style.

Then the electro guitar…drums constantly busying and building with this weird static guitar solo…sounds like someone beating up a really wanky guitar solo…but a good one.  Plus a noise I can’t even bring myself to describe, once a bar. It’s coming to the fore now.

The guitars are all fading out. We’re entering something new. The indescribable sound (like a kind of rich eating noise.. crossed with a snore…only made by organic robots…maybe not). is the main thrust here. High pitched noises rambling around. Loads of random sounds and bursts of weirdness in every direction.

THis is amazing. The tingling from the beginning is still there.

AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

The magical factory of noise just suddenly cuts out for just long enough for me to come disturbingly close to orgasm. Then back in…a little more rhythmic and regular now. Not just trying to assault you randomly. Some great percussion sounds here…like someone playing bongos with those big gas tanks you get on the outskirts of towns. It’s all fading already…lovely little tinkling from the intro back….filling up the sound..going left to right. All alone…lost in a lovely ice cave or something.

Keeps on going…reverberating…like prayer bowls. Very high pitched. Someone’s playing a guitar occasionally…just plucking their way around it. Now it’s come to the fore. (Right channel first). Just like someone playing a basic guitar thing….everythings faded out apart from it now. It’s just kind of sitting there. Lovely actually….such a simple thing to do …just sit and play guitar. Now it’s being edited by computers…it’s like a buzzing. As they say above..very minimalist. A buzzing made out of guitar shifting up and down.

And the track ends abruptly.

Fuck yeah.

The track after ain’t half bad either. (It’s great actually…but now isn’t the time).

Still, I’m going to go back and listen to that again.

Louder…with my eyes closed.

Wonderful.

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It’s all in your head – Ways of Listening

So, this is about a lot of discussions I have with people. It’s about music, but it’s not going to be just like my random reviews of music. I want to look in a bit more depth at why I like music so much, and some of the kind of processual analysis of music that I do.

Woah, that sounded really heavy there, I actually meant something closer to the title. I listen to music in unusual ways sometimes.

No, this still isn’t right.

There’s a lot of different kinds of music. I like most of them. It’s a question of how you listen to it. Or mood. I’ve had arguments though. Sometimes the stuff I listen to is too abstract for some. John Cage for example. It seems to be as much about the ideas behind the music as the actual music itself. But it’s still possible to have both.

So I have a theory.

There’s a load of different layers of meaning to a piece of music. These can be obvious or non-obvious. Something with a sturdy bass drum and a 4/4 beat might imply that it has a dancing rhythm. A nice simple repeated rhythm can (and will) make me want to move. Stuff that is good to dance to is often a little more predictable, so you know where to move even if you haven’t heard it before.

The layer I’m most likely to skip is the one most people think is most prominent. I think it might me because I have bad ears…but I rarely concentrate on lyrics. A vocal part I can listen to, but only once the song has grabbed my attention (or I’m reading the lyric sheet) will the actual meaning of the words really sink in.

Odd considering my usual passion for words.

Anyway, then there’s the nostalgia element. A lot of the time songs have a very personal meaning caused by past events. Times when the song has been present for. The song your heart first broke to will always bring a twinge, even if its by S Club 7 (am I joking? I honestly can’t remember….it wasn’t really love anyway…the broken heart came much later). The songs of your childhood, even the ones you hated at the time. Always bring a smile, because they remind you of the times when everything was big and blurry (I didn’t get glasses until I hit around 10/11…I think this is part of the reason I have very little specific memory of life before this….but I have no evidence…so ignore me).

That is one of the ones that I think is actually a cheat. That’s not what it should be about…though it is the most commonly ascribed (in people I’ve talked to about this at least) reason for liking music. It reminds you of good times, or allows you to relive those times…in some way or another.

Anyway, it’s a reason. I kind of have a problem with it…as I think there actually is something in music that is special in and of itself. When I’m DJing I often get complaints from people that I don’t play enough stuff they’ve heard before. This always pisses me off. I mean…If they’re saying what I’m playing is shit, that’s fine, but its just they want something that ‘everybody knows’…but why not just enjoy new things…there’s a great John Cage quote about that: ‘I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.’

I know I’ve put it on here before…but it’s a really important thought.

Anyway, there’s more to this.

The sound itself wraps you up. There’s the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements. They move your head around and make you feel things. Emotions are expressed through tonality and structure. Energy pulses along with the music. You can feel your brain dancing, even if your legs aren’t. There’s a hidden layer in there…one you make up yourself. You fill in gaps and make guesses. That’s why unexpected shifts take you by surprise..you may not even realise it but you’re predicting what will come next. There’s a satisfaction if you’re right, and even more if you’re wrong. The surprise is nice.

This is all very much unconscious, though sometimes you can work it out. You’re just trying to come to terms with bits and pieces of this weird process by which you understand these shapes of noise.

It’s really fucking screwy isn’t it.

Like…seriously weird. I mean…you just receive these vibrations in the air. Just a bit better organised that the noises and sounds that fill up our life, just put into a structure, and suddenly they have a whole load of emotion meaning, a narrative, all that kind of stuff.  Out of just organising these sounds. A Saxophone just organises air into a nice uniform order so taht you get this huge rich boom noise. It gives it a texture, almost a taste. It becomes something that is part of a bigger structure even than that, the harmony of the song, the rhythm; structure through time.

Crazy.

So then someone like Cage comes along and starts asking some weird questions: “Which is more musical, a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?” (all Cage quotes are from wikiquote by the way, though I read them first from other sources).

I mean…Music is Noises, right? Well…that’s the theory. You can take a noise, and it is music. Of a sort. It may be less organised. But it is still a noise which has an effect right. So the essay I wrote that I just linked to, that’s talking about Noises being shifted in to music using samplers. You can get a sound and turn it into music. Any sound at all. Like when Matmos are playing around with a Cow’s Vaginal Tract or a Printing press, or when Matthew Herbert (Radioboy in this case) is eating a MacDonalds and giving away the music for free.

Now, I’m going back into territory I’ve already trod, but basically, by adding specific objects (and the noises they make) to their music, these guys (as well as others) are adding an extra, almost undetectable element to the song. You have to look it up to find out what it is about, but it is something totally intrinsic to the piece in question. It is a type of creative process, it is also actually an inherent element of the noises you listen. The music is made out of the object. The moment of performance is ‘summoned’ when you listen…and if you know the details…you become aware that the music is more than it appears. That squeaking noise is a cows vaginal tract being played like a bag pipe…that Rushing and booming sound is a Diet Coke being drunk.

The items are being used for other than their intended purpose, the meaning itself is subverted, or at least given a new meaning. The song also inherits some of the meaning of the object. But only through reading the liner notes or investigating  the music we hear on the internet do we find out what these meanings are. They are slightly outside of the music, even though they are at its core. (Check out Matthew Herberts perspective here)

That is interesting.

Music is really interesting.

Plus I love accordions.

What do you think?

Did I shoot Andy Warhol?

Of course, I didn’t shoot Andy Warhol, at least not in this life.

But I’ll get back to that later.

First, a warning. This is going to be another of my long rambling rambles. I am not going to restrain the free wandering nature of my mind. It is also potentially a very controversial post. I’m going to be discussing Feminism (and Cow Vaginas) as honestly and openly as I can. This is a dangerous thing to do, as may become clear. I am also intentionally not linking to a couple of posts and discussions that sparked possible elements of this post. I don’t want to target individuals and bring upon myself a torrent of abuse and hatred…I get enough of that going home for Christmas (only kidding). I expect I’m going to get trashed if certain people read this. I am writing in the spirit of free expression and thought. Also I may contradict myself, forget what I’m talking about and be entirely wrong headed idiotic and random.

Welcome to my head…it’s a horrible place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here. But I do. I do live here. This is my head.

Hold on tight Sahil, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

And we’re going to start off by saying that I do generally consider myself a feminist. I am also a man. An online test tells me I’m a revisionist Feminist, 100% Gender Abolitionist, 80% sexually liberal (honk) and 60% Socialist. By my reckoning that actually makes me240% feminist. I think that’s going a bit too far.

Anyway, the quiz pissed me off quite a lot…it was very leading and a lot of the questions didn’t make sense. Also I couldn’t answer loads of the questions the way I wanted to. This is why I hate online quizzes. Also double negatives aren’t not bad y’all.

Or something.

Anyway, This is really not the point.

Lets go back a bit.

I’ve had several dreams involving Andy Warhol…the first one involved a journey on the Megabus (a cheap coach/bus service that I have never used) up to London. We spent the whole journey discussing the relative merits of cost of varying forms of transport. This was not really that interesting, but I did think it quite cool that the wig wearer was present. I assumed he was cool and therefore it was rubbing off on me. Well…I didn’t really think about it that much at the time…I was in dream mode. Whatever, we got to London eventually, and we made a film with Lars Von Trier called the five obstructions. This was the day before that film was shown on television (not precognition, I had just read the TV guide before going to sleep and had decided to watch it the next day), go out and watch it, its a damn cool film…especially if you like film making theory. Basically, Von Trier sets Jorgan Leth a series of challenges, all kind of the same. It’s just to remake one of Leth’s first films, the Perfect Human (which I’ve never seen) under the conditions of a series of ‘Obstructions’ set by Von Trier (should that just be Trier?). The film takes the form of a series of chats between the directors, and the new, obstructed versions of the short. It’s absolutely incredible to watch if you’re into films as basically it shows you how great director’s minds can work. If you don’t mind watching artsy documentaries then watch this and your eyes may well be opened to some of the more interesting things to think about as you watch films.

Anyway, I’m getting distracted. The dream version of the film was nothing like that…and to be fair I can’t remember much of it apart from a few images that are hard to explain…needless to say, the sets of the film we were making were kind of living and I kept slipping from the perspective of Director to Actor to Character and back. Though under constant watchful guidance of Andy Warhol. Oh…and there was something to do with the American Civil war…but I’m not sure what.

Ok…so that was Warhol dream number one. I thought it was pretty cool, I rarely dream about famous figures, mostly just people I’ve met. Also it remained vivid for long enough for me to tell someone about it, meaning that some of the details solidified. This is handy, as I often forget my dreams.

Anyway, the second time he cropped up I can only really remember I tiny segment. I was in a Cherry Blossom tree (I don’t know what the symbolism of this might be, but what it makes me think of is a song by the Manic Street Preachers, a band I thoroughly enjoy, though the song itself is from one of their lamer albums…the first three albums all remain high in my esteem, (does that even make sense) after that its mostly just nostalgia for my teenage years. Anyway, they become relevant again later…though some of you may have made the connection already) with a sniper rifle, I looked through the sights to see that I was aiming at Andy Warhol. Holy crap..I thought…I’m about to shoot Andy Warhol. Anyway, as I pulled the trigger and the bullet started heading for the artistic Christian King of the Factory. I shifted perspective (this bit of the dream was very visually impressive) and pulled out of the scene to see that in fact I was just sitting and watching the film ‘Who Shot Andy Warhol?’. My brother found the film amusing as poor Andy died on screen…I wasn’t aware of his biography at that time as this was pre the endless hours spent on the internet. Anyway, bro laughed, I laughed nervously to conceal the fact that I was actually really freaked out by coming that close to shooting someone. Even if it was only a film.

Anyway, I can’t remember the rest of that dream, but I figured it might be significant. I have occasionally explained to people that Andy Warhol may be my ‘spirit guide’. New theories are emerging. And my mouth hurts because I just ate some hot chili sauce. For those of you who are visually minded, I am wearing my favourite stripy jumper and my green corduroy trousers. My T-shirt is poking out from underneath my jumper (which was found in the street on my birthday two years ago…woo). It is also stripy but smaller stripes and different colours, it used to belong to my friend Will. I’m at work.

This is mostly irrelevant information though.

So anyway, recent clues are actually pointing to a different conclusion. I no longer think of Andy Warhol as a source of spiritual guidance.

Let’s come back to that later though, first let me assure you that there is going to be some feminism stuff here eventually. In fact…lets do a little now.

Since starting blogging and reading more peoples discussions and chatting with people, not least of which is my current Significant, I’ve been reading a lot of feminist stuff from a lot of different sources. My eyes have been opened and pretty damn wide. I’ve always considered myself an equalicist/feminist/whatever term it is that applies to me. I fell into a lot of traps though. I did things and held beliefs that would be considered to be the subtler side of patriarchy. I still do sometimes, but I really do try to be otherwise. I find this is a constant struggle and it is difficult.

Aside: I just had an argument with a customer who got banned for saying the c*t word. Now…I say that plenty at home among friends who know I don’t attach significance to it. Anyway, he shouted it at the computer, and got told off by Mr I a friend and co-worker. We decided to ban him once his time was up. He came back and started arguing the toss. Trying to defend himself (bear in mind if you think I’m being harsh on him that he is quite a young kid and we have other young kids in this place). His argument mostly consisted of ‘I didn’t say it it just came out of my mouth. It’s not offensive anyway…nobody was offended’. My responses should be obvious, when he said that nobody in here was offended, I told him I was…he then asked if I was a girl. Now…face to face, my beard usually settles that one. But it really riled me and seemed relevant to this post. Just thought I’d mention it. I told him that my gender was irrelevant, but was interrupted and didn’t finish my chain of thought. I was intrigued by his point of view and thought I might have a chance to teach some kind of equality lesson. I don’t like preaching though…and I was interrupted.

Anyway, I do keep on struggling to improve myself. A hell of a lot of the socialised and peer pressurised stuff is hard to get rid of though. I’m far from perfect. I do honestly try though. As has been made clear in previous posts gender equality is a big deal for me, something that I consider a lot. Among people I love and trust (most people I meet…I’m pretty damn full of love you know) I often make jokes and similar comic statements, I even conform to certain stereotypes in the knowledge that my good friends generally know where I stand on these things. I feel bad about this as I do think that it damages causes that I hold dear, but fun and jocularity is something I hold dear to. What I hate about myself is when I engage in some of the sexist gags of people not so enlightened, or in the presence of people who might not detect the irony. This is similar to something I’ve discussed before (the Computer Abuse Language, I can’t be bothered to find the link as work is ending in an hour and a bit and I haven’t finished discussing all this and I have to prepare the place for locking up) so I won’t go into too great detail. Basically, I’m criticising myself for falling for the jokes and the subtler side of this patriarchy thing. I even used to hold the good old fashioned ‘everyone’s equal already’ and ‘feminists are kicking up a big stink over nothing’ type views…I now realise this is crap. My mind is always open to change, and some of the things the people on the internet have shown me have changed me deeply. Or perhaps just made me realise for real a lot of stuff I half believed already. Those of you who have helped me learn, I thank you…and I pray that you continue.

Discussion with significant and Vintage in particular have been eye opening, plus many other places I have lurked. I thank you greatly.

One discussion with Siggy today went on for hours trying to work out a debate she’s having with people on the internet. The basic gist of it was that some feminists were attacking her for not being man hating enough. This clearly pissed both of us off. I mean sure…I’m willing to agree that most men are terrible in many ways. Patriarchy is fucking horrible. I don’t think that enough people realise just how much both genders are oppressed. And by Jove is it worse for women. I do however think that it is important to recognise that men suffer as well. I find that I am constantly under pressure to conform to male stereotypes that don’t in anyway relate to me. I am bundled together with people who read Zoo and use prostitutes. I read an issue of zoo once to see what all the fuss was about. There was a ‘letter’ sent in by a ‘reader’ who was describing her wonderful experience after a club night where she had got incredibly drunk and then flashed by a bouncer on the way out. She (as any right thinking woman would) gasped in shock and awe and joy at the sight. She then also enjoyed being bundled into the back of a car and driven out to a lay-by and repeatedly and violently screwed by aforementioned security guard.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was sick at this. I mean…this was actually a magazine basically suggesting that women love being sexually assaulted abused and raped. This was so much worse than I expected. I just thought it would be tits and trash. Generally offensive and insulting to the intelligence of most men, but it was so much more horrific than that.

I was literally sickened by it.

Anyway, the point is that it is possible that not all men are of one type. Variation and variety of people is what gender equality and gender issues in general are all about. People should be free to be different. I shouldn’t feel like I can’t express myself fully. I should feel like its fine for me to dress however I want. I lack confidence though. I am incredibly insecure (underneath a thin veneer of boistrous and noisy faux confidence and egocentricity) and worry at the slightest thing wrong with me.

I don’t think I’m alone. V directed me to a great article recently that was stating that the reason that men are insecure is because they (we) realise we’re actually the weaker sex. I agree one hundred percent with that assessment. The author of that piece (and many others) have hit a nail on a head there. Well…maybe not one hundred percent. But it’s certainly true of me. Perhap’s this makes me a gender traitor.

I don’t know.

Anyway…I’m getting distracted and I don’t have long left to write.

Siggy has been being lambasted for not being ‘the right type’ of feminist. This is wrong. Variety and discussion should be the watchwords of the feminist movements. You’re more than welcome to hate all men, but if you start hating women for discussing then you just appear to be plotting for a matriarchy. I don’t think that would be a better world…just a different one.

There is no reason to fight oppression with oppression.

I have so much more to say but I have no time to write over the next few days.

First off, let me tie up some of the loose ends.

I think Valerie Solanas may be a more likely candidate for my spirit guide that poor Andy. Because of course it was her who really shot Andy Warhol. She’s been cropping up everywhere for me lately. Mostly through the Matmos track Tract for Valerie Solanas.

I will, apparently believe anything that has a good beat. This song has a damn good beat. And is made using an inflated Cow’s Uterus and Vaginal Tract. Find out how here. Then buy the album…it’s absolutely incredible.

Anyway, I now believe that I am being told to ‘destroy the male sex’ by my dreams. I really like her writings. I will tell you more about my views on what she has written once I’ve finished the SCUM manifesto. I’m busy lots though.

Oh…and she inspired the Manic Street Preacher’s song ‘Of Walking Abortion’. It’s a good song.

She has been raised in a few days of research to the status of a hero of mine. As have Matmos…who I’m only now beginning to realise just how much.

I assure you there’ll be follow up material for this. Including an essay on Angela Carter’s ‘The Passion of New Eve’ that I wrote for Uni…that book kind of changed my life a little. Maybe a lot. It’s an out of date essay though so my thoughts may have changed.

I’m so sorry for cutting this short, but I really am too busy at the moment.

I’ll post more bits and bobs but will be slowing down around the holiday season as my computer is going to the workshop for retooling.

Also busyness due to travelling to home and back and possibly to Wales as well….which will be lovely if I can afford it.

Erm…any questions or thoughts? I haven’t said half of what I wanted and I will respond and not censor anything…but please don’t lay too hard into me. I try to be good, but I am weak and insecure.

And I’ll leave with an inspirational note from Solanas herself:

‘Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.’

– Valeria Solanas – SCUM Manifesto

Reproducing Music: Another University Essay by Me

Yo. More essay for you. This one was for a course on Art and Anti-Art. Though I just wrote about music and ownership. Again, my views have changed since I wrote this. But still…sometimes it’s good to get a bit of perspective.

More essays will follow. Unless someone complains that I’m boring. In which case I’ll go and cry somewhere. The truth hurts.

 

Reproducing Music:

Who owns the sounds we listen to?

 

The issue of music copyrighting, part of wider issues in regards to intellectual property in general, is a thorny one, to say the least. Andrew Goodwin points out that we live in an age when digital reproduction of music in which technology allows anyone and everyone the ability to ‘purchase an “original”’1. He talks about the ‘mass production of the aura’ (p259); the way music is reproduced in a way by which ‘there is no discernible difference between the sound recorded in the studio and the signal reproduced on the consumer’s CD system’(p259). This reproduction can now be performed from CD to CD and computer to computer by means of the mp3; and this copying and file sharing, normally over Peer to Peer (P2P) networks like Kazaa, is so prevalent that the US Deputy Assistant Attorney General John G Malcolm estimates ‘that over 50 million Americans have downloaded or shared files via P2P, and that about 5 million of them are doing it on any given day.’2 Record companies are in uproar to prevent what is seen by many as a ‘Marxist revolution [,] since property is theft and musical recordings are considered property.’3 Matthew Herbert, a revolutionary electronic music producer who goes under several different recording identities (Doctor Rockit, Radio Boy, Herbert and his latest project the Matthew Herbert Big Band) is among those who provide a new way of looking at these processes of reproduction, especially the act of sampling music to make more music, an issue on which I intend to focus.

Malcolm, representative of the department of Justice in America tells us that:

Millions of copyrighted songs and hundreds of thousands of copyrighted movies are illegally copied every day. The losses to those who create software and games from illegal copying are also significant.’4

That an important official is making lengthy speeches about the importance of enforcing copyright law -something that ‘has always been, and should remain, civil in nature’5 and encouraging criminal enforcement- demonstrates how serious the matter of musical reproduction is considered. Malcolm complains that too many people are of an attitude that they ‘can take whatever [they] want, whenever [they] want it without paying for it just because [they] now have the means to do so’6, and that it is their moral right to do so, on the grounds that the industry is charging too much for the music it provides. He and the industry (particularly as represented by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)) protest that this is immoral (not to mention illegal) as it takes money away from the industry, a figure estimated at ‘more than 300 million dollars a year domestically [i.e. in America]’7, and therefore by inference the recording artists themselves. The RIAA claims noble goals to ‘protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists’8, and helps pursue legal action against those downloading and pirating music around the world. This activity has sparked much protest from the download community, which in general seems to fall under a category of people wanting something for nothing, because they ‘have the means to do so’9. This argument falls apart rapidly on any legal footing; intellectual property is a recognised and important part of the law, and has been in this country since the Anne Act of 170910 and was even mentioned in the original US constitution11.

Another significant aspect of copyright issues is highlighted by Andrew Goodwin in his essaySample and Hold’12, and this is the sampling of music, whereby musicians (or more properly perhaps composers/producers) digitally sample elements of other records and use them as the basis of new songs. Goodwin talks of the ‘Age of Plunder’ (p267) whereby everybody is ‘ “stealing” segments from other records [as a] part of the meaning of the “new” text’ (p271). This is fourteen years ago now, and the trend has only increased, more and more copying and pasting of bits of songs happens all the time. It is not necessarily a problem in itself, as Matthew Herbert notes ‘some of my favourite records have been done this way, including the bulk of hip hop.’13 Nick Hornby, points out that some acts have ‘upped the ante’ and that acts like ‘The Avalanches [in their single ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ from their album Since I Left You] use so many samples to create something so indisputably their own that to accuse them of plagiarism is pointless: you may as well make the same case against a writer whose books contain words that other writers have used before.’14 Hornby makes a good case for the ability of acts like these, while diminishing those who merely ride on others’ coattails, the musicians that Herbert points out who ‘sampled jazz records and called themselves jazz, they sampled James Brown and declared their music funky’.15 The case is convincing, you have to do something interesting with samples you use in order to make something valuable in its own right; but this debate of creativity, ignores the question of ownership, which brings up significant problems.

The key problem is the fact that ‘well over 90% of sample usage is never cleared’16, meaning that the composers of the original music being sampled fail to get the money from the use of their own creativity. To use Herbert’s example, James Brown does not get the money for the funkiness that the samplers have borrowed (or rather stolen) from him. There is an argument that this is acceptable because it recuperates the sales of the music it samples, Tom Simenon points out that ‘all of his [James Brown’s] records are being reissued. Kids of 18, 19 wouldn’t have heard of him if it wasn’t for hip-hop’17. This relies upon the clearing of samples, acknowledgements on record sleeves (absent from pirated, copied and shared music), through the music press, or through the knowledge of pub bores and musos. These sources of information sharing are flawed, and often fail to help the more obscure artist reach fame (and financial reward) they may deserve. Herbert eloquently sums up a large portion of this problem when he says:

Many people have considered this a Marxist revolution, since property is theft, and musical recordings are considered property. The problem…within musical composition, however, is that people then sell their own music using these samples. They are creating their own exclusive property and their philosophic raison d’être is destroyed…If people want to take samples for free, then they need to be prepared to distribute their music for free.’

(Matthew Herbert – Records and Responsibility)

Here Herbert proposes one solution to the problem, the free distribution of music, an idea that sounds like it is falling into old traps, but has not only been done by Herbert himself, but is also promoted by groups coming under the wing of the ‘copyleft’ movement.

Herbert’s album (released under the recording persona Radio Boy) The Mechanics of Destruction18 was to Herbert something of a ‘mini revolution’19 in that it was made up of the things it was rather than simply being about those things20. An example of what this means is that the first track is called McDonald’s, and is made from samples generated using a Big Mac meal as the only sound source. The accompanying website explains the political motivation for this (Herbert’s politics have become more and more intertwined with his music as his career has progressed), but the key to the meaning is the distribution method. The album was given away to any who wanted it, either given out at gigs, downloadable from the internet or by mail if you sent Herbert’s own label a self addressed envelope. Herbert says this

created a genuine and spontaneous relationship with the audience. People sent us money, stamps, cds of their own music, books they had written, pictures, artwork. It felt like a dialogue that was almost entirely absent in the traditional business models.’

(Matthew Herbert – Records and Responsibility)

It is this spontaneous relationship, the free giving of unasked for reward that suggests a new way around the problem of copyrighting. A way that allows copying and sharing of music, but still allows the artist to be rewarded. It also avoids the institutionalised power of the record companies, the industry (as seen earlier in the RIAA comments) that demands rights for the artist but in fact takes most of the money from intellectual property suits for itself. Ram Samudrala, author of an essay entitled The Free Music Philosophy21 encourages this sort of distribution process (often called copylefting, as a simple pun on copyrighting, that points out its left wing origins) and offers an appropriate liner note that, as I am running out of space, I shall offer as a fairly self explanatory legal alternative to copyrighting, and my conclusion.

Permission to copy, modify, and distribute the musical compositions and sound recordings on this album, provided this notice is included with every copy that is made, is given for noncommercial use. If you obtained this by making a copy, and if you find value in this music and wish to support it, please send a donation based on whatever you thought the music was worth to the address given on this notice.’22

 

 

 

Bibliography

1 ‘Sample and Hold’ in On Record Edited by Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin (London: Routledge 1990) p259 – all quotations from this edition

2 Privacy and Intellectual Property – Legal Issues Related to Peer-To-Peer File Sharing Over the Internet New York State Bar Association & International Bar Association (Amsterdam, The Netherlands – October 23, 2003) –http://www.cybercrime.gov/Malcolmtestimony102303.htm – all quotations from this web page

3 Matthew Herbert in Records and Responsibility: An interview with Matthew Herbert by Clare Birchall 15th June 2003 – www.signsofthetimes.org.uk/matt.html – all quotations from this website

4 Privacy and Intellectual Property

5 Privacy and Intellectual Property

6 Privacy and Intellectual Property

7 RIAA Website (2003)- http://www.riaa.com/issues/piracy/riaa.asp

8 RIAA Website (2003)- http://www.riaa.com/issues/copyright/history.asp

9 Privacy and Intellectual Property

10 RIAA Website (2003)- http://www.riaa.com/issues/copyright/history.asp

11 RIAA Website (2003)- http://www.riaa.com/issues/copyright/history.asp

12 ‘Sample and Hold’ in On Record Edited by Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin (London: Routledge 1990)

13 Records and Responsibility

14 31 Songs (London: Penguin 2003) p170

15 Records and Responsibility

16 Records and Responsibility

17 ‘Beat Generator’ in New Musical Express, quoted in ‘Sample and Hold’ p271

18 www.themechanicsofdestruction.org – recordings available free for download

19 Records and Responsibility

20 Records and Responsibility

21 The Free Music Philosophy v1.4http://www.ram.org/ramblings/philosophy/fmp.html

22 The Free Music Philosophy

Venetian Snares – Hospitality

New record in the post.

Oh my word. I’ve already heard most of it before. But now I’m getting to consider it properly. This is the good shit. Sorry if all of my music reviews lately have been Breakcore related..I promise to write about other stuff eventually.

Anyway…on with the show. First track is a stormer…kind of like a certain type of Breakcore perfection. About two minutes of gentle synth intro, all world music sounding drums and a hint of a less shit Enya. Then it slams into action….and it is real action. The initial burst is formed as much of harsh synths as of hectic beats…the beats are ‘well hectic’.There’s definitely more to this though. The ‘melodic’ elements take the fore beautifully. Snares hasn’t really done this since the hungarian titled album (Rossz Szillag something something…..I can never remember the full name off hand). Only here it sounds less like an experiment in contrasting classical elements with the harsh thrust of the breakcore beats…but actually a beautiful experiment in maintaining a focus on something. The structure of the first track is incredible…pushing up and down all the time. Once the beats kick in they don’t really die until the end, but its not just full on aural assault (although it is that too) its a more balanced approach. It actually challenges you to think about the muscial qualities of it. There’s an amazing sense of energy and beauty here. More like real songs than just a kind of sonic sodomy. It still remains brutal and scattered enough to appease most tastes though.

I don’t want to describe this record as accessible…because it’s effectively a put down. Squarepusher did a similar thing on his latest album, eased up a little to do a more easy to listen to tour of his kind of sounds. I loved it, I didn’t think it was copping out…I think it was just a matter of relaxing enough to explore some simpler ideas…adding up a lot of what he’s learnt over the many years he’s been making head screwing music. He always had a good sense of instrumentation and melody though…Music is Rotted One Note proves that he doesn’t need beats to screw you to the wall in paroxysms of joy.

Anyway, the album isn’t really accesible…not to most…it’s is still settled on beats too disjointed for most people. The thing is…its got this melodic focus and the energy kind of makes more sense than usual. I’m a big fan of not making sense, but as an introduction to this type of music you could do a hell of a lot worse. On top of that it’s definitely a contender for being one of the best Breakcore albums he’s ever produced. As this is by Venetian Snares, that makes it one of the best albums in the whole screwed up genre.

I can sense the lasting appeal in this one to. There’s so much interest in it. The simpleness of the complication is just so damn warming. There’s a lot of brutality here…but its like it has a reason.

Ok, I’m starting the second side. This is opening with more conventional beats…that kind of pulsing bass synth so common to the genre. Then the beats slide out and you get a bass tone to consider…then the beats return…different though. The bounce here is infectious. So much energy and excitement. Harmony is the thrust so far…the melody has only just kicked in. This is amazing. It relaxes in a really impressive way. It doesn’t feel the need to just pound on your skull constantly…its doing a much better job by easing up and pushing the excessiveness in subtly. Subtle excess….wonderful.

Synth break….lovely structure to a beautiful toying with the melody. Then reintroducing the beat by (I think) putting the melodic elements through a granulizer or similar, and highlighting the rhythm of it. Then slamming the beats back in. This is pretty damn cool. It’s almost laid back…but not many people would agree with me there. The BPM is high enough to make you feel like you should be running at the speed you can only run when fleeing from a horrific and nightmarish monster. The end of the world is night..yet you’re still dancing.

A wash of phaser sounding synths….the kind of stuff my dearest Davey would describe as ‘space music’ in the joyous tones of a young child just discovering that magic is real…and it has a tasty beat.

That was a good track.

The album doesn’t ever entirely let up on the beats…it just makes it sound easier to listen to. The focus is perfect. At no point does it feel like you’re just being messed around for the sake of it. Structure and form are used to exceptional ability here.

This is really fucking good.

I mean…the things you can do with these simple ‘traditional’ jungle beats. The music has been twisted into something really special. Snares has been twisting for years. The sheer volume of output from that guys shed is incredible. Some of it is a bit lacklustre though. Its all pretty good at screwing your head up and giving you something to just bounce like a fool to. It really is made for dancing like you’ve forgotten how to dance but instead remember how to beat yourself and others up whilst having some kind of uncanny fit.

Not that I condone violence.

For such a short album (technically just an EP really) it is shocking just how many ideas and how much energy this thing has. There’s a joy in it too. You can tell that this guy actually lives, eats, breathes and shits music. I just don’t see any other way you could make such refined breakcore…refined…not like posh or anything…its just been treated to perfection.

Seriously…this is good. You should give it a listen…don’t just stick to samples of it though. Find the full tracks (and pay for them…this guy is on an independent and is exactly the type of music it is really important to support) and give them a play. Any sample can’t give you an impression of the richness of it. The ideas are carried out to their fullest extent.

The only way I can see of making it better by adding more accordians.

The album’s over, so I shall now stop writing.

Any questions?

“Life ain’t Nothing but Bitches and Money” – A half arsed discussion of Psychoanalytic and Marxist Criticism

God…that title looks boring.

Anyway, basically, I’m going to do a half arsed version of an essay I’ve been intending to do for ages. But because its Sunday, I’m not going to do any research, and I’m probably going to stop halfway through to start tidying up my room.

Still, at least I’ve got an NWA quote in the title.

Anyway, lets get on this.

So, I guess this could be considered an attack on the grand narratives of Freudian Psychoanalysis and Marxism. Which is interesting because It think there are lessons to be learnt from both. Its just the old post modernist thing of attacking the grand narratives I guess. Plus when you try and summarise Freud and Marx using the words of Ice Cube…it becomes much clearer just how much the two can be seen to reducing everything to nothing.

Lets (for some reason) ignore the fact that Freud was a sexist pig who had no idea of anything that happened in the lives of people who didn’t live in Middle class Vienna. This is probably a gross oversimplification of him…but that’s all that everybody ever does with Freud, which is perhaps the problem. My housemate did Psychology at Uni, and she always finds it interesting that I did loads of stuff on Freud (in my Literature degree) when they were taught from the beginning that the whole thing was unprovable tosh. Freud and the interpretations of Freud (we’re talking Lacan’s phallus here by the way) are still prevalent modes of criticism in the field of Literature.

There is genuinely some really interesting stuff going on there. You can compare Freud’s understanding of ‘the dream work’, that is the way our subconscious presents thoughts in dreams but then we encode and disguise them so our conscious mind doesn’t have to face up to the unpleasant truths within, with the practice of writing and creativity. The construction of meaning in writing can be compared to an expression of the mind of the author (who, as we all know, is dead) being transmitted through the veiling and changing process of language. Does that make sense to anyone who isn’t a pretentious wanker? Possibly not. But there’s definitely some interesting stuff going on there. For the likes of Nick Royle, literature is a form of telepathy (I’ll post my dissertation on Philip K Dick at some point for more discussion of this) between the minds of author and reader. In fact this is probably a gross mis-interpretation, but that’s what I always got out of it. In fact I think that its closer to empathy at least half of the time. Good literature has an ability to make you feel a situation, rather than just think about it. That’s why we love reading even when its not the smartest and wittiest and most intelligent pieces of Canonical literature. That’s why ‘trashy’ and ‘lowbrow’ books are still damn good.

Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward is an excellent book that essentially deals with psychoanalysis through the medium of a witty and fast paced sci fi narrative. Read it now…its worth it. The writing seems a little stilted at times but the pace and humour is so good that you forgive it immediately…and its a first novel…so its a pretty damn fine achievement. I won’t analyse it now as it would spoil it. First person who lives in my area and e-mails me asking for it can borrow my copy.

Anyway. The point is that you need to get the whole breadth of Psycholanalysis being considered in order to get something useful out of it. I don’t like the way that one tiny element has effectively become the whole grand narrative. Its a simplification. Everything is about sex…apparently…it just becomes a hunt for phallic symbols and returns to the womb. Eye removal is apparently synonymous with castration anxiety…as is almost anything else that can happen. I mean…I can appreciate that people think about sex a lot…I sure do. I can even see how it could be considered one of the primary motivational drives. The reproductive drive (continuance of DNA…the selfish gene and all that jazz) is the obvious motivation. But even Freud had to override that with the Death Drive once he saw the results of the First World War. I don’t know…I guess its the reductionism of most psychoanalytic criticism that pisses me off. It is possible to take note of Siggy and not actually have to make everything about a couple of out dated and genuinely quite ridiculous statements. If most psychologists think that its nonsense…then why is the literary world still so obsessed with the Mother Loving Austrian Prick.

And I haven’t even mentioned Oedipus yet.

Anyway. Marxism is something i like. The key reduction here is viewing everything through a system of economic relationships. Sahil believes that every relationship is a constant series of negotiations…and that applies on International levels and on personal relationships. For Marx it’s about class war (aside: protest on campus once…someone yelled out ‘its a class war’ and got the biggest laugh of the day as everybody noted that in fact the only classes present were the middle…that’s what University protests are all about..middle class kids pretending they aren’t) and the constant dialectic struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. The important thing however, is that everything becomes economic. The money and the value of goods is exchanged, and this leads to the exploitation and alienation of the proletariat etc etc blah blah blah.

We all know about it. If you don’t (or just like re contextualised works) look at this .

Anyway, I’m talking through a literary lens today…so lets go into what Marxist literary criticism is like. Basically, (I think) literature is considered complicit in the oppression of the ‘people’. It forms part of the ruling hegemony (unless it is subverting it of course) and creates and uses language to promote the status quo. The ideology of the ruling class controls the language and uses its meanings to impose its thought upon people. Language itself is guilty of oppression, which is why people try to screw the system up by subverting language itself. Look for those experimental poets fucking shit up. My mate Jeffers does a fine job of it. I think its all well and good. I kind of tend to agree with bits and pieces of it to an extent. But at the same time…I don’t like the idea that language is to blame. Can we not change language. I mean…I know language and meaning has its limits. But the beauty of language is in the fact that it changes every fucking time you use it. Every time I use a word in the company of someone…then for both of us that word acquires a meaning related to that moment. It adds an extra level to it. A lot of the stuff in my short story posted below (Abort , Retry, Fail) is little words and phrases that only make sense to me and a couple of people who will recognise the original situation. I don’t know if it makes sense to put them in there…but I think it actually challenges other readers to associated new meaning with those phrases. The story isn’t as subversive as I’d originally hoped…but it certainly is a struggle to read…it makes you think…but at no point to I make up or invert language. Everything is in vaguely accurate English. The grammar is disjointed…but you generally understand what is going on.

Anyway, I’m going to edit it soon and hopefully it’ll be better then.

I’ve rambled off topic.

Basically..the general point is that grand theories must be looked at in all their intricacies, and should be only used as a lens. You must be aware that you are making a certain judgement of something using a certain set of rules laid out, by that something.

Life is more than sex and economics. Don’t reduce things to that. Look at everything. If you’re being Marxist..then note that you’re being Marxist and try and think of what the other side is. same for Freud…don’t just glue yourself to his ideas so that eventually all you can see is cocks flying through tunnels or whatever it is that Freud saw everywhere.

Hmm,

I haven’t said anything have I…ah well…any thoughts? Any questions? Want to call me a big shit and tell me I’m wrong? Go on…make a comment…I dares ya.

Edit: Read the commments if you haven’t. My second comment below actually ends up saying what I was trying to say above but couldn’t quite figure out.