• Announcing Vague Terrain 15: .microsound

    24 Oct 2009, 20:30

    The latest of edition of Vague Terrain is dedicated to celebrating the tenth anniversary of the .microsound community. Guest curated by the American composer Kim Cascone, the issue provides a range of commentary and context on "sub-atomic" musical aesthetics and a window into this globally distributed community of electronic musicians. In Cascone's own words .microsound is a fertile middle ground between "the ivory tower of sterile academia" and "the seizure-inducing din of the dance club". For those unacquainted with this zone of musical production, this collection of work provides a perfect introduction.

    Featuring text & video contributions by Ben Neill, Charles Turner, Dextro, Joanna Demers, Pere Villez, Thanos Chrysakis, Thomas Bey William Bailey and William L. Ashline.

    Feature audio contributions from Mike Rooke, Lubrication, Ronnie Cramer, [ruidobello], Richard Lainhart, sound art, TomDjll, Brett Ian Balogh, Scant Intone, Yota Morimoto, Jorge Castro, Joaquín Gutiérrez Hadid, Francesco Rosati, Asférico, Water Falls, Yann Novak, John Hanes, Epoch_Collapse, Jhenner Gayap Benadrilled, Skjølbrot, Markus Jones, Jon Hawken, Adern X Fades 4:38, Julien Ottavi, Vanessa Rossetto, Kim Cascone, Larnie Fox, eddie135, Di.J Crisis, shg, Cheryl E. Leonard, Noé Cuéllar, Gary R. Weisberg, Osvaldo Cibils, Kotra, Gintas K, John Kannenberg, Ricky Pannowitz, ocp, TheSAD, Margaret Schedel, Pereshaped, so/on, Eric Miller, Nux Vomica, v4w.enko, UmanoidSomeday, Epoch Collapse, Umanoid and Noé Cuéllar.

    To view the issue please visit http://vagueterrain.net/journal15

    Kim Cascone
  • Announcing Vague Terrain 15: .microsound

    24 Oct 2009, 20:27

    Kim Cascone

    The latest of edition of Vague Terrain is dedicated to celebrating the tenth anniversary of the .microsound community. Guest curated by the American composer Kim Cascone, the issue provides a range of commentary and context on "sub-atomic" musical aesthetics and a window into this globally distributed community of electronic musicians. In Cascone's own words .microsound is a fertile middle ground between "the ivory tower of sterile academia" and "the seizure-inducing din of the dance club". For those unacquainted with this zone of musical production, this collection of work provides a perfect introduction.

    Featuring text & video contributions by Ben Neill, Charles Turner, Dextro, Joanna Demers, Pere Villez, Thanos Chrysakis, Thomas Bey William Bailey and William L. Ashline.

    Feature audio contributions from Mike Rooke, Lubrication, Ronnie Cramer, [ruidobello], Richard Lainhart, sound art, TomDjll, Brett Ian Balogh, Scant Intone, Yota Morimoto, Jorge Castro, Joaquín Gutiérrez Hadid, Francesco Rosati, Asférico, Water Falls, Yann Novak, John Hanes, Epoch_Collapse, Jhenner Gayap Benadrilled, Skjølbrot, Markus Jones, Jon Hawken, Adern X Fades 4:38, Julien Ottavi, Vanessa Rossetto, Kim Cascone, Larnie Fox, eddie135, Di.J Crisis, shg, Cheryl E. Leonard, Noé Cuéllar, Gary R. Weisberg, Osvaldo Cibils, Kotra, Gintas K, John Kannenberg, Ricky Pannowitz, ocp, TheSAD, Margaret Schedel, Pereshaped, so/on, Eric Miller, Nux Vomica, v4w.enko, UmanoidSomeday, Epoch Collapse, Umanoid and Noé Cuéllar.

    To view the issue please visit http://vagueterrain.net/journal15
  • Vague Terrain 10: Digital Dub

    13 Ago 2008, 19:35

    After a brief hiatus, Vague Terrain is back with a new website and a fresh issue of our digital arts publication. Vague Terrain 10: Digital Dub features a variety of multimedia projects that explore the intersection of digital culture and all things dub.

    This body of work contains contributions from Aguno, DubRocket, Eduardo Navas, Jonah K, NAW, Ohrwert, Segue, The Straggler and interviews with DJ Spooky and Kevin Martin (aka The Bug) conducted by Eduardo Navas and Corina MacDonald - you can view the issue here.

    Vague Terrain is now moving towards augmenting the journal content with a group blog. I'm hoping that we can enlist a dozen or so of the 100 artists, scholars and musicians we've featured over the last three years to provide semi-regular contributions related to their areas of expertise, supplementing the journal content in the process. We've also got a stellar next issue lined up by way of the CONT3XT.NET crew.

    Originally posted on Serial Consign

    The Straggler
    Jonah K
    DJ Spooky
    The Bug
    Razor X
  • mutek 2008 mini-review

    6 Jun 2008, 0:57

    [murcof & xx+xy visuals at a/visions 1 / image: basic_sounds]

    For me, the end of May is always marked by a road trip to Montreal for the Mutek festival. I haven't taken in the entire festival since 2006 as that year I realized that I have a tolerance for about ten shows in a week, after which point I start to run up a dangerous bar tab and foam at the mouth. As luck would have it, this year's schedule condensed most of the programming I was interested in into a 48 hour window. I opted to arrive in Montreal on Thursday evening and skip the Saturday night and Sunday events and more or less saw and heard what I needed to. I'm not going to provide that much of a qualitative assessment of the artists and performances I saw and heard but what follows may provide some useful observations and links for the interested.

    First and foremost, it is really great to see the scope and quality of the A/V programming improving and diversifying. This year's lineup featured three dedicated A/V showcases and the majority of the SAT shows also featured prominent visuals. I missed several collaborations I'd like to have checked out on the first two nights, which included Murcof & xx+xy visuals, Sans Soleil & Nokami and Martin Tétrault's artificiel.process. I was fortunate enough to check the final A/Visions showcase for the much anticipated Christian Fennesz and Lillevan collaboration. Lillevan chose to marry the shimmering textures and trademark warm Fennesz fuzz with an assortment of composites which overlaid shots panning across masonry with a variety of slow-motion swirling water vortices. The entire performance was quite dreamy and it was great to see the immaculately controlled distortion of Fennesz visualized in an appropriately loose and moody manner. As solid as this collaboration was, it felt a little restrained, especially after the cascading celestial mood conjured during Tim Hecker's incredible pitch dark performance.

    [chic miniature at experience 2 / image: basic_sounds]

    The SAT is always an essential component of the Mutek experience and this year was no different. Over the course of the Friday evening warm up party and the (rained out) Saturday piknic I was able to hear Barem, Chic Miniature, Komodo and Flying Lotus. Flying Lotus didn't do that much for me, but his set outlined enough of a middle ground between shufflin' J Dilla percussion and top shelf dubstep that I plan on keeping an eye out for his debut album, which drops next week on Warp. Barem was quite excellent - he's definitely one of the more interesting cats in the minimal game at the moment. My great regret of the festival is having to miss Marcello Marandola perform his Des Cailloux et du Carbone project in order to scoot over to the Tim Hecker/Fennesz show.

    [sans soleil & nokami at a/visions 2 / image: basic_sounds]

    Friday's Nocturne event was a pretty good indicator that Mutek finally seems to have pulled together its programming for the larger events. The last few years' larger events have been quite erratic and sullied with some outright bad programming and performances. To see a lineup of Kid Koala, Megasoid and Modeselektor shadowed by a mini-minimal room featuring Dave Aju, Half Hawaii and Jeremy P. Caufield is proof positive that Mutek has really figured out how to balance mass-appeal with more left-of-centre performances. Beyond this, Megasoid and Kid Koala's inclusion suggests the festival has conducted some much-needed musical outreach into the broader Montreal music scene. As for the performances, Modeselektor seems to have kicked their rave nostalgia up another few notches and as much as I appreciate their energy and sound design I'm really not a fan (although their 2006 Mutek performance was the stuff of legends). I rolled into Metropolis quite late, just as Half Hawaii was tearing down and Jeremy P. Caufield was hitting the decks. Jeremy is an old friend, and I haven't heard him DJ for several years. To hear him bump out a totally fresh extended set of bleepy minimal was fantastic. I've been over saturated with minimal-mediocrity over the last few years so any opportunity to hear the sound DJ'd well is welcomed with open arms.

    Over the past couple years my reviews of Mutek have been quite mixed, but the five shows I attended this year gave me a little more optimism about the direction of the festival. Watching the Montreal community slowly drift away from their experimental origins (see the original Mutek lineup) has been a little distressing but I suppose the nature of scenes and movements is that they fade away or become institutionalized. I think Mutek appears to finally be striking the right balance between adventurous programming and larger events without ghettoizing the experimental content - no small feat. I can only really comment on the shows I was at, but this year things felt quite positive, rather than tentative.

    If you're on the prowl for more scuttlebutt about Mutek 08 the events pages at Create Digital Music/Noise are quite comprehensive and worth visiting. Ken Taylor of XLR8R has also been posting about his experiences on the XLR8R blog and no doubt our friend at basic sounds (thanks for the images) will be posting on the festival soon as well.

    Originally posted on Serial Consign

    Mutek 2008
    Sans Soleil
    Martin Tetrault
    Tim Hecker
    Chic Miniature
    Flying Lotus
    Des Cailloux Et Du Carbone
    Kid Koala
    Dave Aju
    Half Hawaii
    Jeremy P. Caufield
  • noise/music: a history

    21 Feb 2008, 17:14

    Late last year, Paul Hegarty released Noise/Music: A History, a writing project which traces the phenomena of noise across various genres and experimental practices throughout 20th century music. After hearing about the text on Networked Music Review, I was quite excited to finally get to spend some time with this work over the last few weeks. The text is constructed as a series of short, thematic essays with the expected readings of Futurist Italy and Thatcherist England, as well as more involved analysis of proto-krautrock, the contradictions of "free" jazz and the noteworthy and enduring noise scene in Japan (with a well-deserved chapter on the enterprise that is Merzbow).

    Noise/Music is most easily appreciated as a "disturbingly succinct" history of 20th century music and perhaps the most appropriate text to compare the work to is Michael Nyman's Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. However, where Nyman's text is a comprehensive "academy friendly" catalog of sequential progressions and developments, Hegarty's text covers more ground and wanders into a more diverse and adventurous territory - one characterized by amplitude and excess. The brevity of Hegarty's text is quite remarkable, and each essay sketches out a unique noise-aesthetic pertaining to a specific time and place, movement or means of production. The following excerpt from the "Japan" chapter is perhaps the most universal definition of noise to be found anywhere in the entire text:

    "Music offers a world, and inhabitability. Noise offers something more like dark matter which may be what allows a structure for everything else to exist (i.e. music, meaning, language, and so on, emerge from and against noise), but also the living on of that other material that is excluded as, or, for being, noise, and, beyond that, the continual limit of expansion of matter (or meaning/music). Noise is like a turning away from the world into an imagined pre-linguistic self..."

    Readings such as the above emerge out of a provocative array of genres ranging from dub, jazz, hip-hop, industrial into more ambiguous realms such as sound art and the post-microsound contemporary electronic scene. The text features extended commentary on a number of artists including John Cage, Public Enemy, Throbbing Gristle, John Oswald, Jimi Hendrix, and the list goes on...

    Noise/Music ends rather abruptly in the present day with an indexing of contemporary production paradigms as rut, bit, interrupt and beat. Respectively, these address the materiality of vinyl, digital fidelity and fair use, glitch-culture and the error and new thinking regarding rhythm and percussion. One has to appreciate a text that draws direct connections between the sample-obsessed early work of Matmos and Matthew Herbert and Musique Concrète. Beyond identifying key aesthetic genealogies, Hegarty skillfully superimposes a broad range of critical theory over top of the work being examined. Jacques Attali's Noise: The Political Economy of Music is brought into play several times throughout the work and that book provides a compelling companion text to Hegarty's project.

    As a whole, Noise/Music: A History is a dynamic reading of 20th century music and the text would sit nicely in any theory-friendly music library alongside titles like Kodwo Eshun's Brighter than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction and the Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner edited Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music.

    Originally posted on Serial Consign

    John Cage
    Public Enemy
    Jimi Hendrix
    John Oswald
  • sebastian meissner interview

    5 Oct 2007, 16:08

    Originally posted on Serial Consign

    The creative practice of Sebastian Meissner is scattered across numerous pseudonyms and disciplines. I am a huge fan of his work as Random Inc., Autopoieses, and Klimek and I never even suspected these projects were all crafted by the same musician until 2004. I began a dialog with Meissner earlier this year when he was gracious enough to allow me to use the track "Sand" to score a short video piece. As we chatted back and forth, I learned about his photography and video (see post) and I became increasingly curious about the atmospheric and spatial qualities that run through his diverse body of work. Sebastian was kind enough to take a considerable amount of time to provide a thorough contextualization of his art and music. This conversation addresses: aesthetics, Meissner's nuanced perspective on Israel, his thoughts on sound and cities and his opinions on the evolving electronic music market in Europe. He also has shed some light on his forthcoming Klimek album (due out on the NYC based Anticipate imprint later this fall).

    A good place to start would be your myriad of pseudonyms. You have recorded under close to a dozen projects under the following monikers: Bizz Circuits, Random Inc., Random Industries, Autopoieses, Klimek and your own name. Could you discuss your perspective on identity in electronic music and how it relates to these many projects?

    I find the average relationship of an artist ego towards the topics/issues he/she is trying to address as quite problematic. The artist as the carrier/distributor of beauty and aesthetic arrangements has stopped working for me. Such works have little to do with the outside world, which surrounds me – delivering short-term entertainment and/or creating new virtual spaces, but without bridging them with reality. Above all what’s important for me in this "game" called art is participating in public life and reacting to society. I am interested in proposal such as expressed by Artur Zmijewski in his essay Applied Social Arts, which demands a new role of the artist in society. Urging him/her to take active responsibility for the shaping of the society which is surrounding him/her. Each of my projects has its own perspective and its own focus, thus they need different names to make contextual distinctions possible. I started to entitle my works with project names to draw a bigger attention to the subjects. From an economic perspective, it is of course more advisable to stick to the classical artist image using your first and family name (faked or real).

    I consider your record Walking in Jerusalem to be one of the most interesting records of the last decade. It is political, without wearing a polemic on its sleeve and raises all kinds of provocative questions about the digital musician as a new kind of flâneur. What are your thoughts on the rhythm and sound of urban space? Also, could you talk about your connection to Jerusalem and perhaps provide a bit of a back-story to that specific album?

    Well, thank you! I have watched, read and followed the many strains leading to the Middle-East region and it’s so called "conflict" over the years, but it was always a view from outside. On Walking in Jerusalem I wanted to get confronted with real people, being with them in their homes, looking them in the eyes. It could have ended with my first CD, Jerusalem: Tales Outside The Framework Of Orthodoxy, which was mostly about the mysticism of the city, but my visits turned out as quite productive, which encouraged me to keep on moving with the subject.

    Lots of people on the outside who are debating on the politics of the Middle East make it easy for themselves to jump on one perspective, and defend it then by all means. Muslimgauze (Bryn Jones) – to whom I was compared a lot during this time – is surely an example for it. He never wanted to visit the region ("I don't think you can visit an occupied land. It's the principle. Not until it's free again"). Well, you can make an artistic point out of such neglect of dealing with the other side. It will stand like a monument erected by such an artist for the human right struggle of the Palestinian people. Fine, but as the time has shown this position is not solving anything and not contributing anything positive impulses in solving this "conflict" – basically it’s only approving the victim status of Palestinians and it does even worse, because it opens up a mistimed debate on the right of Israel’s right to exist.

    From a perspective of a person who is living in Germany it’s really difficult to deal with Israeli-Palestinian issues. On the far left you have people who no matter what stick to Israel’s right to defend itself (without even looking behind those actions of self defense – like the "Jerusalem question": a matter of Israel’s self-defense or a matter of marking a dominant position in the region?). Those people are very easily manipulated by some key-slogans like: "survival of the Jewish state," "war on terror" etc. Looking for a meaningful place in the "western" society some people (like Mr. Jones himself) are escaping into allophilia (embracing cultures/ethnicities/gender/disabilities). On the political "far right" some are still handling a vocabulary like it was used some 70 years ago and living a strange, quixotic reality (silently supported by those who wants to get rid of this part of German history). On the representative level those people can easily be muted – but it seams like nobody want to deal with them, which is causing a high probability for a (sub) cultural reproduction of those views/positions. The very center of German society is still too paralyzed, too dozy or too afraid of everything, which has to do with the Holocaust and/or the Israeli state. This is an uneasy starting point, but the most productive thing you can actually do is to take it as a challenge and to deal with it. But then again I didn’t want to do a work about the inner German controversy, but something, which could have been viewed from every other global position as well. National affiliation is playing not an important role within my identity. When you step a side of this construct you realize that you now you don’t have to speak for Germans, not for Poles, not for the culprit, not for the victims – just for yourself. This exercise enabled me to develop a kind of natural born curiosity and a specific curiosity towards Israeli-Palestinian issues.

    The Israeli society is divided into many parts. The traumas of the Holocaust and an anti-Arabic (actually and anti-Islamic) climate made it up to date possible that this joint-venture "Jewish identity in Israel" remains to the outside world in an uniform appearance and maintains an strong identity shaping instrument inside of the Israeli society. Israel is build upon the traumas of the Ashkenazi population (East/Middle European rooted Jewish population). The Sephardic (North Africa and Iberian rooted Jewish population) and the oriental/Iraqi migration of the 50ties were theoretically speaking a big chance for Israeli society to approach the arabic-islamic population inside of the state but also in the states surrounding Israel. Upon arrival in Israel those immigrants had a strongly Arabic shaped identity – first Arabic THEN Jewish. The state of Israel tried to assimilate those people by all means and made them adapt the mainstream attitudes of the Ashkenazi dominated mainstream society, disposing them of their Arabic roots. But the biggest challenge for the Israeli state of all time will be the immigrants from Russia, who arrived there mostly during the 90s. The second generation of those immigrants is producing now distortions such as "Nazi Jews" vandalizing synagogues and violently assaulting religious people.

    It was DEFINITELY not my goal to deliver sort of a well-reflected exoticism to the average electronic music lover. Not like it was proposed (for example) by Freeform's Audio Tourism (an audio artist equipped with microphones goes to an arbitrary country, collects lot of interesting sounding source material and decorate his own composition with that ambience, using an exotic looking picture on the front cover) or Deadbeat's Journeyman’s Annual (hotel, sound check, party, motel, taxi, airport). I wanted to open a door for a deeper, more complex/diverse view at this region and also to look for a little bit more then pure aesthetics and the love of new software and hardware technologies. This album and all my other works referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where part of my own journey and part of my own studies of how to approach a situation seemingly with no way out. I was studying Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust way before I started to play with sound. My interest is rooted in my childhood and adolescence. I grew up in a family with half Polish and half German roots. On the one hand side there were several members of my family exterminated by Nazis, on the other side people who served in the Wehrmacht. It is surely also a story how I was trying to understand what happen in Europe during the 30s and 40s.

    The next step I did then was focusing on the era before that time – looking for indications what could have make National Socialism possible. But somehow naturally my focus shifted to post World War II history. What happened to all those survivors who have decided to leave Europe and create a new state? My releases are documenting this slowly approach: Jerusalem - as the view from very far away, Walking in Jerusalem – wandering through the city streets, Intifada Offspring – arriving at peoples homes and finally Into The Void offering a view to the roots of what later shaped Israel.

    Eskimo by The Residents is for me an incredible album and a perfect example how to avoid the aspect of a "flâneur". The written stories on this album accompanying each track are so deep and so disturbing. They are not creating in you the desire to travel to Greenland or to become part of the Ennui society – but they make you think about human societies and its behaviors. Other good example is Geir Jenssen’s Field Recordings from Tibet album, where the journey itself is the topic.

    Art (aesthetics) is for me just a vehicle to a deeper understanding of the world around me. The politics of the Middle East are so much present in our globalized western society, but so far away from a deeper understanding of the socio-cultural dynamics happening there. There are more identities at work in this region, which divide and connect people with each other – more then as on religiosity centered main-stream debates wants us to believe.

    The rhythm & sound of urban scenarios can’t be uniform, as companies advertising fashion accessories would have us believe. Drum’n’Bass and Downtempo-Jazzy-Beats might also have found a home in India or Tajikistan, but the urban sounds of such places (Jerusalem included) might be not those songs we would like to hear (like "cheesy" Arabic pop-songs). The trap is that if you want to look for sounds which represent a specific local vibe/way of expressing yourself, you have to move closer and not end your search at the local copy of a New-Wave, Doom-Metal or Electronica act etc.

    [ghetto ambient photo-interface]

    It is clear from your recent Ghetto Ambient project, that you are interested in the aesthetics of the city above and beyond sound. How does this project and Autokontrast, fit into your creative practice?

    Within the Ghetto Ambient project various aspects and different forms/methods of my work are melting into each other, displaying GA at the present time in a stage far away from having reached its final destination.

    It started by linking my newer audio-compositions with my "animated photography". Here I am cutting some chosen motives from my pictures into numerous zooms and apertures and arrange them into a new whole, trying to develop an abstract narrative over a given time span. The pictures are showing predominantly specific symbolic places from geographic regions I have visited over the last few years. For example: construction yards and sites of house demolishing in East Jerusalem, suburban housings on outskirts of Algiers, the Bullring Shopping Center in Birmingham, Kazimierz, former Jewish neighborhood of Cracow, anarchistic stencils in Porto and many other. I am assigning then those movies to a specific track, which is sometimes from my Klimek repertoire and sometimes a newer composition, which is mostly turning out in a darker, slow motion dub-step like mood.

    Recently I started also to expand this platform for my installation works. For example I will incorporate a series of installations dealing with socio/cultural/economic changes in the Upper Silesian region in Poland (where I grew up). As I already did with my work "Business Never Personal" for the Barents Spektakel in Kirkenes/Norway – a work about "arrested" Russian ships in the port of Kirkenes and those seamen who are maintaining those vessels.

    City above and beyond sound? Yes, definitely beyond sound or using sound in a new context. I think the Music To Fall Asleep album is portraying this step very precisely. Working with the motive from Jean Cocteau’s Orphée and using a dirty slop as a mirror, my attention started to shift (as someone described) to "forgotten places at the edge to the globalized world". By providing the listener with my associative tracks titles – with double names – such as "Pathways to Work," "Accompanying Guilty Thoughts of Unauthorized Candy," "Kingdoms Here We Come" etc I wanted to create a pool of keywords/verbal parameters allowing the listener to develop his/her own storyline, while listening to the audio compositions.

    I really like to see the come back of the "walkman-culture" (now: "IPod-culture"). While walking through cities with my favorite music on my headphones I had experienced magical moments. Taking the music labeled as "ambient" to places outside safe environments such as chill-out launches and comfortably and stylish living-room couches ("The world isn´t a safe place," Artur Zmijewski), I wanted to create an everyday life soundtrack for subways and places that passing you by, while covering distances in urban scenarios. So "falling asleep" means NOT into a relaxing, siesta-like atmosphere, but into an uncontrolled passing away, losing control over your body like you know it from people suffering from narcolepsy or like exhaustingly returning from work on public transport.

    Autokontrast is the output for my photography. I have been taking pictures (and working in video) for quite long time now, way longer that I have been involved in composing sound. The website is documenting a selection of my scanned, celluloid based works, divided into various aspects and themes, where intuitive navigation is part of this work.

    [photograph from the slunsk trilogy / ghetto ambient]

    Your Klimek project seems to oscillate between an almost confrontational sparseness and an incredible warmth and assurance. While these moods are polar opposites, the consistent theme seems to be an incredible attention to the slow, nuanced "pace" of melody. Could you describe the atmosphere you are creating and exploring with this work?

    Klimek tracks are mostly based on edited / processed acoustic samples taken from songs / compositions / composers which / who influenced me over the years. For example the tracks "Milk" & "Honey" are based on guitar plucks from the play by Fred Frith and Bill Frisell. By disassembling these tracks I carefully listen and pay attention to the composition on a nearly microscopic level, and pick up those elements, which "speak" to me the most. Maybe you could compare it to what I was doing when I was a little kid: by taking apart my grandparents' cameras. Screw by screw I was getting deeper and deeper into those machines and discovering hidden, yet invisible elements. Later then led by thoughts of guilt I was trying to put back the cameras to their primary shape, but ended up having constructed three or even more new objects, with temporarily no practical usage. Maybe with a similar portion of passion, curiosity I am approaching my method of sampling and creating new arrangements out of it.

    Slowness/slow motion is a very fascinating aspect in music composition for me. Working on Klimek tracks the question for me always was: "how slow can I get before losing the perception of a movement/rhythm? This aspect you could also convey to the Ghetto Ambient visuals as well, where I am trying to move the picture layers so slow, that it’s hard to realize when a transition has been completed. A phenomenon we are experiencing on everyday life basis: realizing that on our way to work a new building has been completed or when looking in a mirror and realizing that our face doesn’t look like it was looking some years ago.

    So accordingly to this I am not associating my compositions with so called electronic "ambient" (or even "drone") music, but rather then with composers and bands who explored the slow-motion aspect in music such as Swans, Bohren & der Club of Gore and The Melvins. My compositions might sound less silence breaking as their, but I hope the Klimek sound can create other powerful perceptions ("violently sad sounding music" as the German magazine SPEX wrote about this album). Here we might come back to the aspect of losing control while listening to music – not in an ecstatic mood – but more out of a loss of control about oneself perception. Making you forget about time and opening doors to a new perception of the place you abide / dwell – creating a mood of anticipation for a change.

    Your next Klimek release is due out in November on Ezekiel Honig’s Anticipate imprint. The album, entitled Dedications, seems to dive further into the realm of tribute that you describe above. With this record you work through a range of personalities including artists including Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Marvin Gaye, Charles Mingus, your grandmother Zofia Klimek, an ex-partner/collaborator and even the fictional Jimmy Corrigan. Is this attempt at autobiography through aknowledging the work and influence of others?

    Inevitably it is dealing with drawing attention to the work by people who - in one way or another - have influenced me in my life (but I wouldn’t say that the selection of names on this album is necessarily representative for my biography).

    I want to draw attention to the relationships and tensions between two characters symbolizing opposite values, different discourses or personalities.

    For example using Spielberg’s name on one of the tracks goes back to my work Into the Void (installation + concert + composition + collaboration with Israeli artists Ran Slavin and Eran Sachs) I have done for the XIII edition of the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland, where I have used parts of "Schindler's List" soundtrack to point out the aspect of virtual Jewish places/virtual Jewishness: klezmer nostalgia meets concentration-camp-tourism meets pilgrimage to spots such as sceneries for film-shots, while being served by dressed-up Poles in orthodox Jewish "costumes" with semi-kosher food to the sound of second-hand klezmer. Azza el-Hassan, a Palestinian filmmaker, was urging Spielberg in one of her works finally to start working on his movie about the "holy-land," which he (meaning his production company) had announced years ago and which supposedly wanted to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    It deals also with the artistic relationship between Grant Hart and Bob Mould, the Lennon-McCartney of the post-punk. It deals about working and doing art about work (Michael Gira versus Russian seaman Vladimir Ivanovich). It is trying to point out how "fame" can influence the "real" life of an artist (Ol´ Dirty Bastard versus Marvin Gaye) aka cocaine (ab)use. About real and staged loneliness, hopelessness and despair (my grandmother Zofia Klimek versus Gregory Crewdson) and about different approaches towards life (Lia versus Jimmy Corrigan).

    The idea on this album is to confront people from different "worlds" with each other.

    Mille Plateaux was an absolute hotbed of experimental electronic music from 1993-2004. The label was a vibrant testing ground for digital aaesthetics and yielded all kinds of new permutations of house and techno and speculations on pop and more experimental soundscapes. Could you talk about the culture surrounding the imprint and how being involved with it influenced you as an artist?

    I have a very strong biographic connection to the label group of Force Inc./Mille Plateaux. I guess it started with Boy-Records (primarily a fashion store chain from London, which was famous in the 80s), one of the first record stores in Frankfurt where you could find a solid selection of by the end of 80s/beginning of 90s emerging dance culture. I was spending lot of time there listening to new house and techno records. Achim Szepanski was working there at this time, who in 1991 founded Force Inc and in 1994 Mille Plateaux. Force Inc was releasing at this time a colorful mix of Acid-Techno, Break-Beats and banging rave music. Thomas Gerlach & Ian Pooley, Alec Empire, Wolfgang Voigt and Thomas Heckmann were responsible for the main output. One day I found out that why paying more for vinyl in record stores, when you could call this local phone number printed on every Force Inc vinyl and getting those records for 1/3 less of the regular price. Something, which made me visiting Achim´s first office (which was actually his apartment at this time) on a regular basis. Force Inc started to get boring after a while, and I was (and like some more people) exhausted by the club culture, which had been absorbed by the mainstream. At the same time as WARP started to release their Artificial Intelligence series, Mille Plateaux started to release their series of Modulation Transformation compilations, which contained many adventurous tracks, which were at that time really hard to classify. Another unique aspect of Mille Plateaux was to link Deleuzian/Guattarian philosophy to abstract electronic compositions, which made it possible to attract new audience/listeners at the doorstep to universities. Most of the main Force Inc artists started now also to produce abstract (but most of all slightly downtempo) electronica tracks for Mille Plateaux. The real turning point started when Oval (later also Microstoria) started to release their albums for the label. They were the first seriously demanding act on Mille Plateaux with a fresh sound-design and lot of love for acoustic abstraction and reflection on their mode of production. Mille Plateaux wasn’t the only label releasing abstract electronic music at that time. But it had the popularity (achieved through well selling Force Inc releases) and so the strength to make new (and little bit older) abstract sound composers visible. The well acknowledged compilation series Electric Ladyland started quite abstract but ended up reproducing styles between Trip-Hop and darker down-tempo tracks (marking also the expansion of the label group to the Drum´n´Bass sub-label Position Chrome). Next label character defining new entries were Pluramon, Terre Thaemlitz, Ultra-Red, Thomas Köner, Curd Duca and Gas (aka Wolfgang Voigt). At the same time – 1998 – as SND, Vladislav Delay and Frank Bretschneider entered the release catalogue; me and my former partner Ekkehard Ehlers offered the label our first release La Vie A Noir as Autopoieses.

    I think we were quite good example of those new "bedroom producers" who emerged around the globe, caused by affordable personal computers and Internet connections. You could maybe compare that boom with that one which happened during the 80s, when in Japan produced music hardware became affordable, influencing/creating lot of new house and early techno producers in the USA. By the end of the 90s those producers, who were skilled to write their own programs (and/or using platforms such as MAX/MSP) could shine with a new digital sound at the edge to noise by using – like many times in music history before – those sound effects, which weren’t originally intended to be used: "clicks"/"glitch" (like for example: guitar feedback = Jimi Hendrix, Roland 303 = Acid House). Talking about any possible culture surrounding the imprint of Mille Plateaux (but also lot of other exciting labels) you have to face the geographic axis between Western Europe, North America and Australia . If there was any culture surrounding the output of that time, then surely it had a predominantly virtual character.

    By 2000 I had starteded working for Mille Plateaux and was beginning to gain a new perspective on the scene / market from this involvement. Between those young labels, young producers and the new media reviewing it developed a productive flow. The global aspect of this scene and its allocation beyond (post) rave cultures – means: in galleries, established theaters – allowed (at least in Europe) financial support by government and local state funds, covering expensive continental flights.

    Right now I am realizing (after Mille Plateaux is practically speaking gone) that what I am missing right now in midst of this so-called electronic music scene, is this "rhizomatic" way of thinking and releasing music. Nowadays it seams like most of labels (dedicated to abstract electronically produced music) has a very strict and specific vision on sound aesthetics or are following a chose sub-genre. The artwork is uniform, the releases/products are adjusted, the focus is on creating "stars" and being represented by big festivals. Surely this is an economic/pragmatic/market orientated approach and - as described by the music business: "shrinking back to a healthy shape," but this development is also lacking new (creative) visions. And I still find that electronically/computer produced music can be and IS so exciting.

    For more information about Sebastian Meissner visit bizz-circuits.com.

    Originally posted on Serial Consign

    Walking in Jerusalem
    Random Inc.
    Bizz Circuits
    Mille Plateaux
    Force Inc.
    Anticipate Recordings
  • eduardo navas interview

    24 Sep 2007, 23:50

    One of my favourite blogs over the last year has been Remix Theory, a writing project quarterbacked by media theorist and artist Eduardo Navas. Eduardo is also the author of Remediative and Reflexive Mashups in Sampling Culture, a fantastic essay that beat-juggles a variety of paradigms that range from remix history through to data mashups. Eduardo and I have been firing questions back and forth over email for a few weeks and he has provided a compelling window into his research.

    How did you get started researching the remix as a critical paradigm?

    It was more a matter of bringing together activities that I had been exploring throughout my life. At the age of 12, during the early eighties, I became a break-dancer and at the age of 18, or so, I bought my own turntables and sound system. Then I began to DJ in the Los Angeles area, something I would do until 2001 or so. During this time I also played percussion in a couple of Salsa cover bands. I was also very involved in the visual arts since I was a kid, and when I reached my mid-twenties I decided to focus in art as a profession and enrolled in art school in the mid-1990’s.

    I eventually got a BFA from Otis College of Art, followed by a residency at Skowhegan School of Art, and then I received an MFA from California Institute of the Arts. It was during my Graduate studies at Cal Arts when I became heavily invested in New Media. While at Cal Arts, I also played percussion with the Cal Arts Latin Jazz Band, and I also developed various music projects with another visual artist, Justin Peloian. Obviously, being part of a visual arts program meant that I would make “art” and so I was also heavily invested in studio based art. I was very influenced by Conceptualism. I simply loved (and still love) ideas, and I embraced my time at Cal Arts because the school has very good critical thinkers teaching.

    Once I graduated, I started to teach theory and art classes, mainly new media courses in Los Angeles. During this time, I found that I liked theory, more than I realized, and after a couple of years I began to think of other options for my career. A good colleague of mine, Tina Takemoto, was actually a big inspiration and role model. She is an artist, theorist and art historian now teaching at CCA, in San Francisco. And I never thought I could do what she did. She is so smart and I thought that I simply didn’t have brains like her to do so many things; but then after getting to know her a bit, and with her encouragement, I began to think outside of the usual models already in place in the arts. And I said, why not?

    And so, I applied for a Ph.D. at UCSD, in the Art and Media History Theory and Criticism Program. I decided to apply to the program mainly because of Lev Manovich. I found his book The Language of New Media a great contribution to the arts in general, not to mention new media and art history at large. Once I arrived at UCSD, I met Lev Manovich and he encouraged me to consider innovative approaches to think, not only about history, but also theory as well as art practice. One thing that I liked about the program at UCSD from day one is that the professors did not discourage me from staying active as an artist. So, I felt free to explore my options in methodologies. And so, today, I have an interdisciplinary practice.

    My research is informed by many of the things that I was exposed to in my early life. I actually love the fact that I have a large record collection from which I can pull stuff to listen. I never thought my records would be similar to my books. I treat them the same actually. When I think of books like records, I feel like I’m sampling ideas to develop my own essays, and it’s not as scary as it would be otherwise, because I’ve never thought of myself primarily as a writer, but as an artist who moves from one medium to the next, given that in the end I am very interested in good ideas.

    The idea of records having the same prominance as books is a great one. They certainly help add some breadth to the archives. I’ve always been very fond of the idea that the protocol of footnoting and endnoting is akin to getting sample clearances. Keeping in line with the “book as record” line of thought, how do you organize your library versus your record collection? Do you archive them using the same or distinct criteria?

    Well, the analogy is popular today, I think, in part due to the publication of DJ Culture by Ulf Porschardt. In his last chapter he claims to approach writing much in the same way I’ve described my process. When I read his book, I realized that many of the tendencies that I carried from DJing to writing were acknowledged by Poschardt. I reflected on it a bit more, and made a point to really consider books like records - and theory books were suddenly much easier to read. It’s obviously a psychological trip on my part, and it works—so I keep doing it. I feel I’m able to produce at greater speed and better understand this way.

    And I do tend to organize my books like records. In a way, given my priority in writing these days, books are all over the place, while my records sit neatly in milk crates and against the wall. I actually only have a few of my records with me, most of them are in storage at the moment, and I pull them out as I need them according to what I’m researching. So, if you were to look at my place, you would see chaos, but I know exactly where the books are, and when I don’t find them where I left them (sometimes under three or four others) I freak out! If people were to see them they would not really get the system. Also, obviously, I have CDs and these are usually all over the place because I listen to them all the time. No system here, but whenever I have friends over, I’m able to discuss music and find stuff immediately. And of course there’s the mp3s. My ipod is crucial for me. Very convenient, but there’s something about not seeing an object, only a name on the screen when experiencing music this way.

    But I think that this is common for anyone writing a term paper, master thesis or a dissertation. You end up living with books day in and day out. They become your friends and you know where you left them. I don’t have a specific archiving system. I usually arrange them by subject or a current argument I’m working on, in no particular order; often times, I arrange the books according to size and place them on the shelf according to how they visually complement other books. I really don’t think this is that special, and suspect that I share this tendency with the masses when it comes to making a mess of my books. Just about everyone has an idiosyncratic system for organizing collections. Especially now that we live with archives day in and day out.

    You’ve described thinkers like Paul D. Miller, Lawrence Lessig, and Lev Manovich as “meta-searchers.” What is being searched for? What do you believe critical theory and cultural studies can learn from remix culture?

    The term “meta-searchers” is really a synonym I concocted to replace the term “researchers.” The reason being that the people that are listed on the site are not academics in the traditional sense, yet they all have ties to the academy in some way. Many of them, who are not professors have lectured for an institution at some point, or have written books that are often referenced in academic essays. Some are, obviously professors, like Lev Manovich and Lawrence Lessig; but others are journalists, like Jeff Chang and Simon Reynolds; and others are hybrids, like Paul D. Miller who is a DJ as well as author, and music critic.

    As we know “meta” means “after” that which comes after the event, that which comes after the action. This is also how we get the term “metalanguage” in semiotics; in which case it means a self-referencing of language based on its own parameters and history (meta is crucial for history); for Roland Barthes this would be Myth; and for Foucault Myth (language) is what makes discourse possible. And because of this influence and implict understanding within the new media culture that I am part of, I decided to use the term “meta” as a way to present those individuals who are part of the list as people between disciplines, who help create discourse. The term, in the end, most importantly points to the fact that all the people listed search for stuff after it happens—this is what all “researchers do” they look for something that has happened. They love archives because they can then categorize them, and create a narrative according to specificinterests; the exception to this is DJ Spooky, of course. And to some degree Lev Manovich, who develops projects that are more like artworks, from time to time. But all of them by enlarge reflect on actions about Remix or music culture after and only after such actions or events attain cultural value.

    To answer the second half of your questions, based on what I’ve stated, I would say that Cultural Studies and Critical Theory can consider Remix Culture as an extension of their own interests. I read Terry Eagleton’s Book After Theory when it was published a couple of years ago, and I was disappointed to learn that he believed we are entering a new era where “great” theory is a thing of the past. I don’t believe this is the case at all. If anything I see a new set of writers already making headway, especially in new media. We find many of them in compilations such as Media Art Histories, and Second Person. As to Critical Theory, as you many know, the term is associated with the first half of the twentieth century--specifically with the Frankfurt School. I think the term is used rather loosely today, but much of the work that is published under this umbrella still carries a strong trace of The Frankfurt School’s critical position. Today, there is a bit of contribution taking place. Two people that come to mind immediately are Alexander Galloway and Mackenzie Wark. Their publications are sure to leave a mark in new media.

    On Remix Theory you define remix as “the global activity consisting of the creative and efficient exchange of information made possible by digital technologies that is supported by the practice of cut/copy and paste.” Could you elaborate on how geography and globalization play into this definition?

    I use the term global because the world is now connected via the Internet. As to the term globalization I think it’s a contentious term that some dare say is simply a myth. I think that such argument, saying that globalization doesn’t exist, is futile; the truth is that the world has entered a time of global awareness-and this not even those who defy the concept of globalization can deny. We can very easily know what is happening around the world, if we have access to a computer and the proper connection. Saying this also implies a certain assumption about education. There is a certain level of literacy that is expected of those who are connected globally, and this exposes the conflicts of class which are part of everyday reality around the world.

    This, in the end, points back to the geographical realities of the world. When we look at a map of the Internet, we can notice that the places that are best connected are those which are also well developed. Julian Stallabrass points this out in his book Internet Art: The Clash of Culture and Commerce very clearly. Many parts of Africa are still not online, and this is contingent upon the level of local development that they are going through. So, geographical reality in the traditional sense is carried over to online reality. There was a time when early net surfers felt that the net was a truly democratic, genderless, classless space. But now we are beginning to realize that this is not so. Many people even realized that they wanted to explore difference online, because it is through such notion that we have created our identities to begin with, in the physical world. Race in Cyberspace edited by Beth Kolko, Lisa Nakamura and Gilber Rodman is a very good book that entertains a lot of these issues. So, in the end, online culture is simply an extension of our anxieties, which have been with us for thousands of years, really.

    If anything geographical boundaries are reinforced online. Studies show that people stay local in their searches. And even Google provides search results according to your geographical location. I’ve done searches from different countries when I visited them, and have received very different results from when I am in Los Angeles or San Diego. It’s like a different world that I am looking at, and when I even look for websites that I usually visit when I’m at home, I feel like I am doing it from “far” away, even though technically, it makes no difference because in the end I’m accessing the material through a screen and a computer. But of course, I’m fooling myself when I say this because it does make a difference, because physically I am in a different place, and this affects my psyche as well.

    Geography and globalization have been redefined by such interconnectivity, and cut/copy & paste is crucial to make such connectivity seamless. We don’t think about text or images in the same way that we used to before computers became popular in the early eighties. If it were not for such a simple activity as cut/copy and paste we would not be able to share information as fast. And in the end, as I argue in my contributed text for Vague Terrain, Cut/Copy & paste is an efficient, optimized form of sampling. Such concept, as it is commonly known was explored in great depth in Music culture, since the early days of electronic music since recording devices were conceived, really, but definitely culminated in music remixes in the 70s and 80s.

    In your essay Remediative and Reflexive Mashups in Sampling Culture, you draw a line from block parties in late 1970’s New York City right through to Web 2.0 Mashup Culture. If you were to identify some key developments in this trajectory from proto-DJ culture to data aggregation, what would they be?

    I guess I could outline a history of most important projects, but this has been done in a few books. I’d like, instead, to share some personal anecdotes that I think have been underplayed in music and culture.

    I would say that some of the most interesting stuff that I’ve heard or own is not available today. I remember listening to Uncle Jamm’s Army on KDAY every Friday night, back in the day, when I break-danced. Honestly, I was surprised to read books like Ulf Porschardt’s DJ Culture and, as well as Brewster’s Last Night a DJ Saved my Life and notice that they completely ignore the U.S. West Coast (except for San Francisco) when they tell their history of DJ Culture. I hope emerging researchers are willing to look into good old Cali in order to contribute to the history of the DJ and Remix. Some of the most amazing and important tunes were developed here. The Wrecking Cru for example was Dr. Dre’s conception. And one of the most important rap groups, NWA is not included in these books. And then there was Uncle Jamm’s Army whose most visible member was The Egyptian Lover.

    Uncle Jamm’s Army did some early mashups live on the radio, on KDAY, which back then was 1580 AM (now it was brought back as 93.5 FM, and they play many of the tunes that were first introduced in the early eighties in the AM station). Uncle Jamm’s would juxtapose two songs, and sometimes three right then and there for you to hear. It was amazing! Once I remember listening to the song “Scorpio” mashed up on the spot with “Alnafish,” two amazing tracks that are electrofunk classics, and I also remember “Alnafish” having a very long transition beatmix with “Mirda Rock”—Wow! These guys explored the standard of long transition beatmixes that are now common ground for most house and Techno DJs. They took their time and let the songs flow together.

    During the nineties, there was a transition period in mixing, house started to be heard and electrofunk was taken over by Freestyle, at least in the LA area. And the mixes that were heard were mainly remixes of artists like Will to Power, Information Society and When in Rome. This was after the time of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Wham! And some of the artists coming out were obviously influenced by new wave and electro-funk. And many of them appeared in odd megamixes. I have a few promo records that are megamixes done in small studios from this time period. The record labels have no names, the simply read “Promo only.” And that’s it. These records explore the language that would turn into the mashup as we know it today, only they did it following the tradition of the medley, which I explain in my essay for Vague Terrain. We’re talking early to mid-nineties at this point. How these megamixes explored the language was that say a remix of Dirty Cash by Adventures of Stevie B, for example, would play for a few bars and right on top you would hear Blackbox’s Everybody. Both songs would just pop out and demand autonomy, and I would say, wow! I can hear them both! In another promo record I have Cameo and Janet Jackson, the Mary Jane Girls, Jody Watley, go down the line of the pop charts; just about everyone that had a hit was in this megamix. And then I have some remixes of classic house, from Frankie bones to Ralph Rosario. I’m still amazed by the solid studio production of the megamixes, given that they were basically bootlegs turned out quickly, sometimes just locally.

    But all of this was best explored in more established remixes that are neither mashups, nor megamixes, like Pump up the Volume, produced in 1987 by Marrs. As far I can understand, Marrs were aware of this tradition and they understood it well enough to create a composition that was more like a collage of samples united by an undercurrent baseline and catchy beat. As I state in my essay on reflexive and regressive mashups, they really follow the aesthetic of Grandmaster Flash’s classic The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel. I believe that “Pump Up the Volume” is considered historically important because it’s easier to track down than all the great stuff that one can encounter at the local record shop. And while I love Marrs’s tune and have the vinyl, which I pull out to listen to whenever I can, I think that most of the innovative stuff that I’ve heard is not traceable, and will be very hard to historicize because the records sometimes don’t even have labels.

    For example, I have an amazing remix of Planet Rock that combines some of Luke Skywalker’s dirty sounds along with other classic breaks from the early funk days, which are basic samples used for scratching by most turntablists. But it’s impossible to trace the author of this remix because I bought it at a record shop which is no longer around and the label is white on one side and on the other has a number 1—that’s it. All I can do is play it.

    In terms of mashups, today, it’s hard to say what some of the most important mashups are or what the actual evolution is now. Even established mashup artists like Mark Vidler don’t really know the evolution of this genre, and he works on music remixes day in and day out (See this interview for more information on Mark Vidler). Historians will definitely create a history, but this one will not be able to account for most of the material that is produced, in part because the culture moves too fast, and academia tends to be slow: Academia needs material to become part of the past in order to reflect on it and analyze it. This also allows historians who are interested in alternative histories to go back and dig in material that was underrepresented. This was one of the key elements of postmodernism (little narratives vs. Grand Narratives, as Lyotard would say, or collapse of cultural and critical space into intertextuality, as Jameson would say). So it can be a productive situation, that is if we acknowledge that history is always fragmented, and political.

    So, if I am to name some of the mashups or music remixes that will probably crossover various critical interests, I would say that the usual suspects would have to be named. Those I mentioned in my essay, including Vadler’s “Ray of Gob” as well as “Stroke of Genius” by DJ Roy Kerr. Along with these two I would include the mashup of “Green Day vs. Oasis”, which is extremely clever because it is one of the few that give equal footing to the lyrics of both songs. The video is very good as well.

    There are quite a few mashups like this one. For example, if we want to discuss The Grey Album, what is perhaps the most important mashup album of all time, we can see how Danger Mouse’s sound is extended in a three minute video. The Grey Video mashup is probably hinting at the future of audio-visual culture: choice and sophistication of pre-existing material is what will matter from here on. This has been the case for sometime, actually. The Grey Video is so good, as far as I’m concerned that it becomes social commentary not only on the Beatles and Jay Z as pop-stars, but on their particular popularity based on race and class politics as well. One thing that is peculiar is how the sound engineer is frustrated by Jay-Z’s intervention as well as Ringo’s decision to play records instead of the drums, and then there’s that breakdancing at the very end. I can tell you that this video will be part of history.

    In dealing with material that is specifically friendly to online culture, I would say that Byrne and Eno’s project, My Life in a Bush of Ghosts is obviously of historical importance, because it is a crossover between pop culture and the Creative Commons movement, and a project that is fronted by major stars to try to connect with the people.

    In the art spectrum, I find Corey Arcangels’ Beach Boys vs. the Ghetto Boys Mashup to follow suit with the Grey Album. I heard him lecture once, and he said that he was directly influenced by the Grey Album.

    What is interesting about Cory is that he is also influenced by early funk records, and one thing that he mentioned was that he did not do anything to the videos and music, except adjust the timing a bit. He wanted them to work together as they were originally produced. This definitely reminds me of the early days of hip hop when DJ crews, like Uncle Jamms, would juxtapose two or three records, just in the right sections and let the audience delight in the tension that took place when recognizing the songs working together with no editing other than simple juxtaposition. In a way, that’s why I like Oasis and Greenday’s mashup, even though it is carefully edited, it at least, attempts to sound “pure.” Cory is actually really obsessed with this aspect of art in general, he strives to leave everything as intact as possible. I think the more powerful mashups work because they tend to be produced with this principle as well.

    As to the influence of remix and mashup in other areas of new media culture, I would say that many of the remixes produced for CCmixter are worth considering, Although I’m skeptical of “contests” that are often promoted in the site.

    The commons in general, as we know, has appropriated the principles of Remix to put forward a constructive model for the tensions around intellectual property. This is how we got the term “Remix Culture.”

    In terms of software, I believe that RSS readers like Vienna are the ultimate tools, where the reader is able to customize what feeds to read. These RSS readers are obviously discrete applications, but giving people the choice to create their own preferences to access information is the key principle that makes a mashup, a mashup: having the New York Times and a local blog in the same interface in the end is a powerful element for the individual, and this is typical of web 2.0.

    What do you consider to be some of the most interesting data mashup applications?

    This is an interesting question because while some of the most innovating mashups in video and music have been produced and are being produced probably in bedrooms all over the world, data mashups are a different story, as they are often produced by a group of people or by corporations riding on open source.

    grey album/my life in a bush of ghosts

    In terms of art, I would say that Mark Napier has developed quite a few projects such as Shredder, Riot and Feed. All these projects recombine (remix) existing files, or information from the web for the viewer. Sometimes, the viewer can contribute directly, and at others, the application developed by Napier will mashup material on the fly.

    An early mashup project exploring images online is the Multicultural Recycler by Amy Alexander. In this project the online user can grab images from the web cameras and combine them to make a collage, which can be archived for other users to view.

    In terms of community based mashups, I would say that Pipes by Yahoo! is a pioneering experiment. I actually like the interface; it’s friendly. It’s probably one of the few projects that considers carefully visual language for better access of data.

    And there are the google hacks, of course. The difference with Google hacks is that the user is not able to create a mashup him/herself, but the aesthetic of mashing up Google with some other element is performed by the author, similar to artists like Alexander or Napier. Sometimes such element is conceptual more than anything. So it may be considered more like an intervention, which is a strong bridge between hacking and mashing up. And then there’s Google Earth Hacks, which functions in similar fashion. One can download material and often create mashups for individual purposes, the more popular ones I believe are what they call “overlays” used to be able to navigate certain maps efficiently.

    A popular online resource used to create mashups, as many online users know is Platial. I think tools like this one are great because it demands of people to think spatially and to also come to terms with geography, both locally and globally.

    My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
    Brian Eno
    David Byrne
    Luke Skywalker
    Africa Bambaataa
    DJ Spooky
    Dirty Cash
    Pump Up The Volume
    The Beach Boys
    Getto Boys
    The Beatles
    JAY Z

    Originally published on Serial Consign
  • curate the glitch

    22 Sep 2007, 18:40

    [steven reid / screen burn (please wait) / 2005]

    I capped off a really exciting week on Thursday with a micro-lecture at the first Toronto edition of talk20. Talk20 is an informal salon that operates in the same style as Pecha Kucha and Dorkbot. The gatherings are dedicated to bring together a variety of artists and designers to present work connected by a common thread. The first talk20 explored Error, and I was invited by the series coordinators Mason White and Lola Sheppard to showcase a selection of glitch art culled from the Vague Terrain archives.

    When Neil Wiernik and I launched Vague Terrain in September 2005 we dedicated our first issue to an exploration of digital detritus and glitch art. This theme of interrogating software, hardware and modes of production has remained central within the work we have curated and it was exciting for me to highlight this specific vector that runs through the entire history of our digital arts quarterly.

    [tony scott / endemerol (detail) / 2002]

    The above image is from an early work by UK Artist Tony Scott, (aka Beflix). Tony has been subverting a wide range of technology over the course of his artistic career and he is deeply invested in the process of cultivating error. Tony is also very talented at massaging glitch output as is quite evident in his recent mixed media work Primitive Operation and Crystal Method. I still consider his submission to Vague Terrain one of the strongest that we have received.

    [robin armstrong / camouflage (still) / 2004]

    The image above is a still from Camouflage, a video piece by my friend and peer Robin Armstrong. The project utilizes aerial footage of Cuba as source material that has been (mal)processed by a corrupt video codec. This creates an abstracted landscape that foregrounds the idiosyncrasies implicit in converting analog to digital video.

    If these projects are of interest to you, you may want to take a look at the following submissions from the Vague Terrain archives: Liav Koren, Tasman Richardson, Marius Watz, Meta, Ben Bogart, Jeremy Rotzstain, Michaela Schwentner and Steven Read. All of this work addresses the error and/or revels in complexity and code.

    Originally published on Serial Consign
  • ghetto ambient

    19 Ago 2007, 18:44

    Walking in Jerusalem
    Random Inc.
    Bizz Circuits

    I've been a longtime fan of musician and artist Sebastian Meissner who releases beautiful and often unsettling ambient music under the moniker Klimek on Kompakt. I began a dialog with Sebastian when I tipped him off that I had used a Klimek track to score my Kamera Obscura project, and as we chatted back and forth I realized he was the creative force behind a number of other projects that have showed up on my radar over the years.

    Sebastian is also behind or was involved in: Bizz Circuits, Autopoieses (with Ekkehard Ehlers) and Random Inc. In addition to the Klimek material that I find so mesmerizing, the Random Inc. record Walking In Jerusalem was one of my favourite albums of 2002, and Autopoieses's locked-groove laden La Vie À Noir Transposed didn't leave my crate for two years when I was still playing records.

    What interested me so much about about Walking in Jerusalem, was that the album proposed a remixed urban space. In Meissner's Jerusalem, political and cultural boundaries melted away and the city was rebuilt one sample and one loop at a time. The album utilized scores of field recordings, collected from different points within the city as source material and the resulting (re)composition was something altogether special. The project is one of the most successful "city" records that I have heard and for this reason, it pleased me greatly to learn that Meissner has continued to explore urban space through his work.

    Riffing off the infamous Geto Boys quote that "the world is a ghetto," Ghetto Ambient (pictured above) and Autokontrast both serve as archives for an exploration of what French ethnologist Marc Auge has referred to as non-places. The statement for Ghetto Ambient articulates these spaces as:

    "..places in which identidy, relations, and history are only marginally significant and where social relations are minimal. Familiar and recognisable aspects, are minimized. Classically defined through arbitrariness and repeatability of its architecture, places such as freeways, airports, malls and supermarkets make their visitors feel like they are always, and never at home."

    The work displayed on these sites blends photography and video from Israel and Palestine, Algeria, Poland, Argentina and the United Kingdom much in the way Walking in Jerusalem reconfigures distinct urban moments into a new de-familiarized entity.

    Just as a brief aside, it is very refreshing to see image based work buried in an idiosyncratic interface as I think I'm starting to find the neutrality of flickr a little numbing. For anyone who can't handle viewing this work on Meissner's terms, he also recently launched a YouTube account which archives his video work from the last few years.

    Originally published on Serial Consign
  • jan jelinek interview

    11 Ago 2007, 21:53

    Jan Jelinek

    Last year I had the pleasure of inviting Jan Jelinek to Toronto to perform at the Music Gallery's X Avant festival. Jan delivered an incredibly visceral, droney set which was largely comprised of material from his Tierbeobachtung album. I'd be hard pressed to name another musician who has released as many groundbreaking and ambitious recordings over the last decade. Some artists define genres, but I think others destroy them by pushing them to their logical conclusions and breaking through these stylistic conventions into uncharted territory. Jelinek cracked open minimal house with his Farben project, and the full lengths he has released on ~Scape have served as essential documentation of his ongoing experiments.

    This interview was originally published in Vague Terrain 05: Minimalism in December of 2006

    [image: jan jelinek in the mix / 2006 - from pil01's focus:berlin photoset]


    GJS: Lets start out with your musical roots, and try to move through your body of work semi-chronologically to try to get a good sense of your development as an artist. In describing your Farben work, you’ve talked about "trying to make house music, but failing." Could you elaborate on this quotation and contextualize this ongoing musical project?

    JJ: To be honest I don’t even know if Farben is still an ongoing project. I haven’t thought about it in the last two years, which means also, that I had no idea, how to continue with the Farben-moniker. I tried as Farben to produce techno, because this genre placed as a disposal a minimal formula, which allows non-musicians and dilettantes to compose. I Guess that I felt attracted to this and still do. Also I still love the idea of abstract reductionism, somehow a technological version of funk and house music. But I don’t know, how to add something further on to this idea, how to add something to the idea of Farben. Farben was something like an attempt at making post-techno and post-house music. Techno was already defined, was working with fixed sound-paradigms so I tried to generate everything on a digital-platform, with a digital aesthetic. Guess that this idea became at the same time a aesthetical canon called “clicks and cuts“. Anyway, while I tried to expand the sampling-idea of Farben – not the sample source, the sampling process as the audible subject – it was causing at the same time an implosion of my sampling-machine. A self-referenced idea of sampling, a kind of audible emphasising of the machine’s operating-system instead of the sample-source: When you try to establish that, you don’t have any prospective options with the sampler anymore. At least I felt so. I thought that I have to do a radical turn: house music as a conservative genre, referring well defined styles and codes, creating historicism. The Farben presents the presets ep was an ironic take on that, but I think other producers are more talented at this.

    GJS: Several years back, I remember reading an interview where you stated that you considered your Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records album as an “aural translation of op-art Moiré paintings.” Are you still making auditory op-art? If not, what?

    JJ: I don’t think so. Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records created an audible flickering, which made a comparison to op-art appropriate, it generated a certain a kind of hallucination, that’s why I referred to op-art. While I was thinking about the idea of Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records I didn’t had the intention to transform visual aspects into sound. I realised that this concept, which was ostensible based on technical aspects, is much more clear, while I’m explaining and comparing it in items of optical-art. So this metaphor became helpful, even to myself. Maybe in general the reference to art is helpful in getting closer to the idea of digital music than the traditional parameters of music do. Computer based composing does have a strong visual component. The software-interfaces are set up like this. So audio collages do have a double meaning. In general the composing process is an audible and visual creative act, the computer is visualising the compositional parameters, and the composer is working with the visualised interface of his/her composition. So in that sense I would say that I was doing audio-collages. The working process of graphic-design and music are not that far apart from one other.

    GJS: I think it is safe to say, that in terms of sound design you wear your influences on your sleeve. Your earlier work, say up until Kosmischer Pitch, positively glows through a constant referencing of old soul and jazz through sampling and the overall mood of the mix. The lushness of your work sets you apart from the stark formalism of many other electronic musicians whose work could be described as minimal (i.e. Pan Sonic, Carston Nicolai). Could you address the mood that you are looking for when you are making music and how that relates to your working process. Does one emerge from the other?

    JJ: I’m not interested in transporting a special kind of mood while I’m starting to compose a track. I don’t think that I would be able to do that if I wanted to. Everything emerges in the working process. There is no intentional decision of sounding "moody“ or “noisy,“ but the sound-character reflects the mood I’m reaching while I’m producing. Unfortunately its hard to channel the creative process in a certain kind of direction. At least in my experience.

    GJS: Could you share a handful of older recordings that changed the way you think about sound design? I’m not so much inquiring about wonderful records but interesting or innovative recordings – could you talk a bit about your choices and their significance to your work?

    JJ: Concerning contemporary electronic music, I would say, that there are two components, which are important to me: On one hand, there is the idea of creating emotional, lush music, which can transport intense feelings without falling into the trap of kitschy pathos and alienation. Music which can transport universalized frames of mind while sounding as abstract as possible at the same time. In my opinion no one does this better than Oval (still!). On the other hand I like the Idea of absolute reductionism, especially in dance orientated music. A modulation of two tones for instance, which can create a deep concentration, and which restates the listener as an active recipient, hallucinating their own musical events. The Electro Music Department records are really good for this.

    GJS: I know you’ve made a break in your work over the last few years where you are no longer exclusively harvesting and processing samples but have embraced creating your own improvised sound and music as sample material. Could you speak about the tension between collecting and creating samples? Beyond that, is there a friction between the loop and improvisation?

    JJ: There is actually no difference between collecting and processing samples. A sample, taken from an existing piece of music is always involves a process of editing. Beginning with the decision which special moment to extract and how to set the start and endpoints to a more complex editing, where loops and modulations can be created: Sampling itself is always a creative process. I actually make no distinction between my own, self-produced, sample sources and foreign material. As for friction between the loop and improvisation, I think that this proposition includes a more traditional, jazz-orientated idea of improvisation, which is good, but doesn’t apply to my idea of improvisation. I understand loops not as such firm events, which distinguish themselves as a unbreakable and musically constant. Loops are a more soft in nature. Sound and time code modulations can deform their shape, without losing their steady character. That’s where I see the chance to improvise.

    GJS: I appreciate your care in dealing with the idea of improvisation. Your identifying loops as being soft suggests a more “incremental“ improvisation then the dexterity or encyclopaedic knowledge of scales associated with virtuosity in jazz. This is probably as good a time as any to ask you about your collaboration with Trisok. Could you tell us a little about how recording 1+3+1 impacted the way you work?

    JJ: Actually, I was not really improvising with Triosk, while we were making that record. I started to work on very simple one-track loops, which I sent to them. They were improvising to these files and after sending them back to me, I was manipulating the results of these improvisations in a very discreet way. My role was focusing on drafting some sound sketches, drafting a musical base, which Triosk was using for additional compositional ideas. So the fact is, that we were not improvising together, but after the album was released and a joint tour was planned, we decided to turn the project into a collective improvisation, which I think was a good decision. It was my first experience in joining a “non-loop-orientated“ music collective, so I had to think about creating loops, which weren’t tied to a strict time code, or which had a nearly non-audible time code. I tried to create these sort of loops on Tierbeobachtung as well.

    GJS: Your newest album Tierbeobachtung sounds like a step forward from the suite of experiments you’ve conducted through your albums on ~scape. What has changed? Where does this album sit in relation to your other work?

    JJ: Tierbeobachtung works more like a live-record. All the tracks are based on the idea to do one-take-tracks, which are not reproducible anymore. They were recorded with very small, basic setup, focused on outboard gear, like guitar pedals and a loop player. The reason why I decided to work with such lo-fi equipment is because I was getting really tired of working with the sequencer, and with the graphical aspect, as I mentioned before. I was tired of seeing a graphical translation of my sound, I wanted to concentrate exclusively on the audible experience. Looked at that way it was also an experiment on myself, seeing, if there will be a notable difference between this album and my older work. Also I tried to work really fast, finishing one or more compositions on one day and leaving all the mistakes and bad moments just to underline a sense of fleetingness.

    GJS: Stepping away from the graphic representation of composition and arrangement is bold, and an interesting decision to make considering how much artists fetishize the visualization of information and interface at the moment. It sounds like this new working methodology is as much about control as perception. How do you find working with more lo-fi technology effects your creative process?

    JJ: I think both ways are effecting a creative process. Working with lo-fi technology gives you the chance, to concentrate on the audible experience. Everything is a bit more vague. It is more easy to construct layers on unclean, incorrect statics, while everything seems to drift apart and comes back into a tight settlement again. On the other hand this construction doesn’t allow you to add clear rhythmical events, which is also the reason why there are no such events detectable on Tierbeobachtungen.

    GJS: What can we expect from you in the near future?

    JJ: Right now I’m working on totally different material, limited on three old analog synthesizers, without using a sequencer and effects. Everything is about synthesizer-modulation.

    Originally published on Serial Consign