Friday, February 27, 2009

Monome and My Mind Blown

Ok, (Here's my First Garage Band Mix)

So I was discussing in class yesterday a device that basically used a mini player as a queue for text samples. This has led me to go far past where I was planning on taking my audio project. The device in question has been brought to the level of the monome. This is a midi, sound effect, video queue device that allows the artist, programmer, writer, musician to program in a series of beats or a musical progression while having the capability to manipulate samples live.


Riding my bicycle home just now after being shown the existence of this amazing device as well as a new sound mixing program that allows for more live, DJ like, manipulation I came to a new ground of possibilities as a writer. An author can take cut up technique to amazing new places with this. Further it allows the author the ability to have visuals correspond with words and sound or music or whatever. The strange thing about this is it would be entertaining to watch and listen to someone remix a poem or a story, live. I think it would be the closest way possible of literally getting inside of an artists thought process. The audience, or reader, or patron could see the creative process unfold and come together through loops with correlating images evoked in the author by the terms or sounds used.

While I will most definitely not be taking things to this level for my current sound project I do think it is amazing and am pretty much geeked about using this as a style of writing. It really places the performative aspect of literature into a new realm. Also, making it accesible to those otherwise not into poetry, or writers not into music or art (no such thing).

Again, wow.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

completely haphazard thoughts on a project


This project really started about 7 years ago when I heard a spoken word album of Jack Kerouac's work. The poem specifically was, Skid Row Wine. Enthralled as I was with the beat movement I wrote a very poor emulation of this poem, which I will mention no more of except it reflected my growth as someone dealing with the ideas of fringe living, DIY culture, cheap wine, and the beautiful artistic depravity of it all. (It should go without saying that I was living out of my car and cleaning and cooking in exchange for couch space.)

A couple years later I was living in New York and, being an idealist drunkard, thought to make the best of my impoverished state. What other's saw as impoverished I found to be something to be sought after. Not like those trust funders panhandling on St. Marks mind you. Fuckers who acted the part of the starving artist and afforded 1200 a month studios. Although I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ingrid (I think that was her name. It was unfitting of a 22 year old and better suited of an elderly Slovakian woman. The kind that lived in this neighborhood long before it became hip.) for allowing my girlfriend at the time, and subsequently me, to stay in her place while she went up to Connecticut and then to Morroco for the months of January and February. Also, sorry Liz never gave you any rent.

Oh, to know it young. And be a poet.

I thought this mantra to myself as a deceleration of everything the rest of the world had forgotten. I swilled and sacrificed myself to, "this beautiful young life that drowns in cirrhosis like cheap wine.” I wrote poems, worked shitty jobs, went to communist bar open mic nights, and generally acted as a total hipster longing to afford clothes from American Apparell.

Good times, moreover.

Last fall I looked at this poem once again, from the point of paractaxis while also embracing Burroughs' cut up technique. Further I embraced a fragmented take on language and developed an interesting remix of the poem I'd written a number of years ago. Oh, let's not forget an always present interest in fractals.

So here we are. My plan is to turn this poem into a sound piece. In the reading of the poem, the original poem, I plan to take off into a sound fractal each space where a word or phrase was used in the remix. This will branch out into a reverberated mayhem while in the background I hope to incorporate the original sound piece I was inspired by some 7 years ago. Or at least the general depravity the piece incorporates.

Also I hope to employ some of the techniques found in fractal sound art within this.

It's kind of all over the place right now, but I think that's where I hope to keep it, as it is now a reflection on a very disillusioned voice, both in the original Skid Row Wine piece as well as in my emulation of the piece from the vantage of an equally as inebriated idealist some 40 years later.


Relating to fractals: By my understanding of the definition of a fractal is that it can be viewed in the same way no matter how it is looked at. Basically whether zoomed in or from far out it appears the same.

The way I hope to relate this to sound and to the evolution of a piece from a sound piece based on a written piece to a written emulation of that sound piece to a rewrite of the emulation to a cut up remix combined with images and finally to another sound piece fusing together each of these separate pieces. Does that make sense?

In the end I would like to see that each of these, individually, express a common idea or scope or feel. Further, I hope the combination of these pieces in layering creates a fuller representation of this core idea that lingers in each of them. Also, it would be nice if it sounds cool.

We'll see.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Rants on Capitalism (Who'd of Guessed?)

The concept of culture jamming found its way, by name, into focus in the mid 90's due to the dubious efforts of anti-globalization groups such as AdBusters and The Yes Men. The concept is to simply cause a ruckus, make your point known. It is an effort often done through the same channels as advertising and propaganda. Logos are manipulated, flash animation catches the eye before anyone realizes they are being had. In a lot of ways I find it to be advertising for something worth while.

Ad Busters biggest, and annual, effort is Buy Nothing Day (BND) . Or as it is more commonly referred to by Target Wallmart and Kohls' shoppers, Black Friday. The event arises functions as a protest against over consumption. Participants are encouraged to, instead of raking in the deals on sweatshop products, reflect at home with friends and loved ones. Read a book, Make some gifts rather that purchasing them, or really do whatever they would like that abstains from exchanging currency. Inherently there is a bit of hypocrisy in the concept because the book read was more than likely purchased, the scarf made was sewn from fabric that was purchased. The idea then takes participants into a state of realization and hopefully one of greater consumer awareness.

Where culture jamming gets into this are in the protests out in the streets, the mock corporate shirt logos snuck into stores, and the switching of Barbie and GI-Joe voice-boxes, as done by The Yes Men. In fact, on the Friday after Thanksgiving of 2003 myself and a few friends went around malls in the Grand Rapids and Muskegon area (a youth spent in Michigan) combing the parking lots for american flag bumper stickers. We replaced them with this:

I guess you could say we were working on our night moves. No? Running against the wind might have been a better choice.

Regardless this, and the work done by The Yes Men, are both methods of culture jamming. Now, what is culture jamming? isn't it just protesting under a euphemism. Protesting became something uncool after punks replaced hippies and apathy replaced it all. (see this article, also by adbusters.) What was anyone to do inorder to motivate lazy hipsters, hippies afraid of fulfilling their stereotypes, and middle class consumers fearful of joining a dangerous subculter. A simple rebranding of social action was all it took. Culture Jamming is New Coke, Crystal Pepsi, and Reduced Fat all in one. The only difference is it is the first use of marketing ploys used to undermine marketing.

Side note, my favorite site to listen to free music is currently brought to me by McDonalds. It's wonderful that they can provide such a service while I'm working on an article that undermines them. check out Imeem for streaming music and getting tempted by the dollar menu. I know I do.

In watching a movie last week by The Yes Men (movie by same title) I began to think about these issues once again. While my feelings on corporate take over of america and the world at large are still quite a concern of mine I have, in recent years, changed my way of fighting them. I simply try to live well, which to me means minimizing my corporate participation, stealing as much as I can from larger organizations, and other hypocritical and self righteous endeavors.

Now, here is what I was wondering about The Yes Men. There is a scene where they are purchasing clothes in London. One is holding a button up shirt, still packaged, and asks if it would look professional enough for his upcoming presentation where he is posing as a member of the WTO. Now, he is giving a presentation satirizing the shameful production of textiles worn in the developed world.

So why buy the new shirt off the street?
Why buy McDonalds to prove they are awful?
Why waste thousands of dollars on travel?
Can this culture jamming be done without participating in the corporate culture you are trying to destroy?
Does it make much of a difference beyond simply being insightful and comical?
Is protesting simply a construction of the dominant class to assuage social deviants?

One last point: in the film the only time anyone vissibly disagrees with The Yes Men's satire is in the college lecture. This is the last great platform for free speech. After this it is off to the business world where to descent is to oppose progress and efficiency. It's the same avenue for a lot in the creative world too. I have a friend with a degree in art direction who is vying to renew the Navy print campaign for fear of loosing out to a lower bidder. Where does this corporate takeover of our talents, thoughts, and essence stop? And as for the government outsourcing its propaganda to private ad firms. This is the topic of another blog.

This is reminiscent of my largest apprehension towards digital work, it is inherently corporate. This is also true with printed work or really anything short of moving in with the sasquatch, which is just a tourist trap for Target, Wallmart, and Kohls shoppers.

This is what really makes me thankful to be able to write a blog, the last free avenue of speech. I just hope they don't find it when I'm looking for a job.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jello Biafra

This kind of fits in to my earlier post.

Proletariat Bourgeoisie Remix

Last night I began a PBR induced debate about the modern day proletariat. Really not any new ground for me, as I truly enjoy both arguing and communism.

Newly discovered to me were the pontifications of Wark McKenzie who identifies a new struggle for the working class masses.

Inside A Hacker Manifesto Wark explores new ideas of ownership and thus arises new ideas of control and submission. The rise of the internet has brought the rise of new commodities by what he identifies as the "Vectoralist" class. These new commodities are information and the avenues information is channeled through. I had difficulty differentiating this from a straight forward post-marxist concept and an all together modern version of The Communist Manifesto.

Speaking for communism and anarchic ideals is a pursuit of mine because nearly everyone disagrees with me. It is a wonderful way to say, "Hey, I'm going to start an argument that I can't win because it has been historically proven not to work. And yes, I am incredibly self righteous. Ready? GO!"

In order to make an argument such as this successful one needs to pick tangible points.

I, wrongfully chose music as information, and thus as a commodity.

My friend's counterpoint was that music is not information.

I did not see this.

Music, she said, is a product made by a group or individual just like a lamp or a chair or any other tangible, and thus purchasable, product.

My thoughts were that music is now a purchasable product because it has already been commodified. Basically I was reiterating McKenzie's thoughts into, "The Vectoral class owns the rights to music say and sells it as property. Music, in and of itself is just sound. The creation of sound is most sensibly owned by the waves of air pushed and vibrated upon to produce it. Then the artist who created that sound. Is the sound the property of the one who sold the sound making device, the recording studio the sound was recorded in? Where along this line does something such as sound become property? When it is made illegal to posses without paying for it? The Vector class needs information or in this case sound in order to thrive. It needs to have something that can not be obtained without the vector class' assistance. The hacker class undermines this by releasing this information without charge, taking away it’s property identification. It is then the necessity of the vector class to develop a new property that is unobtainable without being purchased. The process repeats and both are proven to be dependent upon one another."

Last night I was, however, not this articulate.

We also moved into the realm of plagiarism as something that the vector class does a good job of policing and prohibiting. I disagreed, of course, saying something to the effect of, "You can't like own a potato, man."

This, as is usually the case with me, was quoted from an episode of The Simpsons. So, to be affable in conversation I am required, at times, to plagiarize. Is quoting a song or a line from a book or television show then plagiarism?

We both agreed that this was not.

When then does something become plagiarized?

Modern culture is inherently based on plagiarism in my opinion. All culture is. We are the summation of the civilized world. Our entire argument was fueled by things we've read, seen, and heard. Isn't that plagiarism? The words we used to make our points are taken from words we have remembered from other contexts. Language in and of itself is plagiarized from older forms and older languages and in the end sounds to represent objects. Language was originally then a way of uncommodifying (is that a word?) something. A way of making something abstract. An avenue to make reference to a thing without it happening or being there. Language then in and of itself is plagiarized from emotions and objects. (With this in mind I would like to see someone communicate strictly with emotion, rock, dirt, and possibly water. You know, as a performance piece.)

Plagiarism is nothing new.

Why then is plagiarism and copyright infringement something to be prosecuted for? Why is there a hacker class?

Because information has been commodified, it has been turned into a product. Further, not thought, but the avenue to convey thought has been commodified. In order to express myself for this class I need to obtain a computer, get on the internet, find a website that allows me to post my thoughts, and finally type (a plagiarized for of communication dating back to the 1800's. Stolen from the more traditional pen and paper genre). The avenue for information is now brought to me by Comcast and Apple and it is filled with impulse distractions.

This is of course not a new concept either. 25 years ago my thoughts would be the culmination of RandomHouse Publishing (for example) and Remington & Sons (makers of the first typewriter). An interesting side note on this is that when I just now typed in typewriter to Google (another company commodifiying information) the first suggestions were not information on typewriters but places I could purchase one. I suppose this shows us existing on the cusp of information commodity and that of the tangible.

The idea of turning information into product is nothing new. It is the base for a capital driven system to give things value. Without value how can one thing be weighed against another. Without values how can a decision be right or wrong? Without a given value nothing could be decided. These values are based upon past experience and historical evidence. Are our values then not plagiarized?

In a given society where one is, through the culmination of plagiarized civil history, brought to the opinion that all things have a both moral and tangible value why then not make that leap of assimilating information into the same realm as something that took information to make.

In a digital realm information is the product of the information needed to convey said message. Programmers develop language in order for laypeople to communicate. By the very nature of things language and the ideas needed to create language are commodified by the vector class. Without this process there is no way to convey an idea. If a vector or bourgeoisie did not control the means of production of information who would?
Where can a proletariat class thrive?

How would information be communicated and shared without an avenue, or language, to convey it it through?

The term itself, proletariat, is plagiarized from the Latin, proles, meaning "offspring." In modern terms the hacker class is an offspring of the vector class, the class in control of the means of production. It thrives because of the reaction to and manipulation of information and emerging forms of communication brought about by the interplay between itself and the vector class.

The two have been codependent in various forms since the introduction of private property, be it physical or intellectual. The ability to communicate, to convey information, has always been a commodity cherished by those in possession of it and used as a tool to make submissive those without it or trying to seek it.

Yes, knowledge is still free but you will need to buy a mac book and have a high speed internet connection to contribute.

And no, none of this knowledge is new.

And yes, I will have another PBR.