Another Reading List
Technological progress – from the Printing Press to the BitTorrent protocol – is what essentially drives cultural development and social change, what makes it possible to share ideas, embrace expressions, improve inventions and correct the works of the past. Human history is the history of copying, and the entirely defensive and desperate attempt to stall its advancement by the means of Intellectual Property – the proposition to ressurect the dead as rights holders and turn the living into their licensees – only indicates how profoundly recent advancements in copying technology, the adaptability and scalability they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, are about to change the order of things.
From the introduction to The Oil of the 21st Century: Perspectives on Intellectual Property to be read alongside the blog of the Embassy of Piracy, which represented Sweden at the 2009 Venice Biennale. The Embassy of Piracy organized to “re-imagine an institutional form and practice. We set out to create an institutional form that is responsive to the logic of social-technical networks and non-representational democratic processes” wherein, “[p]revailing institutional systems and structures have proven inadequate to the task of organizing and managing the openness of networked society. Now, via democratic systems, they are attacking the fundamental functions of the Internet, such as the free distribution of information.”
Plenty of other things were going on between 1994 and 1999, behind bedroom doors and in front of flickering screens. Over that five-year span, I added a computer, email address, and an AIM screen name to my life, and by 1999 these things had begun to feel intricately interlaced with my personal identity.
Considering CrazySexyCool and FanMail back-to-back, you can hear these cultural changes take place. A skittish, glitchy album full of distractions, interruptions, and ruptures in consciousness, FanMail was one of the very first pop records to aestheticize the internet. And, like most first times, it was not without awkwardness.[…]
But if you can get past that, the album grapples with something much deeper that reverberates throughout a lot of pop music today. Although the way the group’s delight in singing about email, cyberspace, and “the future of music” captures a sense of emergent-technology wonder that’s always a little embarrassing in hindsight, FanMail is not nearly as interested in what’s gained by technology as it is elegiac about what’s lost in this new way we connect.
Pitchfork‘s Lindsay Zoladz on “The Lonely Futurism of TLC’s FanMail“
- Also from Zoladz, talking about music videos and culture on demand, this time from her column Ordinary Machines:
For better and for worse, what the internet has rendered extinct is that elusive quality the music video experience used to have: the excitement of not knowing what was coming on next, the feeling that you had to fully immerse yourself in a video because you didn’t know when you’d see it again. In the age of YouTube, it’s now the viewer, not the station programmer (or the sock-puppet VJ) calling the shots and deciding what to watch and when to watch it. But isn’t this the sort of breakthrough I was dreaming about back in my home-taping days? Turns out that the downside of instant access to everything all the time is that it often feels like there are too many videos out there to watch– and there’s reason to fear that our average attention spans are whittling down to something shorter than the music video itself.
- Which brings us to the opening of Rasmus Fleischer’s “How Music Takes Place: Excerpts from ‘The Post-digital Manifesto'”:
How to decide what music to listen to? Presented with boundless access, this is the perpetual question today. […]
In the post-digital, almost any barrier to the boundless flood of music can be turned into a resource for the production of presence: basements lacking room for no more than a certain number of people; time running out and limiting the number of songs in a session or on a tape; loudspeakers incapable of delivering sound levels above a certain decibel or outside of a set spectrum of frequencies; instruments featuring no more than thirty-two keys; cops breaking up the party; backs that break when trying to carry that one extra kilo of vinyl; geographical distances; disk space; grit. All these levees, these barriers that determine how music happens—they feed the post-digital with the traction needed for the production of memorable events.
- Finally, Diedrich Diedrichsen on “Music – Immateriality – Value” for e-flux
In a world in which the object has disappeared as a reference point, other logics take effect—-logics of a vastly more liberated form of entrepreneurship: the exploitation of bodies, performance, and “liveness” replaces the exploitation of a labor that had previously produced objects, objects whose conditions of production could be negotiated. The realization of a world without musical objects has assimilated aesthetic experience in a utopian and dialectical sense, but because it has done so only partially and temporarily, it has also brought about a regression to a stage that precedes aesthetic experience altogether…We no longer live in a society of spectacle but in one of participation. Active consumption—by so-called “prosumers”—are the bread and butter of contemporary sociability; the specific stubbornness of the fan, the permeability of the barrier between audience and stage—all essential components of the pop music culture of the last fifty years—are now standard staging formats.