Sound of Poetry/Poetry of Sound – ed. Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkin, featuring essays from Nancy Perloff, Christian Bök, Yoko Tawada, Susan Howe and Kenny Goldsmith.
Mobile – Stephen Ratcliffe
The Great Fire of London – Jacques Roubaud
The Fashion System - Roland Barthes


Tobacco – Maniac Meat
Zs – New Slaves
Pan Sonic – Gravitoni
Blasted Goth Shit (Gatekeeper, Salem, oOoOO, White Ring, Pictureplane)
Bonnie Prince Billy/Cairo Gang – The Wonder Show of the World
Oneida – Rated O
Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal

if you've got an in with a nice pair of sennheisers, above is a cut from the Pan Sonic album, Gravitoni. credit for the uncovering of this gem must be given to my friend D - an encyclopedia, a refined synesthete, and a devastatingly insightful human being - who additionally gifted me with a really gorgeous and articulate meditation on the nature of transcendence and sound in response to a fairly disorganized bit of my 'in the throes' mind diarrhea:

me: to begin with, the stereo spread is ridiculous and ricochets around like some schizoid splinter of light. but that's almost the end of what i can talk about, because it's like...the most ungodly thing i've ever heard and the brutality of it kind of extends beyond my
'ecstatically evil sounds lexicon'. I will say this: i think that ecstatically evil sounds which are contained and restrained within semi-traditional measures of time, i.e. beats a la industrial music (i get a strong throbbing gristle vibe here) and which force you to remain conscious of the passage of time -- these sounds are far more punishing than ecstatically evil sounds which veer into abrasive noise (i.e. prurient) or abrasive drone (i.e. sunno)))) or double leopards or something) because the listener is simply not allowed to enter a transcendental space. the presence and awareness that must be maintained is kind of murderous.

D: i think you're on to something interesting when you point out that certain types of noise / dissonance prevent one from settling into a hypnotic / transcendental space (as, say, oneohtrix permits and encourages, for example). and that when this happens one's perception of time is elongated and one becomes what one could perhaps aptly term 'overconscious' for that duration (which is of course of a differentially defined subjective and objective extent). the question i am asking myself at this point is what are the musicological characteristics that prevent the mind from settling into a 'comfortable' transcendental space, and what is it about 'challenging' sounds / musics that require one's attention to be capitalized / engaged. i don't know the answer right now, but i think it would make for an interesting dissertation topic / essay should one be so inclined. my first stab at an answer would involve the entropic potential of music, but this won't get you the whole way because random noise has a high entropic content but it is still mostly transcendental, or at least capable of being transcendental. so i think one needs to invoke weber fractions (and / or gyroscopes) in order to explain the fact that random music with a high entropic content can nevertheless become relaxing because it falls below a certain perceptual threshold with the result that certain complexities of the message go unappreciated by the ear and hence the apparent, subjective complexity / entropy of the music, as perceived, is lower than that contained in the actual 'message' (which may well be, and often is, from another planet; c.f. sun ra). musicological complexity can be there but it cannot always be appreciated in its entirety because of factors such as temporal variation occurring at too high a frequency, and absolute amplitude variations ranging over too many degrees of magnitude to permit full absorption by the cochlea and so on. the proximal stimulus is not the distal stimulus. in any case i think there is a fun story to be told here: perhaps when 'noise' of some distribution is present and it can be 'parsed' by the ear, the 'human' element of music can come to the fore and its 'structure' can be appreciated, but when the ear is overloaded with too much complexity it resigns and we submit ourselves to an assault (which can be moral as well as musicological) and we are pushed into a state of overconsciousness / neuroticism. but what about the middle ground? perhaps that is the space explored by people like early/middle velvet underground as driven by john cale and people like gas (voigt of kompakt fame)? and there non-musical / conservative friends can unite with space-faring folk and all can share joy and comfort and profitable aesthetic experiences? but what are the unique psychological facets of such a space, that result from the resultant tension between entropic overload / surrender and bachian / mozartian crafted tediousness / 'beauty'? questions, indeed, and this psychological territory remains to be mapped satisfactorily.

i find at this point that i would also like to bring edmund burke, and possibly kant, too, into the discussion, and in particular their origination of the sublime, but it's not my essay and no-one's paying me any more to think about this stuff. however, like i said, there is a story to be told here.

D's observations on the entropic qualities of the sonic medium are really fascinating. He also mentions the idea of a 'moral' assault on the ear. this is a remarkable thought, and one which i am currently processing. also processing and thinking about the power of negative sonic space.

a theme recurring - detritus, garbage, overload. in his featured essay in Sound of Poetry Kenny Goldsmith discusses language as trash --we can no longer read but only collect, archive, and catalog. language is engorged, its worth is now strictly quantitative.

the rivulet of a trend that i have noticed in certain circles of music is the prominence of the 'blasted' sound. Tobacco, Cold Cave, Salem, Pictureplane, Nite Jewel -- and to a lesser degree Washed Out -- employ the Blown Speaker, the Busted Bass Cab, the Mass Broadcast's Broken Megaphone. i hold the belief that 'blasted' sound is the new glitch, the new celebration of error. unlike glitch, it is not the failure of the sound fragment to realize fully, but the failure of the completed sound to emanate with dynamic or tonal discretion; it is a deafening suffusion. the 'blasted' sound is a piece of sensory information that is simultaneously blank and brimming, like Goldsmith's language: engorged. without any nuance or clarity, it is the semblance of a composed tone that has been commodified to exist with multiplicity too numerous to calculate, that has been amplified and teased and overdrawn, dusty and cracked, blanched and choked with ash. i think of chernobyl. more later.

meet Salem. i've been a fan of these three demon-doctors for a long time. chicago "witch-house" love, yo. evil, glorious. first full-length album out late September. getting hyped everywhere from p-fork to HTMLgiant. finally, finally.


Doug said...

Thinking of music in terms of entropy is new to me, but I like it. I've seen it written that what distinguishes music from noise is repetition, and the most brutal sounds possible intuitively seem to exist in-between.

Certainly traditional beats can also be used to obscure time flow and induce transcendental states, too. I think of people as pattern recognizing machines, and transcending occurs when all patterns (whether repeating beats or a texture of fuzz) have been recognized. If you want to make maximally brutal music, in my experience, you have to constantly keep the listener thinking they've found the patterns, but then break them.

Just wondering if you've listened to this track, Fire Beats by Venetian Snares: http://www.box.net/shared/7h1zr41r3z

or read this book: http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11890
not precisely related, but sonic weaponry is pretty brutal.

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