The recent developments in electronic music present us with a good example of how the inorganic has become, at least in sound, more organic than the organic. With the rapid development of sound-producing machines it has become possible to create such sounds that while listening to it one feels like there is a living organism from a strangely familiar realm making noises in the room, or worse still, that the noises are coming from within one’s mind and body. Listening to this kind of music makes the mutual exclusiveness of the somatic and the psychic irrelevant. Especially after the three dimensional medium presented by CDs and DVDs it has become possible to present the sound to masses in a form that sounds more real than the original, live recording.
I will return to the relevance of electronic music in a little while, but first let me revisit Herbert Marcuse’s theory of how capitalism keeps itself alive by feeding on the death of the counter-subjectivities and the life of the dominant consuming subject governed by the life drive which is itself externally constituted within the subject. In a nutshell, Marcuse’s theory in One-Dimensional Man was that the one dimensional market society absorbs and turns the counter-cultural products into its own agents, reducing the two-dimensional to the one-dimensional, hence making the forces of resistance serve the purpose of strengthening what they are counter to. Marcuse’s problem was the dissolution of the two-dimensional sphere of counter-cultural production and its domination by one-dimensional relations. He suggested using mythological imagery not only to make sense of the pre-dominant social reality, but also to create a counter-social reality which would at the same time be a critique of the existing social reality. What Marcuse said is still relevant to a certain extent, but to be able to use this theory one has to adapt it to the demands of the present situation. What I will attempt to do, therefore, is to ignore the irrelevant parts of Marcuse’s theory and try to find out those parts of it that matter for my concerns. It is true that Marcuse’s theory is no more sufficient in understanding and solving the problems of our Superpanoptic societies. And yet in it there are lots of insights with high potential for development in the service of psychosomatic and sociopolitical progress today.
Today even Madonna’s latest release, Confessions on the Dance Floor, is produced in a DJ’s room in London. The electronic dance music products are mostly produced in people’s bedrooms on a personal computer donated with software especially produced for making electronic music. The recent shift in the gears of electronic dance music, of course, is a cause of the amazing possibilities the digital sound machines present. These machines have no material existence; they are loaded on the computer in the form of digital data. One can have a studio loaded into one’s computer by pressing a few buttons on the keyboard. In this context, making music requires technical knowledge of the tools of production more than the knowledge of the rules of what is called making music. With electronic music the sounds are already there, loaded into the computer; all one needs to do to become a music producer has become putting these sounds together, making them overlap with one another in a positively disordered way and produce something that is neither the one nor the other.
If we imagine for a moment Beethoven making his music after the orchestra plays it, composing the piece after it is materialized, we can see how paradoxical the situation the producer is caught up in inherent in the production process of electronic music is. It is as if Beethoven wrote the notes of his music as he listened to the orchestra play it. We can see that this is in fact exactly the opposite of what Beethoven did. For in the case of Beethoven, unlike the electronic music producer, it is the internal orchestra in the psyche that plays the piece as Beethoven writes it, not an actual orchestra in its material existence. With electronic music that internal orchestra is not in the creator’s mind, but in the computer.
Some of the more creative and experimentalist logics in this field record the noises coming from within their bodies, or from within other animals’ bodies, load them into the computer, and with the aid of synthesizers and effects units, turn these noises into the basic rhythms and melodies of their music. Heartbeat, for instance, can be used as drum and bass at the same time in some electronic music recordings. It is possible to dub-out, echo, delay, deepen, darken, lighten, slow down, or fasten up the sound of heartbeat with the computer. And after a proper mastering process you get something that sounds neither totally organic, nor totally inorganic. These products are not only digitally bought and sold on the internet, but also exchanged with similar other products.
The affective qualities of these products are extremely high. The producers of the five most developed forms of electronic music, which are Techno, House, Electro, Trance, and Breakbeat, claim that they are the beholders of the threshold between the soma and the psyche, that with their walls of sound they keep them separate and yet contiguous to one another.
It would be wrong to assume, as many have done, that this kind of music is in touch with only a few listeners. On the contrary, since not only the listeners but also the producers of this kind of music have started to occupy dominant positions in the advertisement production business, it is not surprising that electronic music, and especially the underground minimal techno, is increasingly being used as the background music surrounding the object advertised in many advertisements on radio and T.V. Based on the erasure of the boundary between the psychic and the somatic, or between the inorganic and organic, the use of minimalist electronic music in the advertisements of today’s hectic life-styles is a very good example of the exploitation of the life/death drives inherent in contemporary nihilistic culture driving and driven by what has almost become transglobal capitalism. The LG U880 ultra-slim mobile phone advert on T.V. is precisely the hard-core of how this exploitation of the life/death drives takes place. In the advert there is heart beating in the phone. Or, the heart is shown to have a transparent phone surrounding it. And with the minimalist techno at the back, that is, sounds that are neither organic nor inorganic but both at the same time. The beating heart in the phone creates the deep and dark bass sound with extremely electronic and yet organic sounding noises coming from within the phone. It’s as though it is one’s own heart beating in the phone; this phone is you, so it’s yours… If we keep in mind that the transparency of the phone is fleshy, for there are capillaries of the phone, the overall impression created is one of ultra minimalist life reduced to its bare bones when in reality the LG U880 mobile phone is itself the product of exactly the opposite of an ultra minimalist attitude. The message is that this mobile phone is what attaches you to life, when in fact it detaches you from life as it is. The finishing words, “Life is Good,” only confirms my critique of this advertisement, of this marvellous sound-image which is an inorganic object disguised as a living organism. It is obvious that what’s at work here is the exploitation/oppression of the life/death drives, as the inorganic replaces the organic, and the real of death in the midst of life is expelled.
As I said at the beginning of this article, in this perilous time the three dimensional sounds created by the contemporary electronic music are non-representational to such an extent that it is as though there is a living organism from a completely other dimension making organic noises in the room. And in this room and at this very moment in which I found myself Marcuse’s theories are unfortunately insufficient in that they do not realize that it is precisely the reversing of the roles policy, that is, presentation of something as its opposite, of an inorganic entity as an organic entity for instance, or of that which is inside as if it is outside, that has to be left behind. As we know from Foucault and Hobbes, Panopticon and Leviathan are within and without the subject at the same time, and a reverse of the roles of the inside and the outside means nothing in this perilous time.
For the solution of problems posed by the advanced projection-introjection mechanisms of what have become Superpanoptic societies, I shall attempt to show that post-structuralism and critical theory have never been as mutually exclusive as many suggest, especially in terms of the wrong and right questions that they have left unanswered. If we look at Adorno’s and Foucault’s writings we can see that most of their thoughts are directed towards finding out how to reconcile theory and practice. Just as theory and practice, post-structuralism and critical theory, too, are always already reconciled, because they come from Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud. They may be always already reconciled but the only way to actualize this reconciliation is to realize their common goal; to put theory in the service of ordinary life, to develop the conditions of existence, and to practise freedom.
It will almost sound offensive to say that the new emerges only if some people become traitors and shake the foundations of their own mode of being, or at least undertake opening up spaces so that light can shine among all, or death can manifest itself. But one must take the risk of offending some others, for every situation requires its expression, every problem bears within itself at least half of its own solution. It is all a matter of putting theory and practice in the service of one another. Theory that does not match the truth of its time is for nothing. It is important to theorize practical ways of dealing with the banal accidents of an ordinary life. I think what I have just said is one of the things that both Foucault and Adorno would have agreed on.
What we witness in this time is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World turning into Rave New World. A world in which the well known and the so called lines between mind and body, fantasy and reality, nature and culture, organic and inorganic, life and death, are not just blurred, but have completely disappeared. And yet, at the same time, these lines are in the process of reappearance.
hour 1 / DVNT
Photek – Ni-Ten-Ichi-Rhy [Science]
Solar Chrome – Malevil [Maschinen Musik]
Petar Alargic – EeR NR1 [petaralargic.com]
Octave Mouret – Good News Everyone! I’ve Taught the Toaster to Feel Love [octavemouret.bandcamp.com]
Foul Shape – A Monster Has Created [Entity]
Loefah – Twisup VIP [DMZ]
Adam X – Downbursts [Prologue]
Plastikman – Ask Yourself (Dead Sound remix) [dub]
Intra:mental – Love Arp [Semantica Records]
Mothboy – Medusa feat. Sezrah Sylvan [Drawn Recordings]
Mothboy – Others [Drawn Recordings]
Drugstore – Razor [Offaudio]
Steve Bicknell – Track 5 [Cosmic Records]
Scanone – Angels [Syndetic Recordings]
Laserfire – Wires of Love (Encrypter remix) [dub]
Bruce Stallion – OK U Cunts [Off Me Nut Records]
Perforated Cerebal Party – Mystery Train [Russian-Techno.com]
Concrete DJz – Hadron Collider [Subsequent]
Pillpopper – Jewelry Box (Threnody remix) [Furioso] forthcoming
BEATure – Follow the Line [Sens Inverse Label]
ECHO PARK – After Burner [All City Records]
hour 2 / BLACKMASS PLASTICS showcase
Blackmass Plastics – Plasixsixsix
Blackmass Plastics – Bad Reflection
Blackmass Plastics – Step Up or Get…
Blackmass Plastics – Ouija Board
Blackmass Plastics – Arpexone
Blackmass Plastics – Biomega
Blackmass Plastics – Klonk Kreator
Blackmass Plastics – Visions of Plastic
Blackmass Plastics – OK Ozzy
Blackmass Plastics – Dial M.
Blackmass Plastics – D for Danger
Blackmass Plastics – Red and Black Rush
Blackmass Plastics – Known Space
Blackmass Plastics – Paranoid Agent
Blackmass Plastics – Selecta Infecta
Blackmass Plastics – Give Me Da Data
Blackmass Plastics – Scope Dog
Blackmass Plastics – T-Rex Powerdrill
Blackmass Plastics – Zargon
Blackmass Plastics – Nothing Nice
Blackmass Plastics – Get Destroyed
Blackmass Plastics – Get Bigga
Blackmass Plastics – Down Periscope
Blackmass Plastics – Get Jacked
Blackmass Plastics – Tek Tek v3
Blackmass Plastics – Ice and Slice
Blackmass Plastics – Future Past (original mix)
Blackmass Plastics – Trauma Centre
Blackmass Plastics – Blindsider
Blackmass Plastics – No Escape
Blackmass Plastics – Get Spooked
- Where can I hear the best DJs in the Bay Area? (ask.metafilter.com)
- How to record binaural electronic music? (ask.metafilter.com)
- Pretty Lights Forms Record Label, Offers Free EPs (spinner.com)
- Richie Hawtin Explains His Plastikman Alter Ego’s ‘Arkives’ Collection (mtv.com)
- Dance Music in Tradition of Bach (online.wsj.com)
- “Electronic Music Synthesizer Shirt” and related posts (larryfire.wordpress.com)
- Sven Väth: 30 Years on the Decks! (hangout.altsounds.com)