“I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth. The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”
When we turn on the radio in a New York hotel room and hear Elvis singing «Heartbreak Hotel«, we are seldom struck by the peculiarity of our situation: that a dead man sings. In the context of the longer life of the species, it is something that only just changed a moment ago. Our “now” has become at once more unforgivingly brief and unprecedentedly elastic. The half-life of a media product grows shorter still, till it threatens to vanish altogether, everything into some weird quantum logic of its own, the Warholian Fifteen Minutes becoming a quark like blink. Yet once admitted to the culture’s consensus pantheon, certain things seem destined to be with us for a very long time indeed. This is a function, in large part, of the Rewind button. And we would all of us wish to be in heavy rotation. And as this capacity for recall (and recommodification) grows more universal, history itself is seen to be even more obviously a construct, subject to revision. If it has been our business, as a species, to dam the flow of time through the creation and maintenance of mechanisms of external memory, what will we become when all these mechanisms, as they now seem intended ultimately to do, merge? The end-point of human culture may well be a single moment of effectively endless duration, an infinite digital Now. But then, again, perhaps there is nothing new, in the end of all our beginnings, and the bison will be there, waiting for us.
“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.”
- Alvin Lucier, I Am Sitting in a Room
While Lucier’s major focus was the imprint of the room’s resonances on his recorded voice, what is recorded is a certain location and moment in time. This recorded situation no longer exists and can never exist again. Its particular space-time index, however, is banned to the recording. Therefor still accessable, rewindable. Additionally, for Lucier, the recording itself is an iterative process, re-recording the previous recording over and over again, suggesting a folding of space-time, wrapping an extended time-span into another. By sequential arrangement of all recordings, we experience the arrow of time as a deterministic force as each following recording bares a signature of its process. Similar to an entities’ life-time or the classical understanding of history. Like the echoing voice in a room, it smooths & fades out.
In Demonstrations, John-Robin Bold transfers the very same technique from analogue to digital. But in contrast to Lucier, his compositional procedure disregards linearity in production of sound – its process history – and instead focuses on creating a new hyper-linearity, a non-linear mess by interweaving, merging, layering and cutting the processed materials. Contingency is produced in a heterological sense. Seemingly disparate moments of time become interlocked:
Demonstration I: Carlo Gesualdo Illumina faciem tuam (1602), recording (1993), processing (2015-2020)
Demonstrations II: Ariana Grande Side to Side (2016), processing (2016-2020)
Demonstrations III & IV: several pieces of sacred music (1400-1600) and pop music (2010-2018), processing (2016-2020)
Listeners are invited to hear history after postmodernity – after meta-narrations or micro-narrations – as a subverted story in which past, present & future collapsed into a processed moment in relative-space-time. History nowadays is pulverized between anticipatory cybernetic-regulations of the future, its constant rewriting by different social-factions & their media representations of their very own real.
Consider the One God Universe: OGU. The spirit recoils in horror from such a deadly impasse. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. Because He can do everything, He can do nothing, since the act of doing demands opposition. He knows everything, so there is nothing for him to learn. He can’t go anywhere, since He is already fucking everywhere, like cowshit in Calcutta… The OGU is a prerecorded universe in which He is the recorder.
Since writing customarily operates as the principal means of time-binding, B. reasoned that innovating new writing techniques would unbind time, blowing a hole in the OGU pre-sent, and opening up Space.
»Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.«
»The sociological view that the loss of support from objective religion and the disintegration of the last pre-capitalist residues, in conjunction with technical and social differentiation and specialization, have given rise to cultural chaos is refuted by daily experience. Culture today is infecting everything with sameness.«
“Le spectacle est la reconstruction matérielle de l’illusion religieuse.”
In a sort of traumatic shock, in a scream of lust & fear under tears, affected by the collapse of hierarchies, N., disguised under the madman’s mask, wrote his text on the death, or, to be more precise, the murder of god, in-between the change of centuries and no one heard his cry for a while. Like a desynchronization in time. It was not to be understood, the moment went past unseen, but its impact nevertheless echoed. The dead body of god, this homogenizing sacred force, decays ever after: his flesh undergoes queer changes in colour, develops a strange & heavy smell, as uncountable maggots happily devour the rotting cadaver accelerating its heterogeneous decomposition. By death & decay, the immaterial & transcendental body of god develops surprisingly material qualities.
It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered diverse churches and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchres of God?
Madmen around the globe followed his lamenting call in unisono. Seemingly profane Pop established itself as the newly invented carnevalesque spectacle, sacred games, an inversion of former sacred music. Religions give hope to the hopeless, just as opium sedates addicts, as alcohol warms homeless in cold winter nights and pop offers spectacles to the masses for diversion. While the sacred becomes immanent by the transcendence in religious music, Pop transcends the profane reality immanently. In the form of the spectacular, Pop transforms everyday culture into a religious illusion. Both offer a beyond to overcome suffering, a chance to escape.
As for the charge of escapism, what does escape mean. Escape from real life, responsibility, order, duty, piety, is what the charge implies. But nobody, except the most criminally irresponsible or pitifully incompetent, escapes to jail. The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is “escapism” an accusation of? To open a door that has been kept closed is an important act.
A rebellion of hope and utopia against the cruel images of a world that can imagine nothing more than its own reproduction. And yet, both enchain the subject back to power by this very notion. Both are music of power: Pop serves capital, as religious music served the church and classical music the kingdom. Even the most radical gesture is recuperated. A path of transcendence as on a staircase by Escher, as on the Gödelband, as on a fugue by Bach – one always returns to where one started. Transcendence and immanence merge synthetically, as did base and superstructure, enlightenment & mythology before.
The Demonstrations link the 21st century back to the Renaissance, just as the burning of Notre Dame de Paris links its reconstruction to the original construction in Gothic ages. Although the fire in Notre Dame was a tragedy from the perspective of human heritage, the real tragedy unfolded right afterwards: It is cynical with which sheer speed such an amount of (even private) money was allocated to ensure reconstruction, compared to the energy spent on saving human life in the face of natural catastrophes or socio-economic crisis. It is a metaphor for the practice of power throughout time: Whether 500 years ago or today, it is presence of (abstract) power that forces people to labour work under dehumanizing conditions. And it is the same power that exhibits the tragedy of the fire as a means for closing ranks, to mute any protest by unification and derailing, masking the silent cry in the streets by the media coverage of this accident, controlling the (master-)narration. Therefore, Notre Dame functions as a twisted metaphor: At once it is an expression of technical skills and complex knowledge, as it is a metaphor for the end of Europe – as Europeans had imagined it – at a time when the ghost of Europe has long since been exorcised along with the refugees drowning in the seas. It’s a connection between present and past pointing towards a yet open future; a direct crosslink from cybernetics to gothic theory:
Gothic Materialism is interested in the ways in which what would appear ultramodern – the gleaming products of a technically sophisticated capitalism – end up being described in the ostensibly archaic terms familiar from Horror fiction: zombies, demons. But it will resist the temptation to think of this demonization of the cybernetic as the revival of something familiar and old-established in the mind, preferring to think of it as the continuation of a nonorganic line that is positively antagonistic to progressive temporality.
Cybernetic reality captures Gothic cosmology in an immanent process, because
any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
“when all the hope is gone there is no reason for pessimism”
“Back then, the visions…most of the time I was convinced that I’d lost it. But there were other times, I thought I was main-lining the secret truth of the universe.“
Political music is music without words (in a double sense). It is not based on the world (it has no object in the world that it captures), nor is it a question of perception. Political music indicates a non-world of pure auto-impression. It is radically black.
The light and the alternation of dark and light are central to the classical model of philosophy. A pure black or a pure light, on the other hand, produces a crypto or a non-standard utopia that L. calls Uchromia or non-coloured. The aesthetics, which does not have a representation and is black, includes the superposition of theory and music and leads to a suspended or non-communicative relation.
In the collapse of space & time, the destruction of historical linearity, John-Robin Bold fictionalizes a uchromian sonic-alterreality: A sonically possible world. Truth is nothing fixed. The infamous saying that “winners make history“ is only half of the story. As the architect never actually builds a construction, leaders normally don’t write their own history – others do.
History is only his story. You haven’t heard my story yet
History is split into several narrations.
History as quasi linear process of the continuity of time, truth as the real.
History as social process:
as plurality, as histories after the meta-narration.
as nano-story, totalisations of fragmented, subjective perception.
History is not truth. Or at least the truth.
History undergoes processes of writing, subversion, deconstruction […] & rewriting just like scientific opinions constantly get re-evaluated, disappear and come back. It is the power of lies that makes certain narrations become true. It’s a question of storytelling to retroactively trigger their own causal-reality from the very future they are about to invent.
The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.
Divested from all colours, the Demonstrations invite us to listen to the spectrum of uncolour.
To re-evaluate our perception (of history). To make a negative-link by being untimely.
Everything has to be rejected – and everything has to be rethought. It needs an act of major and painful disruption, an act of distancing, maybe even of violently marking a break, a rupture, a stopping of routine communication: the axe that is hacked into the table during conversation. S. recognizes precisely this distancing and disruption in the theory practice of sonic fiction. For him, sonic fiction is a striking approach and research strategy that acknowledges, scrutinizes and acts accordingly to this catastrophe. An almost necessary catastrophe as he suggests:
It is a kind of disaster studies, an act that breaks down the formal structures of space and time. In the mimicry of this approach to electronic music, the formal structures of time collapse, regress to mud, and space is pushed back and forth until it bends to be trampled by the pulsations of alien music, while the thinking space becomes seasick: this is the disruption as it can be experienced when ultrablackness hits you. When the all-consuming, all-absorbing and all-imploding might of ultrablackness exercises its power of radical, pervasive and fundamental negation. The one message, the one action, the one intervention of ultrablackness is to take an axe, ram it into the fake common ground or shared table and to say: NO.
By rejecting the status quo, future re-enters the stage and new visions emerge.
the sacred, for B., is an internal threat to the homogeneous order of society. The sacred grows within the heterogeneous sphere, it is radically other to productive economic activities. The heterogeneous world:
includes everything resulting from unproductive expenditure (sacred things themselves form part of this whole). This consists of everything rejected by homogeneous society as waste or as superior transcendent value. Included are the waste products of the human body and certain analogous matter (trash, vermin) and numerous elements that homogeneous society is powerless to assimilate: mobs, the warrior, aristocratic and impoverished classes, violent individuals or at least those who refuse the rule (madmen, leaders, poets, etc.).
Noise, especially in the context of music, arts & signal analysis, is mostly understood as errors, a mistake, outcome of bad processing, dirt, unpleasant, intrusion or simply the unwanted. Noise, like a heterogeneous mixture in chemistry, is messing up the homogenous: strict segregation of materials becomes almost impossible, a task of statistics & probabilities, and certainties become uncertain. Noise – i.e. stroboscopic light, clicks’n’cuts, a dripping tap or ratings in the stock market – overwhelms human perception inducing a state of sensory overload. The form of noise – visual, acoustic, data etc. – doesn’t matter, because all kinds of noise basically point towards non-human perception: Our senses can’t make sense out of the input and fail to produce order. Stroboscopic light is too fast, clicks’n’cuts too short in duration, the rhythms of dripping taps too irregular and ratings of the stock market have too much interdependency for humans to process. Humans use different tools – recording technology, writing, computers, science – to enhance their own sensory system in order to integrate noise.
The sound material used for Demonstrations is cut, looped, stretched, re-cut, distorted, re-looped, equalized and again re-stretched; it is processed beyond simple recognition, to a heterogeneous mixture, to a point of texture, taste or fabric. It cracks open hidden qualities of the original sources, making them useable as means of production. It builds form by organizing structures out of densities, timbres and intensities. Each demonstration is marked by lines of affect which transform the highly abstract choice of material into something concrete. After all, their effect is the smallest common denominator of historical, transcendental sacred- and contemporary, immanent, trashy pop music.