Sunday, July 18, 2004

Korean Government Shuts Down Local Access to Blogspot

Unfortunately, I won't be able update or add to this blog because the Korean government has shut down all access to Blogspot in the immediate term. Apparently, one blogger posted a link to the video showing the beheading of Kim Sun-il. Since Kim's tragic death, all IP addresses showing the video have been blocked by the Korean government. This goes as well for the Information Clearinghouse website.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Inspired by my man, Jon Abbey, who did this a few years ago in New York in order to promote and make people aware of this new and important music, electroacoustic improv, I'll be doing a special six hour DJ set as well at Yonsei on May 18 from 6 pm to 12 midnight. My man, Choi Joon-yong, has kindly put together this very nice promotional bit on his website at Bulgasari. I was planning to use the sound system in the room, which is quite powerful, but have changed my mind and will likely use my own equipment unless I can rent something better at a more reasonable price. The amplifier in the room is quite strong, but the speakers don't meet my expectations. Anyway, if you are in the vicinity and have the time, please come and check it out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Bar Sachiko on IMJ

I'm listening for about the fifth time to the new Sachiko M release on the IMJ label, soon to hit shores in the occident. It's composed of two very long sine waves, not much in the way of headphonic variation. The pitch is constant but sometimes the volume drops off slightly, but when I move my head, the sine wave either becomes more pronounced and the source more unclear or the volume completely drops out or the sound seems to be more directly coming from the speakers. I'm about thirty minutes into the piece now (one single 60 minute track) and I'm noticing that the sound seems more intense. While the headphonic possibilities are more flat, any time I move around the room, the sound seems to gain rhythm in alignment with how my body moves. As I go to my stove to refill my coffee cup, the sound jumps up and down. Just over thirty minutes into the piece now, and the second sine wave tone has joined the other. The first was quite high in pitch, but this one is a bit more caramel. During the first tone, as I direct my head to the computer keyboard, the sound becomes more intense, but now that the second has joined, I find much more sonic intensity by turning my head slightly to the left, looking directly at my stove. The tone seems to completely fill both of my ears. At about 40 minutes, I notice the intensity of the sound shift to the right side of my seat. When I turn to the window, my right ear fills with the sine tone, but left is largely quiet. If I shift my head back to the left, the left ear experiences the intensity, but the right is somewhat quiet. When my head turns back toward the computer once again, the intensity in both ears drops off, but the sine wave tone is clear in both. Beyond that, the headphonic variation is practically null. I go to the stereo once again to check the time. It's at 43 minutes. As I move toward it and return again to my seat, the wave undulates according to the movement of my body, something I haven't really noticed with other sine wave recordings, which are usually more headphonic rather than bodyphonic. At 55 minutes, the second sine wave ceases. The first is the same as the one that started the first 30 minutes, only quieter. Finally, at 60 minutes or slightly before, the volume of the sine wave increases appreciably, almost painfully, before being suddenly cut off. Sixty minutes of sine wave listening has now left my ears fairly muffled. The sound of the room is opaque. Construction noises outside my building are as before, but the sine wave lingers in its absence, an empty space of sound in the normal ambience of my existence.
The new ISO CD is now out, and it's terrific. A 41 minute live recording
housed in an ivory digipack with raised engraving of interweaving diagonal
lines by Keita Egami. It's released on the Sound Tectonics label of the
Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, so it might be difficult to come by
outside of Japan. It was recorded live at the Sesshu-tei Garden in
Yamaguchi and is unique for its inclusion of outside sounds. Here are the
brief liner notes:

"It is said that Sesshu-tei Garden of Joeiji Temple in Yamaguchi city was
built by Sesshu, a priest and artist, about five hundred years ago. The
garden is positioned on the north of the main temple, and in the center of
the inner garden of about 30 acres is a pond, which is shaped in the Chinese
character of "heart," surrounded by many vertically-standing stones. The
woods on the east, west, and north sides of the garden make up the shape of
a horseshoe, which creates a special space for vision and sound. For this
live performance, three performers were positioned around the garden apart
enough not to see each other to present their music over the garden.
(ISO/left side: Yoshihide Otomo, center: Sachiko M, right side: Yoshimitsu

Note: this CD was recorded through one-point stereo recording in the center
of the main temple. The surrounding sounds such as animals around the
garden, wind, and visitors were kept as they were at the mastering, because
if they had been mechanically removed, delicate feelings generated by the
extremely subtle sounds penetrating the whole garden would have been

Indeed, there is a perpetually barking dog in the background throughout the
first ten or so minutes of the recording and occasionally the wind picks up
into the microphones, but the music itself is very, very understated and
quiet. Think Ensemble Cathode for comparisons, with a more stripped down
ensemble of course. Sachiko M starts with a quiet sine wave at first and
moves into using contact microphones around the middle of the performance
before going back to sine waves in the latter part. Ichiraku's playing is
particularly outstanding here on amplified bowed cymbal. At about the
sixteen minute mark, a duck intervenes in the proceedings, but the animal
sounds are not at all annoying, in fact rather interesting. By this point
in the performance, the dog has receded out of ear-shot. Ichiraku raises
the intensity before dropping out briefly and then the sine waves once again
emerge rather prominently. Otomo works almost exclusively on guitar here (I
think), using feedback at times or gently plucking the strings or scraping
them with a bow. And the wind provides lower register interventions, with
full pops filling up the right channel.

I'd strongly recommend this. Probably ISO's most delicate piece of work to
date in an otherwise novel recording.

Saturday, March 06, 2004


My initiation to “gook-ak” or Korean traditional music had come much earlier with New York producer Bill Laswell’s SXL project, a multinational contingent that matched Kim Duk-soo’s Samulnori with African percussionist Aiyb Dieng and Indian violinist Shankar, and which made several tours in Japan in the late eighties. Laswell had also produced the superb CMP label release “Record of Changes” in 1988 for Samulnori, whose only other recordings with western musicians involved Wolfgang Puschnig’s Red Sun, featuring two of my favorite Philadelphia musicians, the funk-jazz bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and guitarist Rick Iannacone. None of these early experiences, however, prepared me for my ethereal encounter with Kim Seok-chul, the Korean master of the “hojok” or “nallali” but more often called the “taepyungso.” Kim just happens to be the 82nd valuable intangible cultural asset of the Republic of Korea, but ask around Seoul to see if any average Koreans have heard of him, and you will encounter blank expressions and bedeviled ears. It took a love of Japanese free improvised music to allow me an opportunity to discover the luminosity of Kim’s uncanny playing, specifically the stunning Consume Red project of guitarist, turntablist, and electronic virtuoso Otomo Yoshihide and his now-disbanded Ground Zero ensemble.
My living in Korea and my inhabiting of a number of email list serves and message boards devoted to improvised music has led to many encounters with aficionados of Japanese improv. It is astounding how many people in the west and in Japan have come to Kim’s music via Otomo’s Ground Zero. I am asked repeatedly about available music for purchase involving Kim, but despite being Korea’s 82nd intangible cultural asset, he is woefully under-recorded. One of the best is apparently no longer available, the JVC/Japan recording Shamanistic Ceremonies of the Eastern Seaboard. On the other hand, I own three of the handful of CDs available. All three are released on E & E Media’s Sound Space, a division of Samsung Entertainment, but only one is a wholly Korean undertaking, his “East Wind,” recorded in 1993, but on this CD, Kim plays the taepyungso on the final track only, foregoing the instrument for the ching, changgo, and kwaenggari on the other tracks. The two other recordings are in the area of jazz improvisation, where the taepyungso’s unruliness and singular voice defies any attempt at maintaining fidelity to the key. Jazz is ultimately too limited a vehicle for the recalcitrant taepyungso…to its credit. Perhaps reflecting the lack of notoriety in Korea of Kim’s remarkable musicianship, the liner notes on all three recordings are written by Japanese journalists.
In 1993, Otomo Yoshihide released a solo recording with the Australian label, Extreme, called The Night Before the Death of the Sampling Virus where he recorded 77 samples or “viruses” used to “infect” the listener with its primary purpose being an “examination of prejudice in Japan.” The “viruses” are primarily from television and radio, pulled out of their specific context and noted for their sonic and textual elements. Otomo advised listeners not to listen to the CD in a normal fashion and preferred that his audience play the recording on random and repeat. The user was to remake the listening experience again and again by changing the approach. This was the first stage in the sampling scheme that culminated in the Consume project, which, in itself, drew attention to how sampling and remixing was a form of consumption, an infinite viral proliferation of remaking of the readymade. In the case of Consume Red the specific sample used was from a recording by Kim Seok-chul, sampled and then repeated throughout the sixty minute improvisation, an ambient landscape serving as a backdrop as well as a conductor for the free improvisation that builds throughout the ensemble’s performance. The taepyungso of Kim inhabits the recording as kind of “virus,” continuously affecting the rest of the players. This CD subsequently operates as a new kind of “virus,” as it is sampled and remixed on the subsequent interpretations of the Consuming Ground Zero project, respectively entitled Conflagration, involving several well-known improvisers, and Consummation, a project inviting the general public to sample and remix the first two recordings. The concept of the “virus” in this instance functions for Otomo as an interrogation of the concept of copyright and ownership. In his notes on the project, he writes, “Ground Zero samples the musical performance of a Korean national treasure, Kim Suk Chul. Any artistic purist should fly into a rage right there. His superhuman playing is without question a product of his own creativity, but it could also be that he is in fact a vessel for the voices of gods or ancestors. So Ground Zero takes and samples this brilliant music sacred enough to blow away any puny ideas about copyright.” Anyone who listens to the endless loop of Kim’s taepyungso on this recording can testify to the fact that it never becomes dull or wearisome even as it recurs, perhaps the world’s first paradoxically non-repetitive loop. The reason is both because of the quality and intensity of the timbre and tonality of the taepyungso itself as well as the constantly varying improvisation that surrounds it. The repetitive loop does not enervate because the sample constantly shifts its relational coordinates. One continually assumes that the sound of the taepyungso is being modified even as it remains as an unbroken loop. As the ensemble raises volume and intensity, the loop dissipates into the background, but before then, it rises gorgeously over the top, like the geese in Lim Kwon-taek’s stunning film Chihwasan.
Ground Zero’s final performance in 1998 at the Shibuya On Air West in Tokyo included a forty-minute version of Consume Red, which, as the piece dissolved into the Prophet-5 of Chino Syuuichi, the DX-7 of Masuko Tatsuki, the ARP-2600 of Nagata Kazunao, and the sine waves of Otomo’s most consistent collaborator, Sachiko M, the one who had also controlled the loops of Kim’s taepyungso, foreshadowed Otomo’s later move toward pure electronics. Early in the performance though, the sample of Kim’s taepyungso was in conversation with Tanaka Yumiko’s futozao-shamisen; a melding of Korean and Japanese traditional aesthetic sensibilities was taking place, a metaphor of a hopeful future in relations between the two countries. In using the “sampling virus” of Kim Seok-chul’s taepyungso in the context of an astonishing improvisational ensemble, Otomo served both to challenge certain time-held prejudices of Japan and also to find a means of taking something uniquely Korean and incorporating it into his own production, thereby giving it yet another location for finding its own inimitable voice. The Consume Red project was not only an opportunity to explore the rich sonic quality of Kim’s instrument but also an occasion to interrogate the notion that one person or one locality can ever own or copyright the mysteries of human creativity, or whether originality can ever be the single most significant criterion of aesthetic quality in this milieu of pastiche or collage of borderless experience. The project also demonstrated quite clearly where the taepyungso as a musical instrument can only operate outside of its original context—a non-idiomatic free improvisation among both acoustic and electronic musical instruments. Fortunately, Otomo continues to explore relations with Korea through his work with improvisers like Park Je-chun and his wife Mi-yeon as well as previously with the classic free improvising alto saxophonist Kang Tae-hwan, who has recorded as part of Otomo’s ISO project. An invigorated and richly creative cultural exchange has been taking place in the realm of improvised music between artists from Japan and Korea, and like all vanguards, this one is a harbinger of both a necessary and an inevitable future. For me, Consume Red, in both its live and studio manifestations, is the most cherished recording in my extensive collection of music.

See Bill Laswell. Into the Outlands. MPG 74043, 1997, and also SXL. Live in Japan. Terrapin 32DH 824, 1987.
Samulnori. “Record of Changes.” CMP 3002, 1988.
The best of these is Red Sun/Samulnori. Then Comes the White Tiger. ECM 1499, 1994. The fourth member of Red Sun is the vocalist Linda Sharrock, Puschnig’s wife, who was once married to the now deceased Laswell associate Sonny Sharrock.
The two recordings in this area are: Kim Suk Chul. Final Say. E & E Media SCO-121CSS, 1997, and Umezu Kazutoki. Dancing Winds. E & E Media SCO-138CSS, 1997, which also features Tacuma, Kim Dae-lae, and Park Byung-won. Umezu, an alto saxophonist, also appears on Final Say along with Korean tenor player Lee Jung-shik.
Otomo Yoshihide. The Night Before the Death of the Sampling Virus. Extreme XCD 024, 1993.
Ground Zero. Consume Red: Project: Consume/Consume Ground Zero Vol. 1. ReR GZ2, 1996.
Otomo Yoshihide. “Consume Ground Zero.” Improvised Music from Japan. November 1996 (January 8, 2004)
See the recently released Loose Community, a collaboration between Otomo, Park and Mi-yeon, with additional contributions from Sachiko M, Gunter Muller, and Yumiko Tanaka (http://www.japanimprov.com/imjlabel/511/index.html). Otomo, Sachiko M, and Toshimaru Nakamura recently performed with Park and Mi-yeon at the Buam Art Hall in Seoul in September 2003.
Various Artists. Deluxe Improvisation Series 2. ASE_03, 2001.


William L. Ashline
Department of English
Yonsei University
Seoul, Korea

In a recent reported conversation, Keith Rowe, renowned tabletop guitarist with the improvisational group AMM and, more recently, in a number of one-off collaborations as well as the ensemble MIMEO, stated, "for the first time since the sixties, improvisers aren't working in a post-Coltrane aesthetic, but rather a post-Duchamp one." It was a suggestive remark, for in these post-avant-garde, post-postmodern times, “cracked, everyday electronics,” CD’s, records, turntables, minidisk players, and other assorted gadgets have become the tools of a new and more radical aesthetic, one that recognizes and departs from electroacoustics and yet also takes its leave from the free jazz that reigned in the sixties before becoming the well-trod trope inhabiting the “cutting edge” venue in the present milieu. Nevertheless, in the midst of the new ad hoc inventions coupled with the unorthodox and unaccepted use of conventional acoustic instruments, it is the laptop that is the “readymade” par excellence. In the theatre of the performance, the waste matter of technology is on display, granular tones, glitches, disconnections, brief interventions of white noise—and even the bachelorette has stripped her sampler bare, leaving only the sine waves once used only for tuning. In the mayhem of the concert, the laptop coordinates the other readymades. It interpolates the acoustic instruments, processing the results, twisting them out of control or recognition…or leaving them alone. The emerging traffic of the improv borders on chaos. The laptop serves as its conductor, policing and synchronizing—when it participates, that is. This is where one finds MIMEO or Christof Kurzmann, or Marcus Schmickler, or Christian Fennesz, or perhaps even Lawrence Casserley, with his signal processing instruments.
Keith Rowe’s interest in Duchamp should hardly be surprising. His other artistic vocation is pop art with recent CD booklets he designed covering a hot dog, a disembodied thumb, and even Bugs Bunny. But, as Duchamp once wrote to Hans Richter,
This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblage, etc., is an easy way out, and lives on what Dada did. When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics. In Neo-Dada they have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them. I threw the bottle-rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty.
In fact, in Rowe’s published comments on the post-Duchampian sensibility of electroacoustic improvisation, his remarks seem to ignore the radical implications of Duchamp’s tactical intervention into the art world. Duchamp, for Rowe, was the artist who brought the objet trouvé into the arena of art. The effect was then “additive” rather than critical. The field of art is left alone or used to criticize the world outside. He notes that the performance, involving the use of guitar and radio as objet trouvé, is “entirely bound up in abstraction, with found objects, and all of that is powered by and influenced by and inspired by Marcel Duchamp.” In another interview, Rowe states, “as an art student the found object was something that I thought extremely appealing. Using the world around you directly, rather than trying to imitate it or reproduce it, made sense. For me it poses the question of exactly where the prepared guitar starts.” Consequently, Rowe’s investment in the objet trouvé, and moreover in Duchamp, is purely an aesthetic one. The radio is his primary “readymade,” with other readymades—toys and various objects used to “play” the tabletop guitar—serving to enhance the variety of sounds. Clearly, this sort of rhetoric is far from the radical innovations of Dada and Duchamp. Rowe’s project preserves the musical art world as such, all the while using the techniques of the objet trouvé to extend the musical “object” and perhaps interrogate, in a somewhat Cagean fashion, the world of sound in general and the way sound infiltrates daily life. Accordingly, Rowe is very much within a tradition of the avant-garde purged of Duchamp’s most radical insights all the while opposing an improvisational approach very much rooted in modernism—and all of this takes place as Rowe manages to package his music in a very divergent set of images that manage to replicate the gestures and monochromatic palette of pop art.
Needless to say, Rowe’s reading of Duchamp is not the most compelling nor is his appropriation of the readymade as objet trouvé the most sophisticated interpretation one might desire. Thierry de Duve, perhaps the foremost scholar on Duchamp’s work, has written two books on the artist and edited a third. Carefully scrutinizing a number of Duchamp’s remarks, de Duve locates his readymades within the tradition of painting all the while describing their production as emanating from Duchamp’s “abandonment” of painting. This abandonment was coextensive with other forms of abandonment, including Manet’s leaving behind of chiaroscuro, Cezanne’s departure from perspective, and Malevich’s rejection of figuration, according to de Duve. However, in this account, the movement toward the readymade as a kind of “abnormal painting” is more than simply another abandonment. This line of flight is very much a reaction to industrialism, mirroring it, drawing attention to the fact that paint itself, after the nineteenth century was always already readymade. As Duchamp stated,
Let’s say you use a tube of paint: you didn’t make it. You bought it and used it as a readymade. Even if you mix two vermilions together, it’s still a mixing of two readymades. So man can never expect to start from scratch; he must start from ready-made things like even his own mother and father….Since the tubes of paint used by the artists are manufactured and ready-made products we must conclude that all paintings in the world are “readymades aided” and also works of assemblage.
Duchamp’s insight then was to draw attention to how readymade paints had changed painting by foregrounding the tube of paint as an industrial product, but he could only do so by way of analogy—the creation of the readymade as an “unaided” painting. Industrialism marked the foreclosure of the painter mixing his own paints. In noting the etymology of art as “making,” Duchamp drew attention to the fact that when an artist paints, he “chooses.” But this choosing had now become one of tubes of paint, no longer pigments to be mixed. As de Duve notes, “thus, the readymade is art about painting even before it is art about art.” However, such an intervention marks an absolute change in painting thereafter. “From Duchamp on, to be born a painter simultaneously means to declare the death of painting….How can the painter be born into his name of painter? First of all, he must destroy painting, break the pact and expulse the name, provoke disagreement.” De Duve concludes, “to paint after Duchamp means to paint in the hostile conditions set up by industrialization. Duchamp cannot be made responsible for those conditions; he simply showed them, and herein lies his genius.” Nevertheless, while “painting” continues only in “name” after Duchamp’s devastating intervention, the sense of closure, of impossibility, remains. The tube of paint remains sealed. De Duve continues,
The impossibility of painting is merely a feeling, the subjective signal accompanying the awareness of its objective uselessness in a society where the production of images has been mechanized and from which painting has withdrawn, like a relic from an obsolete artisanal past.
Clearly, then, the readymade is much more (and much less) than Rowe’s objet trouvé of the transistor radio, but how might the readymade account for music in general and electroacoustic improv in particular? Duchamp’s explanations draw attention to the industrialization of materials and serve to widen the concept far beyond the manufactured products he would put in the museum. Certainly, in electroacoustic improv, the laptop is perhaps the central readymade, offering readymade synthesizers, readymade portable music studios, the readymade mastering laboratory, etc. Technological facility is conjoined with motility. In the case of Otomo Yoshihide’s Portable Orchestra, the readymades encompass a radio, mobile phone, shaver, watch, camera, gameboy, hair remover, an electric drill, and a food mixer—industrial objects appropriated away from their household utility in order to prioritize their sonic attributes, although perhaps less than successfully in musical terms. In this sense, perhaps, Otomo is closer to the spirit of Duchamp than Rowe, who would only include the radio and a few electrical gadgets as part of his larger musical entourage circumscribed around the tabletop guitar. With Otomo’s project, household objects are completely reappropriated as musical instruments. Similarly, the early electroacoustic work of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry is probably closer to Duchamp than Rowe simply on the basis of their use of tape of other sounds, including other music—readymade music. Rowe’s radio, on the other hand, is employed as much for its static frequencies, additive glitches, as its pilfered airwave programs, and they are all governed by chance. In this sense as well, the average archivist DJ is also closer to Duchamp than most improvisers in electroacoustic music, the vinyl record being perhaps the quintessential readymade of all.
None of these reflections on the readymade in music, of course, gets us any closer to the heart of Duchamp’s implicit critique of industrialism and of art in general. Unfortunately, de Duve is not much help on this relationship to music either. In a nod to Cage, de Duve states that although musicians might “prefer to call their work ‘sound’ rather than ‘music,’ no musician would claim that what he or she is doing is ‘art’ and nothing but ‘art.’ The readymades, by contrast, are ‘art’ and nothing but ‘art.’” This is a strange comment for de Duve to make since most musicians claim that they are making art. In a recent interview, Toshimaru Nakamura, the master of the no-input mixing board, has said as much. While Otomo’s pastiche of readymade household objects in his Portable Orchestra serves to widen the field of possibility in terms of what can count as a “musical” instrument, his aim is still the production of a “musical” object—his symbolic investment is still in art, but one of a more radical inclusiveness. Rowe is probably even more invested in the word, as his pastiche of the concerto performed by an all-electronic orchestra in concert with pianist John Tilbury, called The Hands of Caravaggio, in honor of and reference to The Taking of Christ, recently discovered in Dublin in 1990, would attest. For Rowe, artworks validate the musical object; just as musical performances align themselves with paintings, whether pop art or more traditional ones. For Rowe, the word “Duchamp” becomes the “infra-thin space of pure nomination,” in the manner in which “painting” served this function for Duchamp. Similarly, “Caravaggio” and the painting that had been lost but suddenly found nearly four hundred years after its production became yet another nominal of validation. Rowe embraces the “image” of Duchampian difference rather than difference itself. Duchamp’s insight was in noting the currency of art as symbolic and linguistic, but Rowe returns this currency to the transcendent musical object, even if it might be an object composed through trash electronics and consisting of the “pariahs of sound,” the sonic waste matter of technology and unconventional musicianship. The name “Duchamp” is for Rowe, in his would be post-Duchampian aesthetic, just another symbolic currency that will have to be overcome.
What’s left for an electroacoustic improv that can never truly be post-Duchampian in a manner aligned with Duchamp’s “pictorial nominalism” but rather only another reappropriation of his tactical maneuvering? For de Duve, “the infra-thin space of pure nomination” marks the location where the readymade should be called a painting and yet cannot be called a painting. This is a point of undecidability. Thus, there is a “profound affinity between the infra-thin and aesthetic judgment” in Duchamp. Might the same problem of undecidable difference apply to music, especially electroacoustic improvisation? Does an assemblage comprised of the “pariahs of sound” lead the audience to the same dilemma of “is it or is it not music?” Or has this “music,” a particular example of the infra-thin perhaps, arrived far too belatedly to partake of the question? Was it already “settled” with Cage, Stockhausen, Xenakis, musique concretè, and the early electroacoustic innovators who brought their own readymades into the studio and performance space? Is electroacoustic improv only a continuation of the dilemma rather than its resolution? De Duve writes, “We call ourselves postmodernists, that is the new fashion, but we do not know what we are really saying. This post—is it a link or a break with our immediate past?” In Rowe’s case, it can only be a link, nothing more than one of repetition. The tools may appear to be the same, but the symbolic register is still far too aligned with the institutions of art.
The notion that electroacoustic improv is post-Duchampian is perhaps far too ambitious. Another thesis is in order, one with fewer of these problems of symbolic investment. Continuing the theme of borrowing from the other arts, I would propose that the music is “post-Cruelty,” or rather “post-Artaudian,” once again a “post” in the sense of a “link” rather than a “break,” and thus still very much aligned with a particular form of art world, and not one of “theatricality” even though the narrative and episodic quality of electroacoustic improv recalls the theatre in a sense. In de Duve’s account, Artaud and Brecht are still clearly aligned with the theatre; whereas, it is in performance art where one finds a cleavage similar to Duchamp’s intervention. In his first manifesto on the theatre of cruelty, Artaud writes:
Also, the need to act directly and profoundly upon the sensibility through the organs invites research, from the point of view of sound, into qualities and vibrations of absolutely new sounds, qualities which present-day musical instruments do not possess and which require the revival of ancient and forgotten instruments or the invention of new ones. Research is also required, apart from music, into instruments and appliances which, based upon special combinations or new alloys of metal, can attain a new range and compass, producing sounds or noises that are unbearably piercing.
Artaud might as well be calling for Sachiko M’s sine wave performances or perhaps the duo recordings on the Erstwhile label of Marcus Schmickler and Thomas Lehn, whose freneticism would seem to cover some of the terrain of research desired in the passage. In a similar manner to Artaud’s call, the soprano saxophonist Bhob Rainey, part of the duo of Nmperign with trumpeter Greg Kelley, has described his innovative techniques on acoustic instruments not as “new” but in fact quite old—perhaps even antediluvian. Artaud’s aesthetic is of the inferno; it is transgressive. He writes, “if there is still one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.” He ridicules those who would have too much respect for the past, who would adore the “masterpieces” of artistic tradition rather than invent something more immediate. As with de Duve’s reading of Duchamp, Artaud would also call for the “self-analytic moment” where the “creative breakthrough, the ‘moment’ of significant newness in which it locates the truth-function of the artwork” would be privileged. In calling for a theatre that “wakes us up: nerves and heart,” Artaud could have just as easily been writing about a music or a sound, one that communicates precisely in the fact that it does not communicate, an infra-thin of aural comprehension. What does Artaud mean by “cruelty?” He states the word must be taken in its broad, etymological sense in order to “get the iron collar” off the neck of language. It has nothing to do with tortured flesh but rather “signifies rigor, implacable intention and decision, irreversible and absolute determination.” Cruelty refers to “an appetite for life, a cosmic rigor and implacable necessity, in the gnostic sense of a living whirlwind that devours the darkness, in the sense of that pain apart from whose ineluctable necessity life could not continue…” And thus the reference to a sound that would for Artaud be unbearable or at least unacceptable. Anyone who has endured high frequency sine waves, either recorded or live, might have some idea of what this sonic cruelty might be. However, any “glitch,” any “noise” is itself a cruelty in Artaud’s sonic sense—an unpalatable, refused sound, and sometimes, in fact, quite painful—a sonic transformation of sense, in short, a “pariah.”
In electroacoustic improv, however, the preeminent manifestation of Artaud’s notion of cruelty is most apparent in live electronic manipulation, where the felicitous motility of the laptop computer and the ready availability of programs, like Max/MSP have allowed musicians to process the sounds of collaborators in real time, sometimes distorting them beyond recognition. The laptop as processor of sound has also rendered the ontological specificity of each sonic production undecidable. When one listens to a performance involving live or improvised processing, whose musicianship should be credited more? The acoustic or electronic instrument of origin or the one that the processes the sounds? Artists like Curtis Bahn, who uses his acoustic bass to trigger Max/MSP to process his own sounds, complicate this problem. The space between the processing instrument and the original instruments that produce the raw material for processing constitute another level of the infra-thin with regard to electroacoustic improv, and it is here where both Artaud and Duchamp can be seen to merge, not on a symbolic register but a tangible, practical one. Some recent cases are worth examining.
British soprano saxophonist, Evan Parker, recorded a live compact disc with Noel Akchoté on amplified guitar, Lawrence Casserley on signal processing instruments and Joel Ryan on computer. This was one of the first instances of the new electroacoustic improv to use this marriage of electronic processing and acoustic instruments. The first of the six tracks involves an improvisation between Parker and Ryan. Parker creates a flowing, looping soprano line, which is initially repeated and looped by Ryan. In the initial stages of the piece, the listener has some difficulty in distinguishing which part of the recording is Parker’s live production and which is Ryan’s intervention. It gradually becomes more clear as the piece progresses and Parker’s “voice” loses its specificity—ground up, reverberated, distorted, stretched and pulled so that there is no question that Ryan is now in control of the improvisation. Other combinations fill out the rest of the six tracks. The second involves Casserley’s processing of Akchoté’s guitar, whereas the fourth, with Casserley, Akchoté, and Ryan, eventually turns into a sheet of white noise. Finally, all four musicians come together on the final track. Parker states in the accompanying notes that the manipulations are quite varied, including delays and repetition and even manipulation of the acoustic space, which is apparent on a number of tracks in the form of heavy reverberation.
Erstwhile Records’ seventh release features Polwechsel tenor and soprano saxophonist John Butcher, whose playing receives live electronic manipulation and modular feedback from violinist, Phil Durrant, who eschews his normal acoustic instrument for this recording. The notes to this recording explicitly state that no sampling is employed, and yet the same indeterminacy that marks the Evan Parker recording is even more explicit on this one, and the results are arguably less predictable. In the publicity for the recording, the musicians note that the electronic manipulation adds new dimensions beyond normal acoustic playing, stating, “Some of the most violent, dense music might arise when the saxophone is actually playing quite simply and cleanly.” On the other hand, the richly varied emotional languages of multiphonics can be lost in manipulation. The result is highly risky since neither musician fully controls the output. The seventh track on the recording, “Prusik Loop,” is where Butcher’s source material becomes virtually unrecognizable as the electronics of Durrant move completely into the center in a piece that foreshadows the later, more experimental ambient releases of the label.
Laptop improviser Kaffe Matthews is one of most recent entries in the field of live manipulation. Her trio with Andrea Neumann on inside piano and Sachiko M on sine wave sampler and contact microphones of three untitled tracks, recorded live in Shinjuku, involved real time live sampling and processing of the sounds of all three musicians. The first track is twenty spare minutes of Neumann and Sachiko M followed by 16 minutes of Matthews solo, manipulating the cracks and pops of Sachiko M’s contact microphones and sine waves and Neumann’s plucks and scrapes of the piano strings. Matthews also adds her own interpretations with loops of glitches and pointillist microsounds intervening in the manipulation of the samples. Neumann returns to improvise with Matthews in a duo in tracks three and four, with Matthews continuing to work with the source material from the first two tracks and also restating and reiterating some of the at times quite abrasive remarks of Neumann. But once again, as would be the case to some extent with witnessing the live event, the question of origins remains. Who is producing which sound? At times, making the determination is easy. Matthews throbbing bass undergirds Neumann’s waves of tone. However, much of the time the issue is undecidable. At moments, the two musicians tentatively explore territory, and at others, the fourth track in particular, some dense, loud, pulsating crescendos are achieved. Sachiko M returns for the final two tracks, joining the other two musicians in a full trio. The cracks and snaps of the contact mikes are sampled immediately into Matthews’ computer and then reiterated as a loop. Sine waves wash over the top of this mid-range activity. Then Neumann joins in with varied scrapes of the bow against the piano strings and later with rapid, gorgeous, harp-like tones and more scrapes that are supported by high frequency electronic beeps and chirps. In Case of Fire Take the Stairs is a stunning recording and an exemplary instance of the infra-thin in the sense of indeterminate musicianship or sonic multiplicity. The fact that Matthews supposedly enters every performance with a tabula rasa, only sampling and manipulating the sounds of others, reinforces this interpretation.
Manipulation of the sounds of collaborating performers is, of course, not limited to digital electronics, most often facilitated by the ever-motile laptop with Max/MSP (or LiSa, in the case of Matthews) loaded in. Lo-fi and analogue tools have had a longer history in regard to live manipulation. More recently, on the recording Forlorn Green, Jason Lescalleet has used analogue reel-to-reel tape to record Greg Kelley’s trumpet and transform the results. In an email, Kelley explained the process:
A variety of means were used for Forlorn Green, the basis of which were live recordings where Jason was "sampling" what I was doing onto reel-to-reels and
microcassettes and playing them back at different speeds with various amounts of tape decay, feedback, etc. creating a variety of levels and depths for a funhouse mirror version of me….All of this was done in real-time. Jason then edited these pieces to some extent or another and then spiced them up when needed with recordings of me, which we made together and separately.
The result is a highly varied version of the Butcher/Durrant recording with a much greater use of analogue tools. On the other hand, the aforementioned Hands of Caravaggio, in addition to having the live manipulations of Kaffe Matthews as a member of M.I.M.E.O., Cor Fuhler participated as a kind of nemesis to Tilbury’s Feldman-like musings by playing inside the piano using an E-bow and other objects. To this intervention, Tilbury calls himself as soloist in this neo-concerto an “anti-hero” or “victim.” In his contribution to the liner notes, he writes, “whole areas of the instrument, including traditional keyboard techniques, are rendered inaccessible to the 'soloist' by a creative hijacking of the inside of the instrument by a member of the 'orchestra' [Fuhler] who, for example, randomly mutes pitches which the soloist has selected.” Initially, in the midst of all the electronic accoutrements that will join him in the performance, Tilbury worries about his vulnerability and how rapidly the massive electronic orchestra, which includes, among the laptops and other recognizable tools, Rowe’s beloved “amplified metal garbage” “played” by Markus Wettstein, can elide his contribution. For Fuhler, the event marks a moment rich for interpretation.
…as always, a handicap has to be used to its full capacity: one of the nicest moments for me was when somebody played a loud clear pitched note and the piano string corresponding in pitch started resonating ferociously: I then placed a metal object on that string. So now that string was played by three people: the Orchestra member, me and John (by holding the sustain-pedal) without any one of us actually touching the piano! Very surreal and magical. Another favorite moment is when the Orchestra becomes quiet and the piano being played with spacey chords (on the keys and inside with a wine bottle as giant bottleneck)…
While Rowe’s appropriation of Duchamp and his vast pronouncements about electroacoustic improv were all too “readymade,” considering his neo-Dadaist and pop art investments, we can rejoice that the dark, sonic underbelly of “progress” has finally received its aural due in the sense that Duchamp’s Fountain marked a symbolic investment in an object that emblematizes the most repugnant human production. And in gratitude, we can acknowledge Artaud and perhaps Georges Bataille, theorists of the “accursed” and of neural agitation. Nonetheless, it is clear that unlike de Duve’s Duchamp, Rowe is still far too invested in the object rather than the sign. For him the “infra-thin” is only in the question of what can count as musical instrument in these electronic times. And in the end, unlike Duchamp’s infra-thin regarding the question of whether the readymade is or is not art, Rowe’s answer must always be affirmative rather than undecidable. Even the assemblage of the “pariahs of sound” in electroacoustic improv must finally be considered “music” as “art,” which for Rowe is a given. It is only in Rowe’s imaginary where electroacoustic improv can be thought of as post-Duchampian because that is where one can locate Rowe’s desire. To be post-Duchampian would be, in this instance, to desire a legitimating discourse for art, which would be as far as one could go if one fails to recognize that the readymade flushed out the linguistic currency of the object. This discourse would also serve as a tool to push the musical avant-garde beyond free jazz, but it would work only by calling on Duchamp belatedly to draw attention to the fact that music is perennially out of date in avantgardist terms. But in the end, it is Rowe that is out of date and old fashioned, symbolically and intellectually rather than musically because he seemingly cannot read the signs. To be truly post-Duchampian, we would have to produce a sound that no one could stand, but that would be sophisticated enough to deserve an audience. Unfortunately, were we capable of such an invention, there would be no occasion for a paper such as this because no audience would stick around long enough to make it worthy of writing. Merzbow perhaps has come closest, but his landscapes of noise are far too lush and gorgeous to likely qualify. To his credit, Rowe has acknowledged this necessary invention in his remarks on Cardew, but he has failed to follow through on their implications in his own work. In the end, we are left with an aesthetic transformation with
all the same symbolic investments left intact, a difficulty that reflects all too well the familiar problematic of pop art in its fantasy of being post-Duchampian. If there is a modicum of debt to Duchamp in the new electro-acoustic improv, it lies in the notion of the “infra-thin”, disclosed initially by the ready-made in art, with its exemplary manifestation in improvised music located in live laptop and other electronic processing rather than in a “musical nominalism” in greater proximity to Duchamp’s radical intervention. Like the art world, like the economic order of capital process, the musical avant garde has become all too pliable and predictable in its embrace of musical difference such that the signifier “Duchamp” has by now lost all radical consequence.

Jason Bivins. “Label Profile: Erstwhile Records.” One Final Note. Spring 2001. June 7, 2003 .
Facilitated perhaps by the use of Max, which, as Casserley has written elsewhere, is a “medium for building instruments.” Lawrence Casserley. Online posting. 28 Oct 2002. 24 June 2003 “Cycling ’74 Max/MSP mail archive: Re: [max-msp] black box.”
< http://www.synthesisters.com/hypermail/max-msp/Oct02/0047.html>. He also notes, “part of the point is that you can build the instrument that the music requires, rather than making the music to fit an existing instrument. Inevitably this produces a multiplicity of types of instrument to suit different musics.” So much for the readymade, then, with regard to the concept of an electronic “instrument,” i.e. the patch or adapted program. The musician still must “build.”
Quoted in Edward Lucie-Smith. Movements in Art Since 1945. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1984, p. 11.
Interview with Keith Rowe. “Let the Musician Speak: AMM.” Dead Angel 20. June 7, 2003 .
Keith Rowe. “Above and Beyond.” The London Musicians Collective. June 7, 2003 .
Rowe is much more interesting and persuasive in his discussions of how the radio adds to his performance. In one discussion, he mentions that the radio serves to introduce the “vulgar” into the performance (Rowe. “Above and Beyond.”) In another, he discusses “harshness.” “The use of the word "harsh" is political; it's about harshness, visible and invisible. Most harshness is invisible; the harshness which went into making our clothes, the poor fucker in Bangladesh who had to make it. Harshness is everywhere; we're supported by harshness. Political harshness, economic harshness, we're all subject to that.” (“Keith Rowe.” Interview by Dan Warburton. Paris Transatlantic. January 2001. June 7, 2003 ). Similarly, in his comments about former collaborator Cornelius Cardew, Rowe states “if you try to make artifacts which are rejected in the sense that Duchamp wanted them to be, Cardew really achieved that with those later compositions. They are totally rejected, by everyone. Any music lover would reject them. I don't think that's why he did them, but I do think they have that quality. For me speaking personally, that wasn't his forte. I don't like them.” It is perhaps on this level where Rowe is conceptually closest to Duchamp—a music that the listener must refuse—most apparent perhaps in the work of Cardew but also perhaps in Rowe’s most cacophonous recordings, like his release “Harsh” on Grob. (“Keith Rowe.” Interview by Dan Warburton.)
Thierry de Duve. Pictorial Nominalism. Trans. Dana Polan. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1991: 151.
Thierry de Duve. Kant After Duchamp. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1996: 162.
Quoted in Kant After Duchamp 162-63.
Kant After Duchamp 164.
Kant After Duchamp 166.
Pictorial Nominalism 94-95.
Kant After Duchamp 167.
Kant After Duchamp 171.
Various Artists. Offsite Composed Music Series in 2001. A Bruit Secret, 2002. The duo Voice Crack has also employed similar household electronics in their music.
At one time, early on in AMM’s career, Rowe used “everything from fire alarms, screwdrivers, electric drills, all kinds of guiro objects, scraping objects, steel rods.” (Warburton, op.cit.)
Kant After Duchamp 153.
“Well, to produce a record is an art work, so it's very important.” William Meyer. “Toshimaru Nakamura: Sound Student.” Perfect Sound Forever. July/August 2003. July 4, 2003 .
In an interview that served as part of the program for the Angelica festival for which the Music in Movement Electronic Orchestra performed the Hands of Caravaggio, Keith Rowe reiterated his comments about the readymade as objet trouvé: “MIMEO marks a departure and a distinction from the ‘end point aesthetics’ of ‘power drummer’ based groups, and a move towards the orchestra as a collection of ‘objets trouvés,’ reflecting recent developments both in technology, synthesizers, computers and the contemporary aesthetics of ambient, plunderphonics and improvisation.” In addition, noting like Duchamp the significance of “choosing,” he states, “MIMEO's music is worked around choice and juxtaposition of materials, a kind of ‘post techno Duchampianism.’” “Catalogue—Program Notes: Keith Rowe.” The Hands of Caravaggio. Erstwhile Records 021. July 4, 2003
Pictorial Nominalism 94.
I am indebted to Paul Trembath for this discussion.
Pictorial Nominalism 159.
Pictorial Nominalism 162.
Kant After Duchamp 153.
Antonin Artaud. The Theatre and Its Double. Trans. Mary Caroline Richards. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1958. 95.
See for example Bart. Erstwhile, 2000. And also their compact disc with Keith Rowe, Rabbit Run. Erstwhile, 2003.
Artaud 13.
Artaud 74. Or as de Duve would say, “one cannot go back in time—this would be the first law of the avant-garde…” Pictorial Nominalism 86.
Pictorial Nominalism 60.
Artaud 84.
Artaud 101.
Artaud 102.
Early electronic performers like Robert Ashley, Pauline Oliveros, Jerry Hunt, Gordon Mumma, and others used signal processing instruments that were small enough to get out of the studio and preceded the laptop. Herb Levy has helped me understand some of the details.
I am indebted to Michael Bullock for this information.
Parker, Akchoté, Casserley, Ryan. Live at ‘Les Instants Chavires’. Leo, 1998.
John Butcher and Phil Durrant. Requests and Antisongs. Erstwhile, 2000.
Abbey, Jon. “Live Electronic Manipulation.” Online posting. 24 June 2003. Electroacoustic Discussion Group. 25 June 2003
Matthews has been known to manipulate the sounds of the room in which she plays, going as far as to covertly plant microphones under the bar and sample the sounds that come thereafter. I am indebted to Mathieu Bélanger for this story.
Kaffe Matthews, Andrea Neumann, Sachiko M. In Case of Fire Take the Stairs. Improvised Music From Japan, 2002.
Greg Kelley and Jason Lescalleet. Forlorn Green. Erstwhile, 2001. Lescalleet also employed a computer on this recording, however.
Greg Kelley. “Off-Topic.” Online posting. 4 July 2003. Electroacoustic. 5 July 2003
John Tilbury. “Catalogue—Notes.” The Hands of Caravaggio. Erstwhile Records 021. July 6, 2003
Cor Fuhler. “Catalogue—Notes: Cor Fuhler.” The Hands of Caravaggio. Erstwhile Records 021. July 6, 2003


I. Preliminaries

In the fields of cutting edge electronica, it has become quite fashionable to invoke the name of Gilles Deleuze. Displaced former philosophy students find a home spinning records and programming beats in underground night clubs, creating “sound installations,” or forming music labels. As club culture becomes commodified, commercialized, and reterritorialized by a market eager for hipper objects, the necessity for newer undergrounds and a more compelling discourse of modernity force mutations in electronica and a theoretical legitimacy for the philosopher-turned-alchemist of sound, the only one seemingly able to articulate the present moment in the post-ekstasis fog of serotonin depletion. It was Iannis Xenakis who once stated, “henceforth, a musician should be a manufacturer of philosophical theses and global systems of architecture, of combinations of structures (forms) and different kinds of sound matter.” And, likewise, the philosopher should become the “musician,” more aptly the one who amalgamates sound. It was only a matter of time before an electronica solely servile to the dance floor would become conceptually and aesthetically boring, where the need to rediscover its origins and histories in the forms of musique concrète, minimalism, experimentalism, in short, in the avant-garde, would become manifest. But this revivified avant-garde is not far removed from very many of the now overdetermined and instrumentalized popular forms that preceded it. Contemporary “high-art” electronica has been soiled by its techno precursors—-if not on the dance floor, then, at least, the lounge or especially the institute of modern art, whether it be in New York, Berlin, or Tokyo.
If the contemporary permutations of electronic “music” are now fit for the sound installations of art institutes, the adjoining artist statement is always forthcoming. The “avant-god” trinity of John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Pierre Henry is perpetually invoked--symbols of a by-gone era of the avant-garde that paved the way for the modern laptop producer. The other significant proper name is that of Deleuze, whose concept of the “desiring machine,” according to a reading of Simon Reynolds, properly cathected with the DJ’s “thousand plateaus of crescendo” in the rave set, itself a product of a “machinic assemblage” of aural objets trouvés and synthetic computer-generated sounds. One of the first music producers to invoke Deleuze’s name in the context of his own writing on music was DJ Spooky, aka Paul Miller, a student of philosophy as well as a music producer, one so articulate that his recognition comes as much from his writing in a variety of New York art journals as from his music. DJ Spooky is a theorist of hybridity, a “cultural nomad” who finds his intensities while circulating schizophrenically between hip hop parties, academic conferences, and museum performances, a mixer of variegated assemblages that work in the interstices of dub, hip hop, ambient, trip hop, and jungle, an concoction sometimes referred to as “illbient,” which found its ethos in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. While he finds in his work a resonance with Deleuze’s concepts, the gaze toward theory seems to have reversed itself. DJ Spooky is now on the faculty of the European Graduate School with the likes of Jean Baudrillard, Jean Luc-Nancy, Christopher Fynsk, Peter Greenaway, and David Lynch.
The turn to Deleuze is also apparent in Richard Pinhas and Maurice Dantec’s electronic soundscape, “Schizotrope,” a recording using extended ambient washes of processed guitar and other electronics with Dantec’s processed voice reading texts from Gilles Deleuze. On the final track of the CD, Deleuze, himself, is doing the reading. Nowhere, however, has the turn to Gilles Deleuze’s work by music producers been more clear than with Achim Szepanski and his Frankfurt based label Mille Plateaux. Szepanski holds a PhD in philosophy and has written a dissertation on Michel Foucault. But it was his interest in techno, house, and other forms of electronic music that allowed him to carry out his particular version of micro-politics, analogical struggles outside the state and economic apparatuses, in this case the compromises made by electronic dance music with the order of commodities and capital more generally. His first label, Force, Inc., was an innovative response to the limitations of techno and house and an attempt to return these forms to their more properly underground status. The hardcore of producers like Alec Empire and Panacea were the vehicle. Anthologies, like the “Electric Ladyland” series, showcased the abrasive, percussive “garbage can” timbres of hardcore as well as the more lounge beats of trip-hop. On another sub-label, Position Chrome, one can find the more aggressive hardcore of artists like Techno Animal, featuring dub producer Kevin Martin and Justin Broaderick, guitarist with the heavy metal group, Godflesh. However, it is on Mille Plateaux and its sister label Ritornell where Szepanski’s artists make their particular contribution to an avant-garde rooted in musique concrete and minimalism as well as a response to electronic genres like ambient. Though Mille Plateaux was founded in 1994, its manifesto came in 1996, the seminal recording of “In Memoriam: Gilles Deleuze,” which followed the philosopher’s suicide in Paris. The CD is a double compilation of 27 tracks, one of which has Deleuze reading a short piece on the rhizome. A second track produced by Achim Wollscheid includes samples of a French rock band and Deleuze reading another text, with both combinations of sounds being heavily processed. DJ Spooky makes an appearance with an extended, Xenakis-like drone, and so does Scanner, the British artist also known as Robin Rimbaud, who uses a police scanner to pilfer real-world samples from telephone booths and elsewhere, the theft unbeknownst to those making the utterances that serve as aural material for his recordings. Musique concrète meets the “purloined letter.”
Perhaps the most noteworthy of all the experimental artists and producers included in the Mille Plateaux compilation is Oval, originally a Frankfurt-based trio headed by Markus Popp, who is presently the sole artist in the group. In the mid-nineties, Oval made a name for itself by its use of damaged technologies, namely the use of deliberately marked and disfigured CDs that when played, created percussive clips and pops. This was a technique that was adopted in principle by Pole’s Stefan Betke using a damaged, malfunctioning Waldorf 4 Pole-Filter to generate crackles and dub echo effects. Soon enough, the “glitch” became a genre unto itself, used by an array of artists dissatisfied with the aural limits of programs written for Powerbooks. With Oval and Pole, as with the DJs who discovered the percussive possibilities of turntable cartridge needles and crackly, old vinyl, the distinction between properly operating technology and anathematized glitches was deconstructed. The “mistake” became an aesthetic “success;” pops, clips, crackles and other mayhem became the soundtrack of a new generation of musicians and listeners. Interestingly, in a private letter from Deleuze to Szepanski regarding the inauguration of the Mille Plateaux label, it was Oval that impressed Deleuze the most, rather than the ambient drones of Gas’ Wolfgang Voigt the new avantgardism of Christophe Charles, or the nearly inaudible opening strains of Jim O’Rourke’s “As In,” tracks that were widely respected in a number of critical responses. In listening to some of the artists of Mille Plateaux, it is easy to become confused about what one is hearing. Is it radio static? Is it television interference? Is it a fire alarm? Soon enough, these particles of deviant sound begin to assume a form that could no longer be presumed as an unintended aural intrusion.
Nevertheless, the deterritorialization of the “glitch” quickly became reterritorialized in popular electronica. There was an effective detumescence of the hyper-intensity that accompanied its discovery. However, the boredom that finally greeted “glitch aesthetics” was a disapprobation that did not completely turn away from the pointillist, percussive advantages of clips and pops. In the early months of 2000, Mille Plateaux released the compilation “clicks_+_cuts,” which articulated the mutation of the “glitch” into a more onomatopoetic signifier, one far less aligned with “errors” of the machine than its benefits as a generator of minimal sound particles, or “microsounds,” used in an assemblage toward an abstraction having very little to do with conventional music. In the liner notes, Sascha Kösch articulates the new minimalism embodied by “clicks_+_cuts:”
You have come here; you must think about minimalism, be it the minimalism of “rich” kinds of “idea-based,” “abstract” experiments, or the “poor” minimalism of reduced sound design, abstractions of subtraction. You clicked, somebody delivered. Whatever happened, thoughts of minimalism, of reduced interfaces, reduction of input or musical preferences will have led you to “clicks & cuts.” And with it you will be introduced to a new differentiation of your concept of the minimalist notion. The digital routing of ideas based on sound, its flaws, delicacies, its enlightenment, and its value for the times to come. It’s clicks & cuts. And as you guessed, it clicks and cuts. Remember the days when all was easy? When a new sound created a sound generation every couple of months, and progression was not an internal quality of electronic music, but its driving force?…times when a new genre wasn’t just a sub-something of a sub-something, but fact? Well, stop remembering; these days have arrived once again, and they have changed.

But the “minimalism” invoked here is hardly adequate for defining the distinctive character of a rapidly evolving genre of electronic music. In no way was the new minimalism represented by the “click” comparable to the experiments of Steve Reich and others in the milieu of the sixties and seventies avant-classical tradition. “Microlism,” were there such a term, would have been a more appropriate designation. As it is, practitioners of the new aesthetic have favored this new term of “microsound” to describe the music they produce. Such a term suggests both the inscrutability of the pointillist “click,” as well as the “microtonal” possibilities of the laptop as a musical instrument, the creation of sounds within, between, and outside normative scales—-sound itself as a mode of deterritorialization. One of the founders of the aesthetic, Kim Cascone, has been an outspoken critic of the use of the term “minimalism” to describe the field. In an interview with the journal CTheory, he stated, “I have always felt that the term minimalism when applied to music has been misused. It is difficult to create a work which is emptied of content and refers to itself. All artwork references external reality in some way…but yes, I find minimalism to be an aesthetic dead end. It carries less and less information with repetition and I am much more interested in density of information i.e. multiple channels of information all turned on at once while listeners position themselves within this field.” Cascone has two CDs released on Mille Plateaux’ experimental sub-label, Ritornell: “Cathode Flower” and more recently “Residualism.” On the seminal three CD compilation “Modulations and Transformations 4,” he contributes the piece “nb2e_vortex.aiff” a title that draws attention to the tools of sound production (“aiff” being a primary sound file format) and the abstraction of a computer file, one might say, a “de-aestheticization” (in the sense of opposing an emotive overdetermination) of the “aesthetic” object. In “order-words” that partially serve to reenact McLuhan, he states, "the medium is no longer the message, the tool has become the message.” Cascone’s piece, however, belongs to a tradition of experimental ambient but one without the standard aesthetic investments. There is a spatiality to the sound. High pitched metallic timbres circulate around airy lower frequencies. The work of Xenakis and Ferrari is perhaps recalled, though Cascone cites Leif Brush as an influence as well. Cascone has also noted how microsound has refused to comply with popular culture’s proviso regarding the performative. The live performance of the contemporary laptop producer is liable to feature a musician occasionally staring for long periods at a screen saver, a disappointment for an audience trained to appreciate what multi-reed instrumentalist Anthony Braxton has called the “sweat factor” or what Cascone describes as “gestural theatre.”
The resulting difficulty most people have with laptop performance is exacerbated by the fact that most people today arrive at electronic music through the cultural framework (and hence expectations) of pop culture...and even within the cultural framework of 20th century music there are people who still cling to the notion that music performance needs to carry a visual counterpart…to the actual music being produced...as if the music is made more rich or meaningful through the gestures of a performer...people can't let go of needing to verify causality in a musical setting.

For Cascone, and this is perhaps where he finds his closest affinity with Deleuze, the laptop provides the contemporary electronic musician with an immediate and completely proximate relationship with his ideas, one that “bypasses most of the apparatus that has been put into place by pop culture over the past 100 years,” a contrivance that required the “motor skills” needed to perform impressively on a musical instrument rather than the capacities required for creating new aural concepts. The audience at a microsound performance has then perhaps been transformed unwittingly to a voyeur in a studio, an overseer of a process of production. The “untimely” sense to recognize this transmutation, however, has yet to arrive.
Nevertheless, this new articulation of microsound has found a certain currency and is rapidly being reterrorialized by a music industry quick to locate new objects. Christian Fennesz’ “Endless Summer,” a reconfiguration through microsound of the Beach Boys record of the same name, has hit the bestseller lists at a number of record stores, including Other Music in Manhattan. Kid 606, who also appears on the “Clicks & Cuts” compilation has become a favorite in IDM circles, and 22-year old Helsinki producer, Vladislav Delay, who released nearly a half-dozen recordings during 2000, has become one of Mille Plateaux’ biggest commercial successes with two CDs under his name for the label and another two under the monikers Luomo, a click-house project, and Uusitalo. His acclaimed “Synkopoint” on the “Clicks & Cuts” compilation, a variation from his first release on Mille Plateaux “Entain,” was a favorite of many microsound producers and fans because of its dreamy dub and ambient effects and heavily reverberated production. The double CD was also an opportunity for the label to feature artists from Ritornell, which focuses on more abstract forms of microsound, including artists such as Stilluppsteypa, an Icelandic trio now based in Amsterdam, and the now defunct German duo Autopoieses. Stilluppsteypa has also been at the forefront of the newer forms of electro-acoustic improvisation documented on labels such as Erstwhile and Staalplaat.
It seems fitting, then, that with the “speed” and proliferation of music, artists, and new labels, as well as a “do-it-yourself” mode of production enabled by the new technologies, and the lack of an adequate rhetoric to explain, describe, and theorize the new developments in the music, that Mille Plateaux would celebrate its one hundredth release by initiating a book project to fill the gap. In an essay outlining the project, one worth tarrying on here, Szepanski writes:
Today, music is information and can be digitalized in the form of binary coding. In every form, it is connotated with computer systems, implemented into the “age of technology”, and can be described with a “techno-aesthetic concept to which electronic media is everything but external. It is media-music, independent from whether media are discussed as being constructivistic, being medially technical dispositives, a distorted atopic space for transmissions or not.

This notion of music as “information” can be seen in the individual producer’s writing/production of “patches,” sound passages that form the material of the composition and that are sometimes shared among producers. Szepanski continues:
It is surprising that, besides the explication of mediality of significants and the large number of discourses concerning the medial ways of visibility, the musical field most often is not mentioned within the media discourse. If, in the sector of the visual, illustration and interpretation of reality increasingly are left behind a visualization of pure visibility, least of the media concepts realize the musical information packages and their medial constructions which, in their ecstatic growth, do not (re)present reality but only themselves.

And so the strategy for articulating a discourse of experimental electronic music in media theory is called for in this announcement, a movement from the visual production to the aural one, the “under-represented” by virtue of being “non-representational.” Music is a “language” of sound, but one that communicates in “multiplicities.” It cannot be reduced to “communication,” but it “communicates,” an aural stimulus driven by the agitation of rhythm, the spatiality of tone. “Music does not function as a carrier of messages but offers nothing but empty signification and resists any attempt for decoding. So it more or less allows any form of interpretation. Its only content is that of its own sound and the sound of a reality existing outside.” Yet, mediation occurs between hardware--the Powerbook; the software program--MAX/MSP, SuperCollider, Reaktor, C Sound; and the patch designer or programmer—-for example, Akira Rabelais, producer and author of sound programs like Argeiphontes Lyre. The media is the binary code, punctuated, microtonal clicks, or glitches used for syncopated effects as well as rhythmic refrains.
Szepanski insists, though, that electronic music is not simply a part of media theory; electronic music interrogates it—-through the “mutual attacks of heterogeneous forms,” as Deleuze referred to it. Music is part of an information technology that does not “generate its forms out of itself but out of elements of all systems.” Szepanski notes, “music has stopped being a mathematical science of intervals.…Electronic synthesis instruments sound in the in-between of the intervals and analogue media store the real infinitely variable, independent from the dictate of notation and the imperativism of analogue instruments.” The result is that the digital machine “cover[s] up meaning, disrupt[s] sense, delete[s] historical markings and traces.” Clicks and cuts are the “interval” that exceeds all intervals in the musical scales, the “in-between” of the in-between. The on-and-off logic of the binary code, the click and cut, can only “develop as the context of an event, e.g. a musical event, a consistent coupling with musical forms like Clickhouse, Clicktechno, R & B Click, Glitchfunk, Neuronenhouse, etc.” The click and cut are thus the aural equivalent of an amplification of a mouseclick made by a musician that creates an agitation of the nervous system and a sound commensurate to the breach of connectivity; “every track is more a temporary interruption of the ability to be connected rather than fixedly regular work.” Therefore, “clicks do not express meanings or essences but only intensity and connections” as well as disconnections. For Deleuze and Guattari, these are the “unthinkable, invisible, nonsonorous” forces that must be harnessed from the deterritorialized, molecular outside of the Cosmos. Writing at an earlier time when the digital had a long way to go before superseding the analogue, Deleuze and Guattari anticipated the aesthetics of microsound:
The synthesizer has taken the place of the old “a priori synthetic judgment,” and all functions change accordingly. By placing all its components in continuous variation, music itself becomes a superlinear system, a rhizome instead of a tree, and enters the service of a virtual cosmic continuum of which even holes, silences, ruptures, and breaks are a part.

However, if we are to carefully follow their suggestion about the continuous variation of synthesized sound, we must not make the mistake of reterritorializing the new movement in sound as the “becoming” of microsound but rather perhaps the “becoming-microsound” of synthesized sound in general. Deleuze and Guattari continue:
By assembling modules, source elements, and elements for treating sound (oscillators, generators, and transformers), by arranging microintervals, the synthesizer makes audible the sound process itself, the production of that process, and puts us in contact with still other elements beyond sound matter.

II. The Enunciation
The “superlinear, rhizomatic system” that Deleuze and Guattari had in mind regarding the synthesizer could not possibly have foreseen the extreme variations of aural experience found in the work of Ryoji Ikeda, both a contemporary and important influence for many microsound musicians and producers. As with a number of musicians that work with sine waves, Ikeda’s music not only changes with repeated listens but also within each individual aural experience through varying one’s position of the head and location in the room. The sine wave belongs with clicks, hisses, pops, and other onomatopoeic descriptors to the aberrant types of sound that find their currency in the present milieu of experimental electronic music. In the case of a sine wave musician such as Sachiko Matsubara, who employs a sampler divested of all preprogrammed sounds exclusive of the sine waves conventionally used for tuning, a novel reconception of an otherwise unutilized and anathematized sound parallels the Mille Plateaux’ recuperation of the click. Ikeda works with similar material.
Ikeda’s third release on the British label Touch is a two CD set called “::Matrix.” The first is entitled “Matrix [for rooms].” A solitary liner note explains that the piece, a suite of ten tracks, each named as a separate array as a part of a matrix of binary code, “forms an invisible pattern which fills the listening space. The listener’s movement transforms the phenomenon into his or her intrapersonal music.” Unlike the pops, clicks, and hisses that animate many of the releases on Mille Plateaux, “Matrix [for rooms]” is characterized by high and low frequency pulsations, a tapestry of peaks and valleys of sound intensities. The first, “0000000001” is precisely twelve minutes of variably pulsing, high frequency sine waves. The aural experience shifts as I move around in my living space between my chair, the kitchen area, the bathroom, and behind the speakers. As my head moves, the sounds seem to be coming out of my left ear, which is furthest away from the speakers, whereas my right ear seems to hear very little. As my head moves, seemingly unintended sub-frequencies become audible. By the second and third tracks, “0000000010” and “0000000100” respectively, the lower frequencies begin to assume prominence and the higher ones fade out. These lower frequency sine waves rattle the light fixtures in my room at higher volumes, with the audible sub-frequencies changing in pitch and becoming more loud. The sounds can be quite disconcerting in their trance-inducing repetition. At certain moments during my listening, I begin to feel nauseous, which leads me to leave my chair and pace the room, perhaps the unwitting intent of the piece I am hearing—-encouraging my active aural engagement with the recording. By the fifth track, “0000010000,” median frequencies are prominent. When I turn my head to the left, the frequencies appear to rise in pitch and pulsate more, but when I turn my head to the right, sub-frequency pulsations begin to sound percussive. Because of these variations in pitch, frequency and intensity, affected by my position in the room and the movement of my head, I am not very clear about what I am actually hearing, other than the abstract, pulsing frequencies of varying levels. There is no primary sound exclusive of my listening. Each time I change a physical position, the piece changes as well. Within the structure he creates, Ikeda manages to pose an infinite degree of sound qualities in the same composition, within a singular aural experience. Thus, his music can be said to be indeterminate while, ironically, the timing of the tracks is quite precise and regular. The entire first CD, “Matrix [for rooms],” is exactly sixty minutes in length. The first track is exactly twelve minutes long. The second, fourth, sixth, and eight tracks are precisely five minutes and thirty seconds in length, and the third, fifth, seventh, and ninth tracks are four minutes and thirty seconds long. Only the tenth track, “1000000000” clocks in at 7:58. By the eighth track, “0010000000,” the sine wave tone has once again reached a very high pitch, and I find myself moving my head in concentric circles in order to change the aural results. Finally, the tenth track is a recombination of both the lower and higher frequency sine waves that comprised the second track as the suite reaches a conclusion with nearly inaudible super-high pitches. The ultimate effect is comparable to an auditory cleaning, as if the “keys” of one’s eardrum were being tuned like a piano.
The second CD, “. Matrix,” is shorter than the first and the binary code is inverted for naming the tracks. The first is called “1111111110.” The tenth is named “0111111111.” Sine waves remain, but we are returned to the characteristic clicks, hisses and static so well-described by Szepanski. The length of the tracks varies far more than on the first CD though there seems to be a regularity of sorts, if not a pattern, in the length of the tracks. One, for example, is 5:32 while another is 5:23. Both sets of numbers adding up to ten, in other words, the number of tracks on the recording. A more clear compositional structure seems to emerge in the combinations and sequencing of lower and higher frequencies and beats. For me, this 31 minute recording is not as conceptually interesting in a Deleuzian sense. We are presented with an aural assemblage emblematic of microsound recordings but without the internal variations evident in the first CD.
Ikeda’s most well-known and respected work of electronic music was the 1996 release “+/--” on Touch. As with “::Matrix,” the aural experience of “+/--” depends on individual circumstances—the listener’s movement and location. The liner notes state that the CD “has a particular sonority whose quality is determined by one’s listening point in relation to the loudspeakers. Furthermore, the listener can experience a particular difference between speaker playback and headphone listening. The sound signals can be thought of in the same way as light is made spotlight. Lastly, a high frequency sound is used that the listener becomes aware of only upon its disappearance.” Rarely does one encounter such explanations on commercially sold music. Ikeda seems to require it, however. The timing of “+/--” suggests that it was perhaps the enabling condition of what became microsound, what led Szepanski to create his experimental sub-label named for Deleuze and Guattari’s chapter on the refrain or ritornell. It was also the first instance of the use of the term “headphonics” to describe Ikeda’s particular minimalist aesthetic. The first three tracks form the suite of “Headphonics”—combinations of high frequency sine waves with beats and hisses. The final seven tracks of the CD form the suite of “+/--” itself. The fourth track in the suite, “+” sounds like a helicopter propeller, recorded and remixed. Eventually the track transforms into the rapid and dense percussive beats of “+ .” a mutation of the propeller, almost recalling a drill, with sine waves blending into the soundscape. Despite the intense rhythms, the listener isn’t compelled to move. The beats are relentless but not catchy. They are percussive but have the metallic timbres of digital processing. “+ .” transforms into “+ ..” and while the percussive rhythms remain at the same speed and intensity, the tone becomes softer; the pitch rises until the piece is abruptly ended, and we move to the trio of “—” pieces, high frequency sine waves with an underlying ostensible drone of a generator pulsating against the walls and metallic fixtures of the room. We have returned to the “headphonics” that will compel the listener to move around the room and turn his head from side to side. Toward the left, the sine waves seem to be pulsing; toward the right, the pitch seems higher and there is only a mild pulse. The eighth track, “-- .” is a gorgeous symphony of sine wave patterns moving in and out of the center of the listening space, whereas the ninth track “-- ..” recalls the low frequency generator sounds of “+”. The deep pulsing timbres appear reflect off the far corner of my ceiling, almost as if they were coming from above the room. These intense sounds do not appear to be coming from the speakers at all, and as I place my ears next to the speakers, I can hear they are not. Instead, the low frequency pulses are occurring fifteen feet away in the corners of my room. It occurs to me during this particular listening of “+/--” that the aural equivalent of Deleuze’s texts are not to be found so much in the music label that carries the name of one of his works, but rather in Ryoji Ikeda’s rich and variform recordings. The final track, which carries the name of the title of the CD, is simply the almost inaudible sine wave that inhabits the entire recording, which, as the liner note promised, only became apparent in its absence as the brief one-minute piece closed.
Ikeda’s “0°C” released in 1998, completes the trilogy on Touch. “C” is a suite of ten tracks, each named with a different word beginning with the letter “c”: “check, cacoepy, circuit, contexture, cuts, counterpoint, continuum, can[n]on, cadenza, coda [for T.F.].” This suite is followed by the suite of three tracks that comprise “0°”. “C” employs static, hisses, the ostensible interference of radio frequencies, voices, and sine waves. It’s a recording that belongs more notably to the genre of click & cuts than Ikeda’s other recordings because of the focus on glitches, which in the case of one of tracks, is technical interference with an apparent broadcast of string instruments. In other moments, one hears something approximating a highly frenetic version of “drum n’ bass” as well as a sound that resembles a ringer. “C” is closer to the defining features of musique concrète than in his other recordings, both in terms of its use of frequency “interference” and conventional looping strategies. However, the motif of “headphonics” is still evident through the use of affectingly vacillating sine wave patterns. Ikeda’s minimalism is finally a paradoxical one. Though he builds his compositions with an assemblage of particulates of sine wave frequencies, hisses, clicks, intentional “glitches” and other aural material, the products from his efforts manage to maximize the potentialities of aural spaces. Ikeda’s aesthetic is a minimalism of maximal, that is, variable, aural consequences. “Gestures and things, voices and sounds, are caught up in the same `opera,’ swept away by the same shifting effects of stammering, vibrato, tremolo, and overspilling.”

III. The Interrogation

To further understand the relationship between theory and electronica, it is necessary to consider the perspectives of music producers, particularly those with a more theoretical orientation. DJ Tobias van Veen of Vancouver, is one of the more articulate spokespersons in the field of microsound and the curator of the “New Forms Festival,” and Ian Andrews, a music producer from Sydney, has written articles on theory and technology.

Q: What concepts in Deleuze's texts, especially “Mille Plateaux,” do you find most significant and why?

DJ Tobias: "1837: Of the Refrain" is certainly directly significant in thinking electronic music in terms of its repetitious nature. By redefining "rhythm" especially, one can interpret Deleuze and Guattari as attempting to think of a music or aural deterritorialization that moves away from music-of-territory, or that redefines the topological nature of music. I think, however, that in general what attracts electronic musicians to "Mille Plateaux" is its connections between all forms of experience, of which music plays a large part. These connections--embodied in terms such as the line of flight, deterritorialization, the refrain, the rhizome, etc-- and their constant nature of becoming become especially relevant when they can be visually observed in a program such as Max/MSP or Audiomulch and then subsequently heard in a space that is often "deterritorialized." This is easier understood when one considers that much of microsound and avant-garde electronica comes out of a post-rave(r) culture, that is, out of a culture that was already indirectly influenced by Deleuze and Guattari through the writing of Hakim Bey on the TAZ [Temporary Autonomous Zone].

Ian Andrews: First of all I'd just like to sound a warning. There are far too many poor readings of Deleuze, in my opinion, especially in relation to sound and music. Be careful what you read. Few people read anything but A Thousand Plateaus and even fewer read Nietzsche or Freud (both very important for accessing Deleuze's work. For example, Anti-Oedipus is a very different book than A Thousand Plateaus. It is a playful, irreverent, Dionysian punk rant against the monoliths of Hegel, Marx and a certain Freud. This text resists an authoritative reading, and it’s a mistake made by many to do what can't be done--i.e. to hold it up as an authoritative text. A Thousand Plateaus, on the other hand, is much more authoritative (though it pretends not to be). It constantly builds concepts that, although they attempt to be fluid and non-hierarchic (rhizomatic), they can't help solidifying. And this results (in the worst case) in a dialogue between Deleuzians, in their own private language, isolated from their textual roots (Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Bergson, Spinoza, Pierce, etc.) This is where I find Derridean deconstruction useful. It finds a way to make use of a concept while, at the same time, not allowing that concept to settle into a hierarchy of knowledge. It does this by carefully and rigorously describing what it does, at the time of doing it—its basic premise is that there is no transcendental idea, outside of language--"there is nothing outside the text."

Q: Comment on the relationships between new software and hardware technologies and Deleuze's theories of machinic assemblages.

DJ Tobias: All you have to do is load up Max/MSP or Audiomulch to directly experience what Deleuze was thinking. Insert the sampler box, draw a line to the volume, draw a variable controller, which then operates an echo box processing a granular synthesis box, all hooked into a 4x4 matrix output. Push play, and then begin adjusting the variables, redrawing the lines to form feedback loops or resampling continuums. You interact with it: it interacts with you (unlike Cascone—-I do not believe-—as Cascone seems to-—that we solely operate the machine: the screen and the program, the assemblage, programs us to love the assemblage. As Janne Vanhanen comments [see his article in CTheory] , we are in loving relationship with machines [see also Steven Shaviro's article "The Erotic Life of Machines" on Bjork]).

Q: How might you explain the new minimalist aesthetics of the “click and cut” (and perhaps the “glitch” as well) in relation to the older minimalism? A line of flight? Or a continuation of a version of avantgardism?

DJ Tobias: That is a long and difficult question because the framework we are asking is ambiguous: are we questioning historical links? And if so, are we beginning to interpret these links rhizomatically or in a Hegelian fashion? I think, however, there is much to be said for understanding the role of the DJ in the 1980s, as Paul Miller (DJ Spooky) often talks about: the refrain as the memory repeater, the DJ as the memory selector, putting memories into new contexts to trigger associative, rhizomatic thoughts.

Ian Andrews: It constitutes a version of avantgardism. However this avantgardism represents, in my opinion, a return to purity. In this sense it becomes a rejection of postmodernism, which is OK, but it’s a rejection which oversimplifies the problems raised by the postmodern condition (the question of the possibility of an avant-garde, or of plural avant-gardes, etc.). And in many cases it simply ignores many of these problems and re-situates itself in modernist historicism. This simplification is aided by a technologically determinist ideology which argues that new technology is the single determining factor in producing new cultural forms. I feel that a significant amount of cultural history (and cultural theory) has been conveniently bypassed—the period roughly between the 1970s and the 1990s—in order to make this link between the old minimalism of the 1960s and the new. It seems that ideas concerning intertextuality, self-reflexivity, irony, culture-jamming, and recombinant media practices have all been dismissed without any good theoretical justification except that they have simply gone out of fashion. I must admit that I was at first enticed by the purity of click & cut, glitch, microsound, etc. but the attempt to theorize it lead to a dead end. And I have not come across any text which provides a justification for this return to purity. On the other hand, perhaps it resists theorization. That's a possibility.

Q: It could perhaps be argued that the enabling condition of microsound would be musique concrète, the synthesizer, Reich’s experiments with tape loops of voices sped up to create new sonorities and multiplicities, and other of the earlier experiments in electronic media, not to mention modernist conceptions of music, atonal music, etc. These movements have also had their reception in techno music, another important precursor of microsound. How do you see microsound as both a continuation of these musical forerunners but also as a departure from them?

DJ Tobias: For me at least, both continuation and departure fall into the trap that I believe Cascone falls into--that of defining microsound as a system, subject to entropy, that has borders and boundaries. If it truly is influenced by Deleuze and Guattari, and furthermore, if the technology itself and our interaction with it is approaching the erotic rhizomatic, then we are hopefully understanding that techno and musique concrète are relationships that continue to move in and out of microsound territory (this can be seen in the lineup of the Mutek festival for example). Essentially what is different IS the relation to technology.

Ian Andrews: Yes, techno is very important here. There is a tendency among many members of the [microsound community] to deny that. Perhaps microsound could have happened without techno but it would not have been nearly as popular or as widespread. It would not have become a movement. Just like 1980s "industrial" experimental music would not have happened in the same way without the punk phenomenon. The passage from techno (Detroit) through minimal techno, through glitch has resulted, to a large extent, in a rejection of textual elements, and an embracing of sensual effect (immersion, synaesthesia, overtones, etc.) which can be traced back to rave culture (and of course minimalists such as La Monte Young, Charlemagne Palestine, etc.).

Q: Some may argue that invoking the proper name “Deleuze” and the text Mille Plateaux, with respect to the Frankfurt label, constitutes a re-territorialization of theory in the legitimating service of “art,” a movement akin to the prior use of Jean Baudrillard by visual artists and artistic institutions such as “Artforum.” How do you respond to such a potential charge? Can there ever be such an invocation of theory that does not simply serve as a legitimizing discourse for capitalized art objects?

DJ Tobias: Cascone specifically wants to legitimate the microsound genre with theory. I think there is nothing wrong with using theory as one would use say, oil for a car. The oil doesn't legitimate the car. It just makes it run. I think what should be questioned certainly is this notion of legitimacy or authenticity in relation to theory and art. Theory does not provide legitimacy: neither does art: it is only when the two are combined into a mechanism--a machinic assemblage, what-have-you, that the project takes off "on a line of flight" etc.

Q: What artists do you feel have best liberated themselves from the traditional rules of music and the overdetermined forms of aesthetic practice?

DJ Tobias: Liberation! I'm not so sure that word is possible for me. Despite that microsound seems to be radically quite different, we must remember that it has bought into an entirely different relationship to traditions and rules. The very narrow genre of microsound and its constituent definitions assures this. The strict relation to technology, and a very particular sort of technology that creates very specific sounds and frameworks assure this. I truly enjoy Cascone's work, but it has at times a classical ambient feel to it with a touch of early 90s techno minimalism. *0 and Ryoji Ikeda play with silence: but so did Cage. Richard Chartier has done some very amazing high frequency tonal work: so did the musique concrète artists. One must be careful here. I do not think microsound has necessarily created a new breed of liberated artists as it has so much created a different way—-again, a machinic assemblage, where one interacts in the creation and the reception of the music with other nonlinear components—-of interacting with sound, with its own tendrils that lead back to the roots of classical history, including rave culture, avantgardism, [Javanese] gamelan, Japanese narrative structure, African call and response, etc.

Q: The first years of rave were marked by a social culture that saw its liberty in an act of transgression via ecstasy, the illegal warehouse gathering, pirate radio, etc. which were only later co-opted by both “commodified illegality” (organized crime) and later the commodity itself (the music industry). How does/can microsound offer an alternative to the model of transgression, with its vast lineage in underground culture, in which within the primacy of the commodity a new “sense” of the aural, theoretical, and social might be constructed?

DJ Tobias: Microsound has proved a very interesting test-case in attempting to redefine, for me at least, the Temporary Autonomous Zone. The early 90s conceptions of underground rave culture, featuring break-ins and hedonism and complete underground economies, has all but fallen apart through police action, commodification, and criminalization (real or created by the police state). The energy of these events is difficult to match with avant-garde drones. However, over the past few months I have been throwing events that combine several factors: several microsound performances (including Kim Cascone and Jetone), art installations, surreal video playing in the background (Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain, for example), and DJ sets at the end of the show featuring contemporary electro and glitch/minimal house/techno. The result has been a sense of renewed energy. The first event, “Refrains,” was combined with an academic conference on the issue of the “Refrain” in relation to electronic music and social movements; the show later on, which was free, mixed together several crowds: academics, students, ravers, post-ravers, avant-garde music listeners, artists, clubbers, and art-show attendees. During the microsound performances, people sat down but weren't always sure what to do (we had no chairs, in order to leave the space smooth and ambiguous, save the bright green vinyl op-art on the floor by Trina Linde). This temporary space of indeterminacy, faced with a laptop performance, has hope for me. Kim [Cascone] notes it as well. I think this space of indeterminacy, of awkwardness, where one is not sure whether one should dance or sit or listen with eyes closed or open, this space opens a similar energy that existed in early rave culture--that there were no rules, standards, or definitions. After the microsound performances, when the DJs would come on (me being one of them), the sense of release and relief was palpable. But as we were playing what is in essence minimalist, avant-garde techno, it heightened and continued the tension, as this is not what most people normally expect (in a club and at raves the music is usually quite cheesy). At the second show, Jetone played, and people started doing different things: some sat, some began to dance weirdly and slowly (like in early ambient rooms at raves), some laid down, some even meditated. A new set of social rules and interactions were being built. Now, essentially what is being re-explored (again) is a “Happening,” in some form, a TAZ, a smooth space, whatever. The thing is, microsound is not going to potentially gather tens of thousands to occupy public land for days on end to revel in a hedonistic lifestyle, as rave culture certainly did. However, if we are seriously investigating the TAZ (which I am), it is interesting to note that Bey puts little faith in a TAZ movement which cannot stay invisible by shades or degrees. Microsound is something which, through its obscurantism, could offer a certain level of psychological autonomy—something rave culture could not offer. Once one begins to combine this with a gathering that combines the successful elements of rave culture—the hedonism, the politics—then perhaps we have something a little stronger, a little more under the radar, that could develop into a different sort of social movement.

Q: What do you anticipate is the future of electronic music and of theory and its interrelationship with music? Which artists do you feel are in the best position to articulate this future both in terms of music and also theory?

DJ Tobias: Paul Miller [DJ Spooky] is certainly one of the few; Achim Szepanski, Terre Thaemlitz, Kodwo Eshun, Hakim Bey ... but to be honest, those who are articulating the immediate situation have not yet begun to be heard. I have the deepest respect for Kim Cascone, but essentially I think the relationship he proposes—-despite the allusions to Deleuze and Guattari and rhizomatics, between man and machine—-is a humanist model of domination, in this case over the laptop, where we must control not only the machine but the genre (to "prevent entropy"). So, that said, I do not think Cascone is fully articulating the possibilities inherent in Deleuze and Guattari's radical thought in relation to music and technology.

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