Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Lefebvre’s Rhythmanalysis, Sound Studies, and the Culture of Cities

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014


Circa 2003, I wrote the first draft of a piece on Henri Lefebvre & Rhythmanalysis, published in Circulation on the City: Essays in Urban Culture (2010), eds. Alexandra Boutros  and Will Straw. The piece followed from research I had been doing at McGill as a grad student with the Culture of Cities project.

The chapter considered how certain “rhythms” of the city become unobservable due to the phenomena of standing waves. Lefebvre discusses rhythms of traffic, but also other sorts of flows and disruptive rhythms that structure circulation (of all sorts of movement of people, goods, things, but also energies electric, wireless, and those of temperature; and again fluids in sewers, pipes, mains, tankers, pipelines). His reflections in this thin book are quite skeletal, more structural than materialist. Nonetheless he classifies rhythms, providing a schema of rhythm types (arrhythmia, etc), and considers them as fluids or soundwaves.

In Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis, acoustic properties serve as both metaphor for rhythmanalysis itself, as a process of thinking, or critical analytic observation (and I am reminded of Robin James’ recent piece on acoustic dataveillance and the use of acoustic perception as metaphor and process), and also as a method of observing material processes. Thus arises the problem of standing waves, of two superimposed rhythms in perfect antinomy, where peaks and troughs cancel each other out. Such rhythms would be unobservable, and only perceivable through their effects upon other rhythms.

I think Lefebvre touches upon this idea, but only barely (this is his later work; he did not live to develop it). The implication is that it is through rhythmanalysis that one can discuss ideology. By ideology I mean the normalization of the constructed; or one could say the unconscious but contingent preconditions of what is perceived as consensual reality. Ie, I do not mean normative ideology, but structural ideology: the unthought contingent conditions of what appears as normally necessary.

In Lefebvre, psychoanalytic conceptual symbolism, materialism, and Marxism appear to meet in an urban planner who takes to a kind of Zen meditative appreciation of rhythmic environments, listening to traffic on his balcony….

In any case, I presented the paper at a conference at the Technische Universität in Berlin entitled “Time Space Dynamics in Urban Settings” (thanks to Bas van Heur) but never really went anywhere with it. It is only recently that I began thinking of Lefebvre’s renewed significance to sound studies. My own unthought of the piece (or at least the one I am thinking of now, no longer unthought) is how Lefebvre contributes to sound studies, or rather mobilizes it for urban analysis, which includes all manners of a concrete or materialist philosophy of becoming and rhythm, social phenomenologies of flow perception, or on the more empirical side, analysis of cities in the materialisation of flows (such as in Will Straw’s work, included in the Circulation volume). Lefebvre describes listening to cities in the text as a method of observation, conceptual and material, and for thought; but at the same time he presents a theory of ideology in the concept of the standing wave of rhythmic superposition, a kind of conceptual maneuvre, that resonates with work by Deleuze, Stengers, and Whitehead, but also EDMC studies (the “vibe” as the social production of rhythm in unconscious patterns of collective affect), and sound studies (as the turn to acoustic metaphor to comprehend 21st century existence in dataflows, dataveillance, etc).


As a final note, I was quite pleased when I saw this review by Mark Simpson of Circulations and the City in the University of Toronto Quarterly:


Quiet City

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Dancecult 4(1): The Exodus of Psytrance?

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Dancecult 4(1)

Indeed, it is out, issue 4(1) of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. This issue special edited by Graham St John on the question: The Exodus of Psytrance?

Btw, here’s how to get on Dancecult’s mailing list.

This issue includes a few contributions on my part (besides the PDF layout and overall HTML finalization), namely a few reviews and part two of my conversation with Bernardo Alexander Attias on turntablism and controllerism. It is well worth reading part one if you’re intrigued, otherwise what we have to say doesn’t make much sense off the bat, truncated as it is from what was published previously.


DANCECULT | Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture
Volume 4 * Number 1 * 2012

with Guest Editor Graham St John


## Feature Articles ##

Seasoned Exodus: The Exile Mosaic of Psyculture
— Graham St John

Full Penetration: The Integration of Psychedelic Electronic Dance Music and Culture into the Israeli Mainstream
— Joshua I. Schmidt

“What are we doing here?” Nostalgic Desires for a Cosmopolitan Sensory Aesthetic in the Amsterdam-based Psytrance Scene
— Eva-Maria Alexandra van Straaten

Spaces of Play: The Spatial Dimensions of Underground Club Culture and Locating the Subjunctive
— Alice O’Grady

## Conversations ##

Off the Record: Turntablism and Controllerism in the 21st Century, Part 2
— tobias c. van Veen and Bernardo Alexander Attias

## From the Floor ##

Unveiling the Secret: The Roots of Trance
— Dave Mothersole

Random Steps Through Boom Festival 2010
— Lisa Diotalevi

Aurora Festival and the Sacred Rituals of Samothraki: Past, Present… What Future?
— Chiara Baldini


Tribal Revival: West Coast Festival Culture (Kyer Wiltshire and Erik Davis)
— tobias c. van Veen

The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture (Steven T. Jones)
— Susan Luckman

Discombobulated: Dispatches from the Wrong Side (Simon A. Morrison)
— Bina Bhardwa

— Phil Kirby


With Deep Bass Rumblings

Graham St John
Executive Editor

tobias c. van Veen
Managing Editor

DANCECULT 4(1) 2012

espaceSONO resound

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Watching yourself later and over years past is not only like viewing yourself as another person, it is encountering yourself as a doppelganger, a completely distant other. An act, nearly complete. I wasn’t into this interview. It was formal and weird; and so was I. Which made it all the more weird. The point being, how can you film an aural exhibit? And so being-weird in the exhibit was the only answer.

Thanks to Renaud Kasma for capturing, editing & uploading this 2007 interview, shot in SAT’s now obliterated SAT_GALERIE, for the espaceSONO exhibit.

memory rewound: the space echo

Monday, November 14th, 2011

mnemotechnics interphase

This is a machine of mnemotechnics. Memory erased unto itself. The mystic writing pad looped in magnetic filament. A machine that spins tape back unto itself in a loop, eating itself, devouring itself, an interface of mechanical time, capable of repeating, reiterating, a sound, over & over, and sending it into space & echo. The Roland RE-201 Space Echo is such a machine. I have desired one for years. It is the basis of King Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry. It is a channel into the technics of space and time… it is a time travel device, a memory palimpsest on rewind. It is beauty.

Too bad I don’t have a PhD expense account. I couldn’t finish writing about the tape loop echo until I simply had one. Indeed, the most valid research expense yet, save for the thousands spent in books thanks to lack of VPN library access from McGill.

This Is What You Made Me

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Spinnin' in the cloaked.

This interstellar sonic object, black ring warrior, and rotating slanguage carrier arrived courtesy of eminent photographer and thoughtful scribe of revolutions-yet-to-come Dave Pires. He found it in a record shop basement in Japan (or something like that) while seeking powder and enlightenment through cataclysm and radiation. Or perhaps vice-versa. This is the 2003 Japanese release of This Is What You Made Me on Tri-Eight. The label’s first release, for that matter. Most of the production is by DJ KeNsEi and D.O.I.. This be spaced out, rough and raw beats, stark and uncompromising, interstellar alien transmissions from the one and only RAMM:∑LL:Z∑∑.

“Look at the Girl!” is the vocoder-killin’, tone generator track here, the one on rewind, while DP, the mystic CP and I downed a bottle of Chateau de Fieuzal 1978. It’s like being in orbit around Planet RAMM:∑LL:Z∑∑. This is the greeting message to space aliens… and he’s looking for Afrofuturist spacewomen. I think. If you can decipher. Codes are in effect. Multiple listenings required.

Unlike RAMM:∑LL:Z∑∑’s Bi-Conicals of The Rammellzee on Gomma, this Tri-Eight jam is nearly indecipherable, less concerned with lectures of clarity concerning slanguage, and much more despotic in its rhyme (it also doesn’t feature any early ’80s throwback jams: this is Afrofuturist hip-hop thrown forward). A few exceptions, certainly—”My Horizon,” “Here We Go,” “Soldier,” all possibly heard as translation. The stark production of KeNsEi’s repetitive rhythmachines—deadpan tight beats & samurai percussion—propel each track like nuclear fission. A constant burn. Ears melting. Beats broken through pulsating veins of cypher dynamics. The RAMM:∑LL:Z∑∑ overtakes speakers. This is what the microphone is for. Four voices at least. Soundwaves bow & obey, bow in & out, to forever and ever vision, the price of strife reports: revolts! The dictionary tree lies!

A few of the tracks are warrior codes, letter races with ignitors, armed, and firing.

Ha! I told ya/So that soldier!

Multiple voices in effect—at least six or so Garbage Gods in the Slanguage Wars voicing themselves here. Much to listen deep within.


This is also New York hip-hop, right from the start. No bling, no cars. Sonic surrealism from Afrofuturist acanonism. R.I.P. RAMM:∑LL:Z∑∑. To the stars from whence you came. The message is now ours to decipher and transmit.

Decoding The RAMM:∑LL:Z∑∑.


Dancecult 3.1: Special Issue on the DJ

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Dancecult 3.1: hands in the air!

Nearly three months after our last marathon issue — which saw a complete overhaul of the design and organisation of the Journal — the team has pulled off our next edition, a Special Issue on the DJ guest edited by Anna Gavanas and Bernardo Alexander Attias.

Deep bows are in order to the Production, Editorial and Copyediting teams for seeing this issue through so soon after the last one, and at that with an impeccable quality of production. There were very few errors behind-the-scenes. In part this is because of the hard work done by the editorial and production teams in creating working manuals and guides for all aspects of the Journal’s production for the last issue. Though we discovered more areas to improve this time around — yep, we’re going to write (yet another) guide! — it means that we are creating a legacy of knowledge for Open Access, OJS-based Journal production that will not only keep Dancecult afloat but will be transferable to other publishing projects.

Our only remaining issue is figuring out a way to upgrade the open source publishing platform, OJS. OJS is a beast and is built like early CMS systems from the late ’90s — the design theme and operational core are not separate elements, the backend interface is clunky, and there are numerous bugs. This means that as we’ve modified the theme, as well as applied bug patches, we remain unable to upgrade the core architecture without completely reinstalling OJS from the ground-up and rebuilding the entire design and modded functionality of the Journal. This is bad news both for security and for updating the system to use newer protocols, design elements, and social media integration. In short, Dancecult needs funding; we cannot continue to do this as a volunteer project as the costs of simply hosting and managing a complex CMS such as this are quickly outpacing our volunteer resources.

So, without further ado, here’s the Table of Contents:

DANCECULT | Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture
Volume 3 * Number 1 * 2011

with Guest Editors Bernardo Alexander Attias and Anna Gavanas


## Feature Articles ##

The Forging of a White Gay Aesthetic at the Saint, 1980–84
— Tim Lawrence

The DIY Careers of Techno and Drum ‘n’ Bass DJs in Vienna
— Rosa Reitsamer

Rumble in the Jungle: City, Place and Uncanny Bass
— Chris Christodoulou

Headphone–Headset–Jetset: DJ Culture, Mobility and Science Fictions of Listening
— Sean Nye

DJ Goa Gil: Kalifornian Exile, Dark Yogi and Dreaded Anomaly
— Graham St John

## Conversations ##

Off the Record: Turntablism and Controllerism in the 21st Century, Part 1
— tobias c. van Veen and Bernardo Alexander Attias

##From the Floor##

Nomads In Sound vol 2
— Anna Gavanas

Meditations on the Death of Vinyl
— Bernardo Alexander Attias

Turntables of Doom
— Kath O’Donnell

We call it Swedish Techno
— Anna Ostrom

“War on the Dancefloor”: The Reproduction of Power and Pleasure at the Amphi Festival in Cologne
— Johanna Paulsson


Man Vibes: Masculinities in the Jamaican Dancehall (Donna P. Hope)
— Marvin Dale Sterling

Hold on to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973–92 (Tim Lawrence)
— Charlie de Ledesma


With deep bass rumblings,

Graham St John
Executive Editor

tobias c. van Veen
Managing Editor

Git on down'



Dancecult 2 (1): we’re back

Monday, March 21st, 2011

For many moons now I have been toiling away on Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture as the incoming Managing Editor. Lo, this is volunteer labour, and a hearty dose it has been, from taking over the reins of our Open Access publishing platform, OJS—which is a cranky beast indeed—to completely upending the Dancecult StyleGuide (DSG) so that it conforms—well, almost conforms—to the Chicago Manual of Style 16th ed.. The kind of labour I perform is exemplary of the overeducated precariat: technical server administration; web production; design and layout production and direction; editing and copyediting; technical manual writing and production; human resources; workflow management; all-around tinkering & troubleshooting.

Here’s a slice into a typical Dancecult session—begin with double-espresso and/or late-night wine. Chat with Operations Assistant Neal Thomas as I edit PHP, tinker with TPL, use root SSH to get all CHMOD, manage a CPanel reinstall and transfer, setup MySQL databases and fix CSS, and do all manner of technical support for the Journal as we try to figure out how to upgrade this stubborn beast. At the same time, I am engaged in an email storm with Executive Editor Graham St John and the Copyeditors as we overhaul the DSG, where I act as a a senior copyeditor and the last pair of eyes for every single piece of text you see published. As my mind approaches meltdown, I run next door and meet with Art Director Cato Pulleyblank. We are transferring over the existing workflow to Adobe InDesign, redesigning the entire publication layout, from fonts to margins, styles to protocols, in the process. Cato redesigns Dancecult’s logo with Graham and I’s input, drawing up visual conventions for web promotions and style protocols, throwing down hours of pro bono in the process. And that is still not all. To get this beast underway, I check in with the Production Team, which has been assembled from a call for precarious labour. I check in on Director Gary Botts Powell to see how our new Production Assistants (Luis-Manuel Garcia, Ed Montano and Botond Vitos) are doing with the HTML conversions. From their feedback I improve the HTML production guide which I have writ to explain the rather complex process involved in converting Word’s garble to appropriate XHTML (Transitional, of course). Meanwhile I carry out all of the Journal’s InDesign layout for PDF production, and draw up a Guide for that too—though I doubt anyone else will be touching it for awhile, due to the complexity and attention to detail involved. As the midnight hour flips over into morning, I edit and fix all HTML returned from the newly-minted production crew. Eventually, after a few weeks of such routines, I publish it all on OJS and fix all the broken things. Graham and I celebrate over Skype. It is early afternoon for him, and a late night for me. We virtually clink the beers.

Now that would sound like a lot of self-aggrandizing hype if it wasn’t for the fact that all of us involved do all this unpaid and yet—damn straight—produce an extraordinarily professional Journal. Meanwhile, I watch other academic funding agencies throw down bloatware cash to pay the poorly-trained to pump out some pitiful excuse for a research platform. I’m not sure what my point is here, though I am looking forward to seeing some capitalist renumeration for such a plethora of skillz. Bring on the meritocracy, I say.

* * *

DANCECULT | Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture
Volume 2 • Number 1 • 2011

Dancecult returns with two themes: the dystopian and remix aesthetics of Detroit and a special section on the Love Parade.

While you read, take a look around. Dancecult has taken a new step forward in the visualization of the Journal, with a complete redesign of our PDF publications and logo. It is also our first edition featuring the volunteer efforts of our Production and Copyediting Teams. Congratulations to all for their efforts.

Graham St John
Executive Editor

tobias c. van Veen
Managing Editor


## Feature Articles ##

Disco’s Revenge: House Music’s Nomadic Memory
— Hillegonda C. Rietveld

Hooked on an Affect: Detroit Techno and Dystopian Digital Culture
— Richard Pope

Maintaining “Synk” in Detroit: Two Case Studies in the Remix Aesthetic
— Carleton S. Gholz

Festival Fever and International DJs: The Changing Shape of DJ Culture in Sydney’s Commercial Electronic Dance Music Scene
— Ed Montano

## From the Floor ##

Nomads in Sound vol. 1
— Anna Gavanas

# Special Section on the Love Parade #

Where is Duisburg? An LP Postscript HTML
— Sean Nye, Ronald Hitzler

Party, Love and Profit: The Rhythms of the Love Parade (Interview with Wolfgang Sterneck)
— Graham St John

Pathological Crowds: Affect and Danger in Responses to the Love Parade Disaster at Duisburg
— Luis-Manuel Garcia

## Reviews ##

Hip Hop Underground: The Integrity and Ethics of Racial Identification (Anthony Kwame Harrison) PDF
— Rebecca Bodenheimer

The Local Scenes and Global Culture of Psytrance (Graham St John)
— Rupert Till

Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound (Tara Rodgers)
— Anna Gavanas

Technomad: Global Raving Countercultures (Graham St John)
— Philip Ronald Kirby

Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear (Steve Goodman)
— tobias c. van Veen

Music World: Donk (Dir. Andy Capper)
— Philip Ronald Kirby

Speaking in Code (Dir. Amy Grill)
— tobias c. van Veen


head down, arms up, hands out

Monday, September 13th, 2010

What is it with hip-hop and the arm wave? Why wave arms side-to-side in the air? Is this a gesture of unity? Like crowds of the mid 20th century, the arms aligned in position, all are become one, in the movement of movements….

But why the arms? Why are emcees so concerned with aligned arms? Why should we not care about it, or rather, why are emcees telling us not to care about it?

Hands in the air, the transcendance of care.

Watching Kool Keith I would expect Dr. Octagon to ask us to wave anything but arms in the air. Or, if waving arms, to signal with inventive and improvised semaphore the coordinates of the next landing, infrasonic investigation of orifices, or otherwise booty call for the Black Elvis.

But he too (and all his selves) are concerned with the unity of an arm wave set to regulation appeal.

In 1998, in San Francisco, Black Elvis does not call upon an audience to wave. The audience waves itself (according to footage).

In 2007, Kool Keith unmasked in hoodie, still holding spit but seemingly no longer split into conscious costume (or is he?), requires ultramagnetic inflection to wave arms at his behest, of an audience now almost exclusively white.

Heads down bop up, beatdown backpacks on – arms up, salute? Wave like you just don’t care?



Monday, August 2nd, 2010

the gonzo academics of soniculture return

Without too much further ado I would like to point you toward issue 1.2 of Dancecult, which features – among other gonzo academic explorations of soniculture and the rave underground – “Technics, Precarity and Exodus in Rave Culture.” This piece of mine, under works in various forms for approximately a decade, explores rave culture from the perspective of political theory of autonomia, the political economy of contemporary labour, and philosophy of technology, proposing that rave culture – which I consider deceased as of 2000 – be considered one of the 20th century’s greater movements of exodus from the constraints of consumer capitalist monoculture, by way of precarity of labour and the technics of its soniculture. Undoubtedly this thesis requires all the more exegesis. La lutte continue.

edition 1.2



Making a Noise – Making a Difference:
Techno-Punk and Terra-ism

*Graham St John

Technics, Precarity and Exodus in Rave Culture
*tobias c. van Veen

The Aesthetics of Protest in UK Rave
*Ramzy Alwakeel

Memory and Nostalgia in Youth Music Cultures:
Finding the Vibe in the San Francisco Bay Area Rave Scene, 2002-2004

*Eileen M Wu