Posts Tagged ‘sampling’

afrofuturism on ice

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Frostbitten fingers not included—Paul Miller's The Book of Ice

In my hands now is Paul D. Miller’s latest project, the Book of Ice, a collage-work of manifestos, stories, photographs and texts on the southernmost point of this planet, that ice-bound and all-but uninhabited pole, Antarctica. This is something of an artist’s book, a kind of anti-book that collects exappropriated objects from elsewhere. In this context, by exappropriated I mean an act that samples without stealing, that takes part without taking away from the whole. So, like all of DJ Spooky’s work, images of Amundsen and Scott’s voyages are sampled much the same way that Spooky remixed D.W. Griffith’s founding racist myth of US history in Rebirth of a Nation. Though details of Antarctica’s history, discovery and exploration are provided, this beautifully designed and illustrated hardcover from Mark Batty Publishers is much more a meditation on ice through the sampling of Antarctica’s recorded history alongside Spooky’s exploration of design imagery in the melting/consumption of Antarctica.

The Book of Ice includes ”Osmotic Strategy Machine—The (Flawed) Unfolding of Afrofuturism,” an interview I conducted with Paul for my forthcoming edited volume on Afrofuturism (Wayne State UP). The version presented here is somewhat staccato, but to the point through its brevity (the volume will include a remixed exchange and sampladelic text). This interview presents insightful reading, as it is one of the few times in which Paul has openly reflected upon his involvement with the 1990s email list and website, as well as situating his interpretation of Afrofuturism within historical, political and aesthetic contexts. I believe Paul includes this interview as part of the ethos explored elsewhere in the Book of Ice, where he talks about “thawing-out” the cold muthafucka’ aspects of black ice, as well as warming up the ice-cold brittleness of stark whiteness. Paul continues to forge a global aesthetic of remix culture that melts the divisions of colour, and in this respect, Paul remains an exemplary Afrofuturist—whatever he might say otherwise. Paul Miller is remarkable for creating bridges between disparate cultures, and in The Book of Ice Paul puts into perspective the greater forces at work in the melting of Antarctic ice, reminding us that the collapse of our polar regions also calls for the thawing of cold hearts and cultural antagonisms. We are like penguins caught in the flow of the impending great melt, and to move outwards, upward to the stars, we need to begin with swimming together through the thaw….

Osmotic Interview Strategies

Osmotic Interview Strategies

In 2008, Paul Miller spent four weeks in Antarctica, conducting sound recordings for his compositional work Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica. It is unfortunate that this book does not include a DVD of the multimedia work (understandably, it was probably not cost feasible for a book already colour printed on quality stock). Miller’s first book for MIT Press, Rhythm Science, included a CD mix which reflected his ideas through his DJ mix—I wrote a lengthy treatise on that book over on EBR. In any case, as Terra Nova is a full-fledged multimedia work that interrelates many of the cold concepts explored in The Book of Ice, here’s an insight:

What I like about The Book of Ice is how it rethinks what this cold space could be otherwise—a place, perhaps, of unclaimed exodus. What then, when it melts? When its resources will undoubtedly become exploited by competing interests, corporate and nation-state? Miller explores the dream of a “People’s Republic of Antarctica” through a series of campaign posters that alternate between early 20th century revolutionary modernism and monochromatic symbolism awash in blue penguins. The print posters call for a manifesto of Antarctica in different languages and national iconographies, from the Arabic half moon to the Chinese Communist red star.

Manifestos of a people's icepublic

The compositional method of Terra Nova is also explored here with a visualization of the score. Miller turns the elements of traditional sheet music into bubbles of chaos complexity, with the notation juxtaposed and carved into circular objects, as if spattered with the geometric shapes of water droplets from Antarctica’s melting ice caps.

Sheet music for snow & ice

Sheet music for snow & ice

Questions of climate change arise throughout the text, as Miller explores the economic, emotional and data landscapes of Antarctica through cartographic mappings of ice flows to dataflows. Aspects of this territorial mapping are reminiscent of Situationist détournement. Along this line, the visual icons of sell-by capitalism are explored in the juxtaposition of consumer-packaging barcodes and the increasingly ubiquitous QR squares with various linguistic scripts. Implicit among these image mixes is Miller’s interrogation of “hyperconsumerism:” is Antarctica for sale? If it can be mapped, can it be scanned and sold?

Antarctica 4 Sale

Antarctica 4 Sale

Ice maps and Antarctic cartographies

Ice maps and Antarctic cartographies

The closing section of the book is filled with full-bleed, full-colour images from expeditions mapping the great unknown ice, with double-page spreads of mountains and icebergs, explorers in ice-encrusted parkas and numerous penguins. Black-and-white imagery is contrasted with the subtle blues and grays of monochromatic colour. Night photography of modern research stations revels in the similitude between the neon-lit lighting of science and the southern aurora borealis.

Ice routes abound...

Ice routes abound...

Yet why this obsession with Antarctica? As Miller writes, ever playing the trickster, ice resonates with black culture. As Paul puts it,

Black culture loves ice. We name ourselves after it: Ice-berg Slim, Ice-T, Ice Cube. . . . So, yeah, there’s a long history in black culture of being a “cold muthafucka.” It’s about being a “frigid” person: the ice grill, bling bling, bounce off the light of diamonds in your teeth. Yeah, that’s ice (Book of Ice 10).

If urban black culture tends toward ice, then DJ Spooky aims to thaw it out with sinfonic soundwaves capable of collapsing cultural ice into global flows. If climate change is melting Antarctica, then the melting of ice presents an intersection between the geosphere and the sonosphere, between the axes of black and white ice, cityscape and icescape. Two compositional tools guided Spooky’s process in creating the Terra Nova sinfonia: repetition, on the one channel, and R. Murray Schaefer’s soundscape, on the other.

My concern here is how do we make music out of it, how do we thaw the process, thaw people out, and see the paradox of hyperconsumerism that this kind of stuff celebrates, while at the same time tying the conceptual issues of sound and contemporary art. It’s a Sisphyean task, but considering there’s not much more going on this planet than the ecosystem, I thought it was a worthwhile one. Hip-hop is always considered the soundtrack of the city’s geometric landscape. The grid of most American cities carries what I like to call an “orthogonal” logic. I wanted to take the “urban” concept of repetition and apply it to a different landscape, and see what would pop out of the collision. After all, music is patterns. And so is landscape. The common denominator here is pattern recognition.

And that’s what brings me to Antarctica (Book of Ice 10).

Explorers on ice/

Explorers on ice/

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'



exodus & afrofuturism

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

interstellar tones transport Sun Ra offworld

But in reality, it is the inherent failure of representation, both in the visual and the political sense, that continually leads activist-artists to abandon their works and their familiar skills, and to dissolve once again into the intersubjective processes of society’s self-transformation.

This moment of dissolution is where one could locate exodus, not as a concept, but as a power or a myth of resistance. On the one hand, exodus is a pragmatic response to the society of control, in which any widespread political opposition becomes an object of exacting analysis for those who can afford to invest major resources in the identification, segmentation and manipulation of what we naively call the public. In the face of these strategies, exodus is a power of willful metamorphosis: the capacity for a movement to appear, to intervene and to disappear again, before changing names and recommencing the same struggle in a different way. (Brian Holmes, Unleashing the Collective Phantoms: Essays in Reverse Imagineering @ 185)

Exodus is a movement — defection from the State, exit from the state of things, toward the formation of a “new republic” (as Paolo Virno puts it). While Virno and other Italian-based theorists of the Autonomia/Operaismo movement have traced exodus as a response to the factory regime of Fordist labour that saw its dismantling in the ’70s and ’80s, Brian Holmes has placed exodus within the artistic lineage of interventions and occupations, in which the fluidity of art, and of art as an occupation or role offers an exit strategy from institutionalized engagement. Holmes’ historical references are those of the alterglobalization movement, notably the public sonic occupations of Reclaim the Streets and the deployment of carnivale tactics in general, but also in specific art projects such as Nikeground. Here, art (and the artist) move through an interzone of activism and art, a zone in which intervention and representation are no longer distinct sides or sites of the work.


Dancecult: Journal of EDMC launches 1.1

Monday, September 28th, 2009
Dancecult: mixing theory @ the speed of sound

Dancecult: mixing theory @ the speed of sound

:: Fiends I am proud to present the first edition of ::


Including a piece of my own that recaps 10 years of MUTEK:

Convergence & Soniculture: 10 Years of MUTEK

| — > PDF < — | — > HTML < — |

Dancecult 1.1 2009 Contents:


pirate librarians.

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
capitalizing on the library pirate.

capitalizing on the library pirate.

The rate of piracy and cloning ensures, despite copyright protections, the rapid diffusion of ever new products. Their real economic interest lies in achieving mass use of their products, which requires a certain level of initiation on the part of potential consumers. The example of the first public libraries at the end of the 18th century can help us to understand this apparently paradoxical phenomenon. At first, the opening of the first public libraries was seen by book publishers as a serious threat to their profits. But afterwards, free access to reading led to the massification of the publishing market well beyond the initial portion of readers/consumers to whom publishers sold their books, as they exercised a monopoly based on the cost of production. We now know that the monopolistic control of book readers is no longer exercised on the basis of the costs of production and sales but on control over distribution, of the organization of access to knowledge in general. (Marazzi, Capital and Language 95)

The predicament of the music & film industry today – or rather any industry in which the object can be not only easily digitalized & cloned, but then disseminated  – could perhaps learn something from  book publishers of the 18th century. While the case for sharing one’s property in the 21C usually cite  the ‘home taping’ debates of the ’80s (whether cassette tapes or VCRs), the historical precedent stretches into the history of knowledge itself, and its most pointed moments arise in the production of that which tends towards the intangible: the text. (Music, as film, remains a text in this sense.)