The record industry is in the process of being outflanked by means of
the very processes that it has come to rely upon. Since the 60's its continual
efforts to create new needs has meant that it nurtured an everchanging
musical soundscape that is now mutating at such a pace that it cannot
keep track long enough to harness these musical evolutions in the direction
of profit. That fact that it doesn't achieve this harnessing has the remarkable
effect of making the 'new' last longer! A longevity that comes from our
always being able to place ourselves amidst a continual re-definition
of these sounds. Even in terms of format, the profit-orientated shift
to a CD market which may have meant that back-catalogues could be re-sold
has also worked to deliver an on-line tap of musical history at the same
time that vinyl pressing has become cheaper. These and other factors feed
into the accelerating mutation that in turn creates a dissatisfaction
with what the industry can offer.
Advancements in technology have meant that all manner of equipment is
now available for re-appropriation by whoever has the time to learn how
to use, re-define, misuse and re-wire it. That there can no longer be
any "one sound" around which music is organised means that everything
is potential material to a practice that no longer calls itself music.
Indeed, the former categories that were alloted to different musics, now
only make sense as a means of division, a consumer yardstick. From the
guitar we have moved through sampling technology, turntables, tape, analogue
and digital keyboards, from Rock, Disco, Punk through Techno, Jungle and
Trip-Hop[ to an indiscernable melange that creates further possibilities
for interaction as well as enhanced and de-legitimated conditions of reception.
Both of these escape the institutional control of the industry and the
media and in so doing, the means to escape the "dominant repressive models"
of an inherited subjectivity have been forged.
Ever since 'music' got rid of the necessity for lyrics, the predominance
of an electronic based music of texture, unrestricted tonality, timbral
density, and rhythmic paroxysm, meant that it was liberating those who
heard it to listen more closely to the rhythms and sounds they did not
recognise. Happening in the context of dance music means that this process
of heightened listening was essential as it was cerebral and because these
sounds took people in un-heard of directions they became situated as part
of a collective desire that pre-disposed them to each other, inspiring
movements towards new forms of collectivity. The liberation of the listener,
through dance, lead not only to a growing sociality, the collective memory
of tracks, but to an increased confidence necessary for the continual
perpetuation of these desires for discovery and self-creation.
As a consequence there are more people making music now than at any time
before and awareness of this amongst composers has led to an international
explosion of small label activity. These people have heard the tired tales
of music scene has-beens and rather than choose competition, exposure
and the labour of 'success' they have decided to operate outside these
constraints and do their own thing. Similar to and inspired by the free-party
scene, small-run pressings of records are passed around through underground
distribution networks at a level that eludes even the most 'specialist'
of record shops. In the slipstream of this there has been the rise of
an experimental attitude: no longer needing to conform to what is expected
and 'understood' means that there has been a renewed appreciation for
the idiosyncrasies of sound and the transgression of perceptual habits
these can inspire.
Meanwhile, A&R men scurry from club to gig to rave but never reach
the parties. Attracted to the music that makes sense and money they can
never hear desire. The surrogate A&R arm of the music press and style
mags are increasingly losing their role as mediators between 'unknown'
composers and the major labels. This reliance between the two to pick
up on trends and promote the 'new' is becoming laughable when the 'new'
is now passing-by unnoticed making such attempts to hold on to what has
been declared 'new', the very indication that what we read is insincere,
careerist crap. Similarly, the way these magazines always cover the same
things is an indication of their fear of different perspectives that threaten
to show how the trends are fabricated in the first place.
The Post-Media practice has been accelerated by the world-wide-web where
obsessions run rife and where there is this noticeable desire for those
driven and miniaturised activities that exist and thrive without giving
a thought to the increasingly "calm perspectives" of a transparent media.
The media, like the record industry, has become a centralised zero. Where
once magazines and labels may have acted as a filter or a means of dissemination,
market forces made all these converge on the centre-ground. The public
listens to what is made available... and what the audience happens to
listen to, since it was being offered, reinforces certain tastes (1).
Mistaken as a cutting-edge the music promoted by the media often serves
no other purpose than the maintanence of a profitable illusion. Caught
in this mystifying spiral listeners either attempt to break-loose and
do it for themselves or, having their senses dulled, become bored and
unable to orientate themselves within the media-trap of publicity and
failed promise. The latter become as dispassionate and cynical as the
columns they read, and taking their place in the aging process they see
in the next cicle of mediated-music a lack of innovation and quality.
Innovation and quality? It is interesting to see how the media, which
ostensibly sees itself as operating in opposition to "high-art", comes
to work in consort with this traditionalism, and in particular through
the way that it reinforces reactionary notions of subjectivity. Formost
among these shared techniques is the way that music, like art, is more
or less always portrayed as trancendental, as isolated from the social
conditions that produce, celebrate and receive it. This individualistic
means of relating to music is accentuated by the reliance on 'genius':
the elevation of certain individuals and the furthering of hierachic devices
in the supposedly 'free-space' of popular music. This accent on the 'unique'
can result in subduing the activities of others and in a denial of inter-relatedness
that adds up to making the practice that surrounds music invisible. Whatsmore,
this has the contingent effect of privileging the 'solitary' moment of
production over that of listening, dancing and organising which always
imply the presence of others. In this way the contagious effects of music
that can be conducted through sound are made tame. The media inhibits,
or even worse, removes desire and in so doing colludes with the capitalisation
of subjectivity... One space, one time, one person just one step ahead
of boredom and resignation.
This musical contagion has been gradually enhanced by the new conditions
of reception and no small part of this Post-Media practice has been stimulated
by the growing sense that listening is not a subordinate activity but
a process of making meaning. From headphones to speakers, the bedroom
to the party, alone yet always connected and dialoguing, listeners become
part of an autonomous, diffuse and non-institutional reception context.
This quite complex configuration means than rather than the 'new' and
the 'unheard-of' being consumed voraciously in a frenzy of consumption
they are turned into consoles that produce energy, impulsional exchanges,
and stimulate a practice of non-conceptional thought. The constant movement
this engenders can be placed in stark contrast to the way that mediatised-music
can often be a means of falling back upon what is already known, a collapsing
onto the pre-ordained terrain of the self. But if listening is taken seriously
and not maintained as a second-rate activity it can only encourage patterns
of connection and come-experience with an immediately accessible group
that shares not onlyan appreciation of the sounds but to some degree the
social-memory of them as contained within the record. Once linked in this
way the bonds of a 'new collectivity' become almost an unconscious reflex.
Not cool but supercool.
And so post-media becomes a practice that knows no bounds or discipline.
It is a web-site, a zine, a limited-run-record-label, a pirate station,
a flyer, a poster, a video circulated throught the post, the telling of
stories and news around a pub table, a distribution network of unseen
nodes, ephemeral organisations, a promulgation of fiction... It is a de-channeled,
meta-categorical social practice of cultural creation, made entirely for
and on its own terms! It is driven by desire, enthusiasm, search and connection
towards a polyphonic subjectivity! At times anything is possible. Rational
modes of discourse like journalism and writing theses which act to stabilise
and make things remain still long enough for them to become systemised
have very little sense that the music they write about is a fuel that
traverses disparate regions, bringing into collision elements from each.
Within this Post-Media practice there is an intensified re-definition
of the old dualisms of producer/consumer, subject/collective, success/failure.
In relation to the latter it can often be that in such a post-media space
respect and support is given to those who succeed in creating, at personal
cost, something that is illegitimate and dissensual. In this way judgement
of its value, whether it's good or bad, is rendered null and void. But
such scenes, operating intimately cannot afford to establish divisions:
listeners become producers, composers, dancers, writers. Everyone is involved.
All scenes are their own genre, and operating in a dispersed geographic
and sidekick space there is no sense of any one person, group or scene
being in control: it is a practice of addition without accumulation, a
group-effusion of singularity dispensing with individualism. In the past
one of the main drawbacks has been that such affirmative practices have
felt the need to be delimited as regions where protagonists should be
made visible to each other. The onset of the Web has put paid to this
by extending our expectations of communication, transposing a virtual
space of music into an actuality of intimacy (libidinal musics) and an
ever present potential for subjective change. In the words of Guattari..
It is no longer the end that matters but the 'milieu', the process becoming
processual... One does not want to enter into a pre-established program.
One tries to live the field of the possible... (2).
Title adapted from
Felix Guattari's phrase "Post-Media Era"
(1) Michel Foucault.. Foucault Live, Semiotext(e) 1989. page 393.
(2) Felix Guattari.. Guattari Reader, Ed. G.Gesonko, Blackwell 1996. page
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