“Something to remember about what we value in capitalist society.”
I don't even like listening to what I make. I don’t know if it’s worth listening to at all. I want my music to speak through to the soul inside a person, a soul which feels disconnected in the world, a soul which hungers for more knowledge. A soul which we all share, which is crushed by technical society and crushed by data and crushed by cellphones and restored only in our nature and in our nature in nature, and most importantly, I want to channel something dark, the dark part of human nature, which analyzes and attacks and dissects, which desires knowledge of the self and the soul above all else.
In the digital revolution it is easy to forget the material requirements of existence. There is no way around having to work in the material world. The digital is a world of semblances, elevated from the material, extracted from it, to float above it, overlay it and deceive you into thinking that it is solid, and real, but it only provides an overlay, interface, for you to interact with the material world, through a portal designed for you. But like all portals, or interfaces, these are systems, and systems are always incomplete, intentionally, i.e. definitionally, they must be. Because they are separated from the thing with which they interface. And so choices have to be made in their manufacture. But these choices are obscured under the functioning of the interface. And so when you strip away the interface, you can begin to examine some of the choices that have been made. But if you try to use the interface to question the interface, a really excellent, satisfying answer will be given to you by the system. It will say, here is why the things are the way they are. “Alexa, why do you…?” Do you understand? It's bigger now than it was.
The material world is more under our sway as a race, and the interfaces are not our only Platonic cave experience of the world. We’ve always been at the mercy of our systems, beginning with our senses. But at least we own our senses at the end of the day. Or at least no other person owns them. But these interfaces today, they are owned by others. And one of the things that you find with these systems, is that in their abstraction, they make a promise that they can keep in one sense and that they can't keep in another sense. The promise is ultimate transmutability. All things can be accessed from all places. Music was one of the first that I remember being abstracted in this manner. Songs are contained systems. Finite temporally, although infinite experientially. The finite portion can be tracked, analyzed, converted and transported all around the universe instantaneously. But the infinite portion, that floats above and around, and rarely descends any more...how can it? The digital code of the song has no space for it. There is no uncertainty. Its forever, forever frozen, forever limited. And by being boxed up, it can be infinitely limited out of its infinitude.
The trouble is that people disbelieve this essential fact. You can tell them, a certain medium for transfer has certain characteristics, which can be beautiful, but they believe today in the digital film which coats our material world. With enough data points, the digital film approaches the true life reality, but never actually arrives there. Most rational thinkers would accept this. But have you considered what exists in that tiny (and shrinking) gap? No one’s hands worked on the digital song. No one’s ears confirmed its essential character. It was analyzed and converted and frozen, so that it could be made less uncertain and more predictable, and more profitable. More extracted from the self and its origin impulse. Most importantly, inserted in between the listener and the speaker or artist, is a carrier, a controller, a profit-driven company that delivers. And ownership, understood as the stewardship, understood as responsibility for the furtherance of a discovery, or a knowledge, or an art, as a way we shepherd our past, is abdicated. The digital world whispers: you do not need to have learnt these things to keep them in your body.
Whiteness did this. When it abstracts something, it tells the lie that the abstracted thing is the same. When have our models ever been accurate? When have our maps of the ocean ever prevented ships from sinking? And our predictions of tomorrow, when have these ever proved correct except by chance? And yet we blind ourselves in these systems. An mp3 file is not the same as a record. An mp3 file is also not the same as a streaming service. THEY own the music. And in case we forget that, take a look at Spotify’s profit last year, compared to the artists who make their underlying commodity.
Spotify produces an interface, that is their product. A portal for interaction. One which seems to say that all is available to you, but truthfully limits so many things. Like even if they had every recorded song, which they do not, it would still be incomplete! There is more to the experience of music than accessibility. There is also: medium, culture, moment, deliverance, intimacy, privacy. And these last few, the private ones, these are a part of our enjoyment of the music. And that is lost. Or is being lost. Forgotten. Humans have lost more knowledge than we have ever stored. But we used to accept that. Part of our danger today is that abstraction has lifted us from our material realities. We still lose just as much, just as often, but we somehow believe that we are saving it all. This is true death, more so than being simply forgotten. Today we erase even our forgetting to further the myth that our great data revolution has preserved all things.
I began this by wanting to get to a central point. That my lesson has been an experience of in-transmutability. In my whiteness, my male agressions, my talent of acquiring and understanding, I have looked at all things as being accessible to me. But that accessibility is almost a tyranny. Because it provides access to one thing, and discloses the possibility of access to many other things.
I think about both church and drinking wine. It is the being there of church which produces power. The community. Even if you analyzed a preacher and repeated his every word, it would not hold the same power. Because it is the being there that is the product, that is the key. That is what contains the beauty. And you think about concerts being the primary money makers for bands. But this too is not an affirmation of being there- because the phones and instagrams are so intensely tied into the proving of the experience. The desire to capture. It’s like millenials’ goal is to capture and freeze all the beauty in the world. It’s not our fault, but it is true. We have grown into not consumers or producers but a third thing. Something else. Something which analyzes the value of a thing and then in fear of losing it, seeks to fix it into place. And the world we are building for ourselves is designed to remove any spaces which still have material autonomy. How can I live my life without google invading my every sense of private space? There is no way. The tyranny of the transmutable, and the ease of delivery, seem to promise a secure and beautiful future.
But there is something which can happen to us when we close off ourselves to precision and analysis. I mean, I don't want our car manufacturers or our scientists to cease their precise analysis. But why should the rest of the world remain slaves to their vision of the world? It’s not that it is wrong, it’s obviously largely correct. But it is not the only piece of our existence that we should laud. It is power incarnate. The transferability of all things implies massive power. But it’s false power. It is only power over one slice, but it is sold as power over the entire pie. There is not truth in it at all. Only semblance and seeming. And it’s not that I think that it is fragile, on the contrary, it is the most robust system we have ever built as a race. But I want us to stop the obsession. To take a step back and let it come into better balance in our lives. These tools are our overlords. We devote every resource we have to making them more powerful, more transmutable, more profitable for the overlords. And as in years past, the overlords will not cease to destroy everything we love if it brings them more control and power. The writers have told this lesson before. And it did not come from nothing. This lesson came from experience and observations. Accept that.
Back to drinking wine. If I told you a computer had analyzed a wine down to .002% accuracy of its molecular structure and now was going to reproduce the file and print a new wine and you would have to determine which was the original and which the print...I think we will always fail this test. For this reason: Comparing and contrasting and analyzing are a part of our being which can be easily fooled. We look, taste, smell, feel for finite data points to produce our determination. We built computers to handle much greater data than we can. So to analyze a digitally produced copy of a thing, by grabbing sensory data points and running them through our processing center, we will be unlikely to taste the gaps in the computer’s production. But the beauty of good wine is in the journey it takes you on. The way it can surprise. How even if you open a bottle and instantly know many things about the wine, the thing you do not know is the experience of tasting it. And let’s not lose sight of the fact that that is why we drink wine. To share it. To experience it. To be taken away. And we have to hold on to the spiritual belief that what transports us is something outside of our analytical selves. We won’t even know if we have lost it, because today that loss would be covered up with promises about what we have preserved.
If you haven’t tried to make art, then shut the fuck up, your opinion about whether or not an art can transport and whether or not a digital analog of that art can transport just as well… just stop. You have no idea, because you are not open to experience outside your frame of reference. You fall into the white man’s power trap, whereby all the world is open to your voracious rapacity of analysis and intellect. I’m not saying you will not be powerful, you will be, but I am saying you will miss out on part of the spiritual beauty of existence.