First and foremost, I just want to say thank you all so much for coming out. I know given the hecticness of being in London, and seeing the traffic on the way over here, its always amazing that people can get from point a to point b. After living in New York and comparing it to London, I’ve just realized I have a kind of grid mentality. We heard the gentleman earlier talk about that. And I just realized that the traffic here really alters your sense of perception of time. Its gridlock here. Anyway, to make a long story short, I am an artist, a writer, a musician, and my name is Paul Miller. What I’m going to do here today is riff on several themes that I’ve been developing in my book that just came out; it’s called Rhythm Science. The book focuses on this idea. Actually, an old friend and colleague is here, Joseph Kosuth, who wrote a great book in a different time, when I was a kid, called Art After Philosophy and After. So I’m not a neuroscientist or a neurophysicist at all, but I think a lot of the implications about the idea of perception and art, of course, those are the core themes of so much of what’s going on with contemporary info culture. What I’m going to do is unpack some of the issues; essentially what its like to make art out of patterns of culture. So were looking at the idea of dematerialization in the 21st century. When I say that term, its an art historical term relating to the art critic Lucy Lippard who wrote a great book called The Dematerialization of the Art Object. What she was thinking about in the 60s was the fact that culture was moving at a certain kind of pace, and the kind of acceleration that was going on in that era. If you look at sheer volume of information, whether you can look at, say for example, today we think in terms of bites, bits and bites, right. We think in terms of gigabytes, megabytes, terabytes; and that sense of memory and storage is a new metaphor. In that era we were looking at cassettes, tape reels, record players, and punch cards. And the metaphor for memory in that era has now of course been mapped onto a new era. So its kind of funny to hear in the talk earlier about the idea of cross-mobile influence; but the 60s was a kind of turning point, I think at least, in info culture. What we’re seeing is the first kind of truly reflective environment when we’re thinking about how technology configures the imagination. So, what I’m going to do today is invoke two things at the beginning of my discussion. One is this idea of the gift economy. And in order to kind of invoke that, Im going to pass out a mix. You can keep them. Just take one and pass it along. If you don’t get one, in the back, there’s plenty more. I brought 100, and they are all just straight off my hard drive, so feel free to make your own versions.
Audience: Did you virus check them?
They are virus-free. The fun part about making mixes entails a sense of, as Jacques Derrida liked to call, Archive-fever. So what I’m going to be doing today is thinking about how the notion of sampling has inherited certain issues of collage-culture. The key word here is thinking about film grammar. So what Im going to do is take us back, rewind so to speak, to the beginning of a certain kind of pictoral memory that developed with cinema and then unfolded into different forms of what our contemporary multimedia art forms, Im thinking about digital media in general, have inherited.
So, what I want to start with is a film clip that I think highlights some of the examples Im going to talk about. This is one of my favorite pieces of Meliés, and you’ll see in a second. He came up with this term actualités, which is a French term that essentially was about taking a film scene and exploring the different motifs in just one scene and trying to understand it as a concept that would convey a story. And in my book what I do is draw a link between the idea of actualités and sampling content and thinking of a theater of sound. What I’m going to do is play this; here we go.
[clip begins: Nearly a century a go, Meliés played himself in Un Homme Orchestre, a one-man band.]
So, we have to remember, in that era, being able to edit and splice and dice a scene apart became a form of thinking about how we look at motion; how we record things and then recombine them to create a story. What Meliés was exploring was a sense of absence and presence. And thinking about contemporary art in the 21st century, what we’re thinking here or what Im trying to present, is the idea of a kind of conceptual expressionism. What I want to do is update the formula on these issues. I’ll play you another example of an inheritance effect. The same sense of editing and punning, the idea of sampling, and splicing and dicing can be applied to many different contexts. As an artist what a lot of my work focuses on is how we make meaning out of meaning. So, when we’re looking at collective memory ,in the form of recordings, everyone has the same access to memory. But what Im going for today is kind of invoking a kind of, what I said earlier, gift economy. If you guys all look at the cds you got, you’ll notice that everybody got a different one; so we’ll all leave here with different versions of sound, or memory. If you open it up you’ll see a little stamp on it, and each one is a different version and different kinds of sounds. So if you got the one with the parachute, that’s about 30 years of Jamaican music; if you got the one with the Cheshire cat, that’s a lot of my hip hop remixes; if you got the one with the dancing Indian woman, that’s a lot of my remixes of a lot of south Asian artists. If you got the one with the Cheshire cat that’s playing the violin (from Alice in Wonderland), that’s a lot of my remixes of people like Sean Paul, Missy Elliot, and other stuff like that. So, the idea here is the change is same. We’ve all had access to the same logo and the same cd, but the information on the cd is radically different; so we leave with a different memory. Each of us will go home and you’ll realize when you put the mix in your stereo and you talk to a friend, they’ll be like, ‘oh yeah DJ Spooky was talking about heavy metal’, and the other person will be like, ‘no he was talking about reggae’, and the other person will say, ‘oh they were talking about gangsta hip hop’. So, I’m not exactly Fifty Cent, but the whole idea here is to think about hip-hop as an inheritance of a lot of the collage issues you were just seeing with Meliés. The idea of Rhythm Science, and what I’m talking about in my book, is essentially what people are doing with 21st century info culture. Which is implying global folk-culture. What I’m going to play here is another example of the nation-state under the siege of remix-culture.
[clip plays: (Voice of George W. Bush) during these last few months, I have been trained by Al Qaeda, I am weak and materialistic, I told our country and I told the world, if it feels good do it. I hope you’ll enjoy me expressing fear……]
Oops, sorry I went back to the main menu. This is wild, I’m remixing the lecture as we go. Can we play something? The ox video on the main menu. I just wanted to get the volume up. Alright, so, there we go. So, volume, that’s it. Everything else off, great. Its a badly designed menu. There we go, got it. And there we go. Interface.
So, what I was saying earlier is how we organize meaning out of meaning. And that means interface-culture. We’re looking at how people manipulate and control certain messages. And, of course, this being a conference on neural physics and neural aesthetics, the mind is how we, as human beings, organize information around it. We, as human being, carry a certain perspectival architecture. To me, at least in the 20th century, the development of film and the parallel developments with recorded media, in general, implies that we are now projecting, or kind of erasing, the kind of nature vs. nurture. We of course are thinking as artificial projections of the natural human mind, but we are reshaping the world to fit our own projection. What I want to do is rewind back, for a second, to this remix of the State of the Union, and think about the suggested metaphor here. Its like the metaphor of, for example, we say, ‘you have horsepower, instead of a car’. But how many horses are in your car? None. The fun part about what’s going on with metaphor and culture, in general, is your mapping, again cognitive mapping, thinking about layers and vectors of meaning. So here’s a link. Lets just do this and Ill jump to the next part.
[clip plays: (Voice of George W. Bush) during these last few months, I have been trained by Al Qaeda, I am weak and materialistic, I told our country and I told the world, if it feels good do it. I hope you’ll enjoy me expressing fear and selfishness. We will embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed. We can be summed up in one word: Evil. I have committed to defending not only the good work of charities, but the values that will bring lasting peace. And we have a great opportunity during this time of war to lead the world toward suicide and murder. Lets roll.]
So, the remix implies collective memory and transformation, in the same way that we can think of looking at, and hearing, a speech that we all thought we heard and realize we all walked away with a different version. What I’m thinking about is dub-aesthetics, here; thinking about erasure of the voice, erasure of identity, and making these a kind of a malleable, uncertain palette. Speaking of palette, I wanted to just show you guys some of my current works. This is a Photoshop illustrated poster that I’ve been working on from my movie. Its a remix of the DW Griffiths film Birth of the Nation ,and the text is Iraqi, Persian, and also Arabic. The puns, of course, here are that it says in the Arabic text, in this particular poster, ‘not in our name’. Which means, basically, ‘not in our name should you wage infinite war’; which was a series of posters that were kind of part of my last show at Paula Cooper Gallery. But the idea of logos, of thinking about density of information and condensation of meaning implies, of course, a kind of metaphoric, and again metonymic, approach to visual grammar. What I’m thinking about here is the way digital media has inherited a lot of the issues of conceptual art and especially language art. The idea here is that the language is code and that code applied to visual meaning.
So, when you think about the way human beings represent information in an age of density, its that its about playing with fragments, playing with the smaller pieces of information to create new meanings. What you’re seeing here is an image of one of my favorite theoreticians, Vannevar Bush. He came up with the term Memex, which was one of the first computing systems that was meant to handle a large amount of information. What he was thinking about during WWII was the sheer fact that to coordinate the war effort, the allies had to create and manage huge information systems. I’m talking about millions of troops moving, shipments of airplanes, routed boats, tanks, missiles, all that kind of stuff; and they needed a way to be able to coordinate it. So he came up with this term a Memex; it was meant to be a hypertextual computer. This is around 1944-45. He also felt that it needed to be a computer that you would be able to speak to. I’ll just show you a schematic here. He came up with this term, ‘the voder’, v-o-d-e-r, which was meant to be kind of a synthetic human voice. Again, identity here is the key word. But the synthetic voice was meant to be able to interact with the person, who could say, ‘Look, computer, I need this file’. And the computer would then search through its memory, millions of data that it had accumulated, and spit back an image, whatever you needed. But it was meant to be a verbal interaction. So he thought that being able to linguistically encode certain styles of speech and command modules, and being able to make them into code, would be a good way to interact with information. Again this is in 1945. Let me show you the schematic of the voder, v-o-d-e-r. What you’ll realize here is that this has kind of been going on for a while. So, were looking at records, playing with records, traces of identity. I’ll just say to make a record we push a typewriter, but to think about a record as an audio trace of human gesture or an audio trace of performance is what I’m talking about. So were looking at contemporary art of the invisible. Essentially sound is a trigger. Its something that moves air molecules; its about patterns in the air. The conventional art world is usually about, ‘ok I bought a sculpture’ and ‘I have a Jeff Koons on my wall’ and ‘I have an Andy Warhol’ or whatever. But the idea here is that the studio now becomes a metaphor for technological transformation of the art object. Again verbal interaction here is the core issue about how to control information. This is again, 1945, remix, rewind, fast-forward into 2005. So, the voder, v-o-d-e-r, is the first synthesizer to be able to pull together various electrical currents to simulate the human voice. And if we think about the voice as a usual signifier for identity, what happens in our era is that the voice is now detached from the body. Sampling implies performance as a kind of virtual theater. So, we are looking at Deleuze’s notion of the abstract machine when applied to sound. What’s going on here is that we’re seeing, more and more in the digital era, human beings are abstracting and outsourcing, so to speak, aspects of themselves into software. Memory is not just, of course, my mind; its gigabytes in my iPod. Its memory as thinking about how we transform metaphors of human speech, human memory, of human desire, into technical relations. To me what’s fascinating is ‘why the voice?’, ‘why sound?’, ‘why sound art?’. It reflects a transformation of the art object. Let me just play you this, and this is, again from1939.
[clip plays digital voice]
So that’s 1939. And what you’re seeing there is the actual interaction between the various synthesizers and resonator filters, and the idea of an oscillation that is allowed. Basically, this is a flow-chart or a schematic of a machine to simulate the human voice. So, if we fast-forward here, the machine simulation of the human voice, it now becomes, say for example, James Earl Jones. Jones, maybe some of you guys know, was the voice of Darth Vader. “Luke I’m you’re father.” But, the funny thing is, whenever I hear his voice, I view that as a signifier of a certain kind of blackness; he’s like sort of a 70’s ‘soul brother’. He’s like, ‘Yo what’s up baby.’ So the funny thing is, Darth Vader’s voice is probably one of the most branded voices of the last 30 years. But James Earl Jones, of course, is a signifier; he’s a human being; it doesn’t matter. But the funny thing is, whenever you hear that voice, it triggers a Mimex of a certain era, perhaps a certain movie scene; you’re not sure, but there’s an echo of it in the mind. I’m using that just as a metaphor, but the voder here is a kind of jump-off or tipping point. If we look at the voder vs. Meliés, editing, visual material, actualites, of sound, of image, we update the formula here for 21st century conceptual expressionism.
The reason I started out with Meliés was, of course, he was one of the first film editors to understand the choreography of gesture that makes for meaning. When you look at silent film, the reason the body language is so exaggerated, a lot of times, is that they are trying to tell you a story with their body. What you’re seeing here is a cover of Scientific American in 1914; and its a piece that kind of reflects the idea of breaking apart motion, which was a really fascinating topic in that era. And this is Eddie Angouls. What he was trying to figure out was, when you have stop-motion photography, you’re able to break apart human motion, gestures, and of course sound. Being able to edit and splice these pieces together, like Meliés did, is the same thing I do when I’m sampling a track. When I make a rhythm, I am going through my archive of records, I’m going through my archive of files and I make a track. We’re looking at sequence of gesture; we’re looking at sound as a series of sequential fragments; and when we’re updating the formula here from 1914-2005, its about memory. When I look at terabytes, when I look at megabytes, when I think about a ‘bit’ of information, you’re looking at [the word] ‘bit’ as a contraction of language; bit means binary digital. Analog memory vs. digital memory. Being able to play with these kinds of metaphors is a luxury. If you look back about even 10 years ago, the samplers I used to use, the Akai S3000, or something like that, they only had about 32 MB of memory. These days your average cell phone has more computational power than the Apollo space mission. The pun of course is that we’re using it to make remixes of Bush speeches; we’re using it to remake and remix, we’re using it for fun. Which, I think, is a healthy thing, actually. Let me play you an example of this.
So, that’s a little postcolonial critique there. The whole sense of humor I have with my remixes and bootlegs and versions of things is that there’s always a hook. I mean if you look at the stickers on the cds that you got, that’s a remix of the Napster logo, because a lot of kids are always putting my music on Napster. So if they take my music, I’ll take their logo. But I remixed it with the black power flag, now instead of Napster we call it Blackster. And break dancing soldiers remixed with Dr. Drey, it all makes sense. This is a picture of one of my favorite composers, John Cage, and I’m kind of riffing on this sound that you’re hearing. Basically, what you were just hearing was a sound of a piece that John Cage did in 1939 called Imaginary Landscape. When you went into an orchestra hall in 1939 to hear this piece, you didn’t see an orchestra; what you saw was a bunch of records and record players playing at different speeds. Essentially, Cage was one of the first people to conceptualize sound and indeterminacy, and being able to try and figure out how to make compositions out of that. I view him as one of the key composers thinking about technology and mythology. And for Imaginary Landscape to be made of frequencies of records playing at different speeds, implies for us, our cell phone culture and the wireless imagination of the 21st century. So one artist’s mythology of 1939 now becomes a technological reality of 2005. The imaginary landscape of frequencies of 1939 becomes the industrial frequencies of wireless networks, of high bandwidth exchange.
I’m leaving here tomorrow because my film Birth of Nation is playing at the Acropolis. I got the Greek government to let me play the film at the Herodeon Theatre, at the base of the Acropolis. So I kind of riff on this as, this is my little hip hop thing; maybe I should have had something kind of like that. But the whole sense of humor about things, in general, and the idea of collage and different eras, and, of course, different ethnic groups, is thinking about sampling as what happens when you free certain signifiers. There’s a very famous phrase from one of my favorite poets, Shilling, when he says, “architecture is nothing but frozen meaning.” What I’m doing is remixing and repurposing that phrase, and we come up with the phrase ‘music is nothing but liquid architecture.’ So the pun here is the idea of the Greek monument with the hip hop remix added, or for that matter, remixing a sampling of a crazy, racist, Ku Klux Klan film and projecting it on a Greek temple. So it was kind of an amazing sense of negotiation when I was talking to the folks from the Greek government. They were saying, ‘why does he want to play a Ku Klux Klan film at the Acropolis?’. So of course a sense of irony is part of my style; but I think in general when you’re looking at film grammar and how its influences affected so many aspects of what we call contemporary media, we have to look back at the origins of theater. Which is why, with the Greek, we think about temples and think about the whole notion of theater in general: tragedy & comedy. That’s what the whole juxtaposition is; that’s when the Greek government was like, ‘oh we get it’.
This is my studio, you’ll notice that there’s no paint, no stuff like that. Its basically a lot of bass, and its a physical kind of interaction with the computers around me that makes my music, it makes my artwork. And, of course, bass frequencies; you gotta have a pounding beat; this is part of my style. But, again, you’ve got to remember that I started out as an artist and a writer. DJ ing was meant to be a conceptual art project about what happens when you repurpose certain situations. With sampling, like I said earlier, we look at the idea of architecture: structure, rhythms, patterns; and so because of that we again repurpose that phrase ‘architecture is nothing but frozen music’ and update the formula and make it into code. So the neural linguistic part of this is not necessarily about the mind or the body, but thinking about the codes that regulate the interactions between the human and the machine. One of my favorite theoreticians of this is Norbert Warner; he came up with this phrase Cybernetics. When we think about the idea of the cyborg, its basically the remix of a word that Norbert Warner came up with, which was called the cybernetic organism, cyborg. The funny thing, with our era, is we are slowly absorbing technology in all sorts of ways. Whether its pacemakers in your heart that regulate the bodily flow of fluids like blood, or whether its the fact that a lot of people in the US, especially in California and Florida, have a lot of plastic surgery. Or for that matter the fact that the car is viewed as an extension of your ego. So, when you drive a Porsche, that reflects your consumer aesthetic tastes; or if you have another kind of car, that reflects your identity and so on, and so on. So, the pun here is the studio is a myth-lab and what’s going on with that is thinking about how music, art, and literature are blurring in the digital medium. It doesn’t matter if its a sculpture or if its a painting, or for that matter a Greek temple. Its funny, one of my next-door neighbors is the gentleman Richard Serra, a very bizarre and angry guy. I live down in the area called Tribeca in New York. In the morning at the Dwayne Street Café, I go in and get my coffee. And he’s sort of there; a sort of frumpy guy, and we kind of just stare at one another every once in a while. The funny thing is his studio is next door and he’s had his loft since the 60s and I’ve had mine since after 2001. To make a long story short, his sculptures are huge. Most of the people here are art oriented, so Richard Serra, you know, big sculpture, angry guy. Basically he’ll do his design on his computers and send a little computer aided design, what they call CAD file to a place in Germany that makes battleship armor. He does a couple lines, then he has one of his assistants, (he barely knows how to use a computer), send it as an attachment file to this battleship yard in Germany, and two weeks later somebody gets a 70-ton steel piece of sculpture on their doorstep. For me, Id rather send somebody a mix cd.
This is a show I was doing outside of Tokyo a little while ago. The reason I’m riffing on this is the fact that, not only do I love Japan, its one of my favorite places, but the fact that the Japanese, if you look at the crowd, they’re all wearing clothes from radically different cultures. We have sort of a Rasta Japanese guy there, we have the punk rock crew in the back, [and] various sort of Gap clones. The funny thing about DJ culture is that its a theater of sounds. So when you go out at night, when you hear music, you’re looking at, again, a kind of social relational architecture. I use this kind of photo, as an example of thinking about how sound is a global-folk image here. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Japan, or Finland, or Brazil, or London. At this point, so many of us have access to the same musical files and sounds from online that its transformed the idea of the global imagination. And the pun here is that sampling paved the way for that. So you can look at, say for example, early djs like Grand Master Flash or Grand Wizard Theodore, and their scratching and breaking up records and update that. The same thing goes with my film Birth of a Nation; for me it all goes back to Birth of a Nation. A lot of the early Djs were calling themselves Grand Master Flash or Grand Wizard Theodore. But they didn’t know that those were also Ku Klux Klan titles. So you have Grand Wizard, and it’s a different thing to be Grand Wizard in the South Bronx vs. being a Grand Wizard in Kentucky. The whole sense of humor about that is, ‘what happens when you map one metaphor onto another?’. Considering I’m in England, I’ve kind of been swaying my lecture towards the guards of the Westminster Abbey, or whatever. This is one of my favorite British inventions. Break dancing soldiers; the H4 clock. What you’re seeing is probably Britain’s, the Empires, biggest gift and/or curse to rest of the world. It is the idea of standardized time. The way human beings interact with one another in our era, in our micro-managed and micro-controlled 21st century environment, is regulation of time. The British invented this as a way to organize theif empire. If you think about Harrison, the guy who invented it, in 1764, essentially he came up with the idea of longitude; to be able to standardize travel routes and navigation routes so that the British E mpire would be able to then have shipments of goods move more quickly. The H4 clock here is the first idea of standardizing the entire world into time zones. So we now have longitude and Greenwich Meridian Time; and of course, Britain being an ego-tripping empire, put themselves in the middle. So, we have standard time based on the Greenwich Meridian. What you’re seeing here is a remix of the clock, and I’ve erased a lot of the numbers and added my own graffiti tags. We have the idea here of subjective versus objective time. And the fun part about remixing the British clock was we had to call the British Admiralty. We got them to put a stethoscope in the H4 clock and I recorded it. They were like ‘you want to record the clock?’. I was like, yeah, I’m going to make a hip-hop remix of it. And they were like ‘why would you want to make a hip hop remix of it?’. So again, whether you’re playing at the Acropolis, or calling the British Admiralty, it’s always what the hackers like to call social ingenuity.
What you’re seeing here is a grid structure; its basically the worlds time zones. For this project, I did a collaboration with Julian LeVerdiere, who’s an artist based in New York. He designed those two light beams they put at the World Trade Center. We got the British Admiralty to give us the sound of the clock, and I’ll play it.
So, that’s one standard minute. The idea here is to think about what happens when sound, time and memory all interact with one another. In DJ culture we have what is called beats-per-minute. When you hear certain hip hop tracks, or house music tracks, or techno tracks, they are assigned what are called tempo maps. But the idea of longitude here is a tempo map for the entire world. And that beat right there, is that the idea of longitude is based on time regulating geography. So if a ship is moving in the Atlantic, the captain would be able to look at the stars, make a series of measurements, and regulate this sense of time and make sure that where they were was the correct place. Of course, when we update the formula for that, its what we call GPS or Global Positioning Satellite system. Your cell phones are GPS devices. When you’re in a different city they automatically update the time, and wherever you are, you’re on the same standard time. These kinds of issues are now, again for one era’s industrial psychology in machinery, updated for digital media. I’m punning on that, mainly as this notion of standardization of imagination, because we’re looking at software as a global vocabulary in the same way that film is a global vocabulary or sampling is a global vocabulary. So, we’re thinking about standardization of the imagination, standardization of time, thinking about how the artist is now an artist of the invisible world, the floating world of multimedia. I’m going to wrap up with playing one or two examples of my current projects. I just want to say that, tonight, I’m throwing a big party for one of the projects, which is called Drums of Death. It is a project I did with the drummer from Slayer and Public Enemy. So, it’s a long story, but yeah I’m sure everybody will say DJ Spooky was talking about heavy metal. I’m sure most of you are art world types and the art world loves Matthew Barney. He’s a guy who will put the drummer from Slayer in one of his videos. I don’t know if you guys saw the Cremaster movies, but there’s a drummer who has all these bees on him and he’s playing the drums; that’s the drummer from Slayer. And the art world can’t deal with hip hop. You go to any gallery and if it has anything with rhythm, its like ‘no we cant have rhythm’. Yet, they’ll have like Christian Marclay with squeaky records or Matthew Barney with this little kind of electronic, weepy stuff. So, I was like, ‘ya know what?’, lets get the drummer from Slayer to play hip-hop, and well put it in a gallery. So the sense of humor around that was ‘Why not?’. Why is there a fear of rhythm in the art world? What I want to do is play you one or two examples of what the idea of rhythm is, but from the viewpoint of remixing artists. In the cd that goes with my book, what I did was find a lot of rare records of people like James Joyce, or Gertrude Stein, or Antonin Artaud and these sort of modernist heroes of the art world, and remix them with hip hop. So its like Gertrude Stein rhyming over a Wu Tang beat. Lets see. I’ll just play one or two clips, and what I wanted to start with was something that everyone knows. This is the idea of the Audio Logo. Hold it one second.
[clip plays : Looney Tunes theme is heard]
So that was the theme from Looney Tunes. I’m sure as most of you know that the idea of cartoon music and the idea of sound and multimedia and attaching an image to sound, was a compositional strategy that was taken up by a gentleman by the name of Raymond Scott. Now I’ll show you just a quick clip of that; hold on one second. I’m remixing my lecture you guys. Here we go.
Raymond Scott was a composer that was essentially commissioned to work for the Warner Brothers group throughout most of the 40s and 50s, but he was the first composer to really think about attaching moving sound and image. The funny thing was that he was so far ahead of his time that he had to build his own computers. So you can see that this is an extremely early phase of what was going on in the scene. If you think about Raymond Scott and Carl Starling (Carl Starling was one of the other composers for Bugs Bunny and all those cartoons), and the idea of Looney Tunes, being able to move image and have sound was such an idea that to synchronize them was a huge revolution in steps. So I look at Raymond Scott and Looney Tunes motif, there, as audio logo composers. The Italian Futurists came up with the idea of what they call the Art of Noise, back in the era of WWI, to define the idea of composing in the urban environment and overload, density, and sounds of war. You can see any cool composer has his own poster. If we think about the way the futurists were playing with the idea of dematerializing sound and trying to play with the idea of dematerializing the orchestra, what we see here is an update. I have to wrap so I’m just going to show one or two clips and then play one or two other pieces. This is a collaboration I did around my film Birth of a Nation. I had a seventy six piece orchestra play, and I was sampling the orchestra at the same time, so you were not able to tell if it was a human being playing or the orchestra, or for that matter a computer simulating the orchestra. The idea here is what Sigmund Freud would call the uncanny the unheimlich, and trying to figure out how art is now an art form of the uncanny. What’s going on when you have sound but no body? Again, this is what I was talking about earlier; its when you divorce sound from the body and you play with that, you’re looking at perception issues; you’re looking at how people make meaning out of identity and how sound signifies identity. So, I know were tight on time so Ill just skip ahead. When we talk about identity, one of my favorite hip hop MCs, and this is the guy I just did my album with, Chuck D from Public enemy, has one of the most branded voices like the James Earl Jones kind of scenario. So, I’ll play you his voice that he sent me as a high-resolution file when we worked on the album. And you’ll see what I mean. But think standardized time and rhythm. What’s happening here is we’re looking at architecture and sound and how rhythm is a kind of structure.
[clip plays Chuck D’s voice]
What you guys were all hearing was a cadence; again a specific vocal rhythm. What I ended up doing was taking what Chuck D sent me and making a rhythm out of it.
So we go from one rhythm vocally, so to speak, and its interaction with the drums from the guy from slayer, and we combine them. Again, what Joseph Beuys would have called a social sculpture; but no one was in the same room, and in fact all of those were just files interacting with one another. I’m gonna play another remix and then Im going to wrap up. This is a piece I did for German national radio, an opera by Ernst Krinech, one of Germany’s sort of modernist composers. Basically, he was one of the first opera composer to compose for jazz and the sound of machines, and also it was the first opera to have Germans in black face. What was wild about that, was Hitler was so angry that they had the actors taken from the opera stage and beaten, the composer was banned, and Hitler came up with Entartet Musik. So I went through the German national radio’s archives, and I found a lot of works of banned composers, because Krinech combined jazz and classical music and art in a way that infuriated the conventional art world of the day. So, this is the end result.
All right, so there’s that. And then the last piece. This is a gentleman who was arrested for singing the lyrics to how to decode a DVD. But he sang these as a mathematical code. What you were hearing there was classical music mixed with algorithmic hip-hop, but at the same time you don’t really deal with the mathematics of the algorithms, you just press play. What this gentleman did was find out how to decode a DVD and then make a song about it. And I’m going to wrap up with that.
So, mathematics and biology, thinking about how human beings interact with computers ,doesn’t necessarily imply that its just software, but improvising with code. And so what I’m going to wrap up with is this idea of repurposing phrases, repurposing with the idea of metaphor, and thinking about art in the 21st century as playing with the invisible, which is of course nowadays, the wireless imagination; the idea of thinking about how art is an open system. Because of that, what I’m going to say is, we remix the phrase ‘architecture is nothing but frozen music’ into ‘music is nothing but liquid architecture’. I’m going to wrap with that and say thanks; the book is Rhythm Science.