Nostalgia, Transactive Memory, Gladwell & Herndon...

I recently stumbled across Malcolm Gladwell's brilliant Revisionist History Podcast, which I've been consuming voraciously on slow sojourns across London. As a social anthropologist-cum-critical theorist, I've become even more enamored since hearing his lucid reflections committed to audio format. Its' vital, pertinent listening - and a finessed exercise in discourse which directly challenges the reductionist rhetoric of the newsfeed.

Amid the incredible material on offer, one episode struck me as personally resonant, in which Gladwell touches on the idea of transactive memory, or the notion that individuals in a collective / relationship effectively act as storehouses or portals of a kind of collective memory system - at once holding and forming a more complex memory system. I'm new to the concept, but it feels fascinating to me - a notion which dovetails into my studies into 'hauntology' and nostalgia.

Here's Malcolm Gladwell speaking a little more about this....

And some further reflections on the notion of nostalgia, from Holly Herndon, who's work I find wonderfully populist in the very best of ways.

How do transactive memory systems serve to invent orthodoxies in arts practice? There's so much to unpack here - more questions than answered. Gladwell's reflections on transactive memory and Winston Churchill are fascinating..
 

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

Nostalgia can also lead into certain kinds of orthodoxy within genre, and I think that gets really dangerous. Once you create this entire rule structure of what something’s supposed to be like, that’s when I get completely bored and turn off. I’m more interested when things are mixed up and mashed up and people are able to experiment outside of orthodoxy. I’m not completely anti-nostalgia, but it’s not really a sensibility that I strongly play into. I think we can find new forms and new paradigms.
— Holly Herndon

Deepchild v The Specials "Racist Friend"

It's been a big month. After bouncing from Australia to London to Copenhagen to Berlin and back now to London, I'm soundly ensconced in the bosom of Hackney, head-down in audio production for Sample Magic and others (check out my recent Lo-Fi Techno sample pack here) and slowly acclimatizing to life in the UK, forging connections and dusting off the burnished pipes of pedagogy along the way.

Loads coming up, including a cameo at the Ableton LOOP Conference in a couple of months, as well as the usual mix of gigs, audio commissions an lecturing work around the place.

Meanwhile, I thought given the current state of world politics, I'd dig up and make available a cover version I produced of The Specials "Racist Friend", some years ago. Enjoy.

Deepchild Sound Design - Moussy Studiowear Japan

Some new Deepchild sound-design work (feat. the wonderful voice of Jessica O'Donoghue for Moussy Studiowear, Japan)....

MOUSSY STUDIOWEAR 8/25(FRI)Debut.
___________________________________________
8/25(FRI) より、ファッション性とトレンドのスポーツテイストをMIXしたMOUSSYの新たなライン
【MOUSSY STUDIOWEAR】がデビュー。

これに先がけ、スペシャルムービーをOfficial Webサイトにて公開中。
ぜひ、【MOUSSY STUDIOWEAR】の世界観をお楽しみくださいませ。
___________________________________________
STUDIOWEAR は『鏡に映る自分のための服』というコンセプトのもと
スタジオで鏡に向かい合い、日々自問自答を繰り返しながら、
自分自身の限界を常に超えて戦っている人を
応援したいという願いを込めて作られた新ラインです。

鏡の中にいる自分自身を好きになることで自分でも
気付かなかった、秘めたポテンシャルを引き出すことができる。
Fashionには、そういう力があると
MOUSSYは信じています。
『How Long? My Satisfaction』
どのくらい?自分自身が満足するまで。。。。
今回はダンサーなら誰しもが感じる心の葛藤を
ダンサーMIUさんに表現、演じて頂きました。

STUDIOWEARのグラフィックは全て反転しており、鏡の中の自分だけが正しい文字として読むことができます。

Fashionの力を全ての人へ。
#MOUSSYSTUDIOWEAR
#MOUSSY

特設サイトはこちら
http://www.moussy.ne.jp/studiowear/#news

A New Deepchild Sample Pack for Sample Magic

I've very much enjoyed working with Sample Magic for several years now - producing audio loops, Ableton Live presets and more. I'm more than excited to finally launch my most recent offering, which we've (perhaps somewhat generically) called "Lo-Fi Techno". As with most of my work, it really is an extension of my work, study and musical output. In other words, these sample packs (others of which include Analogue Techno and Analogue House are really representative of the kinds of material you'll hear on my albums as both Acharné and Deepchild.

These packs are, of course, royalty free to use - in other words, by purchasing, you are infact free to use them in your own productions without purchasing additional publishing / licensing rights.

With this in mind, I hope that for fans, students and producers alike, they add something to the collective collaborative musical experiment. Whether or not they end up on big room releases like this or this or are just fun to mess around with, I'm so excited to be able to release these into the world.

Naturally, I'd LOVE to hear from any of you making use of these tools, loops, instruments.

I love the experience of hearing how others 'hear' these micro-sketches, loops, noodles and hooks...

Lo-Fi Techno....

Lo-Fi Techno....


And here, a few tracks which have made great use of my production work in the past...

Acharné album feature in The Guardian...

My last album, "Innocence and Suburbia", has been receiving some wonderful press of late, most recently from the esteemed Kate Hennessy at The Guardian.

Having stepped away from Berlin for a while, it's been quite a change of cultural climate here in Australia, and I'm honored to know that (despite the lure of the beach, and our draconian 'lock out laws') this album has landed on willing ears. There's not much to add, here, but read on... a remarkable selection of fellow antipodeans are also mentioned...

"Rick Bull, better known as Deepchild, forge new ground with a new alias: Acharné. In “a radical pause to reflect on the shifting sands of a beloved city” Bull made a very lovely record, full of gently shifting sensibilities.

"Rick Bull, better known as Deepchild, forge new ground with a new alias: Acharné. In “a radical pause to reflect on the shifting sands of a beloved city” Bull made a very lovely record, full of gently shifting sensibilities.

FREE DL: Ariana - "Into You" (Deepchild Austerity-Free VIP) & 20+ more...

Amidst my constant posts about pedagogy, futurism, melancholia and neoliberalism, it's easy to lose sight of the gratuitous joy of pop music.

Ariana Grande has certainly become the subject of much focus of late - a bona-fide post-tween idol, placed front and centre in the light of the recent tragedy in Manchester. More power to her for her gracious response to the tragedy too.

Grande's work tends to be heavy on the saccharine teen-love side of things, underscored by some moment of simply superb songwriting... and (imho) a devastatingly great set of vocal chords.

Ariana is a legit singer.

Full credits for the original "Into You" can be found here which stands as one of my personal favorite pop sculptures of 2016...

I decided to take this on as a remix exercise to re-imagine a slightly deeper, more grown-up take on the original, which (to my ears) is a little heavy on an over-tooled EDM production aesthetic - which is somewhat tragic, as the original track and vocal arrangement is superb, classic pop-writing perfection.

I've offered my instrumental retake as an additional download here too - incase anyone would like to take it and make it their own (remix of a remix anyone?). I'd love to hear what other vocalists might bring to the table here. Take it and run with my blessing.....

Ultimately, "Into You" has always sounded like a backroom, bump-n-grind exercise in woozy love-making. It's the spirit I've tried to channel here - in all its 'austerity-free' glory.

Let's face it - the warmth of human bodies under low light with a little red-wine will liberate us in ways in which Thatcherism and it's acolytes could only dream of.

Deep respect to Ariana, and all those makin' love, bleedin' down the night, and shinin' on in dark times. Love, especially today for friends and familyin London, Manchester Berlin and across Europe.

I miss you all deeply. Play these loud - bonus points for anyone who sends through video evidence, which I'll gladly post here.


Here are 20 or so additional sketches / downloads from my Soundlcoud page, for any interested - a mixture of mastered, unmastered, work in progress and previously released works. And yes, that Alicia re-redux has well and truly clocked 100,000+ plays now. Who knew?

Mark Fisher - Neoliberalism & LOST FUTURES (Selected Articles)

Capitalist realism insists on treating mental health as if it were a natural fact, like weather (but, then again, weather is no longer a natural fact so much as a political-economic effect). In the 1960s and 1970s, radical theory and politics (Laing, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, etc.) coalesced around extreme mental conditions such as schizophrenia, arguing, for instance, that madness was not a natural, but a political, category. But what is needed now is a politicization of much more common disorders. Indeed, it is their very commonness which is the issue: in Britain, depression is now the condition that is most treated by the NHS.
— Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?

"When I eventually got a job as lecturer in a further education college, I was for a while elated – yet by its very nature this elation showed that I had not shaken off the feelings of worthlessness that would soon lead to further periods of depression. I lacked the calm confidence of one born to the role. At some not very submerged level, I evidently still didn’t believe that I was the kind of person who could do a job like teaching. But where did this belief come from?"

"When I eventually got a job as lecturer in a further education college, I was for a while elated – yet by its very nature this elation showed that I had not shaken off the feelings of worthlessness that would soon lead to further periods of depression. I lacked the calm confidence of one born to the role. At some not very submerged level, I evidently still didn’t believe that I was the kind of person who could do a job like teaching. But where did this belief come from?"


"Where postmodernism embraced difference and plurality, parody, and complicitous critique (to use Linda Hutcheon’s phrase), it now takes for granted this challenge and itself becomes, along with modernist styles, a frozen aesthetic, an expressionless commodity decorating the background of our life world. “Capitalism,” as he so eloquently puts it, “is what is left when beliefs have collapsed at the level of ritual or symbolic elaboration, and all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and the relics.”

"Where postmodernism embraced difference and plurality, parody, and complicitous critique (to use Linda Hutcheon’s phrase), it now takes for granted this challenge and itself becomes, along with modernist styles, a frozen aesthetic, an expressionless commodity decorating the background of our life world. “Capitalism,” as he so eloquently puts it, “is what is left when beliefs have collapsed at the level of ritual or symbolic elaboration, and all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and the relics.”


"While 20th Century experimental culture was seized by a recombinatorial delirium, which made it feel as if newness was infinitely available, the 21st Century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion. It doesn’t feel like the future. Or, alternatively, it doesn’t feel as if the 21st Century has started yet. We remain trapped in the 20th century, just as Sapphire and Steel were incarcerated in their roadside café. "

"While 20th Century experimental culture was seized by a recombinatorial delirium, which made it feel as if newness was infinitely available, the 21st Century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion. It doesn’t feel like the future. Or, alternatively, it doesn’t feel as if the 21st Century has started yet. We remain trapped in the 20th century, just as Sapphire and Steel were incarcerated in their roadside café. "


"Consider the fate of the concept of ‘futuristic’ music. The ‘futuristic’ in music has long since ceased to refer to any future that we expect to be different; it has become an established style, much like a particular typographical font. Invited to think of the futuristic, we will still come up with something like the music of Kraftwerk, even though this is now as antique as Glenn Miller’s big band jazz was when the German group began experimenting with synthesizers in the early 1970s."

"Consider the fate of the concept of ‘futuristic’ music. The ‘futuristic’ in music has long since ceased to refer to any future that we expect to be different; it has become an established style, much like a particular typographical font. Invited to think of the futuristic, we will still come up with something like the music of Kraftwerk, even though this is now as antique as Glenn Miller’s big band jazz was when the German group began experimenting with synthesizers in the early 1970s."


Source: https://www.wired.com/beyond-the-beyond/20...

When The Future Stopped - a chat with Native Instruments

I recently had a wonderful chat with Native Instruments in Berlin, about.....what happened when the future stopped.... check out the full interview here and linked below....

Perhaps in some sense, it’s a sound aesthetic reacting to the tropes of ‘realism’ or ‘authenticity’, which are the byproducts of the neoliberal sound machine. I’m not interested in the sound of a ‘real 808’, or ‘old-school’ house or techno, or ‘authentic’ tape saturation. These technologies were so vital because they sprung from a time when the ‘future’ was still being invented, and so often now we look ‘back to the future’ which never came to pass.

"the black wave of Lardossa..."

The Crossroads - Musings On Archetypes, Depression & Arts Practice Pt.1

You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
That I got the crossroad blues this mornin’, Lord, babe, I’m sinkin’ down
— - Robert Johnson

I was recently asked by a colleague to offer up some reflections on the topic of depression, and I seek to offer some initial musings on the subject below.

In typical style, these are more a selection of personal conjecture, grounded in curiosity, anecdote, speculation.
I speak primarily from personal experience as a performer, though now also as a curious academic, navigating my way through a very real, complex bunch of conditions. I hope you'll forgive my verbosity.

---

The myth of the 'tortured artist' is intimately enmeshed with the official histories of the Colonialist / Judeo Christian arts canon.

From St John Of The Cross to Vincent Van Gough, the image of an isolated practitioner (usually male), battling an eternal 'dark night of the soul' is a familiar one.

It's also a myth effectively repurposed, in subtle, but somewhat different light by the multitude 'liberation theologies' across the African Musical Diaspora, which have quietly derailed 'white spiritual individualism' from the vantage point of a marginalised majority.

Examined elegantly in books like Lewis Hyde's "Trickster Makes This World" (for those interested in further reading) we encounter the archetype of the 'trickster / shaman', cosmically fucking with the earnest and morally assured - usually with pants around his ankles, laughing loudly all the while.

On one side of pop history we might encounter the sorts of self-negating archetypes embodied by Sid Vicious, Leonard Cohen, Metallica or Hillsong Church.... on the other, George Clinton, Sun Ra, Fela Kuti, Drexciya, Linton Kwesi Johnson - and (of course!) so many nuanced shades in between, particularly in emergent digital community.

I realise I'm painting very clumsy brush strokes here, but you get the idea... I hope.

These individuals are far richer, more complex and nuanced than their public personas might suggest - and this is central to my thesis. The public persona of the artist is a product of industry, as much as reality. And this industry needs blood, hysteria and drama in order to fund itself.

I'm fascinated by examining projections -  spectres of the real; in diving a little deeper beneath the surface waters to discover richer cultural oceans they've sprung from.

"The current ruling ontology denies any possibility of a social causation of mental illness. The chemico-biologization of mental illness is of course strictly commensurate with its depoliticization. Considering mental illness an individual chemico-biological problem has enormous benefits for capitalism." - Mark Fisher, from "Capitalist Realism"

I think it could be worthwhile to unpick how populist archetypes frame and condition our experience as arts-workers, as I believe that the exercise might help offer up useful tools for self-reflextion, as we examine the reality that sometimes 'music' might actually be making us sick...

I'll touch on industry economics in subsequent posts.... though studies like the above from helpmusicians.org.uk are indicative of real systemic problems and workplace realities facing many arts-workers.

I contend that this culture of real-world struggle is in fact fed and inflamed by the sorts of 'transcendent' narratives embedded in contemporary music culture - many the results of a particular flavour of post-war individualism.

Is there an alternative paradigm beyond the 'vocational / transcendent' we might imagine? I think so.

For musical traditions (eg Sufi, South American, Japanese) beyond the direct influence of the 'gospel' legacy, the image of the artist 'martyr' is often supplanted by that of an artist 'shaman' - two very different embodiments of performative suffering - and perhaps even subsequent collective 'deliverance'.

The former archetype sits alongside its twin sibling of the Buddhist 'hungry ghost' - both the martyr and hungry ghost seeking deliverance through either deprivation / isolation or over-consumption / grandstanding. Twin heads of the "Janus of illusory separation", to mix somewhat awkward metaphors.

The latter shamanic archetype of the might in fact be deemed a community asset - part priest, yet less invested in personalisation of, 'art as moral product', leaning instead toward 'art as process'.

In a public arts (read performative!) roll, many of us find ourselves embodying / exploring both incarnations at various times .....at least when it comes to writing press-releases....

----

Guilt and shame.

These twin currencies both tussle throughout the canon (I kissed a girl and I liked It!), and offer great grit for the pop mill. And yet.... I often wonder if the construct of the 'fucked up artist' invoking these notions is in part just self-actualising convenience -  a marketing construct designed to precluding mature engagement with them.

Drama, at its most base level, lubricates our new media economy - from Donald Trumps vitriolic Tweets, to speculations about Katy Perry's mental decline. It's intentional stuff, and it serves to further fortify existing arts archetypes - imbuing them with bankable neurosis.

You get the gist.

I offer this as someone whose life has been legitimately marked by actual 'depression', in addition to extreme privilege; the latter concession offered as a way of demarking 'vanilla' struggle from the kind of claustrophobic, illogical terror which pays heed to neither class nor circumstance.

I say this, also,  as someone who's made some decent work  from the bowels of mental exhastion*, yet who feels now that I have little interest in imbuing struggle with any implicit moral value.

No one has a monopoly on suffering - but it might just be in our collective interest to examine boldly why arts-culture tends to elevate it.

I contend that if we genuinely seek to unpick the romanticism of 'suffering for art', we might actually find some useful ways of ameliorating the struggles of actual depression - some very concrete tools and strategies. We might also benefit from some harsh scrutiny of the traditions (religious and economic) which perversely lionize 'struggle' for its own sake - or rather, for the sake of cultivating a sort of 'spiritual scarcity' - one satiated by consumption.

To cite a caricatured example, the central premise of talent shows like X-Factor, posits that those who 'succeed', or 'triumph', or 'win' (note the language of exceptionalism here) are inevitably validated due to their perceived struggles. These earnest struggles (be they suicidal inclinations, financial disenfranchisement, personal loss, health issues) are often legitimate, yet the exploitation of them by cultural industry feels indicative of malevolent shadow of "Capitalism 101"; a grain-fed dissatisfaction rooted in the curious legacy of notions like the Protestant Work Ethic .


"tell me why you've chosen that song?"

"....I lost my best friend 2 years ago...."

----

A common fiction tacitly suggests that 'unless you know what it means to suffer, you can't make good art' - in fact, your work might very well be unworthy of trust.  This (to quality my statement) has frequently been my experience quarters of the electronic music world with personal investment in topographically specific 'urban' genres (eg. 'Detroit techno' or 'Newcastle Hardcore').

On paper, this sounds legitimate enough. But it's really a half-truth, hiding some profoundly elitist assumptions.

God is not a dj.

The real fallacy here is - of course -  that there are those (most likely 'non-artists') who somehow haven't understood the 'authentic' depression a rarefied arts class might spend lifetimes being railroaded into embodying. The fallacy consumers must be liberated by the work of a 'visionary' -  a sacrificial, tortured 'artist' - who possesses a preternatural insight beyond the scope of the everyman.

I don't find this a particularly helpful or liberating notion. I don't believe that anyone has a monopoly on suffering, or on the genuine gifts which arts practice can really offer us -  simple reminders of our shared journey, and our beautifully transient, gorgeously irrational human lives.

Producing work now on a weekly basis with genuinely marginalized voices, I have good reason to assume there might exist a different, more robust, pragmatic (perhaps even joyful) framing of 'the musician' and 'music practice' in our collective story. We need not romanticize or fabricate struggle for an artist's work to engage deeply with the cultural imagination, in it's many hues.

To be continued....

---

*I remain a practicing artist invested in developing tools to navigate the quagmire of bipolar type B depression, generalised anxiety disorder and a curious history of mental-health struggle - one (in my case) marked previously by a hyper-vigilance which has thankfully softened over the years. It's manifested in multitude forms since my teens - from anorexia through insomnia, substance-abuse and self-medication, suicidal fantasies, panic attacks, claustrophobia and leaden fatigue. Subsequent to a decade of medication protocols (concluded over 3 years ago) I've found remarkable tools in the form of diet, exercise, and radical re-imagining of what a work/life balance might look like in a gentler light. I'll discuss these in future posts...

The Hungry Ghost of Buddhist mythology

The Hungry Ghost of Buddhist mythology

Max Richter, Amiri Baraka, Ayn Rand - Reflections on Sleep

I'll start here by offering up a quote from Ayn Rand.

She's an individual who's philosophy on 'productivity' I find a startlingly disconcerting....yet certainly (willingly or otherwise) one co-opted by many authors of 'aspirational' 20th century capitalism. The Rand narrative espouses individualism, competition and the free market economy - and along with this, corollary myths of 'efficiency' and radical individuation as indicators of social progress.

Rand was a prophet for the many powerbrokers of this this epoch, yet now appears specter-like and almost quaint in the light of Messrs Trump, Thatcher, Reagan and co... her writing is both pointed and defiant, and in an odd way almost refreshingly uncensored in its lack of sentimentality. Where contemporary US Republicans insist 'God' underwrites their economic mandate, Rand grimaces in disdain that her thesis should require divine approval.

Rand's work, Atlas Shrugged and personal philosophy of Objectivism form part of the unofficial cannon of neoliberalism.

Arguably, Rand was also a Rachmaninoff fan.... Trump, interestingly enough, also (with unexpected diversions into.....erm....Steve Reich?).

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
— Ayn Rand

So....

Roughly a year ago, I had the pleasure of attending composer Max Richter's "Sleep" concert at the Sydney Opera House. I first encountered the fellow Berliner and current darling of the contemporary-classical world through his work on Erased Tapes.

I was previously moved by his elegaic score for The Leftovers, rarely having encountered a more elegant meditation on the collective experience of grief in television format. Its still recommended viewing, and ridiculously on-point scoring / music supervision.

Richter went on to compose the wonderful title music for Charlie Brooker's dystopic Black Mirror series; a brutally mirthful, "Gilliam-eque" commentary on the cognitive dissonance inherent in late-stage capitalism's hyper-mediated multiverse.... Brooker's work reads like 12-guage discharge, smattering effigies of Murdoch's straw-men across the plastic storefront of fading McMedia.

Black Mirror renders in stark relief the disconnect between our need for grace, community and connection, and the terrifying void of the surveillance state, reality television, social media, online 'self-actualisation' and more. It's both harrowing and screamingly funny, and territory well canvassed in the past by Terry Gilliam.

Cult classic by all means. Terry Gilliam's epic sci-fi film. A bureaucrat in a retro-future world tries to correct an administrative error and himself becomes an enemy of the state.

But back to Sleep, and what made it so remarkable for me...

What, I believe, ties together both Black Mirror and The Leftovers (aside from Richter's involvement) is an attempt to dramatically engage with the ginding fatigue we experience as 'collateral damage' from the neoliberal condition.

What do we 'do' with loss, with the inexplicable, when the institutions of church, state and work-mythos are proved bunk? Where do we go? How do we deal....?

Perhaps our latter-day plagues find form as Depersonalisation, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Chronic Fatigue, or just vanilla-flavored loneliness... hygeine neurosis, orthorexia, fixation, conspiracy theory, ADHD, over-medication, alcoholism, suicidal morbidity.

Most likely, a combination of the above. You get the idea. You understand because you feel it to. There's 'something in the way of things', as Amiri Baraka would say....

"...I can see something in the way of our selves
I can see something in the way of our selves
That's why I say the things I do, you know it
But it's something else to you
Like that job
This morning when you got there and it was quiet
And the machines were yearning soft behind you
Yearning for that nigga to come and give up his life
Standin' there bein' dissed and broke and troubled

My mistake is I kept sayin' "that was proof God didn't exist"
And you told me, "nah, it was proof that the devil do..."

- Amiri Baraka ("Something in the Way of Things (In Town)", exerpt)


This fatigue is informed by the concurrent disintegration of 'traditional' value systems (for better or worse) and slow nose-dive into a sort of 'post-moral' Randian universe. (*Ayn Rand's rejection of altruism and advocacy for radical market deregulation were major influences on many boomer entrepreneurs, including (apparently) the late Steve Jobs....*)

But i'm digressing, once more.

For my students reading, there's certainly some creative research I trust this post affords. Start with Any Rand, bounce to Amiri Baraka, and then grab a drink (but for the love of god, please don't make it Pabst Blue Ribbon. It has no flavor nor redeeming qualities).

Meet you back here in 15...? Watch this first, though...
 

Welcome back.

So, to Max's "Sleep'. A 31-part, 504 minute work (weighing in at around 8 hours of performance), Sleep was designed to be experienced as an exercise in hypnagogia, exploring the borderlands between the waking and sleeping states. Labelled as a 'lullaby', or a 'mediation' by reviewers, I contend that the performance was all this and more (and quite beautiful work by soprano Grace Davidson, in addition).

What really struck me, however, were some fundamental truths the work spoke to - the fact that the performance itself (from 11pm to roughly 730am in the morning) demanded a surrender into unknowing, forgetting, physical acquiescence, lack of cognitive proficiency, let alone efficiency

Sleep proffers counterpoint to say, for example, Facebook's "On This Day" audiovisual memeography. It engenders forgetting, rather than remembering. An exercise in deconstruction, release, in half-lit experience, smeared recollection and in what I'll call "sacred inefficiency".

Unless under the influence of stimulants (or jetlag), staying awake and attentive for the duration of the night's performance is rendered impossible, as is soundly sleeping through the work. I feel that, to 'try' to do either, would probably be missing Richter's point. 'Sleep' offers a place where 'mindfulness as hypervigillance' is beautifully unravelled.

"Sleep" offers a reminder that we require physiological rest - and that perhaps our arts experience / practice might help afford a quiet reminder of this, beyond a consumption based-model.

Nowhere to go.
No-one to be.
Nothing to be achieved.
Nothing to be acquired.

Nothing to remember.

I remember 'waking' at 730 in the morning, looking across Sydney Harbor, as winter rain fell in thick sheets.

What struck me as I looked around, was not so much the music, but the people who had been part of the experience. Disheveled, half-naked (well, I was) and curiously vulnerable, the experience for many had offered itself up a a requiem, meditation and perhaps reminder or some kind of rebirth amid the tumult. There were more than a few tears observable during the night - what strange magic was this?

Who are we when we 'stop' - really stop, perhaps even collectively.

What lies beneath our need to forget and to decouple (yet also far beyond mere amnesia, nihilism, indifference?) and how can we embrace it fully in wakefulness and in sleep....
 

An Interview with the Univeristy of Technology

I was recently interviewed by Sydney's University of Technology about my work as a teacher, producer and savagely verbose left-wing nutter.

HERE'S a link to the resulting (long!) feature piece.

“My time at UTS as a communications student was an extremely positive one. It showed me that arts practice does not exist in a void, and neither do issues of economic or cultural policy. It behooves us as citizens of the world to remain expansive and engaged in our ‘vocation’, rather than reductive and careerist-driven. “I feel like my time at UTS pushed me to move beyond being merely ‘academically adequate’ or ‘technically competent’. I had some incredible lecturers who simply refused to allow me to acquiesce into indifference about my ‘practice’.”

“My time at UTS as a communications student was an extremely positive one. It showed me that arts practice does not exist in a void, and neither do issues of economic or cultural policy. It behooves us as citizens of the world to remain expansive and engaged in our ‘vocation’, rather than reductive and careerist-driven. “I feel like my time at UTS pushed me to move beyond being merely ‘academically adequate’ or ‘technically competent’. I had some incredible lecturers who simply refused to allow me to acquiesce into indifference about my ‘practice’.”

Radio 2SER and I have a chat about performance, teaching, techno...

"The Chat interviews outstanding graduates from the University of Technology, Sydney who have excelled in their profession or community.

From CEOs to SCs, fashion designers to forensic scientists, The Chat gets graduates back on Broadway to share their stories.

The Chat is produced at 2SER 107.3 in Sydney with the support of the University of Technology Sydney."

Holly Herndon - LAPTOP INTIMACY

I've felt like a little bit of a late comer to the Herndon game. I often used to see her around Neukölln, and most certainly a few times in transit at Tegel airport - most likely when she was returning from the US to Berlin, and I was setting off on tour. And so it goes.

In any case, some gorgeous matieral here, and certainly a frequent academic reference in classes / lectures I've given around the traps.

"The music industry tends to work with nostalgia and archetypes, especially in terms of emotionality. We’re supposed to understand that this certain vocal inflection means I’m really feeling it right now. For me, I know that is designed to trigger that, so it’s not a particularly emotional concept for me to take on because it’s not actually coming from anywhere - it seems to be more lifted from somewhere else culturally... I don’t like authenticity being tied to how we present music. That word ‘authenticity’, I wonder what it even means anymore. I feel quite uncomfortable saying it, but people often try to tie it into concepts like that. "

I've greatly appreciated her commentary on the laptop as a storehouse of (non-linear / non-localised?) memory, almost suggestive of a very real, personalised ecology made manifest. So much to unpack here, and all wonderful stuff.

Economies of the Heart - Some Incomplete Reflections

The year was, 2010. The place was Berlin.

I was given a book, "The Gift", by Lewis Hyde.

"The Gift" felt like a much needed philosophical retort to the dense individualism spruiked by books like "The Secret". Field notes, perhaps, for those among us weary of constantly 'manifesting' wealth, power, advantage, divine blessing and contriving gratingly self-referential memes and Instagram posts.

Perhaps there remain different ways of considering wealth / power / blessing / cultural collateral and exchange? Perhaps some of these modalities might even be worthy of anthropological invstigation?
 

the gift.jpg

After 5 years bouncing back and forth from the antipodes to the German capital, I had settled at last into the bosom of (now achingly hip) Neukölln, just to the West of the former Berlin Wall. All was giddy with possibility - without equivocation I had committed myself to the 'Berlin experiment' of trying to ply my trade from 'music alone', in a foreign nation, without the security of a 'day job'.

Committing to Berlin was a decision which has profoundly changed the course of my life - one which has served to fortify some quiet personal convictions regarding what possibly constitute enduring 'value' in life.

As ubiquitously branded, Berlin was most certainly 'arm, aber sexy' (poor, but sexy!).

Whilst feeling no inherent virtue in poverty, removing over zealous fiscal aspirationism (as opposed to the very real need to meet basic needs) from life's daily tapestry did honestly feel like such a gift, leveler, a wonderful social blessing. At Berlin's beating heart, a quiet suspicion (even disdain) enduredover such aspirations. How did certain aspects of this far 'poorer' culture actually equate to a far richer cultural experience than one I'd previously experienced? I'd argue that, existentially at least, many fundamental aspects of the day to day were radically simplified, and this came to offer unlikely social salve.

Berlin nascent Socialist hangover was something I was in so many ways thankful for. Comforting realpolitik anchoring the curiously cadenced grammar of the city's multitude stories.

Forget picket-fences and quarter-acre blocks - how would I best make use of state healthcare, transport, shared public space? How could locals creatively steward the innovative potential of state-funded education? How would we all make mirthful sense of long, dark winters in close proximity?

What's REALLY important here? Were there inevitable spectres haunting the corridors of this strangely earnest utopia?

*cue the brilliant film, "Goodbye Lenin!' (we'll revisit Lewis Hyde again a moment).

---- SNIP ----


Value - how could this look, taste, stretch, expand and seed if not derived not from income, but rather intention, awareness, discourse and basic gratitudes sewn into the minutia of life's most seemingly 'insignificant' exchanges?

Inhale, exhale, render, loop, repeat.

For many far more enlightened than myself, 'arts practice' is an unnecessary prerequisite for exploring these notions - yet personally, music has continued to offer up profoundly helpful tools for self analysis and reflexion. Tools I might perhaps not naturally possess.

I'm rambling here, I realise. Im attempting to tie together some disparate threads. Trying to focus things sharply through the best lens I've been afforded - 'art', abstracted (even nominally) from 'commerce', or 'product', or 'publishing'.

Why do we 'do', what we do? Does art infact 'do' us?

What if arts work might be considered indicative of a different, parallel value-system - one invested in (at least some) useful moral predicates expunged from the discourse saturating late-stage capitalism?

What it, most fundamentally, 'arts work' might just be the most interesting excuse we can come up with to share a meal, a drink, a bed with people who we don't really know, but would like to imagine we could trust as part of our tribe?

Enter Lewis Hyde, who continues to speak to these questions, and who's anthropological insight is both comforting and inspiring. In "The Gift", Hyde oscillates from a firm thesis (at the books outset) to a less clear conclusion - and herein also lies his charm. He's willing to be proven wrong.

---- SNIP ----

 

Unfinished reflections Part 2.... (3, 4, 5.....)

For centuries immemorial, the roll of much 'artisanal' discipline has maintained a close relationship with what we might call the 'gift economy'. This 'gift economy' is not an abstraction - but forms an ever-present, deeply important part of social function and community cohesion. The gift economy bears an often opaque, frequently flirtatious relationship with the market economy - but (to me) is indicative of what I call the 'economy of the heart'.

Previously in Sydney, I had been privileged to be awarded the ongoing roll of Artist in Resident for a group called Café Church based in the inner west suburb of Glebe - creating original digital work every week, and helping facilitate and empower the voices who were part of a very special fringe community of souls - namely many who had been excluded, burnt out, or outright damaged by traditional faith communities'.

Café Church was an unlikely experiment in patching up broken things, and set me very much on the path of investing in arts / music as a deeply healing work, beyond the model of conventional commerce.

The 'practice' itself was the reward - and the more this practice was shared, the more its value felt enriched, rather than diminished.

After 2 years in the roll at Café Church, I reluctantly relinquished my position - due only to travel commitments, and the deep sense that it was time I passed on what was truly an incredible gift to me. As Lewis Hyde puts it in The Gift:

When the gift moves in a circle its motion is beyond the control of the personal ego, and so each bearer must be a part of the group and each donation is an act of social faith.
― Lewis Hyde,

It felt time for me to honor the gift I had been given, by relinquishing myself of it, so that it might continue to breathe, thrive, become renewed.

My time at Café Church had reminded me, in a fundamental sense that music, art (cooking, gardening, breathing...) were all acts which might best be served by being considered acts of grace. After decades stumbling on through the undergrowth of arts-practice, fundamental questions remained about how best to 'monetise' my practice, however one thing was sure - my priority above all else, was really to make the best 'work' possible.

Imagining that 'work' might be valuable in its own right was precious realisation. Particularly in an an age of unprecedented automaton, considering reimagining a truly valuable 'work life for all' feels deeply important.

Prior to my tenure at Café Church, 5 years working as a designer / video editor in a rather more corporate environment had continued to lead me to new pastures - based purely on the (perhaps egotistical?) assumption that working within the realms of advertising / front end web design often meant that the work I was producing was compromised. There were only so many times I could get away with turning down jobs based on feeling they were morally compromised, or aesthetically patronising to clients.

I didn't feel like I could keep my heart tender creating army-recruitment, gambling, porn, big-pharma websites. And yet these sorts of 'jobs' were increasingly the types thrust before me.

Eventually, through natural attrition, I exited the corporate universe...and landed square in the centre of so-called 'community work', where the road rose up beyond all expectations to meet me. My income halved overnight - but suddenly this seemed largely irrelevant. I was making work I loved, relishing every hour of practice, bettering my skills, service, thesis.

This is not to say that my previous 'corporate incarnation' wasn't filled with incredible humans. Moreover, it truly was - hyper-intelligent, infinitely more skilled and visionary designers, copywriters and artisans, and some notable social visionaries. It was just that, as a 'coal face' pixel-pusher, I felt my craft couldn't grow in such an environment.

---- SNIP ----

So music became 'the thing'...and yet... I was privileged (deeply so) to have the freedom to allow it to be 'the thing' - a freedom initially afforded by being born into privilege, education and relative security. Same as it ever was.

Ironically, many aspects of the 'music industry' proved far more morally compromised than anything I had experienced in the corporate universe.

And yet.... somewhere amid the rubble, I encountered a radically different set of presuppositions, honor codes and modalities of trust, place, belonging,  gift exchange and....value....

Whats more, curious, experiences like playing clubs like Berlin's Berghain, revealed to me a parallel, if rather different experience of 'music as monument', or temporary homeland for those without a sense of historical place.

Art as a modality of creating psychic (un)realestate - temporary autonomous space, a new kind of cultural common, a kind of tangible, economy of the heart...and often a refreshingly non-sentimental one, in addition.

This question of space, place, belonging, and the place of 'non-place' remains a central thesis in my work - as an expat, a migrant currently wedged between continents.

I'll stop for now. It's late, once more, and there's too much to say. I'll leave for now, with this quote from Lewis Hyde, and gather more thoughts again later.

To be continued.....

the more we allow such commodity art to define and control our gifts, the less gifted we will become, as individuals and as a society” He mentioned that commercial interests can’t take precedence in order for the creative spirit and “gift exchange” to blossom
— Lewis Hyde