I posted this to a few network newsgroups shortly after the 9/11
I wasn't sure if I should post this -- I'm pretty much of a lurking sort of guy
on the XXX list, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed
intensely relevant to the work we do. I apologize in advance to individuals
who deem this the realm of the "the political" and thus inappropriate for
the XXX mailing list. I honestly cannot separate various spheres
of activity that cleanly.
It's been a week since the terrorist attacks on New York, and I've run
through my share of personal reactions, ranging from relief that none
of my friends living in the WTC area were physically hurt, to incredulity
that people seriously believe that a better future lies through tightened
security and heightened paranoia. Jeez, we all know that systems of security
can be hacked with relative ease.
But the strongest and most lasting feeling is a profound sadness. I'm
not swimming in the anger supposedly growing in America and am instead
dismayed at all the rhetoric of retribution and retaliation. I am disgusted
that our straining-to-look-serious president and his circle of advisors
manage to work the word "war" into virtually every sentence spoken.
And I am most discouraged that the lessons of revenge taught by blood
in Israel, Palestine, Ireland, Yugoslavia, Rwanda... go still unheeded
by those whose notion of justice is something like 'getting even'.
I keep asking myself: what can I do? what can we do? The best I can come
up with is [this is the XXX-relevance part] a notion of how
creative artists function in society. Basically, we're in the culture
business, and by proclaiming ourselves "Composers" or "Performers" or
"Media Artists" we are adopting a particular set of relations with
our fellow humans. The snazzy part is that we get to modify or reinvent
those very relations. To me, this is the single most important aspect
of choosing ArtAsACareer. We make a statement about how we want to
be in the world.
This statement certainly isn't embodied in some fixed art-object, as if
the vibrations we make in the air stand as some weird kind of context-free
physical manifestation of human concerns. The role we play in shaping
society has little to do with our ostensible product, but very much
to do with the way we approach the production and presentation of our work.
For me at least, the Actual Sound Objects we create don't really matter
all that much (I have no musical taste...), but the kind of society
represented by those sounds endow them with their musical power and
artistic force. One of the things that has fascinated me by reading
the XXX list is the particular social/community structure
that is emerging through this music. To make my point obvious,
the world I hear in, say, 'microsound music' is tangibly different than,
say, Irish folk music or the godawful remnants of the Columbia-Princeton
'uptown' mod music scene. We get to make that world up, because that's
what we decided to do.
So is this a call for more touchy-feely concerts, with all of us using
candles next to our CPUs to demonstrate how in tune we are with
global consciousness as we run our latest samples through our personal
VST favorites? Nah. Instead, it is a plea for a heightened awareness
of our individual actions and the socio-cultural ripples we generate. I'm
still stupid enough to believe that we can change the world.
We change it not by what we say, but by what we do to say it.
The world needs some big-time changing right now. This is not the
place I want to leave for my kids.
Columbia University Computer Music Center