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Sound Unbound: Music, Technology, and Us

"After all, if there’s one thing Sound Unbound is about, it’s the remix."

DJ Spooky’s introduction to Sound Unbound, “In Through the Out Door: Sampling and the Creative Act,” acts of a microcosm of the rest of the collection. In the piece, he draws connections between longitudinal clocks, Don DeLillo, Internet bots, and Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of the Absurd in an attempt to convey the stretched-out and complicated nature of the relationship between technology, music, and modern humanity.

Most interesting, though, is the way that the collection functions as such a diverse mixture of perspectives. While the collection is edited by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid (and this aka is important) and includes contributions from numerous performance artists, musicians, and filmmakers, Sound Unbound also contains the voices of Google lawyers, History of Consciousness PhDs, sci-fi writers, graphic designers, magazine editors, computer scientists, music publishers, and figures from a variety of other disciplines, both academic and business. This hodgepodge of voices highlights a point that the collection tries to hard to make: regardless of where you are or what you do, technology and/or music has influenced you in some way, is influencing you now, and will influence you in the future. The wide range of voices presented in the volume reiterates the idea that this topic is one that, like sound, bleeds into the deepest parts of human consciousness.

In “The Life and Death of Media,” Bruce Sterling writes,

Contemporary science fiction writers should fulfill another role. Science fiction writers should be examining aspects of media that cannot be promoted and sold—aspects of media that corporate public relations people are afraid to look at and deeply afraid to tell us about. We should be attempting to achieve a coherent understanding of media.

Sound Unbound addresses this issue, providing a viewpoint that extends beyond academia; it provides something more.

In addition, the inclusion of a companion CD to the text takes many of the appropriation themes found within the collection and puts them to work. Much like DJ Spooky’s texts, the compilation combines artists that are mentioned in the text, giving readers a more rounded and complete understanding of the elements engaged within the text. Sampling is also exemplified throughout the CD, including remixes of the spoken word, as seen in DJ Spooky’s remix of Antonin Artaud’s “To Have Done With the Judgment of God.”

Like the CD itself, Sound Unbound is essentially a mix tape.

The collection, which cleverly navigates through different perspectives, subjects, and themes, might be referred to as my “Refiguring of the Modern Artist Mix,” as the collection tackles a number of different problems and issues that are facing those of us who are waist-deep in the technology of the 2000s. Most of the pieces in the collection focus on the current intersection of music and technology: many pieces tackle the issue of intellectual property and how governments are trying to crack down on the unlawful use of copyrighted material, some focus on painting a more accurate picture of technology’s evolutionary arc, some engage the issue of how race has influenced both the development and perception of different technologies, and some involve the sampling component that ends up becoming exponentially complicated as you start to involve music, literature, brands, products, and cultural figures. However, I believe that much of the collection is focused on trying to work out a way for us, as users, producers, artists, audiences, and consumers, to reexamine our relationships with what’s on the other side: technology, other people, governments, and corporations.

  1. honkandwave posted this