Saturday, September 30, 2017

el futuro perdido latinoamericano

One of the highlights of my recent book tour of Argentina was a visit to an exhibition dedicated to the early days of electronica and la música concreta in that country.

               

Klang is showing at Centro Cultural Kirchner, or CCK - a vast building in Buenos Aires that was once Argentina's central post office, and later was where Eva Perón based her fundación. 

                           

Klang curator Laura Novoa kindly gave me a guided tour of the exhibition. And of the the building itself, among whose features is La Gran Lámpara - a glowing glass-sided construction seemingly suspended in the air - it's situated in this central voluminous shaft of space that goes from the roof to the ground floor - and inside of which are two exhibitions halls.

                           

Argentina was heavily involved in electronic and tape music experimentation from early on in the music's history. It had strong links with similarly minded composers throughout Latin America. Some, such as Peruvian composers César Bolaños and Edgar Valcárcel came to work in Argentina for a period.  

             

               


Conversely, Argentine pioneers like Edgardo Canton, Beatriz Ferreyra and Horacio Vaggione would move to France to continue their explorations at GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales). 

 

Another important avant-garde emigre was Mauricio Kagel, who moved to Cologne, while the Argentina-born Mario Davidovsky went to work at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. 





The exhibition's span goes from the earliest forays into tape music and electronics made by Argentine composers like Francisco Kröpfl....

                           

... through the work done at of El Estudio de Fonologia Musical (founded by Kropfl) c/o Universidad de Buenos Aires

                           

... then onto the wonderfully 1960s-in-vibe sound design / graphic design developed by the advertising agency Agens, as part of an integrated corporate identity project for the manufacturers SIAM Di Tella

                      
   
                      

                           

... before winding up with CLAEM aka el Centro Latinoamericano de Altos Estudios Musicales, the most advanced electronic music laboratory in South America thanks largely to the innovations of fellow called Fernando von Reichenbach.

       


As well as the main room with its timeline and walk-in sound-booths with hyper-spatialized audio and often equally disorienting visuals, there is a separate room displaying a variety of  early synthesisers and sound-generating contraptions, scores, and documentary footage on loop.

                               

                                  

                               

                               

                             

                                


                                        

                            
                                                          
  
Muchas gracias to Laura for a fascinating time travel trip to el futuro perdido latinoamericano!

                               

For further information about Argentinan and Latin American electronic music, check out this essay by Ricardo Dal Farra. It comes with an enormous playlist of compositions which I have so far only managed to get about one-fifth of the way through - revelatory stuff. 








   







Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"Once electronic instruments suggested an exciting, uncharted future. Now they represent a longing for a nostalgic past that did never exist"

"The future of 2017: a cheaper, smaller, unified version of yesterday. The D-50 was awesome and still is, but if re-releasing a D-50 and adding a generic step sequencer represents the vision of contemporary electronic music creation, something very essential got lost on the way. Once electronic instruments suggested an exciting, uncharted future. Now they represent a longing for a nostalgic past that did never exist" - Robert Henke, recently

paging people who working with electronic music-making hardware / software - is this remark, made by one who seems like he ought to know what he's talking about,  true in your experience? 

Monday, June 26, 2017

ReFound Objects

Found Objects returns from the dead!

Retrotopia




Andrew Gallix in the Irish Times reviews Retrotopia, the final book by Zygmunt Bauman (RIP)

"The sociologist had long argued that a loss of faith in society’s perfectibility was one of the main distinctions between the “solid” and “liquid” phases of modernity, a theme that he reprises and expands on here. His argument hinges on the “emancipation of power from territory”, as a result of which nation states, with increasingly “porous” borders, are no longer able to fulfil their traditional functions. This political impotence, compounded by the stupefying pace of change, has redirected the utopian impulse towards the “space of collective memory”. We take refuge in the past because it can be “remodelled at will”, thus providing the “blissful omnipotence lost in the present”.

The future is now associated not with progress but with stasis or regression. At best it seems to offer more of the same; at worst it holds out the prospect of “social degradation” and “impending catastrophe”. Hence the privatisation of happiness, sought no longer through collective endeavours but through self-improvement and personal “wellness”

.... Social in name only, our online networks offer another ersatz brand of communality, acting as they do as filter bubbles, providing insulation from any views likely to challenge our easily bruised egos. Such comfort zones are “as close to the nirvana of the womb” as we can get. Indeed, a return to the safety of the womb is the logical conclusion of a series of reactionary trends taking us back to a world of “weakening human bonds”, tribalism and growing inequalities – a Hobbesian “war of all against all”.

... Bauman suggests that retrotopianism is largely due to our failure to develop a cosmopolitan consciousness, despite living in a cosmopolitan world." 

I deployed Bauman's liqud modernity versus solid modernity dichotomy  in this piece on David Toop, for which I read two or three of ZB's books (he was incredibly  prolific). Found them really interesting but a little fixated - he was a bit like the Status Quo or ZZ Top of social theory.

Gallix's identifications of ZB's several flaws seems right on the money - the repetitiousness, windy language, generalisations.