Posts Tagged ‘Mass media’

Notes: The truth and frequency. A feeble attempt to abandon subjectivity for objectivity.

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

X ray, gamma ray, beta ray, UV, infra-red, microwave, radio, spectroscopy, dromology. Big words and little particles that give way, indecipherably, to transform into waveform- or vice versa- when a wave opens up and regurgitates the particle under the microscope. Or the particle passes through something- or boils from its core- or its core does something unusual, like going back in time, disappearing from the laboratory forcing the scientists to sit down to work out where it went. And finding out that went to yesterday. Fat particles that move slowly (red), small particles that move fast (blue), particles that are leftover radiation behaving in different manners, some spinning x direction, some interacting weakly and some particles having no anti particles (bosons). People working hard to simplify stuff and taking damn seriously the hypothetical elements of the enquiry; the winos, the zinos, the sneutrino, the sleptons and charginos.[1] These are not sweets from Willy Wonka or the latest meme to randomly emerge from ether, although they similarly owe their existence to technocracy and the jargon of people who need a word quickly and their subconscious logic takes over. I think Jung would have liked today’s memes and it is interesting to consider their origins, whether they’re a scientist under pressure to describe something, Warcrafters, programmers who play Warcraft (!) or network protesters turning some psychotic cop casually pepper-spraying people into an icon, as he sprays his way through the Getty image archive. He’ll be on a talk show soon,commissioned by conservatives trying to appeal to the upper middle class about protecting their traumatized ephemeral wealth, their shifting pension, their shifting house and their fear of working for nothing until they die.


Time and time again there is this perpetual cycle of feeling defeated by one’s own inability to comprehend the world as much as one would like to, that a defeatism prevails when certain areas are approached, that desires outweigh capabilities- or that a certain mania ensues when those capabilities are analysed. The disparity between what one can do and what one wants to do- and the subsequent retreat into the world of notions and ideas to compensate those shortcomings. You can have these ideas for free, even if they are more valuable that anything else than what can be produced in material form. The author turns artist and then faces the emotional position between destroying something or deconstructing it. Constructivism and crazy hedonism ensue in the consciousness to get started, the stupid idea seeds itself and its positivity is contagious, the value can get left behind or carried away, or do this or do that, so it is good to watch it. Maintenance.


Yoko Ono’s transparent mazes spring to mind, revealing a skeletal form- a thing that needs to be escaped from (FORM)- leaving the participants exposed. Afterwards there was this compulsion to make an X ray maze that revealed the bones of the people walking around inside it, like in an airport or Total Recall but there is too much risk of cancer for the audience, which is already high enough. It would be good, though, and maybe euthanasiacs can sign themselves up to participate, so they can look at the insides of other like minded souls and reflect/ genuflect in the nasty invisible wash of the x ray. One feels tempted to anchor this notion to an image, like Bacon’s Pope or Goya’s Saturn, where flesh falls away, vertically, off the canvas, invisibly ripping through the air and the floor beneath it. The artists intent hitting you like a hammer as they drag you down with them.


Images getting washed- by sunlight, predominantly, and occasionally the odd clean up- or post-art vandal assault. Like after Kempton Bunton’s mother had sprayed Goya’s Duke of Wellington with a bit of Mr Sheen to clean it up before she made him hand it back to the police[2], or like the Sultan of Brunei’s housemaid, when she found that rolled up Monet in the garage behind the wardrobe, thinking it was some old curtains and put a bit of carpet upholsterer on it. Those poor conservators, as if it is not enough preserving these crumbling CANONS they also have to train to deal with the more exotic forms of indemnity, from the mad, to accidents, the idiotic, to farce, to out and out hatred and madness- the psycho-sociopath of the anti-image world (yours truly), armed with excrement or a can of spray paint or an axe- or a can of expandable foam inside one of Henry Moore’s orifices. An image is in a cycle of being perpetually stripped and dolled up with artifice for a multitude of reasons, structurally in a literal sense it is compromised and weakened- metaphysically (and generally in some basic sense) it is supposed to have more meaning, which is an archaic, semi-religious dogma- an aspect we are hopefully slowly shaking off. Some people consider it to be a bride being stripped bare by its mother, or Marsyas being flayed, or someone writing about the Norse tradition of Blood Eagling, ripping the skin off a humans back with the back of their axe so they can break the ribs around the spine, one by one, pulling them outwards and then, finally, pull out the liver.[3] The idea being the victim looking like a bloodied eagle.


There is a ghoulish element that is largely present in this foggy, damp old country and, also, in some of the nations paintings, the collections themselves, and the choices of the subject matter- and I’m not just talking about creepy haunted houses, or country lanes and old folklore but when this island reveals it’s nasty side (and not just politically). We have such a bloody history- both in the sense of receiving and giving- and there seems to be this perpetual denial of it, as if negativity is a thing that has to be supressed. It reveals something about the national psyche and our relation to power and violence, like the current reaction to the class war that is being fuelled in this country by bought politicians serving the interest of money before society, who condescend the people they have profligately stolen off and then insult them- and then carry on taking some more. It might be not be wise to sit on volcanoes or powder kegs, or to provoke a volatile material but people in power don’t seem to learn, as if history is only an artefact and not a lesson to be learnt, which is saved for each miserable generation to experience for themselves (altruism is a dirty word in the market).


When I saw Charles 1st Insulted by Cromwell’s Soldiers by Delaroche, after over 50 years of living in cob-webs, it reminded me of a corpse on a slab- having been assaulted by an archaeological site- the latter bit being quite true in many senses. The painting was subject to shrapnel, rubble, kilos of dust, transit and, more than likely, damp. The subjects are nasty, not just the paintings recent history (being bombed): Charles the arrogant fucker- soon-to-be no longer- contemptuously looking down his nose on his tormentors, who gleefully toast to his demise. It’s like he’s a magnet to horrific violence and his nasty sneer follows us around the room. It followed him to the guillotine and it hasn’t transcended anything, in fact it still seems extremely provocative and deserving that the painting did get the shit kicked out of it by the Luftwaffe. Being a cunt transcends time, the word despot prevails and possibly diminishes their crimes.


Torture the Irish and Scottish> insult and steal off the your own people> get beheaded by them> get depicted as the tyrant you were> get assaulted by nature> get assaulted by fate. I want to know more about this painting; if it was loved by its owner, or why it went where it went. It’s got a similar, nasty backstory to the Goya, like when life, outside of the work, assumes a greater personal meaning, trivialising the sentient stuff in the painting, only for us to then elevate, it again as it has accompanied us on our journey of interpretation. Audience Participation[4].


Invert in Photoshop



Spectroscopy is one technique that art shares with astronomy. Dromology is king. The layers of age being sought out as the time it takes for the light to reach the eye determines an approximate age of the thing (the relatively distinct colours from stars- their red shift- contrasting to the paintings’ varying degrees of pallid forms that used to be brighter colours in their heyday). Blue, the small fast oscillating particle/ wave receding and red the slow fat particle/ wave coming towards us…The KECK telescope in Hawaii is such a beautiful thing. The two domes sit in the clouds on top of an active volcano, Mount Kea, in the Pacific, quietly and diligently measuring the ages of stars, systematically working their way through the points in the night sky: the domes agree on a point in space, fix on it and split the light in two, they reconvene at another point, which gives them the mean age of the light- how long it takes for the divided strands of light to reach the volcano…





Gamma pulse- light travelling high frequency waves- sterilising food with radioactive pulses. No mass, just electromagnetic energy. A microscopic bombardment of metallic cobalt radiation, absorbed into the blood, kidneys, bones and liver but also passed out the through one’s shit and piss (it is well travelled). How does energy materialise? Wave deposits? The slow attrition of what appears to be nothing looked at closer, revealing microscopic phenomena. The scientist then looking at everything from the bottom of food chain upwards, to the things that feed of the small stuff, upwards, to the top of the food chain: amongst all that exists amongst the exotic cultures; who eats what, does what and how because of where. A transparent creature living in the cold, feeding off very little and doing very little as a consequence, possibly unaware of the light passing through its non-being and its undeveloped brain, like phytoplankton in Antarctic or Arctic waters or microbial creatures that live in trenches that are deeper than the height of Everest. AMANDA in the Antarctic being the doyenne of such things as it chucks thousands of football sized detectors in the ice, similarly working its way through that kind of carbon isotope time layering ice rod to look for Muons and stuff related to anti-matter- the unknown stuff in the universe that outweighs known stuff by 9 to 1? Is that right? Can you look at objects, or the world, or matter in the universe- and say: there is nine times more unknown stuff than all of this stuff?[5]


Microwaves destabilising ambient matter, something needing to be at x viscosity to be pumped all around the 100,000 miles of veins and arteries at its optimal. Fat being the seat of the soul (in the brain). Thermodynamics/ solar particles. Thermo-stasis creating an equilibrium for electromagnetic energy to pass through, over, around the lump of mass, showering the nerves. Nerves oscillating in a state of disequilibrium is a worrying thought… (epilepsy, spasmosis, cymatics). The agitated wave or where all the random factors of material forms and waveforms assume a visual form. Salt at 100 hz, or a water, olive oil and corn starch mix spread out on a speaker, turned on and left alone to perform a one off performance, where the air pressure, the humidity, the temperature, the frequency, the magnet type and the material affect the performance. Even the simplicity of pouring rice on a drum skin and singing with your mouth against the skin reveals an imprint of the ambient data of the materials. It’s an amazing form of documentation.







The Act of the Prosecution of Charles 1st taken from the National Archive. Pertinent, more than ever.

An Act of the Commons of England assembled
In Parliament for erecting of a High Court of
Justice for the Trying and Judging of Charles
Steward King of England

Whereas it is notorious that Charles Steward be now King of
England not content with those many encroachments which his
Predecessors had made upon the people in their Rights and
Freedoms, hath had a wicked design totally to subject the
Ancient and fundamental laws and liberties of his Nation,
And in their place to introduce an Arbitrary and Tyrannical
Government, and that besides all other evil ways and means to bring
His design to pass has prosecuted it with force and second levied
And maintained a civil war in the land against the Parliament
And Kingdom; whereby he country has been miserably wasted,
The public treasure exhausted, trade decayed, thousands
Of people murdered and infinite other miseries committed,
For all which high and treasonable offences the said Charles
Steward might long since justly have been brought to
Exemplary and condign punishment. Whereas also the
Parliament well hoping that the restraint and imprisonment of
His person (after it had pleased god to deliver him into their hands)








The Original Notion (a)

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The Original Notion (a)


I wanted to make a 1 million-piece jigsaw puzzle. It was a whimsical piece of work, most likely to be manufactured- and outsourced- and hopefully, quite modest.

Now, I Google the stupid idea before I make it because when I did research the idea, the results were better than my thoughts- a 600 million piece puzzle with a deeper social meaning than that I had intended to provide.

I like this humility, it’s not good for me personally- nor does it bode well for artists.





The Better Idea (b)




Reassembling a puzzle with 600 million pieces

Published On Sun Jan 20 2008
Brett Popplewell Staff Reporter

Nineteen years ago, as the Berlin Wall crumbled and democracy swept through communist East Germany, STASI agents – members of the secret police – worked feverishly to destroy millions of top-secret documents in an effort to keep them from Western eyes. Attempting to shred some 45 million items as quickly as possible, the agents fed page after page into shredding machines. The equipment quickly jammed, leaving the agents to tear up the materials by hand and throw them into garbage bags meant to be incinerated. But with East Germany quickly falling into the hands of the west, the agents were stopped before they could burn the shreds. Some 600 million pieces in 16,000 bags became the property of the current German government. They have remained, for the most part, in that state.
Then, in May 2007, the German government revealed the world’s most sophisticated pattern-recognition machine, the $8.5 million dollar (U.S.) E-Puzzler, which can digitally put back together even the most finely shredded papers. Developed in Berlin by the Fraunhofer Institute of Production Facilities and Construction Technology, the E-puzzler is a computerized conveyor belt that runs shards of shredded and torn paper through a digital scanner. Scanning up to 10,000 shreds at once, the machine links them together by their colour, typeface, outline, shape and texture – not unlike how the average human might try to piece together a puzzle. The machine then displays a digital image of the original document on a computer screen.
“The task to automatically reconstruct 16,250 bags full of torn documents using a technical system . . . presents an enormous technological challenge,” says Bertram Nickolay, the lead inventor of the machine.
During the Cold War, East Germany’s Ministry for State Security – STASI – was regarded as one of the most formidable secret police forces of its day. Using a vast network of civilian informants, the STASI kept files on up to 6 million of East Germany’s 16 million citizens through an estimated 400,000 informants from all walks of life. For decades, neighbours spied on neighbours, priests spied on their flocks, husbands spied on their wives and even children spied on their parents. They reported their discoveries to the 90,000 STASI agents keeping tabs on the population.
Prior to the creation of the E-puzzler, a team of 15 Germans had laboriously been putting the pieces together by hand. But they managed to rebuild only 10,000 documents from 300 bags during 12 years. The German government estimated it would take a further 600 to 800 years to finish the job. But having uncovered heartbreaking stories of espionage – like that of Vera Lengsfeld, a 54-year old German politician who was shocked to learn she had been spied on by her husband for 11 years – the German public demanded the files be put together more quickly. An estimated 3.4 million Germans have officially requested to see the information the STASI gathered on them. With the E-puzzler, Nickolay says the government will be able to un-shred the remaining documents by 2013. Nickolay acknowledges his machine’s importance in helping millions of Germans to piece together their former lives. But says his machine is even more significant to the rest of the world.
In addition to piecing together shreds of paper, the machine has been used by Chinese archaeologists to reconstruct smashed Terracotta warriors found in the tomb of Emperor Qin. And the equipment has deciphered barely-legible lists of Nazi concentration camp victims. There is only one E-puzzler in operation, but Nickolay’s team has received interest from other former Eastern Bloc countries looking for a way to get at their own state secrets of the past.
“It’s no longer safe to shred a document,” Nickolay says. “The only safe way to destroy something is by burning it.”

Views From an Accelerated Reality # 1: Vernor Vinge's Technological Singularity

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

In preparation for the 1993 Vision-21 symposium held in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, NASA’s Lewis Research Centre issued a small press release. In it they explained:

Cyberspace, a metaphorical universe that people enter when they use computers, is the centrepiece for the symposium entitled “the Vision 21 Symposium on Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in the Era of Cyberspace.” The Symposium will feature some remarkable visions of the future.[1]

Looking back it’s probably difficult to imagine the sort of excitement that surrounded symposiums built around this theme. Today our contemporary notions of a digitised reality centre on ideas of the social network and connectedness, in which one is either online or off. The Internet augments and points back to a reality we may or may not be engaged in, but it doesn’t offer an alternative reality that isn’t governed by the same rules as our own. The concept of cyberspace, or an immersive “virtual” reality in which the physical laws of our own do not apply, has all but disappeared from the popular consciousness. These days any talk of immersive digital worlds conjures up visions of social misfits playing non-stop sessions of World of Warcraft, or living out fantastic realities in Second Life. In 1993 cyber-hysteria was probably at its peak. In the previous year Stephen King’s virtual reality nightmare The Lawnmower Man was released in cinemas and grossed one hundred and fifty million dollars worldwide[2]. Virtual reality gaming systems, complete with VR helmet and gloves, were appearing in arcades everywhere (though they never seemed to work), the Cyberdog clothing franchise was growing exponentially and even the cartoon punk-rocker Billie Idol jumped on the bandwagon with his 1993 album Cyberpunk.  Vision-21 was probably right on the money, dangling cyberspace as a carrot in order to draw big name academics, dying to share their research on ‘speculative concepts and advanced thinking in science and technology’[3].

Amongst the collection of scientists and academics, who I imagine paid their participation fees to deliver papers with titles like Artificial Realities: The Benefits of a Cybersensory Realm, one participant sat quietly waiting to drop a theoretical bomb. Vernor Vinge (pronounced vin-jee); science fiction writer, computer scientist and former professor of mathematics at San Diego State University, was there to read from his paper entitled The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era. You can almost picture the audience’s discomfort as Vinge  read out:


Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.[4]


The crux of Vinge’s argument, summarised for sensational effect in the two sentences above, was that the rapid progress of computer technology and information processing, ran parallel to the decline of a dominant human sapience. Technologies built to augment and increase humanity’s intellectual and physical capabilities, would eventually

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develop a consciousness of their own and an awareness that our presence on earth was negligible. This series of events and the resulting set of consequences are what Vinge referred to as The Technological Singularity.

This dystopic future narrative, foretelling a kind of sinister digital sentience, had already been played out on the big screen in Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and James Cameron’s Terminator (featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career defining role as the ‘Micro-processor controlled, hyper-alloy combat chassis’[5], or cyborg for short).  What rescued Vinge’s thesis, from the familiar terrain of dystopic cyber-plot lines, and a hail of academic derision, was the insertion of a second and more plausible path towards a post-human era. The traditional sci-fi route to the post-human condition has the sudden self-consciousness of superhumanly intelligent machines as its root cause. This formed part of Vinge’s initial argument.


If the technological singularity can happen, it will. Even if all the governments of the world were to understand the “threat” and be in deadly fear of it, progress toward the goal would continue. In fiction, there have been stories of laws passed forbidding the construction of a “machine in the likeness of the human mind”. In fact, the competitive advantage – economic, military, even artistic – of every advance in automation is so compelling that passing laws, or having customs, that forbid such things merely assures that someone else will get there first.[6]


Still, Vinge must have known that the creation of a superhumanly intelligent, sentient, computer was a bit of a long shot. Artificial Intelligence machines still hadn’t managed to pass Alan Turing’s test since it was introduced in 1950 and Japanese electronics seemed primarily concerned with teaching robots to dance. So in order to shore up this rather shaky portion of his post-human hypothesis Vinge introduced another pathway to the technological singularity called Intelligence Amplification (IA). What the expression refers to is a process in which normal human intelligence is boosted by information processing apparatus. Vinge explains:


IA is something that is proceeding very naturally, in most cases not even recognized by its developers for what it is. But every time our ability to access information and to communicate it to others is improved, in some sense we have achieved an increase over natural intelligence. Even now, the team of a PHD human and good computer workstation could probably max any written intelligence test in existence.[7]


What Vinge sketches out above is the kind of hypothetical example in which chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov and Deep Blue, the computer programme that beat him at his own game in 1997, would have joined forces to become a superhumanly intelligent, post-human, chess player. It’s the clunky combination of a desktop computer and PHD student that makes the prospect of a superhuman chess-God so unthreatening. Even in 1993, nobody at the vision-21 symposium would have possessed a computer small and unobtrusive enough to amplify his own intelligence levels without everyone else in the room knowing about it. Today that’s a different story. What Vinge knew then was that at the accelerated speed with which reductions in computer hardware size (and their concomitant increase in processing power) were taking place, it would only be a matter of years before powerful information processing engines could fit in the palms of our hands, or even, further down the line, become interlaced with our brain’s axons and dendrites. He knew that the scientists and academics sitting in that room knew it too.

At it’s most basic, IA takes place when you check a digital watch or solve a difficult mathematical problem with a calculator. Today the amplification of intelligence is happening on nearly every street corner, in every major city in the world, courtesy of smart-phones and instant portable access to the Internet. The speeds with which developments in computer technology led to this newfound portability are unprecedented and show no signs of abating. If anything, developments are probably getting faster. Viewing social, political and cultural life through the lens of IA, there’s a pretty strong case for Vinge’s technological singularity and the idea that we are living through its latter stages.

But what’s so bad about progress? Wouldn’t it be cool if everyone was walking around with superhumanly amplified intelligence levels? Maybe so, but implicit in Vinge’s theory is an existence many of us would struggle to define as human:


The post-singularity world will involve extremely high-bandwidth networking. A central feature of strongly superhuman entities will likely be their ability to communicate at variable bandwidths, including ones far higher than speech or written messages. What happens when pieces of ego can be copied and merged, when the size of self-awareness can grow or shrink to fit the nature of

the problems under consideration? These are essential features of strong superhumanity and the singularity. Thinking about them, one begins to feel how essentially strange and different the post-human era will be, no matter how cleverly or benignly it is brought to be.[8]


The question of access to this superhuman capacity is also a cause for concern. As the possession of advanced technological apparatus is reserved for those who can afford it, will we begin to see the emergence of an underclass of sub-humans, stuck on average levels of intelligence? And what happens when the first instance of computer/human symbiosis takes place? Will the first fully awakened, integrated superhuman man/machine see his or her own flesh as the negligible half of that pairing? We’re heading dangerously into Terminator territory again, but as fantastic as these questions sound, they are entirely plausible. Whatever the case may be, as humankind hurtles towards it’s own obsolescence; accelerated reality is a disorienting place to be.

[1] //


[3] //

[4] VINGE, Vernor, The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era, 1993

[5] CAMERON, James and HURD, Gale Anne, The Terminator, Screenplay, 1983

[6] VINGE, Vernor , (as above), 1993

[7] ibid

[8] ibid


Views From an Accelerated Reality # 2: Aphex Twin

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

In the September 1997 issue of Sound on Sound magazine, Martin Russ described the newly released Yamaha QY70 as

“A deceptively capable workstation-like device, comprising a powerful sequencer, sophisticated auto-accompaniment and a GM/XG expander’

Yamaha QY70

The QY70 was Yamaha’s most recent contribution to the line of QY models developed since 1991. The idea behind the series was to produce portable compositional tools, small bits of hardware, no larger then a paperback that would allow the amateur, enthusiast, or professional musician to compose music on the go. The QY10, Yamaha’s first release, featured the prototypical design that all subsequent models would try to update and improve on. About the size of a videocassette, the QY10 was a battery powered 8-track sequencer and crude sound generator. Being the first of its kind, the 10 sparked the development of a large number of copycat designs (including

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Roland’s cumbersome Groovebox series). Yamaha cornered the market through saturation, introducing newer models that seemed to pack more and more functionality into the small box; at an almost yearly rate the QY20, 22, 300, and 700 all appeared en route to the QY70 model.

TRICKY using a QY10

Thom Yorke using a QY70

What was unique about the QY70 in 1997 was the amount of attention Yamaha paid to demystifying the creative process, or removing the blank canvas effect of having to actually think of new melodies or drum patterns. This was achieved through the customisation of a neglected feature known as auto-accompaniment (AA).

If you, or anyone in your family, has ever owned a domestic keyboard you’ll be familiar with the standard bank of about 50 song styles that you can select and play along to. The idea is that you can practice your piano playing or vocal skills without having to employ a backing band. That’s the concept of auto-accompaniment. Typical AA styles are usually dominated by musical clichés like country, 16-beat, rock, or pop styles. The options that are open to you consist of speeding up or slowing down the tempo of any one pattern, but further editing is barred. In the QY70, Yamaha not only allowed the user to isolate and edit particular tracks, you could also mix and match styles, or use them as building blocks for your own compositions. They also included a feature called Chord template. This allowed you to sift through a number of chord progressions, pre-programmed to fit musical styles like ballads, blues and Jazz. Included in this set of pre-prepared chord structures was an option titled Cliché, which, as you’d imagine, gave access to a collection of instantly clichéd chord sequences.

To complement these innovations in automated song generation, Yamaha included a number of unique, contemporary, AA options, including styles like Drum n Bass, Jungle and Euro Techno. They also included an option named EJ: a rather cryptic reference to a burgeoning, underground genre known as intelligent dance music – IDM for short. Possibly named after a mailing list forum created in 1993 to discuss the music of Aphex Twin and other Warp records artists, IDM was labelled intelligent because of its lineage, innovation, and compositional difficulty. Alongside Detroit techno and Chicago Acid House, IDM artists name-checked Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, Edgard Varese, Iannis Xenakis and a whole host of other composers, known for their esoteric musical output. At the forefront of this new breed of dance music producer was Richard D. James – aka Aphex Twin.

Aphex Twin. Richard D. James album, (1996)

What Yamaha’s EJ preset did was reproduce and automate the stylistic flourishes and technical innovations associated with Aphex Twin’s music. Approximately one year on from the release of Aphex’s record entitled Richard D. James, Yamaha Japan charged it’s team of engineers to create an auto-accompaniment preset that would allow amateurs, enthusiasts and professionals, around the world, the chance to write like Aphex Twin. What they created was an almost exact copy, of the track entitled 4, from the Richard D James’s album.

Usually the automation of song styles is confined to what might be called traditional compositions. Stereotypical song structures we associate with genres like Country, Blues, Reggae and so on. We recognise them because they are pulled from songs that have pre-ordained structures. With IDM, or rather Aphex Twin, Yamaha’s engineers sought to copy the instantly recognisable, individual compositional style of a living artist. By placing the ability to write like Aphex in anybodies hands, they simultaneously demystified and, to an extent, neutered his artistic gesture. Not only could users play around with this tool on their portable boxes, they could transfer the midi data to their computers and use it to create compositions of releasable quality. In other words, they could feasibly profit from corporate plagiarism. 

As a result, Yamaha’s quest to simplify the process of song writing, through automation, arguably contributed to the premature obsolescence of Aphex Twin’s signature style, and the particular incarnation of IDM he helped pioneer. Although IDM remains a vital genre of alternative electronic music, the increased ubiquity of Aphex’s style saw aspiring composers – and Aphex himself – retreating from it as quickly as their precursors adopted it. In the QY70’s wake software packages incorporated Aphex style features, and with each subsequent release the learning curve shortened. So, from the relative difficulty of Cycling 74’s MAX/MSP, users were able to do things at the touch of a button with Ableton Live. The casualty of this ‘democratic’ levelling of the playing field becomes the original artistic gesture.

Views From an Accelerated Reality # 4: Tookie

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The oxford English dictionary defines hypertrophy as ‘the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells.’ In body-builder parlance hypertrophy, or muscle-cell hypertrophy, is the state attained through regular sessions of applied

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force through physical exertion, weight training, sets and reps. For Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams, former leader and founder member (alongside Raymond Washington) of Los Angeles street gang the Crips, the principle of hypertrophy by force extended far beyond the makeshift garage gyms, and front lawn bench-press sessions of his South Central neighbourhood.

Born on December 29, 1953 Tookie’s rise to Crip leadership began in the spring of 1971, 34 years before his death by lethal injection in California’s San Quentin prison. After the last embers of the Black Panther Party, and their dashiki-wearing rivals Us, were snuffed out in the late 1960’s, a political hole was left in the African American Community of Los Angeles. This gap in the political consciousness was quickly filled by the misogynistic images of Blaxploitation cinema and a new capitalist individualism, embodied by the likes of Youngblood Priest: the coke dealing, whitey-hating, central character of Gordon Parks Jr’s Superfly. In the 2006 documentary Bastards of the Party, Chili, a former member of pre-Panther LA gang the Gladiators, explained the situation: ‘guys that I knew who were starch in the iron revolutionaries and would die for the movement, when I got out [of prison] they was telling me “it aint happening homeboy”1. Despite this apathetic migration into the zone of self-centeredness by older males, LA’s youth carried a memory of the organisation and brotherhood delivered by the Black Panthers. Stepping into the breach were the gangs, most notably Tookie’s Crips and their bitter rivals the Bloods. By Tookie’s account the Crips came into focus that spring when he and Raymond Washington joined forces and the Crips name was coined in a high school cafeteria. In Tookie’s own words ‘life seemed to accelerate after I met Raymond’2

Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams in the exercise yard at San Quentin, Circa 1985

Tookie’s experience of acceleration was characterised by a disturbing, even super-human, level of physical and psychic excess. Extreme bouts of violence; group sex, larceny, armed robbery, and murder, if not all perpetrated by him were certainly part of his everyday life. Underlying this vicious momentum was the perpetual quest for hypertrophy, and the continual growth of muscle mass. Tookie’s path towards invincibility remained unchallenged until he was hospitalised in 1976 by a number of .45 calibre bullets, fracturing a calf and shattering the bones in both his feet and ankles. Tookie’s road to recovery required something that had been alien to him for a long time, slowness.

Though Tookie’s physique was as muscular as ever, the limp that slowed his gait significantly decreased his effectiveness as a fearsome individual. By his admission ‘the years 1977 to 1979 were the lowest point of my life’3. Tookie’s wilderness years saw his hyper-speed reality exchanged for the world of a phencyclidine (aka PCP and Sherm) fuelled haze. It is here, in a drug den, that Tookie experienced a different type of acceleration; acceleration by default:

‘When my stepbrother Wayne was floating on Sherm, he sometimes moved in super-slow motion as if he was in another dimension. Once while I was getting my hair braided by my stepsister Demetri, Wayne was high on Sherm and got up in super-slow motion to creep over to where Demetri’s friend’s purse was. He took out the wallet and placed it under his jacket, then returned to his seat as if nothing had ever happened. I shook him out of his trance, and he wasn’t even aware of what he had done. Though we all laughed, it was one of the most bizarre things I had ever seen. In time I would do stranger things.’4

1 Bastards of the Party, Cle Shaheed Sloan, Fuqua Pictures; USA. 2006
2 Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams, Redemption, Milo Books, England, 2004; pp. 82
3 Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams, Redemption, Milo Books, England, 2004; pp. 173
4 Ibid pp. 175-176