Becker je, kao Monoton, klasik elektronike, psihoaktivnog zvukovnog programiranja, performansa i instalacija. Njegov album Monotonprodukt07 iz 1982. The Wire je stavio na listu 100 najvažnijih albuma 20. stoljeća. Imao je i paralelni projekt Die Wissenschaftliche Sensation. Na ovogodišnjem albumu objavljena je snimka njegovih izvrsnih svirki na klaviru iz 1982-83. Šamanistička klasika. Becker je također medijski teoretičar i hipermedijski istraživač, autor nekoliko knjiga, direktor herojskog Institute for New Culture Technologies/t0 / Public Netbase [i ovdje] (1994-2006) te pokretač World Information Institute i World-Information.Org
Konrad Becker, Grand Piano Classics (2013) streaming
Konrad Becker's work as a sound artist and composer is mostly known for his pioneering achievements in electronic music under the name Monoton. Until this day documents of his acoustic works remain extremely rare. The pieces for 4 pianos remain a central element in his oeuvre and it is for the first time that these historic recordings are made available. Recorded in 1982-83 for the international performance series "Program for the 100% resocialization of the devil" and the "Parzival" opera in May 1984. Three previously unpiblished "Zero Oxygen" tracks contrast the almost 30 year old analogue sound documents. In 2002 the piano pieces for mechanical instruments were amended by a digital postscript of virtual grand pianos. - Klanggalerie
Preserved for posterity as four-track tape recordings, Konrad Becker’s Piano Concertos for 4 Pianos have finally crossed the digital divide. While the man behind the music has been anything but listless, these recordings have until now, laid fallow for upwards of 25 years, making this the first release of his acoustic music. Originally used for the performance series Program for the 100% Resocialization of the Devil in 1982-83 and the experimental opera Parzival in 1984, the pieces are redolent with low-end perfumes, thick metallic fogs, and percussive walls of splendor. The simultaneous play of four roaring pianos creates music rife with subterfuge and illusion.
Konrad Becker is a High Magistrate of Hypermedia. A polymath involved in numerous interdisciplinary fields of study and endeavor. His energies have previously been focused on his work as director of the Public Netbase from 1994 to 2006. More recently he has started the World-Information Institute. With these groups he has organized several conferences and symposiums. He is the author of Strategic Reality Dictionary: Deep Infopolitics and Cultural Intelligence and co-editor of Critical Strategies in Art and Media: Perspectives on New Cultural Practices both published by Autonomedia. Music fans will know him for his accomplished forays in electronic and computer music under the name Monoton, a project that begin in 1979. The acoustic works on this album expose another facet of Konrad’s complex working methods, and his fascination with mathematical structures.
The songs on the two-disc set are not arranged sequentially. Two of the long players, both over 40 minutes, preclude that possibility. Disc one opens with “Parzival Overture” from 1984, moving in a non-linear manner afterwards.The song is thunderous and dense, and all four pianos are multi-tracked, played by Konrad. He hits the notes in rapid fire succession, a characteristic that the other concertos share as well. Resonating overtones give wings to the imagination. All smashed up into a thick wall of sound, it seems as if the notes spent some time together in the Large Hadron Collider. The rhythmically vibrating strings cause me to lock in step and oscillate at the same high rate. The manner of playing focuses on the percussive element and is akin to a shaman beating on a frame drum to induce out-of-body journeys and it would not surprise me if this was also Becker’s intention. Many of his live performances and installations incorporated field recordings of Shamanic music from various corners of the globe, and his writings espouse a deep concern with the traffic of the internal world. The monotonous minimalism of the overture is made functional in this manner while remaining aesthetically pleasing. In its last ten minutes as it progresses towards a conclusion the tempo slows down, allowing the notes to unglue themselves from each other and be heard distinctly in their own right. When the song concludes I feel as if I have been traveling and am finally allowed to take a moment and catch my breath at a rest area. Except the songs bleed into one another without any break or pause. I would have liked a pause.
“Noctariations” follows. As the title implies the music emits an aura of cloudy dreams, perfect for the dark hours of night. In this piece the strings rattle with a clangorous glee, buzzing as if the piano has been prepared with pieces of metal laid across the strings. All the while a luscious drone permeates the background, and I wonder if he ever let his foot off the sustain pedal. “Etude” has the quality of one of William Basinki’s Disintegration Loops. From 1982, I can almost hear the grit, dirt, and decay that seem to cling to the reels of magnetic tape. “Danse Diable” from 1983 takes up the major portion of the second disc, clocking in at nearly fifty-minutes. Polychromatic time signatures veer off in different directions. Quantum entanglement, however, ensures that the sounds remain aligned. A dense reverberation forms a magnetic undercurrent beneath the notes that are playing in a higher register. This effect gels it all together.
The release also includes three Zero Oxygen Bonus Tracks, composed in 2002 as a digital epilogue to the other four songs. Two were included at the end of the first disc and the third on the second. The digital piano mixed and looped with dance floor beats sound fun and playful. These quirky tunes would be at home at any large outdoor electronic music festival, making an excellent addition to the album. I only wish that all three were placed back to back on the second disc where there was plenty of room for them. This would have allowed for a more streamlined listen. It also would have been nice if the acoustic pieces had been mixed so as to fade out a bit at the end of each song. The abrupt endings and transitions tended to jar me out of my listening trance. Minor grievances aside, Klanggalerie has done another fine job releasing and preserving crucial artifacts. - brainwashed.com/
Monoton, Ancient Futures (2009) streaming
Monoton, Monotonprodukt MCMLXXXIX 20y++ (2009)
Monoton, Eight Lost Tracks (2009) streaming
Monoton, Four Lost Tracks (2009) streaming
Monoton, Blau – Monotonprodukt 02 26y++ (2006) streaming
Monoton, Monotonprodukt 07 20y++ (2003)
Monoton, Realtime streaming
Set up in the late 70s by Konrad Becker, Monoton maybe did not get a similar reputation as other electro-industrial pioneers although it’s a famous name for the die-hard fans of the 80s experimental movement. Klanggalerie which has often re-released legendary bands and albums (thinking of names like Rapoon, Nocutrnal Emissions, Blackhouse, Asmus Tietchens, Z’Ev, Sprung Aus Den Wolken, Konstruktivist etc has now put Monoton back on the rails.
We here get a live album taken from recordings in between 1979 and 1987. “Realtime” is the first Monoton live release ever. And even if it’s a posthumous recording, I’m sure it will please to collectors and simply to fans of this Austrian project. “Realtime” is a selection of 15 tracks, which will remind you of ‘anti-music’ of pioneers like Psychic TV, SPK ao. We’re entering a kind of sound laboratory where sounds were collected and next manipulated. We’re like moving with a time-machine into the past and awakening in the early 80s. The influences are constantly moving in between industrial, experimental and post-apocalyptic rock.
Globally speaking you have to reconsider this album, putting it in its initial context. That’s the only way to appreciate it, but I have to admit that a few tracks still are convincing. I’m referring to “Starship” (1987) which is a cool cut of industrial-rock based on heavy drones and guitar experiment. Another track that caught my attention is “Tapetabalism” (1984) for its mixture of industrial and tribal elements (like Arabian chants). The electro-industrial “BossaNuestra” is a last piece I want to mention for its kind of avant-gardism in mixing electronics and industrial elements.
The release of “Realtime” is a kind of sonic documentary getting us back to the early years of the electro-industrial and experimental scene. - www.side-line.com/
I am never sure how much we need to regard all those pioneers and investigators of new music since the late 70s/early 80s. These were the dark times and also so are the many figures around. Austrian born Konrad Becke founded in 1979 this group/project, mainly for stage-driven and late night and multi-media productions. There exist numerous of live tapes (1979 to 1987), this is the first compilation of these works (,while his first real album “Monotonprodukt” (1980)). I have no idea where and but to place him in the remains of the Krautrock experiments, reinspired by industrial sounds, simplified into loops and rhythms of the early new wave generation that used sequenced rhythms for their expressions. It is more or less the same area as Deutsche Amerikanische Freundschaft, a more underground sound of a band who later under the name of DAF would create more accessible new wave-pop songs instead. Monoton was even darker, denser, their occasional voices of lead singer were always distorted. Their use of sounds was more industrial-alike. A track like “Autobahn” was much more minimal-experimental in use compared to Kraftwerk’s exposure to car road sounds for their pop version. I think it is nice to know where people grow out of these areas. Monoton deliberately were kept more monotone perhaps as well, a small monster of the underground never to have grown out of its eggshells. Never the less, in 1998, The Wire magazine wrote that "Monotonprodukt07" from 1982 which they considered one of the 100 most important records of this century. I never heard that one, on this cd release this band I can only consider as a good enough byproduct of its times, not originators or inspirers, not here. - www.psychemusic.org/
Monoton, Monotonprodukt 07 (1982)
A holy grail of electronic music reissued on vinyl for the first time in 30 years, beautiful pressing housed in a deluxe gatefold edition limited to just 300 copies for the world* 'Monotonprodukt 07' has certified holy grail status in the world of electronic music. Originally issued by Konrad Becker aka Monoton in 1982 on a then-tiny run of 500 copies, it has been marked out as a genuine milestone by successive waves of respected institutions, featuring in The Wire magazine's '100 Records That Set The World On Fire' and Woebot's '100 Greatest Records Ever' list, respectively. A CD reissue appeared nearly ten years ago, and this faithful edition marks thirty years since it was last pressed to vinyl. As a child of the '60s inspired by popular sci-fi, who creatively matured during the late '70s era of Kraftwerk and kosmische, Konrad Becker was obsessed with ideas of automated machine music, applying "meta-mathematical structures, natural constants and resonance patterns in models of "bionic" psycho-active automat music". This aesthetic is clearly reflected in the LP artwork - blank staves begging to be transformed - and the music, a monotonous moire of motorik rhythm and stark synthetic tones perhaps best compared with the likes of Conrad Schnitzler, Craig Leon or Suicide, and hailed as "the square root of Basic Channel, Kompakt and Oval" by the ever-trustworthy Matt "Woebot" Ingram. I'm not going to front - apart from a few youtube videos, i'd never heard this album before - but one listen through affirms why it's held in such high regard; this is a methodical, masterfully trippy and forward thinking electronic music, one which consolidates opposing ideas with unsentimental and forward thinking vision, while rooted in something primally affective and mysterious. Basically it's sh*t hot. Don't miss! - boomkat
Die Wissenschaftliche Sensation:
Mindinvasion and Cultural Intelligence, Konrad Becker, kuda.lounge, 2002 [video-link predavanja]
Konrad Becker, Dictionary Of Operations: Deep Politics and Cultural Intelligence, Autonomedia, 2012.
Joining his previous titles Strategic Reality Dictionary and Tactical Reality Dictionary, Vienna-based cultural critic Konrad Becker offers another 72-key manifesto of deep politics and cultural intelligence. Through deep-cultural entries like Absolute Mammon, Compulsive Order, Fictional Rationalism, Fundamental Epiphenomena, Irrational Objectivity, Perpetual Emergency, Speculative Finance and Truth Production, Becker unlocks a historical and ideological treasure trove of enslaving memes and pioneer paths to liberation from them.
Deep Search II
The automatic classification of data, its indexing, and its evaluation are at the heart of new communication environments. What lies beneath is not just a drive to organize the world's information, but also to classify human relations: from the management of the modern workplace and consumers in mass societies, to the bio-political management of the network society. Sociometric algorithms quantify all areas of life in order to mathematically model and predict human behavior. In today's booming world of data mining, algorithmic methods based on large digital datasets are routinely used for determining political influence and analyzing social dispositions or contagious trends. Digital transactions provide huge amounts of private and semi-private data on personal preferences that are harvested to customize and transform everyday experiences.
A key nexus is provided by search engines, multi-purpose tools present in many dimensions of life, and the increasingly comprehensive environments of services offered by search engine providers. Understanding search-based societies does not only require an analysis of the deep history of the storing and indexing of information, but also the study of complex new forms of retrieval and data analysis. This includes the new position of search engines in a top-down control matrix as well as "bottom-up" recommendation systems, "push-search", folksonomies and the presumed wisdom of crowds. Search can only be understood if the still evolving redistribution of power in digital networks is addressed in both its centralizing and de-centralizing dimensions.
The conference Deep Search II focuses on key issues in this fast and dynamic field. First, we want to highlight the historical dimensions of our attempts to organize information and people. Second, we want to investigate the politics of search, conflict and dimensions of power, and, finally, future classification schemes beyond search, tracking and social recommendation systems, including new forms of pattern recognition in large data sets.
THE POLITICS OF SEARCH BEYOND GOOGLE
A Publication of Word-Information Institute
Konrad Becker/ Felix Stalder [eds.] Studienverlag & Transaction Publishers, 2009.
Information is useless if it cannot be found and it is not a co-incidence that a search engine like Google has turned into one of the most significant companies of the new century. These engines are never just practical tools to deal with information overload. Such cognitive technologies embed political philosophy in seemingly neutral code.
"Deep Search is the most profound set of statements and questions yet on the new universal machine, the search engine. Knowledge about the networks and the means of sorting them starts from the grounds of politics, culture and the formation of life rather than what is simply technically or legally possible. This book demands to be used." Matthew Fuller, Goldsmiths, University of London, author of Media Ecologies
"This collection gets to the heart of the most important issues concerning our global information ecosystem: Will the ‘soft power’ of one, two, or three corporations exert inordinate yet undetectable influence over what we consider important, beautiful, or true? What are the possibilities for resistance? What are the proper avenues for law, policy, and personal choices? This book walks us through these challenges like no other before it." Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia, author of The Googlization of Everything
Deep Search" collects 13 texts which investigate the social and political dimensions of how we navigate the deep seas of knowledge. What do we win, and what do we lose when we move from an analogue to a digital information order? How is computer readable significance produced, how is meaning involved in machine communication? Where is the emancipatory potential of having access to such vast amounts of information? What are the dangers of our reliance on search engines? And are there any approaches that do not follow the currently dominating paradigm of Google? These questions of culture, context und classification in information systems should not be ignored since what is at stake is nothing less than how we, as individuals and institutions, come to find out about the world. Because what cannot be found does not exist.
With articles by Konrad Becker, Robert Darnton, Paul Duguid, Joris van Hoboken, Claire Lobet-Maris, Geert Lovink, Lev Manovich, Katja Mayer, Metahaven, Matteo Pasquinelli, Bernhard Rieder, Theo Röhle, Richard Rogers, Felix Stalder & Christine Mayer.
Konrad Becker, co-founder of the World-Information Institute, used the occasion to present the book „Deep Search – The Politics of Search beyond Google“. He states that it was the editors‘ objective to create a book about searching which does not focus on Google because the concentration on the company from Mountain View, California restricts the view on the impact of search engines in general. Furthermore he points out another aspect that has already been stressed by other speakers at the Society of the Query conference: he prefers talking about a search society, rather than focussing on a control society.
Becker‘s interest is to examine the long history of the attempt to impose order on the fragile universe of information systems. He refers to library sciences as the kind of discipline that tries to analyze how to structure big amounts of information through catalogue systems. Besides Konrad Becker announces that there will be a second “Deep Search” conference organized by the World Information Institute in May 2010 which is the sequel of the first “Deep Search” conference of 2008.
The book is composed of 13 texts discussing the social and political dimensions related to the organization of knowledge through search engines. Authors involved are for example: Geert Lovink, Richard Rogers, Joris van Hoboken, Matteo Pasquinelli, Konrad Becker and Lev Manovich who also contribute to the Society of the Query conference. It is important to discuss these influence of search technology because as Becker says technology always appears to be politically neutral, but it is always connected to politcal and philosophical ideas. - dennis deicke
Public Netbase: Non Stop Future, Revolver, 2008.
This year one of the most important, distinctive albums in electronic music history, Monoton‘s Monotonprodukt 07, receives its first ever vinyl reissue.
The album was created by Austrian artist Konrad Becker and released in 1982; it was the second studio album Becker had created under the Monoton name, following 1980′s stark Monotonprodukt 02. Its limited pressing – 500 copies, which really was a small number in those days – meant that it quickly became a highly collectible item, discussed in reverent tones by record collectors and electronic music aficionados, but heard by few outside these clandestine and inward-looking circles.
In recent years however, Monotonprodukt 07 has become firmly established as a classic: 1998 saw The Wire include it in its alternative canon-shaping 100 Records That Set The World On Fire list, with Biba Kopf observing how alive it is “with the pulses that triggered many Electronicas to come, from Techno through Trance to Mego’s creeping static…picking up on Suicide’s jittertronic urgency, if not their melodrama, and DAF’s throbbing sequencers, but with the sex threat removed.” Occasional FACT contributor Matt ‘Woebot’ Ingram counted the album among his own iconoclastic 100 Greatest Records Ever rundown, calling it “underground NDW…the square root of Basic Channel, Kompakt and Oval”. What’s more, CD reissues in 2003 and 2009, not to mention the murky world of “sharity” rips, means that more people than ever before are intimately acquainted with the music.
Konrad Becker is well aware of the role the internet has played in giving Monotoprodukt 07 a second lease of life – in fact the internet, and the way it disseminates information and disinformation, is one of his areas of expertise. Though he remains active in the field of sonic and visual art, Becker is perhaps now more widely known as a “hypermedia researcher and interdisciplinary content developer”, as Director of the Institute For New Culture Technologies and founder of Public Netbase and World-information.org. His work as a theorist has seen him publish a number of well-regarded books, take up academic posts and consultancies, and of course participate in numerous conferences and symposia around the world – indeed, if you’re looking for an interesting slant on the topic of man and his relationship to technology, Becker is your go-to egghead.
On the eve of the release of Desire Records’ long-awaited edition of Monotonprodukt 07 (available to pre-order here), FACT’s Kiran Sande spoke to Becker to find out more about the record’s origins, and those of the Monoton project at large. Almost inevitably, the conversation quickly turned to politics, cyber-ethics and the tricky business of navigating the contemporary “infosphere”.
“I was interested in the concept of cosmological machine music and a future that obliterates the composer.”
Can you tell me how the Monoton project first came into being?
“Growing up with a 60s popular sci-fi imagination I was more than ready to embrace the future [laughs]. Probably I was overestimating the speed of development at the time…It started around some very basic electronic devices that I didn’t steal, but begged for and borrowed. With a friend we started to do little shows based on that. Very private, in homes and artist studios. Later I got hold of little computers and tinkered devices. However, the fascination of a ‘dehumanized’ musician as the producer of denaturalized sounds is an ever present factor from the origins of ritual music to the more contemporary shapes of popular sounds.”
Why did you adopt the alias ‘Monoton’?
“Even though I was also hanging out in arty scenes I was quite opposed to a cultural system that gives overwhelming importance to the supposed achievements and branding of individual personalities. So I was looking for vehicles to make my activities more anonymous. I took care not to make it too visible, like who is doing what under the names.
“Supposedly the name for African Juju music was adopted from the designation of white colonialists who summarised this musical cultural expression as ‘juju’. Similarly the pejorative label ‘Devil Dance’ was adopted by the shamanistic ritual practitioners in Sri Lanka. All the music I really liked was considered ‘monotonous’ by your average western music-lover. So that’s one explanation for the name.”
But there’s more to it than that?
“Of course in my personal journey through music history I soon found that most music that sounds monotonous at first is just highly complex. When people seem to hear ‘always the same’ it mostly means they are missing out on something. Usually it’s a deficiency of perceiving the complexity of scales and microtonality, modulation or rhythm, etc. The passive consumer’s musical hell is heaven for the active listener. For me it is more about learning to listen than to make music and for instance to explore the sound of the city. After all, the human sensory capacity for experiencing sound and vibration is very extensive.
“At the same time repetition is the key to an active listener experience. Even if you play the same thing twice, it will never be the same. If you play it a hundred times it will be different a hundred times. Same with repeating a word many times: you start to hear ‘other’ words instead. A verbal transformation related to what is called ‘semantic satiation’. The language code loses its meaning and a new meaning emerges.”
“I was encouraged by the wave of independent labels and producers. Against the boredom of the majors this was so refreshing. Of course the quick appropriation was sobering.”So the idea and practice of repetition was key to the music of Monoton?
“At the time I picked up the habit to arrest the pick-up of my record player so it would play the most interesting parts in a loop.
“Experimenting with resonance machines – what we call instruments – is one of the oldest cultural activities and the importance of ‘meta-mathematical’ structures in this context can be verified for most cultures. Pythagorean experiments with the monochord about the transformation of sound experience into numbers have not lost their fascination. As Leibnitz put it, “music is a secret arithmetic practice of the soul”.
“I sympathised with the energy of the early punk scene and its trope of ‘three chords are enough to start a band’, however I thought, three’s already much too much and one tone should be more than sufficient. Polyphonic synthesizers were far out of reach at the time anyway…”
What were your ambitions for the project at the beginning?
“At the time I was encouraged by the wave of independent labels and producers. Against the boredom of the majors this was so refreshing. Of course the quick appropriation was a bit sobering.”
How would you say your work evolved between Monotonprodukt 02 and Monotonprodukt 07?
“Well, 02 was just superbasic – by any standards the equipment was laughable. Half of the record is just a drum machine run through a cheap echobox and some basic monophonic synth-bass and layers. Price and availability of the kind of stuff I wanted to use was an issue! This spartan set-up was augmented by an oil drum standing around in my studio and an old violin. 07 is much more elaborate in terms of equipment, but also in the breadth of experimentation with different approaches and interests of mine.”
What were the ideas, inspirations and motivations behind Monotoprodukt 07?
“I saw it more as a byproduct of a process, of exploring, experimenting and investigating, of trial and error. A basic motivation that nobody else seemed to be doing this kind of thing…As in many later projects, I was thinking, if no one else is doing this I’ve got to do it myself then. When there was lots of interesting music around I found that somewhat demotivating.
“07 was kind of a showcase of several elements that I had been using previously in installations, shows or videos, or simply emerged from my experimenting. Part of my work I saw as private experiments, but then I also developed an ambition to translate this into ‘products’.”
“I don’t believe in the myth that a work will surface over time thanks to its inherent qualities. History is not linear and a lot of achievements easily get lost.”Why do you think Monotonprodukt 07 exerts such a hold over people’s imaginations so many years later? Do you still listen to it? Looking back, what do you feel its strengths and weaknesses are?
“I think part of the fascination is exactly that it was hardly visible at all; it was kind of an open secret. People like to share secrets. Personally I don’t believe in the myth that a work will surface over time thanks to its inherent qualities. History is not linear and a lot of achievements easily get lost. However, aren’t we all fascinated by Easter eggs and hidden doors in games?
“No, I haven’t listened to the record for a long time. It was just one thing of many that I’ve been doing. When I produced some 12″s in the early rave period and my colleague in Amsterdam urged me to re-sample some of the stuff for the club context of ’92 I kind of ‘rediscovered’ it. Meanwhile I’ve taken up the habit of doing live cameos, based on notebook, and have added little bits and pieces of this period into my sound repertoire.”
“The strengths are also somewhat related to the weaknesses. The whole technology and methodology of ‘bass music’ has really developed in the last decades – back then, I had problems getting the record pressed properly by the local plant due to the bass frequencies. If I looked back I would probably do quite a few things differently, but really I don’t look back, much.”
What’s the relationship between Monoton and the Institut für Wissenschaftliche Sensation?
“‘Wissenschaftliche Sensations’ translates more or less to ‘scientific sensation” and plays on a tautological notion. I guess I was challenging the ontologigal categories and dividing lines of objective official science, pseudo-science and what I called ‘subjective science’. Under the name Wissenschaftliche Sensation I organised rhythm and noise-based, dub-style ‘big band’ stuff of 8-20 people, sometimes using sound objects and weird percussion instruments. It was long, mostly improvised ‘live’ sessions.
“In live music environments my interest was in building acoustic space: treating sound in an architectural way in the sense of creating standing waves and resonances also specifically for the room the music is played in. This literally means building walls or layers of sound (sometimes walls of noise, really), saturating the space with waves that start to interact within themselves.”
Did you think of yourself as a ‘subjective scientist’?
“‘Scientist’ is a designation sometimes used for witch doctors and for practitioners of Afro-Caribbean cults, including Santeria. This is a notion that I believe is reflected in the dub artist’s name, as in Scientist: Rids The World Of The Curse Of The Vampires. In our ‘Wissenschaftliche Sensation’ line-up-lists, which were sometimes quite large, we put a ‘Doctor’ in front of each name to make this point (some people who were struggling for their Phds were not amused.)
“It was a common visual trope for dub artists to portray themselves in this setting of an advanced spaceship controls console. And yes, that’s how it felt, even though there were just a few blinking lights and some knobs to fiddle.
“Some of the early concerts were promoted under the label ‘Gesellschaft für Wissenschaft und Volkstanz’ (literally Association for Science and folk-dance), with Volkstanz carrying some very conservative connotations. Later I re-used the label ‘Volkstanz’ when I helped organise cultural activities against the extreme right-wing party in our government around the year 2000 – for instance street parades with what we called ‘soundpolitisierung’ or ‘sound politicization’.”
“I was particularly fascinated by the Lee ‘Scratch Perry’ and King Tubby studios, and loved African Starship when it came out.”How aware of and interested were you in the surrounding climate of electronic music in Germany and beyond in the late 70s and early 80s?
“It was a field of information scarcity – even if you were interested or even if you were an obscurity hunter. Most of the stuff I knew I found too hippy, I was too cyber-punkish for that…but I loved Can, and of course Kraftwerk – even though they were pretty popular by then, their operation was quite outlandish in the overall scheme of things. I was particularly fascinated by the Lee ‘Scratch Perry’ and King Tubby studios, and loved African Starship when it came out.”
Tell me about the cover artwork on Monotonprodukt 07, which depicts the staff lines of formal musical notation, but empty: no notes.
“I guess it was the closest to being a ‘white label’ [laughs].
“As is indicated by the name of the project I was deeply sceptical of ‘creativity’; I always thought this is for people working in advertisement or financial products. I was more interested in being an ‘explorer’. One of my interests in experimenting with machine music was to teach them to play all by themselves by looking into amplifying natural rhythms, cosmological structures, biological and self-referential feedback loops. I was interested in the concept of cosmological machine music and a future that obliterates the composer. Automatonic, bionic generative music – hence the cover designs based on empty stave lines.
“In my dreams I imagined a fully automated musical orchestra based on the vibrational patterns of the universe that would interact with the listener. Later I got more interested in the aspect of social commentary. Intelligent cultural production does not just lead you along but opens up a space of intellectual adventure and allows you to fire up some neurons on your own.
“The importance of musical systems is not only in their stabilising, but rather in their transforming and de-limiting effects.”“There was also some irony involved. The tonality of classical Western music as it is represented by the staff sheet is directly related to the spread of nationalistic and centralistic hierarchies and the established political economic and cultural framework. I actually got some training in classical music but today I couldn’t play from a sheet if you put a gun to my head.
“There are far more than a thousand discernible pitches available to melodic consciousness, yet only a very small fraction of them are allowed. The loss of rhythmic intelligence after the Middle Ages is evidence of increased domestication. In The Republic, Plato asserts that ‘Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited [...] When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them’. Jacques Attali, in Noise, the Political Economy of Music, quotes Moliére’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, ‘Without music no state could survive’, and adds: ‘It was no longer necessary to carry out ritual murder to dominate. The enactment of order in noise was enough’.
“Music offered itself as a bourgeois substitute for religion since music as an organisation of controlled panic transforms dissonance into harmony and provides reassurance of stability. An idealised humanity mirrored in a hierarchical harmonious musical system based on exclusion of conflict. And opposed to dissonances, where the blurring of differentiation is perceived as violence. The importance of musical systems, though, is not only in their stabilising, but rather in their transforming and de-limiting effects.”
What, if anything, is the common thread running through your work – what is that your links your work as Monoton to your work as, say, a critical theorist or as digital communication expert? Is it fair to say that the interactions between man and technology are what interest you the most?
“Yes indeed, the relation of human and technology, of subject and object, the individual and the collective experience. As a broader overarching theme, I am interested how immaterial, symbolic regimes interact with the material reality (through technology, for instance). Hence my series of books: Tactical Reality Dictionary, Strategic Reality Dictionary and, coming up next, Dictionary of Operations. The power of media over matter, to put it another way. It applies to control society, knowledge organization and information management (as in search engines) or ‘Intellectual Property’ issues. This is also true for my later artist/activist symbolic interventions in public space.
“I’d also say that a determined curiosity is a connecting factor…My approach was always universalist, as opposed to specialist, but often there is a strange gap where many who have more of an intellectual background seem not to be able to relate to transgressive powers of sound, while some in the music scene seem to have never read a book in their life. Theory needs to be coupled with practice. A lot of people get a little depressed when they hear my techno-civilization analysis…For me it is important to keep a balance where the tools of repression can be turned into tools of liberation.”
“I am not so much annoyed by some of the vulgar commercial renderings of electronic dance music but rather of the snobbish hype and pale faddishness of self-styled aesthetic elites.”Do you feel the advance of electronic music has been halted? Do you feel as excited about the possibilities available to electronic musicians now as you did in the late 70s ad early 80s? Do you feel that the spread of technology has made artistic practice across the world more or less interesting?
Yes, I have been invited to talks where there was this anxious question of whether we’ve reached the end of (electronic music) history. Part of the renewed interest in my early work is based on this feeling that there are no unifying revolutionary trends emerging and so there is a tendency to look back. Genres are splitting up into sub-genres the moment they appear; the infosphere gets ever more complex. This looking back shows a need for orientation.
“I have lived through a few boom and bust cycles of experimental independent music but I keep meeting people who experienced the rush of the early ’90s and are deeply frustrated that this revolutionary moment has passed so quickly. A lot has to do with the psychological momentum. When sometimes the dancefloor seemed to levitate and curve space-time it wasn’t necessarily because the tracks that were spinning were so extraordinarily good, but rather the mindset was extraordinary.
“Recently a producer of electronic music in the US mentioned that it is still seen as ‘un-American’ while European alternative mainstream radio has just barely picked up on what was happening 20 years ago. Personally I am not so much annoyed by some of the vulgar commercial renderings of electronic dance music but rather of the snobbish hype and pale faddishness of self-styled aesthetic elites…but seriously, I think there has never been so much interesting contemporary music around as now, thanks to this ‘revolution of machines’. Significantly, new developments are coming from the streets not the academies. Most of the ‘highly educated’ art music crowd simply doesn’t get it…
“The statistics of access to computers for producing sound speaks for itself. People romanticise the times when unusual albums were priceless treasures and you had to physically travel all over to get interesting stuff. In the early 90s DJs were still competing by monopolising 12″ vinyl copies. Better access to interesting music has widened and expanded musical understanding.
Hanging out in clubs or places where there are hardly any intellectuals, or even grown-ups for that matter, I hear anonymous little masterpieces that will probably never surface anywhere, especially not in any art history canon, but they show that the musical intelligence and spirit is still there. OK, I can’t exclude the possibility that some of them become cultural icons, but that’s not the point…”
“An information age is just as much a disinformation age.”Given your interests in cultural intelligence and social control, where do you place Monotonprodukt 07 in the scheme of things? Is it interesting to you that the album has gained a new audience via the dissemination of information through the internet?
“It is pretty clear that 07 owes its second life to the net. However it would be naïve to see the net as a tool of ultimate transparency. An information age is just as much a disinformation age. And the fog of trivial exhibitionism, the self-fulfilling silliness of crowds and other dumbing-down phenomena are in full effect. After the end of the bipolar world of the cold war, there seemed to be an uncanny integration and homogenization into a controlled environment of standardised technologies. However clearly there are also possibilities opening up in the cracks and interspaces of the current regime.
“One of the positive side effects is that the world has opened up a bit…in the good old days there were stronger localised gatekeepers, like ‘London’. Things from outside were often viewed in a very condescending way… Now it is clearer that some of the most interesting stuff is actually happening on the peripheries…”
Desire Records are releasing the album on vinyl. How do you feel about the vinyl LP in the digital age? Do you still retain an affection for the LP as a cultural artifact or does it seem irrevocably outmoded and redundant to you?
“Anyone who has carried record boxes around the world or even just from one place to another knows how impractical records are. However, with its technological obsolescence, a vinyl record attains a new aura. It is a fascinating and beautiful object in itself. It is like writing some documents on parchment. And even with my fascination with all things electronic I still love old-fashioned books more than text files. Usually I have a less than very romantic attitude to these things though…
“It’s funny when the ‘old guard’ of DJs that are proud of their vinyl skills complain that nowadays just ‘anybody’ can play files from his PC. When I was dealing with clunky and unwieldy analogue gear I was dreaming of a small discreet box that I could carry under my arm. Now of course I’m also moved by
analogue music machines – they’re like exotic animals of a mysterious, fickle nature.”
- Kiran Sande www.factmag.com/