August 30, 2013

Christabel Stirling: Listening in ruins: Aural atmospheres of the historical present

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What would a history of place look like if it were conceived through the ethnographic ear and body? In what ways does aurality and sentience embody the freight of a place’s past, the dissenting forces that comprise its present and future? Where – amidst the complex relations between sound, selfhood, landscape, and historical time – do atmospheres come from, and moreover where do they leave us? Seeking to address these questions, this paper elevates the sensory, sonic and affective realms of experience as a methodological means of examining places and their histories. It is argued that sound, which encrypts the movement between objects, bodies, and matter, has a special capacity to render the processes and change inherent in place; while affective atmospheres mediate our aural perception in ways that pry into the socio-cultural significations we attribute to sounds, opening up liminal spaces that disturb the historical stability of the landscape. Focusing on a collaborative installation sound work that took place in Orford Ness, Suffolk (2012), a historically opaque ruin deliberately shrouded in secrecy, I then ask what a historicism that takes seriously the sonorous and affective event might have to attend to. I suggest that by changing the relational nature of a particular sonic spatio-temporal assemblage, installation sounds works forge new subject-object, inter- and intra-subjective connections and discontinuities in place that engender the emergence of new historical environments. They side-track perspectives, generate diversions, and allow spaces to speak in unsuspecting ways, revealing the palimpsest-like qualities of our terrain. Thus, in a bid towards a more far-reaching ‘non-cochlear’ sonic art (Kim-Cohen, 2009), sound works might be seen as an oblique, non-linear historical tool, eliciting glimpses of pasts and futures becoming present that are ‘always there’ in virtual co-presence, but that may otherwise never surface.


Christabel Stirling (Oxford) is currently pursuing a doctorate in music at Oxford University where she holds an Ertegun Graduate Scholarship in the Humanities, working under the supervision of Georgina Born. She completed an MA in popular music studies at Oxford Brookes University in 2012 funded by an AHRC award, and prior to this, obtained a bachelor of music from King’s College London in 2011. In her PhD research, Christabel works on questions surrounding the socialities of co-present musical publics and crowds in London. In particular, she focuses upon the technological and affective mechanisms by which subjects are individuated or aggregated through music, and the ways in which the spatial location or incidence of a musical event inflects how its public is micro- and macro-socially mediated. Her other research interests include dancing and dance music cultures post 1950, music and urban geography, and theories of affect and embodiment in relation to music, sound, and spatial politics.

Mareli Stolp: Post-everything poster boy: Spoek Mathambo’s Control as urban landscape

Filed under: hearing landscape critically,music — ABRAXAS @ 12:52 am

In 2010, South African musician Spoek Mathambo released his debut album, Mshini Wam. This album was enthusiastically received both locally and internationally, and has been hailed as breaking new ground in South African popular music. Mathambo’s unique brand of house music is deeply rooted in American rap and house and British dubstep traditions, combined with elements of South African kwaito, Afro-fusion and Afro-dance.

Included on the album Mshini Wam is a cover version of a 1979 song entitled Control, by the British post-punk band Joy Division. An award-winning music video for Mathambo’s version of this track, created by South African photographer Pieter Hugo and shot on location in Langa Township, Cape Town, provides a powerful depiction of life in a South African township, and plays on various issues such as ritual cleansing, initiation ceremonies, teen gangs and township cults. The disturbing events depicted in the video – children caught in the thralls of epileptic-type fits, being subjected to torture and physical abuse or doused in and excreting black and white fluids – are accompanied by a driving dance rhythm and pulsing bass line. This is dance music with a very grim beat.

Mathambo’s combination of musics with agency in black cultural production with post-punk idioms allows for a musical language that reveals his interests beyond his own immediate musical heritage. Mathambo’s Control depicts a complex and multilevelled urban landscape. Another level of complexity is added through the dichotomous relationship between the disconcerting visual material and the easy listening dance music that accompanies it.

The urban township landscape visually depicted in the music video for Control and musically represented by the composed material is essentially South African, particularly in the way it samples musics from different areas of our musical lineage, but also in the free engagement with international musical styles past and present. This paper will attempt to deconstruct the musical landscape created by Mathambo in a post-apartheid, post-rainbow nation South Africa, and to show ways in which this music confounds simple definitions of urbanity, race and musical heritage in South Africa today.

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Mareli Stolp (Rhodes, Grahamstown) is a lecturer at the Department of Music and Musicology at Rhodes University, Grahamstown. She completed a practice-based research PhD in 2012 at Stellenbosch University, and is currently active as both performer and researcher. The integration of practice and research constitutes her main academic focus.

Michael Titlestad: The South African life and afterlife of Jim Reeves

Filed under: hearing landscape critically,music — ABRAXAS @ 12:04 am


Jim Reeves’ mellifluous ‘Nashville sound’ made him the most global country singer of all time. He enjoyed widespread popularity in, among others, East Africa, India, Ireland and Scandinavia. His relationship with South Africa was, and has remained, deep and abiding: he toured the country twice (in 1962 with Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer, and in 1963), he recorded in Afrikaans, and, this was the only country in which he was repeatedly mobbed by thousands of fans. In 1963 he made his only film, Kimberley Jim, during his three-week stay.


Reeves is renowned for being a singer far more famous after his death than while he was alive, but his afterlife in South Africa has been remarkable and particular. Not only has he continued to be one of the top selling recording artists, he spawned a number of local imitators and fundamentally influenced the style and repertoire of South African country music. His Afrikaans songs were reissued on CD again this year.

The paper seeks to explore, through press reportage at the time of the tours, radio broadcasts, and interviews with contemporary country musicians, the nature of, and reasons for, Reeves’s South African popularity and legacy. Using the two biographies of Reeves (by Michael Striessguth 1998 and Larry Jordan 2012), as well as the cultural studies work of Richard Pells and others regarding the circulation of American popular culture and its recuperation in various contexts, it argues that the self-consciously urbane Reeves represented an ideal habitus – and offered explicit acceptance – in the increasingly isolated South Africa of the 1960s.

Along with the international credibility his presence suggested, the field of country music, its pioneer ideology and iconography, offered a symbolic language to an increasingly defensive population. I argue that the ‘Nashville sound’ specifically – with its smooth, urban version of roots music – provided the perfect ameliorative, anodyne soundscape in a community tussling with accusations of its parochialism and anachronism. I conclude with a series of complicating questions relating to the enormous popularity of Reeves among black South Africans and elsewhere in Africa.


Michael Titlestad (Witwatersrand) is an associate professor, head of the Department of English and deputy Head of the School of Literature, Language and Media at the University of the Witwatersrand. He publishes widely in the fields of South African literary and cultural studies, and on maritime literature. In addition, Michael is an editor of both literary and scholarly publications. He makes a lot of mistakes, but not often grammatical ones.

August 29, 2013

Gavin Williams: Imagining Crimea

Filed under: hearing landscape critically — ABRAXAS @ 10:58 pm


In the first of his 1855 Sevastopol sketches, Leo Tolstoy guided his readers through a city at the heart of the Crimean War. He offered an intimate, second-person tour of an idyllic landscape repeatedly punctured by sights and sounds of violence – above all the eruption of cannon fire, which ‘shakes you to the core and inspires you with a profound sense of dread’. His Sketches encapsulate what Peter Brooks has called the ‘oblique’ relationship between realism and melodrama. They were published in newspapers and eagerly read by a Russian elite, yet owing to these Sketches, Tolstoy is routinely counted among the first modern war correspondents.


In this paper, I take Tolstoy’s resonant panorama as my cue for a broad inquiry into contemporary imaginations of Crimea – the peninsula devastated by several notorious theatres of war and the site of much attention from international news media at the middle of the century. Alongside journalistic representations such as Tolstoy’s, I will consider another crucial medium in the nineteenth-century experience of wartime: the military theatrical entertainment. Newspaper coverage resulted in a rush of such melodramas in European capital cities. I will focus in particular on those rapidly assembled in London in response to battles at Alma and Sevastopol. These entertainments offered the public sonorous evocations of battlefields, providing counterpoint to well-known (and famously unpeopled) landscape photographs of the time. They also provided an enhanced sense of the Crimean War as a ‘war at a distance’ (a term recently discussed by Mary Favret). What is more, I argue that melodramas gave voice to contrasting and contested perspectives on the war, above all through the semantic excess of noisy sound effects. My paper ultimately argues both for a political interpretation of these melodramatic sounds, pervading as they do the war’s legacies of journalistic, literary and artistic realism.

Gavin Williams (Cambridge) has recently ended a stint as a graduate student at Harvard University where he wrote a PhD dissertation about music, noise and crowds in Milan ca. 1900. Next month, he starts at Jesus College, Cambridge, as a research fellow.

Flora Wilson: London, Paris, New York: Opera’s global networks c. 1890

Filed under: hearing landscape critically,music — ABRAXAS @ 10:41 pm


During the 19th century, opera became a global phenomenon. Beginning with the dissemination of Rossini’s unprecedentedly popular works in the 1820s, operatic culture spread from its strongholds in major European cities to new urban markets on other continents. By the end of the century, opera’s worldwide transit had become an essential characteristic of the art form – one in dialogue with a complex layering of communication networks. In this paper I seek to explore this fundamental mobility by focussing on one particular instance of opera on the move: the paradigmatic international path taken by the renowned soprano Nellie Melba.

Born in Australia, Melba moved to Paris in 1886 to complete her training. Following her European debut in Brussels in 1887, she spent much of the next half-decade travelling between London and Paris – cities whose competing claims to be ‘capital of the 19th century’ were staked in this instance on attempted appropriations of this most distantly travelled soprano star. Melba’s peregrinations around Europe’s major cities in the early 1890s followed long-established routes, but in 1893 she crossed the Atlantic to make a wildly successful debut at the newly rebuilt Metropolitan Opera in New York. My paper examines the consequences of Melba’s American triumph and of the changing operatic order it seemed to epitomise. Taking a cue from recent calls in the history of technology for ‘use histories’ able to address the persistence of the old after the dawning of the new, I place Melba’s New York success in a larger geographical context, considering its effects in the venerable operatic centres she had left behind. I want, in other words, to consider how opera’s expanding topography at the end of the 19th century complicated its status and discourses in an increasingly anxious Old World.


Flora Willson (Cambridge) is a junior research fellow at King’s College, Cambridge, where her research centres on nineteenth-century opera and urban culture. She has published academic articles and reviews in Cambridge Opera Journal; Cambridge Verdi encyclopedia (forthcoming from CUP), Nineteenth-century Music Review and the Journal of Modern Italian Studies, and is currently working on a book about operatic exchanges between London and Paris in the later 19th century. She writes regular reviews for Opera, has given pre-performance talks at Barbican, English National Opera, Glyndebourne and Royal Opera House, and has appeared as a guest on BBC Radio 3. She is the editor of a new critical edition of Donizetti’s Les martyrs, due to be recorded for Opera Rara in 2014 by Sir Mark Elder and the OAE.

Lizabé Lambrechts & Ernst van der Wal: Lingering absences: Hearing landscape through memory (An experiment)

This exhibition offers a visual and auditory perspective on the dynamics of opera production in a time and in places subject to involuntary removals of coloured communities in Cape Town. The Eoan Opera Group was founded in 1933 by Helen Southern-Holt as a cultural and welfare organisation for the coloured community in District Six, Cape Town, which developed to include an amateur opera company that produced the first full-scale opera performances in South Africa. In spite of growing apartheid legislation during the latter half of the 20th century, the Eoan Opera Group continued to play an active role in the cultural life of Cape Town, presenting eleven opera seasons, two arts festivals and numerous tours over a period of two decades. During the 1960s the Group Areas Act gradually edged the Eoan Group out of the centre of Cape Town’s cultural life. District Six was zoned for white occupation, and legislation increasingly enforced racial segregation. By 1969 the group was relocated to the Joseph Stone Theatre in Athlone. This move seemed to be a watershed moment for the group, as from this time onwards support from the white community diminished due to the difficulties of attending concerts in a coloured area. The group was also politically compromised in their own community because they accepted funding from the Department of Coloured Affairs, a contentious apartheid institution that drew heavy criticism from coloured communities for its entrenchment of racist policies. By the 1980s, Eoan was performing to empty concert halls.

Eoan Group

Presenting both physical and lost localities, as well as imagined, political, personal, bureaucratic and cultural landscapes, this exhibition investigates the various layers of history and memory that sediments the Eoan Group’s complex legacy. Instead of presenting a contained and resolved historical narrative of the Eoan Group, this exhibition provides a space for experimentation. It is a site that tests the degree to which memory, archival material, music and noise can act as sites of interaction and interchange. By following the grain of the voice and the traces of memory, this project traverses the Isaac Ochberg Hall in District Six, the Cape Town City Hall in Cape Town’s city centre and the Joseph Stone Auditorium in Athlone, three key sites that stand as markers of the Eoan Group’s relationship to the landscape. As recounted through the memories of members of this group these three spaces bear loaded testimony to the apartheid system’s impact on the human being’s life in sound and image.


Lizabé Lambrechts (Stellenbosch) holds a PhD in musicology on the subject of power and politics in South African music archives. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Documentation Centre for Music (DOMUS), Stellenbosch University, where she is working on a project to make a part of South Africa’s unknown music history accessible through sorting, cataloguing and curating the Hidden Years Music Archive.

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Ernst van der Wal (Stellenbosch) obtained his PhD in visual arts at Stellenbosch University, and he is a full-time lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts. Working under the rubric of cultural studies and art theory he investigates the embodiment and visualisation of queer and/or non-normative identities within post-apartheid South Africa. He has published widely on this subject.

giacinto scelsi – Khoom “Seven episodes of an unwritten tale of love and death in a distant land” (for soprano voice, horn, string quartet & percussion) – 1962

Filed under: Giacinto Scelsi,music — ABRAXAS @ 9:09 pm

The departure point is the disturbing composition by Giacinto Scelsi ‘Seven episodes of a love story and of a non-written death in a faraway land’. Three dancers, a singer and six musicians lead us on a journey where gesture accompanies even the most intimate vibration within the music and where the space, swept by the dance, reflects the depth of Scelsis most particular sounds. Initiated at the Théâtre du Manège in Mons, Khoom is the fruit of a collaboration between the Compagnie Mossoux-Bonté, the Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles and the Centre des Ecritures Contemporaines Numériques (Centre for Contemporary Digital Writings).

Giacinto Scelsi – I Riti: Ritual March, “The Funeral of Achilles” –

Filed under: Giacinto Scelsi,music — ABRAXAS @ 6:17 pm

Riti: Ritual March, “The Funeral of Achilles” (1962)
-Giacinto Scelsi

“Giacinto Scelsi, a prominent Italian composer of experimental music, is known for his compositional exploration of sound, specifically his acute approach to individual tones. Where Scelsi usually focuses on the single tones of melodic instruments, he approaches I Riti: Ritual March, “The Funeral of Achilles,” with a focus on rhythmically thematic material. As the rhythmic material repeats throughout the piece, the dynamic constant in each instrument gradually changes, creating continuous shifts of timbre, while maintaining the rhythmic structure. This compositional approach is unique to Scelsi, as this is his only work for percussion ensemble.”

-Program notes by Trevor Saint

This performance by Ensemble 64.8 took place on Nov. 21st, 2009, in the Davis Concert Hall of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

The performers from left to right:
Caitlyn Hatcher
Brandon Thomas
Chris Reichmeier
Trevor Saint

Giacinto Scelsi – Hurqualia “A Different Realm” (for large orchestra, with amplified instruments) – (1960)

Filed under: Giacinto Scelsi,music — ABRAXAS @ 9:43 am


Orquesta RTVE.

Director. Luca Pfaff.
Hurqualia (1960)
Scelsi’s Third Period begins with the great orchestral masterpiece, Hurqualia. The work is in four movements, lasting under eighteen minutes, and scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, two trombones, two tubas, timpani, four percussionists, strings excluding violins, and three sets of amplified instruments: microphone one: oboe, English horn, Eb clarinet; microphone two: horn, tenor saxophone, musical saw, viola, double bass; microphone three: two trumpets, trombone. Hurqualia was not performed until June 18th, 1986 at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam directed by Arturo Tamayo – Scelsi attended every rehearsal.

It has been impossible to trace the origin of the term ‘Hurqualia’ to this point; a Sanskrit origin was conjectured, but now abandoned. It would seem to have some sort of dramatic (or perhaps rhythmic) connotation – Hurqualia is a tensely dramatic epic in sound. As opposed to the Quattro Pezzi of the previous year, intervals play a definite role here, particularly the third: hence there are harmonic references, though true harmony has to wait until Scelsi’s later orchestral music. Still there is an underlying unity of sound, at times admitting contrasts contained therein. Hurqualia reaches a new level of rhythmic sophistication – Harry Halbriech likes to take every opportunity to compare Scelsi’s massive sound and seemingly immense lapses of time with Bruckner, though this comparison is quite overdone by the second mention of Bruckner’s 9th Symphony. Scelsi’s rhythmic constructions emerge out of breathing rhythm, even when quite intense; and the sophistication with which he constructs episodes outside of time and subtle time relationships within the piece is far beyond Bruckner. The closest comparison is with the extreme rhythmic complexity of South Indian Carnatic music. So, in Hurqualia we have a massive (despite its length) orchestral masterpiece, an epic in sound. It is subtitled simply as “A Different Realm” and one could probably read into it various dramatic interpretations: here the epic of choice will be the Ramayana, the world’s leading epic.

The first movement is a sort of overture, beginning with low and quiet sounds reminiscent of the syllable ‘om’, and gradually building into a massive fanfare of foreboding on brass and percussion. The world is in chaos as the Demon King is extending his power – yet there is a glimmer of hope expressed by the woodwinds as it is decided that the great god Vishnu will descend to earth in the guise of the Prince Rama to defeat the Demon. The fanfare continues, ending abruptly to start the story in the next movement.

The second movement is the beginning of the epic proper: Rama and his wife Sita leave for the wilderness, Rama is tricked into leaving Sita alone for a moment at which time she is kidnapped by the demons; the movement ends in quiet, tense realization of this event, hanging on the major second.

The mysterious and contemplative third movement is a time of gathering information for Rama and forming alliances; Sita’s whereabouts are discovered and her serenity is played on flutes. Overall, though, there is an extreme fatalism about the horrible battle which lies ahead, and of course Rama knew all that would come to pass before he was even born.

The fourth movement gradually gains momentum, complete with a march to battle starting pizzicato on the strings, and the first part ends with a composed confidence resting on Rama’s incredible prowess as the battle proper is about to begin. The second part of the fourth movement is the battle, complete with intense percussive outbursts and brass fanfares – it ends with the total defeat of the demons, and a view of the horrible carnage. This rather far-flung interpretation might act to undermine the absolute quality and unity of thought behind Hurqualia, however it is included simply as an entrance which one might take into this ‘different realm’ which certainly admits of an epic interpretation of one kind or another. Regarding the instruments which are provided with specific amplification, it is unclear from the recording exactly what role they play: whether they are meant to represent characters, or simply to be heard above the din of brass and percussion.

Marietjie Pauw Concert: Water, stray cattle and the urban: Dwelling in South African landscapes

This performance remembers a century of change, with South Africa in a process of de-agrarianisation, and with its peoples still affected by the extreme social engineering of apartheid. A century after the passing of the 1913 Land Act (ultimately reserving 87% of the land for ‘white’ use), musical performance, here brought into relation with ‘landscape’, prompts an immersive engagement towards layered hearings of the history and ‘lay’ of the land.

The performance responds to a challenge by sociologist Cherryl Walker (2010). She argues for the need to move beyond an over-simplified master narrative (of restitution and redistribution of land) that ‘omits too much’. She motivates that ‘[w]e need intellectuals, artists and activists who can script a multiplicity of narratives about the land’. The distinct role of musicians as soundscapers, the way they tell stories and critically reflect in and through music, accepts Walker’s challenge by exploring the poetic implications of this call to activism. Musicians ‘scape’ (etymologically ‘shape, create’) not only narratives through their music, they also amplify memories and expectations with regard to the topography, demography and struggles for the land. The ‘natural’ land, the cultivated land as nurturing soil, the mined land rich in minerals, and the acknowledgement of this land as a rural and increasingly urbanised home for a diversity of peoples, underpin these aural propositions. Tim Ingold’s notions of ‘embodied landscape’, and ‘landscape as dwelling’ underscore this performance. The programmed works are by South African composers.


Marietjie Pauw (Stellenbosch) is a PhD student at Stellenbosch University where her practice-based research interrogates curatorship, South African flute music, and landscape as central themes. She teaches flute in Stellenbosch, and she plays in chamber music ensembles that have performed throughout South Africa, also on national festivals. International duo concerts include a series of performances in Ulm, Germany and Princeton, USA. In addition to numerous commissions and performances of South African compositions, she has made commercial recordings of works by composers Hendrik Hofmeyr and Neo Muyanga on commission of the International Huguenot Society and the Distell Foundation, as well as on the Afrimusic label. She produced the CD Fofa le nna: Music for two flutes with Barbara Highton Williams in 2012. She received flute tuition from Éva Tamássy at the University of Stellenbosch, where she was awarded the degrees (cum laude) BMus, BMus(Hons) and MMus (Performance). She obtained the Licentiates in Flute Performance (UPLM) and in Flute Teaching (UTLM) from the University of South Africa.

August 28, 2013

Thomas Peattie – Sonic mapping and Mahler’s mobile subject

Filed under: 2014 - Marikana Symphony,hearing landscape critically,music — ABRAXAS @ 11:29 pm

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Contemporary fascination with the idea of the auditory map – and in particular its role in helping us navigate the spaces we inhabit – has led scholars to consider an increasingly diverse range of twentieth- and twentyfirst-century approaches to the way in which sound can be understood to map space. Yet this practice has a surprising and largely unrecognised nineteenth-century analogue in the celebrated musical evocations of landscape from Rossini and Wagner to Berlioz and Mahler. The music of Mahler offers an especially compelling example of this idea of sonic mapping in terms of the unprecedented precision with which the instrumental forces in question are deployed. The early symphonies in particular feature sonic landscapes that aim to capture the experience of sound in all its unpredictability: from the First and Third symphonies, where individual instruments are instructed to play without regard for the tempo, to the finale of the Second symphony, where the distant sounds of an offstage ensemble are meant to convey the effect of being ‘carried on the wind’. Until now this practice has been interpreted almost exclusively in terms of the composer’s famous remarks to Natalie Bauer-Lechner in which he describes ‘polyphony’ as the experience of listening to the simultaneous sounding of unrelated sonic events. In this paper I argue that Mahler’s late symphonic writing offers an entirely different approach to the possibilities of sonic mapping. Drawing on passages from the first and second Nachtmusiken (Seventh symphony) and Der Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde, I argue that while Mahler’s late music continues to address the listening subject as a stationary auditor, it also offers a tantalising glimpse of a more mobile subject. For in contrast to the ‘bird’s eye’ view that often characterises nineteenth-century representations of musical landscape, these examples instead offer traces of the auditory perspective of the wanderer, a figure whose metaphorical ears serve as an unexpected guide to the composer’s imaginary symphonic landscapes.

CFA Faculty H&S Session

Thomas Peattie (Boston) is assistant professor of music at Boston University. He holds a PhD from Harvard University in historical musicology as well as degrees in musicology and composition from the University of Calgary. His publications include In search of lost time: Memory and Mahler’s broken pastoral in the collection Mahler and his World (Princeton, 2002) as well as articles in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association and Acta Musicologica. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Boston University Humanities Foundation. His book Gustav Mahler’s abstract theatre is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

Mia Pistorius – The violence of landscape: Spatial metaphors and the disembodiment of listening


The critical act of reading landscape into music is in itself an act of ‘landscaping’, and, as with any act of landscaping, can impose certain structures upon space. Those structures are immanent within the critic’s apparatus. They are structures of metaphor, governed by and rooted in linguistic systems. The ear of the landscaping author necessarily moves beyond any direct connection between sound and embodied experience – as soon as landscape is ‘heard’, the transition from participant to observer is inevitable. The mysterious relationship between sound and listening (the ‘essence’ of the lived experience of music) is arguably damaged or distorted by the act of hypostatisation – the turning of what is heard into a metaphorical landscape, an object. The extent of such damage or distortion emerges when the mapping of metaphors onto seemingly neutral works is evaluated as an exercise of cultural power. In speaking about landscape, the interaction between sound and embodied experience is infused with the assumptions and boundaries inherent in language. Accordingly, ‘landscaping’ becomes an act of structural violence.

How does this impact upon the relationship between sound and space? The direct experiential links between music as metaphorical representation of space (whether social, cultural or physical), on one hand, and space as a metaphorical source of sound, on the other, cannot be denied. Nor, however, can they be divorced entirely from language. What, then, is the responsibility of the listener who inflicts language upon the primary embodied experience? Is it possible to talk about music and landscape without committing violence?

This paper takes as a case study music created as a direct result of violent acts: Zim Ngqawana and Kyle Shepherd’s performance in Aryan Kaganof’s Exhibition of vandalizim (2010). The improvised performance within the broken space of Ngqawana’s vandalised studio not only signifies a representation of a space of violence, but also a response to it. By considering a landscape of violence both as a source of the music and as a consequence of interpreting it, a bi-directional process of mutual signification between violence and music arises.

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Mia Pistorius (Sheffield) received the MSt in performance with distinction from Magdalen College, University of Oxford in 2013. She will commence studies towards a PhD in piano performance at the University of Sheffield in October 2013. Her research engages with metaphor theory and the relationship between language and music, particularly in performance.

Akin Omotoso on roger corman’s little shop of horrors

Filed under: akin omotoso,film,Frieda Grafe — ABRAXAS @ 4:24 pm


In the 1961 film by Nicholas Ray, »King of Kings«, John the Baptist asks Jesus: »Was it you who was foretold or are we to expect another?« I can imagine someone asking Roger Corman this when his first film »Monster from the Ocean Floor« in 1954 burst into cinema’s collective conscious. For me, the other is of course that boiling pot of an industry called Nollywood. An industry that I respect totally and share some of the values and ethos of the Roger Corman canon. To stretch the quote from King of Kings: »…we didn’t expect another but another rose.«


I can’t remember the first time or where I heard of Roger Corman but what I saw and heard was enough, and the man’s name stuck with me then and ever since. I was three feet high and rising at the time in the South African film industry and similarly to Roger, I never went to film school. What I knew then and believe now with all my heart is that telling stories was the fuel that drove me. As a child I would devour stories. I wrote my first novel at six. One of my Uncles used to ask me: »Why do all the characters die?« My response apparently was that »otherwise it would be too long.« Later at drama school I decided to become a director, having long abandoned my dreams of being a novelist. The cinema would be my canvas of choice. In the absence of decent film schools at the time in South Africa, I turned my attention to the masters and mistresses of cinema.

Directors and their films became my teachers. I devoured everything I could find on directors. Ousmane Sembène, Raoul Peck, Spike Lee, Julie Dash, Martin Scorsese, Sidney Poitier, Djibril Diop-Mambety, Alfred Hitchcock to name a few. I would read up everything about these directors and watch their films, and by so doing I was learning the language of cinema from these pioneers. And what was that language? Not just visual story telling but also the power of cinema. There is no music like that musical score in the Korean film »3-Iron« directed by Kim Ki-Duk, no drama like the drama in the cinema of Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi, and I have never seen anything to equal the fire and excitement of Mira Nair’s »Moonson Wedding«. Watching these films fuelled my passion.

Then I re-discovered »The University of Roger Corman«. His films were never my focus. I am not entirely sure how I feel about all of his films or even if their genres appealed to me. This of course has never been the essence of Roger Corman for me. It was what he was doing and how he was doing it that I latched on to. I liked the idea that he was independent; I liked the fact that his films cost less and made him money; independence is a huge aspect of the film industry. Kwame Nkrumah said first of his newly independent Ghana: »Seek ye first political kingdom and all else shall be added unto you«. If I had Commandments for filmmakers I would start with that. It is a difficult position to negotiate. Independence. In this day and age, when most African filmmakers source funding from Europe and key on the list of requirements is that your film has to say something about AIDS or poverty, I like the independence of Nollywood. And it’s that independence I recognize in Roger. I like the passion with which he empowered younger filmmakers and actors. The roll call of people he gave opportunity to reads like the hall of fame today: Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme. Sometimes filmmakers affect others without even knowing it. In one of my early short films I had no idea about framing a scene in a restaurant with two characters talking. While it seems absurd now, it wasn’t to me at the time. I had no idea where to put the camera. I saw a documentary where Jonathan Demme (a »University of Roger Corman« alumni) said when he made his first film he had gone the night before to watch some other film and he copied the shots in that film to help him get through at least his first day of the shoot. Cut to: me fast forwarding through all the VHS tapes in my mother’s house trying to find a film that had a scene with two people talking in a restaurant so I could copy the shots. That’s »Corman 101« in action.

If the »University of Corman« or »UniCorm« as I like to call it, has a curriculum it would be something like this. Firstly, the emphasis on the low budget. As Jack Nicholson says in the documentary »Corman’s World«: »They (the films) weren’t pretending to be something else.« Fast forward years later to »Nollywood 101«. Those films stand out because they weren’t pretending to be something else. They were a true voice. Nollywood for me, at the time when I discovered it, was a breath of fresh air. The first Nollywood film was »Living in Bondage«. An industry was born. Today in the popular hit track »Oliver Twist« by D’banj he references Nollywood actresses as well as Hollywood royalty. The music video also features an appearance by Kanye West. It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. I might not have ever made a film that could be classified as Nollywood but I most certainly have adopted, like Corman’s students have, some of their ethos. I remember Ron Howard talking about filming the mega big budget film staring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman called »Far and Away«. If memory serves, he spoke about how on a particular day they were running out of time and losing light. He found himself, he said, channelling his inner Roger Corman, and rushing with one cameraman and Tom and Nicole to chase the light. Corman has made over 200 films. Throw a stone in the Nollywood shop of talent and you would find filmmakers with a standard 200-film résumé, and that’s before breakfast. Nollywood might have started with »Living in Bondage« but today the films are screened in multiplexes the world over. Corman might have started with »Monster on the Sea Floor« but he inspired the blockbusters of today. Spielberg’s masterpiece film »Jaws« was essentially a B-Grade movie done with better production value. The rest is history. »Jaws« and »Star Wars« changed the tide of American films and also Roger Corman’s cinema. A high gloss big budget blockbuster had replaced the low budget film. We don’t know where Nollywood will end up but we have seen what Corman has influenced in America. Corman continues to make films but refuses to change his ethos.

I had an interesting experience watching »The Little Shop of Horrors«. I couldn’t remember if I had seen it before. An image popped into my mind of a plant eating people but I couldn’t quite place it. As the film started with that beautiful cartoon drawing and the voice of the detective, I found myself remembering that I had seen it all on stage. As a child I always liked macabre stories and I enjoyed this one immensely. The fact that the success of the shop is tied to blood reminded me of the line from »Interview with the Vampire«: »Drink from me and live forever«. The constant craving of the plant, like Cookie Monster from »Sesame Street«. The film is hilarious as well. I love the interplay of the characters. It is filled with great lines like: »It’s a finger of speech!« Shot over two and a half days, the tale of a man ultimately destroyed by his creation. It’s the stuff of movie legend.

In the documentary »Corman’s World«, he is compared to the Arab maxim: The dogs bark but the caravan moves on. Corman and Nollywood for me continue to move mobile memories forward, the rest of us are barking.

first published here: http://www.friedagrafe.net/film-view/128

Gary Minkley & Helena Pohlandt-McCormick on boris barnet’s “by the bluest of seas”

Filed under: film,Frieda Grafe — ABRAXAS @ 4:15 pm


»By the Bluest of Seas« (»U Samogo Sinego Morya«) was released in the Soviet Union in 1936. Made by Soviet actor and director Boris Barnet, it was his second sound feature film after »Outskirts« (1933). As such it is routinely identified with the new instrumentalisation of the ›Socialist Realism‹ mode of film-making and with Barnet’s own location within popular (and with sound, musical) comedy, which as Beumers (2003) has pointed out, had become the dominant film genre of the later 1930s in the Soviet Union, »reinforcing the function of cinema under the pressure of ideology … within the popular form of the musical and the predictability of the fairy tale«. And yet responses to the film at the time criticized »By the Bluest of Seas« for being ›overly emotional‹, the script derided for its emotional nature and the director chided for cutting up Sergey Potosky’s score and for continuing to rely on montage forms that were seen as increasingly antithetical to Socialist Realism modes. It is what we might call this anomaly between the film’s designated political mode (by time and place as officially made in the Soviet Union in the mid-1930s under Socialist Realism) and its contrary ›emotional‹ content that we wish to reflect on and through which we will prompt our own feelings of both fidelity and desire for its significance and worth.


This anomaly also has contemporary relevance. Current reviews (of »By the Bluest of Seas« recent DVD format release) echo the view of the film as being a musical comedy, describing it as a ›cinematic fairytale‹, as a ›buddy rom-com‹ (romantic comedy) and as a comedy melodrama. Others, almost predictably from within this inherited discursive placing, refer to it as reflecting a ›fairly lightweight‹ or ›whimsical‹ tale, often connected with a ›thin plotline‹ and showing ›pure frivolity‹, and ending up most tellingly describing it as a … »sweet film and ephemeral. Much like the two sailors, it arrives, stirs the waters and then recedes, slipping easily from your mind but leaving behind a sense of warmth« (Close-Up, Film website). At the same time the film is lauded, given worth, and the reading of it as cinematic fairytale enabled by simultaneously pointing to its apparent apolitical nature. While this is primarily read back through an uncritically inherited critique of Socialist Realism and communism – through such claims as that it is ›lacking any particular propaganda‹, that it is ›completely removed from politics‹, and that it is ›astounding that Barnet was able to make such an apolitical film‹ – a bigger, larger, more pervasive articulation resides within these formulations. This is to deny ›emotions‹ a political frame, to simultaneously read the political as beyond affect and to devalue and reduce in importance, along strongly formed gender lines, the relatedness between the political and the personal, between politics, emotion, feeling and desire. Against this we wish to propose that »By the Bluest of Seas« enables such lines of flight.

In this regard, for us there is also a third frame. We have both recently been centrally involved in a Southern African focused research project under the broad, provoking title of Love & Revolution. What is meant by this and how this can be connected to our discussion of »By the Bluest of Seas« is well articulated in the following: »Love & Revolution widens the frame through which studies of liberation struggles, nationalism and political cultures have been understood, by insisting on the parallel treatment of ›the personal‹, be it the forces of desire, affiliation or emotion. In southern Africa for instance, popular cultural expressions since the 1960s suggest the transformation of individual subjectivities in the midst of nationalist political struggle and social change, especially in urban areas and exile camps. Love & Revolution seeks to co-examine the social and the subjective, the political and the unconscious. There is the potential to explore the way these, and the forms and hierarchies of knowledge produced around them, have often obscured one another despite possible inter-connections. In discursive terms there are deployments of revolutionary language to express the personal, and narratives of affect with the mobilization of powerful symbols to lay claim to the political and the economic. By the same token, Love & Revolution instates the political at the heart of enquiries about gender, sexuality, aesthetics and creativity. The platform provides opportunities to question the dominant categories and archives of analysis, within the subcontinent and beyond. The thematic conjuncture of Love & Revolution interrogates the underpinnings of the nation and shifts in consciousness of the self and the other, and more philosophically, it raises questions about the humanities and humanity itself.«

Boris Barnet, then, clearly occupies an ambiguous position within the canon of Soviet film-makers. Born in 1902 to a family that owned a typographical business, he studied as an architect and painter and then worked as a set designer at the Moscow Art Theatre. In 1919 he enlisted in the Red Army and then, after being discharged due to ill-health, learned boxing in the Main Military School for Physical Education of Workers (Glavvosh). Lev Kuleshov persuaded Barnet to join his collective as an actor in »The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr West in the Land of the Bolsheviks« (»Cowboy Jeddie«) one of the Soviet cinema’s first great comedies, joining a cast that included future directors Pudovkin, Obolensky and Komarov (Vivaldi, 2011). He then worked as a scriptwriter and then director with Fedur Otsep in the serial adventure ›red detective‹ film »Miss Mend« (aka »The Adventures of the Three Reporters«) released in 1926. Becoming part of the Mezhrabpom Studio collective, Barnet directed his ›Keatonesque‹ first silent feature, »The Girl with the Hatbox« (»Devushka s korobkoy«) in 1927 and »Moscow in October« a state commissioned 10th anniversary film also in 1927, followed by »The House on Trubnaya Square« (»Dom na Trubnoi«) in 1928. This was followed by »Living Things« (1930), »The Ghost« (1931), »The Thaw« (»Lyodolom«) (1931) and Outskirts« (aka »Patriots«/ »Okraina«), his first sound film, in 1933. »By the Bluest of Seas« followed in 1936 as a joint production between Mezhrabpon and Azerbaizhan Film Studios and was shot in the region of the Caspian Sea.
Importantly, although interrupted by features such as »Moscow in October« and »Thaw«, Barnet is firmly located within the Mezhrabphon Studio collective and as such, within what has been located as a more popular and comedic tradition. However, as a number of commentators have pointed out, Barnet has been seen to have straddled the more traditionalist (Protazanov)/ innovator (as in maintaining Kuleshov’s montage influences) divide (as proposed by Nikolai Lebedev, one of the first significant historians of 1920s silent Soviet cinema). More significantly though, in positioning Barnet as a comedy director, and in the rather simplistic associations of him as a director of ›popular comedy‹ and with the advent of sound, ›musical comedy‹, he falls between what Anderson (2008) has called the two ›golden ages‹ of Soviet cinema: the heroic age of Soviet silent cinema with its montage filmmaker theorists (Eisenstein, Kuleshov, Pudovkin, Vertov), and the later ›Russian Thaw‹ (Kalatozov, Tarkovsky, Paradjanov, Iosseliani). Rather, as he points out, his ›complex disposition‹ within Soviet film history seems to map him more closely onto the far less esteemed ›Socialist Realism‹ period and brand of film practice, and in his association with Mezhrabphon, with its more popular, comedic and lightweight disposition – he was called the ›Peter Pan of Soviet cinema‹ (Margolit, 168) and ›infantile‹. (Vivaldi, 2011) Against this we might want to register Bela Balasz, the Hungarian born film theorist, critic and writer: »In your films there is an explosion of laughter in the saddest of scenes. A tragic moment is at one and the same time comic … you don’t give a caricature of serious things. You show them in a serious manner … but you simply don’t sift them, you don’t cleanse them of the grotesque and comic details which may stick to the most serious of things …. Tragedy and comedy are no longer in your films two different categories and thanks to this you have overcome that dualism which forces people to see life as either tragic or comic«. (Bela Balasz in Vivaldi (2011))

Our purpose here, though, is not to enter some form of canonical rescue of Barnet. Many have done so, from calling him the ›father of Soviet comedy‹ (Anderson, 2008), to various recent authors calling him the ›forgotten master‹, arguing that he is ›unjustly unknown‹ and ›long overlooked‹ and that he has still ›not been accorded the central place that he deserves in the appreciation of the first half century of Soviet cinema‹ (Vivaldi, 2011). Rather, our purpose in rehearsing Barnet’s genealogy of location and production is twofold: first to suggest the ways that the very categories attached to him limit possibilities of reading and viewing Barnet and »By the Bluest of Seas« beyond the imposed biographic as deterministic; but also secondly that, while he does fit within the parameters of Socialist Realism, this is not just an uncomfortable, or incongruous fit which, while mostly read as determining the ›superior quality of his art‹ might also enable a talking back, if not to Socialist Realism, then to the political ›without shores‹ (to plunder the title of a recent edited collection of essays entitled Socialist Realism without Shores, 1997). Put somewhat differently, we want to hold Barnet’s »By the Bluest of Seas« up against Brody’s (2013) observations that he had »the misfortune of being a lyricist in a time and a place of mandatory declamation, an ironist under a regime of deadly earnestness, a discerning psychologist in a reign of subordinated individuality« and couple this with Vivaldi’s (2011) observation that his »lyrical voice … in which life ›seeped into and washed away‹ all the stereotypes he was directed to shoot« enable a re-seeing and a re:working (following John Mowitt) of the political as affect. In the process, we may further see how ›Soviet man was (un)made‹ (following Lilya Kaganovsky, 2008) and how ›socialist senses‹ (following Widdis 2012) can be brought into critical view.

So – the film. »By the Bluest of Seas« features Nikolai Kryuchkov (Aliosha/ Alyoshka), Lev Sverdin (Yussuf/ Youssouf) and Yelena Kuzmina (Maria aka Misha/Masha/Mashenka). Kuzmina was also Barnet’s wife at the time. Filmed by cinematographer Mikhail Kirilov, written by Klimenti Mints and scored by Sergei Pototski(y) the film is routinely described in terms of its light, lyrical tone, for its depictions of joy, for its ›unfettered enjoyment in visual delight‹ and as an ›uplifting and intelligent comic exploration of love, friendship and humanity‹. It is relatedly stated that it is ›one of the most inspiring, poetic and harmonious cinematic achievements to come out of that great Soviet era of filmmaking‹ and that it is ›in its uncluttered, lyrical and emotional simplicity that the film excels‹. Not surprisingly, the film itself is as routinely, described as ›beautifully crafted‹, as a ›visual poem‹ and the cinematography and score equally praised (albeit that Barnet chopped up Pototsky’s score without his agreement). Perhaps this is best summarized by Anderson (2008): »the evidence is on the screen. That is, whether one cites the filmmakers’ land and seascape photography, the bodily and performative representation of desire and feeling or the emotional stakes for which the protagonists are playing, the unadulterated pleasures of Barnet’s film are there for those with eyes to see and hearts to feel. This is a film with which to fall in love«.

The film opens (and closes) with a montage of the Caspian Sea. Often depicted as some of the ›most beautifully-shot seascapes in the history of cinema‹, this bluest of seas (albeit in black and white) features as the ›emotional scenario‹ for the film as a whole. Actor Lev Sverdin (Yussuf) suggested that Barnet and cinematographer Mikhail Kirilov’s sublime long-lensed filming ›captured the sea’s emotions on film‹. After at least twenty edits, montaging a humanless sea as a central character, two shipwreck survivors enter the scene (Alyoshka and Yussuf). For two days and nights they are pushed southwards and end up being rescued and taken to the island that was their original destination. They are engineers/mechanics dispatched, in the adventure narrative Stalinist mode of the aviator figure to the island where the fishing kolkhoz (collective farm) named ›The Flames of Communism‹ (Lights of Communism) requires intervention. This is so because the majority of the men are away in the East, involved in the Sino-Chinese-Japanese conflict of the 1930s, and Barnet reconstructs a tension between an idyllic island of predominantly women residents (and thus the fulfillment of the shipwrecked sailors’ desires) and the island as a working fishing commune about to encounter the fishing season. This collective soviet Socialist Realism backdrop, though, is about as much as we get to see in this mode. Rather, the majority of the story involves the two engineer shipwrecked friends caught in a love triangle with Masha, who is also an outsider, but the president/chairwoman/farm manager of the kolkhoz. Much of the film is taken up with their friendship, with romantic antagonism and with the rivalry for Masha’s heart where their mutual affections for her threaten both their relationship and their positions within the collective. However, she is, in turn, in love with a soldier fighting in the East. She remains faithful to him and they depart. The sea returns.

As Vivaldi (2011) has suggested »the structure is symmetrical and tone is one of pure nonchalance – no question of meeting production quotas, fulfilling plans, building communism. The film ignores all the rhetoric of the time, all the mannerism of Socialist Realism; all the drama is based on small misunderstandings without any conceivable importance.« There are also some telling formal Barnet devices: the love triangle, or perhaps more accurately quartet (with the absent soldier figure) related to montage, equally visible elsewhere; the crossing of silent and sound film techniques and tones, and the extension of slapstick humour drawn from its silent antecedents, laughter and the grin and his concerns with the body, the surface, and the acts of looking and of feeling. Similarly the film holds a sense of dialogue and narrative that is improvised and gestural, and Barnet’s use of detail and the minimalism of everyday life, as well as his use of irony are all visible as a collective individuality accretes. As Yelena Kuzmina demonstrates, this meant that he ›never kept to the original scenario‹. Rather »[h]e [Barnet] would write out each shot painstakingly and stick these pieces of paper one after another to make a long scroll. Then he would unroll this on the ground and get down on his knees to search for the shot he was about to do. And in the end he would shoot something quite different, improvising on the spot. This is the reason for the ›freedom‹ in his films«. (quoted in Eisenschitz, 1994)

Particular scenes resonate: the opening (and closing) scenes of the emotional sea as humanless subject; the sacralisation of lives in the shifts from turbulence to calm and the ›saving rebirth‹ of Alyoshka and Yussuf, but more dramatically in the ›rebirth‹ of Masha after being lost at sea, washing up on to the sand in front of the two men; the bitter sweet sensuality of this love triangle (not yet a known quadrant and the desired resurrection of her lover from the East) in the eating of lemons whilst declaring attraction and desire; the suit scene where Yussuf is fitted and tickled into a new suit by the kolkhoz whilst attempting to get to declare his desire for Masha over Alyoshka, who has the advantage; the bead scene when Masha intentionally breaks her pearl necklace and the pearls fall in complete melancholic silence; and the scenes of the two men displaying their bodies and dancing shirtless in erotic acts of performative display (and »By the Bluest of Seas« might be seen as one of the sexiest of Soviet films) – these scenes are all compelling in enabling a complex narration of emotions, feelings and desires that are sacred, intense and meaningful. Life is about labour and love and about the love of life within and beyond the collective and the kolkhoz – beyond Socialist Realism. Emotion, if you like, and sexuality and desire, the body, gesture and laughter, if also hurt and bitterness are its dissenting complex subjectivities coming to presence beyond the ›collective make-believe‹ (Kaganovsky, 2008).

Nicole Brenez has suggested that Barnet’s ethology, in the context of Soviet cinema, that was totally ruled by the Administration and that nevertheless produced this outsider film, is the ›euphoria of the body‹. For her the »joy of the body exuberantly plunged into sensations: sensual editing that displays his love of motifs – the sea, the seagulls, the faces – in place of treating a story, and the empathetic literalism of the music that grabs the emotions with the image as abruptly as an impulse and submerges the sequences like an irresistible wave« define this film and Barnet’s ethology (Brenez, 2008). Brenez proposes, then, that the film’s ›long rebirth‹ delivers characters without a past, without a becoming, without a mission, without psychology – they are as they appear concretely, that is to say a sum of gestures; a poetry of gestural invention that brings the cinema back to its origins of live performance: circus, acrobatics, vaudeville, gymnastics. And it is in these repertoires of conflicting gestures: the dramatic rescue becoming burlesque (Yusuf tickled); the declaration of love in grimaces (the lemons); the joy suspended in terror (resurrection of Masha) that both draw on these performative repertoires and give them life. She says Barnet films in the mode of the ›found gesture‹ that articulates with Bulgakowa’s (2005) notion of a ›factory of gestures‹ where the language of the body – posture, manner of walking or sitting, how one holds one’s head – is a series of signifying codes that shift and change alongside social change. As importantly she asks how does the art of cinema register and construct new bodies?

Lilya Kaganovsky (2008) provides one means. She proposes that Stalinist visual culture (and Socialist Realism) propagated Soviet supermen (›new soviet man‹) of extravagant virility. Another form of masculinity (the wounded, disabled, even paralysed hero) was also present and not at odds with the former, but rather that »the two forms of masculinity exist together, together they create the ideal Stalinist man: hyperbolically strong, yet without arms or legs; committed to the cause, yet permanently chained to his bed; visionary, yet blind«. Here, in the double fantasy of Stalinist subjectivity, discipline and failure, enhancement and disfigurement, heteronormativity and heterosexual panic co-exist and co-constitute each other, as Kuntsman (2009) remarks. »By the Bluest of Seas« offers a different reading – one that both brings ›the relations between cultural fantasies, state power, the body and sexual and political subjectivity‹ (Kuntsman, 2009) into play, but which also, in the ways that the love plot fails to work, and in how his ›euphoria of the body‹ and the conflicting and originary lived ›factory of gestures‹ in the film subverts Stalinist (Socialist Realism) masculinities and exposes them as a ›dominant fiction‹ (Kaganovsky, 2008). At the same time in producing these heterosexual anxieties through body and gesture new ›euphorias of the body‹ that are simultaneously both between desire and fidelity and between heterosexual and homosocial bodies and bonds are revealed. Barnet’s film, then, brings dissenting subjectivities of affect, love, feeling and emotion and the political together as gesturally subversive.

For us then, there is a moment (or two such moments) in the film when this is most powerfully articulated. They evolve around the moments when first Aloyshka and then Yussuf discover that their official instruction and directive to provide necessary labour to the kolkhoz has been erased by the sea. In their exclamation of its disappearance the official collective of Socialist Realism is erased by the emotional sea, replaced by their desiring and desired bodies and with gesture and indeed laughter.
Brenez (2008) has articulated how Barnet reflects the registers of laughter as frank and happy, a laughter that »wakes up sympathy to others, that gives us the assurance of being able to overcome all difficulties, small and large; this laughter that makes more reasonable, that destroys spite, resentment, doubt, jealousy.« This moment, from erased word to seen gesture moves subjectivities beyond the empty pages of ›new soviet man‹, beyond the shores of Socialist Realism and into our imagined blue of Barnet’s seas of life and love.

1 The project has been based at University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) and centrally Patricia Hayes and Premesh Lalu, and includes the University of Minnesota (UM) and its Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) with Helena Pohlandt-McCormick and Karen Brown, the SARChI Chair in Social Change at the University of Fort Hare with Gary Minkley, and also involving Gopinath Arunima, director of the Women’s Studies Programme, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Martina Rieker, Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies in the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo.

Anderson, Michael J. Film in New Haven: Boris Barnet’s »By the Bluest of Seas« (1936), from www.taitivelle.blogspot.com, accessed 7 March 2013.
Beumers, Birgit. »Soviet and Russian Blockbusters: A Question of Genre?« Slavic Review (2003): 441-454.
Brenez, Nicole. By The Bluest of Seas. Youtube video, alsolifelike.com/shooting, uploaded 19 November 2008.
Brody, David. Critics Notebook about Boris Barnet’s Outskirts, from www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies, accessed 13 March 2013.
Bulgakowa, Oksana. »The Factory of Gestures: Body Language in Film«, Potemkin Press, 2008.
Eisenschitz, Bernard. »A Fickle Man, or Portrait of Boris Bamet as a Soviet Director’. « Inside the Film Factory: New Approaches to Russian and Soviet Cinema: 151-164.
Kaganovsky, Lilya. »How the Soviet man was unmade: cultural fantasy and male subjectivity under Stalin«. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008.
Kaganovsky, Lilya. »how the Soviet Man was (un) Made.« Slavic Review (2004): 577-596.
Kaganovsky, Lilya. »The Factory of Gestures: Body Language in Film (review)«. Cinema Journal 51.3 (2012): 168-170.
Kuntsman, Adi. Review: Lilya Kaganovsky, »How the Soviet Man was Unmade«, in Europe-Asia Studies, 61, 8 October 2009, 1483-1511.
Lahusen, Thomas, and Evgeny Dobrenko, eds. Socialist Realism without shores. Duke University Press Books, 1997.
Vivaldi, Giuliano. “Boris Barnet The Lyric Voice in Soviet Cinema”. 2011
Widdis, Emma. “Socialist Senses.” Slavic Review 71.3 (2012): 590-618.

first published here: http://www.friedagrafe.net/film-view/78


Filed under: kaganof — ABRAXAS @ 1:46 pm

In short, framing is everything.

I think it was Frank Zappa who said that music was merely time framed.

Obviously it begins in film with the four sides of the image we stare at.

This film has in common with painting, and particularly with the history of the landscape painting. (Portraiture is something else altogether that makes its return in the vertical stand-up frame of the iPhone and other smart phone cameras – presenting, I believe, the first really great break with the history of cinematic framing as we know it).

But as Jean-Luc Godard noted astutely, the cinematic frame is in fact six-sided – the other two being the “sides” in time from the commencement of the shot to its end. Every cinema shot is in this sense a moebius strip taking us outside of the history of painting into the history of theatre. There is something dizzying about this device of framing that is always evident in the cinematic experience. The rug of reality is pulled out from under us. Anything is possible within the sixth sense that is cinema. Not to explore these possibilities for reasons of authenticity is not merely Luddite, it’s positively anti-mediumistic, or, let’s be frank, moralistic.

Frames within frames and framing devices are central to the ontology of cinema.

Finally, it is not by any chance that the fundamental trope of the fundamental cinema genre; the film noir, is that the protagonist is framed. An innocent man is accused of something he did not do. The evidence is provided. We say he is “framed”. Isn’t this exquisite framing device the key to understanding the immense power of the twentieth century’s great art form? Kafkaesque and Brechtian at once, the six frames of the cinema shot interlink with each to form a vast geodesic labyrinth of infinitude, like Borges’ poem that is never finished, there is only one film really, one movie, and that is the eye of death. The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes Stan Brakhage called it.

aryan kaganof

August 20, 2013

aryan kaganof interviews shane cooper

Filed under: music — ABRAXAS @ 9:58 am

It’s not easy to improvise, it’s the most difficult thing to do. Even when one improvises in front of a camera or microphone, one ventriloquizes or leaves another to speak in one’s place the schemas and languages that are already there. There are already a great number of prescriptions that are prescribed in our memory and in our culture. All the names are already preprogrammed. It’s already the names that inhibit our ability to ever really improvise. One can’t say what ever one wants, one is obliged more or less to reproduce the stereotypical discourse. And so I believe in improvisation and I fight for improvisation. But always with the belief that it’s impossible. And there where there is improvisation I am not able to see myself. I am blind to myself. And it’s what I will see, no, I won’t see it. It’s for others to see. The one who is improvised here, no I won’t ever see him.
Jaques Derrida

1. What are your immediate plans for the future and has the award affected these?

1) I am launching my own quintet in April and recording an album with the group. I will be presenting 3 shows in Grahamstown at the arts festival. Two of the projects are collaborations with some local and international artists, where we will all contribute compositions. The third project is my quintet, and it will be an unofficial CD launch. I’ll have an official launch soon after in Cape Town.

2. You play in so many different contexts one might think you have Multiple Personality Syndrome. Please describe the persona that operates in the Darkrrom Collective.

2) Darkroom Collective is just a side project for myself and some friends, we only get together about once a year, and play completely improvised music to images projected on a screen. A live spontaneous soundtrack. I don’t like to perform with that group too often cause it would ruin the freshness of it.

3. Please describe this other (alter)ego in Card on Spokes.

3) Card on Spokes is my electronic music project. I launched it a few years ago, and it’s a way for me to release and perform my electronic music under a different alias. I’ve been passionate about jazz and electronic music since I was a kid, and it’s great for me to be able to explore both worlds of sound.

4. Are you comfortable with being a “leader” now? Does this mean you have found your musical voice? And what is the voice of the bass?

4) I am comfortable with leading a band, I’ve worked as a co-leader before, and in several democratic projects, and I’ve had to lead at different times in these groups.
Have I found my voice? I don’t know, but I’m on a path of discovery and searching, and that’s what it’s about for me at this point. The voice of the bass can be many things, I was driven to it by the groove first and foremost, but it can play many different roles in music, and I like playing with these in mind.

5. Does coming from PE mean anything special? Jazz-wise? Were you connected to the jazz history of the town when you were coming up?

5) When I was about 16 in PE I was fortunate to play in a band with multi-instrumentalist Graham Beyer, and the great guitarist Gerard O’Brien (of the Genuines), and the drummer Marcel Scullard. We played in bars around town for several years, and I cut my teeth playing with them. I learnt a lot from their wealth of knowledge. I also didn’t have to be a runner in a restaurant anymore, so I got my first taste of earning bread from music. There were a number of good jazz musicians and mentors in PE for me to look up to, and they were the ones who brought me into the music.

6. Is jazz a good place for a musician to be? Are you allowed to evolve and mature over time in a way that the “rock” or electronic musicians are not?

6) I think the work of any true artist in any genre will evolve over time, because it reflects their growth and experiences as people. The rate of growth might slow down, but I like to see seasoned musicians who are still searching and trying new things. Look at Wayne Shorter as an example. I’ve been to plenty of jazz gigs where some people in the crowd start calling out for some old classics of theirs, when the artist is presenting new music. You get that in every genre. It’s more important to move forward. Every song writer has songs inside them, and it’s important to get them out while they have energy and spirit.

7. Finally, please, something about your relationship with Zim, what he meant to you as a player and as a composer.

7) Zim had a big influence on me. He had such commitment, and this incredible energy when he played, a really immense musical force. He wrote such moving music, and had such a distinctive sound. When I first met him he encouraged me to write more. I was very lucky to play with him. I wish I could have played with him more.

August 11, 2013

scelsi – trio for strings (1958)

Filed under: Giacinto Scelsi,music — ABRAXAS @ 7:03 pm

Trio for strings (1958)

I. 1er Mouvement
II. 2e Mouvement

III. 3e Mouvement
IV. 4e Mouvement

Robert Zimansky, violin
Patrick Demenga, cello
Christoph Schiller, viola

When the scores for Scelsi’s string works at last came into the hands of Irvine Arditti in the late ’70s, the great violinist said “It appears rather a large fish has got through our nets.” By that time, Scelsi, though still alive, had virtually stopped composing. All that he did compose after about 1975 were new versions of older pieces. The Arditti String Quartet, among numerous others, became energetic champions of his work, presumably agreeing with Franco Donatoni that Scelsi was the third of three great Italian composers born in the early part of the twentieth century. Members of the Arditti in fact performed the world-premiere of the trio in 1986, in London, almost 30 years after it was composed. The musical world has indeed been tardy in granting Scelsi, a mysterious, controversial, elusive figure, the recognition that he so richly deserves. The process of fighting for his cause goes on even today, when some continue to unjustly accuse him of dilettantism.

The birth of Scelsi’s String Trio is tied intimately to that of the famous Quattro pezzi su una nota sola (for chamber orchestra, 1959). Together they are the first pieces Scelsi would compose in his characteristic monotonal style, music focused with maniacal intensity on the elaboration of single pitches. Whereas his earlier music had depended heavily upon use of the piano, his new direction required instruments capable of microtonal inflection, of which the piano is incapable. The String Trio is his most important first step in that direction that would take him so far. It is in many ways a study for the Quattro pezzi which, by their timbral lushness, outshine the trio in influence and importance.

His division of the trio into quasi-classical movements betrays his sustained respect for tradition. Despite his radical simplifications, Scelsi didn’t abandon belief in the need for clear formal designs. Each of the four movements of the trio elaborates a single pitch, using microtonal fluctuations, complex rhythms, and varying expressive manners, and deft changes of tone color, using mutes, and varied articulations. Unlike the later music, which tends to exclude lower registers entirely, the trio focuses on the middle to low registers, even descending to the low C of the cello at one point. The melodic path of the movements is as follows: F sharp (first movement), C (second), B (third), B flat (fourth). The pitches are expressed in three different octaves each time so that, although frequently piano piano, the sound is always full. Indeed, there is something tremendous and “Sphinx-like” in the sound of naked octaves. Some other notes are occasionally introduced to the mix, resulting in some thirds and sixths, but we always hear these entirely in relation to the home pitch of the movement, as if they were only overtones of it. The addition of these ornamental pitches in no way undermines the focused integrity of the piece, which never wavers from its goal of opening our ears to the third, “spherical” dimension of sound. [Allmusic.com]

August 6, 2013

Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88)

Filed under: Giacinto Scelsi,music — ABRAXAS @ 2:25 pm

Giacinto Scelsi

A long ignored eccentric and outsider of the new music world (who never wanted his photograph to appear in connection with his music), the Italian composer and poet Giacinto Scelsi (strictly speaking Count Giacinto Scelsi di Ayala Valva, 1905-88) gained considerable recognition in the mid-1980s, just as his creative powers began to slacken. Hence he is often called the Charles Ives of Italy. While it took music publishers nearly 50 years to take on and promulgate his works, three collections of his poetry were published in French in Paris in 1949, 1954 and 1962.

Scelsi was mainly a self-taught composer, but received some instruction from Giacinto Sallustio in Rome and Egon Koehler in Geneva who acquainted him with Scriabin’s work. He also studied with Walter Klein, a music theorist and friend of the Schoenberg circle who introduced him in 1936 to the music and theory of the “Second Viennese School.” Shortly thereafter Scelsi, made extended visits to Asia and became interested in Eastern philosophy, theosophy, yoga, and Buddhism, all of which affected his compositional approach as did his musical studies in Geneva and Vienna. Eventually settling in Rome, Scelsi once remarked: “Rome is the boundary between East and West. South of Rome, the East starts, north of Rome, the West starts. The borderline runs exactly through the Roman Forum. There is my house: This explains my life and my music.” Thus it is not surprising that Scelsi’s artistic ideas and compositional procedures, thwarted Western concepts of composition, improvisation, interpretation, and performance. He did not consider himself a composer, but rather a medium or vessel who transcendentally received musical messages while meditating and improvising at the piano or on the guitar and percussion instruments. Such “intuitive” or “real time” compositions were taped and transcribed and edited by others since the 1940s. (After Scelsi’s death, some of his assistants, whom Scelsi had merely viewed as interpreters of his sonic messages, publicly and provocatively claimed to be his ghostwriters.) The resulting scores, however, did not allow for flexibility or improvisation. Like Scelsi and his assistants, the performer assumes the role of a medium, who merely conveys the sounds to the audience. For Scelsi sound was cosmic energy and three-dimensional: “The sound is round like a sphere, yet when one hears it, it seems to have only two dimensions: register and duration-of the third [dimension] we know that it exists, but it escapes us in some way. The high and low overtones sometimes give the impression of a more comprehensive, manifold sound beyond duration and register, but it is difficult to comprehend its complexity.” Searching for the “third dimension” or “depth” of sound, Scelsi attempted to expand the tonal realm and focused more and more on one or two single pitches. These were treated like focal points and were reiterated or embroidered while subjected to very subtle modifications in intensity, timbre, dynamics and pitch. This approach, however, led Scelsi to embrace microtonality and write music primarily for winds, strings and voice from the mid-1950s on. Such works as Tre pezzi (1956) for trombone, Quattro pezzi su una nota sola (1959) for chamber orchestra or his last three String Quartets (1963-85) are based on single notes and their iridescent microtonal nuances. Herewith Scelsi incidentally anticipated compositional techniques developed further by La Monte Young and Phill Niblock.

How do Scelsi’s works for solo piano and piano chamber works fit into his ouvre? Most of his numerous piano compositions, among them forty Preludes, eleven Suites, four Sonatas, Quattro illustrazioni, Cinque incantesimi, and Action Music, were written in two batches, from 1930 to 1943 and from 1952 to 1956 (if one wants to trust the dates of composition given by Scelsi, who intended to fool musicologists). In 1974 Scelsi employed the piano for the last time when he created Aitsi for amplified piano and To the Master (two improvisations in collaboration with Victoria Parr) for cello and piano. Assuming a special position within Scelsi’s compositional output, his works for piano shed not only light on his outstanding pianistic talent and his abilities as an improviser, but they indicate major changes in his compositional development. Twelve-tone procedures in his early piano works reveal the influence of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. His Quattro Poemi (1936-39), for instance, of which the last piece is dedicated to Alban Berg, feature quotations from Berg’s Piano Sonata, op. 1, fourth chords and suggestions to dodecaphony. In following works such as the Second Sonata (on mode 92) and the Sixth Suite, Scelsi concentrated more and more on the exploration of pitch centers and clusters as focal points and on the autonomy of single tones or sounds. When after more then a decade-long psychic crisis, Scelsi resumed composing for the piano, he fell back upon techniques he had used in his early works, namely motivic organization contrasted by somewhat amorphous pitch or sound centers. Yet, more and more of these pieces focus on the repetition of single pitches. They also reveal meditative aspects which are emphasized by such Sanskrit-derived subtitles as Bot-ba – An evocation of Tibet with its monasteries in the high mountains: Tibetan rituals, prayers and dances, (Suite No. 8, 1952), Ttai (Suite No. 9), or Ka (Suite No. 10). In his search of the “depth” of sound and its microtonal qualities, the piano with its half-tone step limitation could no longer correspond to his artistic ideas; and as a consequence he stopped composing for this instrument in 1956. However, Scelsi did not discard the piano, which had served as one of his imperative composing aids since the mid-forties. Instead, he employed the “ondiolina,” an electric keyboard instrument which made possible quarter-tone differentiation. Aitsi, Scelsi’s last work for amplified piano solo of 1974, in which the sustained pitches are distorted, incidentally originated due to a malfunction of his tape recorder. It was ultimately arranged for string quartet in 1985.

–Sabine Feisst (from the notes to mode 92)

first published here: http://www.moderecords.com/profiles/giacintoscelsi.html
Mode Records – A Record Label Devoted to New Music

July 31, 2013


Filed under: joel assaizky,kagavox — ABRAXAS @ 11:55 am

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text kaganof
music joel assaizky

July 3, 2013

Wagnerian embodiments in Etienne Leroux’s 18-44

Filed under: literature,Paula Fourie — ABRAXAS @ 6:31 pm

Etienne Leroux’s use of an extensive field of reference in his novels, and especially his interlacing of diverse mythologies, psychological theories and literary sources, remains an aspect of his oeuvre that has enjoyed significant academic attention. From a musicological perspective, the numerous references in 18-44 to the music dramas of Richard Wagner are particularly striking. These references are also an aspect of 18-44 that is frequently understated in interpretations of the novel, many of which tend to focus on a Jungian interpretation. Indeed, 18-44 has in the past been referred to as Leroux’s strongest Jungian novel (Meiring 1968b). By postulating Wagner and Wagner reception as a context for Leroux I intend to demonstrate that the field of Leroux research has by no means been exhausted and that other interpretations are still possible by (to borrow a term from Willem Weststeijn in Botha 2003:89–90), a heruitvoering – “reperformance” – of 18-44.

This article employs a theoretical framework based on the work of Kristeva (1969), Barthes (1977) and Riffaterre (1978) to conceptualise intertextuality as a web of relations between writer, reader and cultural context where the creation of meaning lies with the reader and not, as was hitherto understood, only with the writer. This understanding acknowledges that each reader brings a unique background to any reading and is at liberty to draw on a number of extra texts or cultural contexts to aid interpretation and the creation of meaning. This article therefore takes as its starting point a reading of 18-44 as a text amongst texts, specifically with reference to Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Seen in the light of intertextuality, it is irrelevant whether Leroux was well acquainted with the work of Wagner or not, nor whether these symbols were intended as a conscious concealment of meaning in 18-44.

However, the aesthetic projects of Leroux and Wagner intersect in their understanding of mythology and the value thereof for individuals and collectives. Moreover, both men had an understanding of archetypal material as a subconscious layer that could be brought to the surface through the use of symbols, something they also shared with Jung. Wagner’s perception of myth facilitated the understanding that history could be understood as a series of repeating mythical prototypes (Rieger 2011:110). Leroux (1980) emphasised the importance of myth as a source of strength for the individual and the community; indeed, the search for a living myth and living symbols surfaces periodically as a priority within his oeuvre. This article argues that through Leroux’s references, his characters and themes can be connected with Wagnerian archetypal figures and themes, and that their treatment in the work of the latter can inform a reading of his work. Although this suggested context rests mainly on Der Ring des Nibelungen, there is scope for further research that includes Wagner’s other music dramas, such as Der Fliegende Holländer and Parsifal in a rereading of

There is only one direct reference to Wagner in 18-44,namely when the knolskrywer (hack writer) writes that he hears Wagner’s music, that Valkyries are flying through the air and that trumpets are playing the prelude to the third act (Leroux 1967:34). However, there is frequent reference to the knolskrywer’s wife as his Valkyrie or Brünnhilde. This article argues that there are concomitant points of similarity between Leroux and Wagner’s Valkyries, including their relationships with their fathers, their initial unattainability, their loss of power after being conquered and their ultimate suicide. There is reference to Valhalla, the home of the gods where Leroux’s Valkyrie’s father lives as Wotan – in 18-44 these are accompanied by references to incestuous love, sterility and butchery. There is reference to the knolskrywer as Siegfried, the hero of the Der Ring des Nibelungen saga, and indeed, both of these figures find their salvation in the love of a woman whom they betray. However, the knolskrywer emerges as an anti-hero, for unlike Siegfried, he is beset by fear. The article argues that the knolskrywer is a more effective hero for contemporary times because his fear aids him in a greater understanding of the tragedy of life and the necessity of betrayal. Through a rereading of Leroux against the background of Der Ring des Nibelungen, important perspectives and themes surface in this novel, among others marriage as an impossible promise and a curse on love itself, as well as that of adultery as necessary betrayal.

Moreover, there is extensive use of the Götterdämmerung in 18-44, a key theme of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. When one reads this alongside Wagner’s work, new light is shed on the knolskrywer’s personal Götterdämmerung, the destruction of an old myth and the creation of a new myth. For the knolskrywer regards his destruction as a rebirth, the death of his old worlds as the creation of others. However, there is another Götterdämmerung that takes place in 18-44, one that relates to world history. At the beginning of the novel the juxtaposition of the respective ages of the knolskrywer and one of the women in his life, his beloved “mej. X”, from “1844”, a year of historical unimportance. Their transition to 1945 one year later, however, points to the violent transition after the Second World War to a world without gods – the German national myths are dead, and the Japanese emperor-god has become mortal. The article shows how Wagner, through his anti-Semitic writings and the appropriation of his music by Hitler’s regime, is, to a certain extent, connected with the events of the Second World War. It furthermore argues that Leroux’s Valkyrie emerges in the novel as an extended metaphor for the German Third Reich, her suicide symbolising the fall of the gods and the creation of a new world order.

In a lecture at the 2012 Stellenbosch Woordfees Hermann Giliomee argues that although Leroux consciously avoided writing politically, he divined the future of the Afrikaners better than any other writer because he saw that their gods would eventually appear to be impotent. Indeed, Leroux’s warning that the Afrikaners’ gods are dead appears throughout his oeuvre, and finds specific treatment in 18-44. This article proposes that Leroux’s 18-44, with its mythological framework of a glorious Teutonic past and its portrayal of the consequences of German nationalism and Volksliebe can also be read as a concealed warning against Afrikaner nationalism. As such, 18-44 reads as a prophecy of the Afrikaner’s future, his desperate need for a living myth after the fall of his gods, but also the possibility of rebirth. Finally, the article recognises a positioning in 18-44 of the role of the writer within this Götterdämmerung through the treatment of one of the most important themes of this novel, namely the acceptance of betrayal in spite of fear.

read the full article here: http://www.litnet.co.za/Article/wagneriaanse-vergestaltings-in-etienne-leroux-se-18-44

June 18, 2013

Visual Concept for a series of “stings” advertising the Oral History Archive.

Filed under: kaganof — ABRAXAS @ 8:54 am

A mini-series of 7 short adverts bringing across the versatility and hi-tech relevance of the archive to contemporary computer users.

The accent of the series is to re-define the “archive” as a thoroughly exciting, innovative, accessible and stimulating contemporary media tool entirely unlike the stuffy, inaccessible, user UNfriendly connotation that the word holds traditionally.

The seven editions of the “sting” are conceptualised around the Ghanaian practice of naming a baby depending on the day of the week that it is born. In order to focus on and highlight the role of the woman in African society each episode will have as its working title one of the seven girl’s names for the days of the week: ADJOA, ABENA, AKUA, YAA, AFUA, AMA, AKOSUA. The formal editing structure of each of these seven “stings” will be built around the code of the name, ie, if the audience were to download the “sting” and deconstruct its elements in the way that the archiving system it is advertising allows, they would discover the recurring “genetic code” of the Gahnaian day name recurring as a consistent motif across every element of the advert – editing, music, grading, etc.

Each sting will be divided into 2 constituent parts. Firstly, The generic “template” which in turn holds the particular, individual content node of the advert.

1. The generic template.

This 21 second template will comprise of a densely edited 3D simulation of the experience of using the system. The map of Africa will be used to move into and over in very fast digital morphing movements, each movement rushing over a sweep of space and time, over a different cartographic texture as well. For example the colonial map of 1870 will morph into a map of mountains and forests of now, this kind of articulation of the various kinds of cartographic analysis of space and time will prepare the audience for the extremely diverse nature of the contemporary digital archiving experience, one entirely unlike the analogue use of archive material.

As the audience are driven across space and time by the morph movements so images and music particular to the space and time being experienced will be generated in a constantly evolving “mashup” that will evoke an emotional as well as intellectual response in the viewer. For example a morph from Ghana to Nigeria will feature a burst of Kwame Nkrumah speaking at the inauguration of Ghana’s independence flowing inexorably into Fela Kuti performing his most famous hit Sorrow Tears and Blood, this will in turn morph as the cursor flees Nigeria and rushes to Libya where Colonel Gaddaffi is surrounded by his elephants and female elite soldiers which will then morph extremely quickly down to South Africa as Joburg erupts into mob violence outside Luthuli House and then morphing suddenly into Northern Namibia where Himba children are herding cattle to the sound of Miriam Makeba singing over Ali Farka Toure’s desert blues guitar riffs.

The speed and intensity of the Template is meant to absolutely rivet the attention of the viewer who is seduced by the hi-tech jouissance of the medium. This is the hi-tech world of contemporary Africa, not a “lost continent” but in fact a world leader in explorative technologies, of which this archiving system is its own best example.

2. The 7 individual content nodes.

If the generic template can be seen as an information hub with specific adaptations made for each content node, the content node can be seen as growing organically out of the template but zooming in, literally, to a specific time/space occurence and providing a dialectical analysis of the event in a way that is medium specific to this digital archiving system. In short – this part of the sting shows the viewer that this way of experiencing and using archived information is unique and provides a relationship to information that no other medium can, it is a medium specific relationship entirely futuristic and yet now accessible to all users of the system.

The first of these 7 content nodes will feature Judge Albie Sachs. A dramatic edit from the judge making a very rough joke about his limbless condition to the news footage of him lying on the ground just after the explosion that lost him his arm. As we see his writhing body on the ground so we hear him making a really funny Woody Allen-type joke about the event. The juxtaposition of horrific reality and relativising humour-in-time is a perfect example of how meanings are contructed and change, meanings never remain the same, and so with the archive, the use of which is constant creation and re-creation of the past and the present – which is in fact how we construct the ever-shifiting nexus that, in the analogue period, used to be known as “reality”

concept and text copyright Aryan Kaganof

5 September 2011

June 17, 2013

mina 2013

Filed under: Max Schleser,mobile filming — ABRAXAS @ 10:41 pm

Dear colleagues,

apologies for X-posting.

Please see below the #MINA2013 [Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa] call for projects, papers and smartphone, mobile and pocket films.

Feel free to forward the MINA call for mobile films [http://mina.pro/?p=1660] and papers [http://mina.pro/?p=1655] to anyone who might be interested.

Do not hesitate to contact me at any time shall you have any further questions regarding the upcoming MINA events.

With best wishes,



MINA — 2013 | Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa

3rd International Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium and Screening


20 – 22 November 2013

Deadline for 350-500-word Abstracts for papers and proposals 16th August 2013


Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa [ MINA – www.mina.pro ] is an international network that promotes cultural and research activities to expand the emerging possibilities of mobile media. MINA aims to explore the opportunities for interaction between people, content and the creative industry within the context of Aotearoa/New Zealand and internationally.

This year MINA is pleased to announce that the School of Art & Design (AUT University) and CoLab (Creative Technologies Research Institute for the Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies at AUT University) will co-host its 2013 International Symposium & Screening to be held at AUT University’s Auckland City campus, in collaboration with the College of Creative Arts, Massey University (Wellington).

The Symposium provides a platform for filmmakers, artists, designers, researchers and industry professionals to debate the prospect of wireless, mobile and ubiquitous technologies in art and design environments and the creative industries.


MINA invites proposals for papers and presentations relating, but not limited to mobile communities, mobile social media and social change, mobile art, mobile locative media, citizen journalism, mobile visual literacy, mobile video production, mobile-mentaries (mobile documentaries), mobile network, mobile media in education and mobile technologies and civic media.

This year the circulation of smartphones outnumbered the volume of mobile phones. Most mobile devices (including tablets and pocket size digital cameras) have a HD video capacity and provide Internet connectivity. Since the proliferation of apps five years ago, new opportunities for creative mobile media production emerged. Mobile filmmaking is now an established format ranging from music video to TV commercial production. A number of contemporary apps feature location-based services that can create new experiences and representations of places. Mobile filmmaking also provides prospects for citizen journalist to expand the domain of videography. Contemporary forms of collaborative filmmaking projects connect 21st century citizens and filmmakers across the globe creating new forms of digital, networked and transmedia storytelling. As an egalitarian filmmaking tool and technology, mobile filmmaking provides access to a new generation of filmmakers. In alignment with the ubiquity of social media, mobile communication is shifting towards an increasingly visual realm. Live streaming and micro formats of mobile filmmaking can be compared to early cinema and actuality film, while mobile short films resonate approaches and practices known from the field of experimental documentary and avant-garde moving-image practices.

The 3nd International Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium will explore the following mobile developments and dynamics in a transdisciplinary context.








MINA welcomes presentations in a variety of formats including academic papers, workshops, poster presentations, performances, project showcases and screenings. The 3nd International Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium will also provide the opportunity to present papers via live video and live web-broadcasts. For each submission, please send:

– a proposal / abstract of approximately 400 words, including the title

– a brief biographical (100 words maximum)

Abstracts for papers and proposals of up to 500 words should be submitted by the 16th of August 2013. Please include a title and brief biographical note and send to laurent@mina.pro

All proposals will be double peer reviewed and presenters will be notified of acceptances by 16th of September 2013. All selected papers will be published in the Creative Technologies Journal – Special Mobile Edition.

If you have any questions related to conference proposals please contact Laurent Antonczak [ laurent@mina.pro | +64 211 625 072 ]. For further information, please check also: www.mina.pro


MINA — 2013 | Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa

3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening

Deadline for Mobile Films submission: 16th August 2013

The Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa [ MINA ] aims to explore the possibilities of interaction between people, content and the creative industries.

The International Mobile Innovation Screening 2013 will showcase short films produced on and with smartphones, mobile and pocket cameras. This year MINA is pleased to announce that the School of Art & Design (AUT University) and CoLab (Creative Technologies Research Institute for the Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies at AUT University) will co-host the 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening to be held at AUT University’s Auckland City campus, in collaboration with the College of Creative Arts, Massey University (Wellington).

Working in collaboration with Ohrenblick Mal (Germany), iPhone Popup Film Festival (UK) International Mobil Film Festival and iPhone Film Festival (USA), MINA showcases mobile filmmaking projects from around the world at the 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening in Wellington (November 2013) Film Archive, Auckland (21st and 22nd November 2013), AUT University, Auckland City campus new Precint building and Melbourne (9th December 2013), RMIT University.

Selected mobile films will be featured in the MINA showreel. The MINA program is curated by Dr. Max Schleser (Massey University, Wellington, NZ) and Laurent Antonczak (AUT University, Auckland, NZ).

For each submission, please send:

– a proposal of approximately 250 words, including the mobile film title

– two still images

– the link to the online preview (if available)

– a brief biographical (100 words maximum)

to Dr. Max Schleser [ max@mina.pro ]. For further assistance regarding submission enquiries, please contact Dr. Max Schleser [ max@mina.pro | +64 226 920 872 ] or check also: www.mina.pro

Work can be sent in digital format, via post or courier:

Dr. Max Schleser

c/o MINA, School of Design

Po Box 756, Wellington 6140

New Zealand

MINA 2012 showreel: http://vimeo.com/51724574

Max Schleser

[MINA] Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa

e: max@mina.pro
m: + 64 22 692 0872
w: www.mina.pro
t: @MINAmobile

dave marks on the ben sharpa film

Filed under: kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 10:50 am

Dear Aryan – thanks for this. Allows me to let off steam, without hopefully getting into preaching gear or moral mode!?

You certainly do reflect the chaos & narcissism that prevails. Your film style (if I may) is indeed thought-provoking & always creative… but the Ben Sharpa film? Here’s my take on the subject – not the excellent way you’ve captured him, but the very sad man & his followers depicted!

As pious & as patronizing as I sometimes sound (do I give a shit!?) and speaking as a ‘musician’ (of sorts) & an opinionated archivist at times, I find the ‘message of materialism’, entitlement & victimhood that most SAfrican ‘Harlem’ Hip Hop copy-cats convey, means very little; and not only because one can never hear the messages that they claim to convey – other than the feeling of sadness & sometimes anger at the talent wasted – but if music is one thing, messages are another! As Bob the Bard once whined: if you wanna send a message use Western Union.

Maybe I’m ‘messaged out’ and old fashioned – a folk-singer with a repertoire of mainly messages ‘n meaning – if that’s how the listener wants to hear it? For me, music (?) that carries words and / or poetry – and speaking as a lyricist who sincerely believes that the future is NOW (that the old ‘stuff’ we’ve recorded & collected is for reference & glass cabinets or hard-driving touch-screens only) – if I don’t get the feeling or can’t hear the words, then there is no message… and why should there be?

Photo: Moose, from Suck, does a Piano Solo at The Welkom Town Hall in 1970. Now THAT’S a message!!!

The only ‘message’ I hear here today – thru’ the chaos & noise – is that it’s OK to fuck the system, take ‘n steal what you didn’t work for, earn or create… music, attitude, fashion. To me that’s so colonial & Western; that’s exactly what the whites did. Very un-African. I can’t get my head (or heart) around it. Of course if this new-age colonisation and pollution of the spirit of Ubuntu & Batho Pele is happening, it cannot / should not (?) be ignored. But I have the right to ask… where has our unique Cape Gumba or Kwela or Marabi or even the revolting rock voices gone? How timid & tame we copy-cats have become.

Thank goodness we can sometimes rely on the skills and passion of people such as yourself to convey the chaos…. Even if it is a distorted, unhearable message!? All that top-down crass materialism & crotch grabbing pussy that strangely enough has nothing whatsoever to do with music & poetry… or the genuine ghetto Rapper’s Hip Hop from New York! Capetown?

‘Music’ for me – noisy, loud, soft or smooth – is another mystical, magic & spiritual ‘feeling’ altogether. Fuck the message. The Vuvuzela says it all loud ‘n clear… I hear that stuff, but I don’t have to listen to it. Not in this country where the spiritual connections thru’ the voices of 15 million people… that’s how many ‘sing & dance’ in groups every week…. more than any other country on earth, we hear here – have been drowned out by an abrasive flatulent plastic (white man’s) war-toy or the import of wealthy gold-dripping American rappers. And the mainstream media & the people who manufacture that crap – like guns – say it’s cool & it’s hip? It’s what the people want? If that’s all they see hear, that’s the message. Just like ‘music’ back in the A-Daze. Take it or leave it… the revolution in designer denim, backward peak-caps & video.

I’m generalising here of course; I get unravelled & angry, because I’ve heard (recorded and mixed for) some fine SAfrican ‘Harlem’ hip-hop, poets ‘n rappers who really do seem to say what they mean… until they become ‘famous’. Then they too fuck you & me & the system… but not for free! However, when I did mix (with) them one could usually hear what it is they’re communicating. The feeling rather than a message. I’m sorry, but those week-end entitled anarchists & wanna-be-materialists, just like our main-stream revolting rockers back in the 60’s, give me the creeps. They are not REAL revolutionaries… They’re revolting capitalist posers.

Point of this rant is: if we cannot hear and listen we cannot engage; eventually we run, or are driven away from victims crying blame, hate & entitlement.

But that’s my personal pale-person’s view of the morose materialism, bling, Ray Bans ‘n Beemers that the likes of the SABC & the commercial record industry fuck with. If the pigs in government could hear the so-called messages, they’d apply a music version of the Secrecy & Information Bill.

We have a Right2Know that those bejewelled, gold-dripping hips, lips ‘n tits, whose so-called ‘message’ is set to multi-million rand studio productions, are no different to the gold-medallion perverts in funny frocks, long dresses & beanies who run & ruin the lives of billions of poor superstitious folk from the Vatican, Teheran & Jerusalem. It’s the same old message… fuck the people, the earth and nature… you better buy our goods & gods or else! Proclaiming that we humans are God-given rulers of the earth & the muse, within & without. We who are free to rape ma Nature & ravage pa God! We take what we can, from who we can, while we can. That’s the ‘message ‘n meaning’ that most of those Hip-Hopers generate for me. Fuck ‘em!


Groucho Marks without the “X”

PS The question remains – that here in Africa… where it all began… in the past – why do so many of us SAfricans STILL suffer from colonial inferiority & apartheid complexes? If the future is NOW or never, we gotta learn, look ‘n listen to where the past lies!

June 16, 2013

on where the films are now (mine, that is)

Filed under: kaganof,kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 12:47 pm

I suddenly remembered as I woke up that I was always taught, whilst at the Film Academy in the Netherlands, to make a film “work”, to experiment only until it “works”

And my nature, my resistance, always in fact demanded of me that i experiment until it “played”, until the film itself was “playing”. So I would never ask technical people, does it work, I would ask, does it play? Is it playful?

This was hugely important whilst studying and became a major thread in my slow building of what it was that I believed the “works” should do. (Because I always loved the idea that what my work “did” was “play”. It felt subversive enough, a worthy enough end in itself. I did not expect the work to do much more than that. This was my formalist phase.

Later, after coming to South Africa, I began to find subject matter that seemed to demand a different kind of play and I also pretty much ceased to work with technical people. This became the period that I demanded of the work more than that it “played”, but that it “danced”. I was only finished with the edit of a piece (a “work”) when it danced. This dancing was a way of keeping the sense of play going whilst being cognizant that the my subject matter was deadly serious, was not in itself playful. The Uprising of Hangberg and The Exhibition of Vandalizim are examples of this phase that I might describe as my political phase.

The development that I notice in myself and my “work” (and how it “plays”) is that in An Inconsolable Memory I have, for the first time, demanded of the piece that it “sings”. The edit was only finished when I received that song from Ruth Fourie, on the cd she got from Ruth Goodwin, and I could insert the soaring, impeccable heights of song into the film so that it operates as an aesthetic fulcrum, one that allows the film to escapes district six, to escape the bizarre play of whites and coloured and blacks, to go back into the baby’s first experience of sound as pleasure, the roots of music itself, the sound of the mother and the taste of her breast, and the opening into the world through the leaves, that is the baby’s first impression of nature and the pictorial elegance called, incorrectly, the landscape, which is in fact the mindscape and Ruth Goodwin’s voice singing whilst this happens is the fusion of sound and image and the beginning of the baby’s individuation away from the fused identification with the mother into a distinct person and is at the same time the beginning of memory and the beginning of film, of cinema. This is my first film that sings and I hope not the last. I think it might herald the beginning of a psychological phase, and I almost hesitate to write this because I have always resolutely up to now, avoided allowing any hint of psychological reasoning to infiltrate the films because I always found this too easy, too simple, too pat. Perhaps being this exhausted and broke has finally destroyed my resistance to the realm of psychology and perhaps this is a good thing. We shall see. If it sings.

Aryan Kaganof

May 20, 2013

The Economy of Ideas by John Perry Barlow

Filed under: new media politics (k3) — ABRAXAS @ 9:24 am

A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age
(Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong.)

John Perry Barlow is a retired Wyoming cattle rancher, a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since May of 1998, he has been a Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, following a term as a Fellow with the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. John gave 3rd Ear Music permission to use this piece:

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Throughout the time I’ve been groping around cyberspace, an immense, unsolved conundrum has remained at the root of nearly every legal, ethical, governmental, and social vexation to be found in the Virtual World. I refer to the problem of digitized property. The enigma is this: If our property can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed all over the planet without cost, without our knowledge, without its even leaving our possession, how can we protect it? How are we going to get paid for the work we do with our minds? And, if we can’t get paid, what will assure the continued creation and distribution of such work?

Since we don’t have a solution to what is a profoundly new kind of challenge, and are apparently unable to delay the galloping digitization of everything not obstinately physical, we are sailing into the future on a sinking ship.

This vessel, the accumulated canon of copyright and patent law, was developed to convey forms and methods of expression entirely different from the vaporous cargo it is now being asked to carry. It is leaking as much from within as from without.

Legal efforts to keep the old boat floating are taking three forms: a frenzy of deck chair rearrangement, stern warnings to the passengers that if she goes down, they will face harsh criminal penalties, and serene, glassy-eyed denial.
Mbube The Magic Music Muse Bottle
Mbube The Magic Music Muse Bottle
Intellectual property law cannot be patched, retrofitted, or expanded to contain digitized expression any more than real estate law might be revised to cover the allocation of broadcasting spectrum (which, in fact, rather resembles what is being attempted here). We will need to develop an entirely new set of methods as befits this entirely new set of circumstances.

Most of the people who actually create soft property – the programmers, hackers, and Net surfers – already know this. Unfortunately, neither the companies they work for nor the lawyers these companies hire have enough direct experience with nonmaterial goods to understand why they are so problematic. They are proceeding as though the old laws can somehow be made to work, either by grotesque expansion or by force. They are wrong.

The source of this conundrum is as simple as its solution is complex. Digital technology is detaching information from the physical plane, where property law of all sorts has always found definition.

Throughout the history of copyrights and patents, the proprietary assertions of thinkers have been focused not on their ideas but on the expression of those ideas. The ideas themselves, as well as facts about the phenomena of the world, were considered to be the collective property of humanity. One could claim franchise, in the case of copyright, on the precise turn of phrase used to convey a particular idea or the order in which facts were presented.

The point at which this franchise was imposed was that moment when the “word became flesh” by departing the mind of its originator and entering some physical object, whether book or widget. The subsequent arrival of other commercial media besides books didn’t alter the legal importance of this moment. Law protected expression and, with few (and recent) exceptions, to express was to make physical.

Protecting physical expression had the force of convenience on its side. Copyright worked well because, Gutenberg notwithstanding, it was hard to make a book. Furthermore, books froze their contents into a condition which was as challenging to alter as it was to reproduce. Counterfeiting and distributing counterfeit volumes were obvious and visible activities – it was easy enough to catch somebody in the act of doing. Finally, unlike unbounded words or images, books had material surfaces to which one could attach copyright notices, publisher’s marques, and price tags.

Mental-to-physical conversion was even more central to patent. A patent, until recently, was either a description of the form into which materials were to be rendered in the service of some purpose, or a description of the process by which rendition occurred. In either case, the conceptual heart of patent was the material result. If no purposeful object could be rendered because of some material limitation, the patent was rejected. Neither a Klein bottle nor a shovel made of silk could be patented. It had to be a thing, and the thing had to work.

Thus, the rights of invention and authorship adhered to activities in the physical world. One didn’t get paid for ideas, but for the ability to deliver them into reality. For all practical purposes, the value was in the conveyance and not in the thought conveyed.

In other words, the bottle was protected, not the wine
Record Contract 1904 – Melba
Record Contract 1904 – Melba
Now, as information enters cyberspace, the native home of Mind, these bottles are vanishing. With the advent of digitization, it is now possible to replace all previous information storage forms with one metabottle: complex and highly liquid patterns of ones and zeros.

Even the physical/digital bottles to which we’ve become accustomed – floppy disks, CD-ROMs, and other discrete, shrink-wrappable bit-packages – will disappear as all computers jack-in to the global Net. While the Internet may never include every CPU on the planet, it is more than doubling every year and can be expected to become the principal medium of information conveyance, and perhaps eventually, the only one.

Once that has happened, all the goods of the Information Age – all of the expressions once contained in books or film strips or newsletters – will exist either as pure thought or something very much like thought: voltage conditions darting around the Net at the speed of light, in conditions that one might behold in effect, as glowing pixels or transmitted sounds, but never touch or claim to “own” in the old sense of the word.

Some might argue that information will still require some physical manifestation, such as its magnetic existence on the titanic hard disks of distant servers, but these are bottles which have no macroscopically discrete or personally meaningful form.

Some will also argue that we have been dealing with unbottled expression since the advent of radio, and they would be right. But for most of the history of broadcast, there was no convenient way to capture soft goods from the electromagnetic ether and reproduce them with quality available in commercial packages. Only recently has this changed, and little has been done legally or technically to address the change.

Generally, the issue of consumer payment for broadcast products was irrelevant. The consumers themselves were the product. Broadcast media were supported either by the sale of the attention of their audience to advertisers, by government assessing payment through taxes, or by the whining mendicancy of annual donor drives.

All of the broadcast-support models are flawed. Support either by advertisers or government has almost invariably tainted the purity of the goods delivered. Besides, direct marketing is gradually killing the advertiser-support model anyway.

Broadcast media gave us another payment method for a virtual product: the royalties that broadcasters pay songwriters through such organizations as ASCAP and BMI. But, as a member of ASCAP, I can assure you this is not a model that we should emulate. The monitoring methods are wildly approximate. There is no parallel system of accounting in the revenue stream. It doesn’t really work. Honest.

In any case, without our old methods, based on physically defining the expression of ideas, and in the absence of successful new models for nonphysical transaction, we simply don’t know how to assure reliable payment for mental works. To make matters worse, this comes at a time when the human mind is replacing sunlight and mineral deposits as the principal source of new wealth.

Furthermore, the increasing difficulty of enforcing existing copyright and patent laws is already placing in peril the ultimate source of intellectual property – the free exchange of ideas.
Columbia Camels Silence
Columbia Camels Silence
That is, when the primary articles of commerce in a society look so much like speech as to be indistinguishable from it, and when the traditional methods of protecting their ownership have become ineffectual, attempting to fix the problem with broader and more vigorous enforcement will inevitably threaten freedom of speech. The greatest constraint on your future liberties may come not from government but from corporate legal departments laboring to protect by force what can no longer be protected by practical efficiency or general social consent.

Furthermore, when Jefferson and his fellow creatures of the Enlightenment designed the system that became American copyright law, their primary objective was assuring the widespread distribution of thought, not profit. Profit was the fuel that would carry ideas into the libraries and minds of their new republic. Libraries would purchase books, thus rewarding the authors for their work in assembling ideas; these ideas, otherwise “incapable of confinement,” would then become freely available to the public. But what is the role of libraries in the absence of books? How does society now pay for the distribution of ideas if not by charging for the ideas themselves?

Additionally complicating the matter is the fact that along with the disappearance of the physical bottles in which intellectual property protection has resided, digital technology is also erasing the legal jurisdictions of the physical world and replacing them with the unbounded and perhaps permanently lawless waves of cyberspace.

In cyberspace, no national or local boundaries contain the scene of a crime and determine the method of its prosecution; worse, no clear cultural agreements define what a crime might be. Unresolved and basic differences between Western and Asian cultural assumptions about intellectual property can only be exacerbated when many transactions are taking place in both hemispheres and yet, somehow, in neither.

Even in the most local of digital conditions, jurisdiction and responsibility are hard to assess. A group of music publishers filed suit against CompuServe this fall because it allowed its users to upload musical compositions into areas where other users might access them. But since CompuServe cannot practically exercise much control over the flood of bits that passes between its subscribers, it probably shouldn’t be held responsible for unlawfully “publishing” these works.

Notions of property, value, ownership, and the nature of wealth itself are changing more fundamentally than at any time since the Sumerians first poked cuneiform into wet clay and called it stored grain. Only a very few people are aware of the enormity of this shift, and fewer of them are lawyers or public officials.

Those who do see these changes must prepare responses for the legal and social confusion that will erupt as efforts to protect new forms of property with old methods become more obviously futile, and, as a consequence, more adamant.

From Swords to Writs to Bits
His Masters Voice King Edward 1935
His Masters Voice King George 1935
Humanity now seems bent on creating a world economy primarily based on goods that take no material form. In doing so, we may be eliminating any predictable connection between creators and a fair reward for the utility or pleasure others may find in their works.

Without that connection, and without a fundamental change in consciousness to accommodate its loss, we are building our future on furor, litigation, and institutionalized evasion of payment except in response to raw force. We may return to the Bad Old Days of property.

Throughout the darker parts of human history, the possession and distribution of property was a largely military matter. “Ownership” was assured those with the nastiest tools, whether fists or armies, and the most resolute will to use them. Property was the divine right of thugs.

By the turn of the First Millennium AD, the emergence of merchant classes and landed gentry forced the development of ethical understandings for the resolution of property disputes. In the Middle Ages, enlightened rulers like England’s Henry II began to codify this unwritten “common law” into recorded canons. These laws were local, which didn’t matter much as they were primarily directed at real estate, a form of property that is local by definition. And, as the name implied, was very real.

This continued to be the case as long as the origin of wealth was agricultural, but with that dawning of the Industrial Revolution, humanity began to focus as much on means as ends. Tools acquired a new social value and, thanks to their development, it became possible to duplicate and distribute them in quantity.

To encourage their invention, copyright and patent law were developed in most Western countries. These laws were devoted to the delicate task of getting mental creations into the world where they could be used – and could enter the minds of others – while assuring their inventors compensation for the value of their use. And, as previously stated, the systems of both law and practice which grew up around that task were based on physical expression.

Since it is now possible to convey ideas from one mind to another without ever making them physical, we are now claiming to own ideas themselves and not merely their expression. And since it is likewise now possible to create useful tools that never take physical form, we have taken to patenting abstractions, sequences of virtual events, and mathematical formulae – the most unreal estate imaginable.

In certain areas, this leaves rights of ownership in such an ambiguous condition that property again adheres to those who can muster the largest armies. The only difference is that this time the armies consist of lawyers.

Threatening their opponents with the endless purgatory of litigation, over which some might prefer death itself, they assert claim to any thought which might have entered another cranium within the collective body of the corporations they serve. They act as though these ideas appeared in splendid detachment from all previous human thought. And they pretend that thinking about a product is somehow as good as manufacturing, distributing, and selling it.

What was previously considered a common human resource, distributed among the minds and libraries of the world, as well as the phenomena of nature herself, is now being fenced and deeded. It is as though a new class of enterprise had arisen that claimed to own the air.

What is to be done? While there is a certain grim fun to be had in it, dancing on the grave of copyright and patent will solve little, especially when so few are willing to admit that the occupant of this grave is even deceased, and so many are trying to uphold by force what can no longer be upheld by popular consent.

The legalists, desperate over their slipping grip, are vigorously trying to extend their reach. Indeed, the United States and other proponents of GATT are making adherence to our moribund systems of intellectual property protection a condition of membership in the marketplace of nations. For example, China will be denied Most Favored Nation trading status unless they agree to uphold a set of culturally alien principles that are no longer even sensibly applicable in their country of origin.

In a more perfect world, we’d be wise to declare a moratorium on litigation, legislation, and international treaties in this area until we had a clearer sense of the terms and conditions of enterprise in cyberspace. Ideally, laws ratify already developed social consensus. They are less the Social Contract itself than a series of memoranda expressing a collective intent that has emerged out of many millions of human interactions.

Humans have not inhabited cyberspace long enough or in sufficient diversity to have developed a Social Contract which conforms to the strange new conditions of that world. Laws developed prior to consensus usually favor the already established few who can get them passed and not society as a whole.
No Masters Dog in India 1950s
No Masters Dog in India 1950s
To the extent that law & established social practice exists in this area, they are already in dangerous disagreement. The laws regarding unlicensed reproduction of commercial software are clear and stern…and rarely observed. Software piracy laws are so practically unenforceable and breaking them has become so socially acceptable that only a thin minority appears compelled, either by fear or conscience, to obey them. When I give speeches on this subject, I always ask how many people in the audience can honestly claim to have no unauthorized software on their hard disks. I’ve never seen more than 10 percent of the hands go up.

Whenever there is such profound divergence between law and social practice, it is not society that adapts. Against the swift tide of custom, the software publishers’ current practice of hanging a few visible scapegoats is so obviously capricious as to only further diminish respect for the law.

Part of the widespread disregard for commercial software copyrights stems from a legislative failure to understand the conditions into which it was inserted. To assume that systems of law based in the physical world will serve in an environment as fundamentally different as cyberspace is a folly for which everyone doing business in the future will pay.

As I will soon discuss in detail, unbounded intellectual property is very different from physical property and can no longer be protected as though these differences did not exist. For example, if we continue to assume that value is based on scarcity, as it is with regard to physical objects, we will create laws that are precisely contrary to the nature of information, which may, in many cases, increase in value with distribution.

The large, legally risk-averse institutions most likely to play by the old rules will suffer for their compliance. As more lawyers, guns, and money are invested in either protecting their rights or subverting those of their opponents, their ability to produce new technology will simply grind to a halt as every move they make drives them deeper into a tar pit of courtroom warfare.

Faith in law will not be an effective strategy for high-tech companies. Law adapts by continuous increments and at a pace second only to geology. Technology advances in lunging jerks, like the punctuation of biological evolution grotesquely accelerated. Real-world conditions will continue to change at a blinding pace, and the law will lag further behind, more profoundly confused. This mismatch may prove impossible to overcome.

Promising economies based on purely digital products will either be born in a state of paralysis, as appears to be the case with multimedia, or continue in a brave and willful refusal by their owners to play the ownership game at all.

In the United States one can already see a parallel economy developing, mostly among small, fast moving enterprises who protect their ideas by getting into the marketplace quicker then their larger competitors who base their protection on fear and litigation.

Perhaps those who are part of the problem will simply quarantine themselves in court, while those who are part of the solution will create a new society based, at first, on piracy and freebooting. It may well be that when the current system of intellectual property law has collapsed, as seems inevitable, that no new legal structure will arise in its place.

But something will happen. After all, people do business. When a currency becomes meaningless, business is done in barter. When societies develop outside the law, they develop their own unwritten codes, practices, and ethical systems. While technology may undo law, technology offers methods for restoring creative rights.

A Taxonomy of Information
One Pound Gramophones
One Pound Gramophones
It seems to me that the most productive thing to do now is to look into the true nature of what we’re trying to protect. How much do we really know about information and its natural behaviors?

What are the essential characteristics of unbounded creation? How does it differ from previous forms of property? How many of our assumptions about it have actually been about its containers rather than their mysterious contents? What are its different species and how does each of them lend itself to control? What technologies will be useful in creating new virtual bottles to replace the old physical ones?

Of course, information is, by nature, intangible and hard to define. Like other such deep phenomena as light or matter, it is a natural host to paradox. It is most helpful to understand light as being both a particle and a wave, an understanding of information may emerge in the abstract congruence of its several different properties which might be described by the following three statements:

Information is an activity.
Information is a life form.
Information is a relationship.

In the following section, I will examine each of these.


Information Is a Verb, Not a Noun

Freed of its containers, information is obviously not a thing. In fact, it is something that happens in the field of interaction between minds or objects or other pieces of information.

Gregory Bateson, expanding on the information theory of Claude Shannon, said, “Information is a difference which makes a difference.” Thus, information only really exists in the Delta. The making of that difference is an activity within a relationship. Information is an action which occupies time rather than a state of being which occupies physical space, as is the case with hard goods. It is the pitch, not the baseball, the dance, not the dancer.

Information Is Experienced, Not Possessed

Even when it has been encapsulated in some static form like a book or a hard disk, information is still something that happens to you as you mentally decompress it from its storage code. But, whether it’s running at gigabits per second or words per minute, the actual decoding is a process that must be performed by and upon a mind, a process that must take place in time.
Marching Music 1914 War
Marching Music 1914 War
There was a cartoon in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists a few years ago that illustrated this point beautifully. In the drawing, a holdup man trains his gun on the sort of bespectacled fellow you’d figure might have a lot of information stored in his head. “Quick,” orders the bandit, “give me all your ideas.”

Information Has to Move

Sharks are said to die of suffocation if they stop swimming, and the same is nearly true of information. Information that isn’t moving ceases to exist as anything but potential…at least until it is allowed to move again. For this reason, the practice of information hoarding, common in bureaucracies, is an especially wrong-headed artifact of physically based value systems.

Information Is Conveyed by Propagation, Not Distribution

The way in which information spreads is also very different from the distribution of physical goods. It moves more like something from nature than from a factory. It can concatenate like falling dominos or grow in the usual fractal lattice, like frost spreading on a window, but it cannot be shipped around like widgets, except to the extent that it can be contained in them. It doesn’t simply move on; it leaves a trail everywhere it’s been.

The central economic distinction between information and physical property is that information can be transferred without leaving the possession of the original owner. If I sell you my horse, I can’t ride him after that. If I sell you what I know, we both know it.


Information Wants to Be Free
King of Spain Recording in the Palace
King of Spain Recording in the Palace
Stewart Brand is generally credited with this elegant statement of the obvious, which recognizes both the natural desire of secrets to be told and the fact that they might be capable of possessing something like a “desire” in the first place.

English biologist and philosopher Richard Dawkins proposed the idea of “memes,” self-replicating patterns of information that propagate themselves across the ecologies of mind, a pattern of reproduction much like that of life forms.

I believe they are life forms in every respect but their freedom from the carbon atom. They self-reproduce, they interact with their surroundings and adapt to them, they mutate, they persist. They evolve to fill the empty niches of their local environments, which are, in this case the surrounding belief systems and cultures of their hosts, namely, us.

Indeed, sociobiologists like Dawkins make a plausible case that carbon-based life forms are information as well, that, as the chicken is an egg’s way of making another egg, the entire biological spectacle is just the DNA molecule’s means of copying out more information strings exactly like itself.

Information Replicates into the Cracks of Possibility

Like DNA helices, ideas are relentless expansionists, always seeking new opportunities for Lebensraum. And, as in carbon-based nature, the more robust organisms are extremely adept at finding new places to live. Thus, just as the common housefly has insinuated itself into practically every ecosystem on the planet, so has the meme of “life after death” found a niche in most minds, or psycho-ecologies.

The more universally resonant an idea or image or song , the more minds it will enter and remain within. Trying to stop the spread of a really robust piece of information is about as easy as keeping killer bees south of the border.

Information Wants to Change
Queens of Rumania Listens
Queens of Rumania Listens
If ideas and other interactive patterns of information are indeed life forms, they can be expected to evolve constantly into forms which will be more perfectly adapted to their surroundings. And, as we see, they are doing this all the time.

But for a long time, our static media, whether carvings in stone, ink on paper, or dye on celluloid, have strongly resisted the evolutionary impulse, exalting as a consequence the author’s ability to determine the finished product. But, as in an oral tradition, digitized information has no “final cut.”

Digital information, unconstrained by packaging, is a continuing process more like the metamorphosing tales of prehistory than anything that will fit in shrink-wrap. From the Neolithic to Gutenberg (monks aside), information was passed on, mouth to ear, changing with every retelling (or re-singing). The stories which once shaped our sense of the world didn’t have authoritative versions. They adapted to each culture in which they found themselves being told.

Because there was never a moment when the story was frozen in print, the so-called “moral” right of storytellers to own the tale was neither protected nor recognized. The story simply passed through each of them on its way to the next, where it would assume a different form. As we return to continuous information, we can expect the importance of authorship to diminish. Creative people may have to renew their acquaintance with humility.

But our system of copyright makes no accommodation whatever for expressions which don’t become fixed at some point nor for cultural expressions which lack a specific author or inventor.

Jazz improvisations, stand-up comedy routines, mime performances, developing monologues, and unrecorded broadcast transmissions all lack the Constitutional requirement of fixation as a “writing.” Without being fixed by a point of publication the liquid works of the future will all look more like these continuously adapting and changing forms and will therefore exist beyond the reach of copyright.

Copyright expert Pamela Samuelson tells of having attended a conference last year convened around the fact that Western countries may legally appropriate the music, designs, and biomedical lore of aboriginal people without compensation to their tribes of origin since those tribes are not an “author” or “inventors.”

But soon most information will be generated collaboratively by the cyber-tribal hunter-gatherers of cyberspace. Our arrogant legal dismissal of the rights of “primitives” will be soon return to haunt us.

Information Is Perishable
Russian Records 1909
Russian Records 1909
With the exception of the rare classic, most information is like farm produce. Its quality degrades rapidly both over time and in distance from the source of production. But even here, value is highly subjective and conditional. Yesterday’s papers are quite valuable to the historian. In fact, the older they are, the more valuable they become. On the other hand, a commodities broker might consider news of an event that occurred more than an hour ago to have lost any relevance.


Meaning Has Value and Is Unique to Each Case.

In most cases, we assign value to information based on its meaningfulness. The place where information dwells, the holy moment where transmission becomes reception, is a region which has many shifting characteristics and flavors depending on the relationship of sender and receiver, the depth of their interactivity.

Each such relationship is unique. Even in cases where the sender is a broadcast medium, and no response is returned, the receiver is hardly passive. Receiving information is often as creative an act as generating it.

The value of what is sent depends entirely on the extent to which each individual receiver has the receptors – shared terminology, attention, interest, language, paradigm – necessary to render what is received meaningful.

Understanding is a critical element increasingly overlooked in the effort to turn information into a commodity. Data may be any set of facts, useful or not, intelligible or inscrutable, germane or irrelevant. Computers can crank out new data all night long without human help, and the results may be offered for sale as information. They may or may not actually be so. Only a human being can recognize the meaning that separates information from data.

In fact, information, in the economic sense of the word, consists of data which have been passed through a particular human mind and found meaningful within that mental context. One fella’s information is all just data to someone else. If you’re an anthropologist, my detailed charts of Tasaday kinship patterns might be critical information to you. If you’re a banker from Hong Kong, they might barely seem to be data.

Familiarity Has More Value than Scarcity
Gramophone Germany 1930s
Gramophone Germany 1930s
With physical goods, there is a direct correlation between scarcity and value. Gold is more valuable than wheat, even though you can’t eat it. While this is not always the case, the situation with information is often precisely the reverse. Most soft goods increase in value as they become more common. Familiarity is an important asset in the world of information. It may often be true that the best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away.

While this has not always worked with shareware, it could be argued that there is a connection between the extent to which commercial software is pirated and the amount which gets sold. Broadly pirated software, such as Lotus 1-2-3 or WordPerfect, becomes a standard and benefits from Law of Increasing Returns based on familiarity.

In regard to my own soft product, rock ‘n’ roll songs, there is no question that the band I write them for, the Grateful Dead, has increased its popularity enormously by giving them away. We have been letting people tape our concerts since the early seventies, but instead of reducing the demand for our product, we are now the largest concert draw in America, a fact that is at least in part attributable to the popularity generated by those tapes.
True, I don’t get any royalties on the millions of copies of my songs which have been extracted from concerts, but I see no reason to complain. The fact is, no one but the Grateful Dead can perform a Grateful Dead song, so if you want the experience and not its thin projection, you have to buy a ticket from us. In other words, our intellectual property protection derives from our being the only real-time source of it.

Exclusivity Has Value

The problem with a model that turns the physical scarcity/value ratio on its head is that sometimes the value of information is very much based on its scarcity. Exclusive possession of certain facts makes them more useful. If everyone knows about conditions which might drive a stock price up, the information is valueless.

But again, the critical factor is usually time. It doesn’t matter if this kind of information eventually becomes ubiquitous. What matters is being among the first who possess it and act on it. While potent secrets usually don’t stay secret, they may remain so long enough to advance the cause of their original holders.

Point of View and Authority Have Value

In a world of floating realities and contradictory maps, rewards will accrue to those commentators whose maps seem to fit their territory snugly, based on their ability to yield predictable results for those who use them.

In aesthetic information, whether poetry or rock ‘n’ roll, people are willing to buy the new product of an artist, sight-unseen, based on their having been delivered a pleasurable experience by previous work.

Reality is an edit. People are willing to pay for the authority of those editors whose point of view seems to fit best. And again, point of view is an asset which cannot be stolen or duplicated. No one sees the world as Esther Dyson does, and the handsome fee she charges for her newsletter is actually payment for the privilege of looking at the world through her unique eyes.

Time Replaces Space

In the physical world, value depends heavily on possession or proximity in space. One owns the material that falls inside certain dimensional boundaries. The ability to act directly, exclusively, and as one wishes upon what falls inside those boundaries is the principal right of ownership. The relationship between value and scarcity is a limitation in space.

In the virtual world, proximity in time is a value determinant. An informational product is generally more valuable the closer purchaser can place themselves to the moment of its expression, a limitation in time. Many kinds of information degrade rapidly with either time or reproduction. Relevance fades as the territory they map changes. Noise is introduced and bandwidth lost with passage away from the point where the information is first produced.

Thus, listening to a Grateful Dead tape is hardly the same experience as attending a Grateful Dead concert. The closer one can get to the headwaters of an informational stream, the better one’s chances of finding an accurate picture of reality in it. In an era of easy reproduction, the informational abstractions of popular experiences will propagate out from their source moments to reach anyone who’s interested. But it’s easy enough to restrict the real experience of the desirable event, whether knock-out punch or guitar lick, to those willing to pay for being there.

The Protection of Execution
Zonk Label – East rand Sisters
Zonk Label – East rand Sisters
In the hick town I come from, they don’t give you much credit for just having ideas. You are judged by what you can make of them. As things continue to speed up, I think we see that execution is the best protection for those designs which become physical products. Or, as Steve Jobs once put it, “Real artists ship.” The big winner is usually the one who gets to the market first (and with enough organizational force to keep the lead).

But, as we become fixated upon information commerce, many of us seem to think that originality alone is sufficient to convey value, deserving, with the right legal assurances, of a steady wage. In fact, the best way to protect intellectual property is to act on it. It’s not enough to invent and patent; one has to innovate as well. Someone claims to have patented the microprocessor before Intel. Maybe so. If he’d actually started shipping microprocessors before Intel, his claim would seem far less spurious.

Information as Its Own Reward

It is now a commonplace to say that money is information. With the exception of Krugerrands, crumpled cab fare, and the contents of those suitcases that drug lords are reputed to carry, most of the money in the informatized world is in ones and zeros. The global money supply sloshes around the Net, as fluid as weather. It is also obvious, that information has become as fundamental to the creation of modern wealth as land and sunlight once were.

What is less obvious is the extent to which information is acquiring intrinsic value, not as a means to acquisition but as the object to be acquired. I suppose this has always been less explicitly the case. In politics and academia, potency and information have always been closely related.

However, as we increasingly buy information with money, we begin to see that buying information with other information is simple economic exchange without the necessity of converting the product into and out of currency. This is somewhat challenging for those who like clean accounting, since, information theory aside, informational exchange rates are too squishy to quantify to the decimal point.

Nevertheless, most of what a middle-class American purchases has little to do with survival. We buy beauty, prestige, experience, education, and all the obscure pleasures of owning. Many of these things can not only be expressed in nonmaterial terms, they can be acquired by nonmaterial means.

And then there are the inexplicable pleasures of information itself, the joys of learning, knowing, and teaching; the strange good feeling of information coming into and out of oneself. Playing with ideas is a recreation which people are willing to pay a lot for, given the market for books and elective seminars. We’d likely spend even more money for such pleasures if we didn’t have so many opportunities to pay for ideas with other ideas. This explains much of the collective “volunteer” work which fills the archives, newsgroups, and databases of the Internet. Its denizens are not working for “nothing,” as is widely believed. Rather they are getting paid in something besides money. It is an economy which consists almost entirely of information. This may become the dominant form of human trade, and if we persist in modeling economics on a strictly monetary basis, we may be gravely misled.

Getting Paid in Cyberspace

How all the foregoing relates to solutions to the crisis in intellectual property is something I’ve barely started to wrap my mind around. It’s fairly paradigm warping to look at information through fresh eyes – to see how very little it is like pig iron or pork bellies, and to imagine the tottering travesties of case law we will stack up if we go on legally treating it as though it were.

As I’ve said, I believe these towers of outmoded boilerplate will be a smoking heap sometime in the next decade, and we mind miners will have no choice but to cast our lot with new systems that work.

I’m not really so gloomy about our prospects as readers of this jeremiad so far might conclude. Solutions will emerge. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does commerce.
LM Radio Rocks 1970
LM Radio Rocks 1970
Indeed, one of the aspects of the electronic frontier which I have always found most appealing – and the reason Mitch Kapor and I used that phrase in naming our foundation – is the degree to which it resembles the 19th-century American West in its natural preference for social devices that emerge from its conditions rather than those that are imposed from the outside.

Until the West was fully settled and “civilized” in this century, order was established according to an unwritten Code of the West, which had the fluidity of common law rather than the rigidity of statutes. Ethics were more important than rules. Understandings were preferred over laws, which were, in any event, largely unenforceable.

I believe that law, as we understand it, was developed to protect the interests which arose in the two economic “waves” which Alvin Toffler accurately identified in The Third Wave. The First Wave was agriculturally based and required law to order ownership of the principal source of production, land. In the Second Wave, manufacturing became the economic mainspring, and the structure of modern law grew around the centralized institutions that needed protection for their reserves of capital, labor, and hardware.

Both of these economic systems required stability. Their laws were designed to resist change and to assure some equability of distribution within a fairly static social framework. The empty niches had to be constrained to preserve the predictability necessary to either land stewardship or capital formation.
In the Third Wave we have now entered, information to a large extent replaces land, capital, and hardware, and information is most at home in a much more fluid and adaptable environment. The Third Wave is likely to bring a fundamental shift in the purposes and methods of law which will affect far more than simply those statutes which govern intellectual property.

The “terrain” itself – the architecture of the Net – may come to serve many of the purposes which could only be maintained in the past by legal imposition. For example, it may be unnecessary to constitutionally assure freedom of expression in an environment which, in the words of my fellow EFF co-founder John Gilmore, “treats censorship as a malfunction” and reroutes proscribed ideas around it.

Similar natural balancing mechanisms may arise to smooth over the social discontinuities which previously required legal intercession to set right. On the Net, these differences are more likely to be spanned by a continuous spectrum that connects as much as it separates.

And, despite their fierce grip on the old legal structure, companies that trade in information are likely to find that their increasing inability to deal sensibly with technological issues will not be remedied in the courts, which won’t be capable of producing verdicts predictable enough to be supportive of long-term enterprise. Every litigation will become like a game of Russian roulette, depending on the depth of the presiding judge’s clue-impairment.

Uncodified or adaptive “law,” while as “fast, loose, and out of control” as other emergent forms, is probably more likely to yield something like justice at this point. In fact, one can already see in development new practices to suit the conditions of virtual commerce. The life forms of information are evolving methods to protect their continued reproduction.

For example, while all the tiny print on a commercial diskette envelope punctiliously requires a great deal of those who would open it, few who read those provisos follow them to the letter. And yet, the software business remains a very healthy sector of the American economy.

Why is this? Because people seem to eventually buy the software they really use. Once a program becomes central to your work, you want the latest version of it, the best support, the actual manuals, all privileges attached to ownership. Such practical considerations will, in the absence of working law, become more and more important in getting paid for what might easily be obtained for nothing.

I do think that some software is being purchased in the service of ethics or the abstract awareness that the failure to buy it will result in its not being produced any longer, but I’m going to leave those motivators aside. While I believe that the failure of law will almost certainly result in a compensating re-emergence of ethics as the ordering template of society, this is a belief I don’t have room to support here.

Instead, I think that, as in the case cited above, compensation for soft products will be driven primarily by practical considerations, all of them consistent with the true properties of digital information, where the value lies in it, and how it can be both manipulated and protected by technology.

While the conundrum remains a conundrum, I can begin to see the directions from which solutions may emerge, based in part on broadening those practical solutions which are already in practice.

Relationship and Its Tools

I believe one idea is central to understanding liquid commerce: Information economics, in the absence of objects, will be based more on relationship than possession.
One existing model for the future conveyance of intellectual property is real-time performance, a medium currently used only in theater, music, lectures, stand-up comedy, and pedagogy. I believe the concept of performance will expand to include most of the information economy, from multicasted soap operas to stock analysis. In these instances, commercial exchange will be more like ticket sales to a continuous show than the purchase of discrete bundles of that which is being shown.

The other existing, model, of course, is service. The entire professional class – doctors, lawyers, consultants, architects, and so on – are already being paid directly for their intellectual property. Who needs copyright when you’re on a retainer?

In fact, until the late 18th century this model was applied to much of what is now copyrighted. Before the industrialization of creation, writers, composers, artists, and the like produced their products in the private service of patrons. Without objects to distribute in a mass market, creative people will return to a condition somewhat like this, except that they will serve many patrons, rather than one.

We can already see the emergence of companies which base their existence on supporting and enhancing the soft property they create rather than selling it by the shrink-wrapped piece or embedding it in widgets.

Trip Hawkins’s new company for creating and licensing multimedia tools, 3DO, is an example of what I’m talking about. 3DO doesn’t intend to produce any commercial software or consumer devices. Instead, it will act as a kind of private standards setting body, mediating among software and device creators who will be their licensees. It will provide a point of commonality for relationships between a broad spectrum of entities.

In any case, whether you think of yourself as a service provider or a performer, the future protection of your intellectual property will depend on your ability to control your relationship to the market – a relationship which will most likely live and grow over a period of time.

The value of that relationship will reside in the quality of performance, the uniqueness of your point of view, the validity of your expertise, its relevance to your market, and, underlying everything, the ability of that market to access your creative services swiftly, conveniently, and interactively.

Interaction and Protection
Cheyenne Protecting our Intellectual Property
Cheyenne Protecting our Intellectual Property
Direct interaction will provide a lot of intellectual property protection in the future, and, indeed, already has. No one knows how many software pirates have bought legitimate copies of a program after calling its publisher for technical support and offering some proof of purchase, but I would guess the number is very high.

The same kind of controls will be applicable to “question and answer” relationships between authorities (or artists) and those who seek their expertise. Newsletters, magazines, and books will be supplemented by the ability of their subscribers to ask direct questions of authors.

Interactivity will be a billable commodity even in the absence of authorship. As people move into the Net and increasingly get their information directly from its point of production, unfiltered by centralized media, they will attempt to develop the same interactive ability to probe reality that only experience has provided them in the past. Live access to these distant “eyes and ears” will be much easier to cordon than access to static bundles of stored but easily reproducible information.

In most cases, control will be based on restricting access to the freshest, highest bandwidth information. It will be a matter of defining the ticket, the venue, the performer, and the identity of the ticket holder, definitions which I believe will take their forms from technology, not law. In most cases, the defining technology will be cryptography.

Crypto Bottling

Cryptography, as I’ve said perhaps too many times, is the “material” from which the walls, boundaries – and bottles – of cyberspace will be fashioned.
Josephine Baker 1930s
Josephine Baker 1930s
Of course there are problems with cryptography or any other purely technical method of property protection. It has always appeared to me that the more security you hide your goods behind, the more likely you are to turn your sanctuary into a target. Having come from a place where people leave their keys in their cars and don’t even have keys to their houses, I remain convinced that the best obstacle to crime is a society with its ethics intact.

While I admit that this is not the kind of society most of us live in, I also believe that a social over reliance on protection by barricades rather than conscience will eventually wither the latter by turning intrusion and theft into a sport, rather than a crime. This is already occurring in the digital domain as is evident in the activities of computer crackers.

Furthermore, I would argue that initial efforts to protect digital copyright by copy protection contributed to the current condition in which most otherwise ethical computer users seem morally untroubled by their possession of pirated software.

Instead of cultivating among the newly computerized a sense of respect for the work of their fellows, early reliance on copy protection led to the subliminal notion that cracking into a software package somehow “earned” one the right to use it. Limited not by conscience but by technical skill, many soon felt free to do whatever they could get away with. This will continue to be a potential liability of the encryption of digitized commerce.

Furthermore, it’s cautionary to remember that copy protection was rejected by the market in most areas. Many of the upcoming efforts to use cryptography-based protection schemes will probably suffer the same fate. People are not going to tolerate much that makes computers harder to use than they already are without any benefit to the user.

Nevertheless, encryption has already demonstrated a certain blunt utility. New subscriptions to various commercial satellite TV services skyrocketed recently after their deployment of more robust encryption of their feeds. This, despite a booming backwoods trade in black decoder chips, conducted by folks who’d look more at home running moonshine than cracking code.

Another obvious problem with encryption as a global solution is that once something has been unscrambled by a legitimate licensee, it may be available to massive reproduction.

In some instances, reproduction following decryption may not be a problem. Many soft products degrade sharply in value with time. It may be that the only real interest in such products will be among those who have purchased the keys to immediacy.

Furthermore, as software becomes more modular and distribution moves online, it will begin to metamorphose in direct interaction with its user base. Discontinuous upgrades will smooth into a constant process of incremental improvement and adaptation, some of it manmade and some of it arising through genetic algorithms. Pirated copies of software may become too static to have much value to anyone.

Even in cases such as images, where the information is expected to remain fixed, the unencrypted file could still be interwoven with code which could continue to protect it by a wide variety of means.

In most of the schemes I can project, the file would be “alive” with permanently embedded software that could “sense” the surrounding conditions and interact with them. For example, it might contain code that could detect the process of duplication and cause it to self-destruct.
Cheyenne & Miranda talk in Tongues
Cheyenne & Miranda talk in Tongues
Other methods might give the file the ability to “phone home” through the Net to its original owner. The continued integrity of some files might require periodic “feeding” with digital cash from their host, which they would then relay back to their authors.

Of course files that possess the independent ability to communicate upstream sound uncomfortably like the Morris Internet Worm. “Live” files do have a certain viral quality. And serious privacy issues would arise if everyone’s computer were packed with digital spies.

The point is that cryptography will enable protection technologies that will develop rapidly in the obsessive competition that has always existed between lock-makers and lock-breakers.

But cryptography will not be used simply for making locks. It is also at the heart of both digital signatures and the aforementioned digital cash, both of which I believe will be central to the future protection of intellectual property.

I believe that the generally acknowledged failure of the shareware model in software had less to do with dishonesty than with the simple inconvenience of paying for shareware. If the payment process can be automated, as digital cash and signature will make possible, I believe that soft product creators will reap a much higher return from the bread they cast upon the waters of cyberspace.

Moreover, they will be spared much of the overhead presently attached to the marketing, manufacture, sales, and distribution of information products, whether those products are computer programs, books, CDs, or motion pictures. This will reduce prices and further increase the likelihood of noncompulsory payment.

But of course there is a fundamental problem with a system that requires, through technology, payment for every access to a particular expression. It defeats the original Jeffersonian purpose of seeing that ideas were available to everyone regardless of their economic station. I am not comfortable with a model that will restrict inquiry to the wealthy.

An Economy of Verbs
Sketch by David Marks
Sketch by David Marks
©(p) 3rd Ear Music 1985.
The future forms and protections of intellectual property are densely obscured at this entrance to the Virtual Age. Nevertheless, I can make (or reiterate) a few flat statements that I earnestly believe won’t look too silly in 50 years.

In the absence of the old containers, almost everything we think we know about intellectual property is wrong. We’re going to have to unlearn it. We’re going to have to look at information as though we’d never seen the stuff before.
The protections that we will develop will rely far more on ethics and technology than on law. Encryption will be the technical basis for most intellectual property protection. (And should, for many reasons, be made more widely available.)
The economy of the future will be based on relationship rather than possession. It will be continuous rather than sequential.
And finally, in the years to come, most human exchange will be virtual rather than physical, consisting not of stuff but the stuff of which dreams are made. Our future business will be conducted in a world made more of verbs than nouns.

The Economy of Ideas
A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age
(Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong.) By John Perry Barlow

previously published on the web here: http://www.3rdearmusic.com/forum/forumfeb03/copyright.html

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