In mass culture, music has become a diminished and desultory experience, squeezed to fit into ever more mediated and commodified spectacles, from The X Factor to the kind of middlebrow entertainment packages masquerading as genuine culture that are programmed by most metropolitan art spaces.
As if to counter this reductive trend, the range of experiences offered by experimental, underground and alternative music, ie music that exists in direct opposition to the values and imperatives of the mass culture industry, has expanded exponentially. From sound art to hypnagogic pop, electroacoustic improvisation to spectral composition, footwork to UK funky, the most adventurous and original manifestations of contemporary music connect with multiple historically significant philosophies and practices to pose new questions about the world and our place in it.
Inevitably, the amount of critical thinking and writing on this profusion of countercultural sonic activity has never been greater nor more diffuse. From traditional print media to the blogosphere, a cacophony of voices has emerged in order to document, interrogate and explain the vastness and complexity of contemporary audio culture.
Structured like a literary festival, Off The Page is an event that looks to expand this discourse by bringing together critics, theorists, authors, musicians and artists to think and talk about the current state of sound and music, to stage a public debate that attempts to explain why any of this stuff might actually matter to any of us, and why it might make a difference to any of our lives.
Friday 11 February, doors 7pm
7:30–9pm Presentation: Robert Wyatt talks to Tony Herrington about his favourite music
9:30–10:30pm Screening: BFI presents two films soundtracked by Tristram Cary: London Line and Opus. Introduced by Jonny Trunk.
Saturday 12 February, doors 9:30am
10–11am Talk: Ken Hollings on the post-Cageian universe
11:30am–12:30pm Talk: Rob Young and Matthew Herbert on the impact of musique concrète on contemporary audio culture
12:45–1:45pm Talk: Steve Beresford talks to John Kieffer about John Stevens and the art of improvisation
3–4pm Talk: Kodwo Eshun discusses ten paragraphs of music criticism
4:30–5:30pm Talk: Dave Tompkins on the history of the vocoder, from its use in the Second World War to its role in the era of Auto Tune
6–7pm Talk: Teal Triggs on Fanzines
8–9:30pm In conversation: Christian Marclay talks to Anne Hilde Neset about his favourite examples of sound and music on film
10–11pm Screening: Lux presents two short films on John Cage, Interview Performance John Cage and 36 Mesostics REe And Not Re. Duchamp, originally broadcast on the Artists Television Network in 1978
Sunday 13 February: doors 10:30am
10:45–11:45am Roundtable discussion: Mark Fisher, Nina Power, and The Wire editors discuss the changing shape of music criticism, from traditional print media to the blogosphere
Noon–1pm Performance lecture: Salome Voegelin, David Toop and Daniela Cascella practice the art of listening
2–3pm In conversation: Scritti Politti's Green Gartside with Mark Fisher discussing politics and cultural theory in pop culture and music
3:30–5pm Performance lecture: Claudia Molitor, Jennifer Walshe and Sarah Nicholls muse on radical (or irreverent) approaches to musical notation
Off The Page takes place at Whitstable's Playhouse Theatre, 11–13 February. Click here to purchase tickets.