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The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

Sonar 2009: Konono N˚1

Nathan Budzinski

Another new vid: Congolese group Konono N˚1 were set to play at last year's Sonar festival but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute due to visa problems... The video below is of their soundcheck about a half hour before their scheduled set on friday 18 June. Though the lighting is low it's definitely the clearest view I could get as once the hall filled out it was nearly impossible to stay still from everyone dancing!

Sonar 2009: Konono N˚1 from The Wire Magazine on Vimeo.

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"High"

Nathan Budzinski


American artist and musician (and bandmate with Mike Kelley in The Poetics) Tony Oursler recently opened an exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in London. The show, which runs until October 3rd, features a mixture of his work from the 90's along with new work from this year, if you're familiar with Oursler's art then there won't be many surprises for you, but it's still well worth a visit. Using sculpture, painting, video projection and sound, Oursler combines a hand-made DIY aesthetic with images of obsessive habits such as chain smoking, internet addiction and compulsive gambling along with the sound of indistinct mumblings and sharp angry whispers. Wandering through the darkened galleries as the emanations from each work overlap with one another creates a sense of being in a space of conflict and psychological violence; as if caught up in an argument between a roomful of tatty puppets, disembodied heads and ghostly voices. This, along with the recurring image of smoking cigarettes and loops of neurotic reorganisation, creates a feeling of haggard claustrophobia as if afflicted with the cabin fever caused by sitting in front of a computer for far too long, exacerbated by the effects of nicotine withdrawal. Although this sounds somewhat distressing, the effect of being immersed within and jostled about by his work is a satisfying type of sensorial overload, even sometimes fun as the repetition and knee-jerk compulsiveness of the pieces become ridiculous.

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Videos From Sónar 2008

Nathan Budzinski

Check out three video clips from The Wire's visit to Sónar 2008: The final performance of the Yellow Swans, a Mark Fell (of .snd) installation and a work by the Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena (both exhibited at the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica)

Yellow Swans 20 June 2008:

Mark Fell Installation:

Pablo Valbuena Installation:

There's higher resolution versions of this through The Wire's main site here.

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'It's not your imagination ... who's there?'

Mark Fisher

Steve Goodman's presentation at the excellent hauntology event last week focused on the phenomenon of 'audio spotlights', which deploy ultrasound to precisely target sonic messages at individuals. Predictably, the use of this Philip K Dick-like 'holosonic' technology - explained in the YouTube clip above - is being pioneered by advertisers to cut through the urban cacophony to reach consumers as they pass billboards.
It's interesting that the 'related videos' on YouTube are predominantly not about technological developments but the paranormal - not surprising when you watch the clip below, which shows how advertisers have insinuated an insistent voice saying 'It's not your imagination ... who's there?' into the heads of passersby. (I'm reminded of Carpenter's Prince Of Darkness , in which technicians transmit a message into the sleeping mind of the receiving subjects, saying 'This is not a dream'.)

It as if the voice flips from being a voice in your head - an invading signal, performatively announcing its own reality (it's not your imagination) - to being thevoice in your head - your 'own' 'inner' voice, asking who's there? On the face of it, this seems to be another vindication of Althusser's theory of subjectivity as an effect of hailing (or interpellation). But, as someone in the audience at the Hauntology event suggested, in projecting itself directly into your head, the holosonic hail almost risks schizophrenically subverting the interpellation process. Instead of the standard (mis)recognition of oneself as the object of a hail, the holosonic projection could invite a recognition that what you thought of as your 'inner voice' does not belong to interiority at all.

The laser-like targeting of sound contrasted fascinatingly with a protest by Unite, the Trade Union, outside a building near to The Wire's offices last week. In pursuit of minimal workers' rights for the building's cleaners - such as paid holiday/ sicknesses - the protest was an exercise in noise generation, using the voice, whistles and improvised percussion in an effort to disrupt the working ambience of City drones. Unfortunately, I don't know how successful it was, either in its aim of distracting the smooth flow of capitalist immaterial labour - maybe the building was too effectively sound-insulated for the noise to penetrate - or in getting the cleaners' demands met. But here are two illustrations of the way in which sound - at least as much as images - is crucial to the management of contemporary social reality. While the role of images has been endlessly discussed, the role of sound remains undertheorised. What, for instance, is the sonic equivalent of the visual Spectacle?

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'Other People Went To University...'

Mark Fisher






I didn't mind being on the dole. I had a lot of time on my hands as a result. Other people went to university, but I read books, smoked cigs and looked around most days. It's good to have a period like that in your life, when you're not being forced to think like others. Don't get me wrong: I had my fair share of dull days and my diet wasn't the most healthy, but I read a lot of good books and wrote a lot, most of which found its way on to our first LP. I didn't think of it like that when I was writing, though. I just felt an urge to write.
If you're a cod-psychologist, I guess you could trace most of the Fall's output back to this period, to the wilderness years, the dole days - back to young Mark laying the hard foundations for the rough and brilliant years that he hasn't yet seen!

Mark E Smith, from a section of his autobiography, which is being serialised in The Guardian this week. Who knows how much culture in postwar, pre-neoliberal Britain depended on the indirect public funding – perhaps the best kind – provided by the dole? Of course, in the wake of Thatcherism and Blairism, today's equivalents of the young MES would find themselves quickly harassed back to work in a cracker factory by a Restart course. (Aptly, one of The Fall's many members was actually an extra in the scenes set in the Restart course in The League of Gentlemen.) The dole might have provided an alternative to university, a time in which proletarian autodidacts could pursue undirected research and engage in rogue reflections, but with the cutting of student grants and the introduction of tuition fees, the pause for thought which existed outside employment and official study is no longer available to many British students either.

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UNINSTAL

Nathan Budzinski

Sound poet Christian Bök performing at Flarf vs. Conceptual at NYCs Whitney Museum, 2009

A precursor to the INSTAL festival of new and experimental music and sound (scheduled for November), UNINSTAL, kicks off 9 May with the first part of a walk/screening event, In The Shadow Of Shadow, led by artists organisations The Strickland Distribution & Ultra-red. The walk focuses on the gentrification of Glasgow.

Following this, field recordist Eric La Casa and musician Jean-Luc Guionnet present House, one-shot subjective sonic portraits of four houses, their inhabitants and their relationship through sound, 13 May.

On 14 May, philosopher Ray Brassier, Jean-Luc Guionnet and percussionist Seijiro Murayama present Used Sound

15 May hears Loïc Blairon's, It Doesn’t Say What It Says, followed by 'conceptual improvisor' Taku Unami's Inferno Quiz Show

On 16 May, The Strickland Distribution & Ultra-red return return for the second and final part of In the Shadow Of Shadow, followed by What Is To Be Done?, sound poetry and conceptual writing from Christian Bök, Craig Dworkin and JLIAT

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The Wire Salon, Enigma Machines: How To Decode Graphic Scores

The Wire

The Wire’s monthly series of salon events continues with an evening dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of graphic scores and other revolutionary approaches to musical notation. A panel made up of The Wire’s Philip Clark, composer Claudia Molitor and pianist Ian Pace will discuss how graphic scores can be used to access entire new dimensions in sound. The night will also feature screenings of Claudia Molitor’s 3D graphic scores (3D glasses will be provided), and a special audience participation graphic scores Invisible Jukebox session. London Cafe Oto, 3 June, 8pm, £4.

Check out some online content in anticipation of the evening:

Notations 21, website for the book on contemporary musical notation and graphic scores, written by Theresa Sauer. Check out her blog here.

A transcript of a discussion between composers Morton Feldman and Earle Brown with the German music critic Heinz-Klaus Metzger.

An interview by Philip Clark with bassist and composer Barry Guy about his graphic notation (includes a reproduction of one on his graphic pieces).

• "Translating Graphic Scores Into Music" by the sound therapist, improvisor and New Age composer Frank Perry.

Two examples of early graphic scores by the German visual artist and designer Karl Peter Röhl.

A DIY flicker book of a moving score for cello, "It Suddenly Descends", part of Claudia Molitor's work in progress Flicker Book Magnum Opus (for all cellists out there to download, print off, put together and perform themselves).

Below is a 3D video by Brian McClave and Gavin Peacock for Claudia Molitor's work "It's Not Quite How I Remember It" (to see it in 3D you'll need the proper red/green glasses). It's a lo-res YouTube version but people who are able to make it the salon will get to see it in full resolution with 3D glasses provided.

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Blow Up: Exploding Sound and Noise (London - Brighton 1959-1969)

The Wire

An exhibition curated by The Wire’s David Toop and Tony Herrington that investigates the links between artists from different disciplines who were active in London and Brighton in the 1960s, as well as the simultaneous emergence of a shared ‘Noise’ aesthetic.

[caption id="attachment_495" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Still from Jeff Keen's Marvo (1967)"][/caption]

The exhibition features material on a host of Swinging London’s counterculture figures including artists John Latham and Gustav Metzger, jazz musicians Joe Harriott and Coleridge Goode, Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, improvisors John Stevens and AMM, composer Annea Lockwood, film maker Jeff Keen, and sound/text poet Bob Cobbing. London Flat Time House, 24 June–25 July.

John Latham's Encyclopedia Britannica (1971)

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Swamp Thing at Sonar 2010

Swamp Thing

Ah, Sonar. We love your beautiful home city of Barcelona – full of gorgeous people, delicious food and sunshine. We love the excellence of your stages' sound systems and the way you refute the notion that the clubbing/raving experience is necessarily depraved and dirty. We relish your stellar organisation and helpful, civilised staff. And even though – after 17 years of programming – there are now many hours of bland beats blanketing a few acts of interest, we still love to go to Sonar.

Ah, Hyperdub. We were surprised that your party was off-Sonar, but frankly all of the parties surrounding Sonar, not officially included with Sonar, are part of what make it such a great festival to go to. If you don't like the main course, you can fill up on appetisers and desserts and this party was one of the best things on the menu, even for tired old Londoners like ourselves. We were a little overwhelmed by the enormous crowd at your small venue and felt a bit bemused at how 'fashionable' it all was (has Hyperdub become style-mag fodder?). Unfortunately, not even the improved sound (yes, the same place as LuckyMe's party a couple years back) and your great line-up could keep us there when we can see you lot at home, with 50% less wankers and more room to dance.

Ah, Phill Niblock. We admire your history and were grateful that there was a nod to experimentalism on the bill, somewhere. But what, exactly, was special about this collaboration with Carlos Casas? There seemed little connection between his films and your music and frankly your own films would have served even better.

Ah, aging, reformed, once-popular band. This year you were Roxy Music and actually, we quite enjoyed it – although we were slightly disturbed at how lecherous Bryan Ferry looks, and how young suave becomes middle-aged cheese now that you're all so old. You musn't TRY to be sexy, you either are (like David Bowie) or you aren't. Maybe you should go for dignified instead. Despite that, you played as though you meant it, which we appreciated. However, sorry, no way did you top Dizzee Rascal, who has surprisingly retained his sense of self after spending so much time as a pop star. We can't remember hearing Grime at Sonar before this year, but he actually performed it and it didn't clear the (incomprehensibly large) room. In fact, we saw lots of non-English types enjoying it and dancing to it. But Dizzee, really, even if you have seized the energy of hiphop, must you use those tired old call-and-response tropes? When you exhort us like that, it perversely makes us NOT want to make noise.

Ah, laptop DJs. Please, can you remember that if you EVER get to play a large stage in front of thousands of people with a quality soundsystem (say, at a festival like Sonar?), you should make sure tunes are loaded at utmost bitrate quality? Otherwise, yr shit comes through flat and fuzzy with zero dynamic. FlyLo, we're looking in your direction! And really, you've played Sonar before, so you should know better.

Ah, Alexander Nut. We loved that you warmed up the crowd with Grime before Fatima came on. And dear, dear Fatima. We are actually quite fond of you. We like how you channel black American soul without artifice, although we think that you need to gain a stone and possibly tap into the blues to get more resonance in your wonderful voice. We hope that a producer we like more will make a good track for you! Now, we can't forget Moodymann. You provided us with the most spirited dancing, festival energy of the entire weekend. We love how you have the EQ skills of Theo Parrish, but keep it locked onto the party vibe and how you (like Theo) can make tracks sound completely different. You make us feel that Detroit must be a soulful place full of people who are sensually alive, and not the desolate shell that Julien Temple and others would have us believe (honestly, 8 Mile offers a more convincing portrait of the city).

Ah, Herbert. We just found your set bemusing. We didn't think you really went anywhere and we never figured out the point of your silly ladder or your goofy tent. We also think you heard a different set than we did, because your levels were very off and constantly changing, but we're also sure that it was your own fault and not the soundperson's.

Yes, sweet Sonar, we must say adieu for another year. Please, next year can you offer more experimental music (it might encourage music lovers to come again!) and bring back Jeff Mills? We know he's played every year for yoinks, but as a festival resident he is much cooler than Richie Hawtin.

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Radio Joy: The Strangeness Of Existence

The Wire

The Wire's Biba Kopf has curated a show for Band Of Holy Joy front man Johny Brown's internet radio station, Radio Joy. The episode, which was originally broadcast on 27 June, includes music from Robert Piotrowicz, Male Instrumenty, Za Siodma Gora, Rongwrong, Scianka and more as featured in Kopf's article "Poland's Hidden Reverse" about the contemporary Polish experimental underground (The Wire July 2010). The Strangeness Of Existence: Polish Visions In Sound From Witkacy To Scianka is now available online as a podcast along with previous Radio Joy shows, here.

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