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<nettime> Hearing Difference: The Seme
tobias c. van Veen on Mon, 7 Jul 2003 20:34:58 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Hearing Difference: The Seme

[Hi everyone, as promised, here's the text of the IASPM blab. IASPM?
It's this: http://www.wyldware.com/~x/iaspm/ . It's a bit music oriented,
with tangents in rave culure, experimental electronic music, and MUTEK. It's
mainly concerned, however, with the shift from counter/sub-cultures to
ambiguous micro.cultures. Matrix fans take note: there's an extended example
of the Japan "Matrix performances" at the end. Feedback welcome-- an
extended version is heading out to JPM. best, tV]

..official quotables:

    van Veen, tobias c. "Hearing Difference: The Seme." Conference Paper.
July 6, 2003. International Conference of the International Association for
the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), Montréal. Available online at:
http://wwww.quadrantcrossing.org/papers.htm. Posted to Nettime, July 7,


Hearing Difference: The Seme
tobias c. van Veen

 If we were to rewind the record and spin a story of the underground, at
least to posit an alternative history of what is usually called the
"underground," a fiction of our own, leading up to what has emerged as the
microcultures of technology, we might begin where the fantasy ended, and
through the most truthful of fictions...

The Sixties rebellion crashed, a vicious & sudden car-wreck to the
counter-culture. Hunter S. Thompson narrowly misses the accident but is a
casualty of the trauma. We find him penning the obituary just outside of
Barstow, speeding towards Las Vegas, and listening to "One Toke Over the
Line." Racing to the death of the American Dream, Thompson was "hiding from
the the brutal reality of this foul Year Of Our Lord, 1971."[i]

The Good Doctor's pronouncement on the failure of '60s counter-culture
became legendary in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. No Sympathy for the
Devil‹it was the end of an era, and for some, a painful transformation took
place: from '60s counter-culture to the diverse mix of the subcultures. The
emergence of the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ethic gave energy to a furtive and
angry rebellion against State and capital. Outlaws & activism fragmented
into the bowels of punk and industrial cultures, while the Afro-American
diaspora fermented the brews of hip-hop and electronic music‹Chicago house &
Detroit techno‹that were to stage the Freak Fight for the next twenty years
via the conjunction of DIY with Afro-Futurism. Thompson's "Freak Power" had
not failed in the '60s‹it had, however, exhausted itself in its current
form, fizzled out in its counter-position to the State. In Europe as well, a
break was necessary after the violence of armed revolutionary groups and the
intensity of May '68. A general splintering of movements and a
deconstruction of the revolutionary agenda gave time to regroup & rethink

In the '80s, strategies gave way to tactics and the logistics were of the
subculture: a music-based resistance that attempted to spread the power of
revolt through alternative, DIY networks. Deleuze and Guattari would
theorise this as "micropolitics." Guattari himself remarked on the emerging
acid house scene of 1985 as a "molecular revolution," where "young people
[are] opening up to another sensitivity, another relationship with the body,
particularly in dance and music."[ii] The melding of space and time with
music was theorised concurrently by Hakim Bey, who gave name to the
Temporary Autonomous Zone.[iii] The TAZ was to become a meme across
fledgling cyberculture, spread by San Francisco magazine Mondo 2000, the
publication of TAZ in Semiotext(e), BBS relays and eventually the World Wide
Web. The TAZ resonated with punks, with strains of hip-hop, and with
cyberculture itself. But its lasting influence was in provoking myriad
challenges to laws across the planet concerning public property, the commons
and the freedom to gather by granting a theoretical framework to the more
adventurous members of a new subculture focused around "the rave." The era
of warehouse break-ins & sonic squats had been introduced along with the
terror of sampling and the sudden challenge to copyright. Property in all
forms was being remixed, theft was creative, & the establishment was at a
loss for a good 10 years.

But this raucous energy was to become condensed in its repetition of the
same event. Nietzsche's return of the spiral, despite the infusion of
difference in the singularity of each rave, was not to protect it from its
own success‹the venture capital forces that ravaged the creative commons of
the Internet also found their profit in the commercialization of rave
culture. From the squatted warehouse and the occupied field to the club and
the Ibiza lounge. Rave culture itself, despite redefining the political
terrain of the counter-culture to the mobility & transient temporality of
the TAZ, was pinned down as a reactionary, if not hedonistic resistance that
could only grind its teeth to the ecstasy of mindnumbing trance muzak. The
TAZ itself was hemmed in. As Dutch media activist Geert Lovink notes, the
"TAZ was boiled down to a late 1980s concept, associating the Internet with
rave parties."[iv] 
Yet the '80s also saw the birth of cyberculture. Its emergence cycled at a
different frequency to the subcultures it was attached. Likewise, the
musicians involved with once proudly anarchic rave culture began to separate
themselves from the childish circus rave had become. While the Detroit
musicians sustained an offworld tradition of Afro-Futurism that stretches
back to Sun Ra and George Clinton, others found their solace in a turn to
the avant-garde through the immersion in the aesthetics of electronic music.
A subtle shift was occuring. While originally house and techno were stitched
together with MIDI and produced with synthesizers, sequencers, and the
ubiquitous sampler stealing riffs from funk and jazz, the evolving
technology of the computer, and eventually the laptop, began to redefine the
creative boundaries of the electronic musician.

The DJ as the necessary "speaking hands" of electronic music began to fade
into the background as the laptop musician stumbled forth from the studio.
With rave culture long appropriated, the millenium saw a shift in electronic
music as it struggled to remix itself exterior to any actual event-based
lifestyle-politics. Taylor Deupree, for example, once a hard techno
producer, founded one of the quietest labels of all time‹12k/L_ne, whose
recordings are barely audible.[v] Likewise, microsound and lowercase sound
explored the minimalist aesthetics of ultra-low volumes and frequencies,
while throughout the spectrum an aesthetics of failure began to cement the
aesthetics of the glitch and the "click and cut." These newfound sonic
experiments were limited not only to the obscure. House and techno found
themselves transformed by the digital possibilities of composition and
deconstruction inherent to endlessly programmable, algorithmic computer
software such as Max/MSP. Digital manipulation reopened the potential for
areferential sound, and gave way to the first "clicks and cuts" manifesto
from Achim Szepanski. The move was strangely ahistorical, or at least
forgetful of its history. For the general introduction of areferential sound
precedes clicks and cuts by at least half a century via the experiments of
Musique Concrete. What was forgotten in the remix of the areferential
through an "aesthetics of failure" was that Musique Concrète founder Pierre
Schaeffer declared the project a failure. An aesthetics of failure born,
then, from the failure to remember the failures of history.

Nevertheless, the clicks and cut can perhaps be seen as a digital
permutation of Musique Concrete's archives, as the magnetic tapes of
composition are exchanged for not only samplers, but the digitization of all
sound‹and thus its transformation into information. The click and the cut,
therefore, is the realisation that "Today music is information," and that
music, like information, can become areferential and transactive. It is this
concept that comes from Achim Szepanski, an ex-academe who founded the Mille
Plateaux record label in the early '90s (the name is obviously in homage of
Deleuze and Guattari). "Clicks & cuts," writes Szepanski, are omnipresent
and non-referential. Here one hears the in-between," what Szepanski
theoretically connects to Deleuze and Guattari's "permanent ecstasy of
and...and...and," and which manifests in the movement of the "transfer,
transduction, trans...interface politics and (music mutates into a transfer
politics and) music."[vi]  For Szepanski, the areferential radicality of the
click & cut was in its transaction with the network, where all music is
information, infinitely translated through differing forms of expression.
Thus "music becomes graphics, becomes information, politics makes music,
music videos act politically, hacking becomes music, etc."[vii] ‹in other
words, the music of the rhizome was the internet, and the internet was the
computer, our portable plug-in to the horizontal world of techno-tubers and

But the radicality of the click and cut remain ambiguous. Counter-culture
had produced its own DIY engagement with the machine at a level at once
frighteningly Futurist and retroactively avant-garde. The digitization of
information rendered history immanently mutable, and thus, forgettable.
Musique concrete had become just another email attachment to the virus of
history. But this self-executing message sold promise‹and it was opened by
others, at least to allow the virus of history to take hold of the potential
that the machine promised. Areferential sound could promise the plug-in of
ahistoricity, and it defined the ambiguous historical moment of this
emerging post-subculture. This mix of post-subcultures that we shall
recognise as mediatized micro.cultures of technology.

The avant-garde had returned in the exploration of the areferential, which
is to say, via the aesthetics of failure‹as a break-down in composition,
exploring the moment where software and hardware fail. Where the
transactional moment produces the unexpected glitch (or ghost) in the
machine. The ghost in the machine was history. For all its radicality, the
burn-out effect of rave culture and the crash of the Dot-Com industry gave
birth to a retreat into ahistorical formalist aesthetics. For others, this
retreat was a welcome return to formalist art aesthetics that had become
abandoned and neglected in the era of subcultural sonic politics. The
micropoliticos had in fact come full swing, as Kim Cascone notes, to dig
through the high-art tradition of electronic music. Names like Pierre
Boulez, Morton Subotnick, and John Cage began to resonate in the
non-academic circles that once dosed E and danced all night to slamming
techno. Marinetti, Russolo, the Futurists and musique concrète were in;
dancing was out.[viii]
Cascone puts it like this: "it was only a matter of time," he says, "until
DJs unearthed the history of electronic music in their archeological thrift
store digs."[ix] Cascone sees the flock returning to the fold as they
embrace the masters of the tradition: "Fast-forwarding form the 1950s to the
present," warmly says Cascone, "we skip over most of the electronic music of
the 20th century, much of which has not, in my opinion, focused on expanding
the ideas first explored by the Futurists and Cage."[x]

A skip in the record lands us where we are today.
But what did we miss where the needle of history skipped?

 For one, if we are to follow Cascone, we skip over the entire history of
subcultural politics and its tie to electronic music, including the radical
experiments of industrial music and culture (and its counter-fascism), the
anarchism of techno gatherings or Teknivals, and the social communion of
house music. We even skip the politics of electro-acoustic composers devoted
to acoustic ecology, such as Murray Schaeffer, and his student Barry Truax,
who at SFU in Vancouver, Canada, invented the digital techniques of granular
synthesis that dominate much experimental electronic music today.

Secondly, we skip the entire history of Afro-Futurism‹of the psychedelic
black underground that understands the concept through movement and in
movement. The politics of funk, of Sun Ra, of George Clinton, of Detroit
techno, and later, of Underground Resistance‹an entire history that can be
read in the writings of DJ Spooky, Dan Sicko and Kodwo Eshun.

By skipping the needle over "most of the electronic music of the 20th
Century," i.e. the subcultures, but also the forgetful place in which the
prior avant-garde becomes reinscribed in the contemporary electronic music
moment, we skip over the politics‹or the ways in which "the political" came
to be remixed as a mobile fight against not only State and capital, but
institutional frameworks that attempted to define and enforce the boundaries
of high art and its history. By forgetting subcultural history, we forget
its challenge to these frameworks; and by forgetting the challenges of the
prior avant-garde, such as Musique Concrete, we ahistorically posit the new
experimental electronic movements as both radically innovative and yet of
the return of history. A history, we could say, of select cuts, one in
which, at the same time, the present is seen as continuing this age-old
avant-garde history at the same time that it negates it.

The cornerstone of the avant-garde return is rhythm. Or rather, its lack.
Although in Szepanski, clicks and cuts affect all music, in Cascone, rhythm
cannot be inscribed to the tradition. Rhythm will remain populist, and as
such, cannot contribute to the ideas of the Futurists and Cage. Rhythm is
pop, and as such, traffics in the manufacture of "authentic aura," which is,
in reality and according to Cascone, the false halo reproduced to sell the
spectacle.[xi] There is no concept to rhythm that can speak up, it seems;
the voice, in its deterritorialization through electronic music, had nothing
to say in the first place. Rhythm is therefore meaningless, and cannot speak
to the avant-garde. It is excess, and gratuitous. Moreover, it cannot speak
its own history. Rhythm is of the body, and the history of the avant-garde
is of the concept. In the reinscribed return to the avant-garde, we find a
return to a powerful dualism of mind and body that opens the very moment of
its return as ahistorical even as it closes over the subcultural gap in its
history. Even in the radical writings of Michel Gaillot do we find this
assertion, where the lack of voice, of having something to say, is
mistakenly celebrated as a sonority.[xii] The question is one of the voice
and of the concept‹and what voice became in the era of the subcultural body.
This question is too large to broach here, but we can remark that without
subcultural history, we cannot understand this question. We cannot hear it;
it requires a different set of ears‹a different way of hearing the remixed

In any case, if we are returning to the avant-garde, what were the ideas of
the Futurists, beyond the glorification of noise? No doubt there is much to
be learned from the Futurists‹including their commitment to war and fascism,
as noted by Anna Friz and Owen Chapman. And what of John Cage? John Cage,
truth be told, said it all, in 1937‹that rhythm and percussion, in the
deconstruction of tones and scripts, are to provide the potential for the
future, and that, already‹as of 1937‹an Afro-American tradition of "hot
jazz," if not one of "Oriental cultures" in general, is far, far ahead of
the supposed avant-garde.[xiii] On the other hand, and as well all know,
Adorno hated jazz.

The academic attention that had once focused on sampling and hip-hop began
to rotate 360 degrees to the coming attractions of the laptop and the
formalist aesthetics of Cascone's theorisations. The force of Szepanski's
Deleuzian argument was lost to a fascination with the technology and this
new breed of globalized, jetset luminaries. Perhaps it was easier to digest,
as it lacked the political anti-institutional force of its subcultural
predecessors and had distanced itself from the skeletons of the drug
culture. Articles on CTheory on microsound became in vogue[xiv] and an
entire journal of Parachute was devoted to the "micro_sounds."[xv]
But what was happening? Was this the happy marriage of radical thought in
the institution and the practices of the post-rave digerati? Or had the
whole movement become co-opted somehow? Where was the force of the
subcultural politics that drove the face-to-face resistance of rave culture?

Like cyberculture, electronic music in its experimental, evolving forms had
become rarefied. "We are not speaking of the usual tragic cycles of
appropriation here," says Geert Lovink, here again with the wisdom cut,
"Unlike pop cultures such as rock, punk, or rap, cyberculture‹born in the
late 1980s‹has refrained from any gestures of resistance towards the
establishment. This makes its rise and fall different‹less predictable, and
to a certain extent softer, though perhaps even more spectacular."[xvi]
Replace "cyberculture" with experimental electronic music‹and this is where
we are today: realising that we are speeding backwards through history. Here
we are, in the Future: and we dream of the Futurists... In reverse, at 90
m.p.h., the death knell of the subculture has been struck‹and once again we
are faced with a fear and loathing. But where are we speeding to as we
scrawl the obligatory obituary?

This fear & loathing is different. It is different in three respects.

First, it is beyond, as Lovink notes, the normal cycles of appropriation.
The resistance music of rave culture fell not only to commercialization, but
was reappropriated by the rebirth of the elite avant-garde‹to the point
where the history of rebellious rhythm was erased from the record (and we
might add, the vinyl record from the revolutions of wax).

Second, these movements are global. The digitization of movement and its
trans-movement as information, as Szepanski theorises, is not only
"political," but profitable and powerful‹it begets power. As Michael Hardt
and Antonio Negri demonstrate in Empire, capital is the strongest force of
deterritorialization. The internet is a commerical, capitalist venture
alongside a worldwide information exchange. If music, today, is information,
then it suffers the same internal tendencies to disseminate like a
plague‹meaninglessly, violently, like money.

Third, the processes are close to immanent. The content of sampling is no
longer the issue; what is at stake is not the content‹the traditional
territory of politics‹but the form, or method, of distribution. The fight
today is primarily not over sampling and copyright, but the transference of
information-music into a different form and its global dissemination‹ie,
from sampling a '70s funk record to ripping MP3s via peer-to-peer

Thus the terrain of the political is no longer that of the subculture. It is
no longer of an "in-between" position, of a politics of disappearance, where
the TAZ can act as a third-way, liminal escape from State capital and State
communism. For one, and as anarchists and philosophers from Hakim Bey to
Kojin Karatani have noted, the fall of State communism means there is no
third-position: the subculture becomes the default opposition, and as such,
becomes something else.[xvii] "You're either with us or against us" is the
slogan of today's world. The subculture is no longer below: it is now the
opposition, thanks to history‹for unlike counter-culture, which was in
opposition by will, sub-culture was unwillingly thrust into the opposition.
As soon as it became apparent what had happened, it had already been staked
as a new market. This new market faced two choices as the opposition: to
colonise its radicality into product, or be destroyed as useless, if not
dangerous, excess. What cannot be assimilated will be plundered, and what
cannot be plundered will be scorched from Earth. But there was a glitch in
the globalization of the subcultures.

The subcultures that could take advantage of this global glitch became
microcultures. This glitch was their ambiguity‹ambiguous not only in their
political status, but in their status as "subcultures," for these
"subcultures" exposed themselves as a global force alongside capital. The
subculture was suddenly part of the force of globalisation, and this fuelled
the ambiguity. Ambiguous because the old terrain of the political‹the voice
of a subculture, its anger, its fury, its rebelliousness‹had been hijacked
by both the forces of capital and by the institutions of art‹the power of
history itself. And we have not yet learnt to recognise, or to hear, the
ways in which the political are being remixed, reshaped, and redrawn in the
global microculture. What we have are microcultures that are no longer
"underground," operating at angry odds to the Establishment, either in
fragmented or unified, "counter-cultural" form, but horizontal packets of
micro-scenes that operate globally, and thus, are interweaved with the same
fabric as capital. And just as often as these microcultures open a radical
opportunity to embrace transactivity by attuning it to transformation, and
thus a transformative politics, we are reminded that this is otherwise known
in the business community as "networking."

The new political is thus not necessarily fragmented, but globalized. In
this globalization, the horizontality of the network opens both the
opportunity to reclaim what was radical for the establishment at the same
time that radical forces attempt to outreach past their confines‹their
genres or forms. Thus, today, in speaking of electronic music, we cannot
simply speak of music. Today's apparent formalism is an attempt to rein-in
the node-jumping of the digital. Form is also an expression, and the
political resides not only in the content but in the manner of its force,
its dissemination. But form alone cannot fuse connections that are
anti-capitalist‹conceptual voices remains necessary, the content must also
be created, albeit this voice is not one but many, and globalised, becomes a
sonorous cacophony of virtual bodies operating at nodal points in the real.
For what is sorely lacking in today's electrofied microcultures of
technology‹which includes the entire milieu of experimental electronic
music, tactical media, renegade theorists & net.artists, social software
programmers, surrealist turntablists, etc.‹are the content providers.

Content that would be generated not from an underground or interiorization
of the political, nor from an identity, but in the transversal of space
through the virtual, through the Net, and, at the limit, through forms that
we cannot traditionally theorise in the way we usually understand "content."

For example, we can theorise the Los Angeles tactical audio collective,
Ultra-Red, as operating in such a fashion, by utilising techno tracks and
audio.art to successfully support housing projects for underpriviledged
communities.[xviii] But most of all the form/content expression must find
its outlet in a multiplicity of events that occur in the real. If raves were
the narrow reduction of the TAZ, then the TAZ must be opened to formats that
exceed the formula. We can even begin to theorise the attempts, however
risky, of Montréal's experimental electronic MUTEK festival, as it forges
links with so-called peripheral countries such as Chile through the
international exchange of electronic musicians.[xix] Instead of simply
sending popular performers to globe-trot as superstars, the idea is to
facilitate a qualitative, artistic exchange between cities. MUTEK, like many
electrofied festivals, embraces a multiplicity of locations, thus becoming a
convergence point in the real for music and linkages formed online in the
virtual. Likewise, the city itself‹in this case, Santiago, Chile‹is questing
to establish itself on the international stage; and MUTEK can act as an
early intervention in Santiago's growth. It can reinscribe the energies of
music and creative artistry into the city's make-up before it learns the
comparatively repressive laws of the Western world in regards to gathering,
space, and property‹laws put into place primarily as negative reactions
against rave-culture.

The content, then is the intervention of the global network. The content is
the network, although the network changes in each application of the
content. The network, in itself, is politically ambiguous as content.

If, in the age of the subculture, concepts travelled as memes through the
fledgling networks‹as concepts to be remixed into new contexts, and where
the concept was about the application of the content‹then today the concept
is the network. In fact the network is both concept and context, and the
meme is only the static concept within the network's transactions. The
active idea that expresses itself as a force is the seme. What matters is
not the meme, but the point at which the meme becomes inverted, where the
idea is no longer sampled into different contexts, but the context is
sampled into different ideas, and where the context itself is already the
network. The seme is the point at which the meme is forced to undergo a
translation and an extroversion at the limit of its identity by the force of
its trajectory‹the act of its self-sampling. The inversion of its innards
now expresses the trajectory of its form. The seme thus comes to express the
force of form in the stitching of the network to the content of the meme.
The seme is the meme of the power of dissemination. It's the name we give to
the transformational properties of the network, where the network forms the
content. The seme is the theoretical framework in which the practical forces
of contemporary microcultures express themselves. It is not an idea-thing
that travels, like the dualist concept of meme, but the point at which the
thing, at the moment of its translation or transformation at becoming
something other to itself, undergoes a forceful expression of the path of
its movement‹its network. The seme demonstrates the digital network of
transduction. If we may sample Brian Massumi: "There is no inside as such
for anything to be in, interiority being only a particular relationship to
the exterior to itself (infolding)."[xx]
If the TAZ was a meme in late-80s cyberculture and '90s rave culture, then
the TAZ today finds itself living up to its acronym‹Temporary Autonomous
Zone‹as the context of today's ideas, rather than being the idea itself. It
thus becomes a problematic of how to disseminate the context in an
expression that fosters anti-capitalist networks. In other words, how to
expose the movement of the seme itself, in its multiplicity of difference.

For example, we can observe The Matrix: Reloaded fan "performances" in
Japan. In homage to the sci-fi flick, hundreds of Japanese dressed up as
Agent Smiths and as Trinity, Morpheus, and Neo, re-enacted battle scenes
from the movie.[xxi]
Were these series of enactments in fact staged by the ad-world? The
actualization of William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, in which a kind of
social meme is developed to look "natural," engineered to foster & breed a
slavish relation to a brand? (Like hiring socialites to chat-up products in
bars.) But consider this‹that these performances were the result of social
constructions; and that whether induced by advertising or not, these are the
repercussions of the Matrix machine and its marketing that have resolved
into a praxis, exhibited in the real. If these performances were products of
a fan-collective, then all the relations involved are given to a complexity,
an abstraction of the political, of pop-microculture relations, and thus of
the properly passive role of the consumer. In neither case is the
performance a resistant practice‹this is something networked, where the
ambiguity of the network is performed through this surreal public
intervention of fantasy.

 On the one channel, a multiple Smith-Matrix performance demonstrates a
fanatic display of fervour to corporate media, a commercial patriotism
brought to the limit of praxis (and in this, it exceeds the passive
consumer‹does it not?). On the other channel, there is a demonstration of
the potential inherent to global media. Hollywood is a weird place, & the
film and its creators are enough of a black sheep that perhaps something
other to the film's advertising is straining through its filters. Perhaps
this was there already--we are, after all, seeing a film with references to
Baudrillard and Lacan. But that was the first version; and the second part
of the Matrix trilogy is anything but an extension of the first. It's a new
aesthetic, as others have commented before me on Nettime. Perhaps The
Matrix's attempts to remix philosophy and film to a pure videogame aesthetic
are resulting in a bleed from celluloid to the real; or more accurately,
this bleed occurs not from the film itself but from its violent translation
of narrative, story and plot to the purely videogame aesthetic. In the loss
of the plot and narrative, the event in and of itself becomes the primary

The bleed travels odd paths‹perhaps even from the Columbine Massacre to
Matrix performances... As we fall into a decrepit society, our
representational fantasies hold more reality than the mundane life outside.
We'd much rather have the violence of a distopian cybersociety than the
realities of the present. Utopia is back‹or at least it's swarming the
streets in Japan. 

These events in Japan were networked. If not a controlled, corporate
production (like a modern day morality play that praises the King), then
they are the calling card of an "inducted micro.culture"‹a culture networked
through tele.technologies, one that can have immense power in its ability to
reconfigure the reality of the present, but still bound to doing so within
the confines of control and of capital. As long as this reality remains
attuned to representational re-enactments of Hollywood films, no matter how
revolutionary, the enactment remains the derivative of a consumerist
pleasure-cycle. Yet, as Massumi notes, the inductive state, and in this
case, already a networked induction, is a field of potentiality in which "a
state of intense activation and readiness is induced, but all outlet is
blocked."[xxii] While in this case the network configures an outlet to the
real, the field is contained only to the possibilities outlined by captial,
and potentials that circumvent the controlling connections of capital remain
blocked or unrealised.

A phase-shift from re-enactment to a positive expression ­ie, from pleasure
to desire‹ would be the calling card of a transductive micro.culture, one in
which the network potentials of global capital are turned towards what
Derrida calls "ex-appropriation," which is a heavy way of saying that
transductive micro.cultures fuck with the system by crossing strains‹like
cells sampling & remixing their DNA with other cells‹thus dismantling the
schematic as it stands, and, at the same time, like generative net.art,
bleeding strains of reality that are expressions of their own but are
heterogenous offspring. As Massumi notes, the inductive state "has been
transformatively relayed into other forces."[xxiii] Bastard offspring of The
Matrix would be a crowd of queer Agent Smiths staging massive blow-ins on
opening night ... "Of their own:" of their own lives, not of someone else's
Matrix fantasies... In other words: bring the themeatic of The Matrix to the
limit‹escape the Matrix: make it something else‹abuse the tele-networks‹&
shift from the reproduction of capital to the positive production and
exposure of desire.

We're left with the grain of thought, with what we call in academia, the

 The study of resistant musical practice has often theorised its status as a
"subculture." Since the advent of global capitalism, however, underground
anarcho-theorists and political philosophers alike have been struggling with
theorising the new position of resistant subcultures. This new position is,
by default, the opposition. No longer able to practice a politics of
disappearance in the mode of a liberatory invisibility, "subcultures" have
shifted through the same terrain as capital: networked globalisation.
Hand-in-hand with the spread of tele-technologies, electronic music cultures
have shifted from the practices of the Temporary Autonomous Zone to what we
can begin to theorise as a network of "microcultures." No longer invisible,
but weaved into the same global fabric as capital, the very terrain of
politics is remixed as microcultures move from resistance to positive and
affirmative ontological projects. At the same time, musical trends play out
this shift as the postmodern aesthetic of sampling is complexified through
the resurgence of computer music, including the digital processes of
granulation and a return to an avant-garde aesthetics of failure. Spin that
again, and we could say: from memes to semes.



[i] Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. New York: Vintage,
1998. p. 

[ii] Stivale, Charles J. "Pragmatic/Machinic: Discussion with Félix Guattari
(19 March 1985)." Pre/Text 14.3-4 (1993). Pp. 215-250.

[iii] Bey, Hakim. T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy,
Poetic Terrorism. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1991. Anti copyright.

[iv] Lovink, Geert. Dark Fiber: Tracking Critical Internet Culture.
Cambridge: MIT P, 2002. p. 239.

[v] See: http://www.12k.com

[vi] Szepanski, Achim. "Digital Music and Media Theory." Parachute 107
(2002): 24-31. p. 26.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] For an extended analysis and critique of Cascone's thought, see: van
Veen, tobias c. "Laptops & Loops: The Advent of New Forms of Experimentation
and the Question of Technology in Experimental Music and Performance."
Conference Paper. November 1st, 2002. University Art Association of Canada,
Calgary. Available online at: http://wwww.quadrantcrossing.org/papers.htm.
See also: Ashline, William. "Clicky Aesthetics: Deleuze, Headphonics, and
the Minimalist Assemblage of 'Aberrations.'" Interview with tobias c. van
Veen. Strategies: Journal of Theory, Culture, Politics 15.1 (2002): 87-104.
For another subtle critique see: Hecker, Tim. "Sound and the 'Victorious
Realm of Electricity.'" Parachute: electrosons_electrosounds 107 (2002). Pp.

[ix] Cascone, Kim. "The Aesthetics of Failure: 'Post-Digital' Tendencies in
Contemporary Computer Music." Computer Music Journal, 24:4 Winter 2000, pp.
12-18. p. 15.

[x] Ibid. p. 14. 

[xi] See Cascone, Kim. "Laptop Music‹Counterfeiting Aura in the Age of
Infinite Reproduction." Parachute: electrosons_electrosounds, 107, 2002. pp.

[xii] See Gaillot, Michel. Multiple Meaning: Techno, An Artistic and
Political Laboratory of the Present. Trans. Warren Niesluchowski. Paris:
Editions Dis Voir, 2002. Also see: van Veen, tobias c. "It's Not A Rave,
Officer." FUSE 26.1 (2003).

[xiii] Cage, John. "The Future of Music: Credo." Silence: Lectures and
Writings by John Cage. Hanover: Weslayan UP, 1973. pp. 3-7.

[xiv] See: Turner, Jeremy. "The Microsound Scene: An Interview with Kim
Cascone." CTheory.net A101 (2001) and "Neuro-Transmit Me These Empty Sounds:
An Interview with Janne vanHanen." CTheory.net A102 (2001), as well as:
vanHanen, Janne. "Loving the Ghost in the Machine." CTheory.net A099 (2001).
Historical footnote: these interviews and vanHanen's paper came out of the
Refrains: Music Politics Aesthetics conference which I organised at UBC in
September, 2001. See: http://www.shrumtribe.com/refrains. Brady Cranfield's
article in the Parachute 107 issue on "micro_sounds" also came from this
conference. A selection of the conference proceedings were also published in
the UBC online journal, Intersects, available here:

[xv] See Parachute: electrosons_electrosounds 107 (2002).

[xvi] Lovink, p. 338.

[xvii] Although I remain troubled with Karatani's turn to Kant via Marx (and
vice-versa) in a discourse of positivity that comes to re-embrace "futurity"
as a possible "utopia," his motives for shifting from a proto-anarchist
position in the '80s to a "positive" mode of production is emblematic of a
general shift in anti-capitalist politics: "Up until the climate change of
1989, I also despised the all ideas of possible futures... The collapse of
the socialist bloc in 1989 compelled me to change by stance... When [the
Communist bloc] collapsed, I realized that my critical stance had been
paradoxically relying on their being. I came to feel that I had to state
something positive. It was at this conjuncture that I began to confront
Kant" (Transcritique. Trans. Sabu Kohso. Cambridge: MIT P, 2003. p. ix). The
problematic with Karatani's position is that it reverses backwards through
history to confront past teleologies as a possible futurity. What remains
unrealised is the role of potential in the "positive," a role which would
turn a simple relapse to "futurity" to a (yet) to-come, still immanently
"productive" (and yet still deconstructive) (political) project. Nonetheless
Karatani's discourse initiated through Kant and Marx outlines a point at
which to contrast the latter project from discourses that seek to re-embrace
old teleologies; and along the way Karatani's position allows us to
historicize the ways in which "theory" has been transformed by actuality.
Hakim Bey, however, attempts to understand what happens to a politics of
disappearance once the subculture becomes the opposition: "So the choice
remains: ‹either we accept ourselves as the 'last humans', or else we accept
ourselves as the opposition" (Millenium. New York: Autonomedia & Garden of
Delight, 1996. Anti-copyright. p.30.). Such a position, however, doesn't
mean the negation of the TAZ or of a politics of disappearance (as Karatani
implies, and follows to its self-made doom): "the temporary autonomous zone
thus retains its value not only for its own sake but as a historicization of
lived experience, perhaps even a mode of propaganda-in-action" (53). It
retains its force‹as the real, the actual‹and its virtuality‹as both a
historicization and "propaganda-in-action." Conjoined, the TAZ evolves from
meme to seme.

[xviii] See Ultra-red, "Listening Material: 'Democracy When?' and an art
practice of organizing." FUSE 26.2 (2003). Pp. 26-32.

[xix] See http://www.mutek.ca and http://www.mutek.cl (organisation
websites). For a review of Mutek 2003, see: van Veen, tobias c. "[Mutek
2003] in Five Parts." Dustedmagazine.com. May 29th-June 2nd, 2003.
http://www.dustedmagazine.com/features/117. Also: "Mutek 2001." Discorder
August (2001); "A Fine Marriage of Madness and the Margins at Mutek 2002."
The Wire 222, August (2002); "Bleeps in the Heart of the Beast‹Mutek 2002 in
Montréal." Discorder July (2002). See also, forthcoming: "Laptop Libido on
Rewind‹Mutek to Sonar 2003." Discorder August (2003) and "Latency
Loops‹Mutek 2003" e|i Magazine 1.3 (October) 2003.

[xx] Massumi, Brian. Parables For the Virtual: Movement Affect Sensation.
Durham: Duke UP, 2002. p. 115.

[xxi] A collection of video and pictures are available here:
http://www.quadrantcrossing.org/matrix. [Will be uploaded by July 10th,

[xxii] Ibid. p. 114.

[xxiii] Ibid. p. 115.

tobias c. van Veen -----------
------------- tobias {AT} rhizome.org
---McGill Communications------
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