What would it take to sound “new”?


my own split is rooted in the complete alienation (in the form of non-recognition) between certain “folk posthumanisms” and the serious art/music world. problem is, I really like the art world, or the general lines music world, I have a lot of years invested in mostly following the stuff covered in Wire magazine. and i am very, very far from this type of genius figure like Arthur Russell who could find a way to bridge this sort of gap. and still, he suffered greatly, he died before people could understand him.


i sincerely hope you’ll land where your aspirations are.
speaking for myself i’m more than happy having a very very very small niche of people that comprehends and is sympathetic to my form of expression (organized sound of some sort :slight_smile: ), sometimes i have the privilege to have a label publishing my work, i post a lot of free stuff just because i like to share, i am sometimes invited to play music in public, some times i got paid, some times not, i’m often misinterpreted (“aaah, interesting, you make soundtracks” me:"ehrmm, yes, sometimes, this is not the case tho, this is what i still call music…silly me i even dance to it :smiley: ")

so overall i feel very very lucky and i’m grateful to the small network (real and virtual) of people i’m in contact with, it provide me a lot of stimuli and inspiration and provide a channel with which i can communicate with people and output my expression. i think i wouldn’t change a thing, especially because this situation gives me total freedom, i have no boundaries dictated by music genres, i can be honest and play what i think is important and urgent for me to play, luckily i have a job (connected to audio, i mostly teach , consult and do some audio engineering\sound design work) so i don’t have to depend on my ““art”” to make a living.


@hyena i agree that it was overwhelmingly a 2000s thing. I just wanted to point out that it certainly has its roots in a darker, instrumental mutation of late 90s ukg.

In the spirit of sharing pre-/proto-techno links - here are some 70s sounds of Piero Umiliani.
Clearly a lot different to the First Wave of Detroit Techno, or Kraftwerk, and not following the same influences. The second link sounds to me like a predecessor to 90s ambient techno


yah, definitely!
that umiliani stuff is so so dope :slight_smile:


Though I do think he’s very overrated, some of the recent OPN stuff made me perk up because it sounded so slick, corporate, glossy, Hollywood, etc. but recontextualized in an experimental context. It’s one thing when James Ferraro et. al. do a canny and winking version of nineties corporate canned music product, but the OPN stuff managed to somehow sound so “2019” - super slick, expensive sounds that would go on the latest top-40 record - but deranged and used in a weird and provocative context. I think that so much new/weird music still draws from vintage and retro ideas that it was shocking and actually New to hear something that drew from the vocabulary of bleeding edge pop and R&B but then was so disjointed and wrong.


“we’ll TAKE it!”
“but wai-wa-wait a minute! w-w-we don’t even know what the PRICE is!”


I love where this conversation is flowing, like exploring the tributaries of a valley lake…

I also have to express just how much I appreciate the civility and wampth of discussion on this forum as a whole!

It may have been a half awake morning commute misread but I really like the idea of fabricating (non maliciously I hope) histories as a way of understanding our current musical moment. Maybe the idea was touching on how all histories are fabricated in their neccessary incompleteness.


This is significant and interesting work, but again doesn’t really bring forth “the new” so much as to expose its failure. If “the new” enters this work, it does so only by its absence, by haunting it from the “not where” and “not when” There’s an undercurrent that is very dystopian, very deflating… it makes me weary while I remain fascinated by it also in a train-wreck kind of way. But this brings to mind two other things.

  1. I first began to notice this alternate-universe pop stuff 4-5 years ago; e.g. of course all of these were influenced by earlier ferraro/OPN. same social circle and all that. but then there’s a point where it kind of becomes indistinguishable from the real thing, where the “weird and provocative context” disappears , or it’s like this was always the point – to dissolve all critical distance, if only to lay bare the fact that such distance or “irony” is no longer possible (a condition also recognized and then exploited quite successfully by the alt-right…)
  1. Indeed, over the last 20 years tremendous innovation at a purely formal level has occurred in mainstream pop styles and other musics basically associated with broader aspects of mainstream culture, with auto-tune, vocaloids, digital silences, granular techniques, and so on. I first began to notice this around 2001 when a lot of sophisticated computer-music/granular techniques surfaced in the music of BT. He was one of the first to make noticeable use of kyma. However, despite the technical novelty, the songs were awful, basically alt-universe britney spears (i haven’t gone back and listened, but that was my impression at the time). The fact that such innovation was coupled to such obviously mainstream sounds was shocking to people at the time, because it called into question the phenomenon of the new, so taken for granted in the late 1990’s. Then the BT-effect simply became commonplace. The more mainstream the sound, the more formally/technically innovative the approach.

But this is exactly why the detached "outside perspective’ which focuses on formal/abstract qualities of the music and forgets the very specific narratives underlying this music misses the phenomenon. It leads to statements that are correct but not true.

What it leaves out the first-person experience of the future (or of temporality in general) from which all other conceptions of time, including “clock time” originate. Past, present and future are originally disclosed by the following process. For any action at all to be possible, there needs to be a horizon that I can project myself onto, something that makes me, literally, “ex-ist” (i.e. stand out from myself), something which urges me to act so I can close the gap. This horizon is the phenomenon of the future. In doing so I rely upon all of the habits and skills I’ve acquired up to this point that are relevant to this goal. This is the phenomenon of the past. Finally I act; and in doing so disclose both myself (as the person who does “X”; the person who is a teacher, a musician, a construction worker…) and all of the entities involved as somehow; I make myself and these entities meaningfully present. Clock time is basically a derivative mode of this experience.

Historically interpreted, then, the phenomenon of the new has to be in the form of this temporal horizon under which an “I” can place itself, where the “I” has a meaningful story to tell. The “I” has to experience this horizon as actionable, as livable, as something actually desired. Desire thus underlies, and is prior to, the phenomenon of time. Desire is what makes the I not-itself and thus what makes the future first show itself. But there is precisely no place for the “I” in a horizon in which all of the structures that oppress it have regained control. Such oppression is precisely the removal of possibilities; it comes in the realization that the future is already here; thus I cannot ex-ist, I am already where I was to be going; no meaningful action is possible. The “I” instead projects itself onto the past, or experiences the future as the return of the past; as the idea of renewal or palingenesis – in other words, the conditions under which fascism takes hold.

To lay bare the conditions of fascism has always been the point of artists like Ferraro/OPN. With that achieved, it no longer suffices to merely keep sounding the alarm. What is needed is not innovation in a formal/abstract sense; what is needed is nothing less than a recovery of the entire structure of temporality, so that the phenomenon of the future or of the new can once again make sense. This comes only if there is a desire to make something meaningfully present.

Such a desire, at bottom, has always been rooted in specific narratives. Today, for good or ill such narratives proliferate in a thousand disconnected subcultures. Domains where it’s not just about different content or art forms but completely different ways of living. Ways that open up orthogonal dimensions, rather than excluding or contradicting current ways. Many of these ways hide in plain sight. A lot of these communities are orders of magnitude larger than the experimental music community. But it does not mean that they are visible. The experimental music community, the academy, the art world have always been very close to structures of power.

Unfortunately, there has never been a time when subcultural movements have been so alienated from the mainstream, from power structures, so much so that many forget they exist, or that any divisions actually exist. For these movements to be visible, art is needed. To name them in existing language is only to cover them up. It is only first in and through art that a new and proper language can evolve where they can be seen from themselves, that is, on their own terms. Without a proper language, subcultural narratives would appear not radical or threatening, but trivial; this is precisely because of this alienation or failure of sense. The way forward to a place where the idea of the future once again makes sense involves breaking down these divisions, building bridges, recombining not just formal concepts but fundamental narratives or ways of life; concatenating dimensional spaces through which these ways may meaningfully unfold. It’s still a long way out of this mess.


We can, to some degree, put a dent in this. We can do so by pointing out these narratives to each other.


Quite a bit of this thread is focused on the sound itself - so arrangement / instruments / sound design etc. Another angle is the creation of music more as phenomenon, and the story / message that music has to tell for the creator, in the time it is created. In that sense all music sounds new, as the meaning is unique.

When reading the discussion above about techno, I realised at some point that techno was not just techno music… of course!


I think a lot about a book/record called Collage Culture, done as part of a museum exhibition somewhere (can’t look it up rn, sorry), that had two essays in it. The first was a really well done look at what it’s like to live post-Twitter and have literally everything always juxtaposed with something else, and usually everything else. The second wasn’t as well done, being mostly a nostalgia trip about independent record stores, but it had one insight that really stuck with me: that you only get new subcultures when people start making the cultural products they need for themselves.

The feeling I get from a lot of what people in this community make is it was made because the person who made it needed it. It gives me a lot of hope.


I’ve wanted to do something about this; it does feel weird to keep talking around things so much. And I have tried to share what I can. But it’s true I’ve also been far from explicit and I feel bad for this. Nonetheless, there are challenges.

First, narratives need to be presented in ways that make sense to an audience that while highly educated, may lack any prior awareness of the communities under discussion.

Second, the presentation needs to be able to speak about these communities without attempting to speak on their behalf. Especially where senses of marginalization exist, it’s important not to flatten internal differences by totalizing entire communities by way of a single concept, especially since they/we may still be working out how to speak about themselves/ourselves, especially since there have long been internal challenges with maintaining fluidity in the presence of external attacks.

Third, and I alluded to this previously – there is still a sense where music or auditory experience more generally remains unthought in these communities. (And once again, there may be others who not only disagree but would find a comment such as this insulting.) I still feel that the best path towards linking things up is to invoke an even broader context, but this again needs to be done with a delicate touch that avoids conflating or equating things that some really want to hold as separate. Even before music, transformation of basic auditory experience is a highly relevant domain; right now the auditory AR/VR field is kind of floundering because the people in that sphere don’t understand how they could be making a whole bunch of people’s lives so much more meaningful and how this would also hugely impact the game industry. But furthermore, basic formal/academic thinking about music itself – in this respect Kodwo Eshun’s ideas are absolutely central – needs to untether itself from the notion that the role of musical thought is always to be “about” music; that is to represent the Real. Just as you don’t always have to patch VCO->VCF->VCA; thought can connect with the Real in all kinds of interesting ways; generally in this case to bring about the Real by way of more fictive or imaginative structures, of course themselves Real-in-the-last-instance which do not relate to the Real in the mode of representation. [My personal struggle with this is the reason for my long/somewhat undecipherable posts in the music theory threads.] More specifically, the status of music and musical creativity within secondary worlds needs to be foregrounded or at least taken more seriously. what for instance does it mean to create music/art AS a particular character and how can embodied algorithmic composition methods or co-generative techniques aid this process. What I also discovered after really thinking about this is that the dual (and somewhat nonexistent) concept of musical theory-fiction can and should play a role, and once again Kodwo Eshun is extremely helpful here. Some other communities are hard at work on some of these aspects, but they seem not to talk with the first set, even though curiously they mimic their economic structures, if only as part of a larger postcapitalist trend.

In lieu of a truly interdisciplinary art movement that would take years to develop, I think something like a resource list would be a good attempt to move this discussion forward. It needs to be curated, but also highly focused on primary source material (that others are willing to share publicly) and very careful in how it presents alternate perspectives. It also needs to be first presented and critiqued within the communities it is trying to speak about. It will take some time but I think the next step is for me to take a crack at this resource.

Thanks for the (extra) motivation!


I must be honest and say that I’m almost totally confused by this but simultaneously very interested in eventually glimpsing your meaning…

Please post some resources for further study…


Thanks… it will take some time though. I need to do this ethically.


A first example which I have only a voyeur’s knowledge of: the book Paper Tangoes recounts Argentinian Tango as music and dance and a way of studying Argentinian culture, but it also recounts the experience of being a Harvard anthropologist on a Rhodes scholarship doing those things. I read this in a music class as an undergrad and was sort of fascinated and infuriated by its attempts to thwart the power dynamic implicit in anthropology by shattering into subjective experience.

Indeed, I think (although my knowledge is very limited) that many anthropologists are struggling with the same crises @ht73 points out to us; trying to work on the hard problem of bringing knowledge from one (sub)culture to another while dodging the thorny and well-known ethical pitfalls that accompany that work.


Indeed. And the fact that being both a participant and an observer doesn’t really help. It just means feeling the crisis from within and still not really being able to resolve it… Just because I participate and have had certain experiences going back 31 years, long before I knew of ANY communities that could in any way relate, doesn’t mean others don’t experience their participation in fundamentally different ways. It also doesn’t mean I’m magically free of privilege or immune to behaving unethically in the process. The best way is to present truth in the form of a conversation, one that never ends, one that is perpetually held open to revision.


music :slight_smile: