Vinyl Meltdown (Version)

MuzakBIT grey 69a

Music represents at once the immediate manifestation of impulse and the locus of its taming (Adorno; 288)

We don’t sell music; we sell programming

The dissolution of the Muzak brand in 2013 brought to an end a history that stretched back over 70 years, with the brand first appearing in 1934. Although synonymous with influencing the behaviour of consumers, Muzak spent much of its formative years manipulating workers on the factory floor with vinyl transcription records.

Muzak recorded thousands of 12″ and 16″ discs, building up a large library of material. In the 1930s artists’ songs were usually recorded at Muzak studios in a single take and cut straight to a lacquer master ready for duplication. In 1934, one of the first Muzak releases to be recorded featured the ‘National Fascist Militia Band’, a touring Italian brass band. During this session over 25 songs and marches were recorded, including ‘March on Rome’ ( Anthem of the young Fascists ), and ‘To Arms’, ( Fascist Anthem ). It is unclear whether this recording of the ‘Pan American Brass band’ (as the band was later aliased for release) influenced the direction that Muzak was to take, but what is clear is that around this time Muzak saw in the disciplining function of music commercial opportunities that they argued would assist companies and factories in increasing worker productivity. [Read more →]

Vinyl Meltdown: Side B

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Part 1 in Datacide 13 set out the dialectical character of noise, arguing that distribution media can be used to amplify a disciplining or intensifying function, and that for those attempting to create spaces of possibility media becomes an important site of struggle. Here, part 2 looks closer at the move from tangible to intangible sound objects, and the tension between engagement and pacification.

The strange loop
In 1999 it was rumoured that more turntables were sold than guitars (Collins; 2003). True or not, the turntable was by this point an acknowledged performance tool and for decades had been an important part of sound system culture. 1999 was also the year that Napster launched as a crude software tool that allowed peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing of digital copies of MP3s. MP3 compressed audio files making it possible to move them around electronic networks easily. MP3 compression was a standard developed by and for the culture industry, and together with the transmission potential of the internet and advances in digital audio recording, it appeared to enable a ‘democratisation’ of the means for distribution. The possibilities for the distribution of audio were emphasised by those interested in self-organising at the time. As Douglas Kellner and Steven Best pointed out in an essay written in the late 90s: [Read more →]

Vinyl Meltdown

In the first of two parts, the dialectic of noise as both pacifier and intensifier is set against the ongoing transition from vinyl to digital sound carriers.

‘music represents at once the immediate manifestation of impulse and the locus of its taming’ (Adorno; 288)

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Vinyl as a format for distributing cutting-edge noise is continuing to decline. Trying to find more than a handful of releases to review for this issue of Datacide made this clear. Preference has always been given at Datacide to reviewing physical sound-carriers, and in particular vinyl, as it offers the best possible reproduction of sound. Noise reveals itself throughout history as having the ability to pacify or stimulate listeners, and therefore the production and distribution medium of noise can be viewed as a site of struggle. How should the move from vinyl to intangible sound carriers be viewed in terms of the potential for intensification?
[Read more →]

Sonic Fictions

by Riccardo Balli

1. (Clans Of The Alphane Moon, P. K. Dick, 1964 REMIX)

Before entering the supreme council room of the seven clans French colony, Gabriel Baines sent his man-made simulacrum ahead to see if by chance it might be attacked. The simulacrum – obviously equipped with a ghetto blaster – behaves like Baines, and dresses like Baines with oversize trousers, untied sneakers, and a baseball cap. He is a wizard in the Four Arts too. Baines has of course been outside Paris many times, but he felt safe – or rather relatively safe – only here, within the stout walls of this, the Hip-Hop city. Once he was even forced to visit that trendy, plastic town Nantes, the capital of the House clan, in search of escaped House members from the “melody on 4/4” work brigade. Considering they all look the same, well dressed in their cheeky expensive clothes, he had a great deal of problems in recognizing them. Anyhow, here today, at the twice-yearly council meeting representing all the clans, the House clan would of course have a spokesman and Baines as Hip-Hop representative would find himself seated with one of them. But more ominous would be the Gabber delegate: like every Hip-Hopper Baines is disgusted by the sight of those bald heads, their naive, stupid violence, which is not the result of any social oppression, but in fact just some transient fashion, completely business oriented. Baines still quailed at the anticipated confrontation with Howard Straw of the Gabber clan. [Read more →]