[4.29.2019] Things I Don't Know About (disquiet 0382)

This week's Disquiet Junto coincided with me re-reading Jonathan Sterne's excellent book, The Audible Past: The Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. In it, Sterne traces the pre-history of sound reproducing technology and demonstrates that each new technology was less a brand new era in human development, but rather a new way to meet an old desire. Examining the cultural forces that led to these developments in sound technology really does feel like studying pre-history, because the mediums themselves very quickly took on a life of their own and created their own set of new desires, as Marshall McLuhan repeatedly observed.

The two quotes that resonated with me the most were "Anything new gets used to do the old jobs, no matter what it is" and "When you make a discovery, it doesn't reveal a whole new area of knowledge; it reveals a whole new area of things you don't know about."

I feel like I am still trying to capture sonic ideas that first resonated with me over ten years ago when I was a music student. As I've grown as a composer and audio engineer, I feel that I get constantly closer to achieving those goals, but they always feel elusive (I guess that's what keeps me moving forward). Each new tool gets put into service to meet my past desires, but it also reveals a myriad number of "things [I] don't know about."

This piece was built in Logic and Kontakt using a variety of samples from sources too numerous to count. I am constantly fascinated by sound's ability to evoke different spaces and different times and this piece reflects that, drawing upon nostalgic styles and grainy, degraded samples, while existing in a completely imaginary sonic space. These aesthetic choices recall observations made by McLuhan and Sterne, as well as Jacques Derrida's notion of "hauntology."

I grew up in St. Louis and never knew about McLuhan's stint at SLU. I will have to do some digging next time I'm in town.