Tales from Topographic Vapor

Just finished an article by Simon Reynolds, “We are all David Toop Now: Tales from Topographic Oceans,” in the April 2012 issue of The Wire. Much food for thought, especially the argument for stable borders in the exhausted, deterritorialized flux of digital culture.

There is a contradiction in music-making, specifically the recording process. The striving to make something permanent in a medium (listening) and raw materials (sound objects) that are impermanent. A recording attempts but fails to maintain the illusion of stability in that the playback is always of the moment and ultimately ungraspable. From something as seemingly free-floating as ambient or drone to something as earth-rooted as Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” (with its monumental, cavernous capture of John Bonham’s drumwork, a recording marvel), the result is the same. The dialectic can never be resolved because the moment itself is impossible to pin down, even in the periphery.

Attachment is ignorance (ignoring) of the true, transitory nature of the self. Awareness of this error at the core of recording allows us to continue making and capturing music without getting sucked into the doomed quest for perfect (or better-than-perfect) fidelity. We settle for the imperfect juggling of the contradiction, knowing that the recording is a lie, but celebrating it over and over nonetheless.

My first thought was to post this under “Bach + Mantione,” but these ideas will most likely prove critical to as-yet formalized collaborations with John Kannenberg, Jorge Martin, or Alan Nakagawa. Any of my collaborations, really, since this goes to the heart of Atlas Sets.

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