24 August 2010

Yasunao Tone - Solo for Wounded CD

I pretty much overdosed on the noise/art collision at the Bigger Than Words conference in July. Subsequently I was going to try and avoid looking at that side of things for this project. However, if we're talking about unplayable media and the (mis)use of formats in general, then there is this huge overlap with some of the ideas that were highlighted there.

Echoing discussion that came up via the Digital Noise panel [the one I chaired] is the Solo For Wounded CD project by Yasunao Tone. I first encountered this in the pages of the Background Noise book and it fits in with some of the interesting research into digital manipulation and the technological 'glitch'. Here the Japanese experimental musician treated/damaged the surfaces of CD-Rs before recording what was read by the CD player.

Adventurous listeners who worship at the altars of Merzbow and Fennesz might be interested in the actual sounds produced. I'm more inspired by the destructive processes and the aesthetic qualities of the manipulated discs: especially in terms of it helping to definine the physical format as an exclusively collectable decorative, rather than functional, item. Plus there are potentially other influences documented in Caleb Kelly's book [which came up on a Google image search while looking for examples of Yasunao Tone's CDs]:

Cracked Media: The Sound of Malfunction
Caleb Kelly

From the mid-twentieth century into the twenty-first, artists and musicians manipulated, cracked, and broke audio media technologies to produce novel sounds and performances. Artists and musicians, including John Cage, Nam June Paik, Yasunao Tone, and Oval, pulled apart both playback devices (phonographs and compact disc players) and the recorded media (vinyl records and compact discs) to create an extended sound palette. In Cracked Media, Caleb Kelly explores how the deliberate utilization of the normally undesirable (a crack, a break) has become the site of productive creation. Cracked media, Kelly writes, slides across disciplines, through music, sound, and noise. Cracked media encompasses everything from Cage’s silences and indeterminacies, to Paik’s often humorous tape works, to the cold and clean sounds of digital glitch in the work of Tone and Oval. Kelly offers a detailed historical account of these practices, arguing that they can be read as precursors to contemporary new media.

Kelly looks at the nature of recording technology and the music industry in relation to the crack and the break, and discusses the various manifestations of noise, concluding that neither theories of recording nor theories of noise offer an adequate framework for understanding cracked media. Connecting the historical avant-garde to modern-day turntablism, and predigital destructive techniques to the digital ticks, pops, and clicks of the glitch, Kelly proposes new media theorizations of cracked media that focus on materiality and the everyday.

“Caleb Kelly’s Cracked Media is a welcome addition to the growing body of critical writing on the role of sound in the history of modern and postmodern art. It helpfully extends Douglas Kahn’s monumental Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts by focusing on a powerful strain of contemporary sonic art: the creative mis-use of audio playback technologies. As Kelly ably theorizes it, the ‘crack’ is a productive break that articulates past and future, archaeology and innovation, analog and digital. Hence, this book combines an exhaustive survey and taxonomy of recent experiments with turntables and CD technology (Oval, Christian Marclay, Yasunao Tone, etc.) with a detailed genealogy of these practices that traces them back to earlier moments of sonic experimentation (Futurism, Fluxus, John Cage, etc.). Informed, but not overloaded, by theoretical accounts of phonography and digital media, Kelly helpfully sorts out what is at issue in cracked sound and places this at the center of contemporary debates about art and technology.”

Caleb Kelly is a lecturer at the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney

No comments:

Post a Comment