THE NEW SPIRIT
I selected several excerpts from Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism. I interpreted these sentences in the manner of the heavily auto-tuned slowdown. In literal terms, I took pieces of this text, which documents changes in the underlying justificatory ideology of contemporary capitalism, and rendered them sensible in this particular musical form, with its specific genre conventions.
I used only generic media technology. My tools were a Macintosh laptop and the industry standard Protools audio production software. I collected 10 drum sounds I determined to be the most popular in contemporary rap production, and used them to produce rhythmic patterns I observed to be the most common. I wrote harmonic elements using bundled, generic virtual instruments. I recorded vocals using my laptop’s built in microphone. I slowed down and re-pitched the resulting songs by -4 semitones, and applied 64kbps/22khz mp3 data compression to the masters.
By approaching musical aesthetics in these literal terms, with such a rigid methodology, I hoped to isolate and examine the link between particular sounds and the underlying ideologies of production that give them their meaning. If I understood the precise methodologies and aesthetic devices of a particular musical form, would I better understand, in general, the relationship between music and the modes of governmentality that facilitate its production and consumption?
By swapping typical lyrics for this unmusical written content, and forcing the language to conform to the chosen musical aesthetic, my intention was to question the givenness of aesthetic conventions in music – to point towards a certain arbitrariness in codes of musical meaning. If popular music functions as a primary driver in the continued propagation and mutation of the underlying Spirit of Capitalism – might the only way to disrupt this feedback loop be to question the aesthetic codes that give popular music its efficacy? In times of complete subsumption, within the confines of the cultural generic that iselectronic music production, could this type of aesthetic relativism be the most transgressive possible act?
Some other questions I hoped to answer:
Would the results sound like the music that inspired me, or would they at some point become idiosyncratic? Would the resulting music represent me in some subjective way or would it merely be evidence of a process? If I followed this strict formula, would I produce a new aesthetic standard? Would I feel the desire to valorise my talents by taking credit for the results, and in doing so contradict the stated aim of disrupting music’s role in network capitalism? Is it possible to examine the politics of musical forms by thoroughly investigating their sensual logic?