Posts tagged history

120 Years of Electronic Music is a very good history of electronic music and sonic art for the past two centuries. That’s Karlheinz Stockhausen at the WDR studios in the 1970s (wearing a robe?).

It’s also worth noting that the site was started in 1996; thus showing the perils of using relative timespans when naming things. The authors admit those 120 years are now closer to 140, plus another century of electronic music pre-history. Yes, the Web is now old enough for such embarrasments.

Thomas Dreher’s History of Computer Art is gold. A PDF compilation of all lectures is also available at the site.

The photo is of Karl Otto Götz in front of Density 10:3:2:1, an early glitch-alike / algorithmic artwork (1961), reproduced from here.

I rarely mention things about my hometown, even though I sometimes post planimetric pictures of its run-down façades. However, this 1945 photo by Helga Glassner did somehow capture my interest. In it you can see the southmost part of Avenida dos Aliados and the Praça da Liberdade at its end, and beyond that — at the top right of the picture — it seems the Douro river can be seen. And that strikes me as odd. Even though the picture seems taken from the clock tower of the City Hall building at the north end of Aliados, the building was still under construction in 1945. Was it taken from a crane, perhaps?

Having my studio in a building located in the vicinity, I find it nice to remember the time, not long ago, when there were trees and a bit of gardening in Aliados, instead of just the drab granite pavement that greets me as I leave the subway station every day. (via Pedro Quintas)

This day in 1974 a military coup ended the fascist regime that had dominated Portugal for forty-eight years — the longest duration of a 20th century far-right government anywhere in Europe. The ‘Carnation Revolution’ and the period that followed went on with admirable restraint, given the stakes involved and the Cold War context. Thirty-eight years later, in the face of rampant corruption and economic inequality, some argue the April 25th fell short of its aims (eg. reforming the judicial system or preventing private monopolies) and is still a work in progress. The revolution day’s frontpage in the image proudly states “this newspaper didn’t go through any censorship commitee”, while today press freedom quite often caves to the subtler censorship of corporate pressures. But despite all that, today is a day of celebration.

On a related note, Es.col.a (previously) has been reoccupied today. I hope this time it lasts.

Update 26/04: It didn’t last. Showing that ‘freedom’ and ‘popular initiative’ are only tolerated in their dedicated national holiday, city police again evicted Es.col.a early this morning. And it seems that this time the Mayor’s office ordered the destruction of the building’s plumbing and facilities, furthering the destruction of public property inflicted by those who were elected to protect public interests. But I guess nothing can stand in the way of dogma, so scorched earth it is.

Why I Hate the Avant-Garde, part one

Like an embarrassing family secret, I’ve always found discussions of Art History mum about the unconfortable relationship between the avant-garde and — let’s face it — fascism, the “artist is the superman soaring over the ignorant masses” kind. Which was pretty blatant between the first and second World War, as while the Nazi regime was condemning many artists as ‘degenerate’, quite a lot of their peers in the ‘avantgarde’ (eg. T.S. Eliot, Luigi Pirandello) were themselves tempted by belief in a harsh and highly arbitrary winner/loser divide.

As a nerd with a focus on craft, I’ve always had an instinctive belief in the meme concept — it’s pretty obvious you copy copies of copies. Many artists, though, still feel they are ‘original’ (whatever that is), dangerously close to feeling as if the sun rises from their minds.*

Which is why I thoroughly enjoyed this article full of contrarian wisdom I tend to agree with. And as a bonus, it’s full of great examples of evolving music memes. And despite all the (counterproductive) PR nonsense, I do think Laurie Anderson is cool.

* As an aside, that’s why I find instutionalized Pop Art so morally bankrupt — these guys ‘sampled’ the hell out of everything and then proceeded to carefully guard their ‘original’ work. Once I was forbidden from taking pictures with my cameraphone at a Robert Rauschenberg exhibition, and that says everything about a movement which was just some kind of community version of Mr. Brainwash (and wasn’t Warhol’s Factory just that?).

Y is for Year Zero: Grunge killed hair metal. Acid house changed everything. Punk saw off progressive rock. These dividing-line stories are always attractive, always useful for a while— and then always revised. The grandfather of them all, though, has proved harder to shift— the idea that something happened in the early-to-mid-fifties to mark a change of era and fix a boundary of relevance. The next 10 or 20 years, as the 60s slip deeper into unlived collective memory, will be crucial and fascinating (for historians, anyway!).

Current music criticism, from A to Z. I always had some trouble with the myth that pop music started with network television, somewhere in the 1950s, at the time of Elvis’ or Buddy Holly’s first appearences. (via The Null Device)