Truth Against the World

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bele Chere Musings

As I write this blog I'm listening to the music of Sonmi Suite.  My wife and I were pulled into their free show at Bele Chere in Ashville NC on Sunday.  Unfortunately it was at the end of the show and we only saw the last two tracks.  They reminded me of Radiohead's live music, but I have realized that this is only because Radiohead was my only frame of reference.  After doing some looking around I discovered that their particular genre is "Electronic Rock."  Here is a sampling of their music.  And here they are live:

This was one of the tracks I heard performed live and it was an amazing experience:

To my ears, their music is the future of rock music.  I'm very ignorant about their particular genre and of the sound tools that they use.  However, they are unabashedly using computer software in conjunction with actual instruments to create their music.  I'm very pulled to the sound of this music which creates a paradox for me.  The reason for this paradox is because lately I have been thinking about dropping out of the electronic communication world all together.  No more facebook, youtube, blogs, smart phone, netflix, online forums, Pandora, or anything else that uses the internet.  Can you imagine what your life would be like without those things?  A better question would be is it even possible to be a contributing and active member of society without using the internet?  I think the closest one could get to this would be in one's personal life.

I work as an EMT for an EMS agency and a lot of what I do is on a computer and online.  One would think that computers and the internet would have no place for the work of emergency medicine.  I work with the human mind and body in distressed states.  My work is to bring a calm order to the chaos of the human system in distress.  The majority of the physical work that I do does not involve computers, it involves lots of plastic and bodily fluids.  After that work is done, however, is where my computer usage skyrockets.  I have to use a computer and therefore computer software to write a PCR (patient care report) and pretty much all of my interaction with the EMS system, i.e. management, operations, logistics, involves the use of different online software.  The majority of the information I receive from my employer comes via email.  This has reached a point to where if we run out of toilet paper at the base we can't get anymore until we request it on an online work forum.  Where will this stop?  This is just a snap shot of my dilemma where pertains to communication technology.  To get to the heart of this dilemma is to ask this question:  does the internet and communication technology in general make us more or less human?  This question is where my intended rejection of this technology emanates from.

Does all of this technology really contribute in a good way to the human condition?  If I were to use the music of Sonmi Suite and Radiohead as a gauge to answer this question than the answer would be a resounding yes.  What is it about electronic music that so thoroughly draws me into it?  The combination of the Rock and Electronic genres is simply irresistible to me.  In my opinion this is the classical music for the future.  What Mozart and Bach are to us today is what this music will be to the future.  I believe the internet's days are numbered due to the energy constraints that have peaked already for planet Earth.  Take away petroleum and the internet will blink out of existence as quickly as it blinked into it.  Discussing this topic is probably a mute point due to this, but none the less it's here now and it doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

My thinking on this question of communication technology really ramped up after watching a documentary titled "We Live in Public."  From Wikipedia:

The film details the experiences of "the greatest Internet pioneer you've never heard of,"[1] Josh Harris. The millionaire, the first Internet television network during the infamous tech boom of the late '90s. After achieving prominence amongst the Silicon Valleyset, Harris became interested in controversial human experiments which tested the effects of media and technology on the development of personal identity. Ondi Timoner documented the major business-related moments of Harris's life for more than a decade, setting the tone for her documentary of the virtual world and its supposed control of human lives.[1]Among Harris' experiments touched on in the film is the art project "Quiet: We Live in Public," an OrwellianBig Brother concept developed in the late '90s which placed more than 100 artists in a human terrarium under New York City, with myriad webcams following and capturing every move the artists made.[2] The pièce de résistance was a Japanese-style capsule hoteloutfitted with cameras in every pod, and screens that allowed each occupant to monitor the other pods[3] installed in the basement by artist Jeff Gompertz.[4]The film's website describes how, "With Quiet, Harris proved how, in the not-so-distant future of life online, we will willingly trade our privacy for the connection and recognition we all deeply desire. Through his experiments, including another six-month stint living under 24-hour live surveillance online which led him to mental collapse, he demonstrated the price we will all pay for living in public."
And here is the preview:

I recommend the movie to anybody interested in the question of what the future will look like given the internet does not disappear due to Peak Oil.  As crazy as Josh Harris is, it's probably due mostly to his genius.  The main issue explored in the film is one of privacy.  It's shocking how much information about you is made available on the web just by your active participation in it's use.  Most adds that you see now on sites like google, yahoo, or Facebook are tailored to your particular interest based on what is known about you on the web.  Pay attention to them and you will notice this tailored marketing.  So i started thinking about the question of privacy.  Personally, being a writer, I have never put much stock in privacy.  I simply do not care about everybody knowing what I think.  I suppose physical privacy is important to me, and the privacy of those whom I love.  For instance, I wouldn't want the world to see my wife and I make love, or to know about our private conversations.  I suppose I'm concerned about visual privacy but not mental privacy.  I don't want the world to see me but I do want it to hear me.

Where the internet and communication technology decrease our humanity is by driving a wedge in between the mind and natural things.  I think this is my main source of continued skepticism.  I realize that saying this presupposes a belief that the internet is not a "natural" thing, and I further realize that a good case could be made that the internet is just as natural as the 100 year old Oak that I can see in my yard from where I sit now.  Essentially the argument that the internet is just as natural as the tree goes like this:  we are a product of nature and therefore all of our intellectual creations cannot be separate from nature.  A large part of living in this supposedly civilized, technological, consumerist corporatocracy is collectively forgetting about the natural world.  This has to be the case in order to exploit natural resources at any cost without regret.  Forgetting about nature is what brings you the drive through, fried and fast feeding troughs.  It is not natural to drive a car to a speaker where you order food, swipe a card, and a few quick moments later are handed a bag containing a fully cooked meal.  Along with this meal you are handed what will quickly become just more trash for the landfill which is made of dead trees and petroleum products not much different chemically from the contents those packages contain.  Synthetic crap designed to slowly kill you.  The point is that in order to participate in this travesty you have to agree to forget about nature.

As a society we have forgotten about nature.  The internet (and air conditioning during this miserably hot and humid summer) provides us with the escape we need to seal this deal.  On the internet everything is real in our minds.  The internet is our collective mind, and it provides us with synthetic and electronic life because the world is becoming shittier by the day.  Our non-negotiable way of life has become more important than our humanity.  I believe that being human has a lot to do with inhabiting a body, and this body needs the natural world to fulfill it's human purpose.  The irony is that while we do live in public we are all alone and isolated from one another in the flesh.  How often have you been in a room with friends having pleasant conversation, you blink, look up, and everybody is staring at their smart phones and no longer engaged with the world out here?  This recently happened to me and it gave me pause.  There is nothing wrong with using a smart phone right?

The problem for me is that this technology is so very addicting, and it's very hot and full of mosquitoes outside.  Inside I can be entertained while maintaining a desirable temperature.  Inside the net I can cater to my every desire and I don't have to be reminded of how screwed up the world really is, and I can do it while listening to the inevitable marriage of human artistic expression and electronic virtual reality.  In a way, I think I'm drawn to the likes of Sonmi Suite because they prove me wrong where technology is concerned.  They flip all of this on it's head because here you have technology expressed in human form.  It seems that it should be a problem, but I heard it with my own ears, and I danced with the hippies at Bele Chere in Ashville NC while we all jammed out to the brilliance that is Sonmi Suite.  It felt more human than I have felt in a long time to be at that place in time.  I suppose being human mostly means living in a place of paradox.  I'll leave on this note.  This makes me wonder what is possible for electronic music creation.  This is the future of music.  When combined with traditional instruments it becomes magnificent in a very human way.

multi-touch the storm - interactive sound visuals - subcycle labs from christian bannister on Vimeo.

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