Some points from DJ Spooky‘s talk yesterday evening at City Lights Books, for the release of the book Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture:
- Remix: fragments reconstructed to create a new thing.
- De-materialization of art.
- Enacting of diaspora.
- Containing multitudes.
- Gift economy.
- Emphasis on fluidity, hybridity, and access.
- Digital literacy.
- Cycles, repetition, looping versus linearity.
DJ Spooky blew my fucking mind with his talk/presentation, which was in many ways an affirmation for me and everything I’ve been thinking about this book project I am trying to work on. The thing about digital media is that it deemphasizes the actual physical (material) product, or that it places a different “value” on the artifact which is the book, the record (33′s and 45′s!), the cassette tape, the VHS tape, the CD, etc. Think about, for example, the albums we buy on iTunes versus the records and CD’s we used to buy. I am thinking also of the mix tapes we used to make, then burning mix CD’s during Napster et al times, pre-iTunes. Now it’s playlists on the iPod. Oscar tells me he used to have a 6-CD changer in the trunk of his car back in the day, which speaks to the above item, “portability.” Now, how many hours of playlist does one have on a teeny tiny little iPod shuffle? And think of how some folks say that’s just not enough music.
How this relates to my book project. It’s the transfer of digital media into analog. What elements of the digital media can remain intact, or how can we approximate that experience? As DJ Spooky was reading through the table of contents for us, he told us to imagine these as hyperlinks. He’d read a chapter title which sounded intriguing, then he’d flip to that page and “sample” it for us, that is, read from the opening section. And then he’d move on to the next chapter title, and so on. So as I am sifting through the digital media which is my blog, I am finding that tags and categories are really very helpful. I am also finding that the way I/we update a blogpost (say, our ideas are changing or amending themselves over time due to the time we spend thinking about a particular issue, or due to new/additional information to consider continues coming our way): rather than actually editing/amending an old blogpost, we hyperlink back to that original blogpost, and then we simply write a newer blogpost, referencing the previous one.
I am thinking of how Audre Lorde mined her journals (pre-tags, meaning she most likely had to go paper page by paper page rather than performing a search as we know search engine and search function) as she was writing and constructing the published work we know as The Cancer Journals. She included excerpts from her private journal, and she made sure those were dated. So in a way, she had created an Audre Lorde remix. So I refer back to and rephrase one of my original questions: If Lorde, if Gloria Anzaldúa were alive today, what would their analog to digital to analog writing look like?
So I think I am asking a question about digital literacy. How do we read and write in the digital age? How does the shape of the work change? How do we disseminate it? And if you are like me (as I am like, for example, Captain Jean Luc Picard), which means you are still very much in love with and are sentimentally attached to the physical artifact that is the book, then how do we approximate the experience of digital reading and the experience of the book without privileging one medium over another? Another thing we’d discussed in Robin Tremblay-McGaw’s poetry class at USF was the line break, and the suspenses and anticipations, the expectations you set up as you are creating the line breaks for a poem. You are also controlling the pacing; even if a reader is barreling through a poem, s/he still must pause or shift as s/he reaches the end of the line. Think of an old school typewriter’s manual return. Even a small fraction of the time it takes to manually return is a shift for the reader. Reminds me: Back when I was diagnosed with computer use related repetitive motion injury, my occupational health doctor told me that in the olden days, the women typists who worked constantly at the typewriter generally did not contract repetitive motion injuries due to that simple act of the manual return, i.e. not the return key, but the actual return handle. So this tells me our bodies are also learning to adjust themselves to digital culture.
Controlling pacing also happens with white space, the caesura within a poem on a single page, but also this is true of the page break for a poet, and perhaps this applies much more so to the poet who is writing the long poem, the epic. I do think this is an experience specific to or at least more common to the experience of the book, as the pacing of a reader through the caesurae in poems published online – that is controlled by the reader’s ability to scroll down the e-page, and as the previous text (above the caesura) disappears as a reader scrolls down, then the spaces between the texts also disappears.
I’m not sure yet how the above applies to my digital to analog transfer, but I think it does somehow. For sure, this means I can remix my own writing, breaking and restitching to affect looping and progressive cycles, i.e. with less regard for linear time. Ideas, memory, and associations don’t really work in linearity.
Finally, for now, I dig very much DJ Spooky’s relating the remix to the enacting of diaspora and of transnationalism. Consider the fractures in language, in cultural practice, caused by (forced) migration. Now imagine the stitching together of drumbeats (both organic and computer synthesized), traditional song lyrics, over a loop station, now add a rap to it: the result is not one of these single elements but all of the above, hence something new, something transgressing various imposed borders, something new containing multitudes.
[And this I relate back to myself! Because yesterday evening I found a copy of Verse Magazine, which contains such a well-thought and well-written, positive critical review of Poeta en San Francisco. This review was written by one Andy Frazee, who does discuss the multivocalism in/of Poeta, the multiple personae, the multiple languages in operation. In the tradition of, or containing elements of Whitman and Ginsberg, Poeta en San Francisco contains multitudes. Amazing amazing review. I am grateful to Verse and to Frazee. I may put up a pdf of it soon.]