[iDC] introduction

h w misterwarwick at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 5 04:26:06 UTC 2014


My name is Henry Warwick. I am an assistant professor at Ryerson University. I copy/pasted a generic bio for you at the end of this message for your amusement and edification. I will be engaged in two activities at the Digital Labour conference. One, I will be demonstrating in a very concrete way the effects of the digital on labour itself using music, and the other, I will be discussing the enclosure of the internet in a presentation.

First, the fun stuff.

I will be performing the landmark composition, "In C" by Terry Riley, using my iPad. In C was composed in 1964. It is written for an ensemble - ranging from one to three or four dozen performers. Each performer must perform 53 short, numbered, musical phrases. The performers individually perform a phrase as many times as they choose. They cannot go backwards, i.e., they can't go from phrase #3 to phrase #2. They must go from #3 to #4. When they get to 53, they can stop individually or collectively. One performer plays a pulse - one note, middle C, to act as a metronome for the group. That is probably the hardest part to perform. Riley asks that the performers try to stay within 3 or 4 phrases of each other. And, that's about it in terms of rules.

Last year I designed software that does all this on an iPad. The software coding was done by Matt Ingalls. By the time I perform this in New York, the software will be available for Free Download from the Apple App Store. The software resembles a mixing desk - there are 12 sliders / channels and a one for the pulse. These channels have a circle with a number above them, the number indicating what pattern they are playing. There is an on and an off button, as well as a "reset" switch that resets everything back to default settings for another performance. Each channel can be assigned its own "voice" using General MIDI sounds. Each channel can be assigned to a separate MIDI channel to trigger external devices. Each channel can be transposed up to three octaves above or below middle C in single step increments. And finally, there is a BPM control slider, allowing one to speed up and slow down the performance. A feature in the app is that one can "lock" any
 set of sliders together, permitting crescendi and decrescendi effects. I'm very proud of this effort, and I have to say, Matt did a very good job coding it.

What this software does is challenging and complex - not only am I replacing players with software, I am also allowing In C to be performed in ways that are completely beyond human capability (for example the BPM ranges from 20 to 240 - both extremes are very difficult. The low range is difficult because some phrases are very slow, and accurately counting out a slow phrase at 20 BPM is brutal without a metronome. The high range is difficult, simply because faster passages cannot be played that fast, period. This brings the software into territory examined by Conlon Nancarrow and others who have used mechanical methods of musical performance. So, in one "swell foop" not only am I demonstrating the devastation automation visits on labour, I also demonstrate the power of digital performance and creativity. I do the work of many, and because of the capacities afforded by technology, I do what no human can physically perform with non-electronic instruments -
 the instruments for which the music was originally composed.

On top of it all, it sounds FANTASTIC. But that's another issue....

What I will be discussing in my presentation is something near and dear to me: basically, the death of the internet through its enclosure; an enclosure that exposes it to verticalised extraction practices by what McKenzie Wark likes to call, The Vectoral Class.

I will be using the the metaphor of the frontier, as well as the evictions of the peasants in Europe from their land (thusly forming the urban proletariat for capitalism). There are significant differences between the Wild Wild West and the Interweb Thingie, and I will discuss those as well. The key point is the introduction of my observations regarding verticalisation - something that goes hand in hand with enclosure.

I'd go on in some detail, but then, what would be the point in hearing my talk?

I look forward to this event with great relish and excitement. I can't wait to see you all.


Henry Warwick

Henry Warwick is an
artist, composer, writer, and assistant professor in the RTA School of Media at
Ryerson University in Toronto, and is a research fellow at the Infoscape Lab at
Ryerson. He has a BFA in Visual Systems Studies from Rutgers University, an MFA
from Goddard College in Interdisciplinary Art, and a PhD in Communications from
the European Graduate School in Switzerland. Originally from Edison, New
Jersey, he has lived in Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA. An active artist
in a variety of media, his visual art work is on display in a variety of
locations in California and much of his music can be downloaded for free at his
website, kether.com. Since 2007, he has lived in Toronto with his wife, Beth,
and their daughter, Elizabeth, and their kitty cats.
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