Nice interview with Tim, largely on _Infinite Detail_, for which there are some spoilers. And I liked this, on how important sound is to the book, and why:
" It comes from a bunch of places. Mainly wanting to always write a book that addressed the science fictionality of Black electronic music. And to me it’s impossible to separate the music I’m writing about – and love – from the heard environment, the two are entwined."
"Here is, instead, the first reading that occurred to me, looking at these reimagined vistas set among the tall columns of RIBA headquarters: the idea that videogame architecture is essentially a folly, something that takes the form of a building that has a physical function, but which cannot meaningfully fulfil that function and which instead uses its simulated practicality to fulfil, say, an emotional or aesthetic or wayfinding purpose. I read Playing the Picturesque as suggesting that we might use the existing centuries of design and discussion around follies, and the long related history of arguments about the “picturesque”, to usefully inform the ways that we look at videogame architecture."
Lovely writing – dense, detailed, and shrewd – from Holly about a show I must go and check out.
"So much of design culture is occupied by people that take themselves so very seriously. When thinking about our conversations in the Newsbar about magical realism and surrealism, it became apparent to me that the level of imaginative freedom allowed in the world of experimental fiction, would struggle to exist in contemporary design culture (and academia) because there’d be some form of backlash about how it wasn’t ‘real’… that the work didn’t address the world’s real issues or problems… that it would never succeed in the ‘real world’. We are a discipline that is reliant on our creativity and imagination, but have become terrified of the imaginary."
A History of Music And Technology (with Nick Mason)
10 July 2019
I’ve greatly been enjoying A History of Music And Technology from the BBC World Service. It’s an eight-part series in conjunction with the Open University, available through the World Service’s “Documentary Podcast” (which syndicates recent documentary programmes). My friend Andy tipped me off to it, and it’s just wonderful.
Presented by Nick Mason, it casts an eye over the role of technology in 20th century music. To do so, it doesn’t just focus on the technical or artistic angles; it also takes time to look at economies of manufacturing, the nature of innovation, and the role business plays; lots of overlaps into STS in the best possible way.
It also manages go deep enough into all its topic areas to be satisfying, picking interesting interviewees – especially from the archive – and telling good stories. The Telharmonium pops up in both Electronic Music Pioneers and The Hammond Organ, for instance, and I enjoy the focus it places on ‘recording’ and ‘the studio’ as topic areas.
Episode 2, Electronic Music Pioneers, is particularly striking. It looks at early electronic music – covering the Theremin, the WDR, and so forth – but manages to retain focused by announcing early that The Synthesizer and The Hammond Organ are going to get their own 50-minute programmes – so it’s freed up to talk about the foundations for later innovation, rather than ramming it all together. (The show on the Hammond is a particularly fine one, looking at the way that instrument developed life and culture outside and contrary to what Laurens Hammond had intended for it).
Yes, there’s a bit in the episode on the electric guitar about the role of the guitar in a culture of increasingly electronic music that has a familiar, wooden clang… but by and large it’s a self-aware series that acknowledges the biases implicit through musical history.
Deep, meaty, and rewarding; I recommend listening before it goes off air. Individual episodes are here to be listened to:
"A one-person business is an exercise in long-term anxiety management, so I would say if you are already an anxious person, go ahead and start a business. You're not going to feel any worse. You've already got the main skill set of staying up and worrying, so you might as well make some money.
Running an online service solo puts one in the coffin corner between the Dunning Kruger effect and impostor syndrome. On some days you feel the correct but paralyzing sense that you are in way over your head. On other days, you'll feel like you're surfing on waves of liquid competence, doing flips, until you destroy something important.
In between the two is a zone of narrow, focused productivity that I hope one day to find."
Happy birthday to my favourite software as a service.
Wow, fzf looks great.
"The new thing won’t be better, you just aren’t aware of all of the ways it will be terrible yet."
I am at the point in my career where I nod along at _all_ of this, often with real experience. It maps neatly to my current experience of moving lots of things to simpler technologies (text files, flat HTML, and glue-of-your-choice).