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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Happy World Listening Day

Happy World Listening Day. According to the folks over at worldlisteningproject.org, the purpose of the day is threefold:

Ӣ to celebrate the practice of listening as it relates to the world around us, environmental awareness, and acoustic ecology Ӣ to raise awareness about issues related to the World Soundscape Project, World Listening Project, World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, and individual and group efforts to creatively explore phonography Ӣ to design and implement educational initiatives which explore these concepts and practices

In honor of such concerns, all clearly close the this website’s heart, here’s a video clip from that cornucopia of insight into our sonic world, the Louis C.K.-directed film Pootie Tang (2001):

 

A friend whom I was regaling with anecdotes from Kyle Gann‘s recent book on John Cage, No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33”, told me in turn about how he thinks the Pootie Tang scene is one of the great tributes to 4’33”, Cage’s famous “silent” work.

And so now, in the hallowed tradition of ruining a joke by describing it …

In this scene, Tang, the fictional musician who is the movie’s title character, is simply so god-like in his r&b artistry that his silent presence in the studio becomes his new single, which enthralls his fans, who can be seen dancing to the sonic absence that is the song.

Note that when Chris Rock‘s DJ character names the (silent) title of the song, the audio for the film actually briefly gets turned off. Meanwhile, when the teenager and the hot dog vendor listen to it, the sounds of the real world are all we hear. And true to Cage’s still-controversial work, the teen’s dad does not approve, telling him to “Turn that noise down.”

Anyhow, happy World Listening Day. It says a lot about Cage’s influence that it can seep into such pop culture artifacts as a music-industry parody film. And that doesn’t begin to touch on how Cage’s work with splicing tape prefigured by decades the production techniques of the Bomb Squad and other early hip-hop figures.

As it turns out, Gann’s book doesn’t mention Pootie Tang, but otherwise it is quite thorough.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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