Over at his excellent createdigitalmusic.com website, the prolific Manhattan-based writer and musician Peter Kirn makes the following aside. He’s in the process of describing a forthcoming release by Alessandro Cortini that will include (no kidding) a fully functioning synthesizer, when he makes the (literally) parenthetical comment that he tried to go back in time
“… to tell myself I should include a less literal name for the site, but my past self didn’t believe me”
What he’s getting at is the extent to which the name of his website — and, by extension, that of any publication, online or off — may or may not define what’s covered in it editorially. The “digital” in the name “Create Digital Music” needn’t be taken literally. Only the most perversely post-human, Singularity-minded individuals would take issue with Kirn’s inclusion of analog synthesizers amid his general coverage; the rise of digital music-making has caused a new generation to seek out its analog precedents, and led to numerous digital software emulations of halcyon hardware. That is part of the story. Furthermore, there’s a long pre-Internet precedent for magazines’ purviews outpacing their logos. It’s unlikely that the editors at Rock & Folk, the French music magazine, think twice about covering hip-hop, or that Down Beat would restrict itself to jazz that has a down beat, or that readers of the New York Review of Books get confused when an article about the World Cup or the naming of a new Supreme Court justice appears untethered to any book in particular.
All of which said, I feel a certain camaraderie with Kirn. I wrote an overview of laptop music for the online publication newmusicbox.org in 2006 (“Serial Port: A Brief History of Laptop Music”), and very late in my final edit realized that I’d been considering Steve Roden as part of the scheme, alongside Fennesz, Ikue Mori, and other musicians — the problem being that Roden doesn’t employ a laptop. Aesthetically, given his fragile music that often draws from real-world and other found sounds, Roden sits alongside many of the musicians I was writing about, but technologically he’s in a different camp. (Fortunately I came to this realization before submitting the story to my editor.)
Technology and aesthetics each engender various types of practice, but they are not inherently mappable to each other in any specific one-to-one manner. Kirn has touched on this very subject himself previously, as I noted back in May of this year (disquiet.com), when he wrote, in part, “I realize I’m making an argument about musical practice based on technology, and that that argument isn’t entirely complete.”
In addition, I have thought on occasion not so much about the name of this site, Disquiet.com, which has aged OK since launching in late 1996, but with the subhead (“ambient/electronica”) and the tagline (“Reflections on ambient/electronic music & conversations with the people who make it”). The word “electronica” in particular seems to have long since fallen from any particular favor, but to my mind, that allows for it to take on new meaning; I like to think of it as being like “Americana,” the varied ephemera of a particular territory. Neither the subhead nor the tagline do full justice to the breadth of what I write about here, which more broadly might be described as “electronically mediated sound,” but even that phrase doesn’t quite do it. I have thought occasionally about adding the phrase “sound art” (or even just “sound”) to either the subhead or the tagline at Disquiet.com, but for now my sense remains that to do so would be — as Kirn might put it — to create a future me who would eventually be able to point out something else that didn’t age particularly well along the way.