Aphex Twin @ 33 1/3 (3/5): Cultural Afterlife Is a Form of Change

The third of five posts for the 33 1/3 website

The publisher of my Aphex Twin book, 33 1/3, an imprint of Bloomsbury, has invited me to write blog posts this week to note the book’s official publication on Thursday, February 13. The third of these five posts is up today: “Cultural Afterline Is a Form of Change.”

These are the first three paragraphs of the piece, a little less than half post’s total length:

Much of my book about the Aphex Twin album Selected Ambient Works Volume II is about what I’ve come to think of as the album’s “cultural afterlife.”

All art, once released into the world, gains as many co-authors as it has recipients, viewers, consumers, listeners, readers, what have you. That is to say, every album — every book, every painting, every movie — has a cultural afterlife, by which I mean the extended period long after its initial appearance. In pop music, songs often end up in movies, or covered by other musicians, or parodied, or licensed for advertisements, or employed as theme songs for TV shows. Each of these employments and deployments shifts the album’s meaning.

What makes such shifts over time of particular interest for an ambient album, such as this one by Aphex Twin, is that ambient music is an inherently static form — something to which change is seemingly anathema. Yet as the famed koan by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt — from their Oblique Strategies cards — goes, “Repetition is form of change.”If ambient music in its repetitive, often droning, state can be said to change over time, then what does that change constitute?

Read the full piece at 333sound.com.

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