I’ve written a bit about my confusion regarding the continued fortitude of the word “discovery” as it relates to automated, generally algorithm-derived music recommendations on streaming services. My sense is that the primary beneficiary of “discovery” is less the individuals that hear the music than the companies vying for those individuals’ attention, and not so much for their attention as, far more neutrally, their presence on the given service. There’s a difference between attention and competitive benefit. Apple Music doesn’t really care much if you’re really listening closely; it just cares that you’re using Apple Music and not using Spotify or Deezer or Google Play Music or another service.
There’s a long-running quip about how “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” but in fact writing about music is, as it relates to many people’s listening habits, more like writing about wallpaper, or writing about perfume, or writing about lighting, or writing about something else that describes a largely inattentive, passive presence in one’s life, something more akin to casual cultural affinity than to strong feelings, let alone to matters of art.
In any case, this comes to mind because yesterday I wrote about Dominions, the phenomenal new album of synthesis by Sarah Davachi, and the day prior I wrote about “Loop1,” a track of restrained drones by Valiska (aka Krzysztof Sujata). What I didn’t realize until after I posted the Davachi write-up is that Davachi and Valiska know each other — and in fact are playing a concert together on May 5 at a place called Good Luck Bar in Calgary, Canada. Now, I know for a fact that the Davachi has been in my to-write-about bookmark folder for awhile, so it wasn’t simply a matter of having written about “Loop1” by Valiska, I then happened upon Davachi. And I’ve written about Valiksa, a longtime Junto participant, at least as long ago as 2012, so neither was it a matter of my Davachi listening having introduced me to him. In any case, I have no idea how this coincidence occurred, but the blur gets, innocently, at the myriad ways that musicians connect with each other and with audiences, leading to awareness that can be difficult to trace back, even if your browser’s cache and history remain intact. The pair’s music has little in common, and yet there is this association.
Perhaps the two posts in a row simply is a coincidence, but today’s post isn’t. When I mentioned the pairing on Twitter I got a reply from the third act on the Good Luck Bar bill, a duo called SH-2000, which consists of Barnaby Bennett and Patrick Whitten. It was Bennet who wrote to me (“maybe you can write about us in SH-2000 to round out the bill coverage? ;)”). They have a recent album out, Shhh (2015) that’s available for stream and purchase. Be sure, as well, to check out this video, titled “Oblique Quantumization,” by Bennett (and M. Geddes Gengras). It randomly plays through a variety of brief combinations of blippy synthesis and test-pattern visuals. The combination is quite hallucinogenic, at times disturbing, in a Saturday-morning pre-cartoon surveillance-state sort of way, and at other times quite elegant and entrancing:
More on the video at barnabybennett.snack.ws. More from Bennett at soundcloud.com/barnaby-bennett.
2 thoughts on “The Blur of Music Discovery”
I tend to think that music is not quite as passive a presence as you write here. Not quite wallpaper, more clothing. Something that is so directly tied to cultural identity is not entirely casual: not necessarily something that’s given too much mindful attention, but less backgrounded than you have it here, because broadcasting ones cultural identity to others is an important social function.
Well put. I was undervaluing the social aspect. I’d say that social aspect is tied in with the casual nature, the affinity politics, but it’s not a purely neutral/negative thing, as I might have been unintentionally read to suggest here.