Drx from Bodenstandig 2000 responds here to some recent bluster on this page, offering among other things a pretty fine argument that one cannot abuse commercial digital products:
The discussion about using or abusing instruments is not really fitting to digital instruments i think. You might take a saw and cut through a violin and record that, at some point in history that would have been cool and considered being an abuse of an instrument. To really abuse it you might want to drive nails in a wall with a violin and not even record that. -- But to say one is abusing digital instruments is in my opinion only a way to make yourself look cool. Abuse=Punk=h4rdc0re!! There is no such thing as turning the knobs in the wrong direction on a sampler. Not to follow the instruction manual or failing to reproduce demo songs is not abuse. It's just that after some time another sound becomes acceptable to listeners. You might consider what i do to the YM2149 chip is abuse, but in fact, thru exploiting all the things it can do, i bring it to blossom and beauty. It's all inside the machine. Maybe some things were not even considered by the constructors of the chip, but it is still there. And a sampler can just store any sound, so to put there as many different ones as possible seems natural to the materiality of the instrument. Not doing so is misunderstanding of the machine. Digital artefacts can be brought to a different context. Nintendo hardware, more closed source than anything, can be freed and brought to everybody, not only developers paying licenses. (Yes, maybe 15 years later, but still!) A chip that was intended to control the printer and make keyclick sounds can become a musical instrument. (YMROCKERZ!!) Powerpoint can be used to make art. All this is not abuse, it shows us the great potential of software. Nothing breaks, only more things appear.Thanks. As mentioned earlier, Drx represents the absolutist position, which might be summarized as:
1. Data wants to be free, except when being hoarded from frienemies in the computer music scene. (*smiley emoticon*--this addresses an earlier statement of Drx's in the same thread.)
2. As Robert Pirsig argued in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance back in the '70s, everyone has the means to hack the machinery that controls our lives given time, patience and the right holistic frame of mind, except those who can't figure it out.
But we shouldn't be so quick to relinquish the term "abuse" when talking about what artists do to anything. Clearly a continuum exists from "Listen, I made a weird squawk" to "something the manufacturers never intended" to "total irrevocable damage to the product." Nothing breaks? Tell it to a musician friend of mine whose digital keyboard crashed during a live gig when he hit two mute keys simultaneously. He emailed the manufacturers (smart hacker dudes in a small company) and they said, "You're right, that's a bug and will be fixed in version 1.4." And the ymrockers reference reminds me of the recent New Museum group show where several screens were frozen (not theirs, and warning, dyspeptic rant). As long as computers and digital gear fail naturally, and they do all the time--they're stinky with failure--it should be possible to speak of counter-abuse coming from artists, or "use of abuse." All that said, Drx's status-quo-disrespecting statement offers a jolt of pure inspiration.
An earlier post on Drx is here. See also this discussion on whether code knowledge is relevant to making art with digital tools. Before getting sidetracked on the term "abuse" I wrote a few posts back about "undiscovered uses or misuse of products by musicians": "misuse" referred to Samuel Delany's argument in Mark Dery's Flame Wars that hiphop culture was oppositional to rather than merely consuming of "sci fi" electronic products.
John Parker sent this in by email. Drx also had a follow-up comment that I'll post once I get his OK. --tm
to me software "abuse" should be destructive. I wrote code on my printer that blows the power supply when you run it.
I suppose my own contribution to this dialogue--just jotting down some random thoughts away from the horrible glare of exposure of the main page---ri--i-ght--would be that I'm interested in using certain programs more or less exactly the way they were intended but searching for psychological abuse, abuse of attitude, and abuse of context. MSPaint and Paintbrush are toy programs and very mechanical so to do "classical" or even "expressionist" drawing on them is a potentially jarring category shift. Similarly with the music, these synths have evolved to "play techno" so I'm interested in "playing techno wrong" in a way that's still entertaining and I suppose still techno but calling attention to its limitations and hidebound genre conventions (drum and bass must be played a certain way, etc.). Conscious amateurism and irony would be my way of nailing the violin to the wall. This overlaps somewhat with what John is saying about just using the damn instruments, and seeing what comes out and where you can take it.
I guess my point is that finding new creative ways to use software is just kinda what computer art is. Every piece of decent computer art I can think of that makes use of existing software falls into there. How can you make interesting computer art and NOT push the limits of what software was intended to do? (maybe there's a good answer to this...)
I would say 99.9% of computer use to do creative work is exactly as the programmers intended, and many people consider the result art without imagining abusing their tools. Think all those hundreds of MIDI versions of pop songs, all completely obedient to the "rules." Is it "bad"? Well, yeah, most of it, but it succeeds on its own terms. This work, I don't think involves abuse on any level. They call it digital abstraction, and I actually kind of like it. It's so involved and intricate, even though it doesn't seem to be straying outside the bounds of the programming. All that raytracing stuff is another example. Also some cool things there--but it's not about abuse.
I still think there is a problem with the word 'abuse' not being defined. I detect a moral element in the discussion. To me abuse does not need to have moral baggage. I'm guessing the word comes from Latin and simply means 'away from use' or 'away from original (original being implied) use'. Sure abuse of living beings is wrong but abuse of machines? What's wrong with abusing machines or software for that matter.
I do think that you can find settings in softsynths that could be considered abuse. If that were not the case then why are updates necessary to fix these occurances. I love getting really badly made VST plug-ins from amatuer programmers who try to imitate something they love and then fail. Often these plugins are hidden gems with some truly original uses.
Perhaps all this discussion is also a good time to resume that discussion on why a modernist approach to making music is a problematic (see earlier post).
That earlier post was about "art in an age of abusive copyright enforcement," speaking of abuse, and that's one reason I'm thinking more about using equipment the "right" way--and I guess I would add using licensed materials--since who wants to get sued by conservative money grubbers like the Turtles or Sean Landers or whoever. The thing to be careful about with "making it new" (as opposed to endless recycling through samples and quotation) is that's also corporate rhetoric--the endless cycle of faux-progress where today's high-tech new and improved becomes tomorrow's landfill material. Much of the po-Mo critique of the cult of the new (as fascist, corporatist, "hyperreal," spectacular) still has validity and ought to be kept in mind. That said, it's an adventure making unheard-of sounds with equipment that's still very much in development as long as you do it consciously and don't drink the Koolaid.
Very true. On the other hand to completely dismiss that anything can be new seems to be equally fascist and cultist and part of the baudrillard mania that consumes the art world. Not that you were saying that.
well anyway, I really want to abuse vocaloid.
Good find, but that's one I would present straight up. It would be hard to improve on this for sheer oddness.
Another lovely, non-abusive use of the digital medium: an abstract 3-D animation set to John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" by Michal Levy (takes about a minute to load on cable, longer on dialup; hat tip to Steve)
yeah, y'r right about there being some good stuff that's straight up.
My name is Michael,
Yes, indeed. Sorry to strip your context. Don't know why this post is the sp4m magnet du jour.