Consumer Waste is the perfect home for an album inspired by obsolescent technology. Constant Linear Velocity began life as an installation (see this article on Fluid Radio), but after moving from country to country, the installation was lost; now all that remains is this recording. Co-curator Stephen Cornford is aware of the double irony, first of the lost e-waste and second of the CDs: more consumer waste with a limited shelf life.
I happen to like CDs and even their sad cousins, CD-Rs, but I do admit that I trash a lot of them. I’m one of the few people I know who still has a DVD player, a multi-disc CD player, another CD player in the car, plus a CD burner in his laptop and another in his office computer. Looking at that bank of mechanical hard drives, I feel simultaneously frightened (“NO! Are these going too?”) and frustrated (recalling all the hard drive failures and computer crashes of my life). Listening to the music ~ yes, let’s call it music ~ I wrestle with a similar dichotomy. On the one hand, I remember the comforting sound of discs healthily received, burned and ejected; on the other, I recall the rejections, the angry beeps, the sound of files that could not be written. Old CD-Rs, iced with a layer of paper, once seemed helpful, but now stutter and whirl like broken toys.
But through it all, there’s also a strange comfort in the hums, the buzzes, the beautiful whirls. Copper coils amplify the installation so that every sound can be heard, the mechanical version of a growling stomach. Oh, the shiny, shiny silver, and the glimpse of a rainbow in the refraction of a disc. I’m of a generation that can appreciate, even embrace these sounds, just as earlier generations wrap its arms around vinyl crackle and cassette whir. These are machines, I know. But I hear soul in their metallic words. What does it mean to have nostalgia for technology, or to adore its tandem symphony (seen at 3:06 in the video below)? Am I empathetic, or have I simply adapted like a fish to a plastic sea? What gorgeous sounds! What beautiful beeps! Don’t take them away. Don’t make me live in a world where everything streams and nothing is solid. I prefer the tyranny of the tactile to the liberty of the cloud.
And so I thank you, Sir Cornford ~ for helping me look back on those halcyon days of the distant past, the 90s and 00s, when everything was gleaming and clicking and new. Let me hold on to what I have before it fades away to a junk heap of hard drives and disabled components. May the sun shine just a little longer on my chatty mechanical friends. May I appreciate them not for translating the music of others, but for making music of their own. (Richard Allen)