The Case for Human Extinction

1. US military repeatedly dumped sarin, nerve gas, mustard gas, and explosives into the coastal waters of New Jersey from World War I to the early '70s (and then supposedly stopped).

2. Nuclear wastes at the Hanford facility in Washington state are slowly creeping towards the water table and the Columbia River.

I realize there's been sort of a learning curve vis a vis our place in the planetary ecosystem, but if extraterrestrials held a trial tomorrow of all other living creatures vs us the brief looks damned sorry. "We thought if we buried it or threw it in the water it would just go away! You can't see it, right? Duh, drool..."

There is an organization for voluntary human extinction. Don't breed, try not to contribute too much toxicity during your brief time. Let the planet rest and start over, maybe with birds or bugs instead of mammals. It sounds extreme, but then so does dumping 64 million pounds of chemical weapons into the ocean.

Donald Erb, R.I.P.

Just learned from the disquiet blog that composer Donald Erb died. First heard of him during a radio interview with Frank Zappa, in response to a "what are you listening to?" question. Have had the Nonesuch recording of "Reconnaisance" and "In No Strange Land," chamber pieces using live electronics, for many years.

I saw a live Erb performance in Dallas, sometime in the late '80s. I recall a long raucous bellowing trombone solo, which climaxed the piece, and then during the applause a young woman started screaming, like a teenager at a rock concert. Erb looked bemused. I wondered if it was his daughter or a student who knew him well. That kind of emotional response to 20th Century music was...rare.

Update: Just re-listened to my Erb record. The electronics soloing in the first movement of "Strange Land" rivals Cecil Taylor or Sun Ra at their most frenetic and wacked-out. Really intense stuff. Ah, the '60s.

Musical Principles

1. Kurt Vonnegut claimed somewhere "no suspense" as a rule of his writing. Music, too, should avoid false buildups and climaxes and manipulating emotions.

2. Surprise, however, is good. Pitch, timbre, or structure can and should unexpectedly change.

3. Eric Satie aspired to write what he called "furniture music," also eschewing suspense and emotional dynamics. A series of modular blocks that can be arranged and rearranged. This sounds dull, the recipe for most "modern" music. Yet people kept finding his music beautiful (whether to his chagrin or not). One must arrange the furniture so as to keep the eye sweeping around the room, completely engaged and "in the moment."

4. MIDI sequencers, affordable home production studios, sample banks, software synths are "boons," to use a term of artist Kevin Bewersdorf's. Things capitalism hands us allowing the making of complex, multilayered, multi-timbral music. Club music tropes (stabs, dropouts, vamping, loops, dubby echoes) provide ear candy (what designer Edward Tufte calls "confections") to keep the furniture engaging and should be used.

5. The goal: music neither obviously art (rehashing Steve Reich, Alvin Lucier et al for the million billionth time) nor obviously crowd-pleasing electronic club music, but something in the awkward middle. Failed as art (never sanctioned by established grant-givers); failed as club music (never picked up by a label looking to sell product). Self-produced but not necessarily amateur or vanity projects--like a studio full of paintings too unsettling for curators, collectors, or art directors.

6. This music exists by the ton (or mega-hours). The home computer revolution. A serious study should be made of it and it should be compiled. "Does it fail deliberately or unintentionally into the significant middle?" should be a central focus for the compiler.