Wednesday, 24 October 2007

An Excursus on Posthuman Music Culture(s): The Furry Music Foundation:

How can we explain the overwhelming fixation on Oedipalised tragic humanism in so much writing about music? Just off the top of my head, I can think of one prominent blog that frequently references Slavoj Zizek, which has also dipped into close readings of that Oedipal wreck of the moment, thanks to the film Control, Ian Curtis ("mother I've tried hard believe me/I'm doing the best that I can"). And this is to say nothing of that comparable genre pic, albeit presented as "a triumph of the human spirit" of sorts, The Devil and Daniel Johnston (nice man, untalented musician though). Meanwhile, although further research is needed to substantiate my assertion, The Wire announces its mission statement as following adventures in experimental music, but I wonder if some kind of humanist framework is limiting the investigation of musical cultures, even there. I think the problem is evident from the way a lot of electronic artists are not granted enough leeway in autopoietic terms, which could determine some other directions the artists/collectives could be interested in exploring, besides the well known (and rightly condemned) fascist/constructivist nexus/TETSUO (technomasculine fantasies).

What if this leeway could be extended to interrelationships with (non) human others? A few years back I was greatly impressed by David Toop's book Ocean of Sound, which at least broached this question, with its description of whale music/interspecies communication. I've also read a fine piece by Pauline Oliveros, in which she relates her music to the issue of posthumanism (pasted below). But I reserve particular praise for Emily White for setting out the cultural context, with reference to The Furry Music Foundation (also pasted below). Finally, with a view to (hopefully) some future research along some of these lines, I've linked below to a new issue of Qualitative Sociology on Human/Animal Relations.

Notice that I'm not performing the last rites on humanism, I'm simply asking why humanism isn't more explicitly brought upfront, especially when it features in [music] criticism that ostensibly presents itself as avant-garde, transgressive, or whatever comparable term is applied. A well known example might make the point clearer: have these critics ever spent a nanosecond considering what other meanings could be read into "taking a walk on the wild side" in light of some of the material gathered here? If we use Lou Reed's popular song as a convenient reference point, already daring enough for its groundbreaking evocation of transgender, new imaginings become available. Will we see furry culture(s) adopt such pop cultural artefacts, to the point where they take on new connotations? In these terms, Reed's song could recount the journey of a marginalised anthromorph in the concrete jungle of New York City. Perhaps Jim Morrison, the self-proclaimed "Lizard King", will be portrayed in such a context as something other than rock music's heir to Rimbaud? In Deleuzian terms, perhaps it could even be said that "The End" typified a new beginning, as primordialism, "becoming animal", offered a potential line of flight from Oedipal tragedy ("father I want to kill you/mother I want to....)?

If we could start to face up to these possibilities, it might be clearer if music plays any role in the inauguration of a bioculture, and what some of the implications of this may be (i.e. involving a two way process having ramifications beyond a musical subculture). Should these experiments be resisted, if so, why? Is the absence of direct engagement in some of the otherwise "authoritative" sources cited above, itself a form (in the appropriately standardised Zizek psychoanalytical terms, an unconscious form) of resistance?

Furry Music: Songs in the Key of Fur
By Emily White
May 15, 2002
Intercultural Music in America
University of Colorado @ Colorado Springs
Instructor Dr. Smith
The connection of man and animal has been around since the earliest recordings of history. In cave drawings, depictions of animal-men have been around from the time of the images of men themselves. Stories and fables of talking animals, werewolves, Kitsune and changelings are common in every culture. There are so many ways that cultures connect themselves to animals through their dances, music and ceremonies that this is a common theme of mankind. It is these traditions that the furry sub-culture helps to continue. Using modern methods, "furries" around the world try to find their balance and connection to the desire of man to be more animal-like.
The beginning of the furry community was actually the beginning of the "Funny Animal" community. The term "Funny Animal" was used to identify cartoons, which were the most popular form of anthropomorphic animals. The reason the term is not used as often today is because "Funny Animals" are misleading. While many furries are fans of cartoons, there are many that identify with animals in completely different ways. Still, the term "Funny Animal" is still used by some furries and the debate can get very heated between the two differing viewpoints.
From most of the interviews with furries, the definition of a furry is very loose. The most basic definition is any anthropomorphized animal. This can range from animals that talk, such as The Lion King or Watership Down, to more humanized versions, such as the ancient Kitsune of Japan or the modern "Mickey Mouse." However, this definition leaves out those furries who believe in normal animals that are their spirit guides, furries that believe in a spiritual connection to the animals around them, and furries that believe that they have been reincarnated and had a previous life as the animal they feel a connection to. Conflicts of who can call themselves a furry have also become more heated since the Internet allowed furries to contact one another easier. However, most furries don’t care how you interpret furriness so long as you understand that it is a connection of human and animal.
The amount of connection between these animals and the "furry" is dependent on the furry’s own beliefs. For some furries, there is no distinction between their human self and their furry self. They incorporate habits of the animal they feel has chosen them into their daily routine, often subconsciously. Other furries feel a separation from their furry self and their human self. Others believe that their furry self is actually a spiritual guide, much like the Native American cultures that believe that every being is born with an animal waiting to guide them throughout their lives. Some furries believe they remember their previous life where they were some sort of animal and felt they were the most balanced and happiest in that life, so the animal characteristics carry over into their current life. There are some that believe in were-creatures, or changeling ability. This is more comparable to the belief held by some Native American and African tribes that a person can take on the characteristics of a certain animal through some spiritual way. Still others are content only to admit that they like the artwork of furries and feel they have no true connection to furries. This last group is often the subject of debate as to whether they are actually furries or merely admirers of the culture. The only common connection between everyone is that there is more than an average admiration and connection to animals.
There are many different terms that the furry community uses in order to communicate among themselves. Terms like "furry", "furson" and "furs" identify furry individuals. The term "Furry" can be used to identify real people or the animal, in whatever forms the animal is that the person is connected to. "Fursuits" refer to the full body suits that furries wear for multiple reasons. "FurryMUCK" is a site that is popular among some of the more computer-oriented furries where role-play as their furry alter ego is common. Growling, "rr"ing, and many other animal sounds are considered normal in a group and social setting. Some sounds that animals make have taken on a greater meaning. "Yerf" is a common word that no one really knows where it came from, but is connected to an art community online and a fanzine offline. "Yiff" and "Yiffy" is another word that supposedly came from an animal sound and is considered to mean sex and sexy. An important part of the furry community is the renaming of people. Every furry typically has two names. One is their given name, and the other is the name of their furry persona. Sometimes a furry has more than one furry persona and so will have more than one name. These names are used online and offline. The language of the furry community can make meeting with a bunch of furs an interesting experience until you learn it.
The furry community is made up of many different types of beliefs and lifestyles. It’s impossible to say how many different beliefs there are. The one common theme among furries is that typically they are much more accepting of many different beliefs. The common theme is "As long as you don’t hurt other fursons by your actions, then you are welcome here." There are a great number of religious beliefs, but the most numerous are those beliefs that allow for a greater animal to man connection. Furries often feel free to explore Paganism and anti-theology because of the need for the freedom of interpretation of the man-animal connection. However, it seems that nearly every belief system is represented. Rarely will you hear furs discussing religion unless they know that other furs won’t be offended by their beliefs. There are also a number of alternative lifestyles in the furry community. Homosexuals and bisexuals make up a good portion of the furry community. On a whole, however, the furry community seems more accepting of these lifestyles and it’s not a real problem for the majority of furries to deal with.
Furries use several means to communicate. Before the Internet, fanzines and publications were the main tools to communicate with. A common magazine is "In-Fur_Nation", which gives current events, meeting information, and a sampling of art. Another magazine put out for the furry community is "Furrlough". The publication is monthly and focuses more on art with some communications. However, since the earliest computer connections, furries have been using the computer to communicate with one another. Typically, a furry will tell you that they have always had the inclinations to be a furry, but were unaware that anyone else out there might have the same feelings until they met someone online. Email chat groups, chat rooms and role-play are the most common ways that furries find and communicate with each other.
On the Internet, role-play for furries is very normal. The oldest role-play area is "FurryMUCK", an extensive role-playing community that allows you to adjust the role-play environment to suit the individual’s need. For instance, if someone views themselves as a fox and wants to make a den, then they can find an empty area and spend time programming the MUCK to have their den there. When other furries come through that area, then they will see what the furry fox has made. On a MUCK setting like this one, furries also communicate about real life issues ranging from schoolwork, furry acceptance and life-problems. These "Out of Character" communications help furries to create bonds while waiting for the all too infrequent real life gathering.
Off of the Internet, furries meet one another in a variety of places. Where there is more than one furry, expect a meeting to happen at one time or another. In the Colorado Springs area, there are only a few furries and only one furry club. The "Anime and Furry Art Appreciation" club on UCCS was created this year and met consistently throughout the year. Traditionally, it’s common for a furry club to ride on the skirts of an Anime club since Anime has a more common fan base. A far more active community is in Boulder, where furries meet for fursuiting, drawing, and any excuse they can find. "Howloween" is an annual dance that takes place around Halloween every year. There are also a variety of camping adventures, hikes, and other outdoor games. Much larger community gatherings are at Conventions.
Conventions happen at many different places around the world. Conventions are typically named for the area that they are happening or for fun. Because of the large furry community in Europe, there are a number of conventions that happen there every year with the largest being "Eurofurence". American conventions happen in every state. The largest furry conventions happen on the west and east coasts, because of the large furry community present there. There are also large furry conventions that move from state to state, trying to fill the need of furries without making them travel too far. There is talk among the Colorado Furs of hosting a furry convention, though that may take a little time to truly happen. A successful convention has furries come from all over the world to meet. No matter where they meet, furries are a very physical group as a whole. "Scritching", hugs, and other physical contact is considered very normal and a furry or person who doesn’t feel comfortable with physical contact usually has to make that known or risk a surprise pounce and hug attack. Once a furry knows that someone is uncomfortable with that, then they will respect those wishes. However, most furries enjoy the contact.
The way that a furry expresses himself is as varied as just enjoying looking at the art to being a part of it. Art is a large part of the furry community. Nearly every furry has tried to draw how they feel when they think of their furry self. Some artists are extremely good and published while others are only beginning in their expression. The traditional way for furries to exchange art is to go to a convention and draw something for someone while they draw something for you. The more common way is the selling of prints and online trading. Comic books are also a common way for furries to exchange art.
Another way that furries express themselves is through their sewing skills. The wearing of tails and ears in public is a way of showing pride in their furry self, as well as a way of feeling more connected to their furry side in real life. Less common are the full fursuits that can be as simple or complicated as the furry inside of them. These are like mascot suits, some so complicated that they have cooling units inside of them. These cooling units are often needed as the temperature inside of a fursuit can reach unbearable heights. The reasons for wearing a fursuit are mostly to feel a greater connection to their furry self and to entertain others. Fursuiters usually like to perform in plays, fashion shows, or in other ways.
Writing stories is a less popular way that furries express themselves in comparison to drawing. Still, there are thousands of stories written by furries on the Internet. Every magazine published by furries contains furry stories. These stories can be in comic book form or in normal novel or short-story form. Since the furry community isn’t very mainstream, furry novels that are enjoyed by furries aren’t always exclusively from the furry community. The "Redwall" series by Brian Jacques is an extremely popular novel series for furries. Movies also typically come from non-furry sources. Disney’s Robin Hood, Balto, The Lion King, Never Cry Wolf, The Secret of N.I.M.H and Watership Down are a few movies that furries enjoy as expressing furry thoughts or feelings.
Another way that furries express themselves is through puppets and puppeteering skills. A debatable furry expression is the "Funday Pawpet Show" that is shown online every Sunday. The Pawpet show is a puppet show using animals and a variety of props in a variety of situations. Even though the Funday Pawpet sets are available for purchase on Furbid, it generally advertises itself as not being furry. Other puppet shows are more common at conventions and gatherings. It’s just another fun way for a furry to express what they feel without actually having to wear a full fursuit
A less common way for furries to express themselves is through music. In talking with furries, most were unaware that there was a "furry music scene." Still, every furry could tell about music that they felt was furry. The most extensive furry music collection on the Internet was found at The Furry Music Foundation that is based in Europe. While the majority of furry musicians connected with the Foundation were Europeans, some are in America. The Furry Music Foundation also gives a listing of music that is considered furry, though it’s not necessarily from a furry source. Soundtracks to favorite movies like The Lion King, or other songs that were obviously talking about furry animals make up this list. There are songs from rock groups and punk groups that are generally considered furry as well. This music is debatable as to whether it’s truly furry, however. The argument is that if the artist didn’t write it intentionally for a furry audience, then it may not be considered furry. However, this music is enjoyed by the community as a whole and should be considered a part of the furry community.
The most efficient way for furries to exchange music is over the Foundation’s website, where there are many songs available for download. There are also three CD’s connected to the website that can be bought. The first CD released was called "Furry Fantasies" and was mostly computer-generated music. "Silky Fur", the next CD released, has an even greater variety of music from vocals and traditional to completely computer-generated. "Furry Fantasies II: The Soundtrack" was released most recently with more traditional musical expression, though computer generated was still a part of it. The connection to stories and music is seen most clearly in the title of "Furry Fantasies II: The Soundtrack" in that the artists decided to identify it as a soundtrack. The reason given was that each of the songs was written with a story in mind. The trend is that every CD released by these independent producers increases in quality. These CDs are enjoyed by furries the world over.
Public playing of furry music happens most often at conventions. Furry concerts are sometimes organized at conventions. Usually these concerts give artists a chance to show their music and share old favorites. These concerts range from organized performances to less organized jam sessions. Another way that furries publicly exchange their music is by meeting in smaller groups during conventions. These impromptu jam sessions are a fun way to share music. There also usually is a dance at conventions and this is another place that music is integral. Not all of this music is furry, but a majority of it is. This need to dance may account for the high amount of techno music that furries seem to produce.
Furry music comes in a variety of styles. Everything from Classical to modern Techno is found on the Foundation’s website. The only style not seen was country, but it’s only a matter of time before a "cow"boy makes his way on the site. Some songs aren’t really categorized in any type of style. "For a Sqrrl", or a squirrel furry, is a parody written by Chama from a ballad called "For a Cat" written by Jumpy. Another interesting song to listen to is "Mizarian Porcupine Overture" by Thyromanes, which is the overture to the Mizarian Porcupine Opera "Têka ï së rrakî". This song is written not using diatonical scales. A song not found on the Furry Music Foundation’s website is "The Raccoon Song" that no one quite knows who wrote it. This song is reportedly played at nearly every convention at some point.
As a whole, the furry community is accepting of others but often has trouble being accepted by others. Young adults just discovering the furry culture often find their families object. The most common misunderstandings in the past have been worries about bestiality. Even though furries may feel a connection to animals, bestiality is not common and is typically unaccepted. On a whole, sex with an animal is viewed along the same lines as rape because the animal isn’t sapient and can’t express its views.
There are also a lot of misunderstandings created by the media. Most recently a report given by MTV painted furry as a popular fetish, especially showing fursuiters. This connection of fursuiters to sexual fetishes worried a lot of fursuiters because many fursuiters are simply entertainers, like clowns. A connection like this makes parents and other potential job providers think twice before hiring a furry fursuiter. Typically magazines and television reports focus on the more sexual and fantastical parts of the furry community rather than the regular and typically boring everyday furry. This is frustrating to furries who find that they have to explain what a furry is and argue what they believe and what they’ve seen to people who have only been exposed to the media depictions. "The Wolf In You" by Chama is a very popular song among furries because it expresses the frustration at the feelings of dealing with people who are unaware of what a furry is and the feelings of isolation that furries often have. Another concern to the furry community as a whole is the mistreatment of any person or individual. "Prayer for Danny" by Hali is a very touching song "about a young man abandoned by his family and friends" with the hope of encouraging him to hang on through those tough times.
Most furs will agree that the furry community needs to be more known so that people will understand furries and not react violently towards the community. How this will be handled in the future is uncertain. Because of past exposure, it’s generally felt that in order for the furry community to be accurately portrayed it needs to come from Furries. Like most smaller controversial communities, furries are too prone to be portrayed as crazy or depraved in some way because of the differences that are embraced. This is similar to the "Riot Grrl" movement of the 90’s having problems with media coverage forgetting about the message of women’s rights and focusing mostly on the sensational parts of the culture. Some of the ways that furries are trying to come out in the community has been through service projects for causes that most furries support. Animal welfare and environmental issues top the list.
The furry community has been around since the 1970’s and has spread all over the world. The culture has developed from smaller gatherings and continues to grow thanks in part to the Internet. Conventions increase in attendance and sites like Furbid where furry material is auctioned back and forth between furries is increasing in popularity. Online communities are also increasing in population and art is increasing exponentially. It’s doubtful that the community will disappear because there is always a new generation joining the old in the appreciation of the connection between man and animal.
The Anthrofurry Infocenter – Information about Furry Fandom, anthropomorphic animals. (2002)
Colorado Furs Group. (2002)
The Furry Music Foundation. (2002).
Furbid. (2002).
Chama. The Wolf In You, For a Sqrrl
Hali. Prayer For Danny
Jumpy. For a Cat
Thyromanes. Têka ï së rrakî
Unknown. Raccoon Song
Also special thanks to the many furs who donated time to explaining their view of the furry community, the music scene of the furry community, and the many different aspects. Special thanks to Chama for helping me find the furry musicians that I needed to for more information, and to the Furry Music Foundation for the music and contacts to the artists.

Tripping On Wires: The Wireless Body: Who is Improvising?
Pauline Oliveros, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
“A transhuman is a person who seeks to become a posthuman by striving to enhance themselves [sic] physically, mentally and spiritually using technological means” (More, qtd. in Sandberg).
We are in the transhuman age.
“[A] posthuman [is a person] of unprecedented physical, intellectual, and psychological capacity, self-programming, self-constituting, [a] potentially immortal, unlimited individual” (More, qtd. in Sandberg).
We are observing and participating in the hybridization of humans and computers: the merger of humans and computers, or what is referred to in scientific circles as the singularity, predicted to arrive by the end of the 21st century.
“By the time machines make a case for themselves in a convincing way and have all the subtle cues indicative of emotional reaction, there won't be a clear distinction between machine and human” (Kurzweil, qtd. in Baard).
How has this situation come to pass? What is the underlying theme that drives humans toward this merger or singularity? What will our music be like in the later twenty-first century? Who will be creating this music and performing it, and who will be listening? How will it function and in what kind of society? How wide is the digital divide? Who will be left behind?
I have been tripping on wires on stage and off stage for half a century of this now rapidly accelerating technological change in music instrumentation. The body is an instrument of choice for directly making music with voice, hands, feet, and body resonance. This has not essentially changed. However, the distancing of the body in making music began with the first discovered technology for making musical sound as an extension of the body, such as blowing air through a hollow bird bone as a simple flute or whistle. The bird bone whistle is one of the oldest instruments found so far, dating to the upper Paleolithic period (Toth and Schick). Through the millennia, the distancing of the body by instrumentation has increased exponentially until, with the inventions of recording technology and radio broadcasting, music could be completely disembodied.
I have lived for sixty-eight percent of the twentieth century and four percent of the twenty-first century. At this juncture I have the perspective of seventy-two years experience with technological change - particularly with music technology. I have attempted over the years to enhance my musical understanding, abilities, and performance as a human by using the musical tools that are available to me as an extension of my body. As I continue to adopt new technologies as tools, I am participating in transhuman activity. Will I live to enter the posthuman age?
Little did I realize in 1942 that my fascination with the accordion at age nine would continue to this day and that I would re-tune and use the accordion with recording and electronics as I do now. It is humbling to realize how a simple technology, such as a small metal reed that vibrates freely when air flows through it in my accordion, has had a very lengthy presence in music history. The free reed vibrates in all the Asian mouth organs beginning with the Chinese Sheng at least 4000 years ago (“Eastern Free Reed Instruments”). The free reed appeared in more modern Western instruments such as the accordion, harmonica, bandoneon, and concertina in the mid-nineteenth century (“A Brief History”). These instruments, unlike the Asian mouth organs, all distance the performer from his or her own breath. The bellows replace the lungs; the fingers that touch buttons and keys replace lips, tongue, and windpipe.
I was born into a time of disembodied music that I heard on the radio and phonograph. Recording had already existed since the late nineteenth century. Radio broadcast in America was only about twenty-five years old when I was born in 1932. Radio and recording grew rapidly and continue to be primary sources for exposure to wider and wider ranges of music than have ever been possible before. I took that music in my childhood for granted as I did the live piano music that I heard in my home each day. I did not realize how the wire recorder we owned by 1946 would evolve and be so important in my career and in the evolution of musicianship in general.
I have noticed how accomplished musicians are today compared with musicians of forty years ago or even twenty years ago. The young musicians that I encounter today can perform almost anything and are often adventurous and open to new work. Younger audiences are more adventurous and open too. This capacity and openness was not so true in the past. I attribute this development to the availability of audio and video recording of performances, and of immediate playback for the performers and their teachers. Human musicians may compare performances, improvisations of their own, and of all manner of musical repertoire to enhance their abilities, techniques, and understanding through this technology.
When you play back a recording of your own playing you listen to what you thought you heard and you begin to perceive what you did not hear consciously; thus, there is interactivity, stimulation of memory, and consciousness. (This was true of the introduction of the alphabet and writing as well in the history of consciousness – technologies support memory.) Humans plus technology equal transhuman activity. We are experiencing a new wave of consciousness because of our relationship with technology.
The first tool of my trade that had a wire to plug in (and trip on) was my Eico tape recorder that I received from my mother for my birthday in 1953. My first impulse was to put the microphone on the windowsill of my San Francisco apartment and record whatever was sounding outside. I learned that the microphone was hearing sounds that I missed while listening during the recording. The challenge of this perception caused me to vow to listen to everything all the time and to remind myself when I was not listening. I have been tripping on listening ever since and minding the reminders. My life and listening were expanded and changed.
The story of my early relationship with the tape recorder is the beginning of my more conscious relationship with technology and the body. Tape recorders were not common in 1953 and had just become available for consumers after their German origin in World War Two.1 My understanding of listening was changed by my experience even though my ears were physically the same. The microphone and tape recorder became extensions of my body and amplified my hearing. The tape recorder became an essential tool in my development as a composer, performer, and improvisor. The tape recorder enabled me to more deeply access body consciousness through improvisation. From the moment I recorded my practice sessions, for me or for my students, the immediate feedback improved the speed of error correction for performance. I incorporated improvisation and recording as part of my composing. I notated what I liked from recorded improvisations.
By 1959 I had made my first tape piece to be included on the initial concert of what was to become the San Francisco Tape Music Center (SFTMC). There were no electronic music studios available to me at the time. My friend Ramon Sender Barayon started a studio in the attic at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I made my piece at home using only the tape recorder at seven-and-a-half and three-and-three-quarters ips plus a special feature that allowed me to hand wind the tape in record mode so that I had manual variable speed.2 I discovered this feature through experimentation, as it was not a documented use of the machine. I was improvising with sounds and with the uses of the recorder. I imagined how an improvised passage recorded at high speed would sound at low speed and vice versa. Thus my real-time improvisation added a new layer that involved projecting future modification and manipulation of the tape recorder as an instrument. Since I had no other electronic equipment I recorded through cardboard tubes for filters, put the microphone in the bathtub for reverberation and amplified small vibrating objects on an apple box with a contact microphone. The resulting four-channel piece was called Time Perspectives. The synch was done with two stereo tape recorders. (There were no four channel tape recorders at the time.) Ramon and I lined up the tape in the long halls of the San Francisco Conservatory to get the starting points. This piece is now forty-five years old.
*** listen to a sample (4:06 min.) of Time Perspectives ***mp3 (7.5 MB) WAV (41 MB)
From the beginning, my work in electronic music proceeded from a performance relationship with sounds and the characteristics of the workings of the tape recorder. For Time Perspectives I improvised long sections of the piece for each channel and avoided cutting and splicing as much as possible. I had improvised a rudimentary home electronic music studio and improvised the music. My later electronic pieces such as I of IV and Bye Bye Butterfly were entirely improvised in real time in a studio with hardwired equipment that was hardly convenient to move onto a stage. The classical electronic music studio was monolithic! Thus my studio improvisations had to be presented on tape. Throughout the 1960s I made a lot of music on tape. I also performed live as much as possible. We always included group improvisation in our SFTMC concerts with acoustic instruments as well as tape and sometimes a long tape loop.
When I left San Francisco to teach and establish the electronic music program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), I had a twelve-hour farewell concert in an Embarcadero loft in San Francisco and played all the tape music that I had made so far. (Morton Feldman attended that concert and later introduced me at a party in New York as the foremost lady composer in the USA I appreciated his validation; however, I corrected his language then and there in front of all telling him that “lady” was not necessarily the ID of choice since it was used to belittle women so often in those times.) Until recently the only music available of mine on record from that period was I of IV and Bye Bye Butterfly. I still have hours of unrecognized, unreleased electronic music.
My first job was the directorship of the Tape Music Center at Mills College from 1966 to 1967 (now The Center for Contemporary Music – CCM). The SFTMC was moved there from San Francisco in 1966. There I combined my tape techniques with the newly invented Buchla Modular Synthesizer and developed what was to become the Expanded Instrument System – EIS, an improvisational environment that I use today for solo performances and with the Deep Listening Band.3
I left Mills for UCSD in 1967 where I was invited to establish the electronic music program for the graduate students. UCSD was a great window of opportunity for me. The atmosphere of the department was open for experimentation and the mission was to educate the students to new music and ideas about music. In addition to electronic music courses, I taught The Nature of Music – a large service course that included making tape pieces by cut and splice editing from pre-recorded sounds, group improvisation with found instruments, and graphic scoring.
In 1970, I began composing my Sonic Meditations and studying the structure of human consciousness. I formed a women’s group that met at my house in Leucadia once a week. We did body and dream work together along with improvisations and Sonic Meditations.
Sonic Meditations were explorations on my part concerning how attention is directed in creative work and spontaneous performance. I needed to find a way into how the mind works to make music. Electronic music had expanded me. The electricity in my own body seemed to be flowing differently than before my exposure to electronic sound. However, there were no answers for me other than my own experiences. There were no guidebooks concerning the effects of improvisation and new sounds on the body. I had to find my own way.
I continued to compose, and insisted on live electronic performance rather than producing pieces in a studio. I had devised a way to use tape delay as a performance tool and extension of my accordion. I think of delay systems as time machines. I play a sound in the present that will come back in the future. When it comes back it is a part of the past. Thus time is expanded to past, present, and future as performance continuum.
Tape delay was cumbersome with large tape decks to lug around when touring. Nevertheless I and others persisted. I wrote an article in 1969 about the future of delay systems (Oliveros). I had hit some limitations and wished for more flexibility for adjustable timings and modifications of the delayed sounds in real time as I improvised. The built-in limitations of technologies provoke alternative ways to use them, just as the hand winding of tape during recording had provided me with variable speed with my second tape recorder. The distance between the record head and the playback head of a tape recorder had not been intended or engineered for a delay loop but musicians soon discovered the potential and used it.
After I left UCSD, I acquired a couple of Lexicon PCM 42 delay processors in 1983, one for each hand of my accordion (bass and treble). For a time I enjoyed the performance aspects available with these instruments: modulation, pedal controlled VCO for pitch bending, looping, and feedback. I realized that I wanted numerous multiple delay processors and a way to control them simultaneously and instantaneously during performance. I had challenged myself as a performer by entering the expanded time domain with my EIS to deal not only with what I was playing in the present but with the result in a later time, or times, in counterpoint with the present. Actually, I had begun this work with Time Perspectives by integrating recorded passages improvised for later speed modification. Complexity in my improvisations was evolving from a very simple idea - feedback through time delays. It was exciting! Both hands and feet were busy performing.
I experienced a new kind of performance frustration - how could I control multiple performance parameters spontaneously during improvisation when my hands and feet were too busy to access other controls? Interactive software is the answer for now, of course.
Performance algorithms in Max/MSP provided some relief.4 I composed algorithms that improvise using material that I generate with my accordion or voice yet the interface using computer keyboard and mouse, pedal board and faders is still necessary and unsatisfactory.
My body is yearning to participate in dealing with the more than eighty-five performance parameters in the interface in an integral way. Once the perception through listening indicates a response, the parameter change needs to be available spontaneously in the interface in a multi-dimensional way. The physical performance motions need to be accomplished smoothly, without breaking attention from the music. Additionally, I need a monitoring system that gives me the ability to hear the spatialized performance from any perspective in the performance space - I need to always be in the field of sound displayed by the performance. What if my ears could detach and fly around the space, merge with any other ears in the audience? I want to listen from the perspective of audience members as well as from my own point-of-source perspective.
Returning to recording, distancing the body and disembodied music: why the intense desire on the part of humans to record? To clone? Why the millennial evolution of technology that increasingly distances the body in music-making, and what is the meaning of disembodied music?
All humans (so far as I know) are confronted with mortality and the desire to overcome mortality. Recording and cloning represent a kind of permanence. (Even so, media impermanence is also a threat.) The headlong thrust in research all over the world to move towards the singularity, or merger, of humans and technology in a posthuman future is a way to overcome the “weakness of the flesh” – to avoid impermanence – to delay or eliminate death. What, then, about birth?
In order to resolve my increasing performance frustration – how to access and control more than eighty-five parameters instantaneously – what if the technology was all on board a posthuman body? No wires to trip on – new world - new frontiers - new trip - no return. Software obviously has to have sentience, intercommunication, and memory; in other words, consciousness. At this point, who is improvising?
This paper was first presented as the keynote address for the conference “Powering Up/Powering Down” at the University of California, San Diego, January 30, 2004 as “Tripping over Wires: The Wireless Body.”
1 Since I began my work with tape recorders soon after World War Two, I am reminded that this tool was used primarily by the Nazis for gathering intelligence and propaganda. The Nazis did have portable magnetic tape recorders that were of lesser quality than the studio models. For more information about the history of tape recording see Mullin.
2 Reel to reel tape is measured according to the speed at which it travels from the feed reel to the take-up reel in inches per second, or ips.
3 For more information on Pauline Oliveros’ work see
4 Created by Miller Puckette at IRCAM and further developed by David Zicarelli, “Max/MSP is a graphical programming environment, which means you create your own software using a visual toolkit of objects, and connect them together with patch cords. The basic environment that includes MIDI, control, user interface, and timing objects is called Max.[. . .] MSP, [is] a set of audio processing objects that do everything from interactive filter design to hard disk recording” (“AMax/MSP Overview”).
Works Cited
Baard, Erik. “Inside the Movement for Posthuman Rights Cyborg Liberation Front.” Village Voice. 30 July-5 Aug 2003. 30 July 2004.
“Max/MSP Overview.” Cycling '74. 30 July 2004.
Missin, Pat. “A Brief History of Mouth Blown Free Reed Instruments.” 2002. 30 July 2004.
---. “Eastern Free Reed Instruments: Mouth Organs with Circular Arrangement of Pipes.” 2003. 30 July 2004.
Mullin, John. “John (Jack) T. Mullin (1913-99) Recalls the American Development of the Tape Recorder.” Bing Crosby Internet Museum. Steven Lewis. June 1996. 30 July 2004.
Oliveros, Pauline. “Tape Delay Techniques for Electronic Music Composers.” Software for People: Collected essays 1962-1981. Baltimore, MD: Smith Publications, 1984.
Sandberg, Anders. “Transhuman Terminology Subpage, P.” 11 March 2000. 30 July 2004.
Toth, Nicholas, and Kathy Schick. “Stone Age.” Microsoft7 Encarta7 Online Encyclopedia. 4 August 2004.

From Qualitative Sociology Review, a special issue on animals and people, including Leslie Irvine (Colorado): The question of animal selves: Implications for sociological knowledge and practice; Pru Hobson-West (Nottingham): Beasts and boundaries: An introduction to animals in sociology, science and society; Krzysztof T. Konecki (Lodz): Pets of Konrad Lorenz: Theorizing in the social world of pet owners. How baboons think:

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