from the death of ambient music to listening material

The death enterprise is one of the principal and specific forms of the absorption of surplus value in capitalism. It is this itinerary that pyschoanalysis rediscovers and retraces with the death instinct: the death instinct is now only pure silence in its transcendent distinction from life, but it effuses all the more, throughout all the immanent combinations it forms with this same life. Absorbed, diffused, immanent death is the condition formed by the signifier in capitalism, the empty locus that is everywhere displaced in order to block the schizophrenic escapes and place restraints on the flights.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, "Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia"

Don't you hear anything, don't you hear the terrible voice, usually called silence, screaming around the entire horizon. . . .
Georg Büchner, "Lenz"1

silence and a sound body of theory

Consider this a tour of dead rooms. Rooms designed for what Deleuze and Guattari termed, the death enterprise. Here, in these chambers hermetically sealed against contingency and echo, sounds are produced and circulated detached from the processes of their audition. Some dead rooms are constructed out of plastic and synthesized fabrics, others from a network of economic interests. Still other dead rooms take their composition from the theories and discourses which seal sound off from the very social relations that give them meaning and form. In this essay, we will trespass these spaces, detourn their sanctity and defy their isolation. Our goal is not a specific sound but rather a different musical practice. One which examines the terms of ambient music even as that genre has been pronounced deceased. Looking over the corpse, sifting through the ashes, we will endeavor to articulate a materialism of sound and listening that goes beyond experimentalism as an end in itself. We will examine how it was that ambient music, in its daring to consider sound's materialism and its retreat from realizing that materialism, ordered its own demise.

To begin, we sit at our computers. Feeding sounds through a web of digital filters. While the hard-drive executes our crafty commands, we hear only the sound of its engines. Perhaps it is in these moments that we might press our ear against the hardware giving audience to the echoes of accumulated labor. In the performance of that act, we require an adequate theory of ambiance.2 The obvious starting point for such a project would be the theory of music or the neoteric sound theory. However, examining these discourses we find music theory entrenched in sound's sublimation and sound theory seduced by lack. Is there no theory sufficient for the analysis of the surrounding acoustic culture? Our question conceals a simple presumption: that theoretical discourse, and she who wields it, remains apart from the acoustic field to which it speaks.

Any opposition of theory to sound, like language to sound, must attend to the troubling contingencies of the body. For John Cage, theories of musical "correctness" continually come up against the body as the occupation of the subject. Challenged by the experience of an anechoic chamber,3 Cage deduces that "silence is no longer an abstract quality, no longer the 'opposite' of sound by virtue of an absence, but has become substantial, filled, so to speak, with the echoes of experience" summarizes sound theorist Fran Dyson.4 "As Cage's ear turned inward to hear the sounds of his body, so his concept of silence turned outward. . . ." If silence speaks of any absence it is the absence of intention, the lack of a subject. Herein lies the Cagean contradiction: is silence the total absence of intention or the space produced by intention placed under erasure? While it is obvious that "no one means to circulate his blood,"5 assigning non-intentionality the value of musical correctness is far from a chance operation. Under the scrutiny of an analysis of power (which was something Cage remained conveniently opposed to), the superficially democratic space of silence suddenly exposes hierarchies of subjection. The absence of intention serves to efface what social relations pass for silence.

One would think Cage would have given up the ghost in that anechoic chamber, or "dead room," when he heard for the first time the desiring machine of his own body. The profundity of that technologically-engineered chamber could never compare to the utopian bravado of the space produced by the sound-waves transmitting from Cage's own decaying corpus. If this oft-repeated story reveals anything about Cagean ontology it is the extent to which sensuality and the erotic can be held in exile from one another. Perceiving the sounds of his circulatory and nervous systems, Cage's auto-arousal has all the banality of cyber-porn. The sound body transfigured in that anechoic chamber should have seduced Cage to the dialectic once and for all. When we read the story of Cage in the dead-room, we can't help but wonder how it was that an erotics of listening - the production of listening - didn't sweep over him at that moment. Instead, Cage forsook duration, overlooking spatiality altogether, and took up one of the most bourgeois of all avant-garde categories: chance.

Even the patron saint of the new musicology and sound theory, economist cum cultural critic Jacques Attali succumbs to the dead-air of perception-management.6 The utopian period of composition Attali describes in his 1977 study, Noise: the Political Economy of Music, is valorized apart from any self-valorization. Musical practice spontaneously erupts onto history with no account of how those practices are enunciated by the materials they transform. Furthermore, the political economy of music, ostensibly Attali's enterprise, falls into gross abstraction as circulation becomes merely the machinery of moving cultural goods instead of the interpellation of a specific social subject. Music as a technology of listening, of memory and subjection, becomes an ideal engine driving history.

Once again the body is hidden in a closet marked "theory." We have no need for a theory of sound or even a sound theory, but a theorizing sound body. Our ambiance is not an object for scrutiny but an atmosphere of remarkable plasticity: that which is heard and is transformed in the hearing. Just when we think the analysand is seated comfortably and fixedly before us, there is a knock on the door and we realize ambiance has us surrounded.7 More than a sonic gestalt, the performance of ambiance reveals how the play of figure and ground encode and fuck with social relations as spatial relations. The observation room - dead or alive - is not merely the scene of therapist and analysand. It is the very production of their relation.

rest in peace

Today, we find ourselves in a new dead room, positing the termination of other echoes. Whereas the first dead-room was manufactured by Bell laboratories, ours comes courtesy the collaborative efforts of all who assume a level of expertise in the speculative industry of popular music. Just one room in a city of the dead, this particular dead room bears the placard: chill out, R.I.P. Perhaps more than anything, the mass culture industry is in the coroner's business; continually pronouncing the death of yesterday's revolutionary cultural forms. It is precisely in this capacity, as a public official answerable only to the crown, that spectacle culture reveals for us its own relationship to the capital of power. Invested of all the authority of the crown, these voices legitimate through the science of observation what is already common knowledge. The pathos in the voice crying "the end is near" comes from the simple fact that this poor sod is the last to be in the know.

To cast out any shades of doubt, the coroners of culture are called in to examine the corpse. The deceased seem to be younger each year. Five years, four years, three years, the time between annunciation and renunciation shortens with the proliferation of spectacle culture. Today, as corporate mouthpieces in New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal et al. announce the death of alternative rock, voices in the electronic underground make the same pronouncement for the great ambient behemoth. Some critics of the corporate media have greeted the mainstream media's death-knell with skepticism, claiming alternative rock to have been dead from its inception in 1992. Dare we make the same claim for ambient music?

We could attempt to beat out the coroner at his own game, whereby ambient could be considered "dead" from the appearance of ambient house in 1989. The pastoral tradition, as evoked on the KLF's Chill Out, has always held in a delicate balance the possibility of a future Arcadia and a bucolic life lost forever ("A Melody From a Past Life Keeps Pulling Me Back").8 Perhaps we would do well to examine the terms of ambient's death. By a music's passing, do we mean that it fails to move product or that its evolution has atrophied under the weight of its conventions? Does a musical form give up the ghost of innovation when it's aura has been fully consumed and, as in the case of alternative rock, no longer poses any resistance to the dominant culture it purports to be an alternative to?

Regarding the latter terms of death, we would be hard pressed to say ambient music ever had the muscle to challenge dominant culture. The idea is preposterous. One could say the span of time between the first strains of ambient music in the music press, to its subsumption into advertising, soundtrack homogenization and so forth was always well into the negative factor. In fact, if we consider Brian Eno's practical music, Music for Airports, ambient was always bound to be subsumed by the market place regardless of record sales or mainstream success. In this sense ambient music never supported the rock-industry's economy of prefabricated angst. As the entertainment conglomerates have learned to fully appropriate opposition and turn revolution into a multi-billion dollar industry, ambient music offered no such resistance. While rock 'n' roll may share many of the values of the dominant culture it at least traffics in an image-repertoire that offers the appearance of distance from the hegemony of capital. Ambient music assumes no such distance for itself.

Ambient music, in its commercial and avant-garde tendencies (think muzak vis--vis Cage - both of which gained ascendancy during the biggest chill of them all, the cold-war), has always been the soundtrack to accompany the deferral of crisis. Ambient music offers an avant-garde whose edge is less cold steel than diaphanous folds. More jouissance than résistance. More the pastoral idylls of the court than the rumblings of peasant revolt.9 This apparent capitulation has made ambient a hard pill to swallow for most (American) proponents of rock as a liberating force. Of course its unsavoriness could never protect ambient from appropriation: the resistance to resistance remains irresistible, instead of ironically oppositional. It seems that no matter how many times we double articulate our relation to domination, victory always goes to capital. As media critic Tom Frank points out, in the culture wars there is only one winner and it goes by the name Westinghouse, Time/Warner, Disney, Sony, etc.10

Which returns us to our situation in Los Angeles. Residing in the land of sickly urban soul and genetically-engineered alternative rock, we admittedly prefer some musical forms over others. Ours is not a knee-jerk retreat to high culture. We happen to take delight in pop music's current allowance for sonic experimentation. However, our jouissance will always retain a debt. Eddie Prévost's notion that "no sound is innocent"11 can either function as defeat, or as an echo of response-ability (to use a formulation from Cage himself). It is time for a new conception of ambiance, one that renews a dialectic of sound theory and sound practice. We suggest that through ambient music's position within the mass culture industry, something has been initiated which merits further consideration. That something remains a useful component of the avant-garde project, from the dadaist pranksters, the surrealists and the situationists through to the progressive and conceptual art movements of the '60s and '70s. Here we're referring to the attention paid to everyday life.

When Alex Paterson of the Orb claims; "You've been orbed if you're sitting in a room and you get up to look out the window and you suddenly realize that it was coming from the record."12 - he was not merely mimicking the Zen-aesthetics of John Cage but an entire avant-garde tradition which offers antagonism to bourgeois culture and late-capitalism by giving the art object over to the social sphere. This project has produced important results, recalling the material conditions of cultural production despite the constant effacement of the social by the engines of capitalist subsumption.

Ambient music as articulated by Eno in the mid 1970s, following on the heels of minimalism, signaled a unique realization in the dialogue between culture and society: the role of sound in the shift from industrial to consumer capitalism. More specifically, given Eno's insistence that his minimalism was less the production of musical compositions than space, ambient music functioned within that shift less as a traditional commodity than as a means for producing space. If we hold the duality of commodity and space in dialogue, the advent of ambient music raises the very question of how social space is produced within consumer capitalism: the privatization of social space through technologies of perception. If we recall Eno's dual role as musician and music industry entrepreneur, we can see how the once-fashionable vilification of muzak - where music had become the purest form of surveillance within a marketization of everyday life - had given way to the realization that even resistance figured within the marketplace. One's only remaining option, in the words of Mixmaster Morris, is to "lie down and be counted." In the wake of such a body count, ambient music has always been in bed with death.

We have seen a similar assessment of the postmodern condition in the theories of philosophers Jean Baudrillard and Jean Franois-Lyotard. However, there exists in ambient music an aspect that complicates absolute resignation to the market. If we examine the relationship between the modern state and trans-national capitalism, we see that capitalism has yet to conquer its contradictions (contrary to Baudrillard's claim, which would have us abandon any effort to search for the spectacle's edges, as they are folded into its fabric). Forever deferring the crisis of the value-form, late-capitalism has survived by applying the same old formulas onto more expansive plateaux. Once late-capitalism had exhausted the opposition between public and private space (an opposition it produced), the political-economic cooperative between the modern state and capital turned its sights toward global monopoly. Here industrial capitalism and consumer capitalism co-exist by reconfiguring the older forms of imperialism as a trans-global consumption of space.

As Henri Lefebvre claimed twenty years ago, capitalism, like an artificial intelligence, has learned to survive its crises through the consumption and production of social space.13 When artists produce music that not only realize this fact but turns music itself into a spatial technology, we can say a radically new cultural formation has made that spatial technology possible. Ambient music, as a cultural commodity, is less the production and distribution of cultural objects than a perceptual technology producing space.

space music in an age of global surveillance

Our description of ambient music says nothing new but merely reiterates prevailing definitions. Nonetheless, those definitions still illustrate a change, particularly for the music industry which has traditionally circulated musical objects on the basis of the object's autonomy from social space. The pop song, regardless of its idiomatic specificity, has always claimed a status of universal signification. Rage, desire, escape, alienation have long served as themes unifying a heterogeneous listening audience apart from material contingency. Of course, the universal appeal of pop music, has always been a subtly concealed means of producing space. The prescribed youth in pop music has long been banalized even in the performance of individuating experience. Ambient music departs from this scenario not because it abandons lyrics and personal expression. If we take the claims of avant-garde negation seriously, ambient music presents a cultural form which enters into conversation with the scene of audition.

Did ambient music ever take its own claims seriously? Ambient musicians boast that their music gives audition to the soundscape of everyday life, while at the same time making the accumulation of the commodity form necessary to attending to the mundane. In other words, the old notions that rock music offers an antidote to alienation through some form of catharsis have been raised to another register: ambient music realizes the postmodern conceit that the real is only accessible through its mediation. Perhaps this is the logic behind ambient music's continual appeals to nature, a nature highly stylized and mediated by sophisticated technologies. To save nature, whether it be the environment or human nature itself, one needs volume.

Again we hear in this modern-day pop music the distinct echoes of the avant-garde romance with the machine. Ambient music not only reproduces sounds of everyday life. Everyday sounds are only audible whilst the machine is in operation.14 Thus it is that the sounds of a subway car are only audible when the listener wears her Walkman. In this sense, more than a total capitulation to the market, ambient music signifies the subject reconciling herself to the ubiquity of surveillance: she is the subject of this entrenched vigilance. But who is doing all the watching? According to recent reports,15 the National Security Agency (the larger American government agency which oversees both the FBI and the CIA) has, since the cold war, endeavored to implement a massive spying system on all international communications. At the same time, the shrinking market for munitions has forced the military industrial complex to target its products of stealth observation to regional police agencies.16 In the case of the National Security Agency which has publicly attempted to justify its efforts as a preventative for terrorism, the true intent of these sweeping measures of surveillance is to protect US economic interests. Simply, the motivating force behind the surveillance state is not ideological per se but, rather, it is a product of the market's insatiable drive for self-preservation. Surveillance, therefore, becomes an industry serving NAFTA, GATT and other efforts to produce global space.

The nature versus culture opposition (like the public versus private opposition before it), which nave uses of mimetic technologies hope to resolve, is in fact a red-herring. What is under erasure in that opposition is social space itself. Even more suspect than the second-nature debate in contemporary cultural discourse surrounding ambient music is how what is potentially radical in ambient music becomes silenced. The fact that ambient music circulates social space (social space as a cultural commodity under the command of capital)17 over more simple cultural commodities, cannot be presumed as natural nor as irrational. It marks, or amplifies, strategic social, that is spatial, practices put into effect by a network of market, state and military interests. Here, the cold war experiences its own chill-out: the formation of international and domestic markets in policing technologies. And like the chill-out room, these markets advance themselves as "safe spaces." Under the ubiquity of surveillance, the subject finds assurances of a space free from danger and violation: a pastoral Arcadia courtesy of the military-industrial complex.

The importance of embodying these spatial practices - whether the "chill-out" room of idle bourgeois youth or the DMZ of the post-cold war - rests in the necessity of recognizing antagonism. If space is produced, then, like in the pastoral myths of the pre-industrial West, its target is also its silenced producers. Rejecting the appeal to the natural and the appeal to the primitive, we are left to concede that ambient music functions as a socio-technology of space, just as surveillance composes the space it visualizes. As a socio-technology, ambiance must do more than give lip service to fuzzy notions of peace and harmony. Ambient music has only become possible as a cultural product in an age which naturalizes social space under police protection. Advancing the possibility of peace must begin by recognizing both complicity and antagonism within modern art forms themselves. As Walter Benjamin reminds us: "there has never been a document of culture which was not at one and the same time a document of barbarism."18

We are indeed in the social milieu of Guy Debord's integrated spectacle (and the spectacular integration of capitalism and militarism under the sign of power), or Toni Negri and Felix Guattari's Integrated World-Capitalism as well as Immanuel Wallerstein's notion of an integrated world-capitalist system.>19 But rather than abandoning ourselves to the apocalypse (a prospect which is never progressive but instead reactionary), we still demand a theorizing sound body. Such a sound body continues to inquire about its own origins and its own complicity in the production of space. If global space as a fiction of capitalist flows promulgates a singular division of labor, what theory/practice can be produced to counter that fiction? As musicians of ambiance, can a musical practice so universally identified with market saturation pose any threat? Clearly, for a genre so accustomed to playing dead, threat and the risk of danger are beyond the question.

chilling out in the cities of the dead

We began this essay asking about the terms of ambient's demise. Surveying recent titles, it seems that the wake of ambient's passing has given some musicians the opportunity to turn death into the material of musical composition. Paul "DJ Spooky" Miller and Future Sound of London step out into the urban dystopia and broadcast the cities of the dead. These are grim soundscapes reveling in paranoia, alienation and isolation: there's an ill in the air. Eschewing notions of transcendence altogether, Miller and FSOL court a desire to aestheticize the Necropolis. The artists of illbience are at home in the houses of the dead. Curiously, this romanticization of urban decomposition reminds us of another moment in bourgeois culture when transformation through social action lost out to fashionable nihilism. This is not the place to spell out in detail the links between the contemporary urban death-cult and that of the Weimar Republic. Let us simply say, in terms of history's lessons, we would much rather chill with the forces of exigent possibility than those interior decorating the mausoleum.

Placing our ear to the speaker, we are compelled to ask: who, after all, is served by the aestheticization of the city's decay?20 Certainly not its disenfranchised inhabitants whose everyday lives are increasingly subjected to the ravishment of the public subsidy of private profit and the global division of labor. In the 1950s, the situationists rejected the aestheticization of the city for a radicalization of pedestrian flows. Turning on its head the promenade of the surrealists and Baudelaire's flnuer, the situationist dérive, or drift, led this group of bohemian youth "space-travelling" through unknown corners of Paris, Amsterdam and Cöpenhagen.21 Counter-acting the official organization of the city, the situationists drifted through abandoned buildings, sewer systems, the neighborhoods of the nouveau riche and the ghettos of poor immigrants. These walks resulted in a study of the city far removed from the dead cities of the bureaucrats. The situationists compiled their findings into the pseudo-science psychogeography. As a street-theatre rooted in class politics, psychogeography exposed the interactivity between the city as a given object and the passions of the subject: not so much desire but, literally, en-joyment. For the situationists, the psychogeographic experiments of the '50s would eventually be realized in the events of May '68 where students and workers would transform the city streets from channels of commerce to boulevards of social experimentation and struggle. Thus, in practice, the avant-gardist tendency of the psychogeography to idealize science, yeilds to the collective construction of a knowledge of how space is produced.22

It is all too easy to recline in the comfort of the past. Similarly, when faced with the devouring tide of the city street, retreating to the country is far more conducive to solitary reverie. This has long been one function of the pastoral: poetry which composes a fictional space of total leisure for the ruling class. Inside this virtual space, the court imagines its own autonomy from social contingency, where its sustenance is provided without labor as if by the benevolent forces of nature. In this way, the current synthesis of computer technology and nature functions to erase the contingencies of production, manufacturing and distribution. The question arises of how one might enact this fictional space within the urban setting, where the laboring classes rub shoulders with the privileged day and night? This was something Cage himself wrestled with by placing the rural solitude of Thoreau in dialogue with the extroverted New Yorker represented by Walt Whitman.23 But can such a project succeed today, regardless its value?

Perhaps one reading of the death of ambient is precisely in the failure to articulate an urban pastoral. The shift from an ambient music based on a pastoral idyll to an almost regressive pessimism could be attributed to a form of the pastoral which condemns the city, unable to sound within its steel canyons a harmonious ideal. However, this would not explain the pleasure produced by these dystopian soundscapes. One could argue that the New York art establishment only embraced ambient music in 1994 when this sort of dystopianism assumed declarations of avant-gardism.24

Ambient music may bite the dust, nonetheless the ambiance of the city continues to surround us. If our cities are deceased and our ambiance DOA, then it is because spectacle culture purports to have raised the scene of social exchange to the plateaux of trans-national labor forces and global markets. In this environment, the interest owed on our musical enjoyment is in fact a global debt. A vital task for the composers of ambiance, then, would be to conduct a psychogeography of global space. One strategy for such a psychogeography of global space would involve an alliance of artists (ambient and otherwise) incorporating the culture of lawlessness and violence promoted by trade accords like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization. By claiming a subjectivity out of NAFTA, artists could devise strategies of cooperation (the mystifying buzz word of free markets) based on an erotics of ambient sound. This strategic cooperation would empower local artists through international action which utilizes and undermines the same capitalist flows.

Something must be done, if only to rescue our enjoyment from the deceptions of "chance" sublimation. As Deleuze and Guattari suggest, the death enterprise serves only the designs of sublimation and capitalist appropriation.25 In the world of popular music, it seems our entire culture preoccupies itself with the business of pronouncing death. From the subcultural death of ambient music and the mainstream embrace of electronica as a reaction to rock's demise, all the way through to the received wisdom that the Left is dead. Rather than properly asking from where this wisdom originates, we all too often devour these sound-bytes and spit out the logic of capital.

Long before the present culture vulturism, Marx himself declared capitalism dead on arrival. If capital, even as a world-integrated system, is always already dead, would the musical record of its memorial be equally dead? Music may lament/record the great capital machine (for what, after all, does the DJ's stylus give audition to?), but its sounding, its listening as material, composes something else. A something else recalled from memory: the very fact that the value of capital has its origins in human labor. The record can never fully restore those origins but as space, a radical ambiance local in practice, internationalist in composition, gives audition to something even more remarkable. More than composing clever musical tracks for a sterile progressivism, a radical ambiance replaces the tyrannical notion of the joy of work with the work of joy.

Los Angeles, April 1997

1 Georg Büchner, Complete Works and Letters, tr. Henry J. Schmidt (New York: Continuum Publishing, 1986), p. 159. We want to thank Les Wright for this reference.

2 In English, the spelling of ambiant is variable with ambient. We have elected the former for two reasons; the first as commentary upon the system of value in contemporary mass music and, the second, for philosophical purposes. Firstly, the variant ambiant denotes that which is decorative, frivolous and supplementary. In this way, ambiant sound traditionally falls outside the system of exchange value except within categories (usually most disreputable for the subsumption of low to mass culture) characterized as the mundane. Our second reason is an admittedly crude deconstructive gesture which suggests that ambiant is only distinguishable from ambient in its written, as opposed to oral, form. In this way, we want to suggest that "that which surrounds" is only perceptible through written record - the phonograph being the electronic écriture of sound. While this distinction problematizes attempts to evaluate music on a live/recorded axis, it also recalls the material conditions which gave rise to ambient music as a musical practice engendered by a combination of cultural ideological conceptions (largely about the market and social space, and the globalization of the division of labor) and specific developments in the production and consumption of electronic music.

3 ". . . [T]ry as we may to make a silence, we cannot. For certain engineering purposes, it is desireable to have as silent a situation as possible. Such a room is called an anechoic chamber, its six walls made of special material, a room without echoes. I entered one at Harvard University several years ago [c. 1952] and heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation." John Cage, Silence (Hanover, New Hampshire: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), p. 8.

4 Frances Dyson, "The Ear That Would Hear Sounds In Themselves, John Cage 1935-1965," in Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio, and the Avant-Garde, ed. Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1992), p. 387.

5 Silence, p. 80.

6 Granted, Attali's capacity to manage noise has proven more successful than his Presidency at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which ended in financial scandal in 1993. Notably, this scandal surfaced around excessive spending on the new headquarters of the EBRD. In the charge of neo-liberalism, the production of space remains a costly endeavor.

7 For a more thorough discussion of Guattari's notion of a schizoanalytical practice, see the fourth section of Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1972), tr. Robert Hurley, et. al. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983).

8 The KLF, Chill Out (UK: KLF Communications, 1990).

9 In their study of sexuality and popular music, Sex Revolts (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), Simon Reynolds and Joy Press make a case for ambient music as part of a pastoral tradition in psychedelic music (pp. 172-76). This pastoralism favors infantilism and anality over the more adolescent aggressions of rock's patricidal fantasies. From the KLF's bleating sheep on Chill Out to the Aphex Twin suckling at the teats of the milkman's wife, an infantile pastoralism remains a prominent tendency in ambient and post-ambient electronica.

10 Tom Frank, "Authenticity Crisis, Baby," The Nation (February 3, 1997), p. 10.

11 "If humanisation is our ultimate goal, art for art's sake' can only be justified as a tactical withdrawal. No sound is innocent musicians are therefore guilty if they collude with any degeneration or demoralisation of music. Music as taught, produced, consumed; music as it is generally thought of, may be useless, as far as its application to humanisation is concerned. When the term music has lost its ability to contain the sense that every noise is a note, then music is dead and the meta-musician is needed." No Sound is Innocent, (Essex, UK; Copula, 1995), p. 34. Sounding vaguely Adornian, Prévost presumes a functional duality between the political and the everyday business of making art. A distinction afforded by an privileged few. As a strategy of that few against their own obsolescence, art for art's sake' (the condition of music to which all the arts supposedly aspire) can only be realized socially as reactionary.

12 Alex Paterson, cited on the official Orb website, "Ultraworld," (URL:

13 Henri Lefebvre, The Survival of Capitalism: Reproductions of the Relations of Capitalism, tr. Frank Bryant (London: Allison & Busby, 1976), p. 21.

14 This could be said of Scanner's public hearing of cellular airwaves, or the location recordings of artists such as Chris Watson and Dallas Simpson. Even Cage's own work, such as 0'00", demonstrates how letting the body's sounds "be themselves" is only possible by using highly sensitive microphones and amplification equipment.

15 See Covert Action Quarterly, Winter 1996-7, Number 59, an issue dedicated to the subject of "The New Age of Surveillance": Nicky Hager, "Exposing the Global Surveillance System"; Duncan Campbell, "NSA's Business Plan: Global Access'"; Wayne Madsen, "The Battle for Cyberspace: Spooks vs. Civil Liberties & Social Unrest"; John Dillon, "Networking with Spooks"; and Randy K. Schwartz, "Patrolling the Empire: Mapping, Imagery & National Security."

16 Christian Parenti, "Robocop's Dream," The Nation (February 3, 1997), pp. 22-24.

17 Elsewhere we have talked about the ways alternative means of circulation in ambient music and the techno subculture become productive of counter-systemic spatial practices. These practices have the potential to realize the frequency of circulation perceived by Cage in that dead-room all those many years ago. See Dont Rhine, "World Record," in Trans> (Spring, 1997).

18 Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, tr. Harry Zorn (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1968), p. 256.

19 Guy E. Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988), tr. Malcolm Imrie (New York: Verso, 1990), p. 8. Felix Guattari and Toni Negri, Communists Like Us (1985), tr. Michael Ryan (New York: Semiotexte, 1990), pp. 47-58. Immanuel Wallerstein, Geopolitics and Geoculture: Essays on the Changing World-System (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 162-3.

20 "The apologists of capital are fond of quoting the Keynesian wisdom according to which in the long run we are all dead', as if that kind of frivolous dismissal of concern with the future could settle the matter. The truth, however, is that because of its necessary nihilation [sic] of the future the capital system is locked into the vicious circle of the short run, although its ideologists try to misrepresent such vice as an unsurpassable virtue. This is the reason why capital is incompatible with any meaningful attempt at comprehensive planning, even when the need for it is quite overwhelming in the troubled relations of global capitalist enterprises." István Mészáros, Beyond Capital: Toward a Theory of Transition (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1995), p. 104, italics in the original.

21 There is rich affinity between the situationists dérive and the "space travel" of the squatter. See ADILKNO, Cracking the Movement: Squatting Beyond the Movement (1990), tr. Laura Martz (New York: Autonomedia, 1994). Recent struggles for squatters rights in Toronto reveals another surprising affinity with those working in opposition to global free trade policies. See the website for the American Homeless Society (URL:

22 See Lefebvre, Survival of Capitalism, p. 18, for a distinction between a science of space and a theory of its production.

23 Charles Junkerman, "nEw / foRms of living together," in Marjorie Perloff and Charles Junkerman eds., John Cage: Composed in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 46.

24 We're referring here to the Before and After Ambient show held at The Kitchen in October of 1994. See our essay written for the program, "Writing Ambient Music."

25 Anti-Oedipus, p. 335.