Friday, January 03, 2014

Zeitgeist Explained

Actify → Gamify
Album → Playlist
Alone → Connected
Analog → Digital
Artist → Curator
Authentic → Adobe
Assumption → Data
Big → Nimble
Book → Blog
Boomer → Millennial
Broadcast → Dialogue
CIA → NSA
Cliques → Tribes
Collaborate → Crowdsource
Collage → Mashup
Compose → Sample
Construct → Disrupt
Cook → Zap
Copy → Publish
Cryptic → Encrypted
Customer  →  User 
Creative → Optimized
Daydream → Touch Screen
Desk → Cloud
Development → ROI
Except → Accept
Explanation → Medication
Expert → Consensus
Factory → Studio
Family → Friends
Field → Console
Fix → Hack
Governance→ Politics
GRIT → STEM
Guru → Ninja
Hard Rock → Soft Synth
Hardware → Software
Harvard → Stanford
Hippodrome → Headphone
In Tune → Autotune
Information → Distraction
Institution → Network
Isolated → Affiliated
Inventor → Innovator
Job → Gig
Later → Now
Launch → Release
Linear → Agile
Long Form → Long Tail
Loyalty → Like
Maintain → Sustain
Make → Buy
Method → Palette
Mr. → @
Musician → DJ
Mythology → Technology
National → Global
NATO → SINO
News → Trend
Observation → Conversation
Office → Café
Offshore → Locavore
Outside → Inside
Own → License
Paper → Pixel
Plan → Prototype
Play → Prepare
Poetry → Code
Popular → Viral
Portable → Wearable
Post Office → Post Comment
Private → Promoted
Procreate → Recreate
Producer → Project Manager
Product → Process
Professional → Amateur
Proprietary →Transparent
Protest → Performance
Public Domain → Open Source
Quote → Retweet
Rules → Heuristics
Sage → Wiki
Salary → Fee
Sell → Share
Sell Out → Opt In
Share → Adopt
Solution → Option
Stable → Mobile
Store → Site
Story → Message
Suburb → City
System → Matrix
Talent → Brand
Talk → Text
TV → Phone
Theme → Meme 
Third Word → Third Place
Tool → App
Tune In → Log On
Turn On → Chill Out
Unify → Occupy
Update → Iterate
Watch → Record
Word → Glyph
Zeitgeist → Swarm

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Sound of the Year: 2013 – The Tap-Tap Tapping of Internet Surveillance

In May 2013, an infrastructure analyst by the name of Edward Snowden, working for US defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, arranged to meet with documentary filmmaker and journalist, Laura Poitras and Guardian commentator Glenn Greenwald.

The meeting took place in Snowden's Hong Kong hotel room after he had fled the United States with a trove of classified information which revealed a 'systematic surveillance of innocent citizens', and which he was now about to reveal to the international press for public scrutiny and judgement.

What ever the final legal opinion of his actions, or one's own opinion of Snowden (traitor, idiot, whistleblower), he expressed his intentions as well meaning:

“It’s important to send a message to government that people will not be intimidated.” [1]

The documents he provided indicated that the same method by which the National Security Agency had searched for, identified, and secured potential enemy combatants also scooped up "the bulk communications data of millions of American citizens, and regardless of whether they were suspected of any wrongdoing." [2]

Perhaps all would be well and good if that data was immediately disposed of some kind of secure erasure, but as Oregon Senator Ron Wyden would later explain to the Guardian:

"Once Americans' communications are collected, a gap in the law ... allows the government to potentially go through these communications and conduct warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans." [3]

On June 7th, two days after the initial published report of Snowden’s leaks, both The Guardian and The Washington Post reported that “the NSA is accessing the systems of US internet giants including Google and Facebook, and collecting data under a previously undisclosed surveillance programme called Prism. The programme allows officials to collect material including emails, live chats and search histories." [4]

Additional NSA documents leaked by Snowden indicated that the NSA had also extended its  practice of casting a wide digital net on both the leaders and citizens of several allied nations.

For instance, the agency had been exposed as having tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone for a decade. In another instance, the NSA collected some 70 million digital communications in France, in just one 30-day period between Dec. 2012 and Jan. 2013. Needless to say, leaders across the globe expressed outrage.  [5][6][7]

Certainly, both wire and web tapping have long proved a valid and acceptable means to protect the populace from criminal endeavor. However, the legal interception of electronic communications has typically required a warrant and is usually limited to those communications that meet a stringent standard of relevance to a specific case.

In fact, in the United States, in order to obtain a warrant, the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court typically requests the production of records "pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets."

Snowden has since been granted asylum in Russia, although his residence in that country is limited to a year. Meanwhile back in the United States, mention of the one time Booz Allen cyber spy continues to spark heated discussion, and Snowden is alternately described as a whistleblower by his supporters, or accused of being a traitor by those who consider his actions a terrible betrayal against the nation.

How this story finishes is anyone's guess at this point.

In the meantime, Edward Snowden’s explosive revelations and the ensuing international clamor they caused have resulted in the Tap-Tap Tapping of Internet Surveillance being named as the 2013 Critical Noise Sound of the Year.

*     *     *

[1] The Washington Post | Edward Snowden reveals himself as NSA leaker
[2] The Guardian | NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions
[3] The Guardian | NSA Loophole Allows Warrantless Email Search
[4] BBC | Edward Snowden: Timeline
[5] The Guardian | NSA Collecting Phone Records
[6] [7] infoplease | October 2013 Current Events: World News

*     *     *

HOW THE SOUND OF THE YEAR IS SELECTED

The Critical Noise Sound of the Year goes to that sound source, event, happening or concept which so effectively delivers a message, whether intentional or not, that it inspires discussion, incites action, lends itself to cultural analysis and otherwise resonates across the globe.

*     *     *

OTHER ARTICLES YOU MAY LIKE IN THIS SERIES:

THE CRITICAL NOISE SOUND OF THE YEAR 2012:  Pussy Riot

Friday, November 01, 2013

Amazing Grace: The Transformation of a Klansman

Image by blakeemrys
When I was a teenager I met C.P. Ellis, a one time member and Exalted Cyclops of the Durham, North Carolina Ku Klux Klan. And he told my high school senior class and me how he had been transformed from having been a die-hard racist, to an advocate for tolerance and civil rights.

So, how did Ellis transform from radical terrorist and Klansman into a civil rights activist?

He didn't need to be de-programmed by cult experts. He simply needed to agree to co-chair a 1971 forum discussing the matter of problems arising from the integration of schools in Durham, N.C.. He did this in order to represent those who shared his vision of a segregated nation, not to mention, "uphold the purity of the white race, fight communism, and protect white womanhood" (American Dreams: Lost and Found, Studs Terkel).

But in doing so, the Klansman found that any progress would be necessitated by some cooperation with the woman who served as his co-chair, a black American civil rights activist and community force in her own right, Ann Atwater.

Cooperation led to dialogue, which led to understanding, and between the two of them, C.P. and Ann began to leverage this new mutual understanding to form a new shared language of civic cooperation. In fact, this unlikely pair even became life long friends and they would continue to work together as union activists.

I like to think that that C.P. eventually experienced, understood and found legitimate value, even beauty, in Ann's nuance. And as a musician, nuance is not a word I use lightly:

Whereas once C.P. saw Ann as belonging to a group called THEM, he soon learned that both Ann and he belonged to the same group, called US.

Whereas once he feared them, he soon came to realize that fear was manufactured in his own heart.

Whereas once C.P. heard only the blather of black voices, he soon realized he couldn't hear the legitimacy of their collective message because of the overwhelming white noise between his own two ears.

Ann didn't have to force or convince the Klansman of anything; she simply had to keep talking until C.P.  actually took a moment to consider the legitimacy of what she said. Once he did so, he would not be able to deny the truth and value of her message. Once she convinced him of the possibilities, it would be impossible for him to keep deploying constraints.

And whereas the Klansman was once deaf, the civil rights activist taught him how to hear.

It's like a child learning to understand and appreciate great music: first it all sounds like a complex, cacophonous noise, and then you come to understand that you are an ignorant fool and the music is actually so profound, it is humbling.

Fortunately, this realization also leaves you that much wiser for having had the experience.

After that the former Exalted Cyclops disavowed himself from the Klan, and neither he nor his former colleagues spoke to one other for the next 30 years.

C.P.'s transformation began quickly, too; for not ten days into that 1971 discussion on school integration, the klansman was seen singing and grooving along to the Gospel music that was played after the meetings. I interviewed Ann in December 2010 and she even tells a story about how she taught C.P. to clap on what was for him an oddly placed beat (Ann has repeatedly been interviewed about C.P., but her own story describes an equally powerful and transformational experience that is all to often over looked –and that's why I called her, to hear not just the other side of the story, but her story).

Today, when I think of C.P.,  I like to imagine that when Ann was teaching him how to appreciate Gospel, that at the time, they were both listening to a particularly soulful rendition of Amazing Grace, except that in my own mind, I re-write the lyric so that it's sung as follows:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That falls upon the ear.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was deaf, but now I hear.

Cooperation implies communication; communication implies language, and it's with the human voice that messages are often communicated, feelings shared, emotional bonds formed and bridges to the future built. Simply start talking to someone and you might end up singing together. And before you know it, you, him, her, and everyone else, too, is acting in concert and striving for harmony. It doesn't even have to be perfect harmony, either, to be a beautiful thing.

It's something to hope for anyway.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Music Production Techniques That Apply to Real Life

RULE #1

Balance your levels.

RULE #2

You need a vocal hook.

RULE #3

Tighten up your timing.

RULE #4

Take a solo; give a solo.

RULE #5

Don't get stuck in a loop.

RULE #6

Give credit to your sources (and samples).

RULE #7

If input rises above threshold, reduce level.

RULE #8

Remove noise between important moments.

RULE #9

Once you crank up the volume there's no place to go.

RULE #10

Three properties essential to both sound waves and making waves:

Amplitude, Frequency and Phase

RULE #11

Cut the offending frequency and tighten up your Q. 

RULE #12

Mix with Multiple Speakers.

RULE #13

Emphasize your most important elements. 

RULE #14

"Don't be surprised if it takes some time and experimentation to get it just right." 
(via Bobby Owinski

RULE #15

Stop Clipping.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Smartphone: Tomorrow's Stradivarius or Stratocaster?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Pussy Riot: Hooliganism or Heroism

Photo Credit: AK Rockefeller
From the beginning, the members of Pussy Riot risked subverting their political message with same flashmob tactics and theatricalized sexuality that they employ to gain attention in the first place. That group members use this technique both within and beyond the conceptual limits of the Pussy Riot project  also suggests the band is not a one-off, but a lifestyle, if there was ever any doubt.

For one, their balaclavas resemble as much bondage hoods as ski masks; for another, one group member has been reported as an orgy participant; and another member of the collective, participating in a non-Pussy performance piece, stuffed a frozen chicken into her vagina.

Now, as it happens, some people find it reasonably difficult to believe a woman with a chicken in her vagina is capable of serious intellectual energy. On the other hand, we often accept that some of our politicians are also full of something, and yet also simultaneously capable of serious intellectual energy. After all, someone is certainly buying dildos in Washington, D.C. and Westminster.

And while one may argue that porn is never an appropriate tool in the feminists' arsenal, the chicken action is not without artistic precedent. For many, such works are reminisce of a similarly foodcentric act of defiance by American performance artist, Karen Finely. In Finely's own 1994 work, 'The Return of the Chocolate-smeared Woman', that artist smeared her naked body with chocolate in a rebuttal against the U.S. Government's legal threat to impose restrictions on grants for 'indecent art' (National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley).

Unfortunately, as with Pussy Riot, Finely lost her case. However, as a result of her bravery, Ms. Finely was awarded a Ms. magazine Woman of the Year award; and today, she teaches at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.

So, it may be that after their jail sentences, that academic appointments and mainstream professional acceptance await the members of Pussy Riot. And if that time comes, it may be your children that they arm with the ideas and ideals necessary to question authority where and when others dare not.

In the meantime, suffice to say that as in the case of Finley, there are many who though otherwise sympathetic to Pussy Riot will never fully grasp the group's pro democracy message. They simply find themselves too offended by the group's tactics to give their well meaning political motivations any substantial thought.

Even among Pussy Riot's activist fans, many have misinterpreted the group's message.

As a result, some of those either projected their own politics into the Pussy Riot agenda, while others simply leveraged the Pussy Riot situation and their look for their own personal cause.

And no wonder why! Pussy Riot's persecution presents a successful paradigm to arts activists.

As Tolokonnikova has noted at the end of her trial:

"Every day, more people understand that if the system is attacking three young women who performed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior for thirty seconds with such vehemence, it only means that this system fears the truth, sincerity, and straightforwardness we represent."

And Alyokhina:

"The current government will have occasion to feel shame and embarrassment because of it for a long time to come. At each stage it has embodied a travesty of justice. As it turned out, our performance, at first a small and somewhat absurd act, snowballed into an enormous catastrophe. This would obviously not happen in a healthy society."

But don't small events snowball into enormous events everyday?  

Perhaps, then, there are no healthy societies? 

Friday, February 01, 2013

Realpolitik and Porn: Pop Culture Disrupted

Picture: EPA/KERIM OKTEN
Unfortunately for the still detained members of Pussy Riot, support for the group within the Russian Federation continues to be negligible. For many in the West, this is THE post-Soviet band, and perhaps also the only band  across all hemispheres that matters. But for many others who live in contemporary Russia, Pussy Riot is offensive, but otherwise only represents an annoying blip on the local pop culture radar.

So when Putin himself described the performance as "an act of group sex aimed at hurting religious feelings"; and when Russian lawyer and financial activist, Alexey Navalny, called Pussy Riot's cathedral performance “despicable”; both men merely presented an honest appraisal of prevalent Russian public opinion, and not necessarily state sponsored propaganda.

In the band's defense, Amnesty International's Michelle Ringuette framed Pussy Riot's performance as 'a peaceful protest song in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral that lasted less than a minute' .  Even one band member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, described the Cathedral take down as a display of 'innocent creativity'.

However, both these statements undervalue Pussy Riot's punk prayer performance. Because if 'Mother of God, Drive Putin Out' were merely a peaceful song, the women would have failed in their mission. But they did not fail. By the standards by which dissident art is measured, they wildly succeeded.

Not to mention that even when presented as pure entertainment, theater is never innocent. And certainly, no one hijacks a church alter and says or sings "Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!" who isn’t trying to shock and provoke a strong reaction.

Nevertheless, band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova explained to the court that the lyric, 'Holy shit', was not meant as a blasphemous attack on the church or the religion, but merely represented 'our evaluation of the situation in the country'.

That Pussy Riot's musical actions in the Cathedral  might be a justified measure against a tyrannical state will certainly be a subject of never ending debate.  In the meantime, the Russian court charged Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina with "premeditated hooliganism performed by an organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility." And after a trial, both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were subsequently sentenced to two grim years in separate penal colonies.

The music is not over, however, so long as some resonance of Pussy Riot's punk prayer still lingers in the public consciousness.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Audio Mark as a Storytelling Platform

Image by: Craig Cloutier
Music, as we know, comes in many forms. And one person's music is another person's noise.

Readers of this blog know I'm fascinated by microstructures; that is, those forms of noise and aural expression that may not represent complete 'works' as we think of the concept, but which nonetheless capably convey meaning.

THE DESCENDING CADENCE AS CLOSING STATEMENT

For instance, where one single pitch might convey neither music nor meaning, two pitches in a sequence –if they are the right pitches– might serve to conclude a story, a song, or even an event, such as a religious service. The two pitches in question are, of course, IV and I, which we know as a DESCENDING CADENCE, and which together package enough signification in one descending step that whenever they are deployed, everyone within earshot receives the exact same message: This is where the story ends.

THE AUDIO MARK AS INDEPENDENT SIGNIFIER

As it happens, it is the identification and re-contextualization of such nano sized musical expressions that provide the underlying conceptual framework whenever we are commissioned with the construction of an AUDIO MARK (and whether we are conscious of this activity or not).

For this reason, I do not always think of an Audio Mark as a micro musical work itself, but instead as a communication asset composed of sonic elements, especially in regards to non melodic marks. Such composition is often closer to sound design, in my mind, being born of a methodical construction process rather than simply inspired composition.

Also, our intention when it comes to inspired composition is not always apparent, much less always directed. When making music we may simply want to entertain; and the music may have no reason for being at all, except that we conceived it, either as formalized composition or improvisation. In contrast, the construction or design of an Audio Mark is always an intentional endeavor. Thus, if pure music can be said to be fundamentally emotive in nature, marks represent packets of data. One does not simply make music (or noise) when we make a mark; nor does one simply hope to produce a unique identifier, sonic or otherwise; the art of modern branding compels us also to craft (or embed) a Message.

To put it another way, we might enjoy a rhythm for its own sake. But much more like a Morse code pattern, our intention is that a given audience will actually decode the resultant sonic expression, which is almost always a marketing communiqué. And because the message is coded in cultural conventions, there actually stands a very good chance that it will be received and understood.

THE RINGTONE AS BRANDED ALERT

It's important to recognize that while music fundamentally suggests mood, brands –if they are to live in the world as semi or crowd conscious entities– shouldn't be defined or limited by the results of a mood board alone (although it happens all the time). Who is in possession of a single mood? Only psychopaths and sociopaths. Of course,  some may wish to define the management of a given company as lacking empathy, and that may indeed be the case, but when crafting identity assets for a client, it's important to create assets that might be made to respond in the same manner as healthy human attributes.

One way to do this is to craft marks that scale, or lend themselves to variation. Easier done in print with size and color; and easy still, if our mark is melodic in nature. But it is somewhat more difficult if a mark has been produced as an immutable sonic construction (for instance, when designed as a parallel experience and married to a specific moving image). Nevertheless, if we want a mark to carry, then it must possess the capacity to scale infinitely.

This is not to suggest that every mark be designed as a musical motif, though the two concepts in their most popular forms share similar characteristics.

But something very different happens when we hear a mark than when we listen to a motif. A strong mark will feel completely independent of any other asset within a single framed context; whereas motives beg for variation within the same framework. Marks should evolve to remain vibrant and intelligible as context changes. But motives demand ongoing variation and play in real time. As a result, immutable marks quickly turn to kitsch, get boring or they get annoying fast –think of a RINGTONE (and that's also why we respond to them).

Motives, on the other hand, are deployed in such a way as to produce continued delight and interest with every variation. Indeed, we might even define traditional music not as organized sound, as is the convention, but as a construct that employs reiteration, and equally as often, the thematic variation of a pattern. Given this definition, the thing might not even be aural, but describe anything at all, which is why we can look at the sky, or the ocean or any kind of movement at all, and describe it as music.

Anything we call music is essentially patterns at play.

And it's also why we may not always frame an Audio Mark as a musical work. It does use elemental musical sounds in its construction, but it is of singular design and voices so quickly any inherent patterning is either lost or non existent.

Note that we can very easily design a less annoying ringtone experience by composing a musical structure rather than employing a repeated alert; but that does not seem to be the priority of the Telecom community. And it may be that the Alert construction is the most effective construct for a Ringtone.

THE BROADCAST STING AS CONTROLLED DISRUPTION

Melodic audio marks also share some similar characteristics to another form of sonic identity asset, being THE BROADCAST STING. Both Audio Mark and Broadcast Sting serve as a form of conceptual punctuation that sends a single message –again, like Morse code. But unlike Morse code, we do not want to hear either a sting or a mark repeat within a single context. Or if it does, the inherent message of both the sting and mark become diminished by the sense of urgency conveyed by the repetitive aural experience. Alternately, if this is the desired effect, then the message is simply reduced to 'URGENT'.
 
Of course, all four forms of micro musical expression –The Audio Mark, the Descending Cadence, The Ringtone and The Broadcast Sting– are designed to work like zipped semiotics, which once open, a given marketer's message will be decoded and delivered.

I've participated in the production of several network package music and sound design projects: CNN, ESPN, HBO Zone, MTV, PBS and VH1, to name a few.

Interestingly, The Broadcast Sting is the only expression of the four that is not constructed as an independent statement. Ending on an anticipatory high note, the Sting is designed as an open ended inconclusive element, which if we compare to sentence structure,

suggests interruption. The Sting thus requires a listener/viewer to wait until later (typically, 'after these messages') before being 'rewarded' with aural or musical closure (finishing the sentence). Indeed, the Sting does not so much ask us, as compel us to wait.

Whatever construction is appropriate to the task, the message is clear: even micro musical structures can be employed in the support of storytelling; and a skilled sonic artisan can capably convey a lot of non verbal information in mere seconds, and sometimes in even just one second.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Sound of the Year: 2012 – PUSSY RIOT


Photo Image from Pussy Riot's website. Original Caption: Сегодня, во вторник Масленичной Недели, солистки Pussy Riot Гараджа, Тюря, Шумахер, Серафима и Кот позвали всех самых набожных друзей группы на "панк-молебен" в Храм Христа Спасителя.

On February 21, 2012, five modestly clad Russian women entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia.  And once inside they cast off their black outer wear to reveal brightly colored skirts and tights beneath. Then they pulled equally colorful homemade ski masks over their faces and stormed the front of the church whereby they launched into 'Mother of God, Drive Putin Out', a song that has also been called a 'punk prayer'.

The quartet, composed of several members of the arts activist collective, PUSSY RIOT, staged this bit of disruptive theater as a form of political protest. And in their punk prayer they loudly appealed to the Virgin Mary to chase the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, out of power, along with the oppressive patriarchal political system that they've said Putin represents.


That none of the performers actually played a musical instrument suggests that it was probably not the actual song itself that captured the world’s imagination, but rather how the Russian authorities reacted to this performance that rushed others to their support and pushed the band into the public eye.

First, when news of the group's arrest and a video of the performance was posted online, it created a divide between those who were morally offended by their actions and those who were outraged by their incarceration. While the former argued the the ‘girls’ perhaps needed a bit of manners knocked into them, the latter found inspiration in four strong freedom fighters whose swift silence by the Russian state made their situation a cause célèbre.

That the members of Pussy Riot also looked equal part Teletubby as they did Terrorist gave fashionistas as much a reason to talk about the women's creativity as their politics stirred journalists and Human Rights groups to action. Add to this milieu the ongoing social unrest in the Mideast framed as an ‘Arab Spring’, and the Occupy protests in America, and the members of Pussy Riot seemed to provide yet another potent and creative symbol of ongoing global change.

Which is why, if "We Are All Pussy Riot" as the band's slogan suggests, it's not because of any universal appeal attributable to their music. It's because they came onto the global scene like costumed superheroes and arrived into a world whose economies and power structures seem universally in need of severe disruption. Perfectly suited for the role, icons they became.

As a result, not since the Beatles has one band earned the interest of so many so quickly. And the last band to irritate a state to such a degree were the members of the The Plastic People of the Universe who in the seventies suffered arrests, convictions and even deportation at the hands of the communist Czechoslovakian government. But in a pre-Internet age, that band’s efforts was largely muted to the west by an insularizing Iron Curtain. –Even if inside the country these injustices would inspire Václav Havel and other Czech intellectuals to further resist and change the system.

Certainly, many artists work under despotic conditions, but unfortunately most lack the perfect combination of creative strategies, social networks and political motivations to achieve global recognition for themselves or their cause. Thus, they continue to struggle in near or complete anonymity.

What makes Pussy Riot different, on the other hand, is that whether through politics or poetics, the group seems to offer something that everyone can relate to on a personal level. 

And that's why Pussy Riot inspires and fascinates; all of us can identify some aspect of their art or purpose to relate or react to, whether we admire their tactics as performers or debate their efficacy as change agents.

And that’s why Pussy Riot strikes some as the only band that matters today.

And that's why Pussy Riot, with their riotous, rebellious punk prayer, 'Mother of God, Drive Putin Out', is the 2012 Critical Noise Sound of the Year.

+      +      +

HOW THE SOUND OF THE YEAR IS SELECTED

The Critical Noise Sound of the Year goes to that sound source, event, happening or concept which so effectively delivers a message, whether intentional or not, that it inspires discussion, incites action, lends itself to cultural analysis and otherwise resonates across the globe.

+      +      +

OTHER ARTICLES YOU MAY LIKE IN THIS SERIES:




Thursday, November 01, 2012

THE TOP 3 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN ORDER TO BLOW UP THE CULTURE

Not for nothing do the women of Pussy Riot resemble candy colored dominatrix cartoon versions of Symbionese Liberation Army "Death to the fascist insect" era Patricia Hearst. The band's name itself, Pussy Riot, sounds like the title for a Quentin Tarantino movie.

As Pussy Riot member 'Bullet' told the New York Times:

“It’s close to the ideas of Guerilla Girls, who had nicknames and masks. It’s very important to us that there are no designers or labels to fetishize around us, because we do everything ourselves” (The Pussy Riot Girls' Style via NYTimes.com ).

It's a smart strategy:

Popular music goes out of vogue; politics is often temporal; but miniskirts will always come back in style. In the same manner, and long after the world has forgotten about Pussy Riot, a future tween will one day watch one of the band's online videos and then become curious enough to then explore the group's philosophy. Eventually she may be inspired to similarly don a pink balaclava in order to take down a despot.

One might argue that the women of Pussy Riot would prove themselves more courageous if they did not perform incognito. However, soldiers too are stripped of their individuality when they join the ranks, and yet individual heroes and icons also emerge from among them.

A faceless presentation is a contrarian strategy for an entertainer, to be sure, but it obviously works like gangbusters for at least one band of dissident feminist agitprop punk rock activists. It's also modus operandi for French electronic music duo, Daft Punk, who also enjoy global recognition, so the tactic is not without successful precedent.

In her closing statement to the court, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova described the group's work in this manner:

"Pussy Riot’s performances can either be called dissident art or political action that engages art forms. Either way, our performances are a kind of civic activity amidst the repressions of a corporate political system that directs its power against basic human rights and civil and political liberties."

The fact is, Pussy Riot works touches on such an insanely wide variety of conceptual points that one might suggest the members of Pussy Riot form less a band than they do a constellation.

Go ahead; pick a topic, add the band, extrapolate, cite; voilà, a million masters thesis' spawned in the blink of an eye.
  • Band
  • Concept
  • Controversy
  • Courage
  • Civic Duty
  • Cultural Critics
  • Human Rights
  • Homemade
  • Political Theater
  • Arts Activism
  • Feminism
  • Freedom Fighters
  • Parable (David vs. Goliath)
  • Pornography
  • Rock'n'Roll
  • Religious Iconography 
  • Russian Babes 
  • Intellectuals
  • Social Media
  • Advertising
  • Branding
  • Style
  • Semiotics
  • Zeitgeist
It also has me thinking, that judging by the fame and infamy gained by Pussy Riot, I wonder if one might not be able reduce their tactics into a repeatable formula. And of course you can; here it is, and it's called:

THE TOP 3 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN ORDER TO BLOW UP THE CULTURE

1. Advance a socially disruptive message.
2. Wrap in compelling imagery.
3. And then go ignite the damn thing with music.