AUTHOR: IVO MARTINS
EDITION: (Exhibition Leaflet) Centro Cultural Vila Flor/ Sonoscopia Cultural Association DATE: April 2019
In the course of the twentieth century, and as a result of the visionary scientific achievements that both followed and fuelled its evolution, man, an eternal voracious consumer, converted himself into a user/beneficiary of high technology and became dependent of numerous domestic and personal devices which allow him to be permanently online. In the new digital paradigm, the perception of linear time, as well as progressive and chronological succession, are no longer possible; nowadays, the world is divided between live transmission and invisible reality. The surrounding atmosphere exhales the power of controlling machines, and at the same time both public as well as private organizational structures are currently undergoing processes of reformulation, restructuring and remodelling. This situation brought to the surface numerous devices of manipulation with the potential of both controlling and liberating our lives; individual actions are controlled by powerful and intelligent machines that have the capacity of expanding and monitoring the reality around us.
Meanwhile, our private lives and real-time interactions are being shattered by gadgets that force people to dwell inside themselves; we became captive of a forced privacy, while the public space is dominated by a fundamentally consumerist lifestyle. Markets grow and expand through consumerism, both exploiting and taking advantage of the social tissue’s fluidity and of the frailty of human bonds, as well as of doubtful, unstable and unpredictable rules. Rights, obligations and individual commitments exist in a present that goes beyond the citizen himself, and, at the horizon of an obscure and vague future, markets grow and expand.
Musical creation is also severely affected by the growing automatism of machines, and consequently by robotization. Music is now produced and mediated through an intensive use of sophisticated equipment of sound reproduction and archival, and is now created under acrimoniously virtual environments. These devices, which the market produces with the intention of feeding the human being’s eagerness for novelties, are technologically complex objects, supported by persuasive discourses. On the other hand, the machines that we use to listen to music are extensions of our own bodies, bringing us close to a superhuman dimension of sound experience.
Surrounded by a noisy machine, now extended to cultural production, the body of the individual is now transformed into an object, subject to multiple forms of pressure and influence, exposed to and dependent of vast and complex processes of individual and collective manipulation. This mechanism of domestication works perfectly in its various functions of control, creating a situation where silence and noise are not separable; because the first is more difficult to deepen and because the latter is unstoppable. Nowadays, silence has almost completely disappeared from the scenario; we have no intermediary options between silence and noise; the world is subjected to a noisy global environment which is becoming more and more homogeneous because communication takes place at a dimension where nobody is capable of developing of voice they can call their own. As David Le Breton remarks in his book, entitled “Du Silence”: “The only kind of silence the utopia of transmission acknowledges is the silence of mechanical failure, the interruption of transmission. It is more the symptom of the end of technicality than the surging of an interiority. Silence became an archaeological vestige which is yet to be assimilated. At the same time, however, it resounds as nostalgia, appealing to the desire of endlessly listening the murmur of world.”
Mass communication and information created a new kind of language, therefore causing a radical change of its anthropological statute, now limited to the activity of media, social networks, telephones, smartphones, and computers. This new word flows and circulates through technologically sophisticated machines, often automatically; it is twenty-four hours online, always in intensive transmission mode. In such circumstances, the word is vulnerable to exaggerations and excesses, triggering a permanent background noise in which our voice is hardly heard. The activity of the media is of an intrusive and homogenous nature, while at the same time repetitive and impersonal, therefore promoting only one-way transmissions. Its receiver is limited to the role of a passive receptor, lost within an overwhelming chain of communication; in this relational dimension, the content becomes irrelevant, since it is far more important selling the idea that everything is fine and working perfectly. Its spectrum of influence is merely environmental because it corresponds to a phantom sound, regular and uniform, incoherent; form overpassed content and, within an excessively noisy context, the message is forced to reaffirm its existence in the world.
At the current stage of development, noise has a mechanic cause and a virtual dimension; it is possible that in the future noise, now measured in decibels and controlled by intermediary equipment, will be obliterated by silence. We may ask ourselves: will the future be progressively more silent and will silence ever be able to cope with noise? Noise is essentially the consequence of modernity, a development of silence; silence is now the consequence of post-industrialism. Silence has affirmed its presence as a desire against noise; nowadays, many people choose simpler ways of living, on the fringes of mass-consumption societies. What we hear around us are the noises of human activity, and each individual accepts that reality as an inevitable destiny. To think of silence as the counterpoint of noise means to reinforce the idea according to which noise, besides being an offense to a human right, forces everyone to supress every acoustic discomforts, either caused by man or simply by the environment.
Human life is dominated by intelligent machines that function as prostheses of our rational and sensible capacities and that are now completely adapted to our vision, audition and language. In the future, artificial intelligence will conquer the totality of human territory and the world will be fully robotized and monitored; the human being’s actions will be followed by machines and devices, and our freedom will be at risk. There is still hope that the indeterminacy of its effects will not be as negative as they seem. Meanwhile, markets run every aspects of our existence, and ancient forms of marginality and critical detachment are on the verge of extinction, so we few reasons to be optimistic.
The invention of intelligent machines is progressively replacing the role of imagination, and it is difficult to predict how is this process going to end and what consequences will it bring. If we allow ourselves to be controlled by the tactics of manipulation of mass-consumerism societies, life will cease to have a history and the world will be managed like a PlayStation game, converted into a hyperactive and hyper-communicative process, determined by predictable interactions and participations. To prevent that we choose the opposite strategy, based on a commitment to presenting new ways of listening and seeing, building bridges between music and other artistic creations and encouraging the processes of exchange of experiences which are indispensable to the exercise of imagination in the third millennium.
PHOTOS: PAULO PACHECO
TRANSLATION: MARTIN DALE