Archives for the month of: April, 2015

What counts as music?

John Cage, 4’33”

“They missed the point. There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”

-John Cage

“Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at 50 m.p.h. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them, not as sound effects, but as musical instruments.”

“If this word, music, is sacred and reserved for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instruments, we can substitute a more meaningful term: organization of sound.”

-John Cage

John Cage, Cartridge Music

Steve Reich, Pendulum Music

Stripsody, by Cathy Berberian

Should art be beautiful?

Oscar Wilde said “the artist is the creator of beautiful things,” and “those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated, and for them there is hope.“

Leo Tolstoy said, “In the same way, beauty, or that which pleases us, can in no sense serve as the basis for the definition of art; nor can a series of objects which afford us pleasure serve as the model of what art should be.”

Mike Patton, Adult Themes for Voice, “Screams of the Asteroid” 

What does it mean to be a sellout?

“It is still possible to make one’s way in entertainment, if one is not too obstinate about one’s own concerns, and proves appropriately pliable. Anyone who resists can only survive by fitting in.”

“Not to conform means to be rendered powerless, economically and therefore spiritually – to be “self-employed.” When the outsider is excluded from the concern, he can only too easily be accused of incompetence.”

“The assembly-line character of the culture industry, the synthetic, planned method of turning out its products (factory-like not only in the studio but, more or less, in the compilation of cheap biographies, pseudo-documentary novels, and hit songs) is very suited to advertising: the important individual points, by becoming detachable, interchangeable, and even technically alienated from any connected meaning, lend themselves to ends external to the work. The effect, the trick, the isolated repeatable device, have always been used to exhibit goods for advertising purposes, and today every monster close-up of a star is an advertisement for her name, and every hit song a plug for its tune. Advertising and the culture industry merge technically as well as economically.”

-Adorno and Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry”

“Jazz wants to improve its marketability and veil its own commodity character which, in keeping with one of the fundamental contradictions of the system, would jeopardize its own success if it were to appear on the market undisguised.”

-Adorno, “On Jazz”

Interviewer: …do you think you’re starting to break through the noise of the consumerist mainstream hip-hop machine a little bit?

Immortal Technique: “What I’m trying to say is that if we can rely on the power of the audience, and if we can pick and choose the sponsors, and say, hey, can we just be sponsored by some shit that doesn’t kill people, know what I mean? Something that doesn’t fill their body with toxic carcinogens, something that doesn’t fill their body with chemical poisons that people spray on your food to make it feel like it tastes good when really it tastes like shit. If I can do that, then we send a message to people that it’s not question of either being the most radical individual in the world, and fuck conformity on every single level, and it’s not about being an über-sellout, like I’m going to start prostituting myself and selling Doritos on TV or some shit. You have to find a medium to advance your career at some point, and then you have to make that decision. What’s it gonna be? Are you gonna continue down the independent path, or did you just build this business up so you could sell it someday?”

Interviewer: …Given the state of young people today, especially this generation that your music speaks to the most, do you feel that this sort of mainstream corporate music is becoming less relevant and music like yours is becoming more relevant to our situation?

Immortal Technique: …they were saying that society is run by devils. It was human society that created these things, they become the devils. This is what you worship. This money is what you worship. This idea is what you worship. Now, most of those guys went on do like the living in a castle in England type of shit, selling their merchandise like fifty bucks a shirt. So, at some point, art has to be, you know, trade itself, conform to the old strict guidelines set forth by how it was going to act in the future. But I think for me, one of the best things that I’ve been able to do is to present people with the idea that you don’t have to either choose to save the world or become a sellout. I say to people, “Listen dude, how can you save the world if you can’t even save yourself? Why don’t you try to affect one person’s life who’s in your life, and that would be historic. I went to Afghanistan to open up a school and an orphanage. If I can succeed in those conditions, what’s to stop anybody here in Madison, Wisc. from succeeding in changing their community here? I’m not trying to sell pipe dreams to people. I’m not giving them some fake utopia. I’m not telling them it’s easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But you don’t fight the fights you can win, you fight the fights that need fighting, you know? That’s the most important part.

Carl Gibson’s interview with Immortal Technique, 2013

“I don’t want to escape the plantation I want to come back, free all my people…You cannot change the past but you can make the future, and anyone who tells you different is a f***ing lethargic devil. I don’t look at a few token Latinos and black people in the public eye as some type of achievement for my people as a whole. Most of those successful individuals are sell-outs and house Negros. But, I don’t consider brothers a sell-out if they move out of the ghetto. Poverty has nothing to do with our people. It’s not in our culture to be poor. That’s only been the last 500 years of our history; look at the last 2000 years of our existence and what we brought to the world in terms of science, mathematics, agriculture and forms of government.”

Immortal Technique, “Poverty of Philosophy”


Presentation sign-up sheet for presentations beginning April 27

Your presentation should be a 5 minute presentation offering the “highlights” of your e-portfolio.  You will use your in-progress e-portfolio to “show and tell” some highlights of your work from this course.  Your final project should be the centerpiece of your presentation, but it should not be the entire content of your presentation.

Conference sign-up sheet for conferences beginning April 15

Revised syllabus (again)

This syllabus is revised due to another change in the schedule.  The College originally published an academic calendar that listed the last day of class as May 11.  The College’s schedule has been revised so that May 10 is now the last day of classes.  Our class’ schedule has had to be revised accordingly.  I have removed the week on binaries, so now the schedule reads:

Week 13 (4/13 and 4/15):

4/13: Work day in e-portfolio lab

4/15: NO CLASS-CONFERENCES instead, schedule your conference using the spreadsheet on


Week 14: (4/20 and 4/22):

Monday: 4/20–Patriots’ Day–NO CLASS

Wednesday, 4/22: CONFERENCES!  NO CLASS MEETINGS–schedule your conference time using the Google Spreadsheet on the website.


Don’t forget: Sign up for your final presentation timeslot on the website!


Week 15 (4/27 and 4/29):



Week 16: (5/4 and 5/6)



NO CLASS MAY 11 (the college has changed the schedule).


SUBMIT YOUR FINAL PROJECT by email by Tuesday, 5/12 at 11:59 PM.

SUBMIT YOUR FINAL PORTFOLIO by email by Wednesday, 5/13 at 11:59 PM.

Blurred Lines vs Got to Give it Up

Should “Happy Birthday” be Protected by Copyright?  (stop at 5:45)