Micro-Bionic: Radical Electronic Music and Sound Art in the 21st Century
Thomas Bey William Bailey
At its simplest level, this book is an introduction to musicians and sound artists whose works reflect, and sometimes transcend, their temporal, spatial, and psychological boundaries. Making informed critiques of human nature and post-human development in this era is not as simple as it at first seems, though: such efforts are regularly challenged by an overwhelming amount of extraneous noise smothering unique and distinct signals with slick media flak. To build a convincing argument as to why these artists are successful in their activities, and worthy of further consideration, we first have to zoom out to the broadest possible view of our planet’s condition, to see exactly what these constraints are which form the framework for their creative endeavors.
As the title suggests, the unifying theme of the book is that of musicians and sound artists taking bold leaps forward in spite of (or sometimes because of) their financial, technological, and social restrictions. Some symptoms of this condition include the gigantic discography amassed by the one-man project Merzbow, the drama of silence enacted by onkyo and New Berlin Minimalism, the annihilating noise transmitted from the humble laptop computers of Russell Haswell and Peter Rehberg and much more besides. Although the journey begins in the Industrial 1980s, in order to trace how the innovations of that period have gained greater currency in the present, it surveys a wide array of artists breaking ground in the 21st century with radical attitudes and techniques. A healthy amount of global travel and concentrated listening have combined to make this a sophisticated yet accessible document, unafraid to explore both the transgressive extremes of this culture and the more deftly concealed interstices thereof.