Miguel Prado – Comedy Apories

Miguel Prado – Comedy Apories

Heresy 02

Edition: 100 numbered copies crafted with 100% PCW recycled chipboard, printed CDr´s.

Comedy Apories was composed and realized in the second half of 2010 in A Coruña.

Thanks to Diego Chamy, Marc Baron and Mattin.

Released in February of 2011 by Heresy Records.

Miguel Prado

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I always found it interesting, when people laugh when they hear the tiny sounds of reductionist music, improvisation etc. I usually think that these laughs were much “noise” than the actual noises generated by the musicians. I tried to work with these sounds apart from any other artifice or affectation. I tried to objectify the experience of generating noise, forget any egomaniac gloating very typical of the artists.

This sounds has no autonomy as a phenomenon, I’m not interested in presenting a hypercomplex network of carefully manufactured sounds, generated only under the guidance of my aesthetic considerations. I want to show these isolated events, arranged in time as a “Wandelweiser Detournement”

These canned laughter, with a lot of meaning as concept, but aesthetically without a directed sense, completely cloudy, try to work as noise, noise wich:

“exacerbates the rift between knowing and feeling by splitting experience, forcing conception against sensation”.

Ray Brassier
Against an Aesthetics of Noise

After composion process, searching information about canned laughter, I found a essay by Slavoj Zizek which illustrates some aspects of the composition:

[…] When I come home in the evening too exhausted to engage in meaningful activity, I just tune in to a TV sitcom; even if I do not laugh, but simply stare at the screen, tired after a hard day’s work, I nonetheless feel relieved after the show. It is as if the TV were literally laughing in my place, instead of me. […]

[…] the phenomenon is experienced as “natural.” This is what is so unsettling about canned laughter: My most intimate feelings can be radically externalized. I can literally laugh and cry through another. […]

Today, it is a commonplace to emphasize how, with new electronic media, the passive consumption of a text or a work of art is over: I no longer merely stare at the screen, I increasingly interact with it, entering into a dialogic relationship with it, from choosing the programs, through participating in debates in a virtual community, to directly determining the outcome of the plot in so-called “interactive narratives.”
[…] Those who praise the democratic potential of such new media generally focus on precisely these features. But there is another side of my “interaction,” which the object of interaction itself deprives me of: my own passive reaction of satisfaction (or mourning or laughter). The object itself “enjoys the show” instead of me, relieving me of the need to enjoy myself. Do we not witness “interpassivity” in a great number of today’s publicity spots or posters that, as it were, passively enjoy the product instead of us? Coca-Cola cans bearing the inscription, “Ooh! Ooh! What taste!” emulate in advance the ideal customer’s reaction. […]
[…] In the interpassive arrangement, I am passive through the Other; I accede to the Other the passive aspect (of enjoying), while I can remain actively engaged—that is, I can work longer hours with less need for “nonproductive” activity, such as leisure or mourning. […]
Slavoj Zizek
Will You Laugh for Me, Please

Comedy Apories was composed and realized in the second half of 2010 in A Coruña.
Thanks to Diego Chamy, Marc Baron and Mattin.

Released in February of 2011 by Heresy Records.

Miguel Prado

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reviews
Non-musicology by GegenSichKollektiv

Comedy Apories: Alienation as a force for conceptual improvisation

Alienation is better conceived as expressing the contradiction between actually existing social pathologies and the absent social ideals that they indicate even as they deny them. –Ray Brassier, METAL MACHINE THOERY #4.

Rather than considering alienation as looking back at the question of our generic qualities as human beings, or what contact we have lost with our species-being through the capitalist mode of production, we need to be looking at how social pathologies are produced and why there is an absence of social ideals that could overcome these pathologies. Personalising guilt, for not being visible, for not being active, for not recycling, for flying too much, for wasting energy, for not investing in your eduction, for not being politically correct, it is your fault! What do we want – individual success and redemption, or collective change?

If we want the latter then we have to get rid of notions of individual authorship (artist, musician, or improviser – claiming their practices as acts of creativity). The agency of individual freedom today is extremely limited. To talk about creativity these days is undoubtedly dubious given that capitalism is able to commodify affects, experience, concepts, desires, all while making you feel good about yourself for being unique.[1] How can we develop art without artists, an improvisation without improvisers that would not fall under any intellectual property categorisation or even conception? Certainly this would involve a dissolution of the individual artistic subject in favour of different forms of sociability; a reversal of the personalisation of guilt by politicising pathologies, a turning out of the misery that is internalised. Rather than taking these symptoms as coming from us (as individuals) we have to explore them together, taking into account that the symptoms are part of a socio-economic development.

But what is required is the imperative to individuate through conscious depersonalization. What is necessary is to achieve an objective or cognitively enlightened, which is to say impersonal, self-consciousness about one’s own pathology: i.e. detached insight into how the pathological nature of one’s own personality indexes the objective discrepancy between what exists and what ought to be realized at the collective level. By achieving an objective perspective upon her own pathology, the antisocial individual becomes more social than her well-adjusted, properly integrated peers.[2]

As artist or musicians you are supposed to individuate yourself to make your work, your career, to make it as distinctive as possible, in order to gain a specific reputation. Rather than allowing this process to continue, what we need to do is to examine how this process is occurring, what are the mechanisms that drive this individuation, what symptoms does it produce? What are the repercussions if you don’t do this? The market creates depression but it also produces a market for you to pay for your therapy, yoga and other forms of self-help, as if it were your fault. Use these processes of individuation as material for improvisation, especially since art and music are at the vanguard of this by continually telling you – Express Yourself!

We are caged in different ways: by the capitalist mode of production that interpellates us as individual
subject/consumer/worker; by an artistic subjectivity that demands you express yourself; and by an anthropocentric theoretical inability to get out of the correlationist circle, which does not allow us to think reality-in-itself. The problem is that the first two try to close the gap between subject and object, producing a metaphysical correlationist circle. What is required is to reconnect to science and epistemology in order understand the gap in cognitive terms. This might help us to understand reality without ourselves being omnipotent, without ourselves being at the centre of the world.

Cage caged himself in the anechoic chamber by discerning objectivity with subjectivity, by closing the gap between subject and object. This is what John Cage said in 1955 in relationship to the anechoic chamber experience:

the situation one is clearly in is not objective (sound-silence), but rather subjective (sounds only). Those intended and those others (so-called silence) not intended. If, at this point, one says, ‘Yes! I do not discriminate between intention and non-intention’ the splits, subject-object, art-life, etc., disappear, an identification has been made with the material, and actions are then those relevant to its nature…

The challenge here is how to use improvisation to reconsider the subject/object relationship, so that we can gain a cognitive and objective understanding of the circumstances that we are embedded in. This would be done by re-instigating alienation as a force of improvisation; in order to get out of the cage we need to continually ask what the cage is. By getting back into some of the intrinsic qualities of improvisation, such as unexpectedness and being unprepared, we can take risks together using processes that test our perceptual and conceptual mechanisms, while constantly reconsidering the relation between the individual and the collective. If this type of improvisation is successful it should break those safety mechanisms that we have built up, through years of engaging with critical art theory. As opposed to conceptual art (where artistic discourse becomes a form of currency for personal branding), it would not be a matter of turning the idea into a form of exchange, but different ideas will be played around with, trying to push our cognitive abilities beyond their present reach.

Conceptual improvisation will be testing different concepts at the same time, as we try to understand ourselves and how we are constituted as subjects, both at the supra-personal level and infra-personal level. This would be done by using generic gestures and impersonal expressions to explore our perception of reality while we collectively de-subjectify ourselves through different forms of depersonalisation. Hopefully by way of such processes we will find out some generic truths that don’t allow multiple readings, thus finding out facts about a meaningless reality that we can only access through concepts.

An example that starts to point towards this type of improvisation is a record by Miguel Prado, Comedy Apories[3], which offers, for 37 minutes, nothing other than long silences cut by brief canned laughter. Even if it was conceived as a composition, to us it seems a reversal of reductionist improvisation, which does not give you back quality sounds but instead, the misery of your life. The improvisation starts when the listener presses play, then a synthetic laugh, one that could come from TV, invades your private sphere but there is nothing but you, and the sense of desolation, creepiness or meaninglessness starts to grow, feeling more and more alone. Comedy Apories forces you to think how these little sounds are having such a strong effect while making it almost impossible to judge it aesthetically. The feeling is not one that you embrace, but one you constantly distance yourself from, like a hardcore version of verfremdungseffekt, whereby you not only become an object but you become the joke of the whole of society – pure alienation, making you aware of the absence of social ideals. After hearing this record one cries for a real form of collectivity, one that is beyond consumption and production, beyond the discussions of specific genres of music. Comedy Apories abjures ready-made theoretical forms borrowed from philosophy and/or the social sciences as well as generic aesthetic idioms. By giving you the lowest of the low and making you feel the lowest of the low, Comedy Apories laughs at those pertaining to musical genre. To put it bluntly the concept of this record makes you aware that you are an object for the market.

One could say that our comments describing this record still feed the correlationist circle by only focusing upon the psychological and socio-economic register. But the point is not to negate ourselves as historically constructed subjects. We need to push this type of critique as far as possible in order to denaturalise our sense of individuality. By accelerating our contemporary alienation we try constantly to force the meeting between historical materialism and eliminative materialism.

This creates the opposite of a cathartic effect on the listener; by having to understand how musical affect works, and how we react to it, we can then start to conceive subjectivity in a broader sense, not as something that relates only to us (as determined by economic and social conditions) but in more general terms. This research will happen parallel to work on the way that our senses, nerves and brain function. With regards to what Cage said about experimental music, ears cannot fully accustom themselves to the coexistence of dissimilars (i.e. us and reality):

Here we are concerned with the coexistence of dissimilars, and the central points where fusion occurs are many: the ears of the listeners wherever they are. This disharmony, to paraphrase Bergson’s statement about disorder, is simply a harmony to which many are unaccustomed.[4]

As reality is meaningless we could also say that it is a form of disharmony and we are certainly unaccustomed to it. However, in the process of engaging with it we can decipher our limitations to relate to it, while understanding that we will never achieve harmony. In Comedy Apories the ears of the listeners do not work as point of fusion but as a point of conceptual separation, where conception is pitted against sensation. Thought does not allow for harmony to appear. Instead internal psychological disharmony emerges forcing you to think about the socioeconomic reasons as to why this makes you feel in a certain way, and also to question what the conceptual mechanism is that allows it to have such an affect.

Such a reversal of how we conceive improvisation, rather than showing individually our majestic abilities and intelligence, shows instead the shit we need to go through in order to improvise, including all the insecurities, fears and anxieties. An objectification of these symptoms would not be carried out in order to evoke sympathy for the performer in a performance situation, but is instead made in order to understand our general situation better, so we can change it. So far improvisation has only tried to express the self. What we need now is the dissolution of the self as we know it: by taking into account neuroscientific discoveries; working towards subjective depersonalisation; and reconsidering our relationship to the structures of reality beyond the multiplicity of readings of post-structuralism. This will require cognitive discipline, communal investigation, and collective organisation in order to make our ‘responsibility that of asking questions instead of making choices’.[5]

GegenSichKollektiv
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[1] A clear example of this is the way websites such us YouTube, Amazon, and Facebook, personalise and edit your searches and internet activity, to offer you something related to your previous searches by creating a profile of your action to the point where, for example, Facebook can delete some friends of yours with an ideology different to you, so you don’t get into conflict, so you continue in a happy bubble. For a close analysis of this see Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble, New York: The Penguin Press, 2011.
[2] Brassier, 2010-2011 : #4.
[3] I have played this record to both adults and children. Adults while at the beginning finding it funny (even laughing) at some point begin to take it personally, the record creates a peculiar feeling. Children just get totally scared. More information about this record: http://www.taumaturgia.com/miguelprado/?page_id=420
[4] Cage, 1968 : 12.
[5] John Cage, An Autobiographical Statement. http://www.newalbion.com/artists/cagej/autobiog.html

The Watchfull Ear by Richard Pinnell

A very interesting CD indeed tonight, one that I suspect will annoy more than it inspires and become talked about quite a bit. I kind of hope so anyway. The disc in question is the second release on Miguel Prado’s aptly named CDr label Heresy, a solo work by Miguel named Comedy Apories.

Now, this disc is structurally no different to many Radu Malfatti compositions in that it contains a great deal of digital silence, amongst which, and at presumably carefully chosen points, sounds are distributed, or rather, one sound, used repeatedly, though occasionally slightly pitchshifted. So I must like it yes? I must be able to enjoy it in the same way I do when I sit back and enjoy the tension between sound and silence in a Malfatti work?

Well, maybe… but this CD differs in that the chosen sound is that of canned laughter, a small grab of it, maybe a second and a half in length, placed in spaces around a digital silence lasting thirty-sebven minutes. Now, Prado’s disc came accompanied by a press release that quotes from Zizek and Ray Brassier, but also points out that Prado has chosen this sample so as to

“work with these sounds apart from any other artifice or affectation. I tried to objectify the experience of generating noise, forget any eglomaniac gloating very typical of the artists” (sic)”

So, as a listener, I am presented by a CD, in a brown cardboard slipcase, which when inserted into my CD player does little but laugh at me every now and again. The irony of course, is hilarious. Now, the choice of canned laughter is a massively loaded, and thoroughly interesting one. There are of course the cultural connotations of this sound, the way it is used in the crassest, lifeless “entertainment” of our age to remind us when we are supposed to find something funny, when we are supposed to respond, and how we are supposed to respond… Then there is the relationship between laughter, humour, and experimental music. For some people I can think of, humour shouldn’t be there in this music, its something to sit and scratch your chin and consider carefully rather than laugh at. Those that laugh at the silly sounds made by experimental music just don’t “get it”…

So Prado has created a piece of music that conforms precisely to the aesthetic structure of a lot of Wandelweiser-esque music, and he has created it in a careful, precise manner, possibly with a system applied to the spacing of the samples amongst the silence, as the gaps are certainly irregular. He has though, completely changed a great deal about the music by replacing the solemn twang of a guitar, or a dry cello line, or a tasteful field recording with this ugly, vaguely insulting sound lifted from everyday garish life. In a recent, very intelligent piece written by David Grundy about the Audiograft concert I attended a week or so back, David wondered about how I, and others that hold the Wandelweiser aesthetic in high esteem might view the music, whether we placed it in some imagined ivory tower away from the rigours and horrors of the real world. I don’t think I do this, though it is good to be made to think about it, and certainly it made me smile to put this CD on for the first time a day or two ago and find it laughing at me, as if mocking the process I had gone through to sit down, make myself comfortable and try and focus on what was coming from my speakers. If there was an ivory tower it would have lain in rubble after listening to this CD! In many ways Comedy Apories is a more witty, more thoughtful update of Mattin and Taku Unami’s Attention release, in which Mattin verbally confronts the listener as they sit and listen- “are you paying enough attention? Is your CD player good enough for this CD?” Here though, very cleverly, Prado has taken a currently very topical, widely considered style of music making (and to be clear he calls the work a “Wandelweiser Detournement” in his notes, this isn’t just my reading of the work) and he has literally made the CD laugh at the listener, so replacing those aesthetically pleasing cellos and guitars with something that is roughly the polar opposite. It also has a lot in common with Unami’s Malignitat releases in the way it questions our ideas of what sounds should be considered worthy of a role in experimental music and which should not.

I don’t take this CD to be an affront to me and the way I listen to music, but it is certainly a firm reminder that if we are to hold up musicians as merely the purveyors of aesthetic beauty and little else then we are on a slippery slope. It begs the question- If you remove the aesthetically beautiful sounds from a composition does it still have value? Does it still warrant listening to in the same manner? As someone that is able to enjoy music on both levels, both as something that challenges me, makes me think, make me question my own habits and ethics, but also as something that is often inherently beautiful, this disc straddles the divide that I often subconsciously place within the music, a separation between the fundamentally conceptual and the aesthetically beautiful. Of course a large amount of music, if not all of it, embodies elements of both sides of this ‘divide’, but often I personally (as you may notice if you read these pages regularly) listen to things differently depending on how I seem to irrationally separate things. Comedy Apories then brings this under the spotlight and leads me to think again about such matters, just as I also want to go find the Zizek essay Prado quotes from.

A very thoughtful release. Available here.

Neural by Aurelio Cianciotta

Let’s be honest, when faced with a new Anty-Copyright crew release we are always prepared to encounter something unusual, radical and extremist, even from the perspective of audio art and experimental music. Even so, these elements are often so surprising that it becomes impossibile to separate them from the sound component of the work. In “Comedy Apories” after twenty minutes of listening the only sound is still the same as that heard at the beginning: a group laughter that continously loops, following irregular rhythms of repetition in a total absence of other sounds. Miguel Prado is interested in the minimalist qualities of people’s laughter, preferably as a result of an improvisation – his work here is radically independent of any other artifice or affectation. The author does not seem at all interested in creating a network of hypercomplex sounds, although the conceptual premises of the work may suggest a more intricate and careful handling as part of the imposistion of the author’s “aesthetic considerations”. The consistency of this work should be acknowledged: the tear between knowing and hearing is enhanced, forcing attention on the concept rather than the feeling. After thirty-six minutes, the laughter is still the same and our ability to judge is one again tricked by the extreme force of the artist’s argument, which cryptically turns to its advantage certain clichés of contemporary experience. In short, this art is not only identification with an artifact – it also plays the role of a theoretical and poetic displacement and intellectual provocation.

Crow with no mouth by Jesse Goin

Consider now the follow up Heresy release, Comedy Apories – now you enter the interlaced ideas of Zizek, Brassier, anti-comedy, and, from my perspective, equal parts Pataphysics [for example, the clunky signifier Prado lifts from Zizek in describing his work as an interpassive composition], the Merry Pranksters’ mockery of the banal, and the detournement of Wandelweiser.

Comedy Apories, at least as far as what I felt with the number of listens I gave it, is variously chilling, irritating, and apathy-inducing; append to your listening sessions the conceptual link Prado makes to the similarly structured Wandelweiser pieces that feature recurring, brief sound events along a lengthy skein of silence, and you have an experience closer to the Stanford prison experiment than, say, Weites Land, tiefe Zeit. It occurs to me as I write this how many of our friends and associates describe the music we listen to with avidity as torture, so don’t toss off my analogy too quickly. The piece consists of aperiodic two second bursts of the most affectless laugh track you’ve heard since the equally distressing one used by David Lynch for his rabbit dramedy show in Inland Empire. It is a sterile and unappealing antithesis to the grimy sensuality of Within [3.2].

I can’t say how deliberately Prado set out to release back-to-back works referencing the world of Wandelweiser in such divergent ways; both are variations on a given Wandelweiser aesthetic area, but to my ears the first amplifies and enriches its antecedent, the second renders it banal and insipid. Whatever his intentions, Prado stirs the pot, which is vital. Progress, this great heresy of decay, Adorno bemoaned; listen for yourself, see if you hear what I hear in Prado’s detournements – not heresy, but the variously loving, exuberant, deadpan killing of idols.

Adorno quotes from Minima Moralia: Reflections From A Damaged Life, 1951

Detournement a GuyDebord text from the Firesign Theatre-esque Bureau of Public Secrets

Heresy Records

Photos: Prado performing, photographer unknown; a still from David Lynch’s Rabbits

Just Outside by Brian Olewnick
Miguel Prado – Comedy Apories (Heresy)

Richard has already beaten me to the punch on this one and made many excellent points, so I’ll try to confine myself to a couple of issues.

To recap, “Comedy Apories” is a composition that refers directly to a general mode of operation (to grossly simplify) that has been part and parcel of the Wandelweiser group of composers for the last couple of decades. Prado makes this explicit in his notes:”…isolated events, arranged in time as a ‘Wandelweiser Detournement [diversion]'”. He chose as his material another kind of multi-layered allusion: laughter, that of the canned variety. He takes the scoffing laughter many experimental artists know too well and transmutes it to the awful, phony sounding laughter of the situation comedy. As Richard mentions, this is quite the loaded sound.

The recording is silent for the first five minutes, the initial peals, loud and unpleasant, coming as something of a shock. This sole element, the same two-second grab continues to appear, bracketed by irregular, relatively lengthy periods of silence (which, of course, is another element) over the course of some 37 minutes.

The choice of the laughter recording is the salient thing, naturally, and is (for this listener) almost impossible to hear without bringing along all its connotations, predominantly negative (as opposed to natural laughter. Interestingly, I received this disc just after playing that Scott Johnson track made up of sampled giggles–a very different feel there.) Try as I might–and I did–it’s very difficult to hear these sounds in an abstract, Cageian manner and, I suspect, Prado would like us not to do so. But that’s just the thing: once the idea is understood and more or less appreciated, does the performance bear further listening? In a random excellent Wandelweiser work, say a Pisaro piece, there’s great care taken in what I’d call the poetics of the composition. The duration of the silences is arrived at intuitively, with a sense of shape, of cadence, of weight. As well, the sounds introduced, even to the extent left up to the performer, are (usually) inherently interesting, either on their own or in relation to the context in which they appear or, in a particularly successful piece, both, leading to a very complex cross-referential interplay between sound and structure. These “poetics” are quite subjective and one’s enjoyment perhaps depends on the affinities one shares with the judgment of the composer.

In “Comedy Apories”, I’m left with two problems after the initial appreciation of the idea, which I do indeed appreciate, even to the extent that it’s a gentle poke at these aesthetics. Firstly, as mentioned, the sound, while actually rather complex in and of itself, by virtue of simply repeating (I sometimes thought I detected adjustments in dynamics and contrast, but I’m not sure) becomes heard as rote after a brief while, leaving only the spacing as an object of real interest. Second, for me that spacing came across as rather arbitrary, somehow not evocative of anything else. I use that term, “evocative”, hesitantly knowing I may be assigning values to a group of composers which they reject but I often can’t but help picking up a certain emotional quality in the music, as in the Frey piece I heard the other night. Often it’s quite attenuated but I still sense those wisps.

All of which isn’t to say that this isn’t a valuable and intriguing work–it is. It’s just not one I’d find it necessary to listen to often again as I do with music by those to whom it refers. The idea is fine, though, and that’s enough. I just don’t know that more will be revealed on further actual listening as opposed to rumination. I could, of course, be wrong.

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