Wednesday, 24 February 2010

HNW as anti-music

When I was younger I always liked to tape over old tapes with music I liked. Initially this had a mainly practical purpose, i.e. to make my self a copy of an album a friend had loaned which I couldn't afford to buy myself, but while doing so I began to fantasise about how one day someone, my ma or maybe even someone who lived in that house after us, might find one of those tapes and pop it into their tape deck expecting to hear a compilation of Christmas numbers but in fact get blasted with the opening bars of 'Mouth for War'. I thought it would blow their minds and it gave me a smug sense of satisfaction to think that I was replacing Bing Crosby with Phil Anselmo - literally replacing something I didn't like with something I did like.

I've continued this practice right up until today. Usually I put to tape stuff that I think would sound good on tape or tapes that are long sold-out but which I can still download - like the early Moss stuff. But recently I started to put to tape random HNW that I got from Jliat's random Java HNW generator. Again this was just for practical purposes - I wanted some new, long, boring HNW but I didn't want to have to switch my computer on every time I wanted to hear it. But as I was dubing the tape (in real time) and listening to the wall I started thinking again about the process of erasing someone elses music. I thought HNW was perfect for this purpose. It felt like an act of destruction but at the same time it felt like I was snatching that tape from the claws of pop music and bringing it under the cold dominion of HNW. A small victory, but a victory none the less. The impulse came over me to do this with all my tapes and so I sat and copied over each shitey second hand pop/rock tape and used or unused blank tape that I had, only stopping short of Black Metal and Noise. When I went to work the next day I found a stash of old tapes down by the Hi-Fi and reclaimed them for the cause as well. I sat and recorded over dozens of tapes of varying lengths and quality in real-time, completely engrossed in the process of wanton destruction of music in the name of HNW. What made the act all the more fulfilling was that each wall was randomly generated and so there was no ego involved on my part. There was no way I could control or alter the wall. All I could do was click on the Java link and press record on the tape deck. No control over the wall meant no decision making on my part and no decision making meant no worrying about the sound quality on the shitey recycled tape, nor did I worry about it being too long or too short because all it had to do was fill the tape and drown-out second after second of sickening pop nonsense with thick, black, suffocating wall. Like an oil spill in an aquarium.

So now I've got a stack of random HNW tapes of various qualities and lengths, what do I do with them? Keep them and listen to them, give them to a friend or throw them in the bin? Personally I don't think it matters. The point was the process of destruction/creation - annexing territory in the war against music. Tapes belong to noise, not pop or rock music. Long ago they neglected the medium, its ours now. Besides, creation is so much more satisfying when it is so heavily dependent on, maybe even defined by, the destruction of someone else's creation. Maybe I'll start leaving these lying around in bars and cafes for people to find. Most people won't have tape decks these days and most will get chucked-out but the remote possibility that one person might find one listen to it and try and work out why someone decided to tape over an Oasis album with a wall of harsh static appeals to me. I wonder will they understand that each tape has become a statement oppositional nihilism - akin to a spoiled ballot or a piece of graffiti. But it probably won't happen. Even if everybody who made HNW began erasing every second-hand tape that they could get their hands on from friends, family, second-hand music stores etc., it would still be just a drop in the ocean of music tapes out there. Nevertheless, I reckon its a worthwhile effort. If HNW is to last it has to survive whatever time has to throw at it. Durability and numbers are the only protection against time. I would hate in the centuries to come, after western civilisation has collapsed and people are rediscovering what it was like to be around in the late 20th/early 21st centuries all they could find were Spice Girls tapes. I think we should try and make the physical presence of HNW as monolithic a statement as the sound is itself. Like a standing stone, a statement imposed on time and space. I'd like to think out of whatever is recovered, whatever lasts, something might say we were here and we hated it and we tried to work against it in our way.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, and great idea with the tapes.

    Interestingly, your approach also taps into the processes of guys like Philip Jeck, Indignant Senility and The Caretaker, and their manipulation of old vinyl and the deconstruction of old music, be it pop, classical or whatever, in a post-digital world.

    And, fittingly, yours is more destructive only to then be constructive - the ideal of noise in excelsis.