Sound Art 37.2 – The Nudity Issue
Issue 37.2: The Nudity Issue
Welcome to the sound art component of Black Warrior Review‘s latest feature—Nudity. Below you’ll find an article about nudity and music by Cordelia Brodsky as well as original tracks from some of our favorite sound artists: loscil, Andrew Pekler, AGF, Black To Comm, Phonophani, and Janek Schaefer. Each artist’s composition was designed for The Nudity Feature and is available exclusively on our website.
Introduction to Nudity and Music
by Cordelia Brodsky
In a consumption-obsessed society, nudity is both a commodity and a liability. It connotes sexuality, savage desire and bestial nature, and may be harnessed and promoted to inflame loins and the pockets overlaid upon them. It is a hook which cleaves the flesh of our wildest fantasies. Notwithstanding, nudity, as a subjective experiential state, is rather difficult to sell- being naked requires no imported ingredients, accessories or complicated processes. Nudity is a state to which we all have access, regardless of capitalistic, aesthetic or organizational structures.We are all equal in our nudity, although the nudity itself does not necessarily imply a natural state beneath the skin, and may be edited and polished as it moves from nudity as state to nudity as event, and finally, a cultural or artistic artifact. However, the absolute state of nudity can be defined, most succinctly, as the absence of clothing. When we remove of these layers, we remove the talismans and filters which protect us from the elements, from prying eyes, from fetishistic titillation, from the hygienic inconveniences of an unfettered exchange of bodily secretions.
Nudity, then, is simple; or it is until we assign it values. Looking more closely at nudity as an aesthetic proposal, we could say that it conveniently diverges into the salacious, sexual ideal of nudity as commodity, or the natural ideal of nudity as absence (of clothing, markers, and adornment), as exposure and, finally, as a kind of transparency.
Nudity as understood in the context of music generally follows these two imperatives: there is music designed to promote nudity as just another step on the road to sexual congress, or destined to be consumed naked, and music which promises “nudity” in the loftier sense: music which has been stripped of the auto tune, which expresses intimacy and authenticity, which may or not evoke older, less adorned and labored formal restraints and methods of production and editing.
If nudity is the absence of clothing, one could think that the most naked music is silence, the absence of sound. But as the body does not disappear just because it naked, sound does not have to efface itself to pursue nudity as an aesthetic goal, just reveal.
As a state may or may not have a defined beginning, rhythm or end, music must be interpreted as an event that relies on time to give it structure and bearing. Naked music would find its most appropriate metaphors in naked events, both those mediated by strobe lights and the naturally lit.
Naked Music at once embodies the grinding, shaking, multilayered paroxysms that fuel disco and rave culture (as evinced by the record label “Naked Music,” which focuses on deep house) and the lo-fi aesthetic espoused by folk musicians who eschew effects that could be understood as “dressing-up” or otherwise glossing their sound for consumption. Naked music could also be that which reveals the fears and desires of either the audience or the composer, or taps into the sounds of white noise, the buzz which continues to sound loud after the last line is snorted off the toilet and the all the frenzied couples retire from the dance floor to the cool sounds of minimal techno, car alarms, 6 am birds and finally, alarm clocks.
The mating dance devolves into Joy Division or Autechre at a moderate volume and the deathly post coital cigarette. The tweaker may find themselves pressing attention to every twitch, settle and rush of pipes, sonic density and vicarious revelation of all the neighbors’ daily tasks amplified by activated brain pathways. Ears that still pine for the hyper-stimulation of the dance floor will find sound under every silence. Hence the life cycle of sonic nudity commences in sexuality, and ends in a nihilistic musical extrapolation. You may wish to turn up the volume.
1: LOSCIL (featuring Josh Lindstrom, Jaret Penner, and Steve Wood) / Othello
2: ANDREW PEKLER / …it was in the supermarket that I realized everyone else was wearing clothes
3: AGF / I Would Like to Have You
4: BLACK TO COMM / à demi nu
5: PHONOPHANI / Mjuklia
6: JANEK SCHAEFER / Bare Necessity
Cordelia Brodsky is an artist and translator currently based in Barcelona, Spain. “Sanguine” representations of femininity as controversy, fetish, melancholy, music, body modification practices, and the wor(l)d-made-flesh discourse of tattoos populate her visual and linguistic experiments; preferred supports include skin, cloth, wood, and paper. Recent work involving rara avis, sex symbols, sirens and salt licks may be seen at www.cordeliabrodsky.tumblr.com and read online under of a variety of pseudonyms.
Espen Sommer Eide (Phonophani) is an artist and musician living in Bergen, Norway. Aside from releasing electronic music and touring with the bands and Phonophani, he is also a sonic installation artist and builder of unique instruments (he has displayed this work at art events such as the Manifesta Biennial and the Shanghai Biennial). At home, he prefers to brew his own cider from local apples picked near the fjords.
Antye Greie (AGF) is a composer, vocalist, producer, poet, and multimedia artist from East Germany. Greie has released approximately twenty and performed in a litany of institutions, museums, and other environments. Her emphasis lies on sound and language; on the depth of digital composition. Presently, she lives and works in Hailuoto, Finland (antyegreie.com, poemproducer.com).
Scott Morgan (loscil) is a composer, game audio director, drummer, and father living in Vancouver, British Columbia. For the past 10 years, Scott’s electronic music project “loscil” has been the focal point of his creative output, with five full-length releases on Chicago’s Kranky label, as well as numerous EPs and compilation appearances. The “loscil” sound is one of half-remembered dreams and imagined worlds; the beauty of decline.
“Othello” features Josh Lindstrom on Xylophone, Jaret Penner on Melodion and Steve Wood on Membrane Pipes.
Andrew Pekler was born in the U.S.S.R., grew up in the U.S.A., and—since the mid-1990s—has lived in Germany, occupying himself with music. Andrew’s recordings attempt to create a self-contained aesthetic within the confines (e.g. limited sonic vocabulary) of an album and/or series of tracks. Since 2002, he has released albums via the ˜scape, Staubgold, Kranky and Schoolmap labels. He has also composed music for film, dance, and theater and has played concerts in Europe, N. America, Asia, and Australia.
Marc Richter (Black To Comm) is a self-taught musician and graphic designer based in Hamburg, Germany. He creates dense drone-based song collages from vinyl and shellac loops, vintage organs, field recordings, voice, and other arcane sources. His albums have been released on Type Records, Digitalis, and his own Dekorder imprint under the moniker Black To Comm.
Janek Schaefer trained as an architect at the Royal College of Art in London, where he developed his focus on the relationship between sound, space, and place. He exhibits and performs worldwide as a full time sound artist, and was the British Composer of the Year in Sonic Art in 2008 (www.audiOh.com).