Peder Mannerfelt The 3D Printed Songbook

[Peder Mannerfelt; 2018]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: ambient techno, industrial techno
Others: Regis, Muslimgauze

Peder Mannerfelt’s 2015 release The Swedish Congo Record shares much in common with certain sequences of Chris Marker’s masterpiece Sans Soleil. If it’s possible to fabricate such an inheritance, weaving relationships through time where before were only shards of intimation, we will have shown in advance what we want to proclaim: that time is a space that can be inhabited, and that perhaps it is possible to decolonize this space.

In Marker’s film, a Joan of Arc reads from a letter: “I bow to the economic miracle, but what I really want to show you are neighborhood celebrations.” The scene is so thick and rich that it drags, lagging in a leaden flow. It’s almost unbearable, because the sound editing of the complex noises and pulsations of life, each one a distinct rhythm, are played in simultaneity, synchronized then synthesized; Marker begins to exaggerate the balance, drawing one out of contrast with the other until the listener realizes that they are in fact different rhythms, as in a Philip Glass piano phase. It’s a realization that prompts another: previously one was experiencing two different times at once. Like the train ride to the Zone in Stalker, industrial clatter morphs into Bach, and one can’t point to where the change took place. In any polyrhythm, one hears multiple “times,” but one can only listen to one at a time. But where the ear fails, the body triumphs, escaping such temporal constraints as easily as it flees gravity.

By recreating “a very obscure 78 rpm record, put together by Belgian filmmaker Armand Denis of the sounds of the Central Congo” instead of simply sampling it, Peder Mannerfelt seeks to avoid the colonialist tendency of reappropriation, so that, emphasizing the music’s artificiality, he leaves the Real an empty space, an open time. Like Bartleby, to salute the spirits of unmailed letters is to treat images as images, not as circumscriptions of a past reality that only exists as a lingering pain, but as non-images, images that point to, that intimate, that look with blindness at memories, not at representations. So too, these non-sounds attempt no hegemony.

Controlling Body, Mannerfelt’s 2016 release, focuses on the economic miracle, the somatic manifestation of power whose law is, “The moment you are in control you are no longer free.” Instead of resuscitating the possibility of life, he examines how power and machines impose laws on bodies, voiding them of even the possibility of life. Whereas the many dances of The Swedish Congo Record were perhaps attempts to escape gravity, imagining someone dancing to this record — under so much power and control, beneath so many arbitrary impositions of force — is like imagining drunkards stumbling and stuttering a reenactment of the dance of the sun and the moon.

It is between these two extremes — leaving open / forcing closed the possibility of life — that Peder Mannerfelt’s 2018 release The 3D Printed Songbook is situated.

Let’s focus first on automation, because in capitalism, automation is the very difference between printing songbooks and producing songs. In this manner, the history of electronic music mirrors late capitalist development. Fully automated production (in which labor and thus surplus value are thought to be obsolete) can never be the internal limit of capital’s contradiction for the reason that labor (and thus exploitation, and thus surplus value) is merely abstracted from production to programming. Because automated production does not have the limit of the 8-hour work day, the innovation and efficiency of software have an exponential time limit approaching the instantaneous, such that the genetic reproduction of capital becomes the terrain for further exploitation.

As it always was! The contradiction of labor is that its price is not the value of its actuality or ontological activity (what it produces in producing itself), but simply and absurdly the value for reproducing this labor. Minimum wage is not a “living” wage, because “living” is but the possibility to work, a definition that I utterly refuse.

Likewise, as electronic music deals less with the creation or production of sound and more with the manipulation of the constraints in which such sounds are produced, we must ask, like Marker, in relation to “that Indian flute whose sound can only be heard by whomever is playing it,” “Where should this music be?”

Power desires neither to recreate the human voice (to colonize it, to situate it in a discourse that appears as the only language) nor to mute the human voice (to void it of that which makes it a voice, how the Logos became logic), but power (and not to speak of desire) manifests as the impossibility and yet the obligation to speak again(st). So, where is (in what place is) such music that exists as the possibility of music, a songbook and not a song? And where should it be? How does one sing it into being?

Maybe this is why I am so fascinated with the trend in which industrial techno and ambient music have begun to coalesce. Between the totalizing power of the one and the soporific passivity of the other, is there room to escape the imperial, imperious forces that created it in the first place? (The American myth of robots gone rogue). For instance, even amidst the harsh motorik staccato of “First Day,” smooth, reverb-drenched ambient flourishes echo a yearning to escape, which the industrial creates as a possibility as much as it seeks to destroy it. Yet the song goes nowhere, and, we might add, “as it should.” Or on “You Had,” a static drone enchains ethereal chords that slide easily out of its grasp. Blurring the boundaries between sleek and jagged, such music is not content to make beauty from the oppressive or to articulate the oppressive as art because it exists; it seeks to rupture the cracks in the pavement, to reveal the beach.

In the end, however, the The 3D Printed Songbook remains a mere blueprint, perhaps the articulation of a discourse, but not the use of it in speech. The expression of a contradiction in production, but not the unraveling. It remains purely deconstructive, opening up, but not inhabiting. Or perhaps this is the brutality of its title: How might one play these songs? If a songbook is three-dimensional, where might a four-dimensional song be?

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