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Musicality and Ecology with DJ Spooky

This post is inspired by some thinking I have been doing surrounding Paul D. Miller’s, aka DJ Spooky, latest multimedia masterpiece “The Book of Ice.” In line with his other works, DJ Spooky teases out the relationship between musicality and ecology. Antarctica is an interesting territorialized ecological space for DJ Spooky because it still has a lot of potentiality, i.e. deterritorialized flow, for freedom. Antarctica is one of the few ecological landmasses on this earth that humans have not settled on. Nation-states have laid claim to the landmass but none have settlements or have ventured to strip the landmass of its resources quite yet. Therefore, The Book of Ice, argues for a “People’s [sic] Republic of Antarctica.” DJ Spooky presents his encounters with the ecology of Antarctica, traces the territories of certain animals that have territorialized this frozen horizon for their own means, and most importantly, for him, the ice. Ice represents a geological and historical clock for DJ Spooky that measures the history of this earth. As ice melts, partly due to human intervention in this Earth, we see landscapes radically changing and deterritorializing fluidity infiltrating this earth. DJ Spooky uses the sounds of the ice, it’s inherent frozen musicality, as the base for his own electronic musical performances, that are accompanied by an orchestra and a documentary film he made on his trip to Antarctica. Viewers are transported along a whirlwind adventure of musical, quantum (wave) mechanical, ecological, historical, philosophical, and filmic studies. I applaude and commend DJ Spooky for this effort and want to provide a little addition of my own by connecting Antarctica to his previous work on sound unbound: “No wonder hip hop sounds so nice, when you have a flow like fire and beats like ice; sound unbound that will astound; rewound and compound, a variable crescendo of sound that’s liable to crash in a flash like a wave breaking against a surface real fast…we may have found a Deleuzian smooth surface at last.”

What DJ Spooky does in his anthropological adventure to Antarctica is provide the reader with a contextual example of some philosophical trends we have witnessed throughout the history of philosophy. I will highlight a few of those here. First, we have musical concepts that have reached the status of idea or conceptual persona in Paul Virilio’s and Deleuze and Guattari’s work. These concepts are that of tempo, speed, rhythm, etc. Virilio is specifically concerned with speed as it relates to history. He argues that the speed of our present age is reaching a tempo so quick that we are racing to destruction. I think his notions of Grey Ecology, speed and temporality, are worth considering in light of DJ Spooky’s Antarctica study. Deleuze and Guattari work very specifically with rhythm, tempo, the refrain, and various ecological/biological/animalogical studies in their work A Thousand Plateaus that are also worthy considering in light of DJ Spooky’s most recent work. I know that DJ Spooky implicitly enters into a dialogue with these philosophical works in his many of his works, including this one. While there is plenty more to say on the subject, I will leave readers with this: the relationship between music, philosophy, and ecology is an important one and only eventive thinking, i.e. thought that acts as an event, will be able to deterritorialize the potentiality of these territorialized areas of knowledge and allow for the production of new forms of subjectivity and ethics that bring us closer to ourselves, our environment, the Other (in particular, I am fascinated with the animal as Other currently), and the forces of power that run through the waves of quantum mechanics, our environment, and music that are the impetus for the philosophical studies of Paul Miller, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, Slavoj Zizek, and Alain Badiou today. I will have a much more extensive and academically rigorous exploration of philosophy, musicality, ecology, and ethics in my dissertation that I will pose once it is complete. Comments welcome and encouraged.

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