HART magazine and Q-O2, a Brussels-based space for experimental music and sound art, join forces with 21 Tracks for the 21st Century, a series of playlists to gear ourselves for our present century. We ask our guests: what music does this century need? As tonic, as engine-fuel, as rhythm, as common ground, as ballast? Each time, we invite one artist, thinker or musician to prepare a playlist of those sounds, songs and pieces of music that will best arm their listeners with the tools to approach what is left of this young century. Each playlist will be published online and accompanied by a short introduction to the guest(s). For this edition, we've invited Berlin-based artist and composer Jasmine Guffond.
Jasmine Guffond is an Australian sound artist living in Berlin whose work frequents the many recesses and small places of online and offline listening. Her work takes form in concerts, installations, papers and more fugitive formats. In 2017, she began developing Listening Back, a work that takes the form of a browser extension for Chrome or Firefox. The piece sonifies cookie activity on the web, producing a sound or series of sounds each time a cookie is inserted, deleted or updated on the user's personal computer. With the extension switched on, a typical journey along one's normal pathways on the internet triggers a waterfall of samples, which can be in turn kaleidoscopically beautiful and deeply unsettling. The constant confrontation with just how much of one's online activity is subject to surveillance is disturbing, but the piece is also a reminder of art's capacity to nestle in the thinnest of places (your browser).
In general, Guffond's work might be said to be about contemporary listening in all its forms. Listening is not a uniquely human activity, and, more and more, it is being outsourced to machines. Listening participates in surveillance culture. Not only in the sense that you are listened to, but also in that your listening patterns (what you like to hear and when) are themselves surveilled. Where does that leave listening for leisure? The songs and tracks that make up this selection would suggest that any playlist for the 21st century would have to reckon with many kinds of listening: computational listening, distributed listening, nonconsensual listening, fuzzy or lo-fi listening, suggested listening, transcendent listening.
- Killa DBA – Data Protection
This track comes from a list I put together with Soeur Surveillance, first for The Wire magazine and then for Oscillation Festival’s radio edition in 2020 around the theme of digital surveillance.
- Cargo Cults – Reign of the Tech
I pilfered this one from Soeur Surveillance’s archive of Best privacy songs of 2020. Great lyrics such as 'I’m slowly being murdered by my mother f****ing Twitter feed,' 'they watch you through your fridge, they listen to Alexa what the f****k did you expect' and 'Listen get outta my face with facial recognition'.
- David Goldberg – Approximations to Wellbeing
As a student, David Goldberg made this for my Computational Listening seminar. Music was generated using AI techniques via the platform Boomy, which offers users the ability to 'Make Instant Music with Artificial Intelligence.' The generated tracks were then fed into the auto mix function of the app Pro Djay, which claims to use machine learning techniques to 'predict semantically meaningful developments.' Goldberg describes Approximations to Wellbeing as a 'Neo Muzak for the Metaverse'.
- Speaker Music – Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponary
I came across this artist and album via a social media feed and I like it very much! Speaker Music is the music project of DeForrest Brown Jr., who is also a theorist, journalist and representative of the Make Techno Black Again campaign.
- Dewa Alit & Gamelan Salukat – Siklys mov.2
Very beautiful un-tunings and nuanced modifications of Gamelan instrumentation. All of Dewa Alit’s records are highly recommended.
- Suzanne Cianni – Concert at WBAI Free Music Store
This is one of my favourite classics for every century, not least the 21st.
- Beatriz Ferreyra – Echoes +
A recentish discovery for me, but Beatriz Ferreyra has been making great music beyond the 21st century, that is, she was already working as a concrète composer during the 20th century and is still active today. This album focuses on extended vocal manipulations, percussion and recordings of her niece who died in car accident.
- Moor Mother – Black Encyclopedia of the Air
I first heard Moor Mother perform at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 2018 and her duo with Roscoe Mitchell was one of the best live improvised duets I’ve ever witnessed.
- Bani Haykal – Almost Tomorrow
I recently kinda accidentally came across this artist and album via social media and I like it! How 21st century is that?!
- Christine Schörkhuber & Zorka Wollny
21st-century neurosis with a sense of irony, I guess... anyway I find it funny and relatable. Artist Zorka Wollny often works with communities and voice to vocalise, perform and resonate contemporary local themes and politics and this time she is collaborating with artist Christine Schörkhuber.
- Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda (featuring Paraoh Sanders)
This is one of my classic favourites that transcends in multiple ways a single century.
- Moondog - The Viking of Sixth Avenue
- Bernard Parmegiani – De Natura Sonorum
- Susana Santos Silva – From the Ground Birds Are Born
I also came across this one via social media and music journalist Peter Margasak, who wrote an article for The Wire about the fantastic bandcamp label Superpang.
Dane Mitchell’s project for NTS recites lists of 'millions of vanished, extinct, absent and obsolete things'. This edition is accompanied by Torben Tilly’s beautiful piano meditations.
- Caterina Barbieri & Kali Malone – Glory (Final Movement)
'Slowly evolving canons for electric guitars united in the pythagorean and septimal region of the harmonic spectrum.'
- Elaine Radigue – Adnos I, II & III
Another classic to transcend a single century. Also meditative, as are the following tracks which encourage a deep listening and affect our perception of the passing of time.
- Ellen Arkbro – Chords for Guitar
- Catherine Christer Hennix – The Deontic Miracle: Selections from 100 Models of Hegikan Raku
Catherine Christer Hennix is a Swedish composer, philosopher, poet, mathematician and visual artist. This recording was made at the Modern Museum in Stockholm in 1976. It’s a live performance by the Deontic Miracle, which was a just intonation live electronic ensemble that included Hennix on amplified Renaissance oboe, live electronics and Ssne Wave Generators, Peter Hennix on amplified Renaissance oboe and amplified Sarangi and Hans Isgren on amplified Sarangi.
- Bohren and der Club of Gore – Midnight Radio
A friend played me this soon after I moved to Berlin and I recently re-discovered the (I’m ashamed to admit) CDR copy I have and it’s passed the test of time! Warning: low notes, please don’t listen on your laptop speakers.
- Mark Fell – Manitutshu
Where would the 21st century be without deconstructed club music? I particularly appreciate a sense of melody that permeates the cut-up rhythms.
Jasmine Guffond will perform a new work, Listening to Listening to Listening, in Brussels on Sunday, May 1 as part of Q-O2's festival Oscillation ::: Public Address. The festival runs from April 28 to May 1 in various locations in Brussels.
See the festival website for further details and tickets.
For more info, check Jasmine Guffond's website.