The Architecture of the Incidental (1999)
GD Stereo 014, CD
I contributed one composition for sine waves and snare drums.
The second release in a series of compilations based on the concept of psychogeographical recordings and the theory of the dérive among the artists (the various) assembled here. Musique concrète, electroacoustic and experimental music centered on the subject of a non-site-specific state of transit. The 74’ CD is packaged in a custom-designed wallet fold cover with photographs by Pat Courtney and a blueline printed booklet insert with a text: “Incidents of Displacement,” by Allen S. Weiss. The various artists are the same as on the previous release Psychogeographical Dip. Released in 1999.
Tracks: Pat Courtney — “libratory” Chop Shop — “Diffusion” Sean Meehan — “Everyday I Look at Your Picture” John Hudak — “Asphalt” Geoff Dugan — “Interstitial” Gen Ken Montgomery — “Public Hearing” If Bwana — “Evening” Brian Conley — “A Field of Delineations Passing Through a System of Coordinates” Francisco López — “Untitled #87” Pat Courtney — “libration”
Review: “Music and dérive: Geoff Dugan & Co.,” by Oliver Lussac [Translation by Erin Curren with Pat Courtney and Geoff Dugan]
‘The history of modernism has been intimately linked to the poetics, analysis and transformation of urban space, and consequently, to a radical reflection on the intersecting exigencies of the aesthetics and sociology of the city.’ — Allen S. Weiss
The two compilation CDs by Geoff Dugan proceed from their own requirements, which are, on the one hand, musical experimentation and which become, on the other, “an exploration of the situationist techniques in the post-modern field, the presentation of transient passages through the varied but related ambiences of a specific site…” Briefly, musical experimentation utilizing dérive as a way of acting on urban space and therein revealing momentary ambiances. To initiate such an exploration, Geoff Dugan invited artists to contribute to the project: taking into account the ambiences of a specific site, through the possibilities of musique concrète, electronic, electro-acoustic, experimental, and acousmatic music. According to Dugan, it’s all about revealing the accidental architectural resonance that is a record of the “spontaneous combustion of life, of the everyday, everything being context and the context being everything”. These two CDs call on Chop Shop, Brian Conley, Pat Courtney, Geoff Dugan, John Hudak, If Bwana, Francisco López, Sean Meehan, Gen Ken Montgomery, who respond to the situationist concepts of dérive and psychogeography.
Let’s define dérive. “Dérive: a mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: technique of transient passage through varied ambiances. Also used to designate a specific period of such experience.” (Situationist International, n°1, 1958)
To explain and understand the notion of derive and its musical consequences, one must return to 1952, to the movement called the Lettrist International which, while looking for something new in opposition to their organized surroundings, asked for a reassessment of one’s own neighborhood. This is the beginning of unitary urbanism, which in turn seeks to critique the current urbanism by elaborating “a theory of the combined use of arts and techniques for the integral construction of a milieu in dynamic relation with experiments in behavior.”
Exactly how can this theory construct this milieu and conduce derive? To answer this question investigations must be made. This was the case in 1953 in Paris when the earliest article by Gilles Ivain (Ivan Chtcheglov’s pseudonym) was concerned precisely with this milieu. In this article, titled Formula for a New Urbanism, the principle role of architecture was to modify the conceptions of time and of space, both the means of knowing and the means of acting: “The principle action of inhabitants will be that of CONTINUAL DÉRIVE. The hourly changes in the landscape will be responsible for the complete transformation of that landscape. [...] Later, with the inevitable wear and tear of movements, part of this derive will leave the domain of the living for that of representation” (Situationist International, n°1, 1958).
For Gilles Ivain, this means modifying the architectural complex to change it according to the will of its inhabitants. Beginning with the notion of “the construction of situations,” he seeks to erect a foundation for new constructions that would include the possibility to divert pre-existing aesthetic elements. This critique of architectural rationality supposes two distinct ideas. The first is the study of the interaction between behavior and urban space, in order to completely disorient and to create new playful participation, based on dérive, as it is defined above, and on the concept of psychogeography. The second idea requires that structures be mobile and transformable. Inhabitants will no longer possess a fixed place, but instead will live like nomads (an idea that found its culmination in Constant’s plans in 1959, in Deleuze+Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus (Mille Plateaux) and in the founding of the American “happening”).
So, both dérive and psychogeography are therefore concepts closely linked to the experience of daily life, the essence of urban space and in which the materiality is perhaps, according to Deleuze and Guattari, “inseparable from passage remotely like changes of state, from the process of deformation or from the transformation operating in a space-time, itself inexact, acting like an event (removal, addition, projection…).” Or else they seem “inseparable from the expressive or intensive qualities, more or less susceptible, produced in the same way as variable affects (resistance, hardness, weight, color…). There is therefore an ambulant coupling of events-affects that constitutes the fluid corporal essence, and which distinguished itself from the sedentary link” (Mille Plateaux, p. 507). At the same time, change and affection, such is the definition of Psychogeography: “Psychogeography: The study of the specific effects of a geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” “That which manifests the geographical environments’ direct emotional affects.”
Today like yesterday, nothing or very little has changed in the material of environmental life, and, if things have not transformed, they essentially assure, as in the past, transitory ambiances. From this point on, they often offer themselves as spectacle, or becoming spectacular, they belong to complacent consensus of the media and of the shapeless mass of leisure. But, happily, things that we watch or listen to are not reduced to sameness for all. On the contrary, they produce for each of us different or eventful dérives of, at times, a very rare quality.
In 1956, Guy Debord thus explained that dérive is an unexpected passage through different scenes. It’s a transition linked to behavior that is at the same time constructive and playful, radically contrary to the notion of voyage (as perhaps too long or too arranged) or to that of a walk (as arbitrarily short and without any playfulness). People who practice dérive should, at the moment of this passage, depart from their daily activity in order to interest themselves in the environment. One part of this behavior comes from chance, but it is less preponderant than one might think. An individual involved in dérive follows the psychogeographical relief of the city, its networks, its fixed points, its fluctuations… Chance does not cover the whole of dérive, but rather invites a go-as-you-please attitude and, in a bit of a contradiction, an awareness and knowledge of urban psychogeography. This is important, however, when its use leads to variations and to habit formations. The analysis of urban substance is therefore made ecological. The territory of the dérive is always determined in its function with relation to social morphology.
Choosing a precise place and time, the subject is assured an unexpectedness in dérive and can even wander during the night through half torn down houses, hitch-hike across Paris during a strike (a very likely kind of dérive these days) or meander through gardens closed to the general public. This is the case with Dugan and his friends in deserted McCarren Park Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The dérive experience requires a vagabond quality from the individual and a labyrinth-like mobility from the architecture, finding its origin in the wandering characteristic of surrealism: automatic writing and play on chance and coincidences. The Architecture of the Incidental becomes the musical equivalent of this type of writing. It plays on the manifestation of life as the unconsciousness of the world and of the city as linked to that of man. In every case, it’s about a conscious waste of useful time, a way of playing the situationist who seeks to break the isolation of the individual and who provokes a situation, in other words “a moment in life, concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organization of a unitary ambiance and of a game of events.” Then from the dérive on, the situationists end up at the heart of their revolutionary action: “the creation of a global existence” and détournement, given it’s origin in the letterist theories of Isou, which at that time was used to uproot meaning in poetry, and later came to subvert cultural and aesthetic values. Potlatch principally wants to be seen as the enemy of Le Corbusier, Constructor of Slums (Constructeur de taudis) and instead advocates for the conservation of train stations, their sonority being augmented by the sounds of other train stations or ports. What happens here arises exactly as they imagined and it is perfectly recorded. —Musica Falsa #13, Winter 2000