sonic manifestations by 250 creators from Den Haag / The Hague

Rejecting nostalgia and elitism, I am among those who believe that the current sound creative situation worldwide is not only particularly appealing but also has no historical precedent in terms of the magnitude of the phenomenon of creativity socialization (a term I prefer over the more equivocal of ‘democratization’). This state of affairs is not a consequence of ‘the internet’ or ‘the social networks’ –as many seem to dogmatically assume nowadays. In my opinion, the causal sequence is at least an iterative bidirectional succession, if not the outright inverse. The essential mechanisms of this process were present before and they have indeed manifested themselves in their outcomes every time the techno-cultural conditions were right (two pre-internet examples are the social history of the electric guitar and the so-called ‘cassette culture’). The current discourse is quite often focused on the evolution and accessibility of the tools (‘new technologies’, ‘computers’…). This perspective is not only deficient in light of its positivist character and its teleological fiction, but also because it obliterates what is perhaps the most significant process of transformation that has taken place over the past few decades: the ethic and aesthetic socialization of the right to create.

Unlike some apologists of ‘quality’ (who persist in the fallacy of an iffy inverse relationship between ‘quality’ and social ‘quantity’), the multifarious, ubiquitous and impossible-to-encompass current creative output is for me a blessing, not a problem. With regard to this output, two forms of anxiety have become blatantly obsolete: comprehensibility and regulation. Not only the ‘academic’ world has been overtaken; this is also the case for the (copious) norms and regulations of traditional rock/pop culture. None of this denies differences, nuances and levels; nor it assumes in the least ‘quality’ by the sheer fact of its existence or, even more, for being ferociously promoted in a social-network fashion. On the contrary, it forcefully defends the right to create and the preeminence of values such as intuition and meritocracy. I perceive, therefore, not only an explosion of sound creative output but –more importantly– an expansion of the very concept of ‘audio-artist’ (a term I prefer, given its current absence of connotations, over those of sound artist or experimental / electronic / contemporary musician) in what concerns its ethical and aesthetic status. In this latent, pre-judgmental, ab-normative sense, we are all creators/artists, no doubt.

This is the spirit and the conviction behind the project audio-DH, in which I asked a large number of invited curators (some of whom are also artists themselves) to invite in turn several creators/artists from The Hague to contribute with a short sound piece (composition, ‘track’, fragment, manifestation…), of a maximum of 5 minutes (I directly invited some artists myself as well): sound artists, experimental musicians, composers, noisists, and any other unclassified artists/creators from/based in The Hague with an interest (whether general or just in this particular case) in ‘experimental’ audio or any other sonic manifestations beyond ‘normal’, commercial, mainstream, traditional… music/audio. With the non-negligible challenge of starting this task with a reference-goal of 250 creators/artists (an intuitive estimate, really), my perspective, willingness and endeavor have been –within the scope of the project– to encompass as wide a spectrum as possible of genres, groups, ideologies, collectives, generations and aesthetics.

audio-DH is not a historical compilation (although it contains a multitude of elements of that nature), but probably just a small sample of a nonetheless sizeable representation of the sonic creative scene in The Hague around the mid-2010s. Small but feisty; and symptomatic (for those who can actually listen, I guess).

‘From/based in The Hague’ is understood in this project in a very wide –and essentially creative– sense, therefore also including all those who are no longer in The Hague or are only temporarily here, but had or have a significant or particularly relevant creative experience/period or connection to this city. Covering the vast territory of ‘experimental’ practices –from noise to contemporary, from improvised to algorithmic, from documentative to highly composed– and presenting the work of creators/artists from 45 countries [*], audio-DH aims at unequivocally placing The Hague in its rightful place as one of the most sonically creative cities in the world.

The other crucial aspect of this project has been to explicitly conceive the creators/artists’ contributions not just as finished individual pieces but also as potential elements for collective sound recombination; that is, as sonic material to be transformed, remixed, mutated, meta-composed… together with the ‘recombined’ audio pieces of all the other artists/creators. Thus, audio-DH also deals expressly with a third obsolete anxiety: that of holding off the massive process of creative recombination. This does not deny the integrity, the possible completeness or the recognition of the work, but rather introduces a generative dualism in its understanding: not only as inspiration or in a metaphorical sense, but also as a literal element of recombination for the creation of new works. With the dual intention of both introducing an element of relative aesthetic neutrality and of emphasizing that other large techno-cultural process where the central agents are the Kurzweilian spiritual machines (which have already overtaken their own previous status as ‘tools’), this recombination was carried out in an experimental fashion by means of a specifically developed software. This software ‘composes’ in an autonomous manner; ‘listening’, selecting, processing and mixing the individual pieces, which are thus understood as building blocks of new meta-pieces. After giving it some thought, I decided to christen this software entity –aptly, I believe– as H.A.R.I.N.G. (Humanless Audio Recombinator for Infinite Novelty Generation). Strictly speaking, therefore, this project has 251 audio-artists, if we also include HARING. Which brings us to the last conclusion –for the time being– on our techno-creative current situation: not only we can all be audio-artists; machines can be such a thing as well.

Finally, a word in praise of audio ‘only’. In an epoch of saturated multimedia, transmedia and arbitrary data mapping, an exercise in monomedia like this one –resolute even if small– could perhaps have a redeeming and re-grounding effect. After all, shouldn’t it be that what really matters is not the number of media or their relationships but rather their capability –particularly when alone or with a modicum of resources– to act as ‘gates’, ‘transformers’, ‘revealers’, and so on? Drawing on the insights from millennia of art and magic (and the like), let us not forget that ‘only’ audio is never audio only.

My sincere thanks to all the participant creators/artists and invited curators for their generosity and enthusiasm. My acknowledgment as well for all those who have made this project possible in terms of organization, funding and production. It is an enormous satisfaction to have reached that ambitious goal of ‘the 250’ and also to have personally discovered in this process the work of many audio-artists, including some of them who were not aware of being such a thing themselves.

Francisco López – Den Haag, 2016

[*]: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China (Hong Kong), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, UK, USA.