ren walters

this page and its sub pages function as a personal website - a site within a site

As someone who enjoys expression in different mediums, included here are WORDS and on sub pages accessible via

the main menu above; AURAL and VISUAL digital media  

words

To my friends: I  use this page to write about things that currently concern me and will add more when inspiration hits.

I'd be interested in your responses. 

 

3 June 2021

I began working with electronic instruments in-performance sometime during the mid 1980's with the shoebox Casio 4 track sequencer and tiny Casio CZ 101 synth. In 1987 when C-Lab Notator on an Atari computer came along suddenly the world opened up !

Later, in combination with the early stages of the world wide web, aural and visual media's potential exploded with creative possibility. Making our own audio recordings and video works and disseminating this material without huge expense (although still limited in technical capacity), seemed an antidote to the inhibitive costs and distribution controls of the corporate structures whose odious requirements we had to satisfy for access to an audience.

An increase in access to previously inaccessible areas, was occurring throughout many areas of human endeavour, seen as offering empowerment to the individual and those proposing alternatives to financially predominant powers and bureaucratic structures.

 

The overall sense was one of optimism, one of new kinds of relation, pathways, models of success, all possible because no one person, government or organisation were 'in control', and indeed that this organically evolving technology could not be easily managed to create particular outcomes or order.

This indeed frustrated many (even artists) who could not find a way to make large amounts of money from the observable participation of large numbers of people in information and digital product sharing.

 

I was one who shared the enthusiasm for the new opportunities, learning how to use certain software, spending untold hours using all the capacities of the technologies to achieve creative results, always struggling against the limits of what was currently possible (technically) and accessible (financially).

As each phase of the new emerging phenomenon we know as the internet came and went, I progressively realised that, whilst there were many advantages being opened up for the individual, even with the corporate 'take-overs' and data mining manipulations; the sheer volume of STUFF, of information (relevant and irrelevant) ready to bombard the curious searcher, gradually began to squeeze up against the sense of a positive and expansive horizon. Intrusions by unwanted visitors; junk mail, malware, electronic spruikers and hustlers of all kinds began to clutter spaces created for community interests, and to conduct secure, private business became harder, while our personal information and inclinations became publicly traded material/capital whether we agreed or not.

 

Consequently, I and others I know currently feel a need to retreat to draw away from this rolling MASS of STUFF constantly threatening to drown the little figure who still seeks contact of substance even in the most mundane 'human-to-human' (?) flesh-to-flesh encounter.

As the inexorable online migration of as many social institutions, government bodies, private and public businesses and recreation spaces as possible continues unabated, it seems inevitable the lives of urbanite humans will be largely conducted in a virtual space, not a physical one.

And what is the nature of this virtual space ? An (ultimately) infinite rabbit warren of interconnected strings of code enabled by massive quantities of hardware stored in bunkers around the globe interconnecting with the individual devices of consumers, is not an adequate description. Are these the only features of the place ? The complexities of how this system we call a ‘virtual space’ functions are beyond my knowledge and for that matter need-to-know, yet I am taken up by the repercussions upon every aspect of our lives that this system has and will have.

 

The fundamental shifts occurring across every sector of human life in an urbanised world are clear, the relentless change is at a rate where we feel we have no say in the structures and operating modes of the system and seem dissuaded from seriously debating if the results are in fact desirable, rather than inevitable. 

 

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All the above is simply articulating the background to my current sense of how one artist struggles with and within an ever evolving, engineered virtual space that seems to be so rapidly relegating the importance of the physical world to that of a “server” for the virtual. 

 

I found the early days of electronic and digital medium, including the internet, stimulating and hopeful in terms of creative actions and outcomes and in usurping old power structures that maintained a clear hierarchical order. But the digital medium was only an adjunct to a physical world of flesh and materiality. The discovery, exploration and application of visual and aural mediums within the digital was exciting because of its open and uncertain future and how it related to, how it inter-effected more traditional art mediums.

Performance, as I understand it, in its immediateness, in its capacity for spontaneous, ‘real-world’ interpenetrations and unpredictable environmental conversations, is remarkable for its richness and range of creative possibility. In any discipline, it is commensurate with living life and it is this which was always important for me; that this new digital medium was somehow adjacent to, reflective of, or wholly synonymous with real world processes, even in its digital abstraction.

 

Do such requirements of relation with the physical world delimit new creative horizons ? 

 

Perhaps digital independence, that is, code that has found a means, a form that so transcends its organic, elemental base, that upon our engagement with it we ourselves are transformed away from our own organic base, has not yet occurred, or perhaps I simply have not yet encountered such an experience.

As of this time, I am interested in how my work within the digital space connects to, how it might be imbued with a human mark. Iterative productions of code creating further strings of code ad infinitum may well prove fascinating, but it still seems to me to be so only insofar as how the materialisations of this code relate to the human condition (the one who began the code in the first place).

Speculating upon a creative digital future is not my purpose. Rather the concern is, what happened to my relation with a digital/virtual space I was once so enamoured with and where does my activity currently exist and trajectories lie in relation to the virtual and physical worlds  ?

Earlier, gaining access to new processes and results was exciting because of how these new things stood in-relation to existing materials. In music I think of Conlon Nancarrow and the Player Piano, Stockhausen’s electronics, Musique Concrete, etc., but now what is new seems obscure, and if it is deemed new it will only be so for the blink of an eye before it is consumed by a voracious consumerism. Perhaps there is no time for a ‘relation’ to be established between what already exists and what could be classified as new. There is no public space for this relation to be registered in either, before its immediate consumption and regurgitation.

There are cracks and corners where it may on occasion still be possible to commune, to defy, to revolt, to discover together a new moment through the medium of sound, but these are scarce and fighting for survival. Somewhere in the street, somewhere outside the city, somewhere, sometime unannounced, in private or under the guise of something else –  maybe.

            WITH MUSIC, the digital realm allows the sharing of sound files between individuals and the ever-fascinating juxtapositioning of these files with others. I have found a home for a friend’s improvisation within an unfinished audio construction (composition) from some years earlier, or simply recorded my response to their file, or in one case I sent my improvisations to them for their improvised response. 

I will also spend time collaging audio material from midi, audio samples, recorded improvisations, using any audio from any source to achieve a desirable result, sometimes these constructs lay waiting to find their final form for years, which is a very similar scenario to my painting and drawing.

Music performance, in the conventional sense, occurs rarely. I find it too demanding to negotiate an appropriate venue due to all the expectations of $$ and audience, entertainment, etc. On occasion I am invited to perform and find the experience of playing with friends without the responsibilities of leader, immensely pleasurable.

Occasionally one of us will host the others at a domestic music event in someone’s home which is also a joyous occasion.

 

These musical activities are all that remain of a past effort to “make it” within the music world; to have bands that perform regularly in venues with audiences and a following, to travel abroad performing at festivals promoting and selling recorded products that people buy and that music is played on the radio, and this all happens because you are well-known and so you become more well-known, especially if you persist for many years doing the same thing. And to make-a-living ?

I want such things no more, being unable to sustain such a process anyway. I am most fortunate to have found another avenue to earning a living. 

My relation to that nest of perplexing demands upon music-making changed through the course of my deep connection with David Tolley and Dur-é Dara who had by necessity sought an alternative path. But if you wish to take a largely private practice (also largely by necessity) and perform in public you will then encounter a system that requires your participation, and for you to aquiesce to its demands. So, there is still a tangential connection to the system unless resolutely private.

I take solace in witnessing the pleasure that interested parties draw from listening to music I make alone or with friends. I also draw great pleasure from playing with other musicians at home, as I do in working on audio constructions in my studio, which may or may not be made accessible online. On occasion I will use an internet site to post some audio, but to coax people to listen is galling to me as it means networking and spruiking.

This outlines my activity as a musical artist and is by and large satisfactory, yet there remains a lingering sense of diminished involvement with the world-at-large and a less than expansive imagining for music as a performative medium.

 

So here we are with incredible access to a glut of digitised information and media, but drowning in quantity, perpetually harassed by nuanced choice, why stick it out listening to something that doesn’t ‘hit the spot’ immediately when a turn of the head will throw you back into the torrent of the next and the newest again, something else MORE exciting or whatever is our motivation in-the-search-for  . . .  what ? 

This is the nature of the thing and it has its value undoubtedly. However, my reactions now, which are inextricable from my age and phase of life, are to retreat away from such glut and complexity. Connections of flesh and blood intimacy drove my passion for improvisational music-making in public for much of my life. Connections online are virtual, they symbolise real world connections, yet they still seems indirect and the processes one must endure in order to access such connections/audience are confusingly tangled.

 

The pandemic lockdown has amplified or expedited my feelings by discouraging externalised expression and outward orientations. So then turning the focus in, seeking, renewing, strengthening resources that might nourish the creative spirit but also provide solace and continuity. For me this ‘new living’ accelerated a turning away from the virtual world and its excesses, the bombardment of irrelevant STUFF that more and more seem the expressions of (consumptive) madness.  

. . . .tbc

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