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Books  >   Nonfiction : Current Events : Mass Media : Media Studies : 

Rhythm Science (Mediaworks Pamphlets)

Kid, Paul D. Miller aka Dj Spooky that Subliminal

The MIT Press
Published:March 1, 2004

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Description: From Publishers Weekly
DJ/conceptual artist/author Paul Miller's pseudonym is at once an arcane reference to William S. Burroughs's Nova Express and a childlike recognition of the sometimes eerie, disembodied sounds he gathers-an immediate indicator of the gleeful enthusiasm with which both his "mixes" and his first book juxtapose cultures high and low, new and old, avant-garde and "street." Son of Howard University's dean of law (who died when Miller was three) and a mother who ran an international fabric shop off Dupont Circle, Miller spent much of his childhood in Washington, D.C.'s nurturing bohemia before studying philosophy and literature at Bowdoin. That his thesis was on Richard Wagner-whose theory of gestamtkunstwerk (the total art work) presages much of today's "new media" revolution-is no surprise. The emerging aesthetic he describes is one in which the proliferating technologies of sampling and studio manipulation have eroded the distinction between music's producers and consumers. From "dub" in Jamaica to the turntablism of the South Bronx, how music was manipulated by listeners after the fact has become as important as how it was "originally" made. The range of reference Miller brings to his description of these phenomena reaches back to Vico and Emerson and forward to Eminem, giving "DJ culture" the broad contextualization its innovations have long warranted. Though much of what Miller describes is hardly new either to listeners or practitioners, his insights as a practicing and successful DJ are fresh and unpretentious. The enclosed CD, an expert full-length mix that moves from Artaud to Morton Feldman, then Patti Smith without blinking, paradoxically points out that Miller is still a better DJ than writer; its effortless juxtapositions cohere in a way his text (including 45 minimalist illustrations) rarely manages. But even such writer/musicians as John Fahey and Glenn Gould rarely accomplished that, and Miller has certainly earned a place in their company.
Copyright # Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Description:
"Once you get into the flow of things, you're always haunted by the way that things could have turned out. This outcome, that conclusion. You get my drift. The uncertainty is what holds the story together, and that's what I'm going to talk about."
--Rhythm Science

The conceptual artist Paul Miller, also known as Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid, delivers a manifesto for rhythm science -- the creation of art from the flow of patterns in sound and culture, "the changing same." Taking the Dj's mix as template, he describes how the artist, navigating the innumerable ways to arrange the mix of cultural ideas and objects that bombard us, uses technology and art to create something new and expressive and endlessly variable. Technology provides the method and model; information on the web, like the elements of a mix, doesn't stay in one place. And technology is the medium, bridging the artist's consciousness and the outside world.

Miller constructed his Dj Spooky persona ("spooky" from the eerie sounds of hip-hop, techno, ambient, and the other music that he plays) as a conceptual art project, but then came to see it as the opportunity for "coding a generative syntax for new languages of creativity." For example: "Start with the inspiration of George Herriman's Krazy Kat comic strip. Make a track invoking his absurd landscapes... What do tons and tons of air pressure moving in the atmosphere sound like? Make music that acts a metaphor for that kind of immersion or density." Or, for an online "remix" of two works by Marcel Duchamp: "I took a lot of his material written on music and flipped it into a DJ mix of his visual material -- with him rhyming!"

Tracing the genealogy of rhythm science, Miller cites sources and influences as varied as Ralph Waldo Emerson ("all minds quote"), Grandmaster Flash, W. E. B Dubois, James Joyce, and Eminem. "The story unfolds while the fragments coalesce," he writes.

Miller's textual provocations are designed for

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