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INFO Unltd with Nick Scavo – Against World Building

27 January 2020

“Today I am speaking with Nick Scavo, a musician, writer and assistant curator at ISSUE Project Room in New York City. 

Over the last few years Nick has written a number of influential pieces about music, and new experimental and electronic avant garde. We’re going to zero in on the topic of an essay Nick wrote at the tail end of 2018 entitled, Against World Building on Tinymixtapes .com. This piece was something of a mic-drop and it’s resonance seems to continue ringing out. In fact the even sprouted legs and left the blogosphere and twitter cycle when MIT Press reached out to nick to write a follow up piece which should come out sometime in the next year. In the essay and an a somewhat polemical style, Nick argues that much experimental and electronic music today have become grandiose and concerned with the illusory capacities of music rather then the formal material qualities and worldliness of sound and sound making itself. Some artists today see music as a vehicle to create new worlds, to fill up the subjective experience of the listener and take off like an escape hatch. In particular, Scavo discusses Oneotrix point never as a kind of prime example for his over the top stage shows and endlessly embedded narratives which seem to negate their own making in the race to create an ever more complex world. Alternatively though, there is a different faction of artist both past and present who pursue a practice wherein rules, material and physical limits dictate the sound, form and life of their works. In other words, artists whose work does not make worlds but rather, those who make work from and of this world. If this is confusing it is perhaps because the delineation I am making is not a true binary, nor do the artists of one category only fit said category. Yet, these frameworks do function well enough to establish the essential argument. For example, and a strong counterexample to Oneotrix point never, consider Henry Flint’s, Hillbilly Tape music. The entire record is framed in the title of the record, the style – Hillbilly, which refers to a genre of music produced to synthesize various regional folk styles into a general and commercially viable new genre for radio back in radio’s earliest days. and tape music – a common technique amongst avant gardistes where in the tape is spliced and looped or otherwise edited. While adhering to the framework described in the albums title, a generous openness can be found, where in the relation of the embedded themes of hillbilly and tape music may be freely pondered. The music exists exactly within the sphere of it’s own making.”

“It’s the tension between the physics of sound and the plurality of our listening – that makes the idea of world building for music tough.” – N. Scavo

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