Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bruce Sterling with a super-thought-provoking essay on what some are starting to call the New Aesthetic - “an eruption of the digital into the physical”

so far it is seemingly restricted to graphics, design, visual-world creativity

examples accumulating here

Bruce writes "Above all the New Aesthetic is telling the truth. There truly are many forms of imagery nowadays that are modern, and unique to this period. We’re surrounded by systems, devices and machineries generating heaps of raw graphic novelty. We built them, we programmed them, we set them loose for a variety of motives, but they do some unexpected and provocative things... Scarcely one [of them] owould have made any sense to anyone in 1982, or even in 1992. People of those times would not have known what they were seeing with those New Aesthetic images"

Bruce also writes "The New Aesthetic doesn’t look, act, or feel postmodern.... It is generational. Most of the people in its network are too young to have been involved in postmodernity. The twentieth century’s Modernist Project is like their Greco-Roman antiquity"

as well as the positives he also points out some negatives of the New Aesthetic as currently constituted

someone just tweet-asked me what the musical equivalent of New Aesthetic would be...

[period ensues of head scratching]

it's hard to say because "an eruption of the digital into the physical" -- well that happened to music already, a long long time ago -- nearly all of what you hear on the radio or as recordings is both digitized in terms of being reconstituted code as well as having been either overtly or subtly reprocessed in all kinds of digital ways during the making and mixing process

so any sort of physical-world realism has long been inapplicable (if it could ever have been said to apply to music, which is insubstantial and non-referential in its essence, and furthermore started to take on a radically unrealistic plasticity and malleability a long long time ago through analogue-era studio techniques of overdubbing, layering, tape editing etc... you might say in fact that analogue-era studio-tricknology anticipated and prophesied many aspects of digiculture)

what seems overtly, blatantly digital in today's pop -- to draw attention to its digital hyper-reality -- are all those AutoTune treatments and various other vocal-science effects (stutters, glitches, drastic pitchshifts from high to low) etc that you get routinely in chartpop in recent years-- that, and the general sheen of too-perfectness on both vocals (through AutoTune) and on the entire sonic-surface of songs -- a digi-gloss - there seems to be an attempt there, semi-unconscious most likely, to make music keep up with the high-definition crispness of flat-screen TV, CGI in film, skin-tone even-ness and other digital touching-up effects as used in glossy magazine photography and (i believe) also in TV and films.

a different kind of bleed-through of digital into physical.. Ferraro's Far Side Virtuall, "a still life of now" as he called it: a symphony woven out of audio-logos and start-up chimes and digital-Muzak refrains from phones and laptops and so forth, the ambient digi-melodiousness of our connected everyday lives... but these bright major-key jingles seem the opposite of New, in musical terms


  1. I couldn't agree with you more! Thanks for expressing this so eloquently.

  2. you should check out james ferraro's bodyguard project