Traces of a genuine article seem to generate the emotions that the genuine article used to generate but cannot any longer.
Now the world-wide-web has finally encroached (via laptop) upon the territories where I use my time to make artwork, I have begun to use Youtube to play new music/new sounds to my ears, which are thirsty for just this due to my exhaustion of the music I have listened to way too often, because it resonates with my methods of artistic production. Moments, and certain sounds, in those songs are very important to me, so as well as forcing an initiation with new sounds, I am tempted back to my old staple, but with alternate versions of the said exhausted sounds.
Not as good quality, not as good versions, cover versions, poor live performances, these rejuvenate shivers in me that the original/and landmark (to my ear) ones can no longer create. The ghosts of the past seem to be only awoken through the second hand versions of those special (for bad or worse) moments in my life: the replicas of the songs that bind my life experiences together move me more than the originals can do now, and the issue of replicas extends to other aspects of life (although I’ll not go into all that right now).
The original is of course always a replica (arguably the case even before the first days of mass production), but now we are surrounded by so many replicas of replicas of replicas that the illusion that there can be any genuine article is completely dethroned,often making that closest to the original unable of emotionally touching us; and the further away the replica sounds from the original (and I mean in terms of distance not in re-working of the song structure) the more it moves us possibly by allowing us to have in mind that distant genuine article, that cannot move us once it is at hand.
At one extreme you have the obsession with String music compositions of famous indie tracks (such as The Smiths’ There is a Light That Never Goes Out, and The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry), and at the other, the even more peculiar 8-bit video-game sound replicas of landmark albums such as Radiohead’s OK Computer. The latter is most intriguing; there’s something strangely moving about listening to the sounds of an album that once made a massive impact on one’s life in the late 1990’s using a kind of sound that made an impact on many caught up in the late 80’s/early 90’s video console era; almost a fusion of two parts that can no longer move in their initially-experienced form. And it works; it reminds you of both more than the original replicas would do if you were to listen to them! It’s almost like having to put an original document through a photocopier to have a copy 100 times removed until you can take the original subject matter from it.
We live in a time where it is evidential that technological advances have done entirely away with the possibility of there being originals/genuine articles. Yet, rather than culture merely being in catch up (as is usually argued), I would speculate that it has actually gone into reverse: it is obsessed with cultural products from the past (which is another much more extensive issue), but can only truly reap their fruits by allowing technology to make it sound/or look further and further away from it’s perceived home (like somebody singing our favourite song to us from a high mountain top), it relies on a medium to deliver the past in ever more detached forms because we cannot get close to the original, because we (culturally) cannot accept that it doesn’t exist. Strangely enough, the musicians who seemed to deal very much so with these issues were artists who were recording music right when we were moving from a capitalism based on analogue technology to a capitalism based on digital technology (the late 1970’s to early 1980’s shift from fordist modes of production to post-fordism); the likes of John foxx, whom the blog title and above lyrics are accredited to, Gary Numan, whose famous album was called ‘Replicas’ and of course the quintessential band of technology; Kraftwerk.
The digital, by multiplying the possibilities for multiplication of already-existing products/works of art threw a culture already confused and distressed by the questions technology asked of it, into a world where anything can be altered/arranged/multiplied at will – the age of the computer. We now live in a peculiar time which (with the potential of sounding daft) is far more futuristic than it seems, and I would speculate that this is because we are desperately rooting through our collective archives trying to find the genuine article, saturated as we are in culture that still demands it exists (and does anything exemplify this better than the phenomenon of Youtube, which is basically one giant tin of photos, seemingly holding all the past – almost acting as a force-field separating us from being able to perceive a future?).