Red Threads

by Bourgeois Speedball

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we traced out
through the medium of sound
the red threads running through contemporary life
the forces that insist on
the real possibility of
another way
of living together.
we wandered after
organized sound’s place in the social totality,
of its tenuous inter weavings with
went listening for
the militant strains of experimental musics
which is to say
the way hatred of capital
translates in the sphere of composition.

two paths through the thicket: field recording and sampling.

1. field recording
our compositional palette for this record comes partly from participating in and recording soundscapes of struggle in the Bay Area. the sonic archive of street protests against racist police brutality with which we worked stretches from the end of 2014 to May Day, 2015. this archive is freely available to download and use at the Field Recording Working Group’s Bandcamp. through editing, we transform these recordings into kick drums, drones, snares and repetitive chants, with the aim of politicizing the practice of composition in the process.

we wanted to mobilize what Helmut Lachenmann calls ‘structural perception’: the conscious perception of the historical forces which shape and constrain the production and organization of sound. generating compositions from these soundscapes is an attempt to ground organizing sound in its concrete conditions; that is, the struggle of the working classes against racist cops, capital and the State. as spaces of resistance, they also point to the potential for these conditions to be abolished. musique concrete, re-imagined from the labor point of view.

2. sampling
sampling is a kind of digital, diachronic weaving, a gathering together of disparate threads into a unified yet heterogeneous whole. our desire was to use the analyses the crowd assembling explosively brought to the forefront and connect them, via the method of sampling, to domains that were perhaps not explicitly apparent. patriarchy and transmisogny to racist police brutality, commodification of culture to the re-composition of the working class, economic inequality to phallogocentrism and ableism. occasionally, our sampling switches into culture-jamming mode, whereby we flip elements of dominant culture on its head. the Weeknd is used to accent genderfuckery; the Zombies, turned into Endnotes-quoting commies; Beyonce, to criticize the liberal recuperation of identity politics; and Elvis, to sing of alienation under late capitalism and the collective nature of emotion.

and say, here lies a series of propositions! probably wrong but nonetheless tuneful! tuneless! a sham, possessing rhythm but no human feeling! machine musicks for fully automated luxury composition!


released September 7, 2016

All songs written by Katsy Pline and Danny Lewis

with (hopefully appreciated) appearances by:
track one: Constantina Zavitsanos
track 2: Joshua Clover
track 3: Anne Boyer
track 4: Paul Beatriz Preciado

Mixing: Katsy Pline
Mastering: Katsy Pline
Artwork: @tr4vi3za
Graphic Design and Printing: Alli Yates @pjluxe
Liner Notes: Katsy Pline

thanks to ben lewis for the mixing speakers, Alli Yates for the graphic design, layout and printing, feed me jack for the subwoofers, zac gunter for the pomes, tr4vi3za for the artwork, jesse austin for the conversations, hudson glover for endlessly listening to mixes, Ariel Appel for the pictures and Sara Sol for set design, nareh bennet daniel for being inspiring af………….




Bourgeois Speedball Oakland, California

Bourgeois Speedball lives in ruins. Sculpting compositions from crumbling synthesizers, samplers, and the soundscapes of Bay Area rebellions, Bourgeois Speedball organizes sound within the decaying oikos of globalized neoliberalism.

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Track Name: Everything for Everyone (Or, How to Plan Around Everything That’s Planned Against You):
Our demands are simple:
Seize the means
Change the ends
of production

Everything for Everyone.

How to Plan Around
Everything That’s Planned Against You.
Track Name: Haecceity (Red Threads Edit)
There is no scenario in which a state built upon maintaining white supremacy can effectively address racist police brutality, or economic inequality, or transphobia, or heteropatriarchy. There is no scenario in which electoral politics, the simple replacing of one bourgeois puppet by another, will give us what we need. there is no scenario in which the racialized exposure to state-sanctioned violence of various kinds will be addressed by those who actively encourage and benefit from it. Representational politics will always fail to address the needs of the dispossessed because they are structured to do so.

The track is built around a) field recordings from the protests that occurred in Oakland in the wake of Darren Wilson’s non-indictment for the murder of Mike Brown b) snippets of Joshua Clover reading his poem ‘Haecceity’ and c) Messiaen’s mode of limited transposition (in this case, the whole tone scale).
Track Name: 03 The Carrier Bag Theory of Composition/Genderfuck
Composition comes from the latin componere, ‘to put together.’ To compose, then, is to gather, to hold things together in particular and powerful relation. a song is a container; it holds fragments of sound in a tenuous and dynamic organization. Oftentimes, however, what gets held in this container are stories of men: their desires, their loves of women, their losses and victories. The dominant story of the song in 20th century popular music is this story. The song is captured and turned into a stage for the performance of masculinity, the theatrical enforcement of patriarchal dominance, and the subsequent coup d’etat of naturalization. Songs can carry many things; we wager that composition can gather together sonic threads of an alternative texture and rhythm to the hegemony of heteronormative popular musics.

We could (and should) criticize the politics of representation in popular music, denounce the ways in which heterosexuality and toxic masculinities are normalized. But to stop at the theater of representation is to obfuscate the structural, material dimensions of gender, music and recording. ‘the real struggle,’ as Anne Boyer notes in her poem Science Fiction which this tune samples, ‘is not between actor and actor; it’s between the actors and the stage.’ The struggle between the musician and capital, between the audience and the system of commodity-exchange, between femmes/trans folks/women/ gender nonconformists and social reproduction.

Bastardizing Debord, musical recordings are the result of a ‘choice already made in the sphere of production’: access to recordings for the listener is mediated through the wage, while the composer’s ability to create and circulate recordings is dependent in large part on those who have the means (i.e. a studio) to produce them. At issue here is a) the mode of remuneration for the composer (who is forced to sell their recordings in order to receive payment for their musical labor) b) ownership of the means of production (which, although less centralized now than twenty years ago, remains highly professionalized, inaccessible to the poor and privatized) and c) for the listener, the system of commodity exchange, all of which is a long-winded way of saying the way music’s economy is organized under capitalism.

These two issues of labor and ownership intersect with gender in overlapping ways. The overwhelming majority of mixing and mastering engineers in the United States are men (Women’s Audio Mission, 2016). We can thus speak of a gendered division of labor as being integral to the production of musical commodities, whereby non-men are systematically excluded from the means and knowledge of producing recordings.

Increasing the participation of women, trans, genderqueer and gender non-conforming folks in the fields of mixing and mastering is surely important. combating cultural norms that equate technical mastery with masculinity is a vital and necessary task (a casual glance at any mixing/production websites demonstrates the trans/misogynist, rapeculture apologist, heteronormative culture surrounding mixing/mastering e.g. a main mixing forum is called Gearslutz, for chrissakes). But a purely representational critique does not address the way recorded music’s process of production, from the design of its tools to its mode of circulation and exchange, from the way artists are paid to the mediation of listening via money and/or advertising, is fundamentally exploitative. Changing who does the work does not address the way the work itself is exploitative of laborers across the production process. as Jasmine Gibson notes in her poem ‘Bender,’ 'What are we going to do when politicians and superstars/aren’t problematic/Will you let the enemy in,’ (Gibson, 2016). Its fundamentally exploitative character is a result of the uneven subsumption of musical labor under capitalism, and of this subsumption’s specifically gendered character.
Track Name: I Do Not Identify As
Digitized, speculative capital has made the production of identity a central site of value extraction. If at one point the notion of ‘selfhood as art’ had revolutionary vectors, it has now become a business plan and marketing strategy through platforms like instagram, Facebook, snapchat, and so on. In particular, these platforms have worked to recuperate queer, gay, lesbian and trans revolutionary vectors into the liberal bourgeois frame. The fact that the fashioning of one’s self has been monetized and co-opted by capital to the point where identities once thought to be fundamentally hostile to it can be easily subsumed suggests a need for an alternative logic of subjectivity that begins in the negative: i do not identify as. I am uncountable. I am unmanageable. We follow this line of flight through sampling Beatriz Preciado’s critique of the heteronormative logic of identity that reduces the body and its sociality to its genitals.
Track Name: Sunshine
The commodification of musical culture, which is to say its capture by capital, is dependent upon the juridico-economic fictions of ownership and identity. The recording industry privatizes the sphere of the musical imagination, locates it within the sovereign interiority of the composer, markets the fantasy of individual creativity to a consumer base, and maintains its privatization through the facade of copyright. Copyright is a rich white dude’s word for theft by the ruling class; it then seeks to ground its theft ontologically by writing its delusions into the nature of the world. The history of recorded music can be read as a sustained effort to privatize, individuate and commoditize cultural production through technical-juridical means.

Sampling opens up an alternative pathway towards thinking the commons of culture. It undermines the unity and the self-sameness of the recording, that techno dream of the identical copy, and replaces it with a deterritorialized, mutating, fractured molten mass of sonic data. It asserts the collective nature of creativity, of the inimitably social function and practice of composition that cannot be subsumed under the logic of ownership.

“Sometimes the story is not clear, or it starts in a whisper. It goes around again and again but listening—it is funny every time. This knowledge has been degraded, the research rejected. They can’t get access to books, and no one will publish them. Policy has concluded they are conspiratorial, heretical, criminal, amateur. Policy says they can’t handle debt and will never get credit. But if you listen to them, they will tell you: we will not handle credit, and we cannot handle debt, debt flows through us, and there’s no time to tell you everything, so much bad debt, so much to forget and remember again. But if we listen to them, they will say, “Come, let’s plan something together.” And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re telling all of you, but we’re not telling anyone else.”
Track Name: R U Lonesome
Loneliness and melancholy are not individualized emotions but collective, interpersonal responses to immiserating social conditions. Emotions are pre-personal intensities that course through the social field like electrical currents; their wiring is made of work, debt, dispossession, atomization, patriarchy and sundry other things. Oftentimes, these wires, however obscured they may be, surface through popular songs, and speak to a disaffection with what is beyond their immediate subject matter.
Track Name: Could 'We' Ever Be?
The revolutionary subject of Marxism, the proletariat, never took power where it ought have. And now, the social and material conditions upon which this revolutionary collectivity was to base itself on (i.e. the factory) have changed in kind as well. Whither now? What collectivities in the making have the capacity to abolish classes? What are our chances, and who is this ‘we’ spoken of?