Junto Project 0382: Understanding McLuhan [repost]

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

“We become what we behold,” wrote Marshall McLuhan. “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

The Suss Müsik library contains two distinct books titled Technostress, each written by completely different authors, and it would not be a surprise to see yet another book with the same title appear before too long. Whether we’re reading Craig Bod’s account published in 1984 (!) or the 1997 tag-team effort by Michelle M. Weill and Larry D. Rosen, the message is the same: technology = bad, if we’re not careful.

Technological determinism is the theory that human thought or action is influenced by our societal embrace of digital tools. McLuhan famously believed that the method of communication influences how messages are received. The cultural and societal impacts of technology make for a fascinating debate, but there is little argument regarding the effects of the Information Age on our physical health. Poor posture, degrading eyesight, mental fatigue, searing headaches, neck pain … even substance abuse and clinical depression have been blamed on our increasing exposure to computer-dominated work environments.

For this short and excessively strange piece, Suss Müsik sought to capture technology’s effect on physical instrumentation. Two quotes were pulled from the original source, resampled in various permutations and configured as a base rhythm. It took a few attempts to locate something “musical” from this arrangement. The same process was then applied to two guitar phrases. Lurking in the background is a bit of electronic noise passed through two glitch re-synth modules.

The piece is titled McLuhan. The image is an 1894 photo of a “typical figure showing the tendency of student life — stooping head, flat chest, and emaciated limbs.” Apparently even pencils and paper have a detritus effect on the human condition.

Suss Müsik extends sincere appreciation to Wm. Wolfgang Allen, who played the guitar, and to Jon Phillips for initiating such an inspiring Junto project. Special thanks to The McLuhan Institute for making these recordings available.

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