Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever (‘Tubby’s Ghost’)
Another brilliant passage which calls back to this one. My heart sank a little reading it at first, because ‘white American journalist using Jamaican political violence to make philosophical point’ is not usually a good look, but he kinda pulls it off here? This is where I can see the political speechwriter history coming through - maybe if he’d worked for Michael Manley things would have been happier (that’s if you believe in the power of rhetoric to subvert structural politics, which in the post-Obamania age is a tough bet). That’s what I like so much about the book - jumping through history to tell breezy anecdotes can be such a hokey element of these kind of ‘popular’ science/culture books, but he seems to nearly always do it well. Here it’s the story of how Tubby “began the Pro Tooling of the world by turning his tiny studio into a musical instrument”.
The image, however, directly contradicts an even more powerful one from the end of Camus’ 1951 The Rebel, his essay on existentialism, and a humanity torn between warring totalitarianisms:
“Each tells the other he is not God; this is the end of romanticism. At this moment, when each of us must fit an arrow to his bow and enter the lists anew, to reconquer, within history and in spite of it, that which he owns already, the thin yield of his fields, the brief love of this earth, at this moment when at last a man is born, it is time to forsake our age and its adolescent rages. The bow bends; the wood complains. At the moment of supreme tension, there will leap into flight an unswerving arrow, a shaft that is inflexible and free.”
‘Complete control’ is as the 20th century demonstrated a political impossibility, and dangerous to attempt (the 21st century suggests increasing control by, or of, the individual, depending on one’s view of technology; and an accelerating lack of control at the environmental level). But Perfecting Sound Forever is patently not about the ‘end of the romanticism’: it is the continuation of it, such as with the mystique of analogue sound in which Milner indulges fairly heavily, and it is admittedly a rather petit-bourgeois romanticism. We will listen to our sonic experiments encoded onto petroleum and/or transmitted through electricity and plastic, while the world burns and others starve, but we shall be free? Or can we transmute our adolescent rages into art with revolutionary potential, become the arrow of self-determination and not the targeted consumer?
Comment on a YouTube video for King Tubby ‘Flag Dub’, the first result for ‘dub’ that’s actually a classic dub tune. Which I went to after seeing this part of the Skrillex interview on Pitchfork where he mentions dub:
“I got a lot of reggae-infused shit. Still a lot of dubstep, but kind of going back to the roots of dub. It’s not as banging, but it is banging, if that makes sense. It’s like when you hear, [sings] “This is how we do it.” It’s not as cheesy as that, but it makes you want to dance for sure. It’s my funkiest stuff yet, but I’m not trying to be weird and funky now, or something.”
I guess those of you who don’t avoid YouTube, or at least the comments thereon, as much as I do won’t be surprised that this a major issue on dub tracks: nothing can survive on the internet without challenges to its authenticity being themselves challenged, but this is pretty hilariously extreme. I won’t make fun of the patois, as affected as it may seem, but the biblical language and religiosity of Rastafarian culture does lend it - if it’s not actually just a piss-take - a particularly potent intolerance. The line between the supposedly unnatural and natural ascends to theological significance, and the artificiality of electronic music casts it out into the sinful wilderness (compared to the presumably analogue dub reggae?)
That said, as fun as Skrillex’s music may be, I’d take the rhythmic bass drops of dub or the crackly expanses of pure dubstep over it on most occasions. That’s just personal preference, though, there’s no need to be dicks about it.