Sunday 7th AugustAugust 7, 2011
I am fortunate enough to get sent a lot of CDs here. Now and again, somebody sends me a CD that won’t play, perhaps because my now quite old CD player doesn’t recognise it (in which case I usually make a copy through my computer which then plays) or every so often because somebody forgets to burn anything onto it, and they send me a blank. I think this has happened four times before. So when I recently received a couple of CDrs from Mattin, releases on his w.m.o/r label, and one of them didn’t play, my first reaction was to assume this had happened again. I made a mental note to either email him to let him know, or go to the label’s website to see if the music could be downloaded for free, as is often the case with w.m.o/r work, and I would then burn the disc myself.
The CDr itself is named Rhythmic Fact and is credited to Dworkin/Fowler, who I will guess are Craig Dworkin, who is I believe an American conceptual writer, and Jarrod Fowler, the percussionist and composer with distinct conceptual leanings himself. The disc is silver, with the following inscription printed on it:
Ink [solvent, pigment, resin, humectant, surfactant an fungicide] cured to a hydrophobic solid-dye resin sheet varnished to a 5Âµm-thick acrylic lamina [epoxy polymer, methyl acrylic acid (C4H6O2), and benzophenone (C13H10O) spin coat lacquered to an encoded skein-grooved .067Âµm-thick pellicle of gold [Au] sputtered to aryl-nitrogen stabilised cyanine [CH(CH=CH)n] dyed to a 1.2mm thick centre-punched clear polycarbonate substrate [C16H14O3]. Dworkin &Fowler. Rhythmic Fact w.m.o/r 36
So, having tried and failed to play the CD, I set off for work, and while driving it occurred to me that perhaps there was never meant to be anything recorded on this disc. Perhaps the description printed onto it said all that there is to say. This is a CD release linked to Mattin after all, but would he, along with these two artists go to all the trouble of sending out a bunch of physical discs with nothing burned onto them? If so, who were they sent to? Just reviewers? I hadn’t seen any other reviews. The w.m.o/r site failed to mention anything of the release at all. So what to do? Write to Mattin? Ask for another copy to be sure? What’s to stop him just sending another blank disc? Was I reading too much into all of this or was it a genuine mistake?
If the point of this release is to think about the whole process / one-sided exchange between a musician/label and reviewer/consumer then it worked. Â If the idea was to raise emperor’s new clothes-like questions about whether I ‘get’ the message here or not, then it worked. If its a genuine error and there is meant to be music recorded onto the disc, then maybe I look a bit daft, but then I’m sure most people that know these people’s work will understand my thought processes here. I think though, I am going to stick my neck out and say that I don’t think there was ever any music meant to be recorded onto this Cdr. Whether a piece of music called Rhythmic Fact actually does exist anywhere, perhaps as a free download, I have no idea, but having thought long and hard about this I am pretty certain that this was always meant to be a blank Cdr, with the simple inscription on the other side merely reaffirming this. No mention is made in the printed text of any music encoded onto the disc.
Ultimately then, this strikes me as a simple, quite interesting for a whileÂ (for me at least, having had to go through the puzzling exercise of working it all out, playing along with the game maybe) exercise. Certainly this ‘release’ subverted the usual daily procedures I go through; opening jiffy bags, picking things out to play, listening to the music etc… and it made me think, and eventually smile when I came to the conclusion that I have done. Is a Cdr release still a Cdr release if there is nothing recorded on it? Isn’t this all a bit of a waste? Can I, should I use the Cdr now to record something else on to it so that it doesn’t go to waste?
Ultimately I guess this is all a bit of a daft exercise, but it does lead to some mildly interesting questions, and it did make me laugh a little, if only at myself and the ridiculous daily rituals I go through. I still might have got this wrong. I haven’t been in touch with any of the people involved in the release to ask about it- my conclusions are all my own. Perhaps the emperor actually is wearing clothes and its just me with the conspiracy theory, who knows? What I do know is that tonight I was able to write a CD review whilst listening to a completely different CD altogether, which is something I normally cannot do.