|Anarchy and Economy|
A few years ago I met in Tokyo a
composer and engineer, and asked him of his upcoming
projects. He said he had accepted a job at Toshiba. He
was placed with a small group of engineers who worked
full time on the design of a certain class of components.
At the end of the week they asked him what he would do on
the weekend. He said he would work on his motorcycle, a
hobby. They told him that they too spent their weekends
working on motorcycles, and they invited him to join
Many Japanese companies pursue a strategy of historical reversal. They carefully place their workers in cohesive self-contained groups where almost all activities except the most private can be performed. A village environment is provided were one works and plays, matures and grows old. Perhaps the goal is to abate the ill effects of the electronic global village through the creation something more like a preindustrial village.
We have reached the age of anarchy and we need look no further than the economic strategies being implemented today to be assured of it.
outlined in this text serve to introduce a series of
articles to appear in Musicworks over several issues,
under the banner "Anarchy and Economy". The
first co-text is a beautiful letter Esther Ferrer wrote
to John Cage in response to his query: does anarchy have
a future? He used it extensively as source material in
his last long mesostic poem Overpopulation and Art
(in John Cage, Composed in America, Marjorie
Perloff and Charles Junkerman, editors, University of
Chicago Press, Chicago and London 1994). You will find
Esther's text elsewhere in this issue. In future issues
you will find others, some of which I have in mind, some
of which will come out of the blue, that is, from you.
Overpopulation and Art contains a rich panoply of Cagean topics, including Duchampian perception, Fullerian social design, Cage's own earfullness, and Suzukian emptynessfullness. It resonates with an intensity that is rare in his writings. There is an urgency and a hint a fatigue to the usual optimism, in a line that traces the poem from its beginnings in overpopulation to its open ending in anarchy, and the recurring letter 'O' on a line by itself which Cage read half-voiced in quivering inhale. It can be summarized in a phrase Cage first uttered to me in Kassel, 1987, in the back of a minibus on the way from the train station to hear his Essay installation. The phrase is a call from which Cage was unable to become detached, in spite of its echo of politics and the past. Safe for poverty. As in, what we need now is to make the world safe for poverty.
Roosevelt began the chant that justified the cold war; it was to make the world safe for democracy. The job apparently is nearing completion. The victory, however, was not political but economic: the motor and motivation not the right to vote but the right to consume.
Economic entities in competition
today compete not for
resources but for consumers. The military model of competition,
is based on the control of resources in depletion, no longer
because today's resource -- the consumer population -- is in
The intellectual dynamics of business have been reversed, no
concerned with capturing (resources) but with attracting
What model does apply? I think its the artistic model. Words, syntax, notes, harmonies are free. Expression is the currency. Copyright and mechanical rights, concepts developed by the music recording industry, now form the legal substructure of the entire information economy. Scientists may have invented the tools of the information age, but musicians invented its economic viability.
Friends of the impoverished new music community: isn't that an irony?
|Anarchy and Economy. The conjunctive is working both ways: an increasingly anarchic economy nurtures a newly arising economy of anarchy. Let's look for a moment at the law. Here is something I just found on my hard disk:|
|It is more effective to think for and respect oneself, and consume accordingly, than it is to vote at the ballot box. In the nations with the biggest and most free economies, the smallest percentage of the population is politically active. The ultimate political freedom is the freedom not to vote.|
|Culture, and its principle agent technology, are also in reversal. Here is something else I recently found on my hard disk:|
for poverty. Does it mean more of same--a greater and
more widespread right to consume--or does it mean freedom
from expression, that is, from wealth in its current
incarnation? Or both: is the final division between
wealth and humanity acrumblin'?
I'm not sure these articles can answer questions such as those, but I hope they can pose them. And we will explore parallels between established economic practices in the artistic community and newly arising practices in the broader population. One of the reasons Gayle Young is publishing the series is that I was able to convey to her my enthusiasm for a suspicion I have, that the way we have been surviving as experimental musicians and composers is being taken up, by necessity, by a far greater number of people in all walks, even those who are "employed" ("employment" is a very lively term these days). It turns out that the artistic community has not only been a cauldron of ideas for expression; it has been a laboratory for economic survival.
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