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Kodwo Eshun (1968 - )

Lifespan: 1968 -

Related: Cultural Studies - literary theory - music theory - music journalism - black music - electronica - black science fiction

Kodwo Eshun

Articles: interviewed by Fringecore magazine on More Brilliant Than the Sun

Contributed to: Modulations (2000)

More Brilliant Than the Sun : Adventures in Sonic Fiction (1998) - Kodwo Eshun [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Kodwo Eshun is a British writer and musician who focuses on black identity and the African diaspora. He is most well-known for his work on Afro-Futurism, especially as it applies to jazz, hip-hop, and electronica. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodwo_Eshun [Aug 2006]

More profiles

Kodwo Eshun is a self-professed ‘concept engineer’, and known for his ‘fast-forward’ theories on electronic music and its interface with art, science fiction, technology and machine culture. His debut book More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction was published in 1998, and his writings appear frequently in The Wire, The Face, i-D, Spin, Arena and The Guardian.

Kodwo Eshun studied English Literature and Theory, (BA Hons, MA Hons) at University College, Oxford. He lectures in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, the Dutch Art Institute at the University of Twente and De Ateliers, Amsterdam and internationally on sonic culture. He is the author of More Brilliant Than The Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (Quartet, 1998). From 1996-1999, Eshun was Research Associate of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit at Warwick University. In 1999, Eshun co-curated Dub Housing, the Exhibition, Symposium and Concert for Steirische Herbst, Graz. During 1999 and 2000, he was Judge for the Digital Music Jury at Ars Electronica and the Oberhausen Short Film Festival. In 2002, he collaborated with media artists Flow Motion for Sonic Process exhibition at the Centre Pompidou. He is a Trustee of Artangel, a Trustee of LongPlayer, a member of the Interdisciplinary Task Group at ACE and a founder of The Otolith Group whose film Otolith premiered at the Cornerhouse, Manchester. --http://www.transmediale.de/04/page/detail/detail.0.persons.219.html [Oct 2006]

On Deleuze and Guattari

One of the key elements I took from Deleuze and Guattari's "Mille Plateaux" was that philosophy should be reconstituted as concept manufacture. Philosophy - Heidegger, Hegel, Merleau Ponty, Lacan - always gave me a headache because it was imponderable. Content manufacture made it more like being an electrician of thinking, trying to find circuit diagrams of the present. D&G were so brilliant when they said: we can't help it if Proust tells us as much how space time works as Einstein does. We can't help it if Henry Miller tell us as much about desire works as Freud does. The theory fiction border is utterly permutable. --Kodwo Eshun interviewed by Geert Loving in 2000 sourced at http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/6/6902/1.html [Aug 2006]


Technology is often seen as having a negative influence on music. Ever since the advent of sound generated by machines rather than traditional instruments, there have been dire predictions about the death of the Song. More Brilliant Than The Sun takes the opposite attitude and celebrates these strange new technologically-based forms of music, examining what they signal for the future.


Thirty years later, two new pop-based labels are pushing the avant-garde. The ultra-hip Asphodel label has released Xenakis' Kraanerg, featuring DJ Spooky, while Thurston Moore's cooler than-thou Ecstatic Peace! label has put out a vintage 1978 performance of Stockhausen's Kontakte. Never before has the avant garde been so sexy or so seductively packaged. It's too early to say how the records are selling, but Asphodel told me that Kraanerg was already showing up on the North American college charts. -- Kenneth Goldsmith

Black science fiction

Kodwo Eshun was one of the first authors do devote serious attention to black science fiction in music and literature.

The Sonotronic Manifesto

The 10 Point Program of The Sonotronic Manifesto

1. SONICFICTION breaks with the obligation to the STREET by destroying the compulsory deference to BIOGRAPHY

2. Pop RESCUES unpop from its admirers by defridgerating the CONCEPTECHNICS of the avant garde from the icebox of its admirers.

3. Science fiction is theory on FASTFORWARD.

4. Consciousness is a SEMI_PERMEABLE MEMBRANE persistently mistaken for an identity.

5. You are a population. Have you been feeling YOURSELVESlately?

6. The sampler doesn't care who you are. It's only using you to reproduce.

7. The SAMPLEFINDER assembles digital myths from todays datastream. MECHANO-INFORMATIC MYSTICISM is tomorrows science dreamed today.

8. COMPUTERMUSIC obliges us to confuse information with mystery.

9. The CONCEPTENGINEER does not dispel confusion: she ORGANIZES it along several planes at once.

10. YOU are the alien YOU looking for. -- DEE in an interview with K Eshun for http://www.fringecore.com/magazine/m7-2.html

From swarm1

Some excerpts:

I look at John Coltrane's last records, records like Cosmic Music, Interstellar Space, Om. Coltrane famously tripped in 65, then he did this record Om. Manuel De Landa has this whole thing about when you trip you become a liquid computer, because your brain literally liquefies, and I think that's what pretty much happened to Coltrane in about 65. Cos what he does is he starts using Om, the Indian chant, and he's trying to assemble a universal music, and the whole thing about the Om is that it turns the human into this huge, giant, vibrating power station really. Om is this operation to turn yourself into this energy field. So you have this late 60s jazz when all these guys were basically turning themselves into power generators. And you had this incredible music that was more or less trying to bootstrap a universal sound. And it kind of worked. I look a lot at that whole strain from Coltrane through to Sun Ra, through to Alice Coltrane. A whole kind of holiness through volume, a kind of holy amplification.

[... ] The movement from funk to drum machines is an exteremely incredible one: people's whole rhythmic perception changed overnight. And people of course pretended that nothing had happened but it was a major shift, hearing bleeps and signals and different kinds of alternating current as sound. It was a huge kind of shift. In a similar sense Varese calls the drum machine a rhythm synthesizer, and that's a good way to describe it. So all those kind of things, all those concepts, make a sense that really the mainstream are just completely incapable of really grasping at all.

[...] "There really is a sensory involution away from traditions, whatever the divisions of art as supposed to be. It's very much like Sadie [Plant] says, it's not high or low it's just complex, because it has so many travelling and spiralling arms that you can hook onto.

[...] "Postmodernism doen't mean anything in music at all. It doesn't mean anything, it hasn't meant anything since at least 68 when the first versions started coming out of Jamaica. As soon as you had the particular social condition of no copyright, this nineteenth century copyright was already gone, instantly you had the freedom to replicate, to literally recombinate, almost immediately. That encouraged a wildstyle of rhythms where things would attach themselves and recombinate. And as soon as you had that, that's postmdernism accomplished and done with, right then in 68, this is another reason why traditional things don't make any sense in music, ever since then by defintion you've had postmodernism and it hasn't been any big deal at all, it's just already been accomplished. The key thing is to go even further back. For instance, Walter Benjamin's traditional "Work of Art in the Age of ..", that argument doesn't work any more, because Benjamin simply says, one of his main points, or the one his admirers use over and over again, although he says loads of other stuff, the main thing they always say is that in the age of reproduction there's obviously no aura left, the single, unique aura has gone, but of course as soon as you have the dubplate then that's all gone out of the window. The dub plate is where you've got the reproductive process, the mechanical process of pressing vinyl onto the plate that's being played, and suddenly in the middle of that you've got the one-off remix, you've got the track that there's only one of in the world, but it's not an original, it's like a copy, or a third copy. So you've got this thing that's never supposed to exist in Benjamin's world: you've got the one-off copy, you've got the one-off fifth remix, you've got the one-off tenth remix, you've got the one-off twentieth remix. There's only one of it. So the dubplate means that the whole idea of the aura being over doesn't make any sense because the aura is reborn in the middle of the industrial reproduction. Hence the whole jungle acceleration, intensification of the dub plate; the dub plate is reborn as this music of the future. You're hearing music that won't be on the streets till ten months, eleven months later, immediately this gap opens up between you and 1996.

[...] So it's really fascinating, because if I see it in that way, then things Sun Ra often said, like "I am an instrument" and "the Arkestra is an instrument". On one hand, he said the Arkestra were tone scientists, sonic scientists, on the other, the Arkestra were his instruments. So you get this idea of music as this sonic production circuit which, as Deleuze was saying, molecules of a new people may be planted here or there. Something like that, Deleuze said. That's very much what Sun Ra's doing: he's using the Moog to produce a new sonic people. Out of this circuit, he's using it to produce a new astro black American of the 70s.

[...] That's why the key things in this book are McLuhan and Ballard, although by the end there won't be any McLuhan and Ballard, but they'll be the guys I was reading throughout. Both those guys have got a fantastic sense, McLuhan in his famous lines about the human being the sex organs for the machine world, those lines are crucial. The Kraftwerk chapter is all about Kraftwerk as the sex organs of the synthesizer.

[...] And there's the key thing which drew me into all this, which was the idea of alien abduction, the idea of slavery itself as an alien abduction which means that we've all been living in an alien-nation since the 18th century. And I definitely agree with that, I definitely use that a lot. But it would simply to be to say that the move, the mutation of the African - I don't even believe in the African - the mutation of African male and female slaves in the 18th century into what became negro, and into the entire series of humans that were designed in America. That whole process, the key thing behind it all is that in America none of these humans were designated human. Therefore, it's in music you get this sense that most African-Americans owe nothing to the status of the human. African-Americans still had to protest, still had to riot to be judged Enlightenment humans in the 1960s - it's quite incredible. And in music, if you listen to guys like Sun Ra - I call them the despotic guys, the real despots - Sun Ra and Rammelzee, Mad Mike - part of the whole thing about being an African-American and an alien musician, is that there's a sense of the human as being a really pointless and treacherous category, one which has never meant anything to African-Americans. This is particularly with Sun Ra - just because Sun Ra pushes it along by just saying he comes from Saturn, so I always accept the impossibility of that. I always start with that, most people try and claim it was an allegory or something. But it isn't an allegory. He really did come from Saturn. I try to exaggerate that impossibility, until it's irritating, until it's annoying, and this annoyance is merely a threshold being crossed in the readers' heads, and once they unseize, unclench their sensorium, they'll have passed through a new threshold and they'll be in my world, I'll have got them. The key thing to do is to register this annoyance, because I think a lot of the moves I've described will provoke real annoyance, the lack of the literary, the lack of the modernist, the lack of the postmodern. All of these things should provoke a real irritation, and simultaneously a real relief, a relief that somebody has left all that stuff behind, and started from the pleasure principle, started from the materials, started from the stuff that really gives people pleasure." --http://www.ccru.net/swarm1/1_motion.htm

More Brilliant Than the Sun : Adventures in Sonic Fiction (1998) - Kodwo Eshun

More Brilliant Than the Sun : Adventures in Sonic Fiction (1998) - Kodwo Eshun [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Less a critical survey than a manifesto for the neuron-altering powers of "breakbeat science," this ingenious book traces the development of sampladelia from the "jazz fission" era of '68-'75 (with excellent analyses of George Russell's and Herbie Hancock's sonic experiments), through the Parliament/Funkadelic groovescapes of the late '70s (including close scrutiny of Pedro Bell's subversive cover art), through Electro (early '80s synth oriented hip hop) and Detroit Techno, to the present Jungle milieu of time stretching and spatio-acoustics. Eschewing a traditional music-crit vocabulary in favor of a riffing, neologistic verbal poetics, Eshun perfectly captures the sci-fi convolutions of the music he describes, and makes an infectious case for the birth of a new audio-paradigm. -- Tom Moody for Amazon.com

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