Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 6#4 Arthur Kroker, Marilouise Kroker 1 Jan 1992

Mutant Ears

What is the speed of Music?

At what point does music red shift to ultrasonic velocity like all those spectral objects before it, break the sound barrier and then follow an immense curvature towards that point of incredible sound density, where music can finally move at such violent speeds that it can no longer be heard, even by mutant membranes. The fatal point, that is, where music breaks beyond the speed of light, falling into a deep and immense silence.


Mutant Ears -


Maximalism, as the composer Steve Gibson notes, is the name given to a new tendency in music today – entropy music – where, like early pioneers in jet aircraft technology, the aim is to evolve an improved eardrum for the mutant ear, a mutant membrane that can actually see the sound pressure of the velocity of music. Entropy music, then, as a dense configuration of sound objects, each of which is pushed by sheer decibel strength to its ultimate pressure point, to that elusive point where music as a high velocity sound object breaks beyond the speed of light to shatter the old second-millennium ear drum, beyond 130 decibels like all those boom cars in Los Angeles.

Recently, the New York Times had this to say about boom cars: Young people are converting cars into rolling radio stations by stuffing them with dozens of speakers, disc jukeboxes, and amplifiers capable of booming rock ''and rap music at decibel levels powerful enough to rattle neighbour’s windows, ruin their hearing and assault their captive audience.

Those who compete in sound competitions say the thump of a high-decibel stereo is addictive. You ask yourself: If 200 watts sound good, what will 400 watts sound like? As one car boomer says:'' I’m young and stupid, I guess.

Not really cars any longer, but entropic sound chambers where the body curls up at the edge of 400 watts of rap music, folds outwards against the sound pressure, running finally at the edge of earth and sky. A perfect sound event-scene. Sky walking; actually mutating into a force field, which thunders across the empty circulatory system of post-modern suburbs. And not drivers any longer, but zooming scenes of sound intensity, filling all the dead air with dead sound, and all those empty city dreams with bleeding eardrums for the body mutant.

Why the compulsive drive to immense volumes of sound? A technological fascination with bad infinity, with the necessity to challenge dead space? Or an implosion of sound to that point of intensity where silence finally begins? Boom cars as alternating scenes of violent silence, like the eye of a tropical hurricane, and mobile war strategies, which overwhelm the menace of dead air in all those lonely cars with noise as a pure force field. Consequently, boom cars in LA as the last and best of all the urban nomads: sites of ‘longitude and latitude, speed and slowness’, moments of passing intensity. Boom cars, then, as crash haecceities: event-scenes for becoming the velocity of music.