Some Thinking About Waves (A Response to a Blog Post)

Let's start with Explosions in the Sky.

In the opening moments of Waves the track ("Postcard from 1952") is cued and played. The video appropriates the whole song with no cuts, alterations or editing. In describing this--it seems a minor detail. From home movies to Hollywood, videos and films have long appropriated pop music, and while we often find segments of pop songs incorporated into such work, it's certainly not uncommon to find whole tracks utilized. (The professional and amateur music video perhaps being the most pedestrian examples.) And Waves does something else. Rather than simply incorporate the music into the video via editing software, Waves utilizes the YouTube interface itself to give the viewer the music (and accompanying images of the band). On screen we literally have the cursor clicking play on the video, all while the browser window remains visible complete with the YouTube timeline on other data like track names, clip length, buttons for selecting "Full Screen" view. "Postcard from 1952" is not just soundtrack, the YouTube video, with all its attendant architecture becomes an object in Waves.

We are in the realm of capture. Writing as capture. Reading as capture. The composition of Waves  is a playing out--an improvisation of objects on a screen. These objects themselves perform in a multitude of moments of syncing with other objects. A blog post from Stanley Fish. A web-based, hypertext short film. A Twitter feed and conversation. An app called OmniDazzle. A movie of a text file being composed--"I feel silly talking about alt scholarship." A plug-in for TextWrangler called BBAutoComplete. An ongoing chain of video response letters between a graduate student and his advisor. All these things are both manipulated and nudged along by the composer, but they are there simultaneously and exert force(s) of their own in the composition. We are in the realm of capture. Authorship as both more and nothing more than the work of being in relation to the found, to what is already there, to the as-is.

Most any description of Waves will read like a Latourian litany and consequently--at least for me--raise a spiraling set of questions. First--as screen devices proliferate and both get co-opted back into and achieve an escape velocity from old-school screen media, what might a small screen "cinema" (or scholarship) look like? Admittedly, cinema is the wrong word here. I do not think Waves intends to take up cinema in any direct way at all; however, as much of our work with time-based mediums like film, video and sound remain cleaved to traditional motion pictures, cinema casts a strange shadow.

Put another way, at what point might the seeming gobbledygook of an ugly cut-and-paste job and the computer desktop become the aesthetic stuff of film and video, as watchable and alluring as a tracking shot from a Scorsese picture? Tooling an Ambient Response And put one more way, if we are currently and irrevocably confronted with radical interconnectedness or an increased feeling of the force of both human and nonhuman actants--of things, what sort of compositional work (time-based or otherwise) might help us come to terms with and actually do something from within this interconnection? Perhaps BBAutoComplete and the interfaces capturing our screens have as much to "say" as any of us might.