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Toward Serenity

A playlist of potential futures

  • Jun 27 2020
  • Karina Rovira and Chris Paxton
    Karina Rovira writes her to do list on her right hand. A list of suggestions about her work: floating, implicit communication, echo, movement, transformation. Her mediums? Film photography, video, and installations

    Chris Paxton is an artist, curator and writer living in Berlin. His research focuses on mediation in art and cultural institutions. He currently studies Cultures of the Curatorial at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig.

    Image: Digital collage by the authors.

Always on the brink of crisis, the end of the world seems to reinvent itself day-by-day. Our dystopian imaginations of the future, often pessimistic reflections of our present taken to an extreme, are just that: imaginary, not yet realized. Critique of the past and present, while necessary and useful, doesn’t have to be a soul crushing venture. Our reality is constantly expanding, beginning, growing and breathing. So why all this obsession with the end? What if we were to understand the present as a rehearsal of a potential future, a fusion of material and immaterial entities? If the future is made now, from where we stand, with what we have, then how can we reimagine what it means to gather, play, dream, feel, and care with one another, technology, and nature?

“Love Song from the Mountains” - Deuter

A moment to breathe. A space to gather oneself. A pause to look at the mountain, and on that mountain sits a small form. The form is a  human playing a love song. The mountain is providing space, the human echoing the sound of nature and emotion, and the wind carries the sound miles and miles away.

“Ever New” - Beverly Glenn Copeland


“Blink” - Hiroshi Yoshimura

Recorded on a keyboard and a Fender Rhodes piano, Music for Nine Postcards (1982), initially written as a demo for the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, was designed to be played with/in the building's architecture. “The movements of clouds, the shade of a tree in summertime, the sound of rain [and] the snow in a town," all served as inspiration for the album, which searches for a new dialogue between sound and space, connecting the physical environment inextricably with the listener’s experience.

“ZURE” - Ryuichi Sakamoto

Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto wrote his 2017 album Async as a way of working with the natural states of chaos and entropy. Using two pianos from his home studio, as well as a piano that was drowned in tsunami waters, Sakamoto brings to light the possibility inherent in working with instead of against nature: "the piano is a very systematically, industrially-designed thing, but they were a part of nature, taken from nature. Mankind artificially tuned and set the well-tempered scale, but the thing is if you leave the piano for a long time without a tuning, it will be out of tune.”

“SWIM” by Holly Herndon

(someone who isn't me) Artist and musician Holly Herndon produced the album PROTO in collaboration with an "AI baby" named Spawn, which she created with Matt Dryhurst. Drawing inspiration from a long tradition of choral music, Herndon trained Spawn using data sets collected from multiple human voices, meditating on the possibilities of a future of and beyond the human species. In an interview, Herndon describes her process, working with technology, through which some of our most intimate interactions are mediated, to create a sense of community and togetherness. “Computers doing a lot of the heavy lifting really allows us to be more human together”, says Herndon. While on tour, she has been collecting call-and-response recordings from her audiences, which she hopes to use to further develop Spawn. The resulting AI is thus born from a practice of human and technological collectivity and collaboration.

“I Will Make Room for You” - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

I will make room for you
To take, to take, to take, take, take, take, take
To take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take, take
Up space, to roam
All I want: to live my whole life for
A chance to explore the unknown with you
I hold eyes wide open
For you to feel your best
I want for you to feel your best
I want for you to feel your best
I want for you to feel your best
The best, the best, the best, the best, the best, the best

“Brown Rice” - Don Cherry

As I massage their hand they talk to me about their day. Every once in a while “brown rice” and “chicken dollar” slips into their sentence. 

“Moontalk” - Laurel Halo

あなた の はじめ、 おめでとう
おつかれさな、 おめでとう
よくで きました、 おめでとう

What if you walked?
And what if on your walk, you breathed?
And what if on your breath
You heard the moon talk?

“It Feels Like Floating” - Mary Lattimore

The Overview Effect is described as a cognitive shift in awareness experienced by astronauts viewing the Earth from space for the first time. “Hanging in the void”, protected by nothing but a thin layer of air, the profound realization of the planet’s fragility makes our day-to-day lives, national boundaries and political conflicts seem less important in comparison to the obvious and imperative need for a planetary society, united to protect our planet and the life it harbors and nurtures.

“Rhapsody in Green” - Mort Garson

First released in 1976, Mort Garson’s album Mother Earth's Plantasia was composed specifically for plants to listen to and upon release was made only available to customers who purchased a plant from Mother Earth, a plant store in Los Angeles. If plants like to listen to music, then what music do they like to make? How can we listen to them?  What are their desire, hopes, and fears? 

"[A] professor took three identical sets of plants and put them in three rooms under identical growing conditions. In the first room, he played only classical music and those plants thrived; in the second room, he played only rock music and those plants thrived; in the third room he played only the news. Those plants died. Let that one grow on you while you listen ... ." - From the album’s liner notes, by Lynn and Joel Rapp

The CD was a limited edition release and I've been able to know and experience this lovely music via technology. It has carried these sounds to people and places that it would have never otherwise reached. 

We and our plants are happy when listening to the whole album.

“Limerence” by Yves Tumor

I stay still. I remember a conversation I once had. A joke they made on the way to the river. The sunbeams were diving through the water and laughing too. 

“Kanan Maloundi” - Ablaye Cissoko

There is space given. 

“Claudia, Wilhelm R and Me” - Roberto Musci

For nearly a decade, Roberto Musci travelled around the world to study African, Indian, and Near & Far Eastern music, as well as to collect field recordings and musical instruments. Upon his return to Italy, he reflected on his recordings and added his own musical language to create a personal collection of memories and exchanges. While the idea of cultures as closed systems is fundamentally problematic, the conditions of the relations between them can also not be ignored. How do we relate across different cultures, time, and values in a way that acknowledges power and respects identity, heritage and inheritance? What is a cultural memory, how do we choose to remember a cultural exchange, and what does this mean for our future? 

“Song of the Sleeping Forest” - Susumu Yokota

Zzz... but dreaming. 

“The Tao of Love” - Vangelis

This song is inspired by Zhuang Zhou quote: "That which is one is one. That which is not one is also one."

“Impossible Island” - Gaussian Curve

I'm walking and then everything is moving slower. When I look up I see the wind helping the trees dance.

“Promises of Fertility” - Huerco S.

Feeling deeply, deeply felt. 




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