context: both against and with the text

This section, Context, provides links to four sections of material complimentary to the Computers and Composition print-based essay titled "The Distributed Gesamptkunstwerk: Sound, Worlding, and New Media Culture." These sections are Glossary, Endnotes, Cited and Images. The glossary provides links to a variety of explanations, definitions, and commentary on neologisms and technical terms that may need further explanation. The Endnotes offer expanded versions of the printed endnotes with live links where appropriate, and can be read online while reading the print journal. Cited adds live links to online versions of materials cited in the original print-based essay, allowing a hypertextual extension of print through this website. Finally, five color images are available in the images section. Reproducing these images would have been prohibitively expensive , but are quite readily and inexpensively available digitally. Yet the problem of the print/digit interface remains: it would be nice to have a code on the page that opens each of these links on the screen with some as yet unrealized interface. The problem remains one of context as old as print itself, and which digital textuality has not (yet) solved.

One problem is that text travels alone into the world without the context in which it was created, or with only as much context as can be included in the text itself (metacommentary, linkings, bibliographies, narratives, images). The web offers opportunities to provide fuller contexts, replicating an information ecology showing how the text emerges from (but is never equivalent to) the rich matrix of connections, allusions, tusslings, recontextualizations, negotiations, and reworkings that constitute the processes of thinking and writing. As we have argued with regard to sound, we see that this rich contextual matrix places a priority upon the ambient environs in which one works and plays. Production and reception are intimately connected to the world—to technological, material, and informational scaffoldings that both give rise to and are expressed within the things we do and make. The truth is out there.

Nevertheless, we also understand that this rich sense of context, as important as it can be, and as potentially interesting (sticky!), also runs a counter risk, one that can be seen to work both with and against the text. That is, while these contextual fragments do bring richness to the text, they risk being overwhelming. They risk becoming too much information, drowning the "original argument," burying it in noise. Thus, the danger of a too rich sense of context is that as authors we run the risk of abandonment by our dear readers. We have labored to bring them (you) over the gulf of the print/digit interface only to lose their (your) attention to one of these vile, attractive, enticing sirens who call you and promise you more than we deliver. Richard Lanham's The Economics of Attention addresses this question of stickiness and attention in an age of fecund infomration. Should you follow the siren lure of the links, when you arrive there, you will find they too promise more than they deliver. We invite you back and hope you return.

We also note that the very act of clicking through creates new links, recreates a semblance of world, even as it runs its own entirely practical possibility of becoming too much information. Endless clicking risks becoming a new kind of noise. But this also means—and this is a primary lesson we learned from listening differently to sound—new kinds of invention, new kinds of production. This is not a vague exhortation ala "Oh, the new, the possible, how wonderful!", or other such kicky, warmed over congratulatories calling vaguely for us to be doing something other than we are. As the numerous musical practices we explore in this essay on sound testify, these new forms of invention and production are ongoing and far-reaching in their implications. They are precisely the kinds of things we now need to recontextualize/remediate, learn from, rework, perhaps even surpass. They constitute the new world of composition, and, thus, new ways of composing the world. top


Each link is roughly provided in the order in which it appears in the text.

complete endnotes

Print economy runs on scarcity. Web economy runs on abundance. Our endnotes were (understandably) trimmed in the interests of running the article in the space allowed the print version of Computers and Compositon. Here are our complete endnotes with direct links to all websites referenced:

  1. We will not have space to make as many connections to these aesthetic advancements on the road to virtuality as we would like; suffice it to say here there is still much to explore in looking back over this work.

  2. As we wrote this paragraph, we were led to reflect on the image we have of our students: MP3 files, downloading, iPods, and streams of sound pouring into their ears. Our students, it seems, possess mysterious identities that seem far less literate, less textually constructed, and yet we find ourselves similarly hailed by the siren call of new media. As authors, we certainly recognize our own hybrid and multiple identities, both as literate and electrate prosumers (see Ulmer, webpage). So sound, then, is a mode of electracy distinguished from dialogic relationship we establish with our—as academics!—beloved texts. Still, we enjoy new media, enjoy these sounds produced by our own sound-dispensing techno-cultural artifacts. And while we do not attend to it as much as we should, we are led to Geoff Sirc's question posed in "Never Mind the Tagmemics, Where's the Sex Pistols?" He asks, quite emphatically, "Where's the fun?" As we explore the development of third order cybernetic language and techniques that value noise, multiply inputs, and re-sculpt the nature of sound itself, we would like this question to remain hovering in the background.

  3. Shannon and Weaver offer their cybernetic model in their 1947 book The Mathematical Theory of Communication , but the image offered here is recreated by the authors so that it can be manipulated in subsequent figures: re-recorded (covered), sampled, re-worded, revised, remixed, and re-presented in new context. The revised/re-recorded image is based on Michael Underwood's version, available online, but Underwood's version is itself a re-presentation of the images included in Shannon and Weaver's figures from their 1947 textbook:

  4. Johndan Johnson-Eilola's Nostalgic Angels (1997) offers a sustained critique of Shannon and Weaver and offers additional models for technical and professional writing genres, none of which move towards valuing feedback, or noise, in the way we suggest here.

  5. For a good overview of first, second, and third order cybernetics and their relevance for the humanities and English studies, see Hayles, How We Became Posthuman .

  6. Yes began in 1968 as an "art rock" group directly inspired by the Beatles; aesthetically, this meant a psychedelic bent, inspiration in other musics besides rock or blues (especially classical and jazz), improvisation, and extended or transformed song forms. As the group evolved, they replaced a few early, less technically proficient band members with new, virtuosic players. This version of the group initiated the move from art rock to "progressive rock," which emphasized long song forms; technically proficient if not difficult playing; sophisticated and complex arrangements; classical, opera, and jazz sources for inspiration; and lyric seriousness (see Stump, Martin, Macan, and Covach, "Progressive").

  7. For example, consider this snippet from Dean in a BBC interview: " Five times since I first worked with them we've fallen out enough for [them] to go and get someone else to do the covers! But that's really Yes . . . I recently heard Rick [Wakeman] say that I'd been the only person in and out of Yes more than him!"

  8. Interestingly, with the case of Gilmore, we see that this method of composition is not without controversy. A review of Pink Floyd's work by critic Robert Christgau once snipped that Gilmore's guitar solos were transformed by studio trickery into something more than what he originally played. More recently, the alternative music review website Pitchfork posted a list of the fifty worst guitar solos of the millennium; David Gilmore's solo for Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" was listed as the forty-third worst because he used tape splicing to compose the solo (Sandlin). The aesthetic the author brings to bear demands that a solo be as spontaneous as possible, suggesting that the cult of the guitar hero remains a potent narrative despite the advent of new music forms that directly challenge it.

  9. Eno developed more sophisticated tape loop techniques for his later ambient albums. For a visual example of a track from Music for Airports , see the exercise at < >. A graph of the multiple audio loops, accompanied by sound, shows how these tape segments continually change their dynamics in relation to each other.
  1. We can add still another wrinkle in this process of blurring boundaries by comparing what the Lips are doing with a performer like Ashlee Simpson. Simpson could be considered to provide another aspect of remix culture, despite the media presentation of her Saturday Night Live lip-synching as a fiasco. Consider the way the disappointed, angry, or merely cynical media-savvy prosumers turn the Saturday Night Live video into new and more interesting texts for further inquiry and exploration:

Such digital remixes redefine what it means to "watch" or "listen." The addition of another musical motif, widely recognizable as the music theme used by the English comedian Benny Hill, remixes Simpson's most embarrassing professional moment and places it in an entirely different frame.

  1. In an interesting turn of phrase, the band is calling its more recent shows "Multitainment." The Flaming Lips provide their own histories of "The Parking Lot Experiments" and "The Boombox Experiments" at their website:
  1. In one of those odd parallels that is stranger than fiction, it should be mentioned that Roger Dean, Yes' semi-official group artist, merged his drawing motifs with his architectural interests, designing unusual round and womb-like rooms and places on the theory that such spatial qualities create a deep and resonant sense of comfort. These rooms and places, sometimes called "retreat pods," can be seen on some of the album covers Dean drew, and he also includes photographs of several he has constructed in his book, Magnetic Storm . Dean's rooms extend the aural experience of Yes' music into architectural space, while similarly The Flaming Lips inspire the creation of an extension of the visual experience into the design of a room.
  1. We plan that the digital version of this essay will contain the fruits of these rudimentary efforts. In so doing, we would be able to bring together in our essay text, image, and sound. We have already constructed two sound files (we dare not claim they are "music"), one each, that are intended to be heard independent of any text. Another is linked to a slide show which we imagine readers may want to play while reading this static text.


works cited (with live links)

Alexander, Christopher et al. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction . New York : Oxford U P, 1977.

Baudrillard, Jean. "Baudrillard on the New Technologies: An Interview with Claude Thibault." Baudrillard on the Web. New site: EGS, the European Graduate School:
< "" >. Accessed 30 August 2006.

BBCi Music. "Roger Dean: Interview." nd.
< >. Accessed 19 September 2005 .

Covach, John. "Pangs of History in Late 1970s New Wave Rock." Analyzing Popular Music . Ed. Allan F. Moore. Cambridge : Cambridge UP, 2003. 173-195.

---. "Progressive Rock, 'Close to the Edge,' and the Boundaries of Style." Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis . Eds. John Covach and Graeme M. Boone. New York : Oxford UP, 1997. 3-31.

Critchley, Spencer. "Designing Musical Instruments for Flow." O'Reilly Digital Media . 29 December 2004 .
< >. Accessed 30 September 2005 .

Dean, Roger and Martyn Dean. Magnetic Storm . New York : Harmony Books, 1986.

Dolby Laboratories. "5.1-Channel Music Production Guidelines (Issue 3)."
< >. Accessed September 30, 2005 .

Eno, Brian. Discreet Music . EG Records, 1975.

Flaming Lips, The. Zaireeka . Warner Brothers, 1997.

---. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots . Deluxe enhanced edition CD/DVD. Warner Brothers, 2003.

Hassell, Jon. Aka-Darbari-Java: Magic Realism . EG, 1983.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics . Chicago : U of Chicago P, 1999.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Nostalgic Angels: Rearticulating Hyperspace Writing . Westport : Ablex, 1997.

Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition . Minneapolis : U of Minnesota P, 1984.

Macan, Edward. Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture . New York : Oxford UP, 1997.

Martin, Bill. Listening to the Future: The Time of Progressive Rock , 1968-1978 . Chicago : Open Court , 1998.

Morse, Tim. Yes Stories: Yes in Their Own Words . New York : St. Martin 's P, 1996.

Packer, Randall, and Ken Jordan. Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality . New York : W. W. Norton, 2001.

Prendergast, Mark. The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Trance—The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age . New York : Bloomsbury , 2000.

Rickert, Thomas. "In the House of Doing: Rhetoric and the Kairos of Ambience." JAC 24.4 (2004): 901-27.

Salvo, Michael J. "Rhetorical Action in Professional Space: Information Architecture as Critical Practice." Journal of Business and Technical Communication . 18.1 (2004): 39-66.

Sandlin, Michael. "Top 50 Worst Guitar Solos of the Millennium." Pitchfork . 28 October 1998 .
< defunct >. Accessed 19 September 2005 . For commentary on the list, see Monkeyfilter.

Serres, Michel. The Parasite . Baltimore : Johns Hopkins U P, 1982.

Shannon, Claude E. and Warren Weaver. The Mathematical Theory of Communication . Urbana : U of Illinois P, 1999 (rpt), 1947.

Geoffery Sirc, "Never Mind the Tagmemics, Where's the Sex Pistols," originally printed in CCC 48: 1 (1997): 9-29, (C) 1997, National Council of Teachers of English. (The version published in P/T: E(L) , as submitted by Geoff Sirc, is a slightly different one from the essay published in CCC : accessed January 27, 2006 : <defunct> (At press time, this link was defunct. See CCC Online for access to the print version.)

Stump, Paul. The Music's All That Matters: A History of Progressive Rock . London : Quartet Books, 1997.

Tamm, Eric. Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound . New York : Da Capo, 1995.

Toffler, Alvin. The Third Wave. New York : Bantam, 1981.

Yes. Close to the Edge . Atlantic Records, 1972. top

images (in color)

Links to images, including scanned stills of Frequency Waveform Cartoons, are available below. Any images presented in black and white in print version of the essay can be reproduced here in color.

  1. Yes' Close to the Edge (inside cover)
  2. Eno's Operational Diagram for Discreet Music (from the liner notes)
  3. Flaming Lips' Postcard announcing the release of Zaireeka
  4. Scanned image of Frequency Waveform Cartoons (from Yoshimi liner notes)
  5. Captured image from the authors' Garageband sessions.