The shared community of Rachel’s Technology is Killing Music

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Technology is Killing Music, a 2005 recording from the now defunct Louisville-based collective Rachel’s, is an inspiring 18 minutes of orchestral aphorism. It rings as something so particular to my own criteria of musical appreciation, even though I know the sounds first belonged to someone else’s experience of global travel. It begins as a string quartet. Then it fades into an image that reminds me of the solo guitarist in the first half of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century, an evening on an outdoor stage in the northeastern town of Khon Kaen. These pastoral sounds fade into the more contemporary soundscape of a rapidly moving train, which dissolve into a nervous voice skipping over the notes of a melancholy piano player. The rhythm of voices is upset, gradually arriving and departing, unmeasured, except that the piano and an involuntary memory remain the only human element. The collection of sonic scenes is unlikely to be heard the same way twice.

At about 7:05 into Technology is Killing Music, the listener is transported into a forest of insects, nature’s presence at night, which also seems to belong to a country I’ve once visited. The section slowly bleeds into a cinematic lament, then into traditional instruments run through distortion pedals. This quiets down.

12:00 minutes into the song I know exactly where I am, as if I’ve conquered the disorienting intentions of the work: it is the echo chamber of Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Railway Station, where the unmistakable soundscape is a fragment of my own memory. The station sees 60,000 passengers per day, and is part of the network of routes that brought together the pluralist geography of languages and cultures at the global hub of the Thai nation-state. It opened in 1916, in modern architectural style of the Parisian Gare de Nord train station. This assemblage rings like Chris Marker’s  La Jetee, where the found-footage of prior songs are reassembled under the authority of new voices. A Thai language train station attendant announces that car number 68 of a recently arrived train is on track number 9. There is nothing spectacular about the content of the voice, except that someone else has made my moments retrievable.

The inevitable audience may not be interested in the intricacies of Thai ephemera roving along the surface of contemporary Western post-rock, or whether or not foreign languages need to be translated to grasp the intentions of any work. But what really resonates in Technology is Killing Music is the way globalization operates not only as a discourse but as a new aesthetic. Technology was about progress and the ability for media to store images, whereas globalization is about travel and the geographic reorganization of these images.

There are pieces of music are moving in a moral-expressive moment—for example, that you would walk ten miles to hear it, or that when you hear it you’re going to change something about yourself. But then there are some pieces that seem as though they were already destined for you, when even amid the one-way consumer economy of global traffic that homogenizes all art there is someone that knows part of your memory even though you will never meet them. Even though technology is killing music, the fact that everything dies ensures the spontaneous regeneration of new communities.

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