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Muzak: On Functional Music and Power (1992) Simon C. Jones & Thomas G. Schumacher. A straight to the bones text on the ideology of functional music. The text offers a good overview on how Muzak is designed and how it effects people who are subjected to it. There are even some statistics on how it effects worker efficiency.

For Adorno, one of the functions of popular music was to distract workers from the monotony of increasingly rationalized and mechanized work. It treated the symptoms of alienation and subordination, alleviating boredom and fatigue but without removing their causes. Popular music was, in the end, little more than “social cement,” reinforcing existing social relations and power structures – entertainment as containment […] The stylistic regularity and harmonic simplicity of Muzak suggests a secure, private, domestic world that signifies the comfort and security of home in terms of a particular, bourgeois conception of domestic well-being. Its aim is precisely to make one “feel at home” whether in an office, factory or airplane.

I remember reading that Muzak is used in shopping-centers to make the violent experience of moving with an elevator from a level of where fur-hats are sold to the floor where butchered meat is sold more coherent. Muzak removes the post- from modern. A contemporary application of the text would be a critique of ambient-music and earphone-culture as processes were individual wellbeing is build by enforcing technologically segregated private spaces. With the emphasis on audio quality as a class signifier: Headphones which boost bass tones are deemed working class. Interestingly personalized ambient spaces are disseminated into public trough shared curated playlists.

A trajectory from Muzak, 90ties World Music, Vaporwave (which I recognize Skweee as) to Ambient would be interesting to explore. I think each genre responds to political detachement and cynicism. New march-music for the welfare state can be sought from: How to Kill a Zombie: Strategizing the End of Neoliberalism (2013) Mark Fisher.

Neoliberalism consolidated the discrediting of state socialism, establishing a vision of history in which it laid claim to the future and consigned the left to obsolescence. It captured the discontent with centralized bureacratic leftism, successfully absorbing and metabolizing the desires for freedom and autonomy that had emerged in the wake of the 60s. But – and this is a crucial point – this isn’t to say that those desires inevitably and necessarily led to the rise of neoliberalism. Rather, we can see the success of neoliberalism as a symptom of the leftist failure to adequately respond to these new desires.

Made a Manhattan style PCB for a FM transmitter. I used a LM7809 to stabilize the power input and even without an antenna the unit can cover our flat! The sound is really good and quirky. Bass tones etc. get broadcasted well and when I wave my hand over a receiver other FM broadcasts seep to the same channel. This emphasizes the pocket-like-folds the mini-FM makes to the radio space (which Kogawa’s texts underline). Interestingly when I broadcast simple waves in close proximity of a FM receiver and boost the volume of the transmission the sound feels like a wavefolder. Couldn’t get the Charles Kitchin FM receiver to work yet. It might be that the J113 is not a perfect replacement for the MPF102 or my coils are missaligned. Found a detailed tutorial on how to build the unit Radio Shack Special (2008) by braincambre500 and I’ll retry the build. Also sourced parts for The Simplest FM Receiver by Miomir Filipovic which uses two transistors and only one coil. Fitting the transmitter and received on the same PCB will be challenging as the Kogawa transmitter is so powerful. I might have to add a switch to the eurorack design to toggle the unit to work either as a transmitter or a receiver… I also think that the tuning capacitors should be lifted from the ground somehow. Cleared my workbench and I’ll try to build a working unit this summer.

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