The Cyberflâneur #9: Holly Herndon & Mat Dryhurst

Our last cyberflâneurs of the year are the musician, composer, and sound artist Holly Herndon and the theorist and technologist Mat Dryhurst (who also happens to be Holly’s key collaborator and partner).

Holly’s 2019 album Proto (4AD) is definitely our favorite album of the year. Its innovative use of artificial intelligence was noted even by the Financial Times (Pitchfork, in the meantime, listed Proto among 50 best experimental albums of 2019, while Vice put it on its list of 100 best albums of 2019). Here is a little foretaste:

And we are also pleased that Holly and Mat have found The Syllabus quite useful. As they say:

“We mean this in the best way, but we did not expect for the links and research uncovered by The Syllabus to be quite as useful and illuminating as they have been! We would pay for this!”

Their favourite pieces from our stacks – along with comments – follow below.

E.M.


I.

Owning AI: Intellectual Property for Artificial Intelligence

We have been thinking about issues of ownership in AI from an artist perspective. If artists contribute to valuable datasets, how do we determine how much value we are contributing, and be compensated and attributed for it? This conversation is interesting from the other vantage point, with legal and medical scholars discussing how IP might work for the creators of those algorithms themselves.


II.

From Creator to Data: the Post-Record Music Industry and the Digital Conglomerates

This paper looks at the transition of the traditional role of the musician into content provider. This sits really uneasy with me, but is an undeniable challenge we have to grapple with. It also intersects somewhat with the AI conversation, as it attempts to understand how digital recordings have acquired value as data.


III.

Data Cooperatives: Towards a Foundation for Decentralized Personal Data Management

We are interested in proposals of personal data ownership, and hold the position that it would be more positive to think of such arrangements as collectives rather than focus on the individual and slip into a race to the bottom of personal data markets.


IV.

Neoliberalism and the Moral Economy of Fraud

We are interested in the parallels between aspects of the self promotional ad platform economy and multi level marketing scams. This book takes a wider but perhaps complimentary view, researching how neoliberal values encourage the proliferation of fraud globally.


V.

The Death of the AI Author

AI and authorship is a very interesting conundrum for music. We chose this article because fundamentally it frames authorship as a social, relational exercise, and I couldn’t agree more. Automated music will mean nothing without a public to give it meaning, just as I am interdependent with the other artists, listeners and institutions that give my music the possibility to develop significance. I think this is a cool approach to the topic!


VI.

Why Isn’t Uber Worker-Managed? A Model of Digital Platform Cooperatives

Many digital platforms we enjoy might as well be worker owned. This paper describes the relative advantages and disadvantages between worker managed and capital managed platforms.


VII.

“First Week Is Editorial, Second Week Is Algorithmic”: Platform Gatekeepers and the Platformization of Music Curation

It has long been clear that streaming platforms represent the new gatekeepers. In a winner takes all platform economy, the real danger is that there will be one, unaccountable and opaque, gatekeeper in the end, which contradicts many of the original utopian claims around the digitization and “democratization” of music.


VIII.

Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder

GOAT title for an academic paper. It demonstrates that when observing art, bullshit “International Art English” increases a perception of profundity in the observer. Bravo!


IX.

New Music Theatre in Europe: Transformations between 1955-1975

The music I make starts and ends with performance, and as a result I have found myself increasingly drawn to theatre as a source of inspiration, particularly as it is quite rare to read analysis of the staging of music. ‘Total Theatre’ is complimentary to the idea of the “Gesamtkunstwerk’ and describes a process by which all elements around a work are coordinated in harmony with one another, rather than being seen as discrete or arbitrary decisions.


X.

A Racist Music

This is an incredible piece of radio by Errollyn Wallen confronting the painful and difficult topic of how to approach the legacy of a celebrated racist composer.


More about our Cyberflâneur series. You can also take a look at the previous versions of the Cyberflâneur: Brian Eno, Hito Steyerl, Adam Tooze, Rana Foroohar, Samuel Moyn, Rem Koolhaas, Paul Mason, Shehla Rashid.

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