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I wrote an essay around a piece of music that has been published in the latest issue of IASPM. It’s called ‘Fully Automated Luxury Composition’. It’s about generative music, utopia & how capitalism shapes creative thinking.

In case of skim reading—it is pretty dry, I wouldn’t blame you—to summarise:

  • The title is a shameless pun on Fully Automated Luxury Communism. ☭☭☭
  • Utopian thinking in culture is an urgent task of anybody making music or art. (If we cannot imagine better futures beyond capitalism then how do we make them?)
  • I do not think that algorithmic, generative music is necessarily a utopian vision for the future of music.
  • However, endless streams of infinite music that transcend the commodity form and is made by anybody who wants to make it is a useful utopian idea.
  • Looking at ways for automation and technology to be an emancipatory force is not the same as blindly endorsing the accelerationism of late capitalism we’re all being carried along by.
  • In any case, utopian thinking can serve the negative purpose of revealing the limits of musical imagination under capitalism.
  • This interrogation hints at a tension when applying utopian thought to models of creative production like music-making. Capitalism does allow for an artistic autonomy and the creation of 'communal solidarities’ - this is why pop music can be so great. But through this allowance it is able to subsume the creative act. It traps us inside.

Capitalism is tenacious. It’s already trying to co-opt this line of musical utopian thinking. The cutting edge musical machine learning of Magenta might be open source, but it is bank-rolled by Google. Look at this cringey appropration of musical technology and tell me you don’t want to burn the whole idea of music to the ground.

Capital is coming. It will try to co-opt this glimmer of utopian resistance. There’ll be hammer and sickle t-shirts in Urban Outfitters any day now.

Final note: The music part of this reseach is something I would otherwise have not released were it not tied to this essay. I don’t think it is good enough.

Link to ESSAY
Link to MUSIC