ghost in the machine


This is a transcript of the radio interview that preceded the broadcast of the “ghost in the machine” sound work. The interviewer was Michal Rataj. Josef Bares, the “brain” behind c8400, was answering his questions.

"Is time linear? Or is it warped into an endless loop, similar to that of Earth (sea) and sky? Linearity gives people hope. It helps to have aims, to take in life as a unique game, to see a light at the end of the tunnel. What if the light is the rear one of a train going on an around-the-world circle line? One day when the spectator may think he is closer to the light then ever before, the engine will knock him down from the back... "

MR: This was a short example from one of the texts which can be found together with the documentation of different projects on a website hidden behind the address c8400.com. I feel that each sound is balanced out with a literary and visual creation, and so the holistic concept of c8400.com slowly comes together. How do you see it, Josef? What is your starting point? Music, fine art or writing?

JB: My primary area of interest is fine art. I used to draw a lot as a kid and from early on I was interested in fine arts. For a long time I was just a consumer of sounds. Maybe it was this position that motivated me to become something more than that. I tried to transform my ideas, which were mainly of a visual kind, into a different form, not only visual, but originating from the images in my head.

MR: Maybe that is why you ended up at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. We probably should mention that you are a student of professor Bielicky. Now let's continue with what you already mentioned. It's about the realization of your visions... In your work you try to make musical instruments out of common consumer electronics. Do I put that correctly?

JB: You can say it like that. The main concept was to use things by taking them out of their usual life, or life cycle, as it is called in economic terms, to show that there are other possibilities how to use them. I think this was inspired by the state of our environment: On one hand, more and more devices are being brought to the market. There is a very broad choice when buying things, but at the same time I feel I am loosing the possibility to decide what to do with these devices. Most of them are intended for a single use. Of course I don't include the computer here. But although the computer can be used for many things, the majority of people use it just to write letters and they have no clue about the possibilities it offers. I believe that even much more simple machines or devices which seem to be made for a single purpose only can be used for something else.

MR: What kind of devices?

JB: I mean devices like tape recorders, radios, record players, or simple sound mixers, voice recorders. I use anything that works with batteries, anything that was initially intended to play back sound to create new sounds.

MR: The most interesting thing about the quote I was reading at the beginning is the question about linearity of time. This is a big topic for philosophers since long ago, but I feel that your concept of reanimating different devices is connected with this question. Devices develop over time, people use them over time and then they loose their ability to serve the people. What do you think about it?

JB: There are two answers to the question how I make use of linearity and cyclicality. You already suggested one answer: Machines have their life cycle. They are manufactured, used and thrown away. I am trying to take them out of this cycle, show an alternative. This is the level of things/objects. But there is another layer to the results of my work. I often work with internal loops; sounds are created as feedback, as a never ending cycle. I also reflect contemporary music which often uses samples and loops. Inside of the devices I use there are micro-samples that loop forever. The length of a track can go on forever. It can be cut off at any time; there is no clear beginning and end. It is a cycle.

MR: You surprised me with your answer, as I was about to ask how you perceive time, what does time in sound or music mean to you. But now I see that your approach to sound is more that of working on a sound installation. Is it like that?

JB: You could say it that way... As I have mentioned, I' m coming from the fine arts scene. But I am not very in favor of the word "fine art" as it has a strong connotation of focusing on aesthetics to me. I start with snapshots which are like sketches that do not change over time after they are created. For me, time consists mainly of moments. Between them, there is development. In new releases on my website, for example "shift", there this concept is visualized. Time helps us to better understand our environment. My sound creations are centered on moments. Time lets them develop, but it is not a composition in a musical sense.