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The Future of Electronic Music II
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David Westling



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:18 pm    Post subject: The Future of Electronic Music II
Subject description: new essay written 3/27/07
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Same location as the first essay. On the intersection of the psychoanalytic theory of music and some musical observations by Varese.

Comments welcome.

http://www.davidwestling.typepad.com/redlegs_masticate/

Last edited by David Westling on Thu Mar 29, 2007 6:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Oops sorry I replied to the wrong essay
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

You did? Shocked
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thank you.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
You did? Shocked


Well there was this little [x] button on the post and when I realized that I had confused my head and my ass -- I pressed it Shocked

Well it was gone, but I couldnt' resist the chance to share my stupidity Rolling Eyes

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 2:23 pm    Post subject: Re: The Future of Electronic Music II
Subject description: new essay written 3/27/06
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I've read the (correct) essay several times and it touches so much territory out side my experience that I can respond to little other than the closing paragraph.

David Westling wrote:
We live in an age of restlessness. As the communist theoretician and agitator Antonio Gramsci observed with such poignancy, "the conflict arises precisely because the old has died and the new cannot be born." But it could be born. This is my manifesto.


It completely escapes me why "the new cannot be born." Is this explained by the text of the essay? If it's your manifesto that it can be born can you say why it has not. And why it's not just a matter of someone sitting down and doing it?

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 7:18 pm    Post subject: reply to bacchus Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Your question is simple but the answer requires many thousands of words. Just why is it that the old has died and the new cannot be born, and why is it so crucial? One of the things one is talking about is the evaporation of Christianity, of course. There are many who do not acknowledge this evaporation, but it has nevertheless happened. One of the primary sources for the description of this state of affairs is Friedrich Nietzsche. God is dead, he said, and morality is only a human construct, which shifts from culture to culture. Things haven't really changed in the 120 years since his writings first came to light. The old has died, meaning that God has died. He has outlived his usefulness. Dostoevsky has also charted this forbidding territory, and left us with one of the most chilling phrases on this subject one could ask for: "If God does not exist, everything would be permitted." In other words, Dostoevsky believed that if there exists no absolute standard of right and wrong, which God is the sole guarantor of, then any system of morality, custom, or law is open to question. One opens the door to...Nazi atrocities, Stalinist atrocities, the Khmer Rouge. The State becomes God. The new cannot be born because we don't know what we are as a race, as a people. Our whole epistemology in a pan-human sense was formed with the idea that God could be referred to legitimately. Now that this illusion has been effectively shattered, there is a, what shall I call it, an interregnum. We are at the shores of a time of apocalypse, very much like that which obtained at the cusp of the Renaissance. The last thirty years has brought a definite retrogression against the evolution of the European soul. It is always possible to defer the new evolutionary tendencies indefinitely. But it is a recipe for disaster. One the other hand, if enough people could catch a glimpse of the new way, humanity would be on the brink of a fabulous new advance. I speak extravagantly. One used to hear people say that love is the answer. And you know that. For sure. But this idea has been repudiated. I don't want to get into the reasons for that here. Suffice it to say that it doesn't fit in with the program devised by the US Department of Defense.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

David - have you read Philip Slater's essay on polarization in America? I am not sure everything he says is true, but his main point - that the root of the polarization is that the "old" way ("controller culture") is dying and a "new" way ("connecting culture") is starting to take root - makes me stop and think, and it's optimistic at heart.

I just thought of that here because you mention "the new way" and I think Slater gives voice to what that new way might be. Actually, if he's right, the so-called new way would actually be a return to ancient ways.

James

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Didn't have time to read your essay before posting the last comment, but this morning I did read it. I generally appreciate the idealism, but have a few concerns.

  • Communication theory posits a sender, message and receiver, but Varèse and the psychoanalysts cited don't acknowledge even that there is a receiver, let alone that the receiver might be important in some way. That bothers me tremendously. I can expand later but it's a very old, modernist theoretical framework that's dead as the dodo.

  • Also missing is any theorization of the role of musical community, and the roles of tradition and convention in maintaining community. The checklist in the middle paragraph is a set of norms / community standards / morals, even as it seeks to encourage, or intimidate, or shame composers into overturning older norms. That's the danger of leaving community and conventions out of the picture -- they enter the picture in a coercive way, even though you didn't want them to.

  • Eros is not a bad motivator for the musical impulse Smile Neither is spirituality, also conspicuously absent from the proceedings here.

That obviously doesn't do justice to your thoughts or mine, but it's a start. I can go into more depth later.

James

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

dewdrop_world wrote:
Didn't have time to read your essay before posting the last comment, but this morning I did read it. I generally appreciate the idealism, but have a few concerns.
....
....
James


Thanks, that went a long way toward explaining it to me. My emotional response was so strong and my founding in some of the areas so weak that I couldn't put it together.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Been trying to find an entry point and to get my head around this. The dates supplied then my head racing with the progress of musics in between those periods and then just even from 61 - 69 the progress of music, or music technology. How music acquired the studio as the other member with multi-tracking and so forth. But anyhoo. I found this quote which made me think of a few folks from history. "The entire work will flow as a river flows." Just like Debussy then, I would guess.
Music is rooted in mourning? A portion maybe is that really all tho? I really have a hard time accepting that that is all to it tho. If you've been anywhere with a high ceiling you make noise and play with the accoustics available more often than not if you have the oppurtunity. That's the joy of sound.
I do feel I need to have a few really weighty books at my disposal to really penetrate some of the other areas. There seems also to be a few ways we can get very very far off of music by talking about the degradation of the European character (what of the American character pre and post depression and say for example the 70s going forward) and then we dig into a deeper condition the world has been forced under due to progress.

Restlessness? We are a terribly distracted people anymore. So many ways to attract our attention away from it's proper focal point. I guess that's capitalism doing its thing by offering us everything we never knew we needed or wanted until it was advertised like it was what we wanted and so and so has it.
Music needs the community to progress. Look at the last 50 years just for starters. Did it progress? I dunno. Something happened and there's an awful bit more to choose from now then even just 10 or even 5 years years ago. If it's just a lone instance like a tree in the woods that falls. What good is it? Sure we can praise the books not published and the music not heard, but it's just that. Not published and not heard. Awaiting discovery, or not.

So yeah, I'm still a bit confused.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 4:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

m.earthman wrote:
The dates supplied then my head racing with the progress of musics in between those periods and then just even from 61 - 69 the progress of music, or music technology.


It's not clear to me that music progresses. I always thought of it more like continuous evolution played out through its role in the ecology of the zietgeist. But in this realm WTFDIN Rolling Eyes

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

bachus wrote:
WTFDIN Rolling Eyes

I think you meant WTFDIK Cool

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
bachus wrote:
WTFDIN Rolling Eyes

I think you meant WTFDIK Cool

You are so rite. Laughing

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 11:48 am    Post subject: reply to dewdrop_world Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

dewdrop_world wrote:
.

  • Communication theory posits a sender, message and receiver, but Varèse and the psychoanalysts cited don't acknowledge even that there is a receiver, let alone that the receiver might be important in some way. That bothers me tremendously. I can expand later but it's a very old, modernist theoretical framework that's dead as the dodo.

  • Also missing is any theorization of the role of musical community, and the roles of tradition and convention in maintaining community. The checklist in the middle paragraph is a set of norms / community standards / morals, even as it seeks to encourage, or intimidate, or shame composers into overturning older norms. That's the danger of leaving community and conventions out of the picture -- they enter the picture in a coercive way, even though you didn't want them to.

  • Eros is not a bad motivator for the musical impulse Smile Neither is spirituality, also conspicuously absent from the proceedings here.

That obviously doesn't do justice to your thoughts or mine, but it's a start. I can go into more depth later.

James



I acknowledge the dangers of proposing checklists. My main impulse in doing so was to provide a compelling counterexample to the pervasive tendency in contemporary music production to creat floaty, rather unadventurous music, essentially tonally based, that to my mind represents that regressive tendency in culture today to take few risks, even as one aspires to an "avant-garde" appellation. I am thinking of such efforts as Blue Man Group and the plethora of "ambient" recordings out there. But at the same time, I believe it is foolish to not take heed of the lessons of the master Varese. One wants to expand consciousness in the listener, at least I do. History is the nightmare from which I am trying to awake, and this requires certain breaks with the past.

As for communication theory, I try not to pay attention to these intellectual fads. My work in this area tries to chart a rather basic sweep in the history of ideas, namely the one from Realism to Nominalism. Realism stipulates that there is an outside world, and that it can be known. It's that second part that is problematic. Nominalism is the most fundamental challenge to this assumption, with Kant's "thing-in-itself" being the most famous formulation of the nominalist tendency in Western thought. According to this view, the thing-in-itself cannot be known. We can only know our perception of the thing-in-itself. I accept the existence of the outside world. But only by inference. It cannot be directly apprehended. This of course is a basic challenge to all collectivistic theories of experience, Buddhism and Marxism (and its bastard child, postmodernism) prominent among them. Positing reality as something that exists at some intersection between the self and the other is just letting abstraction in by the back door, and therefore the degradation of personal experience. I gather that by endorsing communication theory one is positing some social responsibility factor in creating art. It is supremely dangerous to artisitic integrity to adopt such a position in my opinion. One cannot allow some "spirit of society" to have a meaningful say in the creation of artistic viewpoint. The public is essentially refractory. You have to drag them kicking and screaming into the light. The will to remain sick is powerful.

Spirituality is hardly absent from the proceedings, James. To you, perhaps, Varese's music is unspiritual. I daresay it rejects religion, but it's a mistake to regard the rejection of religion as equivalent to rejecting spirituality. Rather, I believe that it focuses on that ineffability of experience that is far more deeply spiritual than anything religion can generate. Religion is most of all interested in generating certainties. Even Buddhism, which goes much further than the others in this regard, since the necessity of the escape from Desire is the certainty which animates it. For me, Desire has the opposite significance. To me it is far more interesting, real and mysterious to generate a climate of compelling indeterminacy. It's certain now that indeterminacy has a major role in the way the world works. If this appears as a paradox, I know, it is, but perhaps this one can stand without damage to the progress of the psyche. Music that is written in a certain key, with regular metering and recognizable melodies point us back to that discredited world which the Great Chain of Being exemplified, in my opinion. Everything has its fixed place in the cosmos. Especially your social station. Kings remain kings, and serfs remain serfs for ever and ever. We don't want that world anymore. But we don't want what rejecting that world finally implies either. This is the crux of the problem. I wish to do my small part to end this impasse, for me, and for everyone.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 11:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

spirit of society. hmm. The spirit of society. explain this one a bit more please. I'n not exactly feeling how you implicate it.
The whole artist in a vacuum thing can be really, well, tiring for the artist. We are the canaries in the cage and how can one live in the world and among people without repsonding to that fact? I've long held to that and through study of the histories see that that is the case and with our tuning and pitch towards the world we have the empathy to detect and pick up on the spirit of society, its joy, its illness, its happiness and its sickness far far quicker than most, not too mention we, through our chosen fields have the canvas: the space in which to put down these thoughts, emotions reactions and responses. We can turn the light on and put the feeling into the history by making the creations and capturing the essence in them of the time.
Certain breaks from the past, yes. That must come too with a certain knowledge and understanding of where the fissure is. I think too sometimes, you really need to outright just steal from the past. Read it wrong. Mis read it. Know how to mis read it. Apply it far and removed from its original context, set or setting.
There has to be something, some energy, some frustration and generally for a good many artists, a lot of that energy I dare say comes from the spirit of society. Some condition, some thing that a creator, whether visual, written or musical responds to or is compelled to harness and make use of.

Aren't we the obstinate ones? Soceity or I mean, the Public is more often than not, too distracted to be pigheaded. I'm at ease with that. I'll tell who I can to mess it up finely and to stop being pure and do everything I can to encourage people to push off to another space. Who wants them en masse anyways? Then you have to answer to them and your vacuum bag is full. And they expect that one trick over and over.

Blue man group versus ambient records?! Blue man group sells more tickets in a week with their various outlets than a many ambient records sell in the course of years.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

In my view, the purpose of art is to teach individuals and societies what they did not know before. This extends beyond the cognitive into the experiential. Art and music have had this function for millennia -- perhaps societies retained that wisdom, but individuals have to be taught again and again. Bach is a teacher (present tense chosen deliberately). Mahler is a teacher. Webern, on the other hand, is a solipsist -- as if he glimpsed the grave responsibility of carrying wisdom forward and shrunk from it, retreating within himself to a kind of autistic state that led to the the postwar modernists' profoundly alienated state of denial. Mind you, some of Webern's music is like a whisper that fells a tree, but not much. (Varèse is not in league with them -- on the contrary, his music speaks loud and clear to me.)

I think "artistic integrity" is a fiction, invented in the 19th century to support the related fiction of the composer-as-prophet (which later would figure prominently in Schoenberg's view of music history). It would be interesting to interrogate this idea historically; it seems to me linked to the increasing commodification of music in the 19th century. If "integrity" is a valuable rhetorical device to question the ways that we take music for granted as a commodity, I'm all for it, but I find it equally valuable to be aware of the social conditions that gave rise to the idea of artistic integrity, and to wonder whether the idea, as received from the Romantics, is still meaningful a century later, and to consider alternate conceptions of integrity that speak to today's world.

It shouldn't surprise us that composers want to think of themselves as prophets, "drag[ging]" the "sick" "kicking and screaming into the light." Pardon me for saying so, but this is more than a little arrogant. If I see you suffering, what should I do? Should I cram my "artistic integrity" down your throat, for your own good? Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot committed their atrocities "for the good of the people," too, or so they said. Forward-looking music will never be guilty of such crimes, but it can be an act of violence, which I reject unconditionally. I choose instead to be as aware as I can of the nature of that suffering, and to offer in reply what you need in order to become free of it.

That's how I distinguish between mediocre and great artists. The mediocre artist gives people what they want. The great artist recognizes that what people think they want and what they truly need are often very different, and offers what is needed. (And I reserve a special place in hell for composers who are first and foremost concerned with their own sense of self importance.)

Not that I would consign you, David, to that hell -- far from it! It's easy to see that there is more going on than self importance in your thinking. At bottom, we're both wrestling with the same basic question -- what is the role of music in today's society? -- and I don't have a problem with the fact that we reach different conclusions. Optimistically, I could say that your music seeks to fill one set of needs, and mine seeks another. That's as it should be! No one person can see everything.

James

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 6:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

dewdrop_world wrote:
In my view, the purpose of art is to teach individuals and societies what they did not know before.


I think I would be more comfortable with the assertion: one of the great values of art is the revelation to individuals and societies what they did not know before. It's hard for me to grasp that music has a purpose.

dewdrop_world wrote:
Webern, on the other hand, is a solipsist -- as if he glimpsed the grave responsibility of carrying wisdom forward

At least from the viewpoint of my own response to his music, I feel this is too harsh an assessment of Webern's work. And, if I may say so, to assign to artists the "grave responsibility of carrying wisdom forward" hardly seems less arrogant or even very different from wanting to be a prophet. But perhaps I misunderstand.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

At work now so I must be quick, but re the "grave responsibility," I don't think composers should take it on as a weight or burden. That's part of the issue I have with the second Viennese school -- Schoenberg was really big on that responsibility and I think its influence later in the century was detrimental.

Also I agree that "the purpose of art" is not the right way to say it. Art has many purposes, yes.

James

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

dewdrop_world wrote:
It shouldn't surprise us that composers want to think of themselves as prophets, "drag[ging]" the "sick" "kicking and screaming into the light." Pardon me for saying so, but this is more than a little arrogant. If I see you suffering, what should I do? Should I cram my "artistic integrity" down your throat, for your own good? Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot committed their atrocities "for the good of the people," too, or so they said. Forward-looking music will never be guilty of such crimes, but it can be an act of violence, which I reject unconditionally. I choose instead to be as aware as I can of the nature of that suffering, and to offer in reply what you need in order to become free of it.

James


It's hard to formulate language that doesn't sound overly arrogant in this context. "Artistic integrity" definitely has some bogus elements to it, but I think it's possible to distill something good from all that hocus-pocus. There are things worth developing in the human soul. Humanity is capable of a certain degree of freedom and self-realization, and the artist's task as I see it is to find that Ariadne's Thread which leads to the promised land. Yes, I am asserting that I have some degree of insight into this search and that others don't. I suppose that is arrogant. I have made many mistakes on my road and I find abhorrent any tendency to coerce anyone into taking any position whatever. My "findings" are offered in the spirit of an invitation. At the same time, I wish to formulate what I see as the necessary conditions for moving forward. The artist is a cultural physician, as Nietzsche maintained, and it's easy to get egomaniacal if one has the smallest success in this difficult enterprise. I do believe, though, that violence is not necessarily contraindicated in the addressing of these issues. I take as my paradigm the dada movement, something Varèse was rather intimately connected with. Dada did not negotiate its program with its potential audience. And yet it would be a considerable misunderstanding to believe that dada was only interested in destruction. As the anarchist Bakunin famously stated, the will to destruction is also a creative urge. Dada cannot sustain itself unalloyed, it's true; that is why Surrealism had to appear. I find it indispensible to conserve a measure of the confrontational impulse against the values which lead us to destruction, so-called rationalism and its affinities. But yes, I believe that essentially we are in agreement here. Ultimately, the milk of human kindness is what any artist worth his or her salt is after. A sort of salty milk solution that is at once a balm and a solvent.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks, David. That makes your position more clear, and I think you're right, we disagree in a number of particulars but the core is not so different.

Still at work Smile so more later...

James

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It's a bit late here, so again, I must be brief but I did leave some things unsaid during the day.

I do think artists have a responsibility, though to call it "grave" was perhaps an overstatement. I also think that to fulfill the responsibility, we have to keep it only lightly in mind. If we have a lot of angst about it, the work of art suffers and might be impaired in fulfilling its mission (though what that specific mission is, for a specific piece, we might not understand consciously until the piece is long finished!).

I question whether artists have any greater capacity than anyone else to search and find the wisdom we're talking about (and I see, David, that you question this too). I would say that artists are more generally predisposed to spend the time on the search.

One thing I'm not talking about is negotiating with the audience. I still struggle a bit to communicate exactly what I mean -- since "uncompromising" is so often used as a term of praise in academic composition departments, when I talk about bringing awareness of the audience and the social situation into the compositional process, it might be assumed the composer or artist has only two choices: be "uncompromising," or capitulate to audience expectations. But I don't mean that, of course. What I mean is that it's right to make one kind of music for the concert hall, another kind for the coffeehouse, and another kind for the living room or streetcorner. For me, it's crucial to consider where the music will be heard and by whom. Sometimes the greatest impact is obtained by doing something inappropriate to the social setting -- the Dadaist impulse! -- but other times, fitting into the social setting is more important than asserting one's will (or mere contrariness). That's a compositional decision. But most of the time we don't think about it at all, and by shutting it out of awareness, we give up the ability to decide how to relate to the social space (to work within, or in opposition to).

I can't claim to have theorized this in any systematic way, but I make it a point to consider it for every piece.

I guess that's all for tonight. Very interesting topic.

James

PS Oh yes, on Webern -- I admit I put it that way partly to be controversial and mischievous. Still, somehow Webern attained legendary status but, as many times as I've given the music a try and considerable benefit of the doubt, for the most part, I just don't get it. It's not for lack of trying... I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's too cold for me.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

dewdrop_world wrote:

PS Oh yes, on Webern -- I admit I put it that way partly to be controversial and mischievous. Still, somehow Webern attained legendary status but, as many times as I've given the music a try and considerable benefit of the doubt, for the most part, I just don't get it. It's not for lack of trying... I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's too cold for me.


Cold, yes, cold like a dense forest deep in winter. Not a cold emptiness but stark, the lush growth of leaves transformed into the bareness of branches still tangled with purpose. A landscape in which I do not want to spend a lot of time, but certainly worthy of its experience.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2007 11:45 am    Post subject: the future of music is here!! Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://www.myspace.com/xybrium
XYBRIUM IS THE FUTURE OF MUSIC!
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2007 12:51 pm    Post subject: Re: the future of music is here!! Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

spaceyoface wrote:

XYBRIUM IS THE FUTURE OF MUSIC!


I love modest people Rolling Eyes

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