“The Timbre of Trash: Anthropomorphic Strategies to Resist Technological Obsolescence” presented by Cantrell


Session Title:

  • Emancipation and Pain (Long Papers)

Presentation Title:

  • The Timbre of Trash: Anthropomorphic Strategies to Resist Technological Obsolescence




  • Like other manufactured goods, technological audio devices originate from global production systems that are historically exploitative, environmentally unsustainable, and are beholden to the expectations of continuous technological improvement and obsolescence. Unlike musicians who perform on a finite number of cherished instruments that are used for decades, electronic musicians’ tools are very often subject to the whims and relentless change associated with technologically-driven economic forces. Computer musicians especially, must consistently adapt to and purchase new software and hardware to avoid losing critical functionality and compatibility. The electronic musician’s position in this process opens questions of principle, regarding the ethical defensibility of self-expressive acts relative to the net negative effects caused by their contribution to technological production methods that promote suffering and global destruction.

    In response to this dilemma I offer a view toward technological objects that sees these  technologies as individual sites within larger systems of activity, and encourages the application of a limited sense of anthropomorphic identification with these devices. Seen in this way, sound technology that was once subject to the whims of constant development, becomes imbued with a personal sense of vitality, making it more difficult to be perceived as a disposable and obsolete.

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