The Bush of Goats

Marc Williams, writer & designer: 'Life's too short for empty slog ans'

Random factor (like a piece of farm machinery)

I used to do a bit of DJ-ing (well, I say that, it was actually just this guy I knew). I’d started because I was trying to get closer to a central joy of clubbing, namely the moment you realise the song you are hearing is being followed by another tune you recognise. (Obv. nightclub often contain lots of other people you who also recognise the tune and are similarly excited. Plus, sometimes there were might be drugs.)

So now I don’t go to night clubs anymore, where can I get that same sensation?


The iTunes random function has replaced night clubs as a way of experiencing moments of managed chance through music. (‘what about radio?’ It tries, but commercial requirements are stacked against it; and there’s the inane chatter in between, and the 20-song playlists that dominate the airwaves in service to the major labels) And so the incredibly simple, localised function of letting someone (or more accurately, ‘something’) else decide what I am listening to, whilst also allowing me to confidently predict I will like what I hear, has become iTunes greatest function.

Except, of course, it isn’t anything like entirely random, it just feels that way because I haven’t intervened in the instant of change: I’ve certainly dictated the parameters (it’s my iTunes library), but at the moment the song starts playing, I do not know what it will be.  I find this ‘fake randomness’ fascinating because it rewards in the same way as real randomness, except I’ve done something to manage chance, and thereby participated in the event: I am rewarded as both author and audience.

Which brings me onto a book I’ve been reading recently: Supernature Written in 1973 by Lyall Watson, I had been enjoying it up until last night, when the ‘curious outsider’ descended into loopy supposition.

At the start (the good part) the book points out how physicists and astronomers have long been aware of the effects of the sun  on the planets of the solar system, and are ‘only now’ (in 1973) beginning to understand the waves of incalculably complex energy thrown off by sunspots. Watson points out that this study of cosmic waves is also the basis of astrology: the belief that the position of the planets in relation to the sun and each other can fundamentally affect life on earth.

This made me wonder:

Is it possible to use astrological data in combination with other more prosaic factors (like musical preference) and produce experiences of managed randomness for the purposes of experiencing pleasure?

Don’t ask me; I don’t know. Not yet, anyway.


Filed under: Noticing


August 2008


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