Mar 27, 2007

Negativland, if you don’t know, are a group of audio-collagists who have, for something like twenty-five years, assembled found sounds (from radio, old records, etc.) into their “compositions,” and gotten sued at least once along the way for copyright infringement or something to that effect. Negativland, if you DO know… well, you probably know more than I do, because they never did a whole lot for me other than the Weatherman’s spoken stuff whose voice I could listen to all dang day, even the longest day of the year. Due to their legal troubles, they’ve become champions of the idea that culture’s products should be available for later cultural workers (read: “artists” of various sorts) to use as building blocks. In other words (among other things), that sampling (specifically in music, as analogous processes in other disciplines are generally fair game and unregulated in the way music is) should not be a crime. No Business, as progression of that philosophy, is the first Negativland work to be COMPLETELY composed of components from other sources; nothing original to Negativland is on here. And it’s funny as hell. Ethel Merman blasting (I think that’s the word for sounds coming out of Ethel Merman) “There’s no business like stealing,” and Julie Andrews’ favorite things folded asunder (“crisp eyelashes,” “brown raindrops”) are highlights, but there’s a dense wall of this stuff for you to lean against. Also, there’s a fifty-page book (not to mention a special whoopee cushion) which explains very clearly Negativland’s position on copyright, the potential benefits and pitfalls of the internet regarding music distribution and intellectual property rights, and even what’s wrong with America’s corporate law that drives greed and bullshit from the top down. No Business may not be the best introduction to Negativland for the uninitiated (then again, it may; I’m no expert), but as a package, it’s going to be a worthy addition to any free-thinking person’s pile of stuff.

 –doug (Seeland)