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The Medium Is The Massage, 1967 12" audio collage

post Mar 29 2008, 01:31 PM
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In the 1960s, professor Marshal McLuhan became a sort of academic 'counter culture' hero by bringing into discussion the effects media have on society. Best known, perhaps, for his phrase "global village" used to describe the effects electronic communication forms were having on our perception of the world at the time, his writings and talks initiated an awareness of media as environments.

One of McCluhan's more popular and interesting books was an experiment in visual communication entitled, "The Medium is the Massage." Unlike other books, although there was text in it, it was primarily visual, juxtaposing images and text to not merely "illustrate" certain of his ideas but actually enhance them.

Less well known was the audio version of the book, a 12" vinyl recording of the same title. It was quite a hit with those of us who were interested in exploring the nature of media's effects on conscious apprehension and perception. I confess that at age 19 my friends and I would listen to this album while tripping on LSD, much as we would listen to the Beatles, Jimmy Hindrix, and The Doors.

The presentation is roughly 20 minutes per side and is not exactly "easy listening." As well as the spoken word, music and sound, the album contains overlapping conversations reflective of the medium of studio production as well as many aural puns. The recording presented here is monaural rather than stereo, unfortunately, so the spatial separations (one conversation coming from one speaker while another came from the other speaker) is missing, making some of it very difficult to sort out. Some of the word puns are also rather obtuse. For example on side B, McLuhan is heard to say, "The artist, the enema of society, points out things many would prefer not to notice. Art is anything you can get away with." Those 'in the know' understood that he was punning off of a comment made by one of the founders of Twentieth century abstract painting, Waisly Kandinsky, who wrote, "The artist is the antenna of society . . ." There is often frequent use of word phrases from James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake," and many other works from different periods in history.

I'm presenting this audio recording here for educational purposes. Anyone interested in the effects of media on society have to at least be aware of McCluhan's ideas and this is one audio presentation straight from the horses record (scratches and all). It is interesting to consider that this was produced prior to digital editing -- i.e., it is all analog production, recording and editing.

When we understand that the internet is a wedding of "radio, telephone and television" technologies absent total corporate and government control, his analysis seems almost prophetic.

Here is a text excerpt from Side B (absent much of the "enumerable confusion"). That it doesn't flow linearly and logically is part of the revelation within the confusion:

Director: Next is my page 19, speech one: "Enumerable confusion"

McLuhan: I don't think you can, quite, um, get away with that phrase. (clears throat) Enumerable suggests numbers. Confusion is singular. I don't know, do you like the phrase "enumerable confusion"?

Director: Well, it's part of it.

McLuhan: Part of what?

Director: It's part of the confusion.

McLuhan: Ah! Ok. You remind me.

Director: Mind over the matter.

McLuhan (continuing): Enumerable confusion and a profound feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transition such as our own. Our age of anxiety is in great part a result of trying to do today's job with yesterday's tools. With yesterday's concepts. With yesterday's ideals.

The young person today is a data processor on a very large scale.

Nose counting, a cherished part of the 18th century fragmentation process, has rapidly become a cumbersome and ineffectual form of social assessment in an environment of instant electric speech. The public, in the sense of a great consensus of separate and distinct viewpoints is finished.

Unhappily, we confront this new situation with an enormous backlog of outdated mental and psychological responses. The new electric drama has left us dangling, our most impressive words and thoughts betray us, they refer us only to the past, not to the present.

We are back once more in the age of the hunter. This time the hunter is a fact finder and a researcher. The young, today, reject goals. They young want roles. Today's child is growing up absurd because he is living in two worlds and neither of them incline him to grow up. Learning, the educational process, has long been associated only with the glum. Robert Openheimer was fond of saying, "there are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics because they have modes of perception that I lost long ago."

The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.

The new modes of long distance instant human communication, radio, telephone, television, are linking the worlds peoples in a vast net of electric circuitry that creates new depth and breadth of personal involvement of events and breaks down the old, traditional boundaries that make specialization possible. As the audience becomes the participants in the total electric drama, the classroom can become the scene in which the audience preforms an enormous amount of work. Politics offers yesterdays answers to today's questions. The total environment is now the great teacher.

Even science fiction is now very far behind what is actually happening.


[img]http://www.offrampstudios.net/pilots/McLuhan/TheMedium_is_the_MassageSideA.mp3[/img]The Medium is the Massage: Side B:

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post Sep 20 2008, 01:20 AM
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That was a trip!
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post Sep 20 2008, 03:02 AM
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I think you may be the first person to listen to it. Congratulations!
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post Sep 20 2008, 04:54 AM
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I wasn't able to download the plug-in, but I found it on YouTube on this page:


Just click 'Play All' and turn off your screen to avoid the distracting video mashup.

Still listening. Quite interesting and enlightening.
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