Bob Ostertag: w00t (!)
Mike Linksvayer, October 15th, 2007
Last year influential avant garde musician and activist Bob Ostertag made all of his recordings that he has the rights to available as digital downloads under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license.
In March of 2006, I put all my recordings to which I owned the rights (14 CDs) up for free download from this site. w00t is my first release to skip the CD-for-sale stage and go directly to free Internet download, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Please download, copy, send to your friends, remix, mutilate, and mash-up. And please support this attempt to build free culture by sending a link for w00t to your friends. w00t consists of a 50-minute sound collage, a 4.5 minute sound “trailer,” and associated cover art. There is, however, no cover. w00t is a free, internet-only release.
As with most of Ostertag’s work, the art has a political purpose, which one can choose to hear, or not:
The w00t music began as the sound for Special Forces, a live cinematic performance by Living Cinema (Pierre Hébert and Bob Ostertag), which addressed the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006.
And for radical politics relevant to the copyright debate, check out Ostertag’s The Professional Suicide of a Recording Musician, an essay published one year after the release of his oeuvre. From the closing of that essay:
But that is just the beginning of the story, for the accelerating rate of technological change continues to push digital technology further and further into our lives in just about any direction you might look. To pick just one example, boundaries between our bodies and minds and our technology are blurring. Cochlear implants, for example, now allow deaf people to hear via computer chips loaded with copyrighted software which are implanted in their skulls and in response to which their brains reconfigure, growing new synapses while unused synapses fade. Cochlear implants are wirelessly networked to hardware worn outside the body which usually connects to a mic, thus allowing the deaf to hear the sound environment around them. But the external hardware can just as easily be plugged into a laptop’s audio output for a direct audio tap into the Web.
When the Web extends into chips in our skulls, where is the boundary between language that is carved up into words that are corporately owned and language that is free for the thinking?
I don’t wish to be sensationalist. We are not all about to turn into corporately-owned cyborgs. But I do wish to point out that the issues around turning culture into property are urgent, and far-reaching. Society is not well-served if we treat specific matters like downloading music on the Web as isolated problems instead of one manifestation of a vastly bigger struggle in which much more is at stake.