Cary Wolfe

The msn thread originated in the Fall of 2001 as an ebr special co-edited by Cary Wolfe, Mark Amerika, and Joseph Tabbi.

This special, which can be accessed in its original format by clicking here, appeared while the ebr3.0 interface was under construction. While that project was taking our design editors further into the web environment, Cary Wolfe, Mark Amerika, and myself were adding sound to ebr’s medial mix. But sound considered, like the visuals, as a compositional element - an aural environment for online reading; but also a non-verbal space for unreading, unwriting, watching, and listening. With this in mind, we titled the issue music/sound/noise - or msn, appropriate to the medium whose incipient commodification promises to define the Internet economy. At the same time, however, msn offered an opportunity for dematerialization, and for a deconstruction of the commodity, “music,” into its less widely marketable composition as “sound” and “noise.”

There’s a parallel here to the sort of critique that ebr has attempted from the start, a project that spatializes the web, but in an especially fleeting and evanescent way. As one literary/academic site within a network whose extension is literally global, ebr has needed to organize itself within and continually adjust to the very environment we critique. With the introduction of sound, this problematic - the achievement of an interdependent web identity - can now open onto the question of what are the relations between sound, then noise, then music. As “sound” approaches ever more closely the condition of music it too approaches a kind of writing, which is then retroactively revealed to have been “noisy” all along.

Working from the perspective of sound as one of the “spatial arts,” future contributors to this thread might raise the question of how one should navigate through the rhetoric of noise (while filtering the noise of rhetoric). Who wants to remix this noise into pseudo-autobiographical narrative? mystory? critifiction?

Why did Progressive Networks change their name to Real Networks in the year 2000?

And what about the Senator from Washington state, the 42-year-old Maria Cantwell who funded her campaign with moneys cashed in from her job at Real Networks? What’s up with all that media noise?

Noise Essays?


With this issue we did in fact manage to run an essay that succeeded in transforming literary criticism into the equivalent of the DJ groovebox. Trace Reddell, with his “Litmixer: The Literary Remediator,” actually applied the tools and strategies of the DJ to the performance of literary interpretation and critical speculation. This particular contribution, a landmark in cyber-active criticism, became one important reference point for Anne Burdick, Ewan Branda, and myself, in the construction of the new ebr interface - a complement to the litmixer, but using ebr itself as the sampling source.

Also in this thread one will find a keynote essay by sound artist Elise Kermani, squibs by Rob Wittig (Tank20 Literary Studios) and David Greenberger (Duplex Planet), “A Disorganized Multilingual A to Z Poem” by Raymond Federman (whose reading was recorded exclusively for ebr), and “A Somewhat Legal Look at the Dawn and Dusk of the Napster Controversy” by Paul C. Rapp, Esq. (former drummer for the rock band Blotto, of “Lifeguard” fame),

- Joseph Tabbi