Few artists succeed in interweaving art, politics, and theory so productively, and in so consistently addressing music as discourse, as does Terre Thaemlitz. His latest work, Soulnessless, in the works since 2008 and released in 2012, is a 32-hour, non-linear work complex that “deconstructs notions of spirituality, meditation, superstition, and religiosity perpetuated through audio marketplaces that insist upon judging audio in relation to ‘authenticity’ and ‘soul’” as a matrix of essentialist identity politics. At the same time, the project formulates a clear-sighted critique of the socio-economic conditions under which most music is currently is produced and marketed.
As the world's first full-length MP3 album, Soulnessless comprises a 30-hour piano solo that fills a single, maximum length 320kB/s MP3 file (4GB), with enough additional hours of video and texts to fill a 16GB microSDHD card. Through a “welcome problem” created by this sheer volume of data, which renders it unacceptable for online distribution, Soulnessless is a deliberate attempt to undermine what Thaemlitz addresses as an online music industry that demands that artists provide huge amounts of free labour in the form of bonus materials and promotional mixes, while its provision of an endless stream of music shatters listeners’ attention spans. Soulnessless is therefore also a project that probes an allegedly borderless space in order to detect its concealed boundaries and to come to an understanding of the way those boundaries condition the habits of listeners. With its complex, interwoven subjects, described by Thaemlitz as “as a metaphor for the incongruous social simultaneities of daily life”, and its sheer length, Soulnessless is not immediately meant for everyone, rather it demands time and effort from the commited listener.
In Soulnessless, Thaemlitz deciphers the "language of the personal" as something we construct and interact with "publicly" and "non-privately" and utilizes it to address issues beyond the personal: “Soulnessless employs language developed in critical opposition to the dangerous reductionisms of populist spiritual and religious discourses. Discourses that are fraudulently touted as explanations for, and answers to, the very social injustices they implement. Soulnessless does not postulate answers. At the same time, importantly, it does not withdraw into social apathy, the comfort of which is always laden with a willing blindness to one's own privileges and power. Rather, Soulnessless practices a model of diversity as disconnection, distinct from diversity as the controllable and celebratory contrivance hypothesized in mainstream Humanist discourse. I concede to the inevitability of the former, and protest the homogenizing dangers of the latter.
Terre Thaemlitz is an award winning multi-media producer, writer, public speaker, educator, audio remixer, DJ, and owner of the Comatonse Recordings record label.