At last, I have a
CD
machine with shuffle mode. It's
a miraculous
button, "shuffle." In an instant it does
away with the logic behind decades of music in-
IMTIlODUCTIOM
Earmeals and
Expubedience

dustry packaging, the kind of logic that works with A-sides and B-sides (the
soon-to-be-obscure domain of records and tapes), the same logic that se-
quences a release in a particular way so that cuts are preceded and followed
by appropriate others. For instance, think about how many hit Singles are
positioned as the first cut on the second side of an album; that's well known
as the
LP
sweet-spot. In the place of this sequential logic, shuffle offers a
random number generator, an exciting turn of events. Now a disc can renew
itself virtually every time it's played, putting together unforeseeable com-
binations, segues, connections, and leaps of faith.
As I see it, this is one of the great possibilities of musical postmodernity.
In the process of shuffling, the activity of making connections and creating
meaning is somehow thrust back into the lap of the listener. Naturally,
shuffle mode doesn't eradicate the old logic; more often than not, a listener
will probably just press "play" and let the disc run its course. But that's part
and parcel of the postmodern: it makes a multitude of systems possible. At
its worst, postmodernism manifests itself as an empty form of eclecticism in
which, as Jean-Franc;ois Lyotard suggests, the bottom line is still the buck.
At its best, the postmodern is about the opening up of options, the accep-
tance of incompatibility, the irreducibility of all forms of discourse to the
logic of one. Check it out-my aunt's got a player that shuffles between five
discs! Think of the possibilities ...
Already, musicians have responded to the gauntlet thrown down by the
compact disc's programmability. Take Nicolas Collins's
100
of the Worlds
Most Beautiful Melodies,
a disc with forty-two miniature improvisations be-
tween Collins and fifteen different musicians. In the liner notes, Collins
encourages that "the listener now has the option of involving him or herself
in a further level of performance, by using the random access capabilities of
the
CD
player to rearrange the forty-two cuts." And the Canadian group Fat
has made a similar disc titled
Automat Hi-Life.
Pointing even more directly
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