“But the tendency of the free market is not towards equilibrium, but towards the extremes of boom and bust.” So goes a valuable critique of Adam Smith’s theory of a magically ascending society, and so begins Industry. The basic tenets of Smith’s vision are familiar: Greater production will create a wider market while higher wages create greater demand, and so left unchecked, the natural forces of the market will expand the economy and create an “endless chain” that will start society “on an upward march.” The limitless growth Smith envisions hinges upon the principle that higher wages will result in lower child mortality among workers, thus ensuring an ever-expanding workforce and a correspondingly exponential demand for products. This smooth incorporation of the living and dying of actual human beings into abstract social theory betrays a lack of humanism that always unsettled me, although most major economists since Keynes remain strangely unperturbed. Even critiques of Smith – like the one above, by Richard Heilbroner – seem more concerned with further theorizing than with the inclusion of people into theory. If it is the case that returns to labor and capital do notin fact tend towards equilibrium and instead vacillate between explosion and crash in their overall upward trajectory, what does that mean to the living, breathing human beings who constitute the gears of this violent machine?
Crucial answers to that question are found around the edges of society, stewing in the inner city, forgotten in small towns, huddled on reservations. I found some of them in the tent city under the Canal Street overpass in New Orleans. Armed with a microphone and flash drive, I interviewed many of those still homeless after Katrina, and some of the resulting recordings appear in this piece. Much of the social commentary here comes not from Adam Smith or Richard Heilbroner but from a man who identified himself only as Dennis High-Top and who was kind enough to talk to me at length about his former work as a carpenter, his current life on the streets, and the all-too-common difficulties he faced securing a job and moving into permanent housing. I also drew heavily upon other field recordings I had made from abandoned farming equipment found out in the woods of central Pennsylvania (see above) and the sounds of an oil change station in Maine.
When it comes to laptops, I tend to be less interested in creating new electronic sounds than in harnessing electronics to deliver “real-life” noises that sound new (or maybe unsettlingly, unplaceably familiar) when divorced from their original context. I go further in editing my samples in Industry than in any of my other music, but still restrict myself to altering only their volume and speed. The original version of this piece was assembled entirely on Garageband so it could simply be run through iTunes as a sort of play-along track. While this works well for a quick-and-dirty solo performance, I really missed the organic element of live performance, and so have since revised the piece to be played entirely live, with an accompanist playing some of the sounds through Polyphontics-programmed keyboard, and other controlled by me through a pedal hooked up to MAX/MSP. This winter, I'd like to adapt it further, so I can play the electronic part as well as the cello part myself via a touch sensor affixed to my fingerboard.
but the tendency of the free market is not towards equilibrium but towards the extremes of boom and bust this is this is where everybody sleeps at (but they got old bob) this is the homeless this is like the homeless place (pop hideo) that’s that’s called a gun line right there you know every everybody get killed for their houses yet (huh?) some of their houses (tight) is totaled out (tight) (yeah) and um (I’m comin back) somethin about they grayn’t so long that they (comin back) they can’t do that (what?) some people got it and some people didn’t (street know that) (alright) all those (right?) that didn’t get it (in the street) (I’m tied) under the bridge man and this is like a little community here (I was tied) all these people they know each other (I was trippin on quick tide I was rone) and look out for each other and now observe that smith has constructed for society a giant endless chain man as regularly and they can’t find inevitably any work as a series of interlocked mathematical propositions this is where they end up at under the bridge man society is started on an upward march and now observe that smith has constructed for society a giant endless chain as regularly and inevitably as a series of interlocked mathematical propositions society is started on an upward march from any starting point the probing mechanism of the market first equalizes the returns to labor and capital in all their different uses sees to it that those commodities demanded are produced in the right quantities and further insures that so a lot of em are still here because they wasn’t chosen or they wasn’t picked um I wasn’t picked yet but I I’m still waiting hoping somebody come by and give me a job or something like that