Heartlines Spec is a newly launched speculative writing journal; I’m humbled to join the voices building this vital journal, and so grateful for the friendships that inspire my nonfiction piece in it: “Andromeda (disambiguation).”
Leviathan Jams mixes music used in James S.A.Corey’s #TheExpanse and Dionne Brand’s Inventory; field-tests a countermeasure against copyright bot overreach; and exercises #fairdealing in #openaccess research. The track list and abstract follow below.
00:00 The Carpenters, “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” (A&M, 1977; cover of Klaatu’s 1976 record)
* 00:03 Deep Purple, “Highway Star” (Purple, 1972)
00:04 CC radio static sample
00:05 Rush, “Cygnus X1 Book I: The Voyage” (Anthem, 1977)
00:11 CC radio dial tuning sample
00:12 sample of dialogue from “Flu Season,” Season 3 Episode 2 of Parks and Recreation (NBC, 2011) by Tom Haverford (perf. Aziz Ansari)
* 00:18 sample of dialogue from “Intransigence,” Season 3 Episode 9 of The Expanse (SyFy, 2015) by Drummer (perf. Cara Gee)
00:19 sample of The Beatles, “Revolution 9” (Apple, 1968)
00:21 Marvin Gaye, “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” (1971)
00:29 Deadmau5, “Do It Again” (2006; samples Sneaker Pimps, “Spin Spin Sugar [Armand’s Dark Garage mix]” [Clean Up/Virgin, 1996])
* 00:37 [Cheb] Khaled, “Didi” (Barclay, 1992)
01:10 CT Burners and Jubilee, “Kick It (The Squire of Gothos remix)” (Nightshifters, 2009)
04:46 Crisp Biscuit, “Wink1” (no label, 2002; remix of Josh Wink’s “Higher state of consciousness” [Strictly Rhythm, 1995] sampling Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache” [Pride, 1973])
* 08:29 Gatekeeper, “Tense Past” (Punch Drunk, 2007; used in “Rock Bottom,” Season 1 Episode 6 of The Expanse [SyFy, 2015])
08:41 Lou Reed, “Romeo Had Juliette” (Sire, 1989)
08:45 Fader Gladiator, “Battle of the Planets” (Kickin, 1997; samples John Williams’ “Imperial March” [RSO, 1980])
09:12 The Beatles, “Revolution 1” (Apple, 1968)
* 09:30 Tigerstyle feat. Kaur-B, “Zulfaan De Naag (Monstaboy remix)” (AK Music, 2013; used in “Remember the Cant,” Season 1 Episode 3 of The Expanse [SyFy, 2015])
13:19 CC radio static sample * 13:19 sample of dialogue from “Pyre,” Season 2 Episode 8 of The Expanse (SyFy, 2017) by Anderson Daws (perf. Richard Harris)
About “Leviathan Jams”
You can seldom criticize [intellectual property] law by breaking it and yet expect the law to forgive your infraction as criticism. (Saint-Amour 19)
My ACCUTE soundtable contribution is a music mix, “Leviathan Jams,” designed to field-test a particular DJ mixing technique—the sustained synchronization of two to four tracks—in social media platforms surveilled by automated copyright enforcement mechanisms (copyright bots). This mix field-tests the hypothesis that a sufficiently complex music mix can jam the signals copyright bots use to suppress the unlicensed reproduction of copyrighted music on Internet social platforms, where users’ rights (e.g. fair dealing) supposedly apply but copyright bots routinely override them.
My mixing methodology is based on the approaches of DJs like Jeff Mills, Z-Trip, and Grandmaster Flash; on the “CV Dazzle” makeup strategy developed by artist Adam Harvey to resist facial recognition technology; and on arguments for appropriative forms as creative expression (see Amani, Coombe et al, Shields). This music-mixing methodology’s basis in playback and repetition also engages with critical theories of slowness (see Berg and Seeber, Bureau).
“Leviathan Jams” imagines a dialectical dialogue between two improbably paired literary works—Dionne Brand’s 2006 long poem Inventory and James S.A. Corey’s roman fleuve, The Expanse (2011-21)—by combining music cited in Inventory (listed above in bold) with music cited in The Expanse, (listed with asterisk *). Both Brand’s and Corey’s works share practices of quoting music, the exercise of fair dealing and fair use (the unauthorized use of copyrighted works for specific purposes like research), articulations of labour solidarity, and dialectical elements of form. Inventory quotes music by major artists like the Beatles, whose song lyrics command astronomical licensing fees (see Orr); complementarily, The Expanse often mentions poetry (e.g. Corey, LeviathanWakes, p. 520), and the series’ plots involve intellectual property, open access, piracy, and audio remixing (Babylon’s Ashes, p. 245-6, 248; Leviathan Wakes, p. 445; Nemesis Games, p. 454), while self-reflexively acknowledging their own contradictory status as openly derivative (Leviathan Wakes, p. x) intellectual property (Leviathan Wakes, pp. 211, 343; Babylon’s 222). Both works also share a specific anti-colonial trope. In Inventory, Brand writes: “does she care about “the human species / spreading out across the cosmos” / no, God forbid, stop them, and forgive her this one / imprecation to a deity” (p. 48). In the first Expanse novel, the detective Miller (whose investigation of Juliet Mao’s case informs my renaming Lou Reed’s titular “Juliette” with the Beatles’ line in “Revolution 1” about “Mao”), reflecting: “‘Stars are better off without us,’ he said, but too softly for anyone but Julie to hear” (Corey, Leviathan Wakes, p. 465). In the subsequent third novel another character, referring to “the stars,” “wonder[s] if we should have them” (Abaddon’s Gate, p. 539). “Leviathan Jams” echoes this anti-colonial trope in a song Inventory quotes, Marvin Gaye’s 1971 “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”: “rockets / moonshots / spend it on / the have-nots.” Gaye’s track mixes with “Didi” by the raï musician Cheb Khaled, the only real-world pop star named in the Expanse books (Babylon’s Ashes, p. 168), which refer often to raï music (e.g. Memory’s Legion, pp. 6, 76, 144; Nemesis Games, p. 433). As this shared anti-colonial trope thematizes deterritorialization, so does the mix’s form practice depropertization.
By synchronizing and juxtaposing samples of music cited by Inventory and the Expanse franchise “Leviathan Jams” field-tests copyright bots’ capacity to identify discrete songs. (That listening to the mix resonates with a major plot point in the last Expanse novel, Leviathan Falls, is a happy, uncanny coincidence.) “Leviathan Jams,” then, both prototypes a “jamming” device (Corey, Leviathan Falls, pp. 266, 442) and models fair dealing. Notice or takedown of the mix would prove my hypothesis wrong. The mix was recorded using DJay for iPad (fig. 1), edited using Audacity (fig. 2), and saved as mp3 for sharing; the file is available on request, and a transcript is forthcoming.
Works cited and consulted
1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything. Prod. and dir. Asif Kapadia et al, Apple TV+, 2021.
Amani, Bita. “Copyright and Freedom of Expression: Fair Dealing between Work and Play.” Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online, edited by Rosemary J. Coombe et al, U of Toronto P, 2014, pp. 43-55.
Berg, Maggie and Barbara K. Seeber. The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy. U of Toronto P, 2016.
Jameson, Frederic. Marxism and Form: 20th-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature. Princeton UP, 1974.
Katz, Ariel. “Fair Use 2.0: The Rebirth of Fair Dealing in Canada.” The Copyright Pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada Shook 20 the Foundations of Canadian Copyright Law, edited by Michael Geist. U of Ottawa P, 2013, pp. 93-156.
McRobbie, Angela. “Thinking With Music.” Stars Don’t Stand Still in the Sky: Music and Myth, edited by Karen Kelly and Evelyn McDonell, New York UP, 1999, pp. 37-49.
Murray, Laura J., and Samuel E. Trosow. Canadian Copyright: A Citizen’s Guide. 2nd ed., Between the Lines, 2013.
Dear members of the Canadian government’s “Digital Citizen Initiative,” I am writing to express my alarm and disapproval over the proposed “online harms rules” legislation that the Canadian government now proposes—a combination, it seems, of the worst, most rights-violating regulations adopted in other jurisdictions, many of which aren’t exactly known as bastions of democracy and expressive freedoms. Your proposed legislation’s combination of * prohibitions of broad and poorly defined speech categories; * disproportionate penalties for insufficient blocking; and * requirement of rapid compliance without time for adequate assessment or counter-notifications all guarantee that the major tech firms, on which the onus of your proposed regulations falls, will block all kinds of legitimate speech — and will disproportionately affect marginalized and minorities to persons and communities, as has been shown where such rules have been implemented elsewhere. (See @doctorow’s analysis and that by U Ottawa professor Michael Geist.) Online harms rules have proven a human rights disaster in other jurisdictions; France’s rules were recently ruled as unconstitutional. I urge you to take this whole proposal either back to the proverbial drawing board—or entirely off the table. The Canadian government surely has bigger and more urgent priorities then over-regulating and preferentially censoring citizens’ constitutional expressive rights and freedoms. Sincerely – Mark A. McCutcheon Professor, Literary Studies Chair, Centre for Humanities Athabasca University
I’m excited to announce a bunch of newly written (and co-written) articles and reviews have been accepted for publication and are forthcoming soon:
McCutcheon, Mark A. “Reading poetry and its paratexts for evidence of fair dealing.” Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne, in press.
—-. “Paratextual and ‘sampladelic’ techniques for ‘committing centonism’ in contemporary poetry published in Canada.” Cento-Texts in the Making: Aesthetics and Poetics of Cento-Techniques from Homer to Zong!, edited by Manuel Baumbach, Bochumer Altertumswissenschaftliches Colloquium series, in press.
—. “Frankenstein meets the FAANG five: figures of monstrous technology in digital media discourse.” Beyond Modern Science: Essays on Frankenstein and STEAM for Charles E. Robinson, edited by Robin Hammerman. Delaware UP, in press.
A mad mash of Billie Eilish, Deadmau5, Lil Jon, Carly Rae Jepsen, Armand Van Helden, Public Enemy, Young Galaxy et al:
The general idea here’s a thick mix–2-4 tracks playing at most times* (all in the key of Gm/Bb)–seeking to scramble copyright bots’ capacity to discern properties; and in the process to share a genre-bent (#twotone) music mix for use in your socials that hopefully won’t get taken down by copyright bots. Which are just the worst judges of #fairuse and #fairdealing. (If you do use this mix but find your socials take it down, I’d welcome a comment about it.) What CV Dazzle is to face recognition tech, a mix like this wants to be to automated copyright enforcement. And a coda to #fairdealingweek. (* except the intermezzo with Sasha’s “Xpander”)
This mix, btw, began as an improvised #ValentinesDay jam for my basement #rollerskating fam…which I add to reflect how critique proceeds as a labour of love.
Downloadable-file version: TBA. Here’s the full track list:
“Alien is the thing that made me want to write the books and the screenplays for the show,” says Ty Franck—half of the authorial team known by their nom de plume, James S.A. Corey—on the 16 Dec. 2020 episode of The Expanse Aftershow. Talking with Thomas Jane, director of season 5’s third episode, “Mother”, and Wes Chatham, Franck expounds:
“The movie Alien is the single largest influence on The Expanse. I saw that movie when I was, like, I think ten or eleven, and it never left my mind…so, the two characters in Alien that are what The Expanse is, is Parker and Brett. Two guys in jumpsuits walking around fixing pipes on a spaceship, and they’re treating it like a job. They’re not starfleet, they’re not admirals, they’re not like Klingons. They’re a couple of guys with pipe wrenches fixing stuff and complaining they don’t get as much money as everybody else…those guys, those two guys are the foundation of The Expanse.”
As a scholar of science fiction’s representations of labour, I find Franck’s reflection a helpful specification of the source material for The Expanse’s refreshingly sympathetic depictions of organized labour. I find three particular things striking about his words here:
It’s a clear, co-authorial assertion of labour and working-class perspective as an oppositional premise (“they’re not…”), and thus as both an aesthetic and an ethos;
It’s an open acknowledgment of intertextual influence and (unlicensed) adaptation, and so it models transformative fair use (as does a lot of SF, to be fair); and
In the process of explaining Alien’s influence, Franck also names—inadvertently, perhaps, but suggestively—two other SF classics, viz., “foundation” and “the thing.”
This weekend I’m giving a talk at the Interdisciplinary Workshop on the Technique of Cento Texts, hosted by the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. The poem I’ll be discussing as a case study is “Ravel” by Mary Dalton, from her book of centos, Hooking (Véhicule P, 2013). I’m sharing an annotated copy of that poem here so other delegates can read it, since it is hard enough to find in Canada, never mind elsewhere. (I’m sharing this copy under educational fair dealing auspices, and will delete it from this post after the weekend.)