Leviathan Jams, the Inventory Cut: a DJ mix & fair dealing field-test for ACCUTE 2022’s soundtable

Stream the mix at the link above. Access a transcript at https://academicalism.files.wordpress.com/2022/05/mccutcheon_leviathanjamsinventorycut-djmix-transcriptaccute2022soundtable.pdf — and for the hearing impaired, loud playback or wearing a device like SubPac is recommended. Access a downloadable mp3 of the mix at https://drive.google.com/file/d/16EMfdi7blsSjq1ORhuQoSMLhnDsbWYbA/view?usp=sharing

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.

Track List

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 Joey Cramsey, “Radio Free Eros (OPA Fan remix)” (no label, 2017; fan-made song sampling dialogue and music from “Static,” Season 2 Episode 3 of The Expanse [SyFy, 2017]) https://soundcloud.com/user-444579259/the-expanse-whispers-of-eros

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, Leviathan Wakes, 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.

Brand, Dionne. Inventory. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.

The Bureau of Noncompetitive Research [Victoria Stanton and Stacey Cann]. Slowness and the Institution: Doing Research Differently [webinar series]. 29 Sept.-24 Nov. 2021.

Corey, James S.A. Abaddon’s Gate (2013). Orbit, 2014.

—. Leviathan Falls. Orbit, 2021.

—. Leviathan Wakes (2011). Tenth anniversary ed. Orbit, 2021.

—. Memory’s Legion. Orbit, 2022.

—. Nemesis Games (2015). Orbit, 2016.

—. Babylon’s Ashes (2016). Orbit, 2017.

Eshun, Kodwo. More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction. Serpent’s Tail, 1998.

Guertin, Carolyn. Digital Prohibition: Piracy and Authorship in New Media Art. Continuum, 2012.

Harvey, Adam. “Computer Vision Dazzle Camouflage.” https://cvdazzle.com/, 2020.

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.

Nair, Meera. “How Canadian Education Really Hurts Creators.” Fair Duty, 16 Oct. 2017, https://fairduty.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/how-canadian-education-really-hurts-creators/.

Orr, David. “When Quoting Verse, One Must Be Terse.” New York Times, 8 Sept. 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/09/opinion/when-quoting-verse-one-must-be- terse.html.

Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno & Rave Culture. Little, Brown & Co., 1998.

Richardson, Tasman. “Jawa Manifesto” (1997), ed. Elenore Chesnutt, Incite!, 2008, https://incite-online.net/richardson2.html

Saint-Amour, Paul K. The Copywrights: Intellectual Property and the Literary Imagination. Cornell UP, 2003. Shields, David, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (2010). Vintage, 2011.

The lost last paragraph of our review of The Expanse

[no spoilers]

In spring 2021, a review of The Expanse TV series that I co-wrote with SFF author Heather Clitheroe was published in the open-access journal SFRA Review. (It got a surprise, much-appreciated nod from the authors.) The Review‘s editors had advised we cut the whole last paragraph of our draft. For that journal, the cut was right, a darling killed for length and tone. But having just finished the ninth and final Expanse novel, Leviathan Falls, today–after re-reading the first eight since September, and as new episodes of the sixth and final Expanse series are now airing weekly–I thought that last paragraph is worth retrieving and sharing now. My co-author had lamented its lopping off; moreover, everything I’ve read and watched this month has only affirmed it. So voilà:

As the generally glowing tone of all this commentary may suggest, the time of this writing finds one of your co-authors (McCutcheon) unexpectedly a fan again. Unaccustomed to unalloyed adulation, he’s not one to use the term “fan” lightly: after decades as an English professor, a man pushing fifty figures the profession has disciplined out of him the capacity for fandom–its afición. How little time has he to read a book based on a show–never mind burn through all the things the show’s based on. A man’s happy to be so wrong, hasn’t felt possessed by such weird and fierce fanhood since Star Wars. How welcome, in a world of relentless catastrophe, to encounter an epic page-burner that can ambush a jaded reader, reigniting fanboy delight in love and rockets’ flight, inviting critical self-reflection on a settler-colonial youth steeped in Westerns, and sharing a novel vision of solidarity, no less. How surprisingly the encounter restores to him both the sheer plaisir du texte and a glimpse of hope for all humankind.

I admit that’s a bit ebullient for academia; but I also meant it to echo a bit of Miller.

Meanwhile, more of my commentary on this extraordinary set of texts is forthcoming, in a chapter in Frankenstein and STEAM (U Delaware P, 2022) and in other research-creation in progress. For now, I’m still processing the finale of this epic and timely story, and looking forward to Friday’s episode…and fighting the temptation to pick up Leviathan Falls again and reread it right away.

My home library’s Expanse collection: 5004 pages of killer space opera

Open letter to Government of Canada against new online harms rules

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

[PS: Have your say—contact the Government of Canada’s “Digital Citizen Initiative” to tell them what you think of the new online harms rules legislation.]

Review of The Expanse TV series

with apology for an erratum

A new review of The Expanse TV series, co-written by SFF writer Heather Clitheroe and yours truly, is out today in the SFRA Review.

The Expanse may ruin other space opera for you…It’s worth it.”

And then the Expanse creators shared a very kind shout-out about the piece…making today this fan’s best ever May the 4th.

An unlooked-for kindness that an astute reader promptly rendered ironic by observing (to my mortification) that I’d misrepresented an Indigenous actor’s identity:

In working to correct this error, I’m reminded how attentive, sensitive readers like this speak to the calibre of the series and its capacity to generate and (mayhaps) organize such ardent community.

Forthcoming articles and reviews

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.
  • Clitheroe, Heather and Mark A. McCutcheon. Review of The Expanse [TV series]. SFRA Review, in press.
  • McCutcheon, Mark A. Review of The Monster Theory Reader, edited by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, U of Minnesota P, 2020. Extrapolation, in press.

“This Machine Chills Copyright Bots”: a #DJmix coda to #FairDealingWeek

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”: Ty Franck

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.”

10 of the best books I read in 2020

In chronological order (of when I read them):

  1. Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year
  2. James S.A. Corey, The Expanse (series)
  3. Ursula K. Leguin, The Lathe of Heaven
  4. Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
  5. Natalee Caple, Love in the Chthulucene (Cthulhucene)
  6. Shirley Jackson, Novels & Stories
  7. Dionne Brand, Luce Ostinata / Tenacious Light
  8. Joshua Whitehead, Full-Metal Indigiqueer
  9. Jeffrey Weinstock, ed., The Monster Theory Reader
  10. Philip Pullman, The Book Of Dust (series)

“Ravel” by Mary Dalton (a cento from Hooking, 2013)

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.)

Ol’ Dirty Cohen and The Wu Tang Wang Chung Clan

Recently, a colleague accidentally referred to Wang Chung as the Wu Tang Clan, and to Leonard Cohen as Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Most took this as a good joke. I took it as a DJ challenge. Here’s an hour-long mix in which Cohen duets with ODB and Wang Chung jams with the Wu Tang Clan.
You do two-tone your way, I’ll do mine.

Downloadable mp3 version

Track list: