For the French sound artist Jean-Marc Vivenza (born 1957 in Vinay, near Grenoble), “industrial music” is something quite literal: his work is based entirely on the recording and arrangement of the cacophonous sound world of factories and machinery. An unreconstructed futurist, Vivenza sees his work as a direct continuation of the artistic and intellectual tradition stemming from the early 20th-century work of the Italian Futurists and Russian Constructivists and their project of creating an artistic expression of the technologized world.
Although his music first emerged in the early 1980s, more or less contemporaneously with the rise of acts such as Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, and SPK, Vivenza rejects any affinity with what is generally known as industrial music, which he characterizes as “dominated by psychological cliches and full of pathological behaviors…executed poorly by repetitive and systematic singing, ritual screaming, moans, cheap thrills, fear, torture, a world of tragedies…a sick tradition of the Anglo-American scene.” Accordingly, Vivenza disowns the label “industrial,” preferring to call his aesthetic ”futuristic bruitism” (from the French word for “noise,” bruit).
Vivenza credits his childhood in the heavily industrialized region of Rhone-Alps with attuning his ears to the sonic power of machines. But his fascination with industrial sounds is not simply an aesthetic predilection; instead, he hears this material as the acoustic manifestation of the very essence of reality: ”Through work and in the forces of work, in the sound magma of industrial society, in the heart of the forges and barrages, the mills and power plants, the reactors and artificial intelligence, nature reveals its dynamic character.”
Like the original futurists, Vivenza connects modern technology with the metaphysical penetration into the core of being. For him, as for Luigi Russolo, ”the art of noise is a realistic form of ‘awakening’ the hidden forces that rule the world.” This apparently paradoxical conjunction of machinery and metaphysics is explained by the fact that the technological world-order of modernity has established itself as the new cosmos of human life. While earlier in human history, we built little islands of technology in a sea of nature, in modernity the relationship is reversed, as nature becomes the exception in a lifeworld that is ever more artificial. This development complicates the very distinction between culture and nature, for as Vivenza states, ”the technological achievements of the world are a dialectical manifestation of nature.”
In addition to the influences from the early 20th-century techno-avant-garde, I perceive in Vivenza’s project a connection to a distinctly French tradition of the “machine intellectual”: from the Encyclopedists, who went into the factories in order to unite philosophical understanding and technological reality, to the 20th-century development of the discipline of “mechanology” pioneered by thinkers such as Jacques Lafitte and Gilbert Simondon.
Around the turn of the millennium, Vivenza seems to have turned his attention from music to academic pursuits. As documented on his personal website, Vivenza is an established scholar of philosophy who has published a number of books on such figures as the German Christian mystic Jakob Boehme, the French Counter-Enlightenment thinker Joseph de Maistre, and the third-century Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna.
This excerpt is taken from Vivenza’s first offering, the album Modes Réels Collectifs, which was recorded and mixed in 1981 and released in 1983 on Vivenza’s Electro Institut label. In 2010 the album was re-released by French label Rotorelief.