Holly Herndon is a super-talented feminist producer and composer whose flossy website bio also casually states, “as well as touring the world to perform and exhibit new work, I’m currently a candidate for doctoral study in Computer Music at Stanford University.” Get ‘em, mami.
I’ve long admired Herndon’s approach to music-making, whose four albums have explored Donna Haraway’s cyborg feminist theories through a meld of contemporary dance music, skewed pop and heady new-classical experimentalism as honed at San Francisco’s legendary Mills College for Women About to Be Future-Shaping Badasses. (I may have added that last part, but Herndon’s alumni peers include Pauline Oliveros, Laurie Anderson, Miya Masaoka, and Kevin Blechdom, among others.) In “Morning Sun,” off her latest release Movement, she looses a chorus of Herndons in altered states of pitch over a crisp rhythmic stutter, calling to mind the “Fantasy” setting on old Casios, as though she modulated a keyboard to become various incarnations of herself—gospel android choirs, a fitting accompaniment to this video in which she traverses a red planet solo, exploring the landscape and ultimately finding a glowing red robot version of herself in an actual cave. Dude, soooo Plato!
More importantly, the video ends with a wise line from John Perry Barlow’s “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”: “May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.” Clearly, Herndon’s artistic and intellectual philosophies reside in a deeply conceptual but resolutely corporeal place, an imaginative platform where very human hopes can exist in the metadata. I don’t claim to fully know every reference she makes, but I do know it doesn’t necessarily matter: her music really gets me emotionally, the co-habitating intellect and heart of it, and the sharpness of the sounds.
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