I never thought I would say this about the person who visited the Apple Store in Puerta del Sol with Tim Cook to promote the launch of the HomePod, moments before he met with Pedro Sánchez with the aim of attracting foreign technological investment. But the truth is that Rosalía Vila Tobella, Cook’s companion on that morning in 2018 and then an advertising claim for digital colonialism, has much more revolutionary ideas than a large part of the Spanish left when it comes to the use of technology . This may be evidence of the historical materialism that Marxists have always claimed. Or simply that the artist, by the very fact of being one, carries within her the ghost that Marx and Engels spoke of in the Communist Manifesto.
In a recent interview published in Billboard , when asked “Is Motomami the freest thing you’ve ever felt?”, the first artist to receive the producer of the year award at the Women in Music awards, from the renowned magazine specializing in information about the music industry, he answered the following:
Yes. One hundred percent. She was always thinking: “How can I be freer?” Fear, the opposite of freedom, is the greatest enemy of the creative person . He needed to find the reason why I do this. “What’s the world about? What is life about? All of those things matter, and that’s why I make music.
Rosalía, who tries to motivate a new generation of innovators in the same way that Silicon Valley convinced a plethora of engineers to develop technological applications capable of ‘solving’ any problem in the world, from hunger to inequality, continued her argument. So:
“I try not to have a concrete idea of how a song should sound. Instead, I choose concepts, or illusions , of how I would like it to sound. But never a rigid idea. That is not organic, nor productive . Producing also requires being constantly testing ideas.”
Probably, the critical and anti-Stalinist Soviet Marxism developed by little-known theorists in the West (such as Evald Ilienkov and Mikhail Lifshitz among others) would agree with many of Rosalía’s statements. In the quarterly magazine Alternativas , published regularly for more than seventeen years, one can read statements such as that the preconditions for the new society (call it “communism”) go far beyond the process of socialization of production and the development of the working class.
For this current, the requirements involved deploying people’s social creativity in very diverse ways (from the innovations of an activist, a union member, a teacher, or any of the actions coming from mass democratic organizations, through those that promote the revolutionary transformation of society). But it also seemed relevant to them the accumulation and mastery by workers of human cultural wealth, without which creative activity in general and social creativity in particular would be impossible. They thought of the proletarian subject as an artist who can imagine systems other than capitalism and make use of ingenuity to create the necessary social coordination mechanisms to manage it.
In a similar way, for Rosalía, the organization of production goes far beyond mere planning, even a kind of fully automated luxury communism: the music production technologies that she uses have the purpose of uniting different realities, of worlds of various kinds, which he submits to the possibility of change at all times, to the discussion of the different possible oppositions. She brings technologies together with creativity and imagination, as Stafford Beer, the British cybernetician in charge of deploying the first experiment in cybernetic socialism in Chile, would say, creating a certain musical order . Using Van Morrison’s metaphor in another recent interview , she manages to make “creativity prevail over chaos.”
Rosalía, queen of pop puzzle
Beer, who was a friend of Brian Eno, one of the first musicians to understand the potential of creativity applied to technology and who, like David Bowie, was greatly influenced by cybernetics, created a sophisticated operating room in the 1970s. the Palacio de la Moneda (there was no paper, pens, or internet, just buttons and a point to support cigars and glasses of whiskey while the information about the production was displayed on the screen, quite technologically artisan ). Beer did so as part of the Synco Project , which tried to organizethe production of the country in a similar way to how Rosalía operates in her studio. During long sessions of 15 hours or more, the artist uses all the production software available to her to gain creative control , finding the right sounds, arrangements and structures for each song.
As two researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) affirm in a pioneering study , Rosalía’s creation is like a puzzle in which the multiple pieces acquire visual and sound meaning on the editing screen of the Pro Tools software . They are technological production processes, in this case sound, where there is also a certain interdisciplinarity: a music producer works with a sound engineer (in this case, El Guincho acts as composer, arranger, sound designer, Rosalía’s recording technician) to give form each theme. It happens the same as in Chile, where scientists interacted with workers to optimize factories and give them control.
The problem, as is evident, is that music technologies act as mediators between the individual personality of the artist and the commercial interests of the big companies. That creative collective that works with Rosalía, at most, promotes a concept of authenticity subsumed by the market that has no revolutionary power.The way in which the ‘motomami’ logo comes to replace Spotify advertising in the Barça match against Madrid is the latest example. That is, its compositional process technologizes creative creation and supposedly democratizes it, although in reality it only cements logics such as those of competition (a local artist triumphs, who becomes global thanks to that identity, underdeveloping the creativity of many people) and centralizes it through through the adaptation filters of digital platforms.
Despite everything, as a science journalist from the newspaper Ara said , there are some traces of how to think of alternatives if one looks at Rosalía’s footprints, who in her practice has charged against ‘big data’ and music creation algorithms . Not assuming the majority recipe of collecting data to later design merchandise, majority from Netflix to Spotify, Motomami is 5% data and 95% human creativity”. In this way, Rosalía has managed to do something that the left has not even thought of, which in the end is the only way to get out of the neoliberal imaginaries that impose the “there are no alternatives” enunciated by Thatcher and fetishized in different ways by philosophers. like Žižek, Fisher or Jameson.
We can blame her for selling us the DIY ( do it yourself ) motorcycle, which “has reached the scene of musical creation providing a romantic sensation of authenticity”, as the Complutense doctoral student Daniel Gómez-Sánchez says, or even for being a champion of the cultural industry, using the terms of the Frankfurt School. But somehow she has shown, as Cher did when she politicized autotune , that the technique can open up a field for creativity. So why not mobilize to put it at the service of institutions other than the market?
Left and technological paralysis
The left has no theory to unlock “mass activity at its highest point of creativity”, as Marx defined the Paris Commune. There is no one thinking about how to program technology in the way Rosalía codifies flamenco music, making it inherent in the cycles of melody, harmony and rhythm , but to find economic solutions –the abolition of private property– to this situation and, at At the same time, release creative human relationships.
At this point, we run the risk of focusing one-dimensionally on the factory, as many among the Marxists do when they naively oppose the end of the grand narratives or meta-narratives that Lyotard heralded. It is true that there is a ‘factory’ of artists. It’s called Clase Foundry, it’s hosted on YouTube, a Google platform, and values –or values– the “do it yourself” philosophy, capturing part of the talent that is scattered in the sea of Internet videos to promote it with campaigns and globalize it thus thanks to tools that optimize the channel, generate music marketing strategies, produce music videos or other content. However,why not recognize the proletarian point of creativity that fully reveals the fetishism of the commodity to really democratize this factory and hand over control to the 21st century workers to build whatever platforms they deem necessary?
In the same way, we can also miss the shot if we look only at the sphere of consumption. Although it is true, as several UPV/EHU researchers affirm , that Rosalía has carried out an innovative promotional strategy, with the launch concert of Motomami , broadcast on March 17, 2022, and adopted the practices, visual resources and forms of production typical of TikTokers, thus fostering a continuous dialogue with their followers, sharing parts of the creative process (showing, without socializing), even commenting on their own memes. Again, then why are there no feedback mechanisms?different from those of the market, which encourage the creation of artist brand identities, of modern divas, of ambassadors (from the local to the global), and in its place the notion of revolutionary artist is democratized (now yes, really) ( that mixes tradition and modernity), to create the total work of art in the collectivized mass product.
That is precisely what Raymond Williams was talking about in a section of The Long Revolution called “The brain of each one of us literally creates its own world”. There the cultural theorist affirmed that individual creativity (everything we see and do, the general structure of our relationships) is part of the process that creates institutions through which the meanings valued by the community are shared. “That is the true significance of our modern definition of culture, one that insists on community,” he said.It is beyond the figure of an artist who leads a creative vanguard, like Rosalía, in the same way that Silicon Valley leads the technological vanguard, from where we can think of an inclusive vanguard where collective creativity generates institutions where the market does not have the central primacy .
To do this, the left must think about unlocking those digital skills that the production company displays in a situation like a monopoly, those that allow it to create a groundbreaking repertoire where it fuses jazz and reggaeton (“Saoko”), as well as a traditional bolero. (“Delirium of grandeur”), to democratize creative freedom and unleash a process where everyone channels the sounds and experiences that have shaped their lives to achieve the collective benefit. Only then, to quote Williams again, “are we in a position to reconcile the meanings of culture as ‘creative activity’ and ‘a whole way of life’” in order to understand our advanced digital societies.
As Raya Dunayevska x-rayed in a book published in the seventies, this was one of the great projects of young and adult Marx that we should remember. Even in the Grundrisse we can feel the presence of a magnificently unifying vision of what the future would be like after the overcoming of surplus-value-oriented mechanical production . “What, if not the absolute elaboration of its creative dispositions… [will lead to] the evolution of all human powers as such, not mediated by any previously established end in itself.”
A creative subject must emerge, governed by a creative principle, to put an end to the division between mental and manual work. The new technologies, almost in a similar way to the way Rosalía operates in her studio, must come to life as democratic and collective institutions so that the masses, prepared for the fight to “storm the skies”, break out creatively as they did in the Paris Commune. As I try to argue in Digital Utopias (Verso), this is the only alternative for that generation or social substratum called millennials . Otherwise, I have no doubt, we will see ourselves fighting climate and digital guerrillas.