- The main chunk of Terre Thaemlitz' Soulnessless is a 29 hour (plus) piano solo rendered as a single mp3. It's labeled "output.mp3," and comes with a text file that explains that the file "currently does not contain track ID (ID3 tag) information... due to the risk of software problems when opening the file for the first time on certain computers." It took me nearly an entire work-week to listen to it.
To be honest, I'm still not sure whether it's good or not. But I'm glad I did it. The solo consists almost completely of Thaemlitz hitting chord after chord with varying degrees of frequency. Listen closely and you'll sometimes hear the strings of the piano or Thaemlitz's body moving this way or that. But listening for slight variations is beside the point when you're dealing with a 29-hour piece of music. There is no increase in tension in hour 17. No jazzy filigree one-fourth of the way through. Thaemlitz ends Soulnessless with a fade out, but you can hear that it finishes the same way that it began—a chord, slowly echoing into nothingness.
What I find most interesting about Soulnessless is that it seems to actually deliver in what it sets out to do. The most precious thing that you can offer something in the 21st century is your attention, and Soulnessless demands it. Even when you dip in for a few hours, the music contained herein leaves you pondering it, and the questions that Thaemlitz has posed with its release: Why have artists done so little to transform their art in the face of the possibilities that the internet and the mp3 affords them? Why do we demand so much "content" from the artists that we love? Why these chords in particular?
In the same way that Thaemlitz describes the piece as a "meditation," I couldn't help but find myself meditating as well. (Thaemlitz hates meditation, but recognizes its value, writing in the notes to the piece that "I resort to it in desperation and protest at the absence of alternate methods for lengthy contemplation.") You don't need to listen to all of the piano solo—the Canto V portion of Soulnessless—but it's worth putting on (and leaving on) and simply seeing what happens. You may find yourself willingly coming back to it again.
When you purchase Soulnessless as a Class 4 MicroSDHC Card, you receive four other Cantos as well as bonus materials. (The bonuses are Thaemlitz' wry joke on the proliferation of "online exclusives" that artists offer up on a regular basis. 29 hours of material just isn't enough.) It would be useless to describe the complex theoretical underpinnings of each. Terre outlines each in lengthy detail in a PDF accompanying the release. It hardly bears mentioning, though, that the various Cantos gain extra resonance when you uncover Terre's relationship with the Virgin Mary and an "unusual summer" with a maternal grandmother. Thaemlitz also presents this text/music in video format, which adds important context for Canto III when Terre visits a convent in the southern Philippines.
It's hard to say which of these Cantos is successful, given their presentation in three different forms. III, as mentioned, works best as a video. II's has digital crickets skittering underneath a pensive drone, and doesn't need images or text at all. (Although Thaemlitz would surely disagree.) IV brings together the religiosity of its predecessors with further computer music alterations, and it's the weakest of the bunch in nearly all formats. As for the bonus material... well... I'll leave that for you to explore yourself. Not because I'm lazy, but more because in not describing them, it seems to keep in line with Thaemlitz's particular concerns: Want to know about the extras? Buy it yourself. I highly recommend it.
01. Canto I - Rosary Novena for Gender Transitioning (Soundtrack Version)
02. Canto II - Traffic With the Devil (Soundtrack Version)
03. Canto III - Pink Sisters (Soundtrack Version)
04. Canto IV - Two Letters (Soundtrack Version)
05. Canto V - Meditation on Wage Labor and the Death of the Album
Bonus: Agnostiko sa Dabaw (Agnostic of Davao)
Bonus: Women in Bands
Bonus: Rosary Novena for Gender Transitioning (Alternate Version)
Bonus: Rosary Novena for Gender Transitioning (Homosexual Spirits) (K-S.H.E Remix)
Bonus: Rosary Novena for Gender Transitioning (Spirits, Lose Your Hold) (K-S.H.E Remix)
Bonus: Meditation on Wage Labor and the Death of the Album (Sprinkles' Unpaid Overtime Remix)