Craig Schuftan


Culture Club 4

Musing on the future of music in 1986, former Van Halen singer and 80s party dude David Lee Roth was certain of nothing, except that the art of tomorrow would be nothing like the art of today. “It won’t be like anything we’re familiar with, I know that”. So, why, now that we live in the future, does everything look and sound a bit like it’s from 1986? Has the fabric of time been altered somehow? Have we just run out of new ideas? Or does our new-found fondness for synth-pop and shoulder pads have some deeper significance?

To find out, I put on a pair of ridiculous 80s sunglasses, souped up my sports car with one of those flux capacitor things, and risked further damage to the space-time continuum by travelling back to the origin point of the current crisis – the 1980s. There, I found myself in a strange world – a world where people listen to futuristic robot-disco while spending money they don’t have on ridiculous clothes so as to take their minds off the impending apocalypse. Yes, all very strange – and yet at the same time, eerily familiar… 

“It’s not a retro record” said TZU of 2008’s Computer Love. “It’s not even an 80s record. It’s just that we all grew up in the 80s”. Find out what the difference is in the Culture Club’s pocket history of nostalgia in art – from Marcel Proust to Mylo, (via Morrissey).

A time to think about the past by Schuftronics

It used to be that when you asked your favourite artists to name their favourite artists, it was all Nick Drake, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. Now, you’re just as likely to hear names like Madonna, ELO, Prince, Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Hall and Oates, and Giorgio Moroder. It seems that these days, more and more musicians are coming out of the closet, and admitting that they love… pop music. 

Everybody talk about pop music by Schuftronics

Playing music is hard work. It’s just as hard as doing the dishes or working in a call center or welding car parts together, or any of those other boring, repetitive tasks we’ve long since outsourced to machines. So the invention of robot rock in the 80s shouldn’t have come as a surprise – but that doesn’t mean it didn’t annoy people.

Machines can do the work by Schuftronics

The 90s was a decade full of bands who sounded great, but looked terrible. It was either plaid shirts and jeans, or alien futuristic bondage-wear – with not a lot in between. But sometime between 2002 and 2005, bands started looking… better

Come as you aren't by Schuftronics

Life is tough. Listening to music can make us feel better about it, but if you think it’s going to bring about any real improvement in the conditions of everyday life, you’re kidding yourself. Pop music is part of the problem. It’s like this;

Work is never over by Schuftronics

Calvin Harris: “That’s what music is about… you’re taking elements from the past which you enjoy, and putting them in a modern persepctive for the youth of today”. Is music really that easy? The answer depends a great deal on which century you happen to find yourself in.

Taking elements from the past... by Schuftronics

Many of these stories were inspired by the work I did as curator of the Neo-80s section in the Powerhouse Museum's The 80s Are Back exhibition. Take a look at the Powerhouse website for mixtapes by TZU and Sarah Blasko, and lots of great essays and articles on 80s music and culture.

part 1 fear and loathing marina and the diamonds 2

Actually My Name's Marina

"What the audience demands of the artist - really demands, in its unconscious desire - and what the artist thinks it ought to be given... [is] the same thing: the sentiment of being. The sentiment of being is the sentiment of being strong... such energy as contrives that the centre shall hold, that the circumference of the self keep unbroken, that the person be an integer, impenetrable, perdurable, and autonomous in being if inot in action."

marina and the diamonds | the family jewels | identity | personality | realism | authenticity | lionel trilling

WuTang1 e1395794252557

Once upon a time

"Music was now an object that could be owned by the individual and used at his own convenience... Now the Symphony of a Thousand could play to an audience of one. Now a man could hear nocturnes at breakfast, vespers at noon, and the Easter Oratorio on Channukah. He could do his morning crossword to 'One O'Clock Jump', and make love right through the St Matthew Passion. Anything was possible; nothing was sacred; freedom was absolute. It was the freedom, once the cathedral of culture had been wrecked, to take home the bits you liked and arrange them as you please. Once again, a mechanical invention had met capitalism's need to recreate all of life in its image. The cathedral of culture was now a supermarket."

Evan Eisenberg, 1987

wu-tang clan | shaolin | age of mechanical reproduction | aura | ritual | art | artists


Tomorrow's Harvest

"What if I tell you now that I have often longed even for plays I have seen performed - frequently the very ones which bored me most - or for books I have read in the past and did not like at all? If that is not madness, there's no such thing."



Hold to the Difficult

"And you must not let yourself be misled, in your solitude, by the fact that there is something in you that wants to escape from it. This very wish will, if you use it quietly and pre-eminently and like a tool, help to spread your solitude over wide country. People have (with the help of convention) found the solution of everything in ease, and the easiest side of ease; but it is clear that we must hold to the difficult; everything living holds to it, everything in nature grows and defends itself according to its own character and is an individual in its own right, strives to be so at any cost and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to the difficult is a certainty that will not leave us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; the fact that a thing is difficult must be one more reason for our doing it."

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1904

rainer maria rilke | kate bush


Always music in the air

'Acousmatic, the Larousse dictionary tells us, is the 'name given to the disciples of Pythagoras who for five years, listened to his teachings while he was hidden behind a curtain, without seeing him, while observing a strict silence.' Hidden from their eyes, only the voice of their master reached the disciples.... In ancient times, the apparatus was a curtain; today, it is the radio and methods of reproduction, along with the entire set of electro-acoustic transformations, that place us, modern listeners to an invisible voice, under similar conditions.'

Pierre Schaeffer, 'Acousmatics', 1966

pierre schaeffer | musique concrete | sonorous objects | acousmatics | pythagoras | phenomenology | twin peaks | red room


Music Sounds Better

'Imagine a traveller from a hundred years ago arrives at our doorstep and asks us why the music of the 20th century operates so frequently on the basis of cyclic repetition. Not just the rap and dance genres of popular culture, but also minimalism - perhaps the single most viable strand of the Western art music tradition... why does so much of our music work this way? What kind of needs do these patterns satisfy?'

Susan McClary, 1999

stardust | daft punk | susan mcclary | minimalism | loop | chaka kahn | repetition