In On the Concept of History, Walter Benjamin compares the teleological view of history to the ‘Mechanical Turk’, a chess-playing mechanical illusion dressed in Ottoman robes that toured Europe in the late 18th Century. For those who see history teleologically – as a linear progression towards an inevitable end – going against the current is like playing against this formidable automaton: any move will surely be outmanoeuvred. However, for those on the other side of the chessboard, the mechanistic view of history is, like the Mechanical Turk, just a clever illusion. For Walter Benjamin’s Jewish ancestors, whose culture kept them in close proximity with their mythical past, history was imagined as a horizontal simultaneity, not a vertical movement through time. And for philosophers of non-linear dynamics like Manuel DeLanda, history is better thought of as an exploration across a horizontal field of possibilities – a polyrhythm of material, genetic and cultural flows. It’s Not All Black and White is a game of chess, in which moves on a midi launchpad trigger different musical sequences that represent these two tendencies of historical thought.

It’s Not All Black and White @ Boom Vacuum Monthly Experimental music night in Brisbane