Music and Globalization
Josh Kun

Abstract: "Tech-Mex: Sounding the US-Mexico Border"

This paper focuses on two sets of electronic musicians currently working within the global flows of the US-Mexico border. It examines how artists on
the Mexican side of the line and artists on the US side of the line use audio technology to create music and sound art in the face of a 2,000 mile long border wall that is crossed as much as it is policed, a wall that has become an emblem of both global capitalism's transnational potential (the open flow of goods and commerce) and its localized disasters (low-wage maquiladora factories, contaminated water supplies, toxic factory runoffs, hillside colonias of homes made from discarded US garage doors). First, I look at the
compositional practices and production techniques of The Nortec Collective in Tijuana, Mexico-- a group of DJs and musicians who formed in 1999 and are
devoted to developing a new border aesthetic for the dancefloor (and now for Volvo ads) aimed at finding new ways to imagine and live life at the border.
Nor-Tec stands for norteño-techno, the convergence of high-tech and low-tech, of North and South, of all things techno with all things norteño.
The paper will focus on how this group of artists who grew up in this city of nearly 2 million people use samplers, sequencers, and Mac G3s to combine
local tradition with electronic sounds developed in Europe and the US.
Second, I look at the Arizona based musician and sound artist Richard Lerman, who builds low-tech home-made wire microphones, attaches them to border fences and walls throughput the southwest, and then makes ambient sound collages out of what he records. He also teaches local border residents how
to do the same, how to use technology of their own design in the same way that Nortec does: to make their own music out of the fences and walls that
threaten, every day, to destroy them. The paper is culled from my current project in progress-- an audio and textual exploration of what I've named
"the aural border," the US-Mexico border of sound, music, and noise-- that incorporates critical writings with archival sound collages.