Interview with Seth Price

By Allen, Gwen | Art Journal, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Interview with Seth Price

Allen, Gwen, Art Journal

Among other things, Seth Price's 2001 project Title Variable is a question, a query that might be phrased-as the artist did in his 2002 essay "Dispersion"-as follows: "Suppose an artist were to release the work directly into a system that depends on reproduction and distribution for its sustenance, a model that encourages contamination, borrowing, stealing, and horizontal blur? The art system usually corrals errant works, but how could it recoup thousands of freely circulating paperbacks?"1 Title Variable inquires into the ways that digital technologies have affected music production, examining a brief but turbulent history that in thirty years has yielded cheap synthesizers, the compact disc, MIDI (the Musical Instrument Digital Interface), personal computers, the sampler, and the World Wide Web.

The project includes a series of music compilations, concentrating on pivotal but vaguely defined or historicized moments within this history, including both popular forms and more rarified modern compositions. Considered so far are: the growth of the early video-game soundtrack as a musical form; the transition when mainstream pop producers started to assimilate the previously marginal black musical forms of rap and hip-hop into a more lucrative, commercial system; the consolidation of experimental "industrial" music into beat-oriented dance genres; and the very first years of the music sampler. The compilations have been released in various audio formats and packaging designs, occasionally with different titles. Some have been available cheaply in bookstores, museum shops, or on the internet, while others have been selfpublished or produced as limited art editions. As an accompaniment to each, Price wrote an essay on the music in question and published it in a magazine. These essays take rough cues from the music and range in style from the tersely schematic to the base journalistic to the more abstractly theoretical.

If Title Variable functions as a critical history of music technology, suggesting how production tools have transformed music-not just how it sounds but who controls it and its distribution-the project also reflects on the contemporary conditions that govern the production and consumption of culture both within and outside the art world. Price questions how objects and experiences accrue value and meaning, and foregrounds the construction of authority and originality by legal and corporate systems. Not least, Title Variable resists the primacy of the visual in our culture. Its dispersed form is difficult to represent or display-and even hard to talk about, since it does not lend itself to conventional modes of art criticism, nor to the resolution of meaning, which tends to be the goal of such commentary.

Gwen Allen: All of the moments you focus on in the history of sound are in the recent past-mainly the 1980s going up to the early 1990s. What is compelling for you about this time period?

Seth Price: I'm interested in the effect of digital technologies, and they reached the marketplace sometime in the 1970s. It does happen to line up neatly with my own lifespan.

Allen: What role does the experience of listening to the music play in this project? Typically someone makes a music compilation either because they like the music-in the case of amateurs-or in order to profit from it. Your compilations do not seem to fall into either of these categories.

Price: I'm not sure it's necessary to listen to the music to enter the piece. It has something to do with the way recorded music is starting to operate in the culture. As a downloadable file, music is hard to control and hard to sell. It has no packaging. Its value starts to approach zero. So the industry proceeds from the idea that the music is a pretext, that the main reason someone would want to buy it, would recognize it as a product at all, is because there's something desirable about the package: the cover art, or some celebrity essay, or because it's newly remastered.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Interview with Seth Price


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.