It should almost be a crime the way people use the word “random”.
“Random” should really mean, I think, an outcome entirely uninfluenced by anything at all. Other than, perhaps, whatever it is set the outcome in motion. A non-subjective teleology, if you will.
I’ve seen a lot of people say (mostly on video game forums) that there is no such thing as “randomness”. I’ve often thought myself that there’s no such thing as randomness.
Paul F Tompkins once described the plot of Magnolia as “everyone in the phone book has a conversation with each other” or something like that. I think Magnolia was a movie about how everything or nothing in life is random - either of which would be the same thing, I think.
The continual churn of the internet, experience tells us, favors quick connections, conveniences, ephemeral pleasures. But there are areas of culture popping up that seek to slow down, focus on details, and wallow in the kinds of media that it still takes money to create. This is the space that Daft Punk seek to occupy, which in and of itself can be seen as problematic. For those who embrace the more egalitarian approach to music production created by access to cheap tools and cheap distribution, Daft Punk’s mind-bogglingly lush record scans as elitist, possibly even dismissive of the creativity that is happening on a smaller scale.
The meaning of the album title Random Access Memories can be understood in a few ways.
- Its primary way is as an abbreviated nod toward the 1971 Paul McCartney album, Ram.
- It recalls the thing inside your computer, RAM, which used to cost as much as a session musician’s time but now costs about as much as a session musician’s time.
- It also de-commodifies the commodity of RAM and returns it to the human-intentional realm. So RAM is not so much an assemblage of commodity parts and elements; it’s something made with care and love (value added).
- It is anything but random.
Random Access Memories, then, is on-purpose expectation defying. It’s as if to say that any random clutch of sense memory could stand as a monolithic cultural experience. That is wrong. The band, Daft Punk, constructs a proof by contradiction to say that culture is not a random accumulation of things (or even events). It is rather orchestrated - with a leaden hand.
Like the 70s disco era it draws from, RAM could almost be seen like a paranoiac’s daydream. A Pychonian romp with just as much detail and presumed cultural import. (You had to be there.)
I almost wanted to say “bildungsroman”, but I’ve been out of college for so long that I’m not sure if I’m quite allowed to call things a “bildungsroman” anymore. But almost anything with a narrative arc + teleological import could be seen as one, right?
RAM is a paranoiac’s daydream, but from the opposite side. It is the man constructing reality. The company giving you the party line. Victors writing history.
It is an argument that there may not be a cause for everything, but also nothing happens on accident, randomly.
They seem to know things that we don’t, and so we can’t be disappointed.