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Woebot
28-03-2005, 11:39 PM
Definition One: Pop = Music in The Charts

No really! It's catchy I suppose, but then so can music which isn't popular be. It has no exclusive grip on the memorable, marketing power puts many tracks which aren't memorable, even hummable, in the charts. A great deal of those tunes by Jennifer Lopez. What puzzles me even more, in finer detail, is why so many people on the Internet hold pop music in high esteem. Why do people collect it? Why do they write about it? Why does it interest them? I'm genuinely mystified. Pop doesn't need them, they're definitely surplus to requirements. Smash Hits suffices.

Some people I know argue that Pop is the true barometer of the times. Like Sociologists they analyse the political currents of the times and draw (often very convincing) parallels between what's happening in the Charts at a particular time and that which is happening in the broader culture. I suppose the apposite example may be The Specials "Ghost Town" (coughs, good tune, coughs) and the urban riots of that year. But, forgive me for this, isn't this always a bit like those crummy TV Dramas in which Arsenal's Victory/The Miner's Strike/Tony Blair's coming to power is compared to the existence and travails of John Doe that very same year? How he overcame his fear of social exposure just as Naomi Campbell defeated The Mirror in a lawsuit. I always find themes such as these, well I find them to be a bit wobbly. Even in novels they're more strained and far-fetched than they are illuminating and engrossing.

It's such a seductive idea isn't it, that the micro mirrors the macro? But isn't it a comforting fantasy? Granted, sometimes clever artists capitalise on this, moulding their content so it fits with people's erroneous notion that there is indeed such a flimsy cosmic organisation. Like Bob Dylan. "There's something going on here people" (counts money). I'd argue that more often than not anachronistic music can shed more light on a time, show it in its true hue, than current music.

(scratches head) What other reasons could people give to find pop interesting? I guess old Pop is geist-y, but then so is any old music. Perhaps to laud it as some surreal index over which you have no control? On to the next defintion......

Defintion Two: Pop = A Marketing Term

I've been quite honest about this since day one. When I discovered that by Pop music people meant "music for imaginary rather than real communities" I was depressed for about a month. That people could consume Grime as "Pop", that they could do the pick'n'mix shake and vac ting and "consume" something oblivious to its source, well for me it just didn't bear thinking about. That all music could be subjected to the whim of the consumer like this, that there were people out there for whom all music was essentially reducible to a quotient of it's entertainment value (a mark out of ten, an "A" minus, a four star rating in their iPod ratings menu)...... sad innit. Each song becomes a unit, an equal unit, stripped of anything approaching life. How murderously void.

Though to just live an everyday life and get pleasure out of music like this must be fine, but to theorise music under this banner, to attempt to shroud this approach in a gossamer skein of intellectualism, well it's a travesty isn't it? Isn't it? Is it? I don't know, I mean I'm obviously horrendously out of kilter. Like a miserable old Jehoviahs Witness cunt.

Post-Modernism hasa lot to answer for here. It made these clean surfaces theoretically acceptable. Pop was "interesting", being a hard headed grey persistent twat, loyal and dogged was "boring". This is going to be a brutal reduction of theoretical thought, so apologies if I loose some finesse here, but Modernism, Modernism wasn't ahistorical. Andy Warhol, Le Corbusier and Jung were ruptures but they weren't abandoning history. Warhol with his tondos, Le Corbusier's fanatical love of ancient Greek Architecture, Jung steeped in Alchemaiacal lore, none of them simply wrote clean of the past. Furthermore it's a corny adage, but without embracing their past they couldn't have been free. To turn this on the mechanics of Pop appreciation: meaning is always dwindling in Pop, it's never accreating in the way it does in the underground rhizomes.

A friend I met at the weekend told me a story of how a colleague of his, not aware of the history of Typography, used a font designed under the Nazis for a poster for a museum for the Holocaust. It's a very extreme example but it does sort of encapsulate how I feel about the barren landscape of culture. Look into your font folder on your computer, how many of those fonts mean anything to you? Yet you'd be amazed how enriching it is to understand a bit about them. Check this out about Eric Gill (http://www.linotype.com/7-391-7/ericgill.html).

I suppose everyone's wary of history. I've begun to blush a little at my rampant indexing of music in relation to it's sonic precursors. But isn't it a good thing? From a Marxist point of view of course its really important not to abandon history, to let Capitalism consign it to the waste bin marked progress. I suspect my "Online Pop Straw-man" is timorous of exploring history. He is afraid some self-appointed old-fart-at-play will castigate him for his ignorance (me I've never pretended to be an authority on anything, I can't even work out the difference between Dogzilla and Durrty Doogz) He is cautious about aspiring to belong to subcultural groups (like, er, Grime) on the basis that he's Middle Class, White and Old. But really no-one gives a toss and what's the alternative anyway? To accept something less-threatening and fake in some compromised quasi-ironic manner. To give up on the real because it underlines the uncomfortable reality of one's own situation?

Defintion Three: Pop's charm = The Drama of High-vs-Low

Is High-vs-Low even an issue here? I dunno. I think not. It used to be quite a thrilling notion to me. It still is. I love it when I find out things like the fact that Bernard Parmegiani designed the sound for Charles De Gaulle airport. It's always sort of exciting when improbable "underground" things stray into the pop landsacpe. Like More Fire's "Oi". Or even to roll back to point one, when The Specials are number one. But this isn't my issue really (besides isn't this just folk music swelling in grandeur prodigously?). My issue lies with the reception of Pop, with people taking that Pop tack. Explain the appeal to me. I'm genuinely curious.

dominic
29-03-2005, 04:08 AM
Excellent post! And very well written too (not to sound patronizing -- and i'm certainly in no position to patronize anyone here -- but i'm often very impressed by the sheer extent of your talents, which i used to think (naively) confined to drawing comic strips and doing computer graphics, largely b/c you're so modest in how you present yourself . . . . )

rather than address the issues you raise directly, let me make a couple comments:

(1) remember the poptimist debates from a couple years back, where the prime antagonists were k-punk and the american music journalist/blogger eppy? eppy introduced the scheme of pop 1, pop 2, and pop 3 . . . . not sure how eppy distinguished pop 1 from pop 2 and pop 3, so let me do my own rough version:

pop 1 = music that is designed for the charts & high sales, which is roughly the same thing as music for "imaginary rather than real communities"

pop 2 = music that is rooted in a particular community -- whether that community is (A) actual and geographical, i.e., east london or jamaica or the various regions of u.s. hip hop nation; or (B) the less "real" but still discernible communities that are constituted by the radio waves of college radio stations or which coalesce in certain kinds of clubs (punk clubs, goth clubs, etc) -- BUT WHICH HAS UNDENIABLE POP CHOPS, e.g., the street anthem that rockets into the charts (before hip hop became totally hegemonic), the 91/92 rave anthems that rushed the gates of civilization, and so forth

pop 3 = music that is "catchy" and "accessible" rather than "difficult" -- this corresponds, first, w/ the basic distinction b/w classical and jazz music on the one side and all other popular musics (i.e., musics that don't require formal training to do well or erudition to appreciate) on the other side -- but the distinction may also be made within popular music b/w music that is (A) catchy or which wins over the massive and (B) music that is difficult or lacks persuasive power or is perhaps simply poorly constructed and inept ----- pop 3 is music that belongs to a popular scene or subcutlure and which never transcends that scene, although a particular scene or subculture may on occasion define the times, shape a generation, etc -- again, to use example of uk rave generation

(2) now it seems to me that you're discussing in your post pop 1, but that your comments could be extended to pops 2 and 3 as well . . . . for example, people often discuss the turn to jungle music (is it pop 2 or pop 3? -- depends -- a jungle hit that charted in 92/98 = pop 2, while the jungle massive = pop 3) as though it were a "barometer of the times" -- a notion that has always struck me as very wobbly!!! -- that is, were things really that tough in 92/93/94 in britain compared w/ the 80s, such that jungle reflected the desperate realism of marginal urban youth under tory govt of john majors? -- seems to me that jungle can be explained sufficiently in terms of the cultural and sonic baggage of one of the key constituencies of the uk rave movement, and that somehow correlating the rise of jungle to a minor recession in the uk economy only adds confusion to the discussion -- although people like guy called gerald explained there move to jungle as reflecting fact that it had become a "jungle out there," this is to my mind false and obfuscatory, i.e., "voodoo ray" was already jungle . . . . so isn't it really the case that no music, whether pop 1 or pop 2 or pop 3, is ever simply a barometer of the times??? . . . . and yet isn't it also the case that pop 2 music is what periodically succeeds in defining the times, e.g., the rave onslaught on the charts, the post-punk & early new wave era of 79 to 82, etc, etc -- OKAY I'M CLEARLY CONFUSED ON THIS POINT

(3) the question of real versus imaginary communites -- which might also be framed in terms of exclusive allegiance versus no allegiance versus many allegiances -- and *please don't take this point the wrong way* -- but how do you make sense of your musical pantheism, of the fact that you're so conversant in so many different musics simultaneously, invested not only in grime but also in ariel pink, etc, etc??? -- that is, where does the typical dissensus person fit into this scheme?

or let me put the matter still differently, i feel as though i "belong" to the dance music community, a community that is falling apart and in decline, etc, etc, and which is perhaps more "imaginary" and certainly more cosmopolitan than other pop music communities -- but that for me this sense of belonging is the result of the most intense listening experiences and social experiences and spiritual experiences of my life, i.e., the brief time span from 1990 to 93/94 -- and these experiences had nothing to do with "book knowledge" concerning dance music, i.e., most of my book knowledge about dance music i've gained after the fact and so too most of my 12" records, i.e., my current interest in music is more a matter of constructing a private world based on memories of past experiences, i.e., an idealized/fantasized past, plus some desire to keep up on new developments like grime (and grime really means nothing to me as a white middle-class american, *except* for the one level at which i can value it, which is as ultra funky *dance* music)

and yet i get the sense that many people at dissensus are more interested in *seeking out* what is modern or avant or cutting edge than in having *membership* in a particular pop 3 music community . . . . now these two dispositions are not exclusive of each other, but certainly there's a tension here?????

so let me propose this scheme of the various dispositions or engagements with music:

(a) what WE IMAGINE is the stance of people directly engaged w/ grime, hip hop, dancehall -- i.e., black people in the urban ghetto making the powerful beats -- this is the "real" community

(b) the position of people like me, who sense that they "belong" to the dance community, but whose sense of "belonging" is in part the product of willful desire, i.e., i could just as easily say "fuck it, that all happened a long time ago, there's nothing happening in dance music now, and most of what did happen occurred in england not america, and i should just get on with my life, stop going out late at night to dj bars and small clubs, get a proper girlfriend and spend my money on taking her out to dinner rather than on drinks and old records" -- and yet i persist -- (btw how does this relate to k-punk's discussion of laddishness/depressive indolence in his latest blog entry -- a brilliant discussion that struck awfully close to the bone!!!) -- and i should add that i never separate music from its scene, i.e., if i go to a dj bar or go see a band perform, i'm just as affected by and attach as much significance to the people there, the culture, the vibe, etc, as the actual music

(c) the position that i *ascribe* to most of the people on dissensus -- which is (1) that their engagement w/ music is more a matter of book knowledge or seeking out that which is new & bold & fresh & innovative & avant, no matter where such music should arise (though w/ some attachment to the sounds of east london) -- an engagement that seems to me fundamentally non-political or disinterested -- and yet (2) marked by intense passion for music -- people like woebot and SR are clearly very passionate about music, more so than i could ever be -- i.e., for them it's more about the music than belonging to a scene ------ or perhaps this position is necessary if one wishes to be a successful music critic????? -- again, i stress that i'm *ascribing* this position to SR and Woebot and others here -- i trust they'll correct me if i'm wrong

(d) the position held by all other "adult" middle-class people, who seem to have no particular passion for music and no particular identity issues involving music

OKAY -- hopefully this comment will add to the thread rather than confuse issues for no purpose

dominic
29-03-2005, 05:06 AM
Some people I know argue that Pop is the true barometer of the times . . . . Like Bob Dylan. "There's something going on here people" (counts money). I'd argue that more often than not anachronistic music can shed more light on a time, show it in its true hue, than current music . . . . I guess old Pop is geist-y, but then so is any old music.

again, if we move to pop 2 and pop 3, then i think it all depends on whether you're a believer or participant in the pop movement that claims to define the times -- if you felt yourself swept up in rave, you likely believed it constitutive of your generation -- and if you didn't participate or were unimpressed by it, then you probably thought it more a matter of media hype than reality -- and this has nothing to with retrospection, the view that "old pop is geist-y" -- rather rave seemed to define the times for people swept up in the so-called dance music revolution mid-stream -- indeed in retrospect rave can be made to seem more a function of adolescent thrills-seeking consumerist culture (see "synthetic pleasures" documentary) than a genuine countercultural uproar


I've been quite honest about this since day one. When I discovered that by Pop music people meant "music for imaginary rather than real communities" I was depressed for about a month. That people could consume Grime as "Pop", that they could do the pick'n'mix shake and vac ting and "consume" something oblivious to its source, well for me it just didn't bear thinking about. That all music could be subjected to the whim of the consumer like this, that there were people out there for whom all music was essentially reducible to a quotient of it's entertainment value (a mark out of ten, an "A" minus, a four star rating in their iPod ratings menu)...... sad innit. Each song becomes a unit, an equal unit, stripped of anything approaching life. How murderously void.

yes, you Woebot seem to be part wine connoisseur and part would-be grime soldier . . . . as a connoisseur you do more than merely "pick'n' mix shake and vac ting and 'consume' something oblivious to its source" -- rather you have wines from all regions of the world, you know a great deal about the soil and climate and grape varietals, etc . . . . but you're also very self-conscious about the problematics of being a connoisseur, and so you fantasize about belonging to the grime massive (while realizing the absurdity of ever joining such group)


[the strawman] is cautious about aspiring to belong to subcultural groups (like, er, Grime) on the basis that he's Middle Class, White and Old. But really no-one gives a toss and what's the alternative anyway? To accept something less-threatening and fake in some compromised quasi-ironic manner. To give up on the real because it underlines the uncomfortable reality of one's own situation?


again, i guess my solution is to treat grime as dance music -- b/c i can "belong" to the dance music community but not to the east london grime community or the various u.s. hip hop communities -- again, the entire dance music community thing is a weak community, it's cosmopolitan, almost purely imaginary -- and yet it's not the same thing as pop music as such -- you can "belong" to something rather than nothing

and for me there is nothing ironic about wicked dance music

Backjob
29-03-2005, 07:47 AM
I'm dead wary of posting on this thread because I'm sure I'll end up as aforementioned popist straw man. And while I like pop plenty it's not my passion. But anyway, I don't think this is so hard to understand:

My issue lies with the reception of Pop, with people taking that Pop tack. Explain the appeal to me. I'm genuinely curious.

So in the name of empathy, and because this thread clearly needs more lists and subcategories, answers to the question:

1. Because so many students like nominally "non-mainstream" indie rock
2. Because mainstream hip hop was eventually revealed to be much more credible than the backpacker variety
3. Because chartpop is tons better now than it was 10 years ago
4. Because the familiar holds sonic pleasures equal to, but different from, the strange, and some of the most familiar music is the stuff that's on the radio (unless you're permanently plugged into an iPod)
5. Because the working classes like pop therefore it must be good
6. Because intellectuals are bad people
7. Because it's difficult to make good pop so there is a level of craft appreciation
8. Because pop is the most flexible, mutable and open of all musical categories
9. Because girls like pop therefore it must be good
10. Because if you want catchy and hummable the percentage of pop that fills those criteria is probably higher than any other genre

dominic
29-03-2005, 08:55 AM
10 very good reasons for liking pop music -- well done!

obviously Woebot and many others at dissensus would side w/ commercial hip hop as against indie hip hop

and most would agreet that today's pop music is much better than that of 10 years ago


but I think that what Woebot has in mind by "pop music" is not so much the music itself -- i think what he's disturbed by is the "pop relation" to music, the way he pop mindset treats all music as the same, interchangeable, endlessly delectable, merely there for listening pleasure -- and this relationship to music is perhaps a "strawman," as woebot acknowledges

martin
29-03-2005, 11:15 AM
Why do some theorists assume that working class people automatically prefer 'pop'? This is as lame a stereotype as claiming that middle class people prefer to sit around sipping wine and listening to Philip Glass. But to go down this road, a lot of people who work long shifts or are on low wages are fairly reliant on whatever the radio plays and can't afford to go buying all the latest hip, underground 12"s or CDs. Plus commercial clubs are bound to place an emphasis on uplifting pop and, after a week of work, people want to socialise and feel good that it's the weekend. But even so, there's hundreds of thousands of working class who'd rather go and do something else.

And let's face it, experimental type nights and events haven't always been the most friendly of places to 'outsiders' - why would someone risk messing up their Friday night to go and see something they might be potentially interested in, just to encounter a load of chinstrokers who think they're thick cos they haven't heard of AMM?

mpc
29-03-2005, 12:21 PM
Amm?

martin
29-03-2005, 12:49 PM
Amm?

God, you're so uncultured.

simon silverdollar
29-03-2005, 02:46 PM
i think the main reason some people get quite evangelical over pop is that they/we find ourselves getting quite obsessed with music, and then notice that, often, in the particular 'alternative' scenes and cultures that we find ourselves in, there's a big, unjustified, prejudice against pop. so they try to counter that by pointing out how good some pop music can be. whenever you feel that something has been unjustly ignored, for elitist reasons, yr likely to get pretty evangelical about it, to try to rectify the balance.

it's just being fair innit.

however, that kind of once-common anti-pop prejudice is waning to the point where it no longer seems that important to point to Good Pop so much; as a friend of mine once said, go to an indie/alternative club night now, and yr way more likely to hear the new kylie or timbaland singles that you are to hear, say, a new Troubleman, or touch and go, release.


also, pop obviously forms part of our environment- you hear it everywhere. and as such, it often holds much richer and deeper memories and associations for people than stuff that you only hear in yr own homes, or at small clubs. like, sugababes 'round round' still evokes a whole summer for me, as does basement jaxx's' 'romeo'.

blissblogger
29-03-2005, 04:43 PM
well funnily enough i've been hatching a blog post addressing some of these issues (telepathy, great minds etc), but for now a few stray thoughts:

the whole M** episode was kinda interesting to me because it demonstrated how underneath this sort of blithe poptimistic attitude there's this kind of SNARL lurking

you don't have to do much to unleash this, just express a few doubts and ambivalences

i was genuinely surprised by the tone of sheer indignation voiced -- "how DARE you interfere with my pleasure," how dare you pose any impediment to my unproblematic enjoyment of this thing

(subsequently it's been interesting to see how much people are prepared to explain away or jettison in order to cling onto their enjoyment, "terrorist chic--no problem!", "all that 'pull up the people, pull up the poor" 3rd world stuff that last week i was happy to have as a patina of seriousness to my pop? nah, forget about that, the lyrics aren't important.... it's, it's, it's a POP record!")

that debate was so fierce because of a displacement involved... they weren't defending M**'s right to be a dilettante-producer, they were defending their own right to be a dilettante-consumer

to always take the easier option

easier-to-listen-to

easier-to-access

it's about consumer rights, see

pop is invested in so intensely i think because it's about the right to consume, and in this day age consumerism, that's one of the few areas of power and agency anyone has

in this scheme, someone's "refusal" to enjoy (as if anyone can control what excites them!) a specific pop thing cannot possibly be justified, it must explained away as an act of perversity or ressentiment, as ideological blinkers

you don't like pop artifact X

ergo

you must be a "hairshirt"

or a "brownshirt" (no really, some idiot actually said that!)

(incredibly offensive analogy really, if you think about it -- not liking or being ambivalent about something = you are a fascist. offensive not so much as an insult--although if you think about the track records of supporting certain musics that the people being called fascists have, it's pretty fucking insulting -- but because it's trivializing to real fascism's victims)

(and again showing that self-congratulatory, "i'm an impurist, me, i listen without prejudice, me" attitude , that' s already been thoroughly deconstructed as a kind pseudo-PC quasi-cosmopolitanism)

interestingly, Eppy invoked the concept of pleasure in his discussion of M**'s "Pop" -- apt title in this context -- talking about her right to take pleasure wherever she finds it, to pleasure the listener

that sense of entitlement becomes a trope/proxy for the consumer's right to take pleasure wherever they like

extrapolate from that to:

"Kingston/London/Brazil/, quieten down, i need to make a sound"

whole communities silenced by the chutzpah of this plucky individualist!

it's very Madonna

as some people have astutely noticed already

while seeing it as some kind of flattering analogy!

it's the pop process in a nutshell -- extraction/decontextualisation/dissemination

talking of the hedonic rights of the consumer, over the last few years, have you noticed how quite a few pop formats/media/ products have been promoted with a sales pitch that essentially posits the consumer as a petulant child, greedy and impatient -- the whole "my music", " i want my music NOW" angle -- the pop consumer as Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

if consumption is so freighted with the frustration from disempowerment etc,
then what becomes paramount is 1/ ease of access and 2/ sheer volume of acquisition

hence downloading, iPods, etc

downloading (and hell i do it too) is interesting because it is pure pop in a sense -- it is the absolute denial of the producer's existence -- the absolute blanking out of the actual material origins and conditions of existence of the pleasure-source you're enjoying -- something for nothing

the iPod i cannot help seeing as an attractively-designed emblem of the utter poverty of abundance

those ads for ipods creep me out, the idea of people looking outwardly normal and repressed and grey-faced on the subway but inside they're freaking out and going bliss-crazy

everything that once exploded into public space, becomes interiorized, corralled, quarantined from the world, insulated from ever changing anything

an implosion

pop as solipsism

K-punk's Oed-I-Pod

i'm sure mark has something to say about the injunction to enjoy vs the New Puritans!

DigitalDjigit
29-03-2005, 05:26 PM
interesting discussion. so just to get it out of the way, what about "pop" as a genre by itself. I mean how some people want to make catchy music and they call it pop even if it has no chart intentions. See for example the music featured on Fluxblog. A good chunk of it is chart music but other stuff is just catchy indie type stuff or dance. So I am guessing you don't have a problem with that latter sort of stuff?

it's only the marketed music, or music that becomes broadly marketed despite the original intent that you object to. Or not even the music but that fact that people champion it purely for the fact that it is in the charts. Or the fact that the marketing destroys any context and meaning it may have had. I just want to get this straight because a lot of the time I feel that people here talk about only tangentially related things and so don't get anywhere.

blissblogger
29-03-2005, 05:52 PM
i actually have no opposition to successful pop music particularly -- there's many things that are hits that i love, and with all of the hardcore continuum sounds, i've wanted them to get more popular, to explode into the wider world. in some cases -- hardcore in 91/92 and 2step in 99/2000, they were pop music, they absolutely swamped the UK charts. Grime, weirdly, started as pop -- it started at the very top of the pops: so solid's 21 seconds' and oxide and neutrino's 'bound 4 the reload' both #1 -- bit later 'oi!' at number 7. and mainstream US rap is another good example of something that's both street and pop simultaneously (and a lot more interesting to me than the underground, backpacker stuff).

what both intrigues and irritates is pop-ism as ideology and psychology

see, the strength of rockism is that it can explain (within its own terms, naturally) when pop is great (auteur-producer as visionary, pop's embrace of new technology, etc) and when it falls within its own remit and value-scheme but

popism is incapabling of explain when rock (or rockist-oriented musics like rave, rap, etc) are great.

EXCEPT by a diminishment, the isolation of its "pop sensibility"

(e.g. crunk's great cos it's so catchy and so forth)

and stripping away or discounting of all the other reasons it's potent/exciting/interesting

and that applies retrospectively: the Sixties, punk, postpunk, etc, all become inexplicable and faintly embarassing to the popist worldview

so a pop-ist take on say The Doors would be, 'they did some great pop tunes' (which is of course true, they were a terrific singles band) but would of necessity involve trying to ignore everything else that is powerful about the group.

to your other point:
it's true that there are many examples of "pure pop" and "perfect pop"
but these are of course substyles of Matt's RetroRock, collector-fetishist reproduction-antique bizniz
High Llamas say or some other indie group making a music that will never in a million years get in the charts, no matter how soft, melodic and "poppy" it is

Orange Juice chanting "no more rock'n'roll for you" on "Poor Old Soul Part 2" is of course an ultimate rock act -- it had no meaning outside the rock discourse, NME

dominic
30-03-2005, 02:01 AM
i was so eager to discuss this topic that i wrote far too much, w/ the probable result that most people rolled their eyes and skipped over my remarks -- i got my just comeuppance

however, lost in the glut of words i wrote is the question that particularly interests me, which is the nature of mindsets/psychologies/dispostions or relationships to music that are different than the pop mindset or pop relation to music . . . .

that is, if we're opposed to the pop mindset, then from what position or positions do we count ourselves in opposition?

what is the nature of our own mindsets or relationships to music -- which i assume vary widely among different participants on this forum

dominic
30-03-2005, 02:28 AM
actually we have 3 threads right now discussing aspects of this issue

(1) this thread -- which opposes the pop mindset

(2) stelfox's thread -- which opposes the world music mindset

(3) mms' thread -- which questions the mindset of rich white folk n2 roots reggae music

so let's have a go of it and address this whole mindset/relationship to music issue . . . .

Backjob
30-03-2005, 02:40 AM
Yeah but see, this "pop mindset" is to me a totally artificial construct. Nobody here is talking about the real pop consumer, the person who consumes through the radio and tv and buys a couple of cds a year. In fact we're not even talking about the actual 'scene' consumer either, or at least not the mass of them. Here on the interweb we get way too caught up in our own bullshit to realise that the majority of music consumers don't really give a toss about genre. See Ruff Sqwad using metal guitars and imagery on "Guns and Roses"? That's the truth of it. Most London teenagers will quite happily rack 50 Cent next to Linkin Park next to tape packs from garage raves and not see any contradiction in this.

That's exactly why hardcore and 2step were pop in form and big in scale - because they were catering to this broad mentality, as opposed to getting caught up in micro-politics and internal genre wrangling.

When we say 'pop mindset' we're actually all wanging on about the music obsessive/blogger types who expound on the virtues of pop as an aesthetic. And I think that mindset is pretty much identical to the genre obsessive/blogger view of music, it's just focused on a different genre. It's still basically the same curatorial dick-measuring and oneupmanship, it's still the same angsty educated males expounding their views.

I mean it's an interesting development, that people can apply an essentially underground/specialist worldview to the most public and accessible form of music, but it's hardly a radical step or really anything different to obsessing over Stax/Motown or Synthpop both of which are highly mainstream genres that have persistently gathered obsessive curatorial fans.

scissors
30-03-2005, 03:18 AM
"When I discovered that by Pop music people meant "music for imaginary rather than real communities" I was depressed for about a month."

I think my earliest obsessions with music grew out of adolescent projections of communities I was most certainly not a part of. It dawned that this 'real' was fundamentally an imaginary, that my understandings were flimsy, tenuous, warped irreconcilably by what I took as my entirely nebulous cultural pedigree (embarrassingly typical, probably). Was depressed for a month etc. etc.

So this was like some gaping wound trauma that ahistorical pop sugar rushing went some way to "resolve". This is formalism and myth-making as much as moments-in-love - grime or jandek or javanese gamelan music can be 'stripped of anything approaching life' but they remain sets of features, shallow austere or otherwise, like the simultaneously flattened-out & distinct character-profiles of comic book trading cards. Mia apparently has a couple shiny tin foil holograms.

If there is a full-on aggressive/committal pop position (beyond loving tunes like a summer breeze) it really is a consumption-crazy thing and it's, at least for me, impossible to sustain. There's too much music, you either go mad or start to grapple with some chaotic set of criteria for selection/commitment. Source of much anxiety is whether this process is just an insular and confined-to-personal thing or for lack of a better phrase a broader more connected enthusiasm....

Ness Rowlah
30-03-2005, 04:55 AM
those ads for ipods creep me out, the idea of people looking outwardly normal and repressed and grey-faced on the subway but inside they're freaking out and going bliss-crazy


The Dr Who writers should do an episode with "evil iPods",
headphone strangling beasts on the tube,
white tentangle/snake headphones everywhere.

dominic
30-03-2005, 05:08 AM
I think my earliest obsessions with music grew out of adolescent projections of communities I was most certainly not a part of. It dawned that this 'real' was fundamentally an imaginary, that my understandings were flimsy, tenuous, warped irreconcilably by what I took as my entirely nebulous cultural pedigree (embarrassingly typical, probably). Was depressed for a month etc. etc.

well i think there's something definitely "adolescent" about my whole approach to music and the way i think of the dance music scene as a community that i somehow belong to . . . . and there are things virtuous and vicious about maintaining this stance, self-realizing and self-destructive . . . . obsessive-compulsive investigation of music (in particular certain "junglistic" stands of the 90/93 uk hardcore sound, w/o said sounds getting too drum'n'bassy -- and despite this obsession i know far less about this one area than the average brit of a certain age, and far less about every other area of music than most people at dissensus), an investigation made all the more easy in recent years by the ready availability of sound clips on the internet, an investigation that is really a retreat into my own private fantasy land, and yet what i find (cool records) does serve from time to time as my gifts to others at parties and perhaps satisfies a kind of artistic yearning that is otherwise frustrated -- so yeah i'm a real doozy psychologically


Yeah but see, this "pop mindset" is to me a totally artificial construct. Nobody here is talking about the real pop consumer, the person who consumes through the radio and tv and buys a couple of cds a year . . . .

of course it's possible the real pop consumer spends his time & money on things that he deems more important . . . . perhaps he paints, perhaps he reads voluminously, perhaps he's a sportsman, perhaps he makes his own music, perhaps he's so deeply involved in a love affair that music no longer matters----- or perhaps he's like mike skinner, smoking weed, drinking beer, playing video games, wanking off, and down-loading free music for his i-pod ----- or perhaps he's devoted to his family, coaches his kids, spends his money on their needs rather than on records ----- so who really knows the priorities of this "pop consumer" -- as woebot said from the beginning, he is something of a strawman

i hate to complicate this discussion irredeemably, but k-punk's all-too-brief discussion of laddishness (in his post on scritti politti) is apposite

Woebot
30-03-2005, 08:27 AM
i'm kind of daunted by the depth of perception on display here.

(blissblogger! dazzling! send me your invoice!)

it's going to prove difficult to pick up, but seeing as Backjob has bravely stepped in to the fold I'm going to pick up two of his points:

a) what about music which aspires to be pop?

music which aspires to be Pop, like BEF or Annie is oxymoronic. its a trojan horse, almost by definition not Pop, it is (for want of a better term) Rock. however i don't want to occlude that what i'm questioning/assailing is the reception of pop, the consumer-oriented defintion. in this schema music aspiring to be Pop becomes Pop in spite of its own attempts to become Pop (if you catch my drift)

b) just micropolitical wrangling on the internet

have to fundamentally disagree here. the pop ethos has strangled just about ALL critical writing on music. i'd even argue that The Wire's position (that bastion) has been defined rather timorously by its near total encroachment. "ooh don't mind us, we'll just plough our own little furrow, dig our little tunnel deep under the mountain" rather than flicking two fingers to the by now practically unassailable edifice of smug consensus.

henrymiller
30-03-2005, 02:38 PM
woebot sez:


It's such a seductive idea isn't it, that the micro mirrors the macro? But isn't it a comforting fantasy? Granted, sometimes clever artists capitalise on this, moulding their content so it fits with people's erroneous notion that there is indeed such a flimsy cosmic organisation.

this doesn't make any sense at all to me. no-one ever says x-aspect of social totality "mirrors" y-aspect of social totality, but rather that x-pop single resonates with y-aspect of modern life, ("pop single" meaning rachel stevens OR kano obviously, both are on the 'this week's new releases' stand at hmv, both chart, both are pop). if you don't think music resonates with social existence ("flimsy cosmic organisation" -- hmmm, why "cosmic"?), what do you get out of grime, which is surely all about that kind of resonance. (oh, same for dylan, but he counted his money so i guess he's ruled out.)
sympathise with blissblogger's points but at the same time opting out of consumer culture/opting for more you-friendly consumer choices (ie less market-oriented music) are fairly low-level political choices aren't they? i don't think anyone can exactly take the high ground either way based on their choices of music.

blissblogger
30-03-2005, 03:52 PM
opting out of consumer culture/opting for more you-friendly consumer choices (ie less market-oriented music) are fairly low-level political choices aren't they? i don't think anyone can exactly take the high ground either way based on their choices of music.

yeah i agree, in some ways it's a battle, or to put it less melodramatically, a disagreement between modes-of-consumption and their attached sensibilities

i suppose what's irritating about pop-ism, which is not so much a straw man as such as an extrapolation of certain traits and tendencies towards their ultimate destination, is that side of it which leans towards the celebration of the fake over the real ( that whole line of argument that "fake grime/dancehall/etc" = superior because more poppy than the genuine article; selling out leads to more enjoyable music etc)


and also celebration of non-quest -- the non-questing consumer, and the non-questing producer

wanting it all on a plate made out as a kind of virtue

and the celebration of instantness as ALWAYS superior to more difficult or slower-yielding pleasures

consumer laziness is fine (there's all kinds of music i have a lazy attitude towards, i'm sure if i ever venture to grapple with Extreme Metal, the Wire's new hot zone of subcultural capitalization -- and hey i've still got my subpop prerelease cassette of Earth's first lp, i thought it was 'ambient grunge' though! -- it'll be in a totally dilettante, indolent manner)

when it's turned into a sort of proudly lazy ethos, a virtue, that's when it becomes more irritating

but as someone said upthread, there's a strong element in which these disputes are totally irrelevant to the vast majority of pop punters

mind you, i think the idea of the maundering-along 2 cds a year doesn't give a fig for genre consumer is also possibly a construct -- really there's a myriad of ways of engaging/semi-engaging/being dis-engaged from pop

when i think of people i know who aren't part of the blogging world and how they relate to pop there's a whole span of types, many so singular you could barely call them 'types' at all

i know someone who barely reads the pop media anymore but who's favorite band is the Libertines even though she's pushing forty but six years ago was a fanatical junglist

i know someone who NEVER reads pop media and is totally outside the blogging universe but who somehow mysteriously keeps up ... not w/ ariel pink and kononon no. 1, say... but, well, a few years ago i rang her up and she said "me and Tabs (her four year old), we're into Fiddy and Sean Paul.." this is someone who's quite posh and a 37 year old single mum but who's somehow kept up with street music . i think because she's into dancing and mixes with people a fair bit younger than herself

"normal", "civilian" types will often have the most peculiar record collections, real haphazard accretions of stuff

and the trajectories they follow often are exceedingly erratic (and interesting therefore) c.f. the more selfconscious and "questing" ones we virtusosos-of-consumption (i hope the irony is audible there) pursue

Backjob
31-03-2005, 01:56 AM
Completely agree about 'normal' people's bizarro record collections - there's probably a really strong case to be made that the more into music you get, the more boring and stereotyped your record collection becomes as it either fits into a neat genre specialist slot, or broadens out to cover all bases...

But I was thinking about the whole pop consumer issue last night and another thought occurred to me - there's actually a real freedom from consumer culture in choosing to seek your meaning in pop. So many things in life have been imbued via marketing with a supposed meaning about your identity - we're supposed to express ourselves through our choice of shoes, phones, cars, watches and of course music.

And picking certain types of genre music does make a strong statement about identity. Whereas liking pop makes none at all, because it's the default option. I mean anywhere outside London, saying you're into 'grime' and then having to go into a 5 minute explanation of what that means, signifies "hipster wanker" very strongly; as opposed to saying "well, I really like the new Gwen Stefani album" which is much more likely to be a point of contact with other people.

Having said that, maybe part of the reason there's a popist backlash just now is precisely because saying you are "into pop", on the internet at least, DOES now have strong identity connotations....

dominic
31-03-2005, 02:51 AM
opting out of consumer culture/opting for more you-friendly consumer choices (ie less market-oriented music) are fairly low-level political choices aren't they?

yes -- it's a very low-level political choice

nor is there anything artistic about consuming another person's work (unless you're a dj)

it's more like post-Xian religious devotion

and so here record collecting becomes a "quest" (SR's apt term upthread) to bring the spirits and deities into one's own private shrine, i.e., cabinet full of records

or maybe not

i'm merely trying to make sense of my own position/disposition


And picking certain types of genre music does make a strong statement about identity.

yes -- this is very true even though it's a low-level political choice and not at all artistic

i'd say that my identity is closely bound up with the books on my shelves and the records in my cabinet, i.e., these are the things that i choose to "collect" around myself, they define my personal space ----- and they are also ways for me to connect with people other than through the medium of money & services

now some people might say that to think of one's identity in these terms is "inauthentic" or sadly consumerist, that identity is determined not by consumerist choices but by one's actions, actions in the sphere of politics, actions in the sphere of the arts, actions in the sphere of love

action = doing something with and alongside others or in front of others, such that your character & identity is made manifest to them -- and it is the others who will write your obituary & have the final say on who you are

and writing books & producing records are modes of action and not merely instances of art, b/c by doing so you put yourself out before others, it's how you reveal yourself to the world ------ whereas there is no such revelation of the self to others in collecting records, this is merely consumerist retreat into the private domestic space

and so the argument runs

and i can come up with no good argument to set against this argument, only an empty shrug and "sorry, but i am the way that i am"


I mean anywhere outside London, saying you're into 'grime' and then having to go into a 5 minute explanation of what that means, signifies "hipster wanker" very strongly

yes and no -- there is at least that connotation

if you live in america but are not into hip hop or reggaeton, and you then turn around and seek out grime, it's going to be hard to justify

now i'm not into (nyc) hip hop or reggaeton, but i like some crunk and some grime -- so i need to work on a justification!

dominic
31-03-2005, 03:41 AM
and so here record collecting becomes a "quest" (SR's apt term upthread) to bring the spirits and deities into one's own private shrine, i.e., cabinet full of records

kinda corresponds w/ hegel's notion of the fetishized object as most primitive stage of religion (and so we post-Xians have as a matter of course moved in this direction)

the object has magical properties

in the grooves of the record the spirits move

and in playing the records, we hear and feel the spirits, or we're gripped by voodoo (and if not "spirits" or "voodoo powers," then however you want to refer to it)

and this perhaps also explains our dislike of cds and especially mp3s, b/c they lack the aura of the object

OR perhaps it's more like Hinduism or other religions of India, i.e., the notion of the cabinet of records as shrine for the household god or gods

(I realize that I'm straining for an analogy, a familiar explanation -- so please don't get the idea that I'm the sort of person who keeps his records in pristine condition! or that i'm some kind of boorish vinyl snob -- indeed i have a lot of music on cd! -- again, i'm basically grasping at straws for why this "low-level political choice" is for me so important)

Woebot
31-03-2005, 04:54 AM
sympathise with blissblogger's points but at the same time opting out of consumer culture/opting for more you-friendly consumer choices (ie less market-oriented music) are fairly low-level political choices aren't they?

Arguably not when position 1 means never actually buying any music, just downloading it. I presumably ought to get a grander drum to beat, like er, I dunno (empty skull echoes). Better bone up on my data!


i don't think anyone can exactly take the high ground either way based on their choices of music.

This must be the default Pop reaction, to retort along the lines of "At the end of the day it doesn't matter" or "You're ruining my fun you prig" I suppose that's a fair enough reaction, "Anti-Pop" does seem an incredibly petty thing for one to take a microposition on, just looking for meaning in my wretched, shallow, music-obsessed existence I guess ;)

henrymiller
31-03-2005, 12:43 PM
some people like pop music more than the subcultural stuff it's biting because the very fact that something that a few months ago was a local or underground thing is now on popworld is jarring, exciting, and sometimes produces something startling. i don't know what woebot thinks of schaffel or richard x, but wasn't 'some girls' kind of an event in a way that another kompakt 12" is not? likewise, i'm predicting a new 'grime direction' for blazin squad (which, granted, is much more likely to be shit than 'some girls', which owned the summer), which, even if it *is* shit, will also be a kind of rich and stange thing to live through. like seeing dizzee rascal on TMF (free-to-view crapola digital music channel). it's a kind of dissonance.

k-punk
01-04-2005, 11:29 AM
I've actually been thinking about this kind of thing a great deal recently too... prompted by comparing the early with the late Scritti...

I mean, I would say that I am 'aesthetically' but not ideologically a Popist... in that, I like and privilege Pop, by almost any defintion (check my end of the year round-up!). (It's rock and avant-tedium I have aversions to... rock will ALWAYS sound tired and old to me, indie is the worst music ever to exist on the planet, and who needs all that Wire-beloved noodling?)

But it is popists' account and legitimation of their consumption that I reject, not so much what they consume. The depressing notion that 'if someone likes it, it must be good', the idea that there can be no other criteria other than pleasure, and that, fundamentally, Pop is ABOUT pleasure: this is what I find questionable.

Was thinking about this in relation to Cupid and Psyche 85, which must be one of the most accomplished Pop LPs ever - don't try it kids, it's like audio crack. (1985, as I recall, was just prior to the ridiculous NME positing of guitar crap as 'perfect Pop'.) In many ways, C and P 85 was the culmination of New Pop and the legitimation of Popism: the triumphant occupation of the centre ground by the (formerly) marginal.

What's always puzzled me about C and P is, where are the supposed 'deconstructive' elements... Isn't this 'just' pop music? I mean, yeh, as Simon says, it's all about surfaces etc, there is no soul - but (given that the whole soul thing is a superstition) it's not as if there is LESS soul in Aretha Franklin.

Point is, even though few albums can deliver as much pleasure as C and P, I would say that it lacks something that was definitely there in the early stuff... but it's not that the early stuff was straightforwardly avant-garde either: it wasn't just marginal, it delivered enjoyment (jouissance) NOT pleasure....

Pleasure is, literally, the repetition of previous satisfactions. But I think that it is only for Popists that Pop has to be like that.. Pop can still be modernist, challenging, uneasy, why not?

Tim F
01-04-2005, 03:22 PM
I started to write a long post tackling some of what i consider to be the more awesomely off-kilter sentiments expressed in this thread, but I'm not really sure where to start. The big stuff first I guess:

"have to fundamentally disagree here. the pop ethos has strangled just about ALL critical writing on music. i'd even argue that The Wire's position (that bastion) has been defined rather timorously by its near total encroachment. "ooh don't mind us, we'll just plough our own little furrow, dig our little tunnel deep under the mountain" rather than flicking two fingers to the by now practically unassailable edifice of smug consensus."

Matt please elaborate because I just don't know what on earth you're talking about (except the bit about The Wire ploughing their furrow). Do you really think that critical writing on music has been "strangled"? I dunno, i can't help but take this argument slightly personally, not because i think at all that it's aimed at me in the slightest but because it indicts me anyway. As a writer, and as a reader. Here I thought I'd read and engaged in an innumerable number of interesting, insightful debates on music in various forms (in magazines, on blogs, on message boards, in pubs and bars) where apparently it was all just smug neanderthal bleating of "this is catchy and in the charts --> IT IS GREAT! That is not --> IT SUCKS!"

Maybe I can't be objective in this discussion because I do think of myself as a popist, but then I've never held the strawman position being attributed to popists, and to my knowledge none of the other self-identifying popists I associate with do either.

Tim F
01-04-2005, 03:24 PM
"Maybe I can't be objective in this discussion because I do think of myself as a popist, but then I've never held the strawman position being attributed to popists, and to my knowledge none of the other self-identifying popists I associate with do either."

Or have I/we been doing this after all the whole time? If all attempts to think about pop music ultimately boil down to that then please liberate me from my ignorance now...

k-punk
01-04-2005, 08:43 PM
Tim, are you really any more of a Popist than me, really?

Does liking and privileging Pop music and being actively hostile to rockism make you a Popist? If so, count me in...

I took it that Matt meant that it killed all critical discourse about pop in mass media*, but surely we must celebrate that. Fanzines and the old music press were massively important, but what is happening now on the web is quite unprecedented: in terms of the interaction between serious intellectual work and popular culture, possibilities of immediate and global circulation and distribution etc etc. Let's stop looking in the rearview mirror.


*There's of course a proliferation of REVIEWING in mass media; you can't pick up a broadsheet without some witless pontificating about pop (or rather rock, most such journos having rockist defaults).

In any case, I would question the idea that we are in a time when Pop values reign... we are in a time of Celebreality.... in other words, of anti-sublimation, a double, contradictory desire to both have your stars as idealized objects AND see them with cold sores on their lips...

dominic
02-04-2005, 02:47 AM
The Lad magazine addresses this 'authentic id' with the leering superegoic injunction to enjoy. 'Go on, admit it, you don't want to be bothered to cook, all you want is a fishfinger sandwich... Go on, admit it, you don't want to be bothered to talk to a woman, have a wank instead...' The fact that this reduction is possible means that Lads implicitly accept the Lacanian notion that phallic jouissance involves masturbation with a 'real' partner. It also indicates that Laddishness is more defined by a propensity towards depressive indolence than it is by any lasciviousness. What Laddism attempts is a short-circuiting of desire (yes, I know that the 'inhuman partner' of desire cannot be attained, just give me pictures of girls next door instead).

i have a bad habit of dividing things into arbitrary classes, but let me do so again on the basis of my understanding of k-punk's piece on scritti politti -- and i'll try to keep it brief

(1a) the "mike skinner" lad, i.e., the lad who reads lad magazines and feels no guilt -- his pleasures are cheap

(1b) the lad whose "quest" for records is in many respects (1bi) fantasy/idealization of the past, e.g., the rave phenomenon, or (1bii) fantasy/idealization of that which he cannot join, e.g., the grime massive -- and who suffers guilt symptoms precisely b/c of his questing disposition, i.e., knows that his quest is a complicated distraction, disguised indolence -- and so he has no enjoyment

(2) the adult who is fully accommodated to "reality," has a conventional job, kids, marriage, not much time for what he calls frivolous things

(3) the heroic sublimators, who create new modes of enjoyment -- the artists & musicians doing the actual work, and perhaps certain critics, sympathizers and tastemakers


Pleasure is, literally, the repetition of previous satisfactions. But I think that it is only for Popists that Pop has to be like that.. Pop can still be modernist, challenging, uneasy, why not?

if the matter is put this way, then the figure (1bi) whose quest is concerned with musics and scenes belonging to the past is more akin to the figure (1a) indolent popist than the figure (ibii) whose quest is oriented more toward the new & innovative & strange & avant ------ w/ the proviso that figure (1bi) shares with the figure (3) sublimating popist an appreciation of periods of peak enjoyment, i.e., he knows that it is the peaks that matter

Tim F
02-04-2005, 06:24 AM
'Tim, are you really any more of a Popist than me, really?

Does liking and privileging Pop music and being actively hostile to rockism make you a Popist? If so, count me in..."

Well, as Simon and Matt seem to be arguing that a return to guarded-rockism is necessary in order to defeat the evils of Popism, I suspect that a combination of liking and writing/thinking about pop music and being anti-rockist makes one pretty popist for the purposes of the debate.

I tend to define popism as privileging the experience of music's <i>effects</i> rather than (as per rockism) the search for correct signification (auteurism, authenticity etc). Simon seems to argue that popists enforce a state of critical privation (eg. "is this catchy?" being the only correct critical question to ask of a crunk song). I agree that popism encourages a suspension of the usual application of critical concepts, but it is not a permanent stricture so much as a strategic delay. I don't believe that any critical concept (let alone ones as intrinsically dubious as auterism) is watertight enough to be enforced a priori; they're valuable insofar as they can be applied when attempting to explain the effect of a particular piece of music after the fact. This is why the entire structure of the M.I.A. debate kinda put me off a bit: the increasingly polarised nature of the argument made it a choice between localist purism and cosmopolitan dilettantism, as if either of these concepts can be designated as "good" or "bad" in relation to all music ever (what an amazingly limiting way to approach music, whichever side of the argument you fall on). On the other hand, the question of whether M.I.A.'s music makes either concept <i>appear</i> positive or negative in the light of her music is a thoroughly valid object of discourse.


What concerns me about this thread and many of the recent meta-narratives and debates put forward of late is how increasingly there's an insistence that people take a universalist "position", that they ascribe to a set of rules governing which music they like and how they seek to articulate their enjoyment.

And I'm sorry Mark, but using binaries like "pleasure/jouissance" kinda adds to the problem in my view: Barthesian or Adornian attempts to distinguish between "real" art and repetitive commodity art may have been more tenable several decades ago but postmodernity/late capitalism (as opposed to postmodernism) pretty much obliterates the possibility of making this distinction - all music, be it Britney or D.E.E. or Ariel Pink, is vulnerable to the charge of "merely" offering pleasure. I'm personally of the opinion that jouissance is achieved by the investment of the listener's capacities (be it for critique or for aesthetic enjoyment, or indeed for <i>physical</i> enjoyment) in a given piece of music - but this is a relational phenomenon and not something that can be arbitarily assigned to particular pieces of music. In fact I'd go so far as to say that attempting to locate jouissance definitively within a musical object is the height of commodity fetishism! (hence the mindnumbing PR for "jouissant" music one gets on release sheets from Boomkat or Other Music - "this album will change your entire conception of avant garde music/will change your life/will revolutionise yr puny brain etc etc etc.").

This of course means that insisting that chartpop has some sort of inherent superiority is also a pretty stupid thing to do, but then this is something that only Popist Strawmen do. Anti-Popists need to separate out in their heads the following forms of enjoyment: 1) enjoyment of music that happens to be in the charts; and 2) enjoyment of the charts as a spectacle. One can enjoy both these things without it collapsing it into the rather puerile and inflexible position of enjoying all music in the charts for the simple reason that it is in the charts. Sometimes the charts are an enjoyable spectacle because the music in them can be rather awful.

As for the quality of print music journalism, this strikes me as having been fairly stable (for good or for ill) since the mid-nineties, so I'm not sure that the rise of popism has affected it greatly. The preponderance of really undistinguished or flat-out excrutiating writers remains constant whether they're talking about Manic Street Preachers or Girls Aloud.

Tim F
02-04-2005, 06:54 AM
"What concerns me about this thread and many of the recent meta-narratives and debates put forward of late is how increasingly there's an insistence that people take a universalist "position", that they ascribe to a set of rules governing which music they like and how they seek to articulate their enjoyment."

I was going to add that Simon's take on popists as people who seek to defend their right to enjoyment at all costs strikes me as a bit cynical and unfair - the implication is that when an anti-popist decides not to like something they're moved by a distaste that is more ethically or aesthetically noble, whereas popists are merely obeying the capitalist imperative-to-enjoy and then desperately throwing up any justification that will prevent them from being confronted by their automaton-like status. Theoretically this fails for me because it misreads the meaning of the capitalist imperative-to-enjoy (which is more about self-improvement than mindless consumption; as a concept applied to music it is more suited to explain why people like free-folk than M.I.A.). Empirically it fails for me because both sides in the M.I.A. debate changed their argument every time it suited them and neither side came across as particularly consistent. Logically it fails for me because the connection between M.I.A. fans who disagreed with Simon and "Popists" as a community is not made out - celebrating terrorist chic or saying "image doesn't matter, it's all about the music" are just as easily done from a rockist perspective as from a popist perspective. Indeed, I've always felt that M.I.A. would be very attractive to rockists as a credible, dare I say "indie" alternative to the vast swathe of female-fronted booty-music more openly nurtured by the corporate dollar (a lot of which I adore). The M.I.A. fans who disagreed with Simon, Matt, Stelfox etc came from all over the popist/rockist perspective, which is <i>precisely</i> why their arguments in favour of M.I.A. can seem so contradictory.

But in many ways I far prefer this to some sort of clean allocation of one aesthetic/ethical position to each side of the debate. The sheer variety of explanations for liking/hating M.I.A. have been kinda fascinating, and made the debate worthwhile even when it became painful to read.

michael
02-04-2005, 08:21 AM
But in many ways I far prefer this to some sort of clean allocation of one aesthetic/ethical position to each side of the debate. The sheer variety of explanations for liking/hating M.I.A. have been kinda fascinating, and made the debate worthwhile even when it became painful to read.

Thanks for a great read Tim. You've basically articulated everything that's been frustrating me about reading dissensus over the past few weeks. I've been trying to reply to Simon R's stuff about the MIA thread almost daily since he wrote it, but I kept giving up.

If this weird dichotomy of rockists and popists describe music listeners and consumers as well as critics, then in my limited experience its the rockists who are liable to consume more than popists anyway. The Radiohead completists (get everything by this side project, get this thing Johnny said was good in Q) will always be out buying more than someone who buys that great Beyonce single they heard on the radio, or that copy of Now That's What I Call Music vol 666.

k-punk
02-04-2005, 12:42 PM
'I don't believe that any critical concept (let alone ones as intrinsically dubious as auterism) is watertight enough to be enforced a priori; they're valuable insofar as they can be applied when attempting to explain the effect of a particular piece of music after the fact.

Isn't this a form of mystifying aestheticism though that is actually very akin to rockism? 'It can't be explained, the music comes first'... it's just that the mystification has shifted from the producer to the consumer... instead of the producer not having to explain him/ herself, it's the consumer... 'No one can tell me what to enjoy.... If I enjoy it, you can't argue...'



What concerns me about this thread and many of the recent meta-narratives and debates put forward of late is how increasingly there's an insistence that people take a universalist "position", that they ascribe to a set of rules governing which music they like and how they seek to articulate their enjoyment.

Again, a repetition of the same mystification... why is the listener's 'enjoyment' so sacrosanct, so inexplicable?


And I'm sorry Mark, but using binaries like "pleasure/jouissance" kinda adds to the problem in my view: Barthesian or Adornian attempts to distinguish between "real" art and repetitive commodity art may have been more tenable several decades ago but postmodernity/late capitalism (as opposed to postmodernism) pretty much obliterates the possibility of making this distinction - all music, be it Britney or D.E.E. or Ariel Pink, is vulnerable to the charge of "merely" offering pleasure. I'm personally of the opinion that jouissance is achieved by the investment of the listener's capacities (be it for critique or for aesthetic enjoyment, or indeed for <i>physical</i> enjoyment) in a given piece of music - but this is a relational phenomenon and not something that can be arbitarily assigned to particular pieces of music. In fact I'd go so far as to say that attempting to locate jouissance definitively within a musical object is the height of commodity fetishism! (hence the mindnumbing PR for "jouissant" music one gets on release sheets from Boomkat or Other Music - "this album will change your entire conception of avant garde music/will change your life/will revolutionise yr puny brain etc etc etc.").

My reference for the pleasure/ jouissance opposition is Lacan (and therefore Freud, ultimately).

I'm really not sure about how far you can push this kind of relational relativism, especially when the emphasis seems to be on the relativism, not on the relation. It's all to redolent of the depressing postmodern cult studs orthodoxy that insists there is nothing in Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky apart from what the reader puts there. Whilst appearing to be 'defending' consumers/ readers against 'oppressive canonization', it is in fact a joyless program of desublimation which destroys the object that is enjoyed. What are you having the 'relationship' with? Why is enjoyment fetishism better than commodity fetishism? The 'human right' to consume without justifying yourself is surely the very essence of current capital's consumerist ideology. Commodity fetishism would be a problem for it; you might stop consuming if you genuinely fetishise commodities. Better to fetishize the 'having of enjoyment' itself, which then assumes a quasi-sacralized and inviolate status.

To get concrete: the early Scritti, which is 'difficult' but enjoyable itself raises any number of questions about its own commodity status, about what enjoyment means etc. The 'Pop(ist') Scritti suspend all those questions.


This of course means that insisting that chartpop has some sort of inherent superiority is also a pretty stupid thing to do, but then this is something that only Popist Strawmen do. Anti-Popists need to separate out in their heads the following forms of enjoyment: 1) enjoyment of music that happens to be in the charts; and 2) enjoyment of the charts as a spectacle. One can enjoy both these things without it collapsing it into the rather puerile and inflexible position of enjoying all music in the charts for the simple reason that it is in the charts. Sometimes the charts are an enjoyable spectacle because the music in them can be rather awful.

I think the strawman is this debate is the Popist's idea that any anti-popism is directed at a strawman. :-) Popism is uncritical consumerism; if you like it, it must be good. Now if the popist position is NOT that, if that is a 'straw man' version of some ineffably complex and sophisticated position, can someone explain how?

Also, Popists must distinguish between their own enjoyment of Pop (which will involve employing of some criteria) and their ideological mystification of that enjoyment. The point is, no-one is a Popist - Popism is an ideology of consumption reactively defined by an opposition to rockism. No one really consumes like that.


As for the quality of print music journalism, this strikes me as having been fairly stable (for good or for ill) since the mid-nineties, so I'm not sure that the rise of popism has affected it greatly. The preponderance of really undistinguished or flat-out excrutiating writers remains constant whether they're talking about Manic Street Preachers or Girls Aloud.

Well, we're agreed there at least. :-)

Diggedy Derek
02-04-2005, 01:15 PM
Again, a repetition of the same mystification... why is the listener's 'enjoyment' so sacrosanct, so inexplicable?


Fair point, yes. I think I can describe most of my forms of musical enjoyment. Therefore they must all have some sort of content.

dominic
02-04-2005, 08:26 PM
To get concrete: the early Scritti, which is 'difficult' but enjoyable itself raises any number of questions about its own commodity status, about what enjoyment means etc. The 'Pop(ist') Scritti suspend all those questions.

this notion of sublime pop "raising questions about its own commodity status, about what enjoyment means," and so forth, may work for 79-82 post-punk/art-pop movement ------- but it seems unable to explain the greatness or sublimity of other moments in pop history

again, i want a definition that works in the first instance for *both* the 79/82 moment and the 90/93 rave moment, and which might then be applied to other moments

that is, the 79/82 moment and the 90/93 moments are so opposed in many ways, the one being artist-centered, the other scene-centered, the one informed by theory, the other (seemingly) anti intellectual, and so forth -------- and yet as many of us here would rate highly the music from both these scenes/moments, there must be common traits that override these differences

also, to avoid misunderstanding, i don't think the 1993 darkside sound represents the peak of rave enjoyment ----- if it did, then you might easily make an argument that darkside called into question what enjoyment means, etc ------ what i have in mind is the endless riches of 91/92

dominic
02-04-2005, 08:45 PM
i suppose i've just gone and re-introduced the pop-1/pop-2/pop-3 confusion into the argument -- sorry!

and to again clarify by what i mean by rave -- i don't think that constantly increasing bpm's or chipmunk voices or mentasm stabs etc etc capture the greatness of the scene/moment/sound -- so again i'm skeptical of the "calling into question enjoyment" explanation of the rave phenomenon

and by the "rave" moment i have in mind the balearic strands as well, the soft and slow too -- the total rave phenomenon

or to just give examples of great rave singles: alison limerick "where love lives," altern-8 "infiltrate," genaside ii "narramine," psychotropic "hypnosis" -------- i could go on (and others could take it much further)

dominic
02-04-2005, 08:59 PM
or perhaps the "calling into question enjoyment" thesis works for pop-1, but not necessarily for pop-2 or pop-3?

btw does anyone else find the pop-1, pop-2, pop-3 scheme helpful? or am i the only one?

Tim F
03-04-2005, 11:36 AM
""Isn't this a form of mystifying aestheticism though that is actually very akin to rockism? 'It can't be explained, the music comes first'... it's just that the mystification has shifted from the producer to the consumer... instead of the producer not having to explain him/ herself, it's the consumer... 'No one can tell me what to enjoy.... If I enjoy it, you can't argue...'"

Mark I'm probably not explaining myself very well but this is definitely *not* my argument. I don't at all want to mystify aestheticism and if anything what i've been trying to think about a lot over the last year is a sort of new formalism - ie. trying to break down exactly what is happening when we experience a piece of music from a phenomenological perspective (as opposed to a musicological perspective). This is probably the thing that fascinates me most in music criticism, and it's why most of my writing takes the form of tiresomely repetitive "close readings" of my own experience of any given piece of music.

It is important that people be able to argue over the relative worth of music and I don't advocate cordoning off people's enjoyment as being beyond criticism. What concerns me is when we import incredibly ambiguous concepts like dilettantism or auteurism or cosmopolitanism and just apply them as qualitative terms to a given piece of music, as if there was some sort of top-down relationship that ran from the concept to the musical artifact (in other words the use of Platonic forms). The M.I.A. debate was hinged on this idea of authentic localised cultural expression versus cosmopolitan pick'n'mix dilettantism, as if once we've decided which one of these options is right and which one is wrong we can then pass judgment on all the music falling into these camps upon that basis. And I assume it's the fact that rockism validates the subordination of musical <i>reception</i> (not musical <i>enjoyment</i>, which is not something I particularly want to defend except insofar as it forms a category of musical reception generally) to the application of certain concepts which is behind Simon's partial defence of it as a useful critical ideology and methodology.

At the risk of sounding deeply pretentious, I realised a while back that my own preferred model is handily explained by Deleuze when he talks about art, which means you'll probably want to disagree Mark. I'll explain what I mean, but forgive me if all of this comes off as deeply familiar bleating:

Deleuze writes, “What is an essence as revealed in the work of art? It is a difference, the absolute and ultimate Difference. Difference is what constitutes being, what makes us conceive being.” The function of sensuous signs in art is to bring us face to face with the mass of differentiated intensities, whose aggregation and conglomeration allow us to conceive of stable concepts and meanings. When I say art brings us "face to face" with this stuff, I mean that it forces us to recognise the inescapably differential nature of these affects, rather than proceed straight to the concepts which we have lazily attached to them, and which we imagine to be standing behind them in a signifying relationship. For Deleuze it would be a mistake to assume that art exists to be "interpreted", its signs read in order to discover some message or meaning they contain. This reduces art to a reflection of conceptual generalities - insert "auteurism" or "dilettantism" here. Instead, the function of art is to intensify our experience of difference – or, to put it another way, our awareness of the endless potential for differentiated experience.

I don't think that focusing on difference necessitates returning to mysticism (as per, you may disagree). For myself it means attempting to proceed from the experience/reception of music to some sort of explanatory model which <i>rises out of</i> that reception and takes into account its differential nature. I guess you could vaguely compare it to Foucault's brand of empiricism, and indeed I think someone could write a half-decent paper comparing and contrasting Foucault's take on how power functions and the relationship between a piece of music and a person listening to it (which, perhaps in stark contrast to "pleasure-first" popism, I often conceive as a power relationship). This means that attempting to explain and justify one's enjoyment or non-enjoyment of a given piece of music becomes a more, not less intricate and involved process, because you can't use rockist or otherwise concepts as some sort of deus ex machina to explain what's going on. I wouldn't deny that you can construct a relationship between eg. M.I.A.'s music and trans-cultural cosmopolitan dilettantism, but I think the refusal to recognise that the differential nature of M.I.A.'s music (of <i>any</i> music) gives rise to a variety of often contradictory conceptual explanations is rockism par excellence.

"Again, a repetition of the same mystification... why is the listener's 'enjoyment' so sacrosanct, so inexplicable?"

I hope I've already explained that this is not my position, but to reiterate, it's not that I believe that enjoyment is sacrosanct or inexplicable, merely that I don't believe it dutifully accords with pre-established rules. I mean, rockists approach musical interpretation like it's the Common Law system or something, and every example of musical enjoyment or non-enjoyment merely gives them another chance to expound or elaborate upon a set of laws that have been handed down since time immemorial (the whole concept of precedence being kinda key here). Whereas I think the <I>truth</I> of the matter is much more parliamentarian: music listeners, critics or otherwise, are basically introducing laws of interpretation that respond to and suit what is happening around them (ie. the music they’re being exposed to and enjoying, or not enjoying), and then merely pretending that they’re consistently standing up for some coherent set of “values”.

“I'm really not sure about how far you can push this kind of relational relativism, especially when the emphasis seems to be on the relativism, not on the relation.”

See, I’d see the relation as being my exact point of emphasis: I think the rockist approach is flawed insofar as it ignores

“It's all to redolent of the depressing postmodern cult studs orthodoxy that insists there is nothing in Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky apart from what the reader puts there. Whilst appearing to be 'defending' consumers/ readers against 'oppressive canonization', it is in fact a joyless program of desublimation which destroys the object that is enjoyed. What are you having the 'relationship' with? Why is enjoyment fetishism better than commodity fetishism?”

I’d strongly differentiate what I’m advocating from this sort of thing Mark; Obviously the greatness of Shakespeare or Dostoevsky or whoever resides within the work itself, but I refuse to have that greatness defined or delimited by some authoritarian insistence that the artwork signifies only certain things. The greatness of Shakespeare and Dostoevsky is demonstrated, not undermined by the sheer variety of the critique that has been performed upon it. I don’t think canonization is bad because it constructs a hierarchy of works so much as because it ossifies and restricts interpretation and critical reception.
I love what Bakhtin got out of Dostoevsky even if I’m not sure I entirely agree with it; I’d wager he felt a great deal of jouissance while reading Dostoevsky’s work! And yet what Bakhtin does to Dostoevsky is supremely anti-canonical.

Tim F
03-04-2005, 11:46 AM
The following tidbit got lost somehow:

“I'm really not sure about how far you can push this kind of relational relativism, especially when the emphasis seems to be on the relativism, not on the relation.”

See, I’d see the relation as being my exact point of emphasis: I think the rockist approach is flawed insofar as it ignores the relation between the listener and the music, and thus rarely even attempts to explain it. Which means it does pretty much the exact same thing which you accuse popism of doing: allowing individual enjoyment to escape criticism (nothing shows this better than the rockist conception of "mindless sheep listening to top 40 pop music" - rockism is so totally uninterested in the concept of individual reception/enjoyment that when it is confronted with examples of the latter that disobey its precepts, it convinces itself that there <i>is</i> no relationship! There is no critical mind at all which is engaging with the music!

Simon seems to say something similar when he suggests that M.I.A. fans are just flinging out justifications for their enjoyment which are not actually grounded in the enjoyment itself - their enjoyment is by implication <i>meaningless</i>. And something which is <i>meaningless</i> strikes me as also being rather <i>mystical</i>.

steve-k
03-04-2005, 04:35 PM
This is a little off track from the 'is popism a danger concept'(I like Tim's thoughts on this) but I'd like to hope that all sides gained something from the MIA wars. I hope Simon realizes that the harsh reaction to his piece from many (o.k., at least me) was because it read as more than just dislike for an album. Rather than simply suggesting as he later did, that M.I.A. was simply less successful than the Slits (or even David Bowie on ocassion) in adapting elements from a local scene or genre, Simon initially seemed to be suggesting that outsiders from 'nowhere' (especially a terrorist-chic invoking Sri Lankan art school student) should just blog, as the purity of a genre scene, grime, needed to be protected. That was my impression and I and others might have misinterpreted. I don't understand why Simon seems to like LCD Soundsystems's borrowing from various genres more than M.I.A.'s. Is it Murphy's musical songwriting skills or his lack of 'revolution' invoking verbiage, or both or neither (Doesn't he come from nowhere even more than M.I.A.)? I'm not sure how it fits in the 'pop' discussion, but I'm trying to understand why "Sandinista" and M.I.A. rebel-chic lyrics seem to enrage Woebot and Simon more than say sexist or homophobic ones (maybe it's just cause the Clash and MIA are embraced by middle-class liberals), and I don't understand Simon's current views on popism and MIA in the context of his praising various rock and hiphop videos on his blog over the years, and his pro-Ludacris/anti-Prefuse 73 take. I guess one can like some pop without being a popist, but I wish someone could explain that to me. Also, I'm curious for more details from Woebot on how popism has strangled music criticism.

owen
04-04-2005, 03:37 PM
I'm curious for more details from Woebot on how popism has strangled music criticism.
me too! i found that a bit baffling to say the least.

egg
05-04-2005, 02:16 AM
right. have i gone mental or does this basically boil down to:

- some people react to music without analysing its cultural context

- some people insist on taking cultural context into account

- most people decide what they like without adhering consistently to one or the other

- some historian/journalists believe that inconsistency is bad because it lacks intellectual rigour

- or they detect inconsistencies in themselves and hence feel unrigorous = fail exams = let everybody down = parental disappointment



proportionally speaking i should imagine that as much pop music is 'good' as non-pop music

henrymiller
05-04-2005, 09:26 AM
quotes from Woebot:


I've been quite honest about this since day one. When I discovered that by Pop music people meant "music for imaginary rather than real communities" I was depressed for about a month.

This is quite liberating: one should only listen to music from real communities, not imaginary ones. It doesn't matter which community you're from, and how imaginary it is: as long as the originators live in a real one.


That people could consume Grime as "Pop", that they could do the pick'n'mix shake and vac ting and "consume" something oblivious to its source, well for me it just didn't bear thinking about. That all music could be subjected to the whim of the consumer like this, that there were people out there for whom all music was essentially reducible to a quotient of it's entertainment value (a mark out of ten, an "A" minus, a four star rating in their iPod ratings menu)...... sad innit. Each song becomes a unit, an equal unit, stripped of anything approaching life. How murderously void.

There is no contradiction between listening to something as pop and thinking about its source. Not all pop comes from the same source! When it hits the chance, it becomes pop, though. When Dizzee Rascal makes a music video, he enters the pop arena, but he also brings his 'source' with him. But all you're doing is changing what is consumed: you want to consume things with authentic sources. This argument is v. Leavis innit?


Modernism wasn't ahistorical. Andy Warhol, Le Corbusier and Jung were ruptures but they weren't abandoning history. Warhol with his tondos, Le Corbusier's fanatical love of ancient Greek Architecture, Jung steeped in Alchemaiacal lore, none of them simply wrote clean of the past. Furthermore it's a corny adage, but without embracing their past they couldn't have been free. To turn this on the mechanics of Pop appreciation: meaning is always dwindling in Pop, it's never accreating in the way it does in the underground rhizomes.

I don't know what this even means (meaning is 'dwindling'? -- you have to expand on what this means, or could mean), but it takes cojones to enlist Warhol as a paragon of historicism and anti-popness. I guess he 'real community' was New York boho, but why should that interest me more than the 'imagined community' of X-pop act? Surely the 'real community' of ATL is now part of the 'imaginary community' of pop '05?

k-punk
05-04-2005, 12:19 PM
Tim

Thanks for a wonderfully detailed and typically elegant response... but I think you have simply substantiated my initial conjecture, that you are NOT a Popist.... :p

That's partly because, as I said above, NO-ONE is a popist... in precisely the same sense that NO-ONE can meet all the demands of the super-ego. What is Popism, in fact, but the Pop music reception theory that restates the superegoic compulsion to enjoy... But that injunction to enjoy is actually incredibly sterile and austere... because it means ONLY 'enjoy', with enjoyment defined solely in vague, sensual terms ... ONLY enjoy means: don't think, too... which also means: you are not allowed to enjoy thinking....

Like all populist creeds, Popism's egalitarian pretensions boil down to a depressing, resentful (in the Nietzschean sense) levelling: something like the Geezaesthetics manifesto (the most concise manifesto of contemporary Popism) is a fascinating document, in that it is basically a restatement of bourgeois values (no-one is above anyone else, the 'pub conversation' as the model for all discourse). The social reality of this is usually middle class managerialists convincing themselves that getting drunk and listening to Kylie is the best you can expect from life (and anyone who talks about something like 'intensity' is spoiling their enjoyment... and, worst of all, most unforgivable of all, being elitist...)

But Popism is also an example of the syndrome that enjoyment is the enjoyment of the other. Popists don't straightforwardly enjoy Pop, they enjoy through a simulation of what they take to be another's enjyoment... Popist enjoyment is predicated on the notion that there are 'unsophisticated' people (the figure being imagined here is usually a teenage girl) who, unlike them (or 'us') straightforwardly enjoy.

The thing to take from Popism is its breaking down of the rockist focus on the records or the perfomance alone: quite clearly, the enjoyment of Pop encompasses photographs, fashion, interviews.... Rockists insist that Pop is essentially music... But I would argue that Pop is in no sense 'music'... The whole concept of 'music' is a reterritorialization of sonic intensities; music is what can be notated .... but you simply cannot notate Pop, because it is all about timbre.... (That's why your formalism, Tim, is of a quite different order to the formalism of classical musical criticism...)

But conceiving of Pop as 'entertainment' (as Popism insists) is no better than thinking of it as 'music'. One issue is, to quote the Bryan Ferry biography I'm reading atm: is Pop entertainment or culture? I want to maintain that it is culture ... but culture is about POPULATIONS... which is something we learned from dance music surely, and which allows us to retrospectively think all Pop in those terms, rather than in terms of audiences/ spectators/ consumers.... (Popism's superegoic imperatives are nowhere clearer than when it advocates more consumer efforts in downtimes... great Pop is out there, if only you make MORE EFFORT to find it... this image of Popists alone in their cars/ living rooms as the preferred mode of Pop consumption is also highly depressing of course...)

Another reason that you are not a Popist, Tim, is that your writing quite clearly makes no attempt to disavow the enjoyment of analysis.... Analysis of Pop does not destroy it; on the contrary, as Kodwo says, it intensifiies it... Both rockists (producer Romantics) and popists (consumer Romantics) are suspicious to the point of total hostility of analysis....

Mika
06-04-2005, 01:43 PM
Hm - Poptism also seems supremely individualized though; not just about pleasure, but about MY pleasure, above and beyond any notion of 'our' or 'their' pleasure. This is something fairly consistent throughout Tim's commentary; the producer literally disappears under a Deleuzian concept of 'art' or metaphysical concept of power via Foucault. This happens a bit in Skykicking too - with the ontological emphasis on sonic-analysis, experience, emotion and so on.

Like the individualizing informational networks from which the poptimistic position has been constructed and articulated, I think Simon is right on this thread to associate the culture of downloading (somewhat indirectly) with the controversy over M.I.A. - this places her in a somewhat stranger context than Madonna, I think. Obviously, peer-to-peer is by definition an individualizing mode of information exchange, but socially it's also described as 'stealing' - this sets off questions about theft, and stealing identities.

Possibly, another key category here is citizenship - the US position being that to consume is patriotic, a democratic necessity (whereas a more European mode would rely equally on forms of cultural citizenship, say). What's interesting about P2P, is that the user's defined outside citizenship since it's illegal, yet paradoxically is able to articulate the ultimate mode of hyperconsumption.

Being outside the nation-state resonates on many levels throughout the 'shanty-house' theory, but also surrounding the practice of file-trading. M.I.A. taps into this through her individuated transnationality; she remains outside community ('missing-in-action') unlike the resistant multitudes of the favela, for instance. Social isolation through theft is certainly a theme - piracy funds terrorism.

blissblogger
06-04-2005, 07:02 PM
been out of town on a story and missed the fascinating turn in this debate, some very elegant arguing going on here

chipping in belatedly


Tim F:
>What concerns me about this thread and many of the recent meta-narratives and debates put forward of >late is how increasingly there's an insistence that people take a universalist "position", that they ascribe >to a set of rules governing which music they like and how they seek to articulate their enjoyment.

and

>The M.I.A. debate was hinged on this idea of authentic localised cultural expression versus cosmopolitan >pick'n'mix dilettantism, as if once we've decided which one of these options is right and which one is >wrong we can then pass judgment on all the music falling into these camps upon that basis.


bunch of things to say here, one is related to a common tendency in many disagree-ers to have this slightly comical view of me with this sort of chart on my wall, or diagram, or tablet of rules or something, and assigning things into their categories before even listening to them.

actually it happens much more like this, cds and records come through in a steady flow, promos, things i've bought, burns from friends, music hits my ear via the mass media, and i listen to as much of it as i can and a proportion of it excites/stimulates/grabs the ear.

after you've been doing this for a while though, you notice certain patterns in your taste/responses, ... and if you're a fairly reflective person you might start to speculate on what underlies these consistent responses, (and that might be an introspective reflection: who am i, why am I , what are the conditions that made me with these audio-erogenous zones and deaf-spots, etc, or it might be outwardly focused on the source of the music, context, the intent behind it, how its consumed by its core following etc

and if you're even more reflective than that you might feel driven to extrapolate from the observed patterns-in-taste and the speculations thereof pertaining as to why and venture to construct some kind of meta-theory of how music works, its relation to society etc etc

MIA is a test-case artist because reading about her in advance i had every reason to believe i'd be incredibly blood-boilingly excited. and i wasn't, i could see some of what was good about the music, but there were elements that were offputting and overall just a deficiency

so the interest became to look at the hype and the shortfall

and here we come to the nub of it, and why i still do not honestly understand the outraged response to that piece:

here is a record that is SLATHERED, CAKED, with signifiers of authenticity -- overt allusions , sonic/lyrical/design etc, to street music, the subaltern, ghetto communities, guerrilla struggle, and then surrounded by a critical discourse that quite breezily took it as genuine street-level world music (something like that -- i forget the specific SFJ quote that pretty much set the tone for all later celebration of the artist)

and YET when a critic actually pays scrutiny to the very credentials that are being FRANTICALLY BRANDISHED by the artist and its label (ALL OVER new york right now there are posters advertising the album with the slogan 'pull up the people, pull up the poor') this is supposed to be an off-color (boom-boom) thing to do! an imposition of criteria and "pre-conceived notions" that could not possibly be more inappropriate and uncalled for!!!!

and perhaps i am conflating a bunch of different responses to MIA but i dunno, it does seem to me that some people have beat a pretty fast retreat from the 3rd world uber-babe angle to the canny pop madonna-in-the-making angle

here we have a pop artifact that is limned with all this stuff to do with race and class -- but if you discuss it in these terms that's what, somehow racially insentitive or inverted snobbery?

i would have thought pointing out that a record that makes like it's from the projects but is in actual fact an art project (that's what she calls it! the MIA project, and in some old interview with justine f it's referred to as "her MIA project" -- her meaning Justine!), i would have thought that was a fairly salient point. i would have thought that would have been within the bounds of legitimate comment.

>it's not that I believe that enjoyment is sacrosanct or inexplicable, merely that I don't believe it dutifully >accords with pre-established rules. I mean, rockists approach musical interpretation like it's the Common >Law system or something, and every example of musical enjoyment or non-enjoyment merely gives them >another chance to expound or elaborate upon a set of laws

i think this metaphor of the Law is interesting here because it indicates to me how the Pro-Pop discourse is ultimately still an extension of Rock Discourse...

Rock is supposed to be anti-Law, it breaks rules... therefore the ultimate rock move (and it's been made time and time again, even Morley wasn't the first to do it) is to point out how rock has become hidebound by its own rules, become as blinkered as the parent culture it originally defined itself against.
therefore the ultimate rock act of trangresssion is to move into the truly lawless and renegade space of Pop, where we have no prejudices or blinkers or preconceived ideas

(what's so wrong with preconceived ideas incidentally? if you've reached your mid-twenties and you've not formulated some basic ideas about the world you're not doing very well!)

so the ultimate dialectical bad-boy move is to ... embrace teen girl music.

this position, the Pro-Pop position, is a latent and integral structural component of the rock discourse. it's always been there as a possible stance -- Dylan saying Smokey Robinson is the best poet in america might actually be the first instance of it.... Richard Meltzer give him his due was also very early on the case, talking about if you value illegitimacy in music then the first thing you have to confront is your own ideas of what's illegitimacy, e..g the illegitimacy of ballads to your taste.

it's also generated because any community, even if founded on resistance, rebellion etc, inevitably is also a community, with codes and conformisms, and therefore you get the familiar construct of the individualists-who-are-sheep (punks, goths, ravers, etc) and then what you could call the Chuck Eddy reflex which is to point out how these so-called rebels are actually conforming and have their own traditions and are just as closeminded as the straights or even more closeminded etc

that is why Pro-Pop, nine times out of ten, is a stance taken by people who a few years before were indie-rock partisans or some such other alt-culture group.... it's a reaction against their own past blinkeredness and self-dramatisation against those former fellow-travellers still caught in the group think

as a move in the dialectic it's a perfectly understandable and to an extent laudable move

to me though it ultimately throws out to the baby with the bathwater

and again the general tenor of that way of relating to music tends to make inexplicable and slightly ludicrous all the kinds of music based around strenuousness, commitment, belief etc etc... i don't know how, within the pop mindset, you'd be able to account for the surprising persistence of ideas of commitment, community (if every community becomes herd-like, sheep-like, then the only alternative is the atomised individual pop consumer isolate), real-ness, autheniticty, and the persistence of auteurist concepts of intent, formal progression, expression (i've just interviewed a bunch of grime people and these ideas are very much alive and kicking)

paradoxically it seems that a pop-ist would have to argue that hip hop fans, metal fans, grime fans (not meaning bloggers but the actual, er, real ones out there in London) are actually deluded, gripped by false
consciousness

the weakness of pop-ism is that its emphasis on the moment of consumption cannot explain what on earth motivates the producer to go to the considerable bother of doing it... why would a bunch of kids go every sunday evening to a dank basement in east london and shout into microphones, and not only not get paid for it but actually PAY fees to the station to do it

steve k
>I don't understand why Simon seems to like LCD Soundsystems's borrowing from various genres more >than M.I.A.'s. Is it Murphy's musical songwriting skills or his lack of 'revolution' invoking verbiage, or both >or neither

this is one of your weaker arguments steve, the two artists are not commensurate on any level -- LCD is a retro-dance artist, nearly everything he borrows is from the past
--he also does not push himself forward as 'street'... in fact his shtick is a sort of pained can't-help-myself-being-ironic-but-wish-i-could-escape-it-wish-i-could-stop-being-so-knowing persona that is utterly true to himself in its authentic i-be-hollow-man-ness


steve k again
> I don't understand Simon's current views on popism and MIA in the context of his praising various rock >and hiphop videos on his blog over the years, and his pro-Ludacris/anti-Prefuse 73 take. I guess one can >like some pop without being a popist, but I wish someone could explain that to me.

at the risk of repeating myself, here we see again the strength of the rockist value-frame, in that its set of evolving criteria are perfectly capable of explaining why great things get in the charts fairly regularly and appraising what's great about them -- it doesn't need to posit some mystical essence of "popness" to do so

tek tonic
06-04-2005, 11:36 PM
Some really interesting points being made, but I'm suspicious of Simon's assertion that popism throws the baby out with the bathwater, discarding the blinkeredness of belonging to a community like indie, while ignoring its virtues. Like he said, popism is often embraced by ex-indie fans, which means that most of them are at least in their mid-twenties and probably done with school. Having left an environment where indie fans (or hip-hop fans or metal fans) can easily connect with each other, ex-indie fans turn to popism because in a social sphere like any random house party, trying to strike up a conversation of about AMM is positively anti-social. If you want to talk about music, any music, then popism certainly broadens your pool of possible conversation partners, whereas doggedly pursuing an underground obsession quickly becomes untenable outside the confines of your group of likeminded fans.

more to say later, perhaps

ADDENDUM: to summarize, maybe popists reject subcultural community because they don't have access to it anymore? clearly most blogger-type popists aren't afraid to engage with their music on a critical or intellectual level, they'd just rather not do it using the tired cant that tends to go along with underground scenes.

DavidD
06-04-2005, 11:57 PM
I think the assertion that popists tend to be reformed indie kids or something is wrong. When I think of the people I know - and yes, this is anecdotal but i think it is representative of a wide swath of people - who listen primarily to pop music, they tend to be "normal" girls who are not at all "reformed indie kids." Yes their tastes may have changed since they left high school (don't really listen to n'sync any more, now listening to Kelly Clarkson or Usher or what have you - i had so many requests for "my boo" when I DJ'd one college party) but they still listen to pop radio and dance to pop music and i think one major thing that ties it all together is the common language it gives people. They don't intellectualize "popism" the way one does on dissensus or ILM, but they largely approach music this way. Not to say they don't have occasionally rockist ideas! But thats only because they haven't given into that rigorous intellectual process to destroy the rockism they have gathered over the years.

The point is, I don't think that popism is some sort of aquired reactionary thing, i think it is the way most people relate to music.

I would argue that rockism is a mess of social constructions, popism is a deconstruction of rockist biases, or the way someone reacts to music if relatively unimpinged by rockist constructs.

dominic
07-04-2005, 12:37 AM
been out of town on a story and missed the fascinating turn in this debate, some very elegant arguing going on here

yeah tim definitely raised the bar

doubt that i have anything essential to add

so i guess my concern is to figure out the areas of disagreement

(1) music versus culture versus pop image

i realize that k-punk detests phenomenology as willfully naive -- and i suspect that i'm about to put the wrong words into k-punk's mouth -- but k-punk seems to say that if we're going to be true to how we experience and relate to music, then we have to be popists of a certain kind

and this means avoiding the rockist reduction of the phenomenon to just the music

k-punk therefore advocates a twofold restoration of the original phenomenon

first, k-punk would have us take seriously the photographs, fashion statements, and interviews that we encounter with and alongside the music -- i.e., the pop image


The thing to take from Popism is its breaking down of the rockist focus on the records or the perfomance alone: quite clearly, the enjoyment of Pop encompasses photographs, fashion, interviews.... Rockists insist that Pop is essentially music... But I would argue that Pop is in no sense 'music'

second, k-punk speaks of cultures & populations -- i assume that by the term "populations" k-punk has in mind the grime massive, the jungle massive, the punk rock massive, and so forth

though in speaking of populations isn't k-punk necessarily advocating a move to eppy's pop-2 & pop-3?

and yet the locus of pop image is pop-1 -- perhaps k-punk could clarify his meaning

and would blissblogger & woebot disagree w/ k-punk on either of these two points -- i.e., the importance of image and populations?

granted blissblogger does emphasize purely musical considerations, as when he says this --


and the persistence of auteurist concepts of intent, formal progression, expression (i've just interviewed a bunch of grime people and these ideas are very much alive and kicking)

but blissblogger is also the great pop-2 and pop-3 advocate -- though he calls himself a rockist

blissblogger takes the position that music that comes from a scene or belongs to a massive, i.e., music that has the active commitment of populations, is more powerful than music which does not -- all too conspicuous in music that comes from "nowhere" is this lack

therefore to be a rockist in the manner of blissblogger means to treat not only the music and musical considerations, but also the scenes and populations that constitute and belong to the total phenomenon --the massive which the music must win over, the scene which supercedes the distinction b/w producer and consumer

indeed for blissblogger it is the popist who cannot account for scenes and populations --


the general tenor of [the pop] way of relating to music tends to make inexplicable and slightly ludicrous all the kinds of music based around strenuousness, commitment, belief etc etc... i don't know how, within the pop mindset, you'd be able to account for the surprising persistence of ideas of commitment, community (if every community becomes herd-like, sheep-like, then the only alternative is the atomised individual pop consumer isolate), real-ness, autheniticty

but if i had to fish for points of disagreement b/w k-punk and blissblogger on this general area, they might be --

first, that blissblogger seems to favor music made by "real" or "authentic" members of the massive -- whereas k-punk seems to like music made by masters of pop artifice ("aristocrats"), not anonymous members of the massive

second, k-punk seems to take the images & fashion statements & photographs of discrete pop acts more seriously than does blissblogger -- and this might also be extended to how members of the massive dress -- though i think blissblogger has elsewhere argued that codes of dressing, ways of dancing, etc, are indicators of a scene's power and strength -- though this can get a bit tricky as there's no one-to-one correlation -- but certainly at the stage of the original phenomenon this is all integral, i.e., recall the opening pages of "generation ecstasy" where blissblogger discusses his first rave experience and how taken he was by gaunt adolescent boys and blissed out girls and their weird ways of dancing etc

moving on to the next issue

(2) the nature of false consciousness

k-punk treats popism as an ideology -- i.e., there is no such thing as the pop way of relating to music

popism for k-punk is prescriptive, not descriptive

now blissblogger would likely agree w/ k-punk's account of popism

though it might be said that the pop theory of music reception ultimately distorts actual reception, precisely b/c the theory is in fact prescriptive -- which is why blissblogger speaks of the pop mindset as though there actually were such a relation to music

but where i think blissblogger, woebot, and others here (including me) diverge from k-punk is in their doubts about the validity of their own consciousness

that is, b/c blissblogger & woebot valorize pop-2 and pop-3 music -- b/c they privilege the massive -- they cannot help but worry about their own status

woebot captures the predicament --


He is cautious about aspiring to belong to subcultural groups (like, er, Grime) on the basis that he's Middle Class, White and Old. But really no-one gives a toss and what's the alternative anyway? To accept something less-threatening and fake in some compromised quasi-ironic manner. To give up on the real because it underlines the uncomfortable reality of one's own situation?

k-punk is untroubled by his lack of membership in this or that particular scene or massive or population

nor does his taste seemed geared toward music with any such appellation (check his end of the year lists)

perhaps this is why k-punk calls himself a popist of a certain kind

and why blissblogger & woebot call themselves rockists

that is, perhaps the rockist values political (communal) membership more than the popist does?

that is, it's not enough for woebot to be a connoisseur of wines -- a part of him longs to be a peasant working the land, mashing the grapes, getting drunk at the village feast

and this is why blissblogger thinks it valid to argue thusly


. . . . paradoxically it seems that a pop-ist would have to argue that hip hop fans, metal fans, grime fans (not meaning bloggers but the actual, er, real ones out there in London) are actually deluded, gripped by false consciousness

and yet at the end of the day blissblogger and woebot know that they belong to no massive

nor do they wish to belong to the more cosmopolitan dance scene (even though they could easily claim membership)

ultimately what they're into is music pure and simple

therefore the rockist figure values music more than scene

and yet the rockist values both of these more than the popist does either

which leaves very unclear what the k-punk/skykicking popist values -- or is it simply the experience of the total phenomenon -- w/ no dissection of the phenomenon into ordered parts, i.e., music vs image vs scene -- but w/ such experience including the "raising" of the total phenomenon into thought

next issue

(3) differentiated experience versus formal articulation

tim writes --


The function of sensuous signs in art is to bring us face to face with the mass of differentiated intensities, whose aggregation and conglomeration allow us to conceive of stable concepts and meanings. When I say art brings us "face to face" with this stuff, I mean that it forces us to recognise the inescapably differential nature of these affects, rather than proceed straight to the concepts which we have lazily attached to them, and which we imagine to be standing behind them in a signifying relationship . . . . The function of art is to intensify our experience of difference – or, to put it another way, our awareness of the endless potential for differentiated experience

to which blissblogger has a ready reply --

we know what mia is trying to pass herself off as, and we don't buy it


if you've reached your mid-twenties and you've not formulated some basic ideas about the world you're not doing very well

and among the rules that blissblogger has discovered is the rule that the most powerful music comes from rooted scenes, populations, massives

and to this rule there are exceptions (to be really cheeky, at the moment kudu)

and yes, the massive is itself a construct

put aside the construct and we see that the massive is not undifferentiated -- some members of the massive are hardcore, others are peripheral, still others the leading edge -- and though we tend to imagine members of the massive as having a "real" relation to music, surely each member relates to the music & scene in his own way -- some make the music, others only support it on the dancefloor or by tuning in their radio or by buying 12" records -- and each member of the massive also has relationships with music that is outside the massive's zone of cultural production, e.g., music in the pop charts, classical music, jazz

so yeah, the massive is a construct

but it's also a reality

and i for one am sympathetic to blissblogger's position

by which i mean that i'm inclined to take seriously the articulation of "what is" into parts, types, classes, figures

but of course this is not the kind of question (form vs chaos, identity vs difference) that can be profitably discussed in a forum like this, i.e., it's an eternal issue of philosophy

tek tonic
07-04-2005, 01:13 AM
DavidD, I can't speak for anyone else, but my idea of a 'popist' is not simply someone who likes pop. My definition of a popist is someone who believes that all music is worthy of equal consideration in the marketplace, regardless of how much money, time and effort were put into making and promoting it. For example, Kylie Minogue and Dizzee Rascal are equally worthy of a popist's attention, even though Kylie is a hot girl singer supported by a massive marketing budget who doesn't write her own songs, while Dizzee is a ghetto kid who fought his way up from poverty and obscurity, who writes his own lyrics and who is connected to the underground. M.I.A. gets no points from a popist for being the daughter of a Tamil tiger, but neither would a popist chastize her for co-opting shanty house sonics when her connection to them is arguably dubious.

(And please god let's not a) open the MIA thing again, or b) get into a debate about what popism is, or I'll start whipping out links to ILX threads that will keep you occupied for weeks...)

DavidD
07-04-2005, 01:21 AM
See, but I think the ave. pop music listener DOES give equal opportunity to the music that they hear - they just don't spend as much time searching out music. It certainly would explain why the pop charts tend towards diversity more than critics lists do, as a general rule! (this is a pretty big assumption on my part, i agree, but i think it's mostly accurate, with a few exceptions)

tek tonic
07-04-2005, 01:46 AM
the test: what is the best pop song of the last ten years?
a) "Hey Ya"
b) "Hit Me Baby One More Time"
c) "Where Is The Love"

If you answer X then you are Y:

a) ex-indie popist
b) blogger popist
c) unreconstructed popist (i.e. an actual teenage girl)

k-punk
07-04-2005, 01:52 AM
first, that blissblogger seems to favor music made by "real" or "authentic" members of the massive -- whereas k-punk seems to like music made by masters of pop artifice ("aristocrats"), not anonymous members of the massive



I can see why you say that, but I think it is a false opposition... As Simon himself has said, pop stars themselves, much to their cost often, are very loath to see themselves positioned as part of a massive... Roxy in the seventies went out of their way to say they weren't 'glam'.. and look what happened to Goldie.. and to some extent Dizzee, tho he has been very careful not go the Goldie route... the result tho is a kind of splendid isolation... no longer rooted in the massive, but not incorporated into the mainstream either...



second, k-punk seems to take the images & fashion statements & photographs of discrete pop acts more seriously than does blissblogger -- and this might also be extended to how members of the massive dress -- though i think blissblogger has elsewhere argued that codes of dressing, ways of dancing, etc, are indicators of a scene's power and strength -- though this can get a bit tricky as there's no one-to-one correlation -- but certainly at the stage of the original phenomenon this is all integral, i.e., recall the opening pages of "generation ecstasy" where blissblogger discusses his first rave experience and how taken he was by gaunt adolescent boys and blissed out girls and their weird ways of dancing etc

This may be a point of disagreement, but I don't really see that Simon has ever made much of a point of EXCLUDING discussion of image, far from it... The main disagreement between Simon and myself as I see it concerns 2 things:

1. The role of the sixties. My key reference points I take to be BREAKS from the sixties... and part of that is, yes, the embracing of the artificial, the image, as opposed to the authentic.

2. The role of analysis. For me, the whole Dionysian emphasis is a way of disclaiming the role of intellect and analysis in the enjoyment of Pop. I find this idea of intellect versus emotions, of 'real' response as opposed to an 'instinctive, thoughtless' response bogus, but I think that Simon holds to this 'only' ideologically, in that his writing undermines it, since it is quite clearly intellectual. Why deny it? It is intellectual, but (why but, tho?), it is also enjoyable, and it augments the enjoyment of the sounds.





but where i think blissblogger, woebot, and others here (including me) diverge from k-punk is in their doubts about the validity of their own consciousness

that is, b/c blissblogger & woebot valorize pop-2 and pop-3 music -- b/c they privilege the massive -- they cannot help but worry about their own status

woebot captures the predicament --

k-punk is untroubled by his lack of membership in this or that particular scene or massive or population

nor does his taste seemed geared toward music with any such appellation (check his end of the year lists)

perhaps this is why k-punk calls himself a popist of a certain kind

and why blissblogger & woebot call themselves rockists

Perhaps that is because they are middle class in a way that I am not. :p

Believe me, my coming to think that anything I have to say could have ANY validity has been a long, hard struggle... That's what being working class is about, nothing glamorous about it, it's about feeling that anything coming from your own 'consciousness' is by its nature secondary and worthless...

Therefore, I wouldn't say I was 'untroubled' by not belonging to any group... but at the same time, part of the reason that I'm not a full-on grimesta is that I feel excluded and threatened by that mode of aggressive masculinity.. It's not something I could ever feel comfortable with, nor do I want to feel comfortable with it.. It is too 'realistic', in the sense of belonging to what the accepted order, the reality principle, would count as empirical... The Pop I privilege is about escaping that humdrum world.... Hence the importance for me of the opposition in Lacan, Badiou, ZIzek, Zupancic, Copjec between the empirical-real and the Real... the Real being what is IMPOSSIBLE within any given empirical regime....

As for my end of year lists, if they have an affinity with any group atm, it would be gay. If you go to GAY (the most popular gay night in London), you'll hear almost all of the k-punk end of year picks there. But while I share the taste, I fundamentally disagree with the (consumerist) ideology, which seems to me neurotically hedonistic. You are simply not allowed to be serious..

But this notion of 'really belonging' to a group is surely only something that can be attributed to the other, never experienced by oneself... They really belong... I don't... Doesn't everyone, secretly, feel like that? (One lesson of Sartre that's worth holding onto).

Also, I really think that the notion of communities is fundamentally reactionary... Populations are not communities...

Finally, I want to say something about this 'real consumer of Pop' thing. Again, it is always the other who bears the weight of this discourse of authenticity. This notion of authenticity carries with it a patronising notion of 'normality': 'normal' ppl (not us) consume 'uncritically' and without theoretical presuppositions.

I obv have a lot of contact with teenagers at work, and almost none of them would admit to liking 'Pop'. Unlike for me, 'Pop' has a very specific sense for them, perhaps associated with younger, pre-pubescent teenagers. (The only students I teach who would admit to liking Britney, for instance, are gay.)

One of the saddest things at work is seeing how racially and culturally divided teenagers are. There isn't much inter-group aggression; in many ways, it is worse than that, just a mutual indifference.... This isn't a reflection of their belonging to different 'communities', more a testament to the ways in which ppl have been dragooned into identifying themselves with a particular consumer demographic. Something like Roxy, which had a relationship to black music, to rock, to art, to 'gay', is of course quite inconceivable now...cf Grace Jones, the whole postpunk thing.... When Pop has been powerful, it has PRODUCED populations, not 'represented' already-existing organic communities...

k-punk
07-04-2005, 02:02 AM
the test: what is the best pop song of the last ten years?
a) "Hey Ya"
b) "Hit Me Baby One More Time"
c) "Where Is The Love"

If you answer X then you are Y:

a) ex-indie popist
b) blogger popist
c) unreconstructed popist (i.e. an actual teenage girl)


But this really is missing the point about Popism. These imaginary 'actual teenage girls' are not Popists; only Popists would say that. Imaginary 'actual teenage girls' (IATG) are what Popists project as the litmus test of what is acceptable to like. If the IATG 'wouldn't' like it, then it has to be thrown out. But the reality is that actual actual teenage girls have, in their time, been into all kinds of things, from the Beatles to Roxy to Japan....

btw, the only ppl I know who like 'Where is the Love' are ppl my own age or older .. For me, it's a classic for still-indie types to 'allow': it's not rock, but hey, it's got real lyrics, so, y'know, it's good, isn't it...

DavidD
07-04-2005, 02:10 AM
OK I'm feeling a bit out of my league here so forgive me if I'm missing something but


But this really is missing the point about Popism. These imaginary 'actual teenage girls' are not Popists; only Popists would say that. Imaginary 'actual teenage girls' (IATG) are what Popists project as the litmus test of what is acceptable to like. If the IATG 'wouldn't' like it, then it has to be thrown out.

This sounds like an Imaginary "actual popist" to me! (IAP) Who are these people who JUST like what they think teenage girls like?


But the reality is that actual actual teenage girls have, in their time, been into all kinds of things, from the Beatles to Roxy to Japan....

Which is why i think teenage girls are really popists! As a generalization, of course. There are lots of teenage guys who are popists too. Like all those kids who were really into pop-punk, balls to conservative "real" punk! Just because they have a subcultural focus (even a "made-up" one) doesn't mean that they don't like music because of how it sounds.

tek tonic
07-04-2005, 02:32 AM
But this really is missing the point about Popism. These imaginary 'actual teenage girls' are not Popists; only Popists would say that. Imaginary 'actual teenage girls' (IATG) are what Popists project as the litmus test of what is acceptable to like. If the IATG 'wouldn't' like it, then it has to be thrown out. But the reality is that actual actual teenage girls have, in their time, been into all kinds of things, from the Beatles to Roxy to Japan....

btw, the only ppl I know who like 'Where is the Love' are ppl my own age or older .. For me, it's a classic for still-indie types to 'allow': it's not rock, but hey, it's got real lyrics, so, y'know, it's good, isn't it...

I agree with you. When I was teaching in Singapore last year, all my teenage students loved "Where Is The Love" and made fun of Britney endlessly, which is why I jokingly made the distinction. I don't know any blogger types who like "WITL", but anyone on ILX who didn't like Britney back in the day used to get a lot of stick. I maintain that the ultimate 'classic for still-indie types to allow' is "Hey Ya", but otherwise I think we're fundamentally in agreement, save one thing:

This notion that popists base what is acceptable to like on the tastes of a teenage girl is the real strawman. I don't know of anybody who thinks this way, honestly. The only place teenage girls really figure into the equation is when rockists ask 'how can anyone like Britney when her music is obviously made for stupid teenage girls?' and the popists laugh. Where are you getting this from?

blissblogger
07-04-2005, 02:36 AM
forget the pop-ists, it's been the bloody Pope-ists this last half-week -- jeez the endless mopy pious coverage! thank god for terry eagleton's brutally rigorous dissection of the pontiff's crimes in the Guardian i think it was

[sorry that should probably have gone on another thread]

more sensible commentary on pro-popism and its discontents:

big up ya chest dominic for typically scrupulous analysis, i must say though i don't like this word "rules'"that people keep using. Rather than a metaphor based around the idea of a legislator -- not how i see myself-- i'd prefer to think in more scientific terms -- i don't forbid myself any pleasures, but i have learned to map out where the pleasures are most likely to come from -- so i would say not 'rules' but more like observed tendencies that have--so far--not been significantly countered by my experience. up til now the evidence keeps reaffirming the theories, by and large. however it's totally possible that the entire edifice will crumble in the face of some wonderously unfamiliar new musical phenomenon ... new evidence will smash the edifice... and in fact that would be a quite desirable outcome.

(and indeed on the everday random sense it's thrilling to be seduced by things that you can't account for, that come out of your personal left-field)

the scientific metaphor appeals because it posits an objectivity -- these artifacts exist as objects, they are the work of cultural agents with motives and motivation ... situated in a historical/social context ... the objects and their makers exist independently of my consciousness of them...

enquiry then becomes a question of trying to understand both what the artifacts do to and for me, and what they do to and for the audience they were actually primarily intended for, and also what was on the minds of the people who made them -- to ascertain the forces that shaped the people who made them, and what shaped the people they were made for

it's this objective and social aspect of the music artifact that is diminished by pop-ism's focus on the consumer's privatized delight

or rather, Simon Frith -- one of Pop-ism's grandfathers, read Sound Effects a huge amount of the creed is in there, possibly mediated by the fact that book was a big influence on Chuck Eddy and probably on kogan too -- WAS right to emphasise the importance of consumption as where pop meaning is made and un-made (as a corrective to the producer-focus, auteurist-intent bias, of trad rock criticism)

... but being a sociologist he was also interesting in how the primary intended audience for any given form of music actually used that music, the social meanings (and social pleasures) they made out of them

that aspect is missing from latterday pop-ism which--taken to its logical conclusion, as opposed to any actual exponents of it on this thread or elsewhere -- would involve a radical subjectivism, an utter solipsism

* * * * * *

i'd agree w/ k-punk re. the role of non-sonic stuff -- pop-etc (and rock, and hip hop, and grime, and...) is more than just music, it's a hybrid mish-mash of sound, image, lyrics, audience reception, dance moves, performance, gesture, persona, charisma, discourse, hype, fashion, context, etc... i wouldn't eliminate anything from consideration.... these are all lens for analysis, and facets of pleasure/excitement/intensity .. although in terms of my own enjoyment sound has a privileged place, perhaps -- a residue of the days when i used to bang on about Sound > Lyrics, which was a strategic struggle relevant at that time (shaking off the dead hand of postpunk in the late eighties as it happens, but now of course i've come round the other side of that cycle)

but rock as i said above has all these aspects going on just as much as 'pop'

i think also that k-punk is more rockist than he realizes.... in sensibility above all...

dominic
07-04-2005, 02:41 AM
When Pop has been powerful, it has PRODUCED populations, not 'represented' already-existing organic communities...

yes yes yes -- you've made a key point that i hope others will take up

i suppose that my use of the term "massive" has obscured this essential difference

the raving massive = a produced population

the grime massive = an already-existing organic community, i.e., the streets of east london, even if multi-racial

and it's why i too am not altogether keen on hip hop, grime, dancehall, etc -- despite recognizing the dynamism of the music

or perhaps i'm too attached to my "real world" identity to get down with the program

so each side shuns the other, i.e., they represent, and i don't feel represented

HOWEVER, i'd argue that when you say "population" rather than "community," you obscure the fact that what is produced is a community of feeling & taste

and that's why i feel as though i somehow "belong" to a dance music community -- b/c the dance music explosion of 90/91/92 produced a community of feeling & taste, a shared language of celebration

OR would you argue in turn that the reason the so-called raving massive fragmented so quickly and into so many disparate scenes was precisely b/c the raving massive was a produced POPULATION and never anything like a community

which is why the micro-scenes that came to constitute the rave diaspora were in fact representative of already existing organic communities (at least to some extent -- certainly there was a great deal of population production involved as well)

i.e., produced populations fragment quickly b/c there are no "real world" bonds to keep them together

blissblogger
07-04-2005, 03:13 AM
while writing the last lengthy peroration a bunch of other postings in came through:


>When Pop has been powerful, it has PRODUCED populations, not 'represented' already-existing organic >communities...

i like this idea, this is obviously what the pirate radio continuum did, it created a tribe.... not everybody in London within the certain age parameters was a member by any means, and indeed now as woebot is arguing in the thread on urban music, the grime tribe is actually pretty small suggesting that the hard core of it is surrounded by a floating audience who are much less firmly invested but like bits of it along wiht bashment, hip hop, old skool 2step, r&b etc.

HOWEVER the population/tribe wasn't created ex nihilo , it was created out of the actual population in the normal sense of the city, there are certain tendencies that determine its composition -- which can be analyssed on race/class/gender/etc levels, because the music repels some and attracts others

BUT there is also an elective element to this, you can self-select yourself as tribal member... that is perhaps where the grime bloggerati fit in, uneasily, as people who don't fit the profile in sociological or geographic respects but for other socio-biographic reasons are drawn to it and enter into a fanatical relationship with it

for many grime-bloggerati the attraction is probably 98 percent sonic maybe, but for me beyond the sonic attraction it also has a political dimension (which is what seems to bother--i mean, genuinely perturb and upset--a lot of people, causing them to invoke concepts like liberal guilt, social worker etc) *

the political dimension i would characterize using a word that is totally unfashionable and i'm sure will be seized on by piranha-like hordes for ridicule but it seems like a totally apt word and the word is:

SOLIDARITY

and here i'm just ripping off John Berger** who was interviewed in the observer over the weekend discussing how the word had dropped out of favour and that was the measure of our decline (our i think meaning the Left)

i am just curious why it is considered so inconceivable and and unseemly that an oxbridge-educated off-white person from hertfordshire might feel some kind of connection and empathy (and also admiration) vis-a-viz mostly black youths in london

what a sad fucking world when this is considered intrinsically absurd, don't you think?

isn't that what the power of music is all about -- connection?

this is why i like the metaphor of science because science is based around curiosity -- for me the idea of liking music and not being curious about the people who made it and the nature of their lives is inconceivable


* liberal guilt and social worker:
interesting, isn't it, how 'liberal guilt' has become the shameful thing, as opposed to the actual things -- inequality, deprivation, injustice etc-- that inspire the liberal guilt in the first place. chalk that one up to Thatcher and 25 years of post-socialism

interesting how 'social worker' went from being a respected and even noble profession -- typically pursued by idealistic young men and women with an interest in things like social justice, enabling people to improve their lot etc -- to being considered interfering do-gooders. Chalk that one up to Thatcher and 25 years of post-socialism. incidentally, Simon Frith told me that the Tories hated sociology--in the 70s one of the most popular courses for students--considering it a hotbed of socialism and moved swiftly to supplant it with business studies etc


* *
and yes i'm aware that john berger moved to rural france to live among peasants. but no worries, i'm not moving to stratford any time soon. no nostalgie de la concrete for me.

tek tonic
07-04-2005, 03:22 AM
but being a sociologist he was also interesting in how the primary intended audience for any given form of music actually used that music, the social meanings (and social pleasures) they made out of them

that aspect is missing from latterday pop-ism which--taken to its logical conclusion, as opposed to any actual exponents of it on this thread or elsewhere -- would involve a radical subjectivism, an utter solipsism

What is this latterday pop-ism of which you speak? All I hear popist defenders saying is that not being 'authentic' is not a deficiency, which sounds like Frith 101 to me:

Simon Frith says: (http://www.rockcritics.com/interview/simonfrith.html)

My critical principle has always been that a great record can come from anywhere and anyone at any time. It is still possible that the Rolling Stones will make the greatest track of their career, that a Pop Star will put out a single that I'll want to live with daily. The great pleasure of the radio (though increasingly denied by its formats) is that one can hear something without any trappings and be immediately hooked by it. What you call my sympathy to discredited artists really just means that I've trusted my ears first--run out to buy Robbie Williams' "Angel" or the Blue album before realizing how naff it is.

EDIT: WHOOPS - XPOST

dominic
07-04-2005, 03:42 AM
and i don't feel represented

which is not to say that i even want to feel represented

if anyone can be said to represent me and my experience, etc, it'd probably be the james murphy figures

and i don't want that (not that i'm anti-dfa, it's just not my elixir)

and i suppose that goes some way toward explaining why i'm so addicted to early rave music -- why i keep repeating the same damn pleasures -- b/c the music does not purport to represent -- certainly not *the* reason why i keep listening to it -- but it's one of the main reasons why i've never fully enjoyed subsequent musics, like crunk and dancehall, which are o/w strong contenders

certainly i like the "flavor" that an mc brings to the proceedings -- i.e., the voice going on about something over the music

but once you add mc's to the equation, seems that all they want to do is represent or sell-out (b/c those are the terms of the game)

so when it comes to the representing business -- which means representing, first, class & racial identity, and, second and more important, a certain take on the nature of the real -- i'd say i'm pretty much in sympathy with k-punk

but at same time my reaction bothers me as i know that this is the typical white middle-class reaction to the way that grime & hip hop artists represent the real -- it's as though i've been made to play a game that i don't want to play

i miss the pyschedelic agenda of rave music

dominic
07-04-2005, 04:02 AM
off-topic this --


interesting how 'social worker' went from being a respected and even noble profession -- typically pursued by idealistic young men and women with an interest in things like social justice, enabling people to improve their lot etc -- to being considered interfering do-gooders.

-- but yeah it's why i'm trying to get into union-side labor law -- openly antagonistic -- no do-gooderism

Melchior
07-04-2005, 08:07 AM
the test: what is the best pop song of the last ten years?

Wat about Crazy in Love?

k-punk
07-04-2005, 08:15 AM
What is this latterday pop-ism of which you speak?


This is the most tiresome aspect of this discussion: as Matt established in the opening post on this thread, Popism is everywhere, but especially on NYPLM and ILX, if you want to be specific. The fact that no-one there or elsewhere would define themselves as Popists because, hey, they are more 'complex than that' and they don't 'want to be defined' is only proof of my point earlier that Popism is an ideological pressure, not something anyone can actually live up to. No-one can ONLY enjoy Pop, that's why it has to be imagined that there is someone else somewhere else who can and does.

Simon:

I don't think I'm more rockist than I suspect ---- but then again I don't think you are rockist either. Think Mark S was right a while back when he said on k-p that Popism IS rockism, in that it privileges/ fetishies certain ways of producing affect ----

You and Kodwo moved this discussion on in the 90s --- why retrench now?

Glad you agree with me about the Pope --- it's obv been as intolerable in the US as it has been here by the sounds of it...

scissors
07-04-2005, 08:29 AM
there is a certain kind of popist "disregard for community" that makes me wonder about the community/population tangent here. can't this "disregard" ostensibly be enacted as a form of ruin against or at least outside the identikit community representations? which is to say it's not a disregard at all but a pretty intricate reflection/navigation process after the net gives way. most (would-be) popists i know were pop fans who had to learn rockism, then abandon it, and then listen to rachel stevens or whoever (some were even teenage girls once!). and this is not w/ a settling into solipsism but w/ a strong sense of inquisition. "what's the roadmap now, what's the criteria now" w/ tomorrow melting into now.

thing about that is it seems to imply a failed personal entry into a community and a slightly mournful if agitated aftermath. insofar as popism does not command subcult-reverence & locality, i think this very looseness gives it a unique fertility, a sense of possibility, a space free of petty bias for exploration, calibration, alignment. i know i know, curators, yuck, pick n mix, yuck, but i dont think social dimensions go away in these cases even if the need for authenticity might. it is thought and analysis and confrontation of contradictions and doing away w/ consumer models. i dont know if i'm talking about popism anymore, i was thinking about the ipod units thing in the original woebot post.

the slight scare for me is wondering where this goes: is it inconceivable that one could become heavily invested in producers of music who are not concentrated and constituted as a community? production-wise it sounds like a formula for record-collector musicians but what of that mode of production and possiblities for populations? i am not entirely convinced this mode of pursuit is mutually exclusive w/ connectivity and even that thing, solidarity, but then again it seems to spell u-n-t-e-n-a-b-l-e.

scissors
07-04-2005, 08:48 AM
another note: i was reminded a lot about the 90s japanese artists in shibuya when blissblogger called lcd soundsystem 'record-collector' music. cornelius and them, enthusiastic people clustered in a sense of locale ("shibuya-kei") yet it was a 'knowing' pop derived from irreverence, 2nd handness, etc... the fetishization of rootless comsopolitan surfaces as productive community. kinda slight in the long run of things but thought id mention it.

DavidD
07-04-2005, 09:48 AM
i think reading through this thread (and i am a lil tips so maybe my conclusion is suspect but) i've decided that no one has really defined "popism" the way I think anyone on ILM/etc "practices" it. I still think there is a popist strawman that has been constructed that does not reflect anyone's actual engagement with music.

k-punk
07-04-2005, 11:39 AM
i think reading through this thread (and i am a lil tips so maybe my conclusion is suspect but) i've decided that no one has really defined "popism" the way I think anyone on ILM/etc "practices" it. I still think there is a popist strawman that has been constructed that does not reflect anyone's actual engagement with music.

1. Can then, as I have repeatedly asked for over a year now, someone provide a definition of Popism that would fit the ineffably complex and too-sophisticated to be pinned down position that IS practised on ILM

OR

2. accept my point that the reason that popism is not practised anywhere it that it is an ideology of consuming Pop that has nothing to do with how ppl - even the solipsists on ILM ;) - consume it. The strawman is therefore the strawman constructed by Popists themselves, and the reasons why ppl like myself object to Popism is precisely 'because it does not reflect anyone's actual engagement with music.''

k-punk
07-04-2005, 03:45 PM
Thing is, the one group that definitely are Popists are the people controlling the music industry and reality tv. (This is a very British perspective I'll grant you...)

The reason why it is relevant to bring up the example of teenage girls liking Japan and Roxy is not because teenage girls are the ultimate arbiters of anything, but because it is evidence that audiences will consume material that is far more challenging than the current Popist hegemony will allow.

The assumption of the industry is that teenage girls will only ever like a certain kind of narrowly-defined 'Pop' act. That assumption has real effects.

Of course another issue is how it is that demographo-mongers and PR inanities have managed to regain control of the industry - and that, fundamentally, is about a consumer logic replacing populcation dynamics. It's absurd to say that there was a pre-existing glam community waiting for Roxy to represent it. In many ways, genius IS scenius: Ferry was able to mobilize potentials within people from which a new glam population could be produced. But that population then had further effects on the sonic and image production of the groups. Cybernetics, feedback.

The industry now operates like any other: with 'consumers' defined and packaged according to criteria defined by marketers.

blissblogger
07-04-2005, 05:00 PM
picking up on a couple of kpunk points:

>1. The role of the sixties. My key reference points I take to be BREAKS from the sixties... and part of that >is, yes, the embracing of the artificial, the image, as opposed to the authentic.

i can understand your generational impetus to make a break with the Sixties, but your idea of what the Sixties was is a construct i think -- a lot of sixties stuff was very glam -- the whole milieu around Syd Barrett for instance -- the way groups like the Byrds or Jefferson Airplane dressed (grace slick virtually is siouxsie sioux) it's very stylized and not scruffy at all, and many performers of that time were totally about glamour in the olde sense of witchery -- think of the shamanic thing that jim morrison had going, or jimi hendrix -- even a group like incredible string band are not 'natural' or 'folksy' in any simple way, their music is a hybrid and their image was intensely stylized
-- and what about the mods -- or think of how tyrannosaurus rex turned into T-Rex

what you're contrasting glam with, i think, is a specific turn away from psychedelia and glamour that occurred in the last two years of the sixties -- the blues boom -- also the influence of the Band with this kind of Americana sepia-tone daguerrotype image and woodsy sound (Ian macdonald has a very good essay on the impact of the first Band album)

i interviewed manzanera once and he said it was the kind of bands that were around at the very end of the sixties and very early seventies -- blues bore bands, festival bands, heavy rock bands -- that were very shabby and beardy that Roxy were a reaction against

the psychedelic era seems proto-glam to me in a lot of ways --

also think that to make Roxy a total break with the sixties leads you to over-emphasize Ferry and downplay the role of Eno and Manzanera, both very much children of the Sixties

>you and kodwo... why retrench

i don't see it as retrenchment but more identifying what you really value and what are the sources of the things that excite you -- and part of the 'retrenchment" actually came from reading More Brilliant than the Sun and being ultimately dissatisfied with its vision

after all More Brilliant does a similar thing to the Pop-ist tendency, jettisoning the biographical/social/historical/political axes (the baby with the rockist bathwater) to focus entirely on the moment of collision between the decontextualized sonic artifact and the decontextualized body-mind of the listener

it's an extreme form of aestheticism, an auteurism that disposes of the actual flesh-and-blood, historically situated auteur

what's seductive about it is that Kodwo does this jettisoning of all other criteria as a strategy of intensification -- extreme focus on the thing-itself -- perhaps c.f. Tim F's formalism

although i think again that this very insistence on intensification means that kodwo's actual sensibilty is rockist -- in so far as it's about intensity, vision (he draws up a canon of auditionaries, as i think he coins it), quest -- about seriousness and the refusal of irony -- a passionate commitment to these moments of aesthetic breakthrough and discontinuum -- also rockist is the strenousness aspect -- the idea that you submit yourself to aesthetic experiences that are quite punishing (breakbeats so densely tangled they twist your bodymind and turn the dancefloor into a battlezone zone of rhythmically maimed dancers), there's quite a lot of masochistic imagery in More Brilliant Than the Sun

rockism, i think people get confused cos they think it's got something to electric guitars -- rockism as i'm using it and revalorizing it predates rock'n'roll

tek tonic
07-04-2005, 05:15 PM
Think Mark S was right a while back when he said on k-p that Popism IS rockism, in that it privileges/ fetishies certain ways of producing affect ----

Right, and then went on to say (http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/001483.html) (and I quote) "I also think the "popist" is totally a strawman, really: though it's true that, somewhat for forensic *and* critical-strategic effect, at war with the world or with myself, I find it helpful to take as read that every #1 is BY DEFINITION "good pop", whether or not I personally like it or think it's significant or fun-revealing-exciting-annoying-truthseeking to talk abt..."

As mark s sort of argued, there's a world of difference between being resistant to rockism's strictures (as many people are, myself included) and thinking that chart success/50 million elvis fans can't be wrong/the industry as it functions/whatever is somehow the greatest or only arbiter of music that they will personally like.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't this popist strawman arose out of a question of whether pop could have bad years or patches - the 'poptimist' question? Somewhere in there, I suspect the strawman make the jump from arguing that being pop produced by committee or whatever is not a deficiency, to arguing that being "produced for imaginary communities" is somehow a virtue in and of itself, which I can't recall having seen anybody argue on NYLPM or elsewhere.

joeschmo
07-04-2005, 07:14 PM
blissblogger sez:

"i am just curious why it is considered so inconceivable and and unseemly that an oxbridge-educated off-white person from hertfordshire might feel some kind of connection and empathy (and also admiration) vis-a-viz mostly black youths in london

what a sad fucking world when this is considered intrinsically absurd, don't you think?"

Begging the question... if an oxbridge-educated etc person can show solidarity, why can't a St. Martin's-educated person?

k-punk
08-04-2005, 12:33 AM
On Simon's points:

the Roxy stuff is a bit OT I suppose, it shd have its own thread.... But, briefly, there's a world of difference, surely, between Roxy and someone like Syd Barrett... and yes, that is to do with Ferry, who is the breakthrough/ break-out figure for me.. Eno was always very adept at fitting into whatever milieu he found himself in... (Just been reading that [relatively] new Ferry/ Roxy bio, always find myself siding with Bryan not Brian...)

As for auteurism: I'm a kind of poststructuralist auteurist really.... I tried to develop this on alt.movies.kubrick in relation to SK... I mean, what we are talking about when we are refer to an auteur is not a biographical person but a set of semiotic traits and singularities. We're only interested in biography because of those traits, those singularities (and not vice versa). So I'm inclined to think that auteurs are never 'historically situated'...

I know you disagree with Kodwo on many points, but the 'retrenchment' I'm referring to concerns retreating from what was learned through rave etc.... That moved things on beyond this stale rockist-popist binary....

blissblogger
08-04-2005, 02:24 PM
>Begging the question... if an oxbridge-educated etc person can show solidarity, why can't a St. Martin's->educated person?

well i suppose it all depends whether you consider Arular an act of solidarity innit...

>Bryan vs Brian

i guess that's where we differ mark, cos for me to the extent to which Ferry's vision triumphs over the others is the extent to which Roxy get less and less interesting as something to listen to

>what was learned through rave

well i think those lessons (i first typed lesions!) are still there (the scenius idea mainly), but i guess you're talking about radical impersonality, machinic processes etc etc.... a lot of that, i think, was really sustained through the E-haze, those kind of perceptions, which doesn't mean they're not true (they might be truer) but they're less sustainable in the everyday, sober life.... and i think it's not just me that's woken up from the haze and returned to "reality" with a grim sickening bump, it's the scene -- look at Grime -- the return of facialisation, personality.... that's another place we disagree, your impersonalism... i don't think one can understand grime, or hip hop, without reference to ideas of the personality, character, charisma etc

as for dehistoricized auteurism... well i studied history and have never found this way of looking at things especially delibidinizing or whatever... it can be done well or it can be done boringly

whenever you write your (witty, i admit) riff about how nothing is more delibidizing than the phrase "based on a true story" i'm afraid the cliche "truth is stranger than fiction" always springs to mind

plus, you occasionally do this self-situating thing -- e.g. your references to being working class! i guess radical impersonalism is a rocky road with many lapses on the way

k-punk
08-04-2005, 05:02 PM
>

>Bryan vs Brian

i guess that's where we differ mark, cos for me to the extent to which Ferry's vision triumphs over the others is the extent to which Roxy get less and less interesting as something to listen to

But that begs the question about what Ferry's vision is; for instance, he thought that the first album and FYP were the best, so I think this is more complex than it might at first appear. (Eno, unbelievably, thought that Stranded was the best Roxy album). And in a way, this is precisely the point: the decline of Roxy was almost entirely down to cultural factors, not to Ferry's individual vision. And: what is called Ferry's vision was only possible during a certain moment of population coalescence.


>what was learned through rave

well i think those lessons (i first typed lesions!) are still there (the scenius idea mainly), but i guess you're talking about radical impersonality, machinic processes etc etc.... a lot of that, i think, was really sustained through the E-haze, those kind of perceptions, which doesn't mean they're not true (they might be truer) but they're less sustainable in the everyday, sober life.... and i think it's not just me that's woken up from the haze and returned to "reality" with a grim sickening bump, it's the scene -- look at Grime -- the return of facialisation, personality.... that's another place we disagree, your impersonalism... i don't think one can understand grime, or hip hop, without reference to ideas of the personality, character, charisma etc

The point is not, and never has been, that there is no such thing as personality; nor that there are some things that are personal and other things that are 'impersonal'. The point (of Spinoza, Marx, Freud, structuralism, cybernetics, Lacan... ) is that the personal IS impersonal: that the personal explains nothing but itself requires explanation. Such explanation can only come through structures which are not themselves personal...



as for dehistoricized auteurism... well i studied history and have never found this way of looking at things especially delibidinizing or whatever... it can be done well or it can be done boringly

I wouldn't quite say it was delibidinizing, I'd say it was libidinally false. Genuine libidinal situations are always indifferent to context and posterity. Auteurs are interesting not because they express history, but because they escape it. They create their own precursors, as Borges brilliantly argues in his essay on Kafka. If this seems to contradict what I said above about populations/ culture, I think that is only superficially; in a seeming paradox, then are moments in - it would be better to say 'out' - of History, capital H, in which it is possible to get to Now...

There's a Nietzschean Last Man-type quality about historicizing analysis; one of Nietzsche's most prescient points about postmodern culture was that it would be killed by an obsession with the past, with its own 'positioning'. Such contextualization can only lead to the melancholy conclusion that all things pass, that everything that people once invested so much in is now dust etc. By contrast, Roman and Greek cultures were indifferent to history. They thought they were the only cultures.


whenever you write your (witty, i admit) riff about how nothing is more delibidizing than the phrase "based on a true story" i'm afraid the cliche "truth is stranger than fiction" always springs to mind

But that always puts Lacan's idea that truth appears in the form of fiction into my mind. Truth isn't opposed to fiction, far from it. Truth is opposed to the empirical.

(btw it's not only me who thinks that; such films almost always do extraordinarily badly at the box office... that's only a point of information obv, appeals to popularity being fallacious)



plus, you occasionally do this self-situating thing -- e.g. your references to being working class! i guess radical impersonalism is a rocky road with many lapses on the way

But references to class/ sexuality/ sex etc ARE 'radically impersonalising' ---- what is class if not an impersonal force? Recognizing it is recognizing the degree to which you are the product of impersonal machines, surely.

More generally, what I'm wanting is for it to be accepted that the popist critique of rockism was well-put, but that popism itself, insofar as it exists, is parasitic upon the rockism it affects to disdain. What I'm waiting for is a new position to be articulated that not only actually reflects how ppl DO deal with Pop (both rockism and popism fail on this score) but also dares to specify what is positive (socially, libidinally) about Pop. One of the annoying things about Popism is its pretence of pure description: too much 'is', not enough 'ought'. I think such a position wd have to draw upon the Dance music paradigm rather than be sucked back into binaries from twenty years ago.

dominic
08-04-2005, 06:33 PM
Auteurs are interesting not because they express history, but because they escape it . . . . If this seems to contradict what I said above about populations/ culture, I think that is only superficially; in a seeming paradox, then are moments in - it would be better to say 'out' - of History, capital H, in which it is possible to get to Now...

There's a Nietzschean Last Man-type quality about historicizing analysis; one of Nietzsche's most prescient points about postmodern culture was that it would be killed by an obsession with the past, with its own 'positioning'. Such contextualization can only lead to the melancholy conclusion that all things pass, that everything that people once invested so much in is now dust etc. By contrast, Roman and Greek cultures were indifferent to history.

this is perhaps too cheeky by far -- and i don't want to take this conversation off topic, i.e., i find conversations like the present one far more productive (and thoughtful) than conversations over in the thought section of dissensus -- but the impish & needy child in me can never resist opportunity to score petty points -- so let me just say it now: doesn't the above passage remind of the argument of heidegger's "being and time" -- which of course grew out of h's reflections on n's "uses and abuses of history"

dominic
08-04-2005, 07:04 PM
getting back to the community vs populations distinction, i'd like to salvage this point that blissblogger made . . . .


the population/tribe wasn't created ex nihilo , it was created out of the actual population in the normal sense of the city, there are certain tendencies that determine its composition -- which can be analyssed on race/class/gender/etc levels, because the music repels some and attracts others

yes -- but w/ rave you had the sense that the scene was a newly open & contested field -- and so you literally had people from all kinds of musical & music scene backgrounds rushing in to stake their claim -- rock 'n' rollers, punk rock vets, industrial music people, ja soundsystem people, hip hop people

and not just people who had actually made rock n roll or hip hop, but people who identified with such scenes or at least preferred this or that kind of music

and then all at once -- in a kind of "population" explosion -- all these people staked a claim to being members of the raving massive -- or in the case of the balearic crowd, they claimed for themselves a kind of elite status, i.e., part of the scene but above the scene, arbiters of the new sounds

and in a very complex process people both shed their previous identities and yet remained determined by those previous identities = hardcore ravers were working class, the balearic crowd middle class, etc

and there was a real battle that went on to establish who had the best claim to "rave" music, who the real leaders of this revolution would prove to be . . . .

and only retrospectively is it apparent that certain hip hop & ja soundsystem veterans captured the essence of the music in certain 90/91/92 productions

there was simply too much tumult and clamor at the time to even know

BY CONTRAST -- with grime we already know who the stalwarts are, we already know in advance who has the best claim to the field of production


BUT there is also an elective element to this, you can self-select yourself as tribal member...

and yes -- it was not simply the case that working class kids from east london went for hardcore rave music, or that middle class kids from brighton went for balearic sounds, or whatever --

there was a great deal of freedom amidst the tumult of 90/91/92 to select your own tribe, to shed your previous loyalties and affiliations for entirely new clothes


that is perhaps where the grime bloggerati fit in, uneasily, as people who don't fit the profile in sociological or geographic respects but for other socio-biographic reasons are drawn to it and enter into a fanatical relationship with it

again -- w/ rave this was not an issue -- but you tell me, you're the expert!!! -- i for the most part wasn't even there!!! -- but there was no insider/outsider divide based on "real world identities" to navigate -- you had a lot of freedom to choose your tribe -- though obviously those who championed a sound for the longest time had the most cred w/ partisans of that sound -- or those who had been going to the right parties had the most cred w/ partisans of those parties -- but the point is that here everything depended on one's *own actions* and one's *own decisions*-- and very little depended on one's real world identity, one's place in the social structure, or even one's prior life history

but with grime it matters whether a person is working class or middle class, black or white -- such that for the white middle class person getting into grime is more like a show of solidarity than true membership in the scene


for many grime-bloggerati the attraction is probably 98 percent sonic maybe, but for me beyond the sonic attraction it also has a political dimension (which is what seems to bother--i mean, genuinely perturb and upset--a lot of people, causing them to invoke concepts like liberal guilt, social worker etc) . . . . the political dimension i would characterize using a word that is totally unfashionable and i'm sure will be seized on by piranha-like hordes for ridicule but it seems like a totally apt word and the word is . . . . SOLIDARITY

again, w/ rave it wasn't limited to solidarity

rather solidarity seems like a gesture people now make b/c having been swept up in rave, or having had their musical compass determined by rave sounds, they recognize the grime massive as the rightful inheritors of the rave scene -- and so the show of solidarity is more like an acknowledgment or display of recognition of the grime people's status as the rightful heirs

what had been an open if highly contested field is now a closed field w/ acknowledged owners

and surely the fact that nobody owned "rave" goes a long way toward explaining its success as an export to america and other parts of the world

whereas with grime it's more like a case of buying that which you can never own

dominic
08-04-2005, 07:22 PM
and i should add that this is why i still give my loyalty, at the end of the day, to the dance scene

i'd say that w/in the cosmopolitan dance scene that people of afro-carribean descent are regarded more as firsts among equals, or that it's recognized that they have a special claim or relationship to the music . . . .

and yet i know serbians, italian gypsies, moroccans, etc, who have full membership -- you simply have to "get" the music and "understand" what the scene is about

even white middle-class americans are allowed membership . . . .

if they elect membership, they get membership

dominic
08-04-2005, 07:35 PM
The fact that no-one there or elsewhere would define themselves as Popists because, hey, they are more 'complex than that' and they don't 'want to be defined' is only proof of my point earlier that Popism is an ideological pressure, not something anyone can actually live up to. No-one can ONLY enjoy Pop, that's why it has to be imagined that there is someone else somewhere else who can and does.


by contrast, even though the "massive" is a construct insofar as each member of the massive relates to the massive's field of production differently, i.e., some make music, some only listen to the pirates, some only buy records, others do all three but to various degrees, etc -- and also a construct insofar as each member has his own relationship to musics from outside the field of production -- it is also the case that people claim to be part of the massive, they struggle for the right to say that they are members and that others are posers or trend-spotters

so when blissblogger and woebot express an anxiety about not being "real" members of the massive, and so not having a "real" relationship with the massive's music, they don't do so from a position of condescension -- rather they are stating social facts that both they and members of the massive recognize and acknowledge

nobody claims to just like pop music -- that position is always for the other

but people fight for the right to belong to the massive

or else they cede the right to others and wonder what that means for their own position

dominic
08-04-2005, 07:52 PM
What I'm waiting for is a new position to be articulated that not only actually reflects how ppl DO deal with Pop (both rockism and popism fail on this score) but also dares to specify what is positive (socially, libidinally) about Pop. One of the annoying things about Popism is its pretence of pure description: too much 'is', not enough 'ought'. I think such a position wd have to draw upon the Dance music paradigm rather than be sucked back into binaries from twenty years ago.

i think that eppy's pop-1/pop-2/pop-3 is a helpful *descriptive* scheme that fits with the experiene of dance music -- but i seem to be the only person here that finds it useful

as for the "ought" side of the equation, surely people at dissensus have views on this?

blissblogger
08-04-2005, 07:54 PM
But that begs the question about what Ferry's vision is; for instance, he thought that the first album and FYP were the best, so I think this is more complex than it might at first appear. (Eno, unbelievably, thought that Stranded was the best Roxy album). .

interesting ( i suppose we should start a roxy thread for this), that's good taste on Ferry's part -- shame he so swiftly moved away from the 1st and 2nd albums style then!

always thought eno said this to be gracious and not seem like a sore loser -- also it is a very good album, in places



And in a way, this is precisely the point: the decline of Roxy was almost entirely down to cultural factors, not to Ferry's individual vision. And: what is called Ferry's vision was only possible during a certain moment of population coalescence. .

hmmm, you'd have to explain this a bit more for me to grasp... i thought a lot of what happened with Roxy was purely that they were in huge debt and had to break America to have a chance of making any dosh



The point is not, and never has been, that there is no such thing as personality; nor that there are some things that are personal and other things that are 'impersonal'. The point (of Spinoza, Marx, Freud, structuralism, cybernetics, Lacan... ) is that the personal IS impersonal: that the personal explains nothing but itself requires explanation. Such explanation can only come through structures which are not>themselves personal... .

it's true --and pointing these structures and processes out i think is a salutary thing to do, which is why i do it--that individuals are products of these impersonal and structural things -- but that's only going to take you so far i think -- you can take any auteur and subject them to all these different axes of typology and place them and depersonalize them but in the end there's something that eludes that kind of analysis -- can you in the end really explain Mark E. Smith in these terms say? how do you explain grain of the voice or charisma? or the weird vocal tics from someone like D Double E? perhaps they're not personal in the sense that is non grata for you but they're certainly somatic, the product of a specific body.



I wouldn't quite say it was delibidinizing, I'd say it was libidinally false. Genuine libidinal situations are always indifferent to context and posterity. Auteurs are interesting not because they express history, but because they escape it. They create their own precursors, as Borges brilliantly argues in his essay on Kafka. If this seems to contradict what I said above about populations/ culture, I think that is only superficially; in a seeming paradox, then are moments in - it would be better to say 'out' - of History, capital H, in which it is possible to get to Now... .

that sounds a bit like the pop-ist now, except more jouissance-y than plaisir-y



There's a Nietzschean Last Man-type quality about historicizing analysis; one of Nietzsche's most prescient points about postmodern culture was that it would be killed by an obsession with the past, with its own 'positioning'. Such contextualization can only lead to the melancholy conclusion that all things pass, that everything that people once invested so much in is now dust etc. By contrast, Roman and Greek cultures were indifferent to history. They thought they were the only cultures..

i agree that describes our decadence... but how do you put the blinkers back on?





But that always puts Lacan's idea that truth appears in the form of fiction into my mind. Truth isn't opposed to fiction, far from it. Truth is opposed to the empirical. ..

that's kinda playing a word game with 'truth' innit -- obviously in the sentence 'truth is stranger than fiction' they mean truth as in what actually happened, the empirical -- i'd probably agree 'the empirical is stranger than fiction' -- or at least it can be as strange -- that's what i felt while writing the postpunk book: you couldn't make up some of these stories.



(btw it's not only me who thinks that; such films almost always do extraordinarily badly at the box office... that's only a point of information obv, appeals to popularity being fallacious) ..

erm, Schindler's List? the aviator? (not making any argument on the merits of either here, just on box office ), there' loads of hugely popular films based on true stories! Deadwood, probably the best thing on TV currently , is partly based on true historical characters



More generally, what I'm wanting is for it to be accepted that the popist critique of rockism was well-put, but that popism itself, insofar as it exists, is parasitic upon the rockism it affects to disdain. What I'm waiting for is a new position to be articulated that not only actually reflects how ppl DO deal with Pop (both rockism and popism fail on this score) but also dares to specify what is positive (socially, libidinally) about Pop. One of the annoying things about Popism is its pretence of pure description: too much 'is', not enough 'ought'. I think such a position wd have to draw upon the Dance music paradigm rather than be sucked back into binaries from twenty years ago.

this is a bit too subtle for me mark -- i would say though that it's not a retreat or a retrenchment in so far as 'rockist' has never been used as a positive term before, it's always been an insult, i've used it as insult
for most of my writing career... it's the word no one wants to be accused of being,

it's only recently when i realized that 'rockist' was being used as a word to basically eliminate or delegitimize any axis of argument upon one might issue the judgement "trivial/urgent" that it's struck me that most of the things i like about music are actually 'rockist', and it might be time to reconsider the word

but you know i don't think either -izm is really a particularly precise body of ideas, it's really about sensibility and temperament

i think when you think of 'rockism' you are thinking about ideas of 'depth vs surface' but ... that move some of us made in the 90s whereby we started celebrating the surface of sound etc, it didn't really get rid of the model -- it just turned 'surface' or 'sound in itself' into the new depth !-- by which i mean the thing to base your 'trivial/urgent' assessments around, to get all heated and fired up about

popism would dispose of that because 'trivial/urgent' posits an intrinsic objective quality to the artefact whereas in popism it's all about the ear of the beholder. it's the judgemental tone itself that is anathema

my earlier comments way upthread on consumer rights were tinged with lunacy (i did write them very fast) but what makes me think they have some purchase on reality is actually the whole debate about 'guilty pleasures' -- some people get very offended by this concept, the idea is 'why should i feel guilty about liking anything', which is a short step to 'if it pleasures me, it's good' -- so the introduction of any kind of moralizing frame (by which i mean any criteria whatsoever -- political, etc etc beyond the hedonic) that is rockist, that is wrong, that impinges on my right to enjoy whatsoever pleases me

the temperamental difference is at core between gnostic and agnostic, belief and nonbelief, the idea of truth and the irrelevance of 'truth' as category

which is your recent writings about religions etc have been so interesting as a development out of all this ,

about time i read badiou really

craner
08-04-2005, 08:00 PM
...

dominic
08-04-2005, 08:03 PM
and i think it's not just me that's woken up from the haze and returned to "reality" with a grim sickening bump, it's the scene -- look at Grime -- the return of facialisation, personality.... that's another place we disagree, your impersonalism... i don't think one can understand grime, or hip hop, without reference to ideas of the personality, character, charisma etc

k-punk can speak for himself -- but i don't think that k-punk has any objection to "charisma" -- on the contrary! -- rather his objection to these charismatic grime & hip hop figures is that despite their charisma they still "represent" the hood, i.e., it's a twofold representation: (1) this is where i come from, these are my people, and i'm representing them, staying true to them, staying true the streets; and (2) this is the representation of the world that i offer, a tough & mean world, of gangstas and playas, posers and sissies, bitches and hos and sell-outs, and i've got the baddest rap so don't mess with me, etc -- and so they remain prisoners of empirical reality who reinforce the bonds of empirical reality

dominic
08-04-2005, 08:39 PM
the temperamental difference is at core between gnostic and agnostic, belief and nonbelief, the idea of truth and the irrelevance of 'truth' as category

yes yes yes yes yes -- that's it in a nutshell

dominic
08-04-2005, 09:31 PM
you can take any auteur and subject them to all these different axes of typology and place them and depersonalize them but in the end there's something that eludes that kind of analysis -- can you in the end really explain Mark E. Smith in these terms say? how do you explain grain of the voice or charisma? or the weird vocal tics from someone like D Double E? perhaps they're not personal in the sense that is non grata for you but they're certainly somatic, the product of a specific body.


this is nature at its most undeniable

and it's surely non grata to any good kantian

(k-punk's spinozism perhaps makes him a bad kantian, i.e., perhaps for k-punk the somatic is not non grata)

you can resent it, but you can't fully extirpate it

k-punk
09-04-2005, 06:20 AM
this is a bit too subtle for me mark -- i would say though that it's not a retreat or a retrenchment in so far as 'rockist' has never been used as a positive term before, it's always been an insult, i've used it as insult
for most of my writing career... it's the word no one wants to be accused of being,

Fair enough, that's certainly true: but as I said before, it's not as if it wasn't used that way without good reason


it's only recently when i realized that 'rockist' was being used as a word to basically eliminate or delegitimize any axis of argument upon one might issue the judgement "trivial/urgent" that it's struck me that most of the things i like about music are actually 'rockist', and it might be time to reconsider the word

Well, that, for me, pinpoints exactly what is wrong with the dominant Popist hegemony. And, before I hav to hear about strawmen again, it's worth stressing that these ideas really are oppressive. Ppl come down on you like a ton of bricks if you dare suggest that X is more worthwhile than Y or that Z is trivial froth, and that trivial froth is bad.... Compulsory relativism, with an attendant obligatory self-deprecation.... 'Who am I to say... it's all just a matter of opinion... Some ppl think that Westlife are as important as PiL...'


but you know i don't think either -izm is really a particularly precise body of ideas, it's really about sensibility and temperament

i think when you think of 'rockism' you are thinking about ideas of 'depth vs surface' but ... that move some of us made in the 90s whereby we started celebrating the surface of sound etc, it didn't really get rid of the model -- it just turned 'surface' or 'sound in itself' into the new depth !-- by which i mean the thing to base your 'trivial/urgent' assessments around, to get all heated and fired up about

Wasn't that Mark S's point about popism=rockism, because both fetishise a certain way of delivering affect?

Having any sort of criteria at all (even delivering affect would be 'too limiting' because consumers might not always WANT affect, lol) is the problem for Popism... and one of the irritating things about it is its pretence that, because it doesn't have a STATED ideology, it is listening without presuppositions....But even saying that is too 'limiting', because their enjoyment might not involve listening.... The ideology is that they just enjoy... Why can't we? Anti-intellectualism is a major part of it (often a feature of middle class ideologies)...


popism would dispose of that because 'trivial/urgent' posits an intrinsic objective quality to the artefact whereas in popism it's all about the ear of the beholder. it's the judgemental tone itself that is anathema

Yes.... the judgemental tone... This for me is cut across by the modernist/ postmodernist thing, and is part of the reason why I've been trying to revive the term modernism recently... I guess modernism is interesting because it is anti-Romantic (cf T.S. Eliot's insistent move of positioning modernism as classicist) but about as far from populist as can be imagined...

think the idea of 'intrinsic properties' is not straightforward, not because everything is in the ear of beholder, more because it seems to me to be more about potentials: texts of whatever kind are sets of potentials that can only be actualised in certain conditions of reception...


my earlier comments way upthread on consumer rights were tinged with lunacy (i did write them very fast)

Only tinged with the lunacy of capitalism, because Popism is quite clearly about consumer rights; that's why it cuts across this mp3 thing so much, which seems to be about the 'rights' to unlimited consumption --- and to hell with producers. Popism is a dream for capitalist ideologues because it is a straightforward statement of capitalist ideology: enjoy, enjoy, work harder at enjoying... so consumer rights actually turn out to be about the obligation to be a good consumer, so that if, for instance, you dare to sugges that Pop might not be so hot at the moment, you are berated for not looking hard enough...


but what makes me think they have some purchase on reality is actually the whole debate about 'guilty pleasures' -- some people get very offended by this concept, the idea is 'why should i feel guilty about liking anything', which is a short step to 'if it pleasures me, it's good' -- so the introduction of any kind of moralizing frame (by which i mean any criteria whatsoever -- political, etc etc beyond the hedonic) that is rockist, that is wrong, that impinges on my right to enjoy whatsoever pleases me

yes, quite, as if these notions of 'me' and 'pleasure' are completely unpolitical and pretheoretical... again, that is bourgeois ideology through and through.... But I think you've also put yr finger on the problem I have with occupying 'rockism' as a positive term... just because Popists say that it is rockist doesn't mean that it is....


the temperamental difference is at core between gnostic and agnostic, belief and nonbelief, the idea of truth and the irrelevance of 'truth' as category

which is your recent writings about religions etc have been so interesting as a development out of all this ,

about time i read badiou really

At the risk of being evangelical lol I would say that you would enjoy it... partly because it is so committed, so dismissive of consumerist triviocracy, so much about fidelity to events, so much about criteria....

tek tonic
09-04-2005, 07:11 AM
Well, that, for me, pinpoints exactly what is wrong with the dominant Popist hegemony. And, before I hav to hear about strawmen again, it's worth stressing that these ideas really are oppressive. Ppl come down on you like a ton of bricks if you dare suggest that X is more worthwhile than Y or that Z is trivial froth, and that trivial froth is bad.... Compulsory relativism, with an attendant obligatory self-deprecation.... 'Who am I to say... it's all just a matter of opinion... Some ppl think that Westlife are as important as PiL...'

the main fault that i can see in this interpretation of the popist position is that you assume a popist can only allow satisfaction on one level, can only evaluate surface and not depth. what you describe is popism taken to its extreme - things with depth (X) cannot be allowed to have any value, because if they are judged in that way, Y (the trivial froth) is judged as inferior. and of course, rockism taken to the same ridciulous extreme says that 'trivial froth' cannot be allowed to have any value, because then any judgements of depth will be worthless.

my question is, why are the two mutually exclusive? can we not agree that Kylie is mostly surface and little or no depth, John Cage is mostly depth and little or no surface, and that the abundance of one characteristic doesn't negate the presence of the other?

Xgau is one of my favorite critics, because he endorses the marketplace (okay, capitalism) as an arbiter of a certain kind of value, while acknowledging that other music has value that the marketplace utterly fails to recognize. as a critic, i think he shows pretty convincingly that there is a happy medium. what's wrong with having your cake and eating it too?

Tim F
09-04-2005, 08:19 AM
Too much now has happened since I last posted for me to respond to it all (really liked yr post immediately responding to my last one though Mark), so I'll limit myself to a couple of things for now:

Firstly, since Mark has pretty much come out and said that "popism" as a critical practice is exemplified by Freaky Trigger and Geezaesthetics, I want to question some of the characterisations of this practice. Specifically, that it is geared solely toward enjoyment, that it resists all attempts at judgment, and that it reduces all critical reception to that of a middle-aged manager sitting in a pub listening to Kylie (As a quarter-aged manager who has often sat in pubs listening to Kylie I'm hesitant to accept that the critical reception of such a person is self-evident, but we'll leave that aside for now).

While I'm hardly an expert on Geezaesthetics in particular, from my exposure to it I think Mark is mis-reading it a bit. It's true that there is a certain level of critical "levelling" here which is consistent with postmodernism generally, but it is not, or at least not primarily, levelling in the service of enjoyment. The Manifesto states "We think a meal or a bus ride can be as <i>interesting</i> as a painting or a record" (emphasis mine). Together with the rest of the Manifesto's insistence that "We place a high value on criticism that makes us think in new ways or about new things...We place the highest possible value on criticism that makes us talk more, anything to enhance our conversation," I think it's fairly clear that, for the geezaesthete's purposes, the value of a cultural artifact appears to be the sum total of what can be said or thought of it, the extent to which it can revitalise and rejuvenate discourse. Thus, rather than repressing critical engagement in the name of a respect for the individual's enjoyment, geezaesthetics subordinates individual enjoyment to public debate and critical engagement (for which "conversation" is merely a congenial codeword).

Or, as Alex Thompson put it on ILM: " If I understand geezaesthetics (to which I don't subscribe) it seems to imply that the critical value of art derives from the way it can be invoked and defended in a particular argumentative context. Which is clearly a long way from saying 'anything goes'. Equally the Kogan / Eddy school of thought seems to be about treating popular and non-popular musics as fundamentally equal (in principle) but different in practice (i.e. hipster listening to indie thinking 'I am cool' != housewife listening to mainstream country and thinking 'I identify with that' != kid listening to anything and saying 'I like this' != critic listening and thinking 'what the hell can I say about this for cash") and the differences in practice are what's worth talking about, rather than getting hung up on which is better in principle. (And certainly doesn't stop them judging good / bad within categories, or from being in love with how the categories are constantly changing so bad one thing might turn out to be good something else)." ["!=" meaning "is not the same as"]

In other words, the value of art is directly referable in its potential for social "actualisation" in the form of an articulation of the receptive engagement (in case you think I mean that art's value is the criticism it inspires, I don't, quite; rather that the criticism it inspires is what "inflates" the art with value, as none of this criticism inheres within the art prior to its articulation by a critic). One of the misconceptions in saying that "popism is about trying to hear pop as a 12 year old girl" is that implies that it is some "uncritical" quality to the 12 year old girl's enjoyment which is desirable. To the extent that a 12 year old girl's engagement with pop is interesting to the popist (and that extent is usually overrated by anti-popists I think) it is insofar as the engagement is <i>already critical</i>, as it is engagement within a social context. The Manifesto says similarly: "We are critics as soon as we listen to a record, watch a film, experience any art of any kind. Any reaction, from rapture to depression of the off switch, is an act of criticism. We're not necessarily happy about this, but we're stuck with it so there's no point being unhappy about it either." This does not mean that all such acts of criticism are <i>equal</i> - again we return to the point that the value of criticism lies in how it advances the "conversation" (critical discouse within a certain social environment). I have little time for most 12 year old girls' enjoyment of music if only because it's difficult for me to have a meaningful conversation with them. I tried with my little sister. Now that she's 18 our conversations about music are much more interesting to me. Likewise, the manager listening to Kylie has a critical engagement with the music, but this isn't a particularly salient or notable point as far as I'm concerned: it's what he does next that is interesting to me. Does he start a conversation about Kylie? Does he get up and dance to it, embarassing himself in front of his co-workers?

The irony of talking about managers listening to Kylie is that it's so close to the one easily observable social manifestation of bad "strawman" popism that I can think of, which is that of the gay man who believes that his enjoyment of Kylie's music <i>is indeed</i> a quasi-mystical experience about which <i>nothing further can be said</i>. Kylie's music is auotomatically and as a matter of course enjoyable (regardless of what actual sonic, lyrical or otherwise properties the specific song playing might possess). I like Kylie frequently but I feel very uncomfortable when brought face to face with the sort of enforced, determined hedonism that Mark brings up in relation to the gay sensibility; I am peturbed by the thought that my membership to this community might somehow guarantee my appreciation of a cultural artifact in advance. But of course what needs to be stressed here is that we're dealing with a very "real" community insofar as its members tend to consider themselves to be a community and share certain obvious social and cultural attributes. The gay man who screams when a Kylie song comes on in a club is always at least partially relating not merely to the song itself; he is also relating to his own position within the gay community, his own sense of identity as a gay man. Far from being an example of some fragmented, individualist disavowal of community and social context, this example of strawman popism is in fact a function of how the gay man's enjoyment of music is rooted within their sense of community, is in fact an expression of "solidarity". And my own insistence on the right to be critical of Kylie is equally an expression of my ambivalent relationship to this "community" and its expressions of solidarity.

See below for part 2...

Tim F
09-04-2005, 08:22 AM
What this brings us around to is a broader point about "real"/"imagined"/"created" communities and pop music. I agree that different music has different meanings and different significance for different groups of people (or "populations" as per Mark); but I think the "communal" nature of these groups is never self-evident, and I therefore have issues generally with an attempt to delineate easily between real and imagined communities. Of course you can point to something like the overwhelming majority of the grime audience belonging to a certain set of racial/cultural/socio-economic categories, but grime is never a straightforward <i>reflection</i> of this anymore than Kylie is a reflection of homosexuality (how can certain sounds automatically/inherently have certain meanings, esp. related to something so sophisticated and historically mutable as social formations?). Rather, the grime community is necessarily an imagined community to the extent that the relationship between the music and this group of people is necessarily imaginary (as per Althusser's definition of ideology as being (simplistically put) how we imagine our real relationship with society). This is how music "creates" communities: it invites us to relate to our real state of affairs in a certain manner through the medium of the music. All music does this, some with more obvious, radical or permanently transformative social impacts than others. And certainly I can share a deep appreciation for how this manifests itself, but any attempt to codify a distinction between real and imagined strikes me as being an unnecessary and false critical tool.

A person who wished to persevere with the real/imagined distinction might jump in here and say, "yes, but, surely a style of music such as grime is only trying to interpellate a certain type of person as a potential member of its community - a person who fits the bill in terms of the following social and cultural categories...". Maybe this is the intention of the creator, but the difficulty is that the music itself doesn't respect such intentions - hence so many of us being "drawn in" by grime! The moment we engage with the music we are simultaneously imagining ourselves <i>through</i> it: being a grime fan becomes as much a part of my conception of myself in relation to society as it is for a black grime fan in Bow.

Now I'm not trying to collapse the distinctions and differences between me and the hypothetical black grime fan in Bow. I understand entirely Simon and Matt's nervousness with regards to speaking on behalf of such a person. There <i>is</i> a meaningful distinction between us, but it is precisely the distinction in how we express or articulate our reception of the music in a social context. The Bow fan is likely to be engaged in certain social practices connected to their engagement with grime that I, being a white middle-class gay Australian, simply have no access to or involvement in. To be fluffy about it, we are involved in different conversations, and I should respect the fact that I cannot speak for him or her, and that I should not <i>speak over</i> her. And I think that this is the absolute ground zero basis of the M.I.A.-antipathy on Dissensus on elsewhere (a position expounded more straightforwardly by Dave Stelfox): a practical concern that certain social "conversations" (by which we mean social practices in relation to a musical scene, including both creation and reception) will be obscured and left unheard due to the calamity surrounding M.I.A.

Crucially though, aren't these very distinctions already anticipated by Kogan and Eddy-style criticism, as paraphrased by Alex above? Isn't a basic respect for and curiosity regarding the fact that forms of musical reception and engagement are not equal (or, more accurately, <i>commensurate</i>) in practice enough to establish why and how the "grime community" is worth thinking about, without having construct some sort of ontological heirarchy? There is a big difference between the two approaches - in one, M.I.A.'s music might be good or bad, in the other it must a priori be inferior at least insofar as it "comes from nowhere") - but I don't think there is anything which is <i>lost</i> in adopting a Kogan/Eddy-style flexibility towards communities. It certainly still allows one to express a preference for certain types of communities, albeit more along the lines of "the grime community is <i>better imagined</i> than the M.I.A. community, and allows for a more meaningful display of <i>solidarity</i> with certain social groups" (it goes without saying I would think that the fact that displays of solidarity might be built upon certain ideological or imaginary constructs does not invalidate their worth or practical effect - see all politics ever).

"think the idea of 'intrinsic properties' is not straightforward, not because everything is in the ear of beholder, more because it seems to me to be more about potentials: texts of whatever kind are sets of potentials that can only be actualised in certain conditions of reception..."

Mark I think this is the central tenet of (my) popism 101!

DavidD
09-04-2005, 08:53 AM
I love unpackaging yr writing. Unpackaging is the perfect word for it too, i think. I live for that moment of dawning understanding.

dominic
09-04-2005, 10:46 AM
i think that somehow k-punk's point regarding the difference b/w "populations" and "communities" has gotten lost somewhere along the way

this is what k-punk said --


When Pop has been powerful, it has PRODUCED populations, not 'represented' already-existing organic communities...

so tim f seems to me to miss the point when he remarks as follows --


A person who wished to persevere with the real/imagined distinction might jump in here and say, "yes, but, surely a style of music such as grime is only trying to interpellate a certain type of person as a potential member of its community - a person who fits the bill in terms of the following social and cultural categories..."

that is, to the extent that the grime scene is populated only by a "certain type of person," i.e., a person "belonging to a certain set of racial/cultural/socio-economic categories," then grime fails as pop

or to the extent that kylie is celebrated and appropriated only by gay men, kylie fails as pop

again, powerful pop produces populations that do not already exist in the "real world"

as for whether all music scenes are merely imagined, such that it is false to distinguish b/w the massive (i.e., the "real" or hardcore constituency -- whose members may or may not correspond w/ already existing organic communities) and fans w/ a more attenuated relationship with the music, i think that everything depends on whether you'd stake a claim or cede ownership

(and yeah i've read benedict andersen's "imagined communities" -- so fine, all communities are imagined -- but knowing this establishes nothing, b/c the community has its basis in shared ways of relating to the music -- and these folk ways are circulated with the music -- but the circulation of these folk ways resists easy description, and the folk ways are not uniformly adopted or anywhere near as compelling in their grip as the music itself ---- I CAN'T DEAL W/ ThiS aT the MOmENT, way too tricky)

and by "staking a claim" i mean something like you'd be willing to die to validate the claim -- not literally, but figuratively

and along w/ staking the claim comes the right to exclude others -- i.e., it's your property, not someone else's property

now with pop-1 music there's very little staking of claims b/c the music at issue is made by discrete artists standing apart from any one scene -- so while lots of gay men may like kylie, no one would acknowledge the validity of the claim were gay men to lay exclusive claim to kylie

(to the extent that gay men make exclusive claim to house music, the claim meets w/ considerable deference, if not outright acknowledgement)

but with grime or punk rock or rave music or any kind of scene-based music, the massive will deny the legitimacy of other people's claim or relationship to the music

they might be glad that you like their music, happy that their scene is getting attention -- but should you claim that your relationship to or understanding of the music is just as valid or equal to theirs, they'll seek to establish their priority

and should you try to diffuse the matter by saying that the massivo's relation and some other person's relation are simply not commensurate -- the massivo will opt for conflict and assert his rank

again i make these points figuratively, not literally

so the massive shares ways of relating to the music

the massive consists of people who join together at clubs or parties or raves or shows to hear the music -- so in relating to the music they relate to each other -- indeed were it not for their shared interest in the music they likely would have no common dealings

and it matters that these gatherings are in the flesh, direct, unmediated -- they are the people on the ground, making the scene happen

and then there are codes that the massive develops for how to dress, how to dance, etc -- and these all relate, ultimately, to the music -- i.e., they relate to the music by affiliating with each other, marking themselves off as members of the same tribe

and then too there are the codes of taste -- i.e., members of the massive will have by and large the same assessment of works produced from out of their scene, i.e., some tracks widely thought wicked, other tracks widely dismissed as boring or whatever

of course there's considerable diversity among members of any given massive on all such counts -- and yet they conceive of themselves and recognize others as members of the massive based upon such factors

they have a common language, common understandings

and they'll exclude to one extent or another anyone whom they do not deem a true member

in short it's all very political

dominic
09-04-2005, 12:07 PM
also contra tim --

i'd say that the value of music is to be had not in its potential for being taken up critically

rather the value of music lies in its potential to be engaged with politically -- the politics of dancing -- the experience of being claimed by the music -- and the politics of embracing others and excluding others b/c of this experience

the music makes a claim on the listener -- and this claim then causes the listener to make all manner of claims about the music, i.e., claims of ownership and so forth

i expect that k-punk is going to say that i'm being fascistic

i'd say that politics has its ugly side

ALSO, to avoid misunderstanding, i don't deny that critical thinking about music intensifies enjoyment

but ultimately the real intensity -- the really intense intensity (sorry!) -- is to be had in the politics

dominic
09-04-2005, 12:24 PM
dance around your apartment by yourself -- you're merely claimed by the music

dance around with others -- suddenly this is your music in common with others

play the records that others are dancing to -- you're sharing your take on the music

but just because the music is yours doesn't mean that others don't have a better claim to it

dominic
09-04-2005, 12:40 PM
i've been rather sloppy in my use of the phrase "exclusive claim" -- i don't have in mind a claim that totally and completely excludes the rights of others

rather i have in mind something like a claim to lordship or something -- i.e., you can make use of this music, but the music is my fief -- so don't get too uppity

and yet i don't want to over emphasize the ugly side of the politics

were it not for the wonderful side -- the feelings of togetherness, of powerful connection to others -- the ugly side would have no justification

k-punk
09-04-2005, 12:46 PM
Yes, Dom's right: I would really like to re-introduce the communities versus population thing here.

Because 'communities' ARE self-evident, or are held to be, whereas populations aren't.

The concept of 'communities' is wielded as part of the soft oppression of the culture of (proliferation of) differences: there isn't a straight white male 'community' of course, but there is a 'black' community, a 'gay' community etc. It is just a form of othering crying out for Foucauldian demolition. It is no more 'natural' to group people by their sexuality or their skin colour than it is do so by eye colour or eating habits. (I was somewhat heartened last week when one of my adult black students was aghast last week when she picked up a copy of the Nation: 'what, there's a newspaper for BLACK people? Huh?')

(Whenever they are mentioned in the media, such 'communities' always have 'leaders', which prompts me into questioning: who is the 'leader' of the straight white male community? Tony Blair?)

The production of 'gay' has been particularly oppressive, I think. For example, GAY in London trades on what you might call a 'community brand' (a stereotype that is positively invested and commercially exploited). What it provides in terms of 'belonging', it takes away by demanding only a certain type of behaviour and sensibility. The idea that any male who happens to prefer men sexually should be cheerfully superficial, and only into 'fun' and 'froth' is obviously ludicrous. And yet....

The point is that there must be many 'gay' men who now feel that, not only are they not 'straight', they have in some sense failed to be 'properly' gay.

Foucault's arguments in History of Sexuality 1 have never been more relevant, never been more ignored - precisely because gay is now so mainstream. The cost of normalising 'gay' - making it into a genetically-determined lifestyle choice lol - has had the effect of de-queering the social. In other words, it is the (concept of) the normal that has benefited from this consumption/normalization of homosexuality.

Now, to come back to Tim's very well made point about gay men screaming when Kylie comes on. Yes, this is very much about 'positioning' and 'identity' (verily, a cult studs dream*): very much about one wing of Popism.

How does this relate to the het wing? There couldn't be a term less 'gay', more horribly evocative of beery straightness, than 'Geezaeshetics', surely?

It seems to me that they are two ends of a continuum rather than a simple opposition: both the solitary straight consumer and the community member belong to the pleasure principle, to a reactive REaffirmation of particular prescribed affects. Which is different to Pop which PRODUCES populations, i.e. which estranges and uproots people from the sociallly-ascribed identity that they have learned to think of as everything they can be.

*One interesting thing about Popism as described by Tim/ Alex Thomson is that it has a kind of concealed aggression about texts AND consumers that, precisely because its ATTENTION to consumers (and I hope that such attention can be somewhat more nuanced than saying, a 'hipster thinks "I am cool"') is actually very different to how most consumers think about pop. One of the biggest Popist no-nos is 'knowing better' than someone else: but of course these cult studs types 'know better' than the consumers, because they 'know' that the consumer response is more important than the text itself.

mms
09-04-2005, 01:11 PM
i think there are quite a few gay london clubs and events opposed to mainstream gay culture, such as the duckie performance art club at vauxhall tavern,http://www.duckie.co.uk/
alternative's to gay pride like gay shame that ran at the same time etc
my friend denise is duckies official photographer http://www.docutage.com/essex.html

they are endlessly creative nights .

Tim F
09-04-2005, 03:25 PM
I certainly wouldn't seek to suggest that either all gay men or all gay scenes uncritically adored Kylie. However at the ones which do encourage it there is a collective denial of this actual diversity, <i>as if</i> Kylie was the authentic music of the gay male experience. I should note that as a matter of fact I've never met a gay man who <i>detested</i> Kylie who I liked, but this may be a chance thing (though I've of course now met many people in both camps and in between).

"It seems to me that they are two ends of a continuum rather than a simple opposition: both the solitary straight consumer and the community member belong to the pleasure principle, to a reactive REaffirmation of particular prescribed affects.

Mark, how do you consider Geezaesthetics to be particularly affirming the pleasure principle? Do you entirely disagree with my stab at what I thought geezaesthetics was about or do you consider it irrelevant or...? And is the straight consumer solitary or in the pub? Which is it? I think you're missing the social quality of geezaesthetics, and playing down the distinction between critical engagement and enforced mystical enjoyment which you were one of the first people to make on this thread - is it <i>only</i> the fact that the person being discussed in the pub is Kylie which makes what is going on a function of the pleasure principle? If the discussion was about Roxy Music would it be okay? 'Cos discussions about Roxy Music would I imagine certainly fit into the Geezaesthetic brief. Actually it's always been implied that if there is a geezaesthete "consensus" artist/band it's Dexys Midnight Runners...

"*One interesting thing about Popism as described by Tim/ Alex Thomson is that it has a kind of concealed aggression about texts AND consumers that, precisely because its ATTENTION to consumers (and I hope that such attention can be somewhat more nuanced than saying, a 'hipster thinks "I am cool"') is actually very different to how most consumers think about pop."

It would strike me as a very strange point in the discussion to start defending what the average pop consumer "knows" about their own enjoyment. And if you *do* think that popism is precisely "defending what the average pop consumer "knows" about their own enjoyment," then perhaps geezaesthetics (as Alex/I see it) falls outside yr negative definition of popism?


"rather the value of music lies in its potential to be engaged with politically -- the politics of dancing -- the experience of being claimed by the music -- and the politics of embracing others and excluding others b/c of this experience

the music makes a claim on the listener -- and this claim then causes the listener to make all manner of claims about the music, i.e., claims of ownership and so forth"

Dominic what then is the value of Ariel Pink - music which is certainly not pop in the sense it's being used here, but which is almost inevitably geared towards individual consumption/engagement? Most of the music that I like could "pass" under yr restrictvie definition of value, and you're also talking about my absolute favourite way of experiencing and engaging with music, but if I'm understanding you correctly then I think there's a lot of (often very rockist!) music and music fans who are left out in the cold.

Tim F
09-04-2005, 03:50 PM
By the way Dominic I agree with pretty much everything in your first post responding to me (the one that starts with "i think that somehow k-punk's point regarding the difference b/w "populations" and "communities" has gotten lost somewhere along the way"). I understand entirely the point Mark is trying to make re "populations". I think you're talking more about rave than all scenes eg grime and dancehall though - the point with grime and dancehall is that the music appears to signify and be linked to a real actual pre-existing community that is not merely created by the music, and this appears to be the basis upon which Matt/Simon distinguish them from pop/M.I.A. Rave is in another category, and that is actually quite a crucial point because it means that, in the split between rave and gay men who like Kylie, <i>grime is on the side of the gay men who like Kylie</i>.

You might say in response to this that the distinction between the grime scene and gay Kylie fans is (as you said before), gay men don't stake a strong claim of ownership in Kylie. Have you ever seen Kylie perform live? I think you'd find that the sense of stepping into a particular sub-culture's territory would seem near-overwhelming. It's like gay pride day. In fact the gay "ownership" of house is much less strong, at least outside of the US. The deference for it says more about the attitudes of dance fans generally (who are obsessed with the origins of scenes) than it does about the gay community's willingness to defend its claim.

"(and yeah i've read benedict andersen's "imagined communities" -- so fine, all communities are imagined -- but knowing this establishes nothing, b/c the community has its basis in shared ways of relating to the music -- and these folk ways are circulated with the music -- but the circulation of these folk ways resists easy description, and the folk ways are not uniformly adopted or anywhere near as compelling in their grip as the music itself ---- I CAN'T DEAL W/ ThiS aT the MOmENT, way too tricky)"

This was my point exactly though, I thought.

k-punk
11-04-2005, 10:36 AM
I certainly wouldn't seek to suggest that either all gay men or all gay scenes uncritically adored Kylie. However at the ones which do encourage it there is a collective denial of this actual diversity, <i>as if</i> Kylie was the authentic music of the gay male experience. I should note that as a matter of fact I've never met a gay man who <i>detested</i> Kylie who I liked, but this may be a chance thing (though I've of course now met many people in both camps and in between).

No-one surely is implying that anyone is suggesting that all gay men like Kylie: no-one here that is. But it IS implied, strongly, elsewhere. I suppose though I don't accept the concept that there ARE gay men in some quasi-naturalized way: to be gay is not only to have a certain sexual preference, it is to make a double affirmation, not only of a particular sexual preference, but also of the claim that people can be categorised according to their sexual preference. The original point of Queer Theory (before it got colonized by Gay Studies) was precisely to make this (Foucauldian) move.


"It seems to me that they are two ends of a continuum rather than a simple opposition: both the solitary straight consumer and the community member belong to the pleasure principle, to a reactive REaffirmation of particular prescribed affects.

Mark, how do you consider Geezaesthetics to be particularly affirming the pleasure principle?

Because, for a start, of its name and the attendant pub conversation imagery.

What is being a geeza if not belonging to a certain bleary beery community of shared enjoyment? Now this enjoyment is one level up from dancing or listening to Pop. It is, in this respect as in many others, the worst of all worlds: neither a 'naive' immersion in the Thing itself nor an honest theoretical analysis, just some beer-sodden place in between. It's an enjoyment of criticism itself, but only as long as criticism is pre-theoretical and non-intellectual, or can seem that way. i.e. 'We are critics as soon as we listen to a record, watch a film, experience any art of any kind. Any reaction, from rapture to depression of the off switch, is an act of criticism.'

One of the things that is most depressing about Geezaesthetics, and the Cult Studs discourse from which it comes, is this elevation of opionist exchanges into the highest form of enjoyment and culture. 'We place the highest possible value on criticism that makes us talk more, anything to enhance our conversation.' There you have it: a manifesto for the chattering classes, which at least has the benefit of honestly presenting the values of the chit-chatoisie.

I'm not joking when I say that the Geezaesthetics manifesto should be put alongside the American Constitution as a clear statement of bourgeois values. Pop is 'raised up' to be a worthy subject of the Conversation, just as any theorist must be 'brought down' to the level of a converser - otherwise she is getting above herself. Because the claim that 'no-one is above the conversation' is a way of saying: no-one is above us and our opinions. But as a Pop fan, I don't consider my own response equal to that of the Pop; I want to be subordinated to the Pop, lesser than it. I don't have any problem whatsoever with that. What I do have a problem with is the aggressive aesthetic egalitarianism of Cult Studs geezas who want to say, there's nothing there except your own response, what is ultimately important is our pub conversation.

So it seems to me that the shared enjoyment - both in the case of Kylie-loving and pub conversing - is a kind of meta-enjoyment. 'Look at me, enjoying this.' (Incidentally, partly this reflects my feelings of crashing disappointment at going to GAY, whose 'fun' aesthetic and compulsory PoMo queening about mean that everything is in inverted commas. Dancing is done merely as a statement.)


Do you entirely disagree with my stab at what I thought geezaesthetics was about or do you consider it irrelevant or...?

think I've answered this above, and you're certainly right that I needed to fill in the gaps...


And is the straight consumer solitary or in the pub? Which is it?

Well, being in a pub IS usually a kind of solitude, so the opposition doesn't strike me as convincing. The relevant opposition to sitting in a pub or being in a car would be engaging in some sort of crowd dynamic: being at a gig or on the dancefloor. Not that these things immediately guarantee an escape from atomised consumerist subjectivity.


I think you're missing the social quality of geezaesthetics, and playing down the distinction between critical engagement and enforced mystical enjoyment which you were one of the first people to make on this thread

I have under-emphasised it, but geezaesthetics is a form of opinionist mysticism it seems to me. It wants to say that, ultimately, criticism = opinion, which everyone has a 'right' to, and no-one can know better than you about.

The social is not the collective... The collective involves a dismantling of atomised subjectivity; it is not one atomised subject conversing with another. It often involves what is a priori deemed impossible in the Geezaesthetics world: namely, a recognition of false consciousness.


- is it <i>only</i> the fact that the person being discussed in the pub is Kylie which makes what is going on a function of the pleasure principle? If the discussion was about Roxy Music would it be okay? 'Cos discussions about Roxy Music would I imagine certainly fit into the Geezaesthetic brief. Actually it's always been implied that if there is a geezaesthete "consensus" artist/band it's Dexys Midnight Runners...

Yes, well anything can be fed into those conversations, by their nature. But the issue is their role in culture it seems to me. Roxy would never have come about in a cultural context dominated by Geezaesthetics (jeezus, as for me, the very NAME is enough to kill everything Roxy stood for), just as the cultural dominance of Geezaesthetic values means that it is Kylie who is popular now.


"*One interesting thing about Popism as described by Tim/ Alex Thomson is that it has a kind of concealed aggression about texts AND consumers that, precisely because its ATTENTION to consumers (and I hope that such attention can be somewhat more nuanced than saying, a 'hipster thinks "I am cool"') is actually very different to how most consumers think about pop."

It would strike me as a very strange point in the discussion to start defending what the average pop consumer "knows" about their own enjoyment. And if you *do* think that popism is precisely "defending what the average pop consumer "knows" about their own enjoyment," then perhaps geezaesthetics (as Alex/I see it) falls outside yr negative definition of popism?

Part of what is irritating about Geezaesthetics and Cult Studies is its bizarre mystificatory reverence in respect of the phenomenology of people's enjoyment, as if this is ineffably complex. It actually isn't; Thomson's list is a litany of cliches, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. It also strikes me as uncontroversial to claim that most Pop fans who aren't middle class meta-critics don't subscribe to the meta-critical account of their own enjoyment. The analogy I would make is with Wittgensteinian 'language games' as applied to religion. Wittensteinians enthusiastically claim, in a so-called defence of religious belief, that 'no-one can judge' religious beliefs because they are playing a different language game. But it doesn't seem to me controversial to say that most religious believers would baulk at the idea that they are simply 'playing a language game', no more or less valid than any other.

borderpolice
11-04-2005, 12:20 PM
Interesting discussion!


Part of what is irritating about Geezaesthetics and
Cult Studies is its bizarre mystificatory reverence in respect of the
phenomenology of people's enjoyment, as if this is ineffably
complex. It actually isn't; Thomson's list is a litany of cliches, but
that doesn't mean it isn't true. other.

People's enjoyment is ineffably complex. For otherwise, why would it
be so unpredictable? And that it is unpredictable is immediately
obvious from the workings of the entertainment industry, which
essentially performs a random walk in the space of possible
entertainment, where most offerings, most bands for example that get
pushed, fail commercially. If you can do better than the entertainment
industry why don't you? One key problem here is how to observe
(others, one's own) enjoyment. Well, how do you?


But it doesn't seem to me controversial to say that
most religious believers would baulk at the idea that they are simply
'playing a language game', no more or less valid than any
other.

Isn't that the essence of religious tolerance? Be that as it may, why
would believers have privileged insight in whatever the think they
are doing? And why is believers' self-description in terms of what
they do superior to "Geezer's" alleged self-description in terms of
enjoyment?

Tim F
11-04-2005, 02:22 PM
Mark, yer last point really did explain a lot of things I'd either been missing or misunderstanding.

I see this debate sort of reaching a point where it's going to be difficult for us to move past our own positions towards a resolution - I think there are certain areas where we just fundamentally see music differently.

It appears (and please correct me if I've gotten you wrong or am simplifying too far) that you believe that there are some forms of music with a revolutionary capacity (at least insofar as forming new categories of subjectivity and radically new forms of socialising in a manner that is <i>inherently</i> and unambiguously distinct from Kylie or whatever), and that we have to distinguish between these and other forms of music which encourage us to maintain a sort of bad faith (or, at least, placate our ideological/practical complicity with "kapital"). Furthermore, the task of criticism should at least partially be the process of making this distinction, and drawing attention to (and so hopefully intensifying) the revolutionary capacity of the former.

My position is probably coloured by the fact that I've never had any direct access to a musical/social movement in real time that might appear to me as revolutionary (leaving aside whether or not it actually is), so I simply do not, cannot theorise music in this matter. I can certainly see where you're coming from, and admire it for its conviction and theoretical neatness (at least, the neatness of having one's aesthetic theory subsumed within one's broader philosophy so cleanly), but it simply doesn't chime in with my experience of music - I guess my personal experience to date and the perspective that it has given rise to forms a horizon for what I can "objectively" consider and accept. Of course, if you <i>hadn't</i> experienced music in this fashion either it would probably make your insistence on theory over experience even <i>more</i> consistent, but I suspect that you have or you wouldn't refer so readily to personal examples (early Scritti, Roxy etc.) to illustrate your position.

I guess I see all culture as maintaining a sort of bad faith (insofar as, whatever it is doing, it distorts or distracts away from a confrontation with the most pressing political questions, which hardly need the world of music to hold up a mirror to them) and, given the choice of rejecting it utterly or accepting it for what it is and trying to understand how it works I choose the latter. When you talk about music "creating populations" I conceive of the same process as music articulating or inciting subject positions formerly latent within society's field of possibility - exciting and invigorating for their newness, a localised "revolt" even but not revolutionary per se (the difference between a revolution and revolt being, of course, that revolts never seriously challenge the status quo). But then, likewise, I don't see the difference between "gay" and "queer" as being so politically charged as I used to: even politicised queers never make any demands of the system that it cannot accomodate superficially, at least to a point that renders them acquiescent. Of course, nor do I, so I'm hardly in a position to assign blame! And as revolts (and especially aesthetic revolts) never bring about any significant rearrangement of capitalism (let alone demolition), for me their value is aesthetic not political (needless to say, an aesthetics which prizes the political most highly is in fact a politics) (The fact that I spend more of my time valuing music than I do working towards or even theorising revolution is, from the perspective of the revolution's eternal gaze, indefensible; I will be first against the wall I imagine)

Is this pop-which-produces-populations still a priori better than that which does not simply on aesthetic grounds? Maybe. Certainly if you think that the production of new subjectivities is automatically more exciting, more urgent. Generally they are. But subjectivities are always going to be a reconfiguration of the same basic "symptoms", a way of simultaneously expressing and concealing antagonism, and I think sometimes aesthetes of the left are so focused on the theoretical goldmine of the emergent in culture that they ignore how much the "persistant" can reveal about ourselves (and I mean that <i>simultaneously</i> in a sort of pop psychology "understand yourself" sense and in a rigorous Marxist diagnosis of one's "false consciousness" - I feel the need to put some distance between myself and that term via scare quotes, can we use "ideology" instead?). After all, any examination of transformation requires within it an examination of consistency in order for it to be meaningful. I realised recently that one of the questions at the heart of Skykicking is and perhaps has been for a long time: how are sonics configured and <i>re</i>configured to reassert "timeless" (ideologically reproduced) emotional themes? An interest in the latter does not translate into a respect for them: I have to be honest about my own susceptibility to certain types of emotional narratives in music (whether presented at a lyrical or sonic level) but that doesn't mean I automatically acknowledge their truth value.

On another note, I have to disagree and say that I think people's enjoyment of music is <i>intensely</i> complex, as much as ideology is intensely complex, or (and I have to thank Sterling Clover for reasserting the value of this metaphor tirelessly) as much as language is intensely complex. The fact that language is experienced as straightforward, logical and a matter of agency (as in, I choose the words I use to express myself) does not mean that this is what is actually going on. But since you're interested in the "false consciousness" involved in much of the listening world's reception of music perhaps the music-as-ideology metaphor is the one we should be using primarily here.

I'd argue that one way we might talk about music-as-ideology is precisely in the sense that music reception is <i>not</i> experienced as being particularly complex, and it is when the enjoyment of music is represented as being "simple" that we can talk most meaningfully about its "mystical" component (my boyfriend says of American Idol that Simon Cowell's frequent bouts of inarticulateness, his inability to say why a particular performer was great or awful, might actually be one of the very things that "makes sense" to many viewers, who feel the same way; but that doesn't mean that he is somehow closer to the "truth" of his enjoyment than Randy). Acknowledging the complexity of musical reception is the first step towards <i>overcoming</i> one's reverent awe at its monolithic ineffability; the complex is also the explicable.

blissblogger
11-04-2005, 03:06 PM
i think the distinction Mark's making re. the collective versus geezaethetic discourse is one between the
social and the merely sociable

practically speaking most of the discussions i have about pop -- in person (often in bars as it happens!), on email, sometimes on the blog at its more off the cuffy mode -- actually have more than a little of the geezaesthetic about them ...

but the idea that this should be upheld as the summit, the very ideal, of discourse-about-music!

when i first read it, i immediately thought: this is a manifesto for underachievement

if anything it's more like an UNmanifesto, in the same way that a "bloke" in the Hornbyesque sense is neither a man nor an androgyne

going back to the Consumer-ist slant of pro-pop thought, i just don't find it a particularly liberating idea, the notion that meaning is made in the act of consumption... the implication is that nothing inheres in the music itself, that everything is infinitely constru-able and readable and elastic in terms of meaning and affect , that there's no musical object that couldn't produce an intensity for some listener, and equally no music object whose intensity will be perceived or work for every single listener

now the reason this way of thinking is depressing is that --taken to the logical limit -- is destroys any social aspect to music, any social power it might have as a motivating, galvanizing force

if nothing intrinsic inheres to the music object (or art object), it makes it far more unlikely a group of people larger than one will have the same response

whereas if you operate in the belief that fixed properties (or potentials in kpunkian terms) inhere in the music, then that creates the possibility for a unity of response

indeed it would explain why, at various points in pop history, huge numbers of people have felt the same way about certain pieces, or forms, of music

it seems far more plausible to attribute such effects to inherent properties of the music than to somehow imagine that everyone has the same mysteriously synchronised consumer-hallucination

i think of (what i'm calling) Rockism as altruistic, in the sense of being Other-directed -- the Other exists, it can affect me, it can transform me, i want to find out about it, have contact with it

music is that Other, it does things to me regardless of whether i want it to or not

but it is also made by social Others

******
to the point about Ariel Pink
well i've never argued that the scenius-theory is responsible for every kind of great music

these intrinsic properties can be socially generated or by exceptional individuals

Ariel Pink is a reclusive hermit-genius type, clearly

but there are other scenes that are not obviously scenius-like in the pirate radio culture sense but operate with a kind of weak or diffuse sceniotic element... like for instance the free folk/psych-folk explosion, these artists are clearly not lone operators, something larger than them enwebs their activity, certain forces made the kind of music they make seem both timely and possible

and some bands almost operate like small scenes in themselves, there is a definitely following cohering around Animal Collective although Ariel P is not really part of it as his sound is so different

similarly i've been thinking that the whole postpunk period could be seen as a kind of grand-scale scenius, there was a very intense level of connectivity between all those bands, ideas flying about, the music press being weekly played a big role -- you can see it in the role of a group like the pop group as an idea of What Is To Be Done, the Way Head

musicians are almost always operating in a field of possibilities, a web of discourse and sound, within which their genius is affected by the collective conversation

*************

the introduction of the gay audience idea is interesting because an important point to make is that sceniotic dynamics is not only at work in black street genres... the music and atmosphere at Trade and similar nu-nrg clubs in the UK could be seen as prime example of scenius, certainly the music operated on a 'changing same' principle, it was used by a quite specific community organized around sexual preference.... i think various metal subgenres operate as sceniuses... you can almost spot scenius whenever it becomes possible for an outsider to say "but it all sounds the same!" (how i feel about most metal subgenres, while knowing it's an ignorant response!)

******

one of the reasons 'scenius' is not, ultimately, as an anti-rockist concept as i once maybe thought is that it is essentially a form of collectivized auteurism
-- all the fundamental aspects of auteurism (and rockism as i spelled it out in the MIA piece) are present -- intent/content/context/formal progression.... the artistic signature or stylistic consistency operates at the level of the collective rather than the individual (although within that macro-scenius you get micro-geniuses with a signature-within-the-signature, a group like 4 Hero say who aren't purely generic -- at least to those "inside" the music culture, the further you get outside the more generic even the geniuses seem)

.... you can talk about a kind of "will" that the scene has

******

i like the way Mark talks about music and culture, the language of potentials and populations -- i i would have talked more like that a while back maybe -- it's definitely more "sexy' in the theory-buzz sense... what i wonder (and this is not intended to be deflationary) is whether it's actually more like a rewording than a whole new way of looking at things

"populations" sounds a lot like a tribe or subculture .... creating this ex (seeming) nihilo is what music has always done (back to its intrinsic properties and ability to create unities of affect) ... 2-Tone for instance was a movement conjured almost out of nothing although the type of person who responded to the signals emitted by the Specials etc could be analyzed socio-culturally ...
... i know Mark loathes the cult-studs tradition but i think the origianl subcultural analysts like hebdiges and willis did some exciting stuff, that still has applications, in terms of understanding these processes of population formation

and
"potentials" -- is this not dissimilar to the idea that there may be more in a text than the author consciously put in it? i've just finished a book by Camille Paglia reading 43 great poems, it's brilliant, each commentary is like a poem in itself... and there's often a sense in which you think 'well maybe she's reading too much into this one,' or 'did the poet really have this in mind?'. isn't she in a sense liberating potentials in these texts?

liberating potentials maps onto one of the key differences for me between sampling and mash-ups, on the one hand the samper uses an old pop resource as fuel, in the other it's used in a merely citational sense... and of course i think of mash-ups as the ultimate example of Popism turned into "creative" pop practice

*****

solidarity

well if the grimesters weren't making music that i loved and chimed with my tastes and ideas of what's cutting edge etc the feeling of solidarity would be quite a lot more notional

it's a kind of aesthetico-political solidarity perhaps

what seems particularly admirable and interesting is the collision of hunger in that socio-economic generated sense with this perverse insistence on making uncommercial, dark, heavy music

after all if they just wanted to make some bread there's all kinds of music they could make

they want to make it, but do it make music that has aesthetic integrity according to their values

perhaps it's the impossible dream -- (in the current climate).... certainly it's one that their forebears, eg. the junglists, pursued in vain

but it's totally that tension, that diagonal they're trying to walk that is so compelling to me

and the absence of the hunger explains why some musician from outside the scene
could make a grime-facsimile, with all the formal properties present and correct, and it wouldn't necessarily have the same affect

Tim F
11-04-2005, 03:29 PM
"going back to the Consumer-ist slant of pro-pop thought, i just don't find it a particularly liberating idea, the notion that meaning is made in the act of consumption... the implication is that nothing inheres in the music itself, that everything is infinitely constru-able and readable and elastic in terms of meaning and affect , that there's no musical object that couldn't produce an intensity for some listener, and equally no music object whose intensity will be perceived or work for every single listener"

But Simon, wouldn't you agree (as you kind of said below this) that it is up to the listener to activate or bring out certain <i>potentials</i> within the music, and that no-one listener can exhaustively pin down those potentials? I certainly agree that listeners can get the same things (or sufficiently similar things) out of a piece of music in order to establish a sense of commonality - eg. when a certain sound comes out of the speakers on the dancefloor and it affects you and other dancers in <i>exactly the same way</i> and you smile at each other in acknowledgement (this happened with me and Geeta frequently BTW!). But how does this sound have meaning outside of the context of me and Geeta (for example) both being present on the dancefloor, both primed to get certain things out of what's playing, both smiling ecstatically when this <i>thing</i> happens because we <i>recognise</i> the effect this phenomenon can have on us in particular?

borderpolice
11-04-2005, 04:03 PM
the implication is that nothing inheres in the
music itself, that everything is infinitely constru-able and readable
and elastic in terms of meaning and affect , that there's no musical
object that couldn't produce an intensity for some listener, and
equally no music object whose intensity will be perceived or work for
every single listener

now the reason this way of thinking is depressing is that --taken to
the logical limit -- is destroys any social aspect to music, any
social power it might have as a motivating, galvanizing force

if nothing intrinsic inheres to the music object (or art object), it
makes it far more unlikely a group of people larger than one will have
the same response whereas if you operate in the belief that fixed
properties (or potentials in kpunkian terms) inhere in the music, then
that creates the possibility for a unity of response indeed it would
explain why, at various points in pop history, huge numbers of people
have felt the same way about certain pieces, or forms, of music it
seems far more plausible to attribute such effects to inherent
properties of the music than to somehow imagine that everyone has the
same mysteriously synchronised consumer-hallucination


I can't disagree more!


It think you miss a crucial mechanism for the social construction of
musical pleasure: mimesis. It's a rather general concept, but in the
present context it means that pleasure, more precisely: observing
other people's pleasure, is contagious, in the same sense that
yawning, gobbing or sexual excitement is. To oversimplify [and i
emphasise oversimplify because clearly there are other ideosyncratic
elements to musical preferences]: we like a certain form of music
because our friends do, or those we admire, or at least those who are
around and we don't mind. Mimetic imitation is fundamental to all
human socialising -- the language learning one sees in children is
only one blatant example. And this is also at work in pop music. I'm
not saying that this is the only mechanism that allows the emergence
of a(n unstable) distinction between good and bad music, but it seems
to be the most powerful one, and the only one that is genuinely
social, the rest is essentially private.

The beauty of explaining musical scenes, the high probabilities of
shared musical tastes, using mimetic phenomena (in addition to random
order-from-noise kind of effects that are always at play when large
numbers of fairly similar entities interact locally) is that it can
dispense with intrinsic qualities of music (apart from things like:
must be humanly audible and the like) which is unavoidable in view of
the extreme variations in shared musical taste in time and space, yet
without sacrificing the social aspects of music.

blissblogger
11-04-2005, 05:31 PM
"But Simon, wouldn't you agree (as you kind of said below this) that it is up to the listener to activate or bring out certain <i>potentials</i> within the music, and that no-one listener can exhaustively pin down those potentials?...

But how does this sound have meaning outside of the context of me and Geeta (for example) both being present on the dancefloor, both primed to get certain things out of what's playing, both smiling ecstatically when this <i>thing</i> happens because we <i>recognise</i> the effect this phenomenon can have on us in particular?

don't think we're necessarily in disagreement here except there's a sense in which your emphasis somehow makes it seems like one voluntarily chooses one's responses to music... it puts the power back in the consumer's hand and less in the music as a force

i'd ask: what 'primed' you except some earlier, ecstastic, maybe even life-changing encounter with those sounds?

ecstasy is a good word to use because i'd say music can operate analagous to a drug ... it has certain inbuilt effects that in most cases happen

some people don't enjoy E, some people (somehow manage to) have bad trips, some people feel the ecstastic feeling but it's not a feeling they want in their lives

that doesn't mean that the neurological effects aren't in the drug and ready to activate a person who is so disposed to be activated

how each person will respond to E is nuanced by set and setting, their own psychology, how blocked they are, what their expectations are and what they want to get out of it --and one's isubsequent nterpretation of what happened to you on E will vary as will the extent to which you allow it to change your life or your ideas

-- but the core sensation is broadly the same

to use mr border police's terms, there are socially imitative aspects of the E-xperience that vary quite wildly from scene

but there's no doubt that there's an actual X-perience with intrinsic properties

now you might say well music isn't neurochemical but i'm not sure, there's a whole brain and nervous system scientific side to music ... rhythms affect the body... geeta wants to write a book about music and neurology, right?

the disagreement i have with the idea of socially constructed meaning etc as per Border Policeman's post is that it sounds awfully complicated and doesn't ring true with how music HITS you... the way the response feels unmediated and instant and involuntary....

as much as there's a heavily acculturated side to music taste, there is also a part that dips below the horizon of choice into the involuntary ... maybe even the pre-cultural... c.f. sexual attraction, food,

both of those are things that have elements of the culturally constructed and elements that are primal or somatic

that's where i disagree with kpunk's rationalism -- i think the essence of music is utlimately mysterious and what we're debating about a lot of the time is the social deployment of a mystery, the discourses around the uses of a mystery or magic, how it's been harnessed to various ends

borderpolice
11-04-2005, 06:04 PM
the disagreement i have with the idea of socially constructed meaning
etc as per Border Policeman's post is that it sounds awfully
complicated and doesn't ring true with how music HITS you... the way
the response feels unmediated and instant and involuntary....


Agreed, "the essence of music is ultimately mysterious and what we're
debating about a lot of the time is the social deployment of a
mystery, the discourses around the uses of a mystery or magic, how
it's been harnessed to various ends". We will not get further with
unraveling this mystery, as long as we don't understand how human
brains work, which most likely means never. What we can do is see how
people react to music in different contexts. Here the evidence in
favour of a strong mimetic element is overwhelming or at least seems
so to me. One can quite easily test this empirically by exposing
individuals to new music, on their own, with friends at a party,
surrounded by threatening strangers and so on. Don't you know the
feeling when you fall in love with somebody and suddenly start liking
the same music they do, even where you might have sniffed at what they
liked before you met them? On the other hand, as the example of
solitary development of musical preference shows, the mimetic approach
cannot be an exhaustive explanation for any individual's tastes, but
it seems to cover most of the social effects of music, that is, what
we can and do discuss.

To be sure, the phenomenology of the music experience would sometimes
be couched in terms of being hit and that's appropriate because
the mimetic aspects work on a level below consciousness before it it
becomes conscious where it often manifests itself as a sudden revelation,
so there's no contradiction.

Consider the simpler case of yawning: it is an irresistible force,
isn't it? Yet would you not agree that it can also clearly be
triggered by observing someone else's yawning?

I would also guess that being "hit" by music is a relatively rare
phenomenon, it doesn't happen every day to me f or example, and where
it happens there is always a history of social aspects.
I don't think it is a coincidence that so many reports about why someone
likes or loathes a given bit music talk other others' alleged responses
to that music (LTJ Bukem is too middle class etc).

borderpolice
11-04-2005, 06:27 PM
but there's no doubt that there's an actual X-perience with intrinsic properties


There are fascinating sociological studies where volunteers took
different types of drugs and placebos, while either not being informed, or
being misinformed as to what particular drug they were given. The
participants, even hardened druggies had a surprisingly hard time
working out what they've been given. [NB: I read about this in mid 1990s
rave culture texts which I have gotten rid of]

blissblogger
11-04-2005, 06:52 PM
it's all quite loony, this social mimesis stuff!

you're saying, what, that people like stuff for copycat reasons, they're copying other people's responses, and those people are copying others...

it sounds incredibly implausible, and convoluted

what about musics where there's no readily observable form of physical response to the music (classical say)... when i listened to Holst or Beethoven's pastoral symphony on my own as a 10 year on my parent's radiogram, who was i copying as i swooned to it? i'd never been to a classical concert. i mean, i might have heard at an early age my parents saying 'this is good music' or my mum saying 'i love this bit' but i don't recall them behaving in any outward copy-able way... it's all very internalized, the response

how through mimesis do you learn the emotional grammar of classical music in all its subtlety?

no it's quite loony! sorry -- don't mean to be rude

the thing about the drugs is interesting, the placebo effect --

however all i can say (and many a raver will back me up with bitter experience) there's been many many occasions when i was more than predisposed to have all the right E-static reactions, if anybody was in a state to will themselves to feel those feelings, that was me, and the pill has been a dud -- ie. effectively a placebo -- and there's been no effect

and there are measurable physiological (and neurological) effects of the drugs that are not imaginary

(mind you in partial support of your theory, one of our posse always seemed to have an E-static time of it no matter how duff the gear, she was primed for that release, really up for it perhaps... and it's also true that having had those experiences you can culturally learn them -- with the right mood/vibe and some alchohol i can reach close to those feelings subsequently without any chemical -- well, illegal chemical -- help. but whether i could access them w/o ever having had the E-xperiences in the first place... it definitely changed me forever)

the hardened druggy in these tests i suspect would be so keen to feel the feelings they might hallucinate them -- also it's that context of trust isn't it, if the person giving the drugs is scientific or a doctor then you might be inclined to take their word

more generally, i wonder where the resistance to the idea of things having intrinsic properties comes from? it seems such a bleak view of the world somehow

again it seems to diminish, or demean, the idea of the transformative power of anything, to regard it as a social trick we play on ourselves -- or equally an individualistic response, an act of reading

k-punk
11-04-2005, 09:11 PM
i think the distinction Mark's making re. the collective versus geezaethetic discourse is one between the
social and the merely sociable

Quite, yeh...


practically speaking most of the discussions i have about pop -- in person (often in bars as it happens!), on email, sometimes on the blog at its more off the cuffy mode -- actually have more than a little of the geezaesthetic about them ...

but the idea that this should be upheld as the summit, the very ideal, of discourse-about-music!

Yes, but it is no accident ... if you read Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil you'll find this bleary-eyed levelling impulse totally nailed there.... the aggression of this so-called egalitarianism, which wants to pull everything down to the level of a drunken exchange of 'opinions'...there's a class agenda, too, that really irks me... this kind of middle class discourse, modelled on its own fantasies about the working class, now has the social power to impose itself on the working class

Tim, one thing that puzzles me is why you pledge any sort of affinity with geezaesthetics... I have to say, whenever I read your writing, the LAST word that comes to mind is 'geeza'



going back to the Consumer-ist slant of pro-pop thought, i just don't find it a particularly liberating idea, the notion that meaning is made in the act of consumption... the implication is that nothing inheres in the music itself, that everything is infinitely constru-able and readable and elastic in terms of meaning and affect , that there's no musical object that couldn't produce an intensity for some listener, and equally no music object whose intensity will be perceived or work for every single listener

now the reason this way of thinking is depressing is that --taken to the logical limit -- is destroys any social aspect to music, any social power it might have as a motivating, galvanizing force


That's it, precisely... this cult studs mantra is poisonous and, again, is about the aggressive milk-snatching tendencies of the academic middle classes.. 'you thought you were being swept away by something outside yourself, but, really, kids, it ALL CAME FROM YOU...'... the hackademics pull back the curtain at the end of the yellow brick road... and you find yourself looking into a mirror...

(btw I don't have much if any problem with the likes of Hebdige (indeed I've quoted him in the past): they hadn't reached the ludicrous state of resentocratic reductionism in which cult studs finished up)

The whole concept of social construction is in sore need of a kicking.

Once, the move Feuerbach, Marx and Nietzsche made was radical: when people talked about God, they were really only talking about the social. The divine was the social's projection of itself beyond itself.

Now, when people are talking about the 'social', they are really talking about God - in the sense that they are invoking a mysterious First Cause, something that has an almost unlimited power to produce any and everything, but which has no explanatory power and itself cries out for explanation.

The radical thought that is lost here is not that 'everything is social constructed' but that the social, too, is constructed... and is therefore REconstructable.

There is no Society.

Tim, I think the questions you raise re: inherent revolutionary potential of sounds are actually very open... Someone asked me precisely this at the noisetheorynoise conference: do I think that certain sounds IN THEMSELVES bring about social/ behavioural changes? I mean, that is the view of Underground Resistance.. but, however much I sympathise with that, it seems to me going too far

The important thing, I suppose, is that I simply don't regard music as a relative autonomy... I'm old enough to remember a time when the LAST thing that ppl in groups would talk about was 'music'... indeed, that might be one of the definitional features of Punk ... the demystification (but not desublimation) of 'music', and by extension, ALL so-called aesthetic so-called relative autonomies...

I'm afraid I don't relate at all to this thing about knowing smiles to others in clubs... that's just sociabilty for me... ;) ... But then I am the sort of person who goes on his own to clubs and doesn't really want anyone to talk to him when I get there... because I'm seeking another mode of collectivity beyond the sociable...

Contagion and innoculation are better models than construction... That's what voodoo is all about... and cybernetics....

k-punk
11-04-2005, 11:01 PM
that's where i disagree with kpunk's rationalism -- i think the essence of music is utlimately mysterious and what we're debating about a lot of the time is the social deployment of a mystery, the discourses around the uses of a mystery or magic, how it's been harnessed to various ends

But that implies there aren't _magicians_ ; that magic 'just happens' and there aren't discoverable principles by which it can be made to happen.

Actually, Simon, in terms of philosophy of religion - and in many ways, I think that is what WE'RE talking about, in an attempt to resist these socio-consumerist reductions - yr position is very much like Rudolf Otto's (http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/gothic/numinous.html) in The Idea of the Holy: a magnificent book, and the origin, I think, of the term 'numinous' --- I'm sure you're familiar with it, but Otto argues that religious experiences are characterised in terms of the 'mysterium tremendum' - the mysterious, awe-ful and dread-ful

Needless to say, I have enormous sympathy with Otto's position...

it has been subject to an apparent debunking... neurologists have shown that the apparent experience of the 'wholly other' turns out to be something that can be simulate-stimulated in the lab with the right neuro-probing...

But I think it is important to resist the idea that this is in fact a debunking... this plays into the Romanticism that I'm so keen to flush out and dismantle... because the cult studs socio-consumerist reductio ad blandum IS the dessicated, degraded re-statement of the idea that everything comes from the imagination.... Romanticism insists that material explanation (demystification) must also mean desublimation...

Yet there are any number of reasons not to accept this. One is the 'voodoo death' approach pioneered by Walter Cannon.... Cannon showed that neither an empiricist debunking of voodoo sorcery (empiricism and Romanticism have always been twins: both collude in the conviction that there is NO OUTSIDE) nor a supernatural explanation were adequate to the phenomenon.... this is something reinforced by Wade Davis in his Cannon-influenced exploration into Haitian sorcery in The Serpent and the Rainbow (Wes Craven made a garbled film version of this)... voodoo requires belief, but belief is immediately physical, neurological, a set of CNS autonomic responses...

Damasio's book on Spinoza makes the same point ---- as does neuroeconomics ---- emotions are far less ineffable and mysterious than ppl think --- but at the same time, they don't lose any of their sublimity through being analysed ----

That's neuropunk....

dominic
11-04-2005, 11:06 PM
What then is the value of Ariel Pink - music which is certainly not pop in the sense it's being used here, but which is almost inevitably geared towards individual consumption/engagement? Most of the music that I like could "pass" under yr restrictvie definition of value, and you're also talking about my absolute favourite way of experiencing and engaging with music, but if I'm understanding you correctly then I think there's a lot of (often very rockist!) music and music fans who are left out in the cold.

first let me say that i've yet to hear ariel pink -- this is the kind of thing i'll eventually get around to investigating based solely on blissblogger's and woebot's enthusiasm

but i suppose that ariel pink lacks the potential for binding the listener into a "political" relationship

ariel pink can at most bind the listener into a "private" relationship -- and i'm not sure if such music has enough power to "bind" or "claim" someone -- it may simply only move you or make sense to you, but not enrapture you -- such that at the end of the day you can take it or leave it

i don't see how music could truly seize the listener and yet not become a field subject to competing claims of ownership, a site for anxieties about one's relative status, a site for deference to others, a site for acquiesence, in short a site for politics

that is, if music seizes one listener -- then that music must seize many listeners -- b/c that is one of the properties of the music, i.e., the property of seizing or claiming -- and so the music creates the (political) question of relationships among the many listeners it claims
--------------------

that is, the only music i've ever really felt claimed by is rave/house/junglistic hardcore music

and i then extrapolate from my own experience to attribute this feeling of being claimed to loyalists (subjects) of all other music scenes

-----------------------------------

and yet i should note that in the case of ariel pink, as with all "weak" music, a kind of secondary politics will develop b/c people will inevitably argue about the proper assessment of ariel pink

now once arguments about ariel pink go into circulation, once assessments of ariel pink are made known -- then other people will rally to this camp or that camp -- and here i have to imagine (again not having heard ariel pink to really conjecture) that it will be a kind of belle & sebastian phenomenon -- i.e., the composition of various camps will reflect ordinary socio-empirical positions and predispositions, though it'd require a sophisticated social analysis to map out this process

and yet some people will presumably have more "integrity" and relate to ariel pink in a way that is not simply determined by their socio-empirical position

so there's still lots of politics

(also -- when music is truly powerful, the listener doesn't worry about his integrity as such -- he is simply claimed by the music -- though he will have questions about his relationship to others who are claimed -- or perhaps he may worry about his temporal or spatial distance from the original music scene)

hmmmmmm -- starting to feel like i'm making this stuff up out of thin air! -- that is, i feel like i've stopped thinking, and that i'm now constructing convenient models

dominic
11-04-2005, 11:16 PM
so maybe the "value" of ariel pink is in its refracting light or some such thing

perhaps it helps us develop finer, more sensitive critical habits

again, i'm saying this based on what i've read about ariel pink -- i haven't the faintest

maybe it's the pleasure of melancholy

i don't know

again, i think that most music i encounter i could take or leave -- destined for the trash heap at some point

so perhaps it has no real value if you don't feel claimed by it

so now i suppose i've gone and "mystified" the nature of ariel pink's value by calling it valueless, i.e., how can something have no value if people like it and to one extent or another value it?

dominic
12-04-2005, 12:08 AM
I understand entirely the point Mark is trying to make re "populations". I think you're talking more about rave than all scenes eg grime and dancehall though - the point with grime and dancehall is that the music appears to signify and be linked to a real actual pre-existing community that is not merely created by the music, and this appears to be the basis upon which Matt/Simon distinguish them from pop/M.I.A. Rave is in another category, and that is actually quite a crucial point because it means that, in the split between rave and gay men who like Kylie, *grime is on the side of the gay men who like Kylie*

yes -- i was talking more about rave scenes

or rather, i argued up thread that 89/92 rave scene was a produced population -- but precisely b/c it was a produced population, and not an organic community w/ "real world" bonds to hold it together, that the lines along which the scene did fracture largely corresponded w/ preexisting socio-empirical camps & identities, i.e., 92 prog house for hipsters, serious techno for student class, several years later in america funky breaks as white suburban teenage option

also, i think that blissblogger's point that even rave was not made ex nihilo has a certain amount of validity

but i tried to address this by describing rave as an open field over which different groups vied for ownership

whereas with grime it's already known in advance who the stalwarts of the scene are

though it's important to remember that we're saying all of this from a white middle-class point of view, i.e., the actual grime massive may be more akin to a population than we give it credit for -- i.e., the actual massive = those who count themselves as members and are recognized by others as members

and the field may be more open and contested than we give it credit for (or to be accurate, that i'm giving it credit for)


You might say in response . . . that the distinction between the grime scene and gay Kylie fans is (as you said before), gay men don't stake a strong claim of ownership in Kylie. Have you ever seen Kylie perform live? I think you'd find that the sense of stepping into a particular sub-culture's territory would seem near-overwhelming. It's like gay pride day.

i don't know enough to really say

but i suspect that the gay relationship to kylie is a bit more ironic or campy

i.e., would gays be willing to die (figuratively speaking) to validate their claim of ownership over kylie

that is, i think farley jackmaster, ron hardy, and all "the children" in chicago were ready to die for house

the willingness to die comes from the sense of being claimed -- that's why you join the scene -- b/c of the power of the music's claim over you, you then make claims about your relationship to the music -- a claim that necessarily involves making claims about other people's relationship to the music -- and yes, when a scene is dynamic, truly happening, the next big thing, there'll be issues about posers and trend-spotters and so on and so forth -- i.e., it will become apparent that some people want to join the scene for less than "pure" reasons -- and others will be "self righteous" in asserting the nature of their relationship to the music, i.e., they'll claim to be the leaders ----- again, this is all about politics

and yet it's also about art -- b/c the self-righteous become the djs -- and the djs provide their "take" on the music -- they've been claimed & this is their take on it

and other righteous brothers and sisters get down to the music -- they get down to the music b/c they "get" the music

and in getting down to the music they purport to reveal themselves as truly "getting" the music

i.e., when people dance in public they're making a claim of ownership -- i own this dancefloor, i control this dancefloor

and by way of example -- if you go to an old-skool jungle night (at least in america) you can tell exactly who was into jungle in the 94/95/96 b/c they have a way of dancing that ravers from times before and after do not have -- it's quite remarkable -- as if the way of dancing had been formed in a crucible

they all must have gotten the music in the same way -- or else a few got the music in this fashion, and the claims that this few made were so convincing, that others felt bound to advance their claims by using the same forms

--------------------

again, i've never been to kylie concert -- so i really can't say

but i used to always go to show tunes night at this bar that the very gay owner of this restaurant where i used to work owned -- it's all about camp and celebration and extroversion and knowing the lines -- it's not about feeling claimed by the music in one's bones

dominic
12-04-2005, 12:22 AM
and of course what the scene allows for is collective ownership

we getting down to the music together -- we are all claimed by the music -- and we own this music

Tim F
12-04-2005, 01:34 AM
I'm not supposed to be posting right now so a couple of quick points i'll expand later if necessary:

"don't think we're necessarily in disagreement here except there's a sense in which your emphasis somehow makes it seems like one voluntarily chooses one's responses to music... it puts the power back in the consumer's hand and less in the music as a force

i'd ask: what 'primed' you except some earlier, ecstastic, maybe even life-changing encounter with those sounds?

ecstasy is a good word to use because i'd say music can operate analagous to a drug ... it has certain inbuilt effects that in most cases happen"

Simon I entirely agree with you. I think that music-as-it-is-experienced is the only sensible grounds from which we can build a discussion about music, but that does not mean at all that I assign any level of agency or control to the listener. When I say "primed" I could equally say "fashioned", "shaped", even "produced".

I get the impression that many people here think that popism definitely includes an insistence on the subject's <i>autonomy</i> and <i>authority</i> when it comes to musical enjoyment. If this is the case I could no longer call myself a popist I guess. For it is perhaps the very fact that one cannot easily control what one likes that makes me suspicious of rockism. The assignation of objective value to music or certain patterns within music necessarily implies that "best practice" music criticism would involve a repression of one's personal reaction, that we should reign in our musical "id" and subordinate it to what we "know" to be true. I don't think that the id is always right, but I'd prefer to bring it to the surface, to engage in a sort of psychoanalysis of my musical enjoyment, rather than create some sort of seige mentality where I'm terrified of my own reactions because they might contradict some objective principle.

The counter-argument to this Freudian analogy is a Foucauldian one - that, far from a repression/liberation model of enjoyment, we construct and complicate our enjoyment via inserting it into discourse. The binary here is actually not as strong as some assume though, I reckon: what is panicky repression in the name of some objective principle other than a particularly crude form of discursivization?

K-Punk - I don't identify as a geezaesthete or a geeza for that matter. My defence of the former group simply arises from my feeling that they're being misrepresented here where none of them seem to post and so don't have a chance to respond.

But then I don't think people like Tom Ewing or Tim Hopkins really identify as "geezas" in the sense you're meaning.


Dominic - "Camp" is precisely about claims of ownership, even under your expanded definition of being willing to die for [x]. Will expand on this later - must fly!

tek tonic
12-04-2005, 04:35 AM
going back to the Consumer-ist slant of pro-pop thought, i just don't find it a particularly liberating idea, the notion that meaning is made in the act of consumption... the implication is that nothing inheres in the music itself, that everything is infinitely constru-able and readable and elastic in terms of meaning and affect , that there's no musical object that couldn't produce an intensity for some listener, and equally no music object whose intensity will be perceived or work for every single listener

now the reason this way of thinking is depressing is that --taken to the logical limit -- is destroys any social aspect to music, any social power it might have as a motivating, galvanizing force

if nothing intrinsic inheres to the music object (or art object), it makes it far more unlikely a group of people larger than one will have the same response

whereas if you operate in the belief that fixed properties (or potentials in kpunkian terms) inhere in the music, then that creates the possibility for a unity of response

indeed it would explain why, at various points in pop history, huge numbers of people have felt the same way about certain pieces, or forms, of music

it seems far more plausible to attribute such effects to inherent properties of the music than to somehow imagine that everyone has the same mysteriously synchronised consumer-hallucination

i think of (what i'm calling) Rockism as altruistic, in the sense of being Other-directed -- the Other exists, it can affect me, it can transform me, i want to find out about it, have contact with it

music is that Other, it does things to me regardless of whether i want it to or not

but it is also made by social Others

this point perplexes me. for one thing, if you accept that individual responses to music are as diverse as language (as per Tim and Sterling Clover), then the idea that huge numbers of people have felt the same way about any music seems wildly reductive. did elvis' fifty million fans feel the same way about 'heartbreak hotel', or was it groups of people who were turned on by him, turned off but strangely attracted, liked the guitar sound and various combinations and overlapping categories thereof, reduced to a collective thumbs-up?

also, if meaning is made in the act of consumption, surely the Other (presumably the positive qualities that inhere in music) simply resides in the undiscovered part of the self, and the listener can compare experiences with others in the search for it?

(and tim is right about a good many things, but especially that the ILX/NYLPM crowd are hardly 'geezers' in the footballer sense - the name was an inside joke, wasn't it? they even disavow the association, though it seems to have pushed k-punks buttons nonetheless)

borderpolice
12-04-2005, 10:28 AM
it's all quite loony, this social mimesis stuff!
you're saying, what, that people like stuff for copycat reasons,
they're copying other people's responses, and those people are copying
others... it sounds incredibly implausible, and convoluted

I apologise if I have not made my position as clear as I should have
done, I'm a bit too busy with work to polish my responses here.

Let me start by stating that I am not saying that all musical
reactions can be reduced to straightforward copying. My position might
become clearer by considering what it tried to explain:

* First there are musical movements, scenes, shared attitudes to
certain music shared across, which exhibit some stability.

* Second, an extreme diversity diversity in these socially shared
reactions. A typical example are Einstuerzende Neubauten, discussed
in another thread. The use sounds that are not even considered music
at all by many or even the majority of the world's population. Yet
the response by fans of EN is quite similar in many ways to the
response that for example Britney fans may have to the music of Ms
Spears. Phenomena like this suggest that the actual musical material
is relatively irrelevant to the socially shared reactions it
triggers, in the same way that certain four legged animals may be
called "dogs" or "hund" or "chien" or "cachorro" in consistent ways.
In other words, the evidence is that in music we have a sign-like
system with essentially arbitrary signifiers.

* Third, reactions to music, whether they are are social (eg. dancing,
talking about music), or phenomenological
(music-as-it-is-experienced by a given individual, essentially and
unavoidably private), are extremely context dependent. It matters
if we hear a piece of music alone or with others, in a church
or in a club, with friends or enemies, tired or alert, whether we
have heard it before or not at all.

* Fourth, there is only a weak connection between any given
phenomenological reaction (music-as-it-is-experienced by a given
individual, essentially and unavoidably private) to any given piece
of music and that individual's social reaction. This is of course
just an instance of the general fact that an individual's behaviour,
how (s)he's taken to act, and how (s)he feels what (s)he is doing is
usually rather tenuous. More importantly here, that
music-as-it-is-experienced is very idiosyncratic, very variable.

In other words, what needs to be explained here is stability and
variance of reactions to music at the same time. I propose to do this
in analogy with how humans acquire and use language: clearly a very
social process that starts out and is maintained by mimetic processes
at a very deep level. That language is learned and reproduced by
memory-driven copying processes is uncontroversial, and I propose
a similar mechanism for music.


I emphasize that these memory-modified mimetic processes alone are
insufficient as explanation, in particular, they do not account well
for the variance in each individual's music-as-it-is-experienced,
mentioned above as fourth point. I don't think anyone has a good
explanation for this, maybe neuroscience will one day come up with a
solution to this riddle, but I don't hold my breath. To deal with this
problem, I propose to take the usual route: name what isn't understood
(how about "ideo-memo-mudul"?) and use this name in explanations of
what can be observed, just like do what Newton did with gravity, Freud
with drives, contemporary physics with force and so on. In other
words, acknowledge precisely what we don't know and what we do.

In this sense each individual's reaction to music is a combination of
the output of the ideo-memo-mudul and the copied mimetic
responses. The latter are dominant but never determining regarding the
socially observable behaviour. This dominance accounts for the
emergence (in the technical sense) of shared musical scenes, but the
ideo-memo-mudul for the simultaneous wide variety of responses and
musical evolution. An important connection between these two
mechanisms -- although not the only one -- is that copying is itself
imperfect.

Let me describe the mimetic process a bit more. First, and this is
very important to bear in mind, copying is almost never conscious. The
process is inevitably experienced and described in other terms (why do
you dance like this? Because its fun, the music makes me do it! Why
do you dress like this? I just like this colour, the trousers are
comfy! Why do you like Einstuerzende Neubauten? Their music is
revolutionary, subversive, instituting social change, resisting the
neoliberal consensus!), mostly in terms of intrinsic properties of
music. Suggestions that a mimetic process may be at play, that one may
"just" be following fashion, are usually denied emphatically. Second,
each individual experiences music in different contexts which leads to
the aggregation of different mimetic responses in each individual's
memory for socially acceptable behaviour, which is important for
the evolution of social reactions to music. Third, at each point in
time, an individual classifies those, real or imagined, who share
a given physical space, for example as mods or rockers, ravers or policed,
good or bad, and mostly those evaluated as "good" will be copied. This
aids, strengthens and sharpens the mimetic process and leads to the emergence
of few but well-focused musical scenes.


what about musics where there's no readily
observable form of physical response to the music (classical say)...
when i listened to Holst or Beethoven's pastoral symphony on my own as
a 10 year on my parent's radiogram, who was i copying as i swooned to
it? i'd never been to a classical concert. i mean, i might have heard
at an early age my parents saying 'this is good music' or my mum
saying 'i love this bit' but i don't recall them behaving in any
outward copy-able way... it's all very internalized, the
response

For a start, sitting still as a form of receiving music is just as
much social behavoiour as big-fish-little-fish-cardbord-boxing.
Talking about music likewise. Further, and this is important, what
you are copying doesn't necessarily coincide with what you think you'd
be copying. Take little children: isn't it sometimes surprising which
features of their parents they pick up and which they don't? What an
adult conceives of as important, copy-worthy may not be what the
unconscious mimesis module does. Human behaviour, works on subtle
levels, a minute gesture, the tone of voice. In addition, the mimesis
process is memory driven, it feeds back on past experiences. You may
copy or avoid copying certain features of somebody's behaviour,
depending, for example, on whether you like this person, or if you
(your mimesis module) evaluates that behaviour as appropriate to the
situation. The process is reflexive in that one can copy other's
copying behaviour or can explicitly avoid try and avoid it.


how through mimesis do you learn the emotional
grammar of classical music in all its subtlety?

Let me ask a related question: "how through mimesis do you learn the
grammar of the english language in all its subtlety? Human language
acquisition leaves no doubt that very complex sign systems can be
picked up mimetically. Why not the same for music?


For clarity one should also distinguish between (1) one's
phenomenological reaction (music-as-it-is-experienced by a given) and
(2) one's socially observable behaviour. The former, I venture, does
not follow a particular "emotional grammar". As already alluded to
above, the private reaction, produced by the ideo-memo-mudul is highly
context dependent and rather variable. How you react internally to a
certain Bach Cantata, depends on many things, some of them as mundane,
like how often have you heard it before, are you surprised by it, or
bored? Regarding the latter, in particular how one talks about
classical music in the language of emotional response is quite clearly
acquired. This becomes immediately clear when one encounters new forms
of music with an elaborate interpretatory canon. I for example cannot
correlate every single musical choice in Bach with the christian
religious tradition in the way some acquaintances can, because I have
never really immersed myself in this scene. Conversely, these
acquaintances could never write anything about grime in a way that
would be deemed informed by East London teenagers.




the thing about the drugs is interesting, the
placebo effect -- however all i can say (and many a raver will back me
up with bitter experience) there's been many many occasions when i was
more than predisposed to have all the right E-static reactions, if
anybody was in a state to will themselves to feel those feelings, that
was me, and the pill has been a dud -- ie. effectively a placebo --
and there's been no effect

Well, how do you know it was a dud? Did you test the pills?

Nah? Didn't think so!

BTW, I am not in the slightest denying the physical effects. What I'm
pointing out is that the connection between the physical effects, how
we experience them and how we react socially under influence are
three different things that are socially shaped in a very fundamental
way.

[to be continued below]

borderpolice
12-04-2005, 10:31 AM
more generally, i wonder where the resistance to
the idea of things having intrinsic properties comes from? it seems
such a bleak view of the world somehow. again it seems to diminish,
or demean, the idea of the transformative power of anything, to regard
it as a social trick we play on ourselves -- or equally an
individualistic response, an act of reading

My resistance is a form of Occam's razor. Intrinsic properties are
fraught with all sorts of theoretical and empirical problems, the most
important of which are

* that it's just unclear what these intrinsic properties are and how
individuals access them. Claiming that Dostojevski and Shakespeare
are simply great authors and whoever doesn't see this hasn't
overcome his Oedipus complex is not an explanation.

* that intrinsic properties just don't account for the extreme
variance in human's reactions to music.

* that it doesn't accord well with the results from other science
about human behaviour.

I also don't see why being able to be influenced and influencing of
other people's behaviour and mood by way of mimetic processes should
be bleak at all. Isn't it great that I can make somebody smile and
like a tune because I like it and express this with my body language?

Let's turn the question on its head: i wonder where the resistance to
the idea of things having socially constructive aspects comes from?

Finally, about transformative power: for a start, I don't see why this
is the be-all and end-all criterion for evaluating music. It all
relies too heavily for my liking on an inappropriate understanding of
society as a thing that is essentially like a house: static, but an
outside agency can change it, maybe by painting it red, if that agency
starts with a K; or by rebuilding it from scratch with all rooms the
same size and a large communal area, should the agency be
revolutionary. I see society as an essentially temporal process that
cannot but change all the time, and music as an instance as a
perpetually self-transforming or evolving process. That transforms
the question of transforming: transfroming is not interesting at all.


Having said that, the mimetic theory is fundamentally social, at the
deepest level. Much more so than the intrinsic-properties approach,
which adds the social, change only as an afterthought, somewhat in
embarrassment. The mimetic approach is way better at explaining the
emergence of communities constitutive of and constituted by shared
musical behaviour. If you are interested in linking music and
(non-musical) social movements, you're better off ditching intrinsic
properties and come on board of the mimesis-train, because it may go
somewhere useful for you.


no it's quite loony! sorry -- don't mean to be rude


No offence taken. I'm not good at explaining myself. What I've been saying
is mostly common sense, really. Thanks for listening and relying!

borderpolice
12-04-2005, 10:37 AM
it has been subject to an apparent debunking... neurologists have shown that the apparent experience of the 'wholly other' turns out to be something that can be simulate-stimulated in the lab with the right neuro-probing...


I'm afraid that debunking is cargo-culting by neuroscientists hustling for research grants. How the human brain works is not, I repeat: NOT understood at all. There isn't even an empirically adequate understanding of a <I>single neuron</I>. Sorry.

blissblogger
12-04-2005, 03:57 PM
>yr position is very much like Rudolf Otto's in The Idea of the Holy: a magnificent book, and the origin, I >think, of the term 'numinous' --- I'm sure you're familiar with it, but Otto argues that religious experiences >are characterised in terms of the 'mysterium tremendum' - the mysterious, awe-ful and dread-ful

never heard of it, Kpunk, sounds absolutely fascinating -- another one for the ever-expanding must-check-out list


Tek Tonic:
>this point perplexes me. for one thing, if you accept that individual responses to music are as diverse as >language (as per Tim and Sterling Clover), then the idea that huge numbers of people have felt >thsame> way about any music seems wildly reductive. did elvis' fifty million fans feel the same way >about 'heartbreak hotel', or was it groups of people who were turned on by him, turned off but strangely >attracted, liked the guitar sound and various combinations and overlapping categories thereof, reduced >to a collective thumbs-up?


"reduced to a collective thumbs-up" -- i would question this term, why would an expression of mass unanimity necessarily be regarded as a reduction of something? these things have occurred you know--large numbers of people feeling near-as-dammit the same thing! happens all the time in soccer stadiums. happens in riots. happens with spontaneous outpourings of grief. happens at raves, gigs, clubs. at move theatres. there's even been the occasional revolution! not always a good thing -- mob violence, popular justice, lynchings etc -- but not always a bad thing either. think you are revealing yer bourgeois individualist prejudices a bit there mr barnes!


Borderpolice:
>Well, how do you know it was a dud? Did you test the pills?
>Nah? Didn't think so!

so you're saying, despite really wanting to have the E-xperience, i would somehow trick myself into feeling good E as dud E?! that don't sound terribly plausible.

your explication of the mimesis theory is really interesting -- it's so intricate. in the end though i don't buy it. it seems to empty out the whole dimension of the aesthetic, the affective, the emotional. in your description liking music comes across as this enormously complex game of socialisation, with no point.

it reminds me a bit of Bourdieu's theories, which are interesting and telling as far as they go, but always seem to point towards the implication that the only reason people invest in particular kinds of music or art is as a form of social cohesion or social distinction -- consolidation of one's membership of one group, and defining oneself as others. again chucking pleasure and afffect out the window.

that's why i found sarah thornton's club cultures book, with its bourdieu derived 'subcultural capital' concept, in the end unconvincing -- cos it made irrelevant what would be appear the whole point of club and rave music ie. intense aesthetic pleasure, bodily pleasure etc. for her it was all about hierarchies of cool and inclusive/exclusion devices

also your theory of change is quite odd too -- are you saying that society is changing all the time, slowly, by itself -- and therefore doesn't need any help from specific individuals or groups of humans, and in fact can't be pushed forward by conscious efforts -- sort of gradualism without any scope or purchase for human agency, right -- that seems to fit what kpunk was saying about the mystification re. Society as this quasi-divine entity that has its own agenda and is like Nature or something...

as with the mimesis theory, it's something a/ doesn't convince me as true b/ is so bleak and depressing i would resist it even it were true

(you'll just have to trust me that b/ is not determining a/ )

Tim F
12-04-2005, 04:22 PM
Borderpolice don't you dare self-deprecate, these last few posts have been awesome!

I had this sudden flash of "YES! He is right!" (which I wasn't certain about immediately prior; or at least hadn't yet turned my mind to that question) with your reference to dance moves.

I've always been fascinated by what I would call the infectiousness of dance moves - when I'm at a club I'll see someone make some particular move and, somehow before I've even registered that I'm impressed or enamoured by it, it's like my body is watching and learning that move and I'll feel my limbs either flow or snap into it. The sensation is of some sort of physical compulsion, or perhaps rather that my body has become liberated to the point of being a stronger social "agent" than my consciousness (supposedly in the driver's seat) is. But of course it's really the same thing that happens when someone uses a word I don't know in a sentence and yet I can understand exactly what is being said without puzzling over it; the mind is so well trained at picking up what is necessary for building social interactions that it can do it at a preconscious level. Significantly, I never start doing this only for my mind to catch up and realise "oh no, actually that dance move looks <i>awful</i>." But the fact that I'm instantly copying moves from someone near me while still feeling like my body has an unmediated connection to the music kinda cuts through the binary between music's-direct-impact/social-mimesis.

Language is a really good analogy for the whole debate really because it demonstrates how smoothly such a system functions practically. What I find interesting is that, however much we question the concept of language as expressing an inherent and stable meaning, our <i>practical</i> use of language almost always implies the exact opposite. I mean, Foucault may start his lectures halfway through and Lacan may enjoy being impenetrable, but students reading their texts still work on the unspoken assumption that there is some meaningful idea being expressed "behind" the text, that there is a signified called "Lacan's theory" which can be considered separately to the particular words he uses to express it; in short, that these ideas can be paraphrased.

The possibility of paraphrasing a post-structuralist is not however based on a sort of old fashioned essentialism but rather a pragmatic ethos called "near enough is good enough" (there's also a capitalist component to it in terms of how we think about value and equivalence, but I think of this as more an epistemological condition of possibility than a major factor; we couldn't think this way under feudalism whereas we can under capitalism, but that doesn't mean that doesn't mean that every instance of pragmatic equivalence is a direct intervention by Capital) upon which all social interactions are based; the awareness of the instability of language is repressed for the sake of smooth social interaction. One would assume that Derrida didn't get overly concerned by the play of differance in language when he bought milk from the local shop (though he might actually! He's probably not the best illustrative example...).

For practical social interactions like purchasing milk this kind of daily unthinking repression makes sense, in the exact same manner as reifying commodity items makes sense, at least for the purpose of ending up with a bottle of milk in your hands (puzzling over one's position within a complex and shifting web of social interactions in the act of buying milk might leave you standing in the aisle for hours). Likewise if this practice wasn't tacitly accepted in relation to use of language by academia the business of studying Foucault or Derrrida or Lacan would quickly become close to impossible. But the neccessity or desirability of this constant repression in the context of engaging with music is more of a fraught question. This is because what one has to weigh up is the value of music as something that is "understood" in a social context (eg. what grime means to the grime scene) versus the value of music as accomodating and encompassing a whole field of unstable, differential experiences.

The debate between the two is the same debate re post-structuralism's place in political action - namely, are we destabilising beyond the point where anything meaningful can be said or done? Is it not better to perservere with our shared, stable meanings knowing full well that they are in fact contingent and ideologically produced? Such a question is cynical in the sense Zizek puts forward in <i>The Sublime Object of Ideology</i>, where he redefines ideology: "we know very well what is it that we are doing; and yet we continue to do it (anyway)". We do this every time we talk about a "scene" as having a self-evident and coherent identity, knowing full well that such a thing is strictly speaking impossible. But the relative evil of this "cynicism" depends on the situation; Zizek has major issues obviously with cynical ideology in relation to liberal Western capitalism; he might be inclined to give grime a free pass under the circumstances.

There's a potential third strand between the reification of meaning for the sake of coherent shared understandings and an insistence on deconstructed instability, and this is the act of deconstructive criticism itself. There's a portion of post-structuralist literary theory which asks, "what instability in this text is being repressed so that we can arrive at an agreed upon meaning for it?" (post-structuralism 101) from a more Althusserian perspective ie. "what instability in the text <i>must</i> be repressed in order to reproduce the social status quo?" (I'm thinking of people like Catherine Belsey, Rosalind Coward & John Ellis, even late-period Paul De Man. You could call a lot of this stuff post-Macherey actually). Most of the time this is done to liberate hidden/obscured meanings within a given text and examine how they contradict, undermine or simply reveal too obviously the ideological component of shared social meanings. This point of negativity within a text (the instability that is repressed) is simultaneously the positive condition for the existence of some stable meaning (the text as a sort of Essence-Towards-Incoherence).

The same thing is at work in music and musical scenes: on a general level it is the very repression of the fact that "meaning" is built around mimesis rather than some essential musical quality that allows a scene to maintain its sense of passionate committment, to reproduce itself (and to satisfy Dominic's litmus test question "are you willing to die for it?"). More specifically, certain types of experience of and engagement with the music in question must be repressed in order for the scene to maintain the coherence which implies essence. A good example of this is the extent to which UK Garage had to constantly reassert its heterosexism, its anti-batty-boy stance, to ward off any sort of "inappropriate" reception which the music's femininity might encourage. The point here is that this emphasis on the music's heterosexuality shows not that the music is inherently heterosexual in nature, but rather the very opposite: the experience of gender within this music is a faultline, something to be contested. In other words, in its behaviour, the scene itself demonstrates an awareness that the field of experience in relation to a given piece of music is wide open and up for grabs, but in its ideological conception of itself it must always repress this knowledge.

Tim F
12-04-2005, 04:40 PM
Simon what's yer position on Foucault's theory of sexuality? Lots of people dislike it for similar reasons you're listing in relation to mimesis & music - that it "empties out" sexuality and thus simply does not accord with the sense of presence they feel in regards to their own sexuality (ie. that there is something fundamental and immutable "there"). Whereas Foucault's point is that it is the very fact that sexuality is felt in this manner that demonstrates its success as a discursive practice; if his point was obvious it also wouldn't be very interesting or crucial. (the counter-intuitiveness of Foucault's position probably explains why so many people who claim to be basing their position on him actually draw on his exact theoretical opposite, a sort of amalgamation of Reich and Marcuse - but just because something feels counter-intuitive doesn't mean it's wrong of course).

Likewise with ideology: it is never experienced as being ideology or it would be useless. No-one ever says "I am being ideological", it's always the other person.

dominic
12-04-2005, 05:28 PM
i think that borderpolice's mimetic theory has a great deal to contribute to our understanding of how music and music scenes work . . . .

but i suppose i see the mimetic theory as strictly supplementary

that priority still has to go to the music itself, to the "claim" that the music makes on the listener or listeners

the listener feels claimed by the music -- and once he feels claimed he has to work out his relationship both to the music and to other people who likewise feel claimed

and it's in the working out of relationships (what i call politics) that the mimetic theory is most instructive

AS FOR DANCING -- this is not so simple as mere copying of moves (whether consciously or pre-consciously)

granted, when the crowd is vibing, everyone's on the same steady vibe -- i.e., the case where everyone is moving in the same way -- then yes, here there surely must be a mimetic explanation -- AND YET even here it's not that simple -- rather everybody dances the same way b/c somewhere along the line they became CONVINCED that this the best way to dance to the music, that this is the best way for the group to vibe as one

but isn't there also the case of freaky dancing -- the complete and total freak with all the freaky moves -- nobody else dances like this person and nobody else picks up his moves -- and yet if he's a really good freaky dancer, then nobody is going to deny that he's seriously down with the music, that he "gets" the music on a very deep level

ALSO -- I think the mimetic theory is a bit too formalistic -- i.e., its formalism is neutral as regards the TESTIFYING and PERSUADING that goes on when people are dancing to music -- i.e., the dancing testifies both to the power of the music and to the fact that yeah man i feel the power of this music coursing through my veins -- or dancing as persuasion, i.e., look at how i'm dancing -- isn't this powerful? don't you agree that this music has got power? and that now i've got the power running through me?
-------------------

Tim F again raises the issue of the massive as being an imaginary construct b/c the massive represses the fact of differential experience, i.e., that each member experiences the music differently OR that often times there are fault lines within the massive, e.g., as b/w the aggressively heterosexual and more gay-friendly folks in the UK garage scene

but I'm not defining the massive in terms of uniform experience of the music

RATHER I'd say the massive consists of those who (1) count themselves as members and (2) are recognized by others as members of the massive -- i.e., Reciprocal Recognition

and this is where the mimetic theory comes into play -- i.e., through dancing and other forms of behavior, other nuances of behavior -- you can convince or persuade others that you belong to the massive

and yet again -- there's always the freaky dancer or the freaky person who somehow gets membership as well

not simply the adept copyist who has mastered every nuance -- but also the freak seemingly incapable of playing by any rules

and as a dj/selector or as internal critic/aesthete as opposed to regular punter/dancer -- you win membership by convincing others that you "get" the music -- and you don't convince others of this through mere copying -- rather you have to have your own "take" on the music

dominic
12-04-2005, 05:31 PM
i should acknowledge, however, that i'm unable to account for the power of music outside of social settings

that is, the music that most moves me in private probably is bach or some such thing

but at the end of the day i can take or leave bach

so perhaps my understanding of music is pretty damn vulnerable to borderpolice's critique

blissblogger
12-04-2005, 05:49 PM
it's been a while since i read History of Sexuality -- but that book and power/knowledge had a huge effect on me in the mid-80s -- but doesn't Monsieur F make a distinction between the apparatus of sexuality and "sex" as this constructed and mystified drive, and the real of "bodies and pleasures"?

that might correspond to a distinction the discourse of music/all the practices etc of "musicking" and actual "rhythm and sound"... or the distinction i made between the various forms of harnessing of music-as-mystery and the mystery itself

in the end the pint (or litre) of milk in derrida's hand is real, and going sour, as he stands there in the supermarket aisle ruminating

*****

re Tim's point re., coyping dance moves

there's no doubt humans have sheep-like tendencies, and that viral 'dance-meme' thing i can recall from
going to raves, it was heightened by mass E synchronisation, that morphic resonance thing of a room of people on the same vibe...

* * * * *
BUT
just as

there's more to speech than just signs... animating it all is will, passion, need, aggression, lust... motivating force

similarly

there's more to music than just something we construct socialisation games around...

i can't help thinking all these construction based theories as being rooted in a kind of evasion or ressentiment towards the sublime, the Real, to that which is bigger than the self,

it sounds empowering, we construct these musical meanings arbitrarily, we can rearrange them how we like...

but it's empowering only in proportion to which it disempowers Power

i think there's something in music that is as much like a punch in the face, or a bolt of lightning, or a sunny day, or a dose of flu, as it is like a newspaper article or conversation

these socialisation games would have to be fantastically complex to explain how i would be predisposed and set up to feel a shiver the first time i encountered the grain-of-the-voice of stevie nicks on 'sara', say (especially as i heard it by accident, on my own, in an asocial environment, radio in my parent's bedroom again, and with subcultural factors at that time -- postpunk discourse --predisposing me to not respond in that fashion towards it but despise it as soft rock)

music is a rapture, a raptor

sorry -- i'm an incorrigible Romantic... when i read camille paglia i find absolutely nothing to disagree with!

tate
12-04-2005, 06:56 PM
Excellent thread, but have long wondering (while reading the posts, I mean) about the coherence of the categories offered us: popism and rockism.

Somewhere upthread K-Punk referred to rockism and popism as a binary and I am wondering whence this 'binary' ultimately derives its coherence or logic. Are these the only two choices? Are they really a binary opposition? If so, do they derive their binary character from some sort of philosophical or internally-derived musical criteria or simply because a microhistory of music criticism and blogging have presented them as a binary? An honest question, because I see features in both popism and rockism, as they have been presented here, that I would adopt AND shun.

Nota bene on Derrida: Comments suggesting that the guy didn't believe in real things (i.e., milk) are misguided (sorry, Simon, I don't mean to sound snotty, smile). One need only read his earliest work from the late 60s (on very technical issues in Husserl) to see that he very much believed in real things but was profoundly skeptical of phenomenology's ability to account for them.

For what it's worth, Derrida also well understood the dancefloor: I shared one with him at a bar on Bleeker Street, Memphis, Tennessee, in the early 1990s. Dude was getting down. No joke. It was impressive.

Suggestion. If we are going to speak about Foucault's History of Sexuality, could we specify which volume? Not to sound contrary, but it matters whether one is speaking about the general comments made in the introductory volume or the more detailed analyses, say, regarding Greek culture and texts, in the later volumes. Thanks.

dominic
12-04-2005, 09:35 PM
i should acknowledge, however, that i'm unable to account for the power of music outside of social settings

that is, the music that most moves me in private probably is bach or some such thing

but at the end of the day i can take or leave bach


actually i want to take some of these remarks back

for the most part i listen to music in private

but while listening i *imagine* hearing the music in a social setting

for instance, if it's a song that i first heard at a rave or from that time period, then i imagine myself dancing to the song alongside others, competely lost in the music, at a rave or club in 1991 -- or in the case of really good house at the hacienda in 1986 -- even though i've never been to manchester!

or i fantasize about playing the song to likeminded people at a party or something, if given the right opportunity

and if i cannot imagine the track competely taking over people, seizing people, enrapturing people -- seizing others with and alongside me -- then i don't have much use for it

is this a song that can rock the party? -- rocking the party means sweeping people away from their conversations, interrupting the games of seduction and mating rites that people play, taking them out of their own private reverie as they're standing against the wall -- and rocking them with the music

and actually bach is music that seizes people and transports them -- the same is true of symphonic music, the entire classical tradition -- at a symphony people are indeed enraptured by the music (or at least some of them are) -- so yes, bach is strong music (when played at a xian mass or whatever)

so as a matter of fact, i listen to music by myself -- on my lonesome ownsome -- but i *imagine* myself in another time or place -- and the crucial question for me is this ----- were i at a party or club or bar or whatever, is this music that could take over the situation and the people there?

dominic
12-04-2005, 09:56 PM
If we are going to speak about Foucault's History of Sexuality, could we specify which volume?

i think they mean the introductory volume, as that's the one that everyone's read -- or has had the most influence on modern thought

dominic
12-04-2005, 10:13 PM
and so, when viewed retrospectively, the difference b/w music that has the power to seize people and music that is simply "pop" music is this . . . .

"pop" music reminds of us of another time in our lives, where we were, who we were with, what the weather was like that year -- we think about things other than music

whereas "powerful" music causes us to fantasize about being seized by music while being somewhere else

this is admittedly rather simplistic -- but i thought i'd throw it out --

i.e., somebody way way way upthread remarked that one of the reasons people like "pop" music is that it reminds them of other times in their lives, where they were during a particular summer, etc

so i say this as a belated response

k-punk
12-04-2005, 10:25 PM
there's more to music than just something we construct socialisation games around...

i can't help thinking all these construction based theories as being rooted in a kind of evasion or ressentiment towards the sublime, the Real, to that which is bigger than the self,

it sounds empowering, we construct these musical meanings arbitrarily, we can rearrange them how we like...

That is absolutely right... again an echo of Otto, who characterises religious experience as that which is much vaster than the self, which makes the self feel like nothing... which is precisely OVERpowering, not empowering...

I guess I'll never understand what for me will always seem like an impluse of resentful mastery in which the self is reasserted over what overcomes it... For me writing about pop is an attempt to deal with that overcoming....



i think there's something in music that is as much like a punch in the face, or a bolt of lightning, or a sunny day, or a dose of flu, as it is like a newspaper article or conversation


Surely much much more like them than the 'conversation' ... all those language-based theories have always been profoundly unconvincing when faced with pop... you are dealing with sonic intensities that simply are not structured in the way that language is... language is one type of code, not the only type of code...

As for the mimesis model, one of the great virtues of 'Rhizome' in A Thousand Plateaus is to kick that right into touch... it can't account for anything... the temporality is all wrong... do birds 'copy' each other when they flock? Flocking, propagation, contagion are infinitely better models... memes not mimesis...

And this difference thing:

1. It seems to be taken on trust that people's responses to music etc are infinitely complex... this idea tha human beings are unpredictable and ineffable (when actually they are drearily predictable for the most part) is the last residue of religion in the bad, supernatural, theistic sense.... it's the same impulse that lies behind denying neurological reduction, as if there is something necessarily mysterious about the material configurations we are. It's only a matter of contingency, a matter of time...

2. Why is difference interesting? Surely what differences there are can be attributed to uninteresting socio-animalistic factors... Much more interesting is seeing a crowd possessed by an entity, wave, beatform, ridden by a loa...



music is a rapture, a raptor

sorry -- i'm an incorrigible Romantic... when i read camille paglia i find absolutely nothing to disagree with!

You're not what I would call a Romantic, though, Simon; your interlocutors are. The key Romantic move, a kind of garbled Kantianism, was to reduce everything to human imagination. The fag end of this is in the dreary reader/listener response position, which has subtracted anything raptor-ish about culture. It all comes from inside, so we are told.

k-punk
12-04-2005, 10:41 PM
(and tim is right about a good many things, but especially that the ILX/NYLPM crowd are hardly 'geezers' in the footballer sense - the name was an inside joke, wasn't it?

But who IS a 'geeza' then and what is the point in using such a depressingly delibidinizing, disintensifying and normalising term? Once again, surely it's necessary to distinguish positions from people: of course, people don't stick to aesthetic-philosophical positions (for reasons of lack of consistency as much as anything else) but that doesn't mean that such positions shouldn't be critiqued.

The point I keep trying to make is that, of course, NO-ONE is a popist, NO-ONE is a geeza: the demand to enjoy (and only enjoy) is not something that anyone can live up to... but that doesn't mean that popism and geezaesthetics aren't extremely powerful discourses....


they even disavow the association, though it seems to have pushed k-punks buttons nonetheless)

No, really, it's quite the other way round... they started to hound ME when the suggestion was made that y'know, there might be something more to pop than can be got to via pub conversation opinionism... the idea that this position - totally hegenomic, with support from most of the humanities subjects in university and most of the media, indeed the voice of commonsense in person - is downtrodden and misrespresented is really one of the most laughable things about it....

dominic
12-04-2005, 10:51 PM
And this difference thing:

1. It seems to be taken on trust that people's responses to music etc are infinitely complex... this idea tha human beings are unpredictable and ineffable (when actually they are drearily predictable for the most part) is the last residue of religion in the bad, supernatural, theistic sense.... it's the same impulse that lies behind denying neurological reduction, as if there is something necessarily mysterious about the material configurations we are. It's only a matter of contingency, a matter of time...

excellent point!

which is not to say that we're all alike, either

but often in philosophy the best thing to do is argue contrary to prevailing opinion

even though the truth of the matter is unknown

i.e., who really knows how similar or different our experiences of music are

especially in the case of dance music -- i.e., compared w/ jazz and classical music the music ain't all that complex -- therefore if everybody's getting down to the music, if the place is rocking, and people are seized, etc, then it's not at all unreasonable to assume that they're having more or less the same experience -- i.e., emphasizing differential experience here amounts to emphasizing the trivial

dominic
12-04-2005, 11:20 PM
however, there does seem to be some tension b/w the following propositions:

(1) there is more uniformity and less complexity in people's responses to music, experience of music, than prevailing theory (opinion) acknowledges

i.e, as among members of the same scene -- obviously if you're not part of the death metal scene, your response will be radically different than a member's response

-- though this may take us back to why different people join different scenes, i.e., there are socio-empirical factors that predispose people to joining particular scenes (or no scene at all) but there is also the quasi-religious phenomenon of simply being seized by the music, i.e., the conversion experience -- why are some seized by these sounds and not others?

(2) the "pub" conversation cannot do justice to such responses and experiences -- or at any rate fails to "intensify" the response or experience

perhaps the apparent contradiction can be resolved by saying that the pub ethos is hostile to notions of being seized, of quasi-religious experience, of intensity, and so forth

dominic
12-04-2005, 11:52 PM
That is absolutely right... again an echo of Otto, who characterises religious experience as that which is much vaster than the self, which makes the self feel like nothing... which is precisely OVERpowering, not empowering...

i disagree

that is, I suspect that Otto is using some notion derived from Hegel whereby the slave is OVERpowered by the lord -- i.e., the slave feels the prospect of death in his bones -- i.e., the slave who previously had vain thoughts about himself is shaken to the foundations -- he had vainly conceived of himself as more than a mere creature, he imagined he existed as being-for-self -- and yet the lord brings him to his knees b/c in the end the slave values his life more than freedom or recognition

and Hegel in turn was working out of the Protestant tradition -- i.e., the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom

but I think that in the case of music -- or at least dance music -- the overwhelming feeling of being seized by the music is EMpowering -- it's what makes you dance -- we could even say that this comes out of the Quaker and Pentecostal traditions

btw when i was in my very early 20s i used to buy used paperbacks compulsively -- shopping bags full of used paperbacks for $5 -- as though if i owned the book i'd somehow possess the knowledge in the books -- even though i'd likely not get around to reading all these books until an old man in his 80s -- so i ended up donating most of the books to charity -- and yet i kept several of the books w/ intention of reading at some point -- hopefully before age 80 -- and one of the books was Rudolf Otto's "Idea of the Holy" -- currently in my parents' basement w/ most of my other books

Tim F
13-04-2005, 03:01 AM
I think this argument is being pulled into binaries for the sake of argument (or ha ha "the conversation") - neither Borderpolice nor myself have at any stage suggested that scenes don't produce a conformity or a consensus regarding the experience of music; merely that this conformity and consensus is only possible <i>given</i> the differential social setting which it presumes - I mean this is so obvious it's actually a tautology: the social experience of music is social.

Dominic, Simon and Mark all argue against the "reductive" position of music-as-social-enunciation, and fair enough, there is a basic affective materiality to music which sign systems and socalisation don't account for. But this does not need to be a scarce transcendental sublime, some mystical property which jungle and Stevie Nicks' voice possess and which other music does not. When Simon talks of being utterly arrested by "Sara" (and I can sympathise with that!) it sounds like he is being arrested by his own capacity for experience of difference as per Deleuze (see my earlier, perhaps second post on this thread where I went into more detail of this). Experience of difference is the basic property of value within material art, whether sensually visual (painting and sculpture), textual (literature), textual/sonic (poetry, lyric-based music) or purely sonic (sonic-dominant music eg jungle). It is not mystical, merely difficult to articulate - insofar as all forms of signification which might practically express or articulate (ie. paraphrase) this experience are based simultaneously on difference-via-mimesis and a <i>repression</i> of the awareness of said difference. This is what Foucault is referring to with his concept of "iteration".

"1. It seems to be taken on trust that people's responses to music etc are infinitely complex... this idea tha human beings are unpredictable and ineffable (when actually they are drearily predictable for the most part) is the last residue of religion in the bad, supernatural, theistic sense.... it's the same impulse that lies behind denying neurological reduction, as if there is something necessarily mysterious about the material configurations we are. It's only a matter of contingency, a matter of time..."

Mark being "drearily predictable" and being "simple" or "straightforward" are so far from being the same thing that I'm astonished you conflate them here. Ideology's success in producing similar, predictable subjects is not a function of its simplicity! Again, the correct analogy here is with language - choosing the right words in a given context usually appears to be both the simplest thing in the world and an almost unconscious, unmediated process. And if you ask different people to provide you with a synonym for one word it's hardly going to be surprising that most will offer up the same alternative word, or maybe one of a very small group. But this very dreary predictability is the result of a very complex and counter-intuitive system whose complexity and counter-intuitiveness has to be actively over-looked by the subject in order for them to feel confident saying anything at all!

Sonics and Language are not the same, of course, but I think patterns of <i>recognition</i> are at a fundamental level the same across different signifying systems, which is to say that the success of a signifying system can be measured by the extent to which it is not recognised as such - the extent to which what is being "recognised" by the subject is experienced as a direct presence, an unmediated essence, rather than some sort of socially agreed construct or placeholder.

The irony is that in most writing about music this is tacitly acknowledged. When Simon talks about the history of the mentasm or the amen isn't he talking about the way in which a certain differential affect - a strange and harsh metallic squiggle, a percussive flash and skitter - is transformed into a social signifier via repetition and mimesis? A jungle track which uses an Amen is automatically meta-jungle, jungle about jungle, but the mistake would be to assume that the Amen is therefore a transcendental sign, that it is the <i>essence</i> of jungle. If the Amen had only ever been used in one jungle track, its status would primarily be that of pure sonic difference. The velocity of the sample, its place within the structure of the track, its status as a "breakbeat", all these things would still signify "jungle" - and to this extent all jungle is meta-jungle - but the <i>internal structuredness</i> of the Amen, the way the each beat within the Amen relates to the others, would have been valuable only insofar as it was an expression of some basic irreducible material differential uniqueness.

Instead we have a situation where the Amen is <i>recognised intimately</i> by the jungle listener as a sign within a signifying system; the track evokes simultaneously all the jungle tracks which have used the Amen <i>and</i> all the tracks which haven't - which is to say, the value of any particular deployment or use of the Amen rests in its difference both from other Amen tracks and more generally from non-Amen tracks. The amen-revivalism of a few years back - prior to the resurgence of properly breakbeat dominated jungle - is a good example of this: the amen was not primarily used to differentiate the host track from 2-step jungle at the level of sheer sonic difference (for otherwise, why use the amen in such a manner that it fit in with 2-step tracks so easily? Why leave it largely intact, not chopped up? And why just use the amen and not any breakbeat? Why this drum pattern in particular?); an equal factor in its use is a pledge of fidelity to the amen as a consensus signifier of jungle, and thus to jungle as a diachronic signifying system.

It's tempting to conclude therefore that we're talking about a tug of war between differential affectivity (chop up the sample, bring in another sample) versus sign system fidelity (adhere to the same sample and use it in the same way); this would allow us to fairly quickly choose the former over the latter. But of course, differential affectivity is always also a signifying act - using an interestingly chopped up Amen also says "hey, listen to me, I sound kinda familiar - yes, that's right, I'm an Amen! You know me! And yet you don't! I sound different! By my existence I challenge your conception of what an Amen is! And, if I'm really convoluted, what a jungle rhythm is too!". It's not a case of a scene starting off unconsciously and naively sonic and then devolving into meta-commentary - it's <i>all</i> meta-commentary, intertextuality. There's no binary between the two types of experience, but rather a simultaneity and complementarity (is that a word?), in the same way that our eyes see the "real" empirical world and the sign systems by which we make sense of that world simultaneously. And of course one of the ways we experience differential affectivity in music is hearing sonic deviation in the context of a sort of sign-system fidelity - the persistant and sonically identical use of certain samples and sounds within radically different sonic terrains (or the inverse, the morphology of specific sounds within a consistent sonic terrain; but this is just a perspective-trick artificial distinction of the same process). 'Ardkore roots'n'futurism, innit?

Part 2 below.

Tim F
13-04-2005, 03:03 AM
This brings us back to the point I made above: differential affectivity is always overlaid by sign systems, and is <i>simultaneously</i> part of sign systems. When Simon talks about the pure unmediated pleasure and shock of Stevie Nicks' vocal in "Sara", I assume that what is happening is that he is experiencing the enjoyment of differential affects within the sonics whose simultaneous signifying components he cannot "recognise" as he doesn't have access to the right sign system (which may be something as simple as having heard lots of Nicks' vocals before, understanding how she uses them to convey certain impressions of emotion etc.). This, perhaps, is "Pop" listening in the sense that Mark uses it: something that feels like mystical, unreasoning enjoyment. And certainly the experience of hearing "Sara" wafting from another room in the family home and being enraptured by it is something like an archetypal popist narrative: the arresting quality that music can have when one is not in a position to place into a sign system context. Is this not something quite similar to a person seeing their first cubist painting for the first time, not understanding at all the sign system at work but being arrested merely by the sensuousness of the use of paint itself? It's not mystical or unreasoning at all, of course. It just appears and is experienced as such.

From all that he's written I have to assume that Mark would disapprove strongly of this sort of enjoyment on the grounds that it's unexplained (hence mystical) individual (hence bourgeois) enjoyment (hence non-revolutionary); it lacks the allegedly revolutionary (I would disagree) qualities of created populations. But the point of created populations is that what they're doing is inventing ex nihilo brand new <i>sign systems</i>, brand new ways of relating <i>to</i> and through music as a series of significations rather than as a direct sonic force.

This is where I suspect I disagree with Dominic as well, when he claims that it is the direct sonic force of the music which claims the listener who then engages in scene politics in order to assert her claim to being claimed. The point of being claimed by a scene is that one is claimed by the sign system overlaying the music, one is <i>interpellated</i> by it! This doesn't mean of course that scene members don't engage with and enjoy the differential affectivity at work in the music - the point is that they're engaging at both levels.

The dilettante who hears and enjoys a jungle track is also engaging at two levels: the sonic affectivity of the music and their own, pan-genre sign system by which they make "sense" of music. The inevitable rockist distortions that occurred in the rock press's treatment of dance music throughout the nineties is a very good example of this occurring: one could not expect a rock fan to "get" dance the way a dance fan does by listening to a single dance album because that album is not enough for the listener to establish a meaningful sign-system internal to dance music for the purpose of "making sense" of what they're hearing. Instead the experience of sonics is inserted into the pre-existing sign system(s) present - eg a "rock mindset". And this is why we got eg rock critics praising Orbital solely for their melodic sensibility, in the process making two mistakes - missing a lot of the experiential (enjoyable) value to be had in a) dance music, and b) Orbital specifically. And this happens at multple levels of course: the house/techno fan who "gets" Orbital may not automatically make sense of jungle etc. And, in a popist-not-rockist sense, one gets the same problem when someone like Chuck Eddy blanketly dismisses all current dance music scenes as being "too subtle" (another example of how most music critic errors actually tend to cut across both popism and rocksim).

There is of course though no automatic right or wrong that we can point to - Simon may have chosen to valorise purists over dilettantes of late but in his rejection of "adhedonic" post-Mills techno in the mid-nineties there was an equal acknowledgment that constructing ever-more-restricted sets of sign systems may have a deleretious impact on the experience of music. Simon cannot guarantee that such techno producers and fans secretly don't <i>enjoy</I> their music (and since enjoyment is so disapproved of around here it would hardly matter if they didn't anyway!). The objection presumably arises from the fact that the sign system is too anorexic and hermetic for people outside of it to meaningfully engage with (ie. converse with, ie. <i>have a conservation with</i>). So there's this tension at work: between not using sign-systems that are sufficiently specific to the music at hand, and thus forcing an awkward relationship between the differentially affective component of the music and the inappropriate or overly-broad sign system being used as an explanatory model; and, on the other hand, restricting the sign-system to the point where a) the sign-system itself is impenetrable, and b) the space for differential affectivity begins to become compromised. And this tension is both practical-and-productive; its permutations can be seen writ large in the story of the 'ardkore continuum. But it's first and foremost a <i>socially constructed</i> tension.

tek tonic
13-04-2005, 03:30 AM
"reduced to a collective thumbs-up" -- i would question this term, why would an expression of mass unanimity necessarily be regarded as a reduction of something? these things have occurred you know--large numbers of people feeling near-as-dammit the same thing! happens all the time in soccer stadiums. happens in riots. happens with spontaneous outpourings of grief. happens at raves, gigs, clubs. at move theatres. there's even been the occasional revolution! not always a good thing -- mob violence, popular justice, lynchings etc -- but not always a bad thing either. think you are revealing yer bourgeois individualist prejudices a bit there mr barnes!


especially in the case of dance music -- i.e., compared w/ jazz and classical music the music ain't all that complex -- therefore if everybody's getting down to the music, if the place is rocking, and people are seized, etc, then it's not at all unreasonable to assume that they're having more or less the same experience -- i.e., emphasizing differential experience here amounts to emphasizing the trivial

both of you seem to be arguing that if masses of people take the same actions (dancing, rioting, purchasing one elvis record each) as somehow implying that the same feeling must have made them do it, but in my opinion, that doesn't follow. observe a photo of two people dancing at a rave. one might be rushing on E, completely lost in the moment. the other might be feeling self-conscious about her dancing, thinking about the DJ or the tune, wondering when her boyfriend will return from the toilets, etc. the fact that they're dancing and appear to be enjoying themselves doesn't mean they feel the same way about the music, and i would argue that such a difference is hardly trivial. i don't think you can credibly argue that dancing = experiencing intense aesthetic pleasure, so i don't see how you can argue that certain pieces of music contain inherent qualities that provoke that reaction (and further, how you can argue that without these inherent qualities, it CAN'T provoke that reaction).

even if the experience of hearing this music is subtly different for every listener, they can still celebrate the commonality between their reactions. she likes Bob Dylan because his politics are right-on, he likes Dylan because he finds the lyrics poetic and profound, they both become giant lefties and start a hippie commune in Vermont. what's anti-social about that?


these socialisation games would have to be fantastically complex to explain how i would be predisposed and set up to feel a shiver the first time i encountered the grain-of-the-voice of stevie nicks on 'sara', say (especially as i heard it by accident, on my own, in an asocial environment, radio in my parent's bedroom again, and with subcultural factors at that time -- postpunk discourse --predisposing me to not respond in that fashion towards it but despise it as soft rock)

isn't this what tim was saying earlier? ("The assignation of objective value to music or certain patterns within music necessarily implies that "best practice" music criticism would involve a repression of one's personal reaction, that we should reign in our musical "id" and subordinate it to what we "know" to be true.") if postpunk discourse (presumably a fairly rockist one) says that the human league or whatever is the true site of the raptor-ish feelings you desire, and then 'sara' makes you feel the same way, then surely postpunk discourse has to find a way to account for your swooning over stevie nicks' voice? you can argue that stevie nicks' voice contains intrinsic properties, but that clearly contradicts the postpunk dictum that soft rock is to be despised. so you either repress your reaction to 'sara' in the name of aligning yourself with postpunk, or you accept that postpunk can't account for your discovery that legit/DIY/proper punk music isn't the only enjoyable music out there.


But who IS a 'geeza' then and what is the point in using such a depressingly delibidinizing, disintensifying and normalising term? Once again, surely it's necessary to distinguish positions from people: of course, people don't stick to aesthetic-philosophical positions (for reasons of lack of consistency as much as anything else) but that doesn't mean that such positions shouldn't be critiqued.

The point I keep trying to make is that, of course, NO-ONE is a popist, NO-ONE is a geeza: the demand to enjoy (and only enjoy) is not something that anyone can live up to... but that doesn't mean that popism and geezaesthetics aren't extremely powerful discourses....

absolutely, critique the position and not the person, but the popist position you're constructing is inconsistent with popism as i've seen it practiced. the geezaesthetic manifesto isn't inherently anti-intellectual (unless "conversation" automatically precludes intellectualizing one's experience). it's openly pro-criticism, and makes allowances for communities while acknowledging that the pub table is not necessarily a community in itself. i just don't see how you can assail a version of popism that most popists don't seem to endorse.

Tim F
13-04-2005, 04:35 AM
"This is where I suspect I disagree with Dominic as well, when he claims that it is the direct sonic force of the music which claims the listener who then engages in scene politics in order to assert her claim to being claimed. The point of being claimed by a scene is that one is claimed by the sign system overlaying the music, one is interpellated by it! This doesn't mean of course that scene members don't engage with and enjoy the differential affectivity at work in the music - the point is that they're engaging at both levels."

Just want to expand slightly on this point, because I know that Dominic will has issues insofar as he argues this:

"-- though this may take us back to why different people join different scenes, i.e., there are socio-empirical factors that predispose people to joining particular scenes (or no scene at all) but there is also the quasi-religious phenomenon of simply being seized by the music, i.e., the conversion experience -- why are some seized by these sounds and not others?"

Firstly I'd argue that when Dominic talks about having a claim over music by virtue of being claimed by it, he is talking about interpellation as per Althusser - eg. the play on the word "subject": in the process of interpellation one is both "subjected" as subordinate to the Big Subject (the ideological system; the musical scene) and formed as a "subject", ie. recognised by the system, perhaps even honoured. A basic example of this is the fuedal system, where the condition of possibility for power and status is the subordinate relatonship to the monarch.

But the problem with Althusser's theory of interpellation for many is that it never adequately explained how we can be seized/interpellated by the Big Subject without the grounding principle of already being in an interpellatory relationship - how does one go from being outside the feudal sytem to being a tenant-in-chief?

Zizek adds a new layer to this process when he contrasts Althusser's interpellation with Pascal's ideas on religious faith - namely, that if you are not gripped by religious faith, all that is necessary is to ensure that in all your effective social behaviour you act <i>as if</i> you are and you will find that you come to believe anyway. Zizek says interpellation works in the same manner. The very material, social nature of ideology is such that in performing these actions, by acting <i>as if</i> you believe, you will come to be interpellated by the ideology anyway. In musical terms this means that if you continually engage with the particular signifying system of a certain scene you will begin to understand that system and see yourself in relation to it.

But this is not behaviourist reductionism - it does not mean that the content of a person's belief is the sum total of their social actions. Because what that behaviourism doesn't explain is what it is that convinces a subject to engage in the ideological practice/sign system in the first place, if they don't have any sort of attendant belief. The cause is a kind of "belief-before-belief", a conviction that engaging with the Big Subject will suture permanently the gap in their subjectivity, protect them from the trauma of the Real. Hence mentioning Pentecostalism is very on-point indeed! What else is religious faith but a "deal with God"? "I will believe because in believing I will be saved." You could say that a musical scene is <i>exactly</i> like a Church in this manner.

When Dominic argues that being "claimed" by music is a self-evident and "real" process and that the working out of the social meaning of this claim is "politics", he seems to be using a realist/positivist model of politics - that politics is just the process of managing real-but-competing interests. What his theory seems to leave out is that no interests are the pure expression of uncomplicated "real" subject positions; all interests are the result of ideological formation and hegemonic enunciation.

blissblogger
13-04-2005, 04:50 AM
tim, i'd always thought i was a reasonably bright fellow, but i'm having real difficulty catching your drift. not false modesty, i honestly can't get my head around it

but as far as i can get a grip on it, you seem to acknowledge there's more to music than just a sign-system, and then immediately go back to treating it as a sign system, a code we acquire.

i don't think music is a sign system. it may have sign-systems, and discourses entwined around it, glommed onto it, but the way it impacts us first and foremost as sensations, as forces

the example of the Amen is actually a perfect one

it was years and years before i could recognise an Amen. during the absolute prime of me being a hardcore raver, i had no idea even of the Amen's existence. we're talking a good couple of years, maybe longer, when i seriously doubt i could even auditorily distinguish that break from the other breaks in use. which must surely mean they were affecting me in a psychomotor sense without me having any knowledge of what they signfied as meta-jungle. if there was pattern recognition it was entirely at the somatic level, pre-conscious. but even the concept of 'recognition' seems inappropriate because when you're raving, the music is dancing you. there's no interval of recognition and then choosing to respond.

it's true that the Amen has become a signifier in retro-dance in the same way that wah-wah or fuzztone or phasing or Gang of Four guitar have become signifiers in various forms of retro-rock. but honestly during those early years of rave and jungle, i don't think the Amen's existence was widely known outside of producers and djs. which means there must have been thousands and thousands of people like me raving in blissful ignorance. the beats were doing their work on our bodies because their effectivity has nothing to do with signification. the Amen break is not language, it's not information or code, it has no referent... it's a pattern of pressure, an alternation of stresses and impacts. it works your body. it's got more in common with metallurgy or building a bridge or something like that... an intuition of this being the reason surely why jungle was full of titles like 'physics' or 'Torque' or indeed the very concept 'breakbeat science'

i'm not sure when i learned of the existence of Amens --it was quite late in the day, maybe 95 -- and even then it was a while before i could learn to identify them, like 'ah, "terrorist", that's an Amen'. i still get surprised now and then by tracks that i loved back in the day that turn out to have had Amens prominently in them e.g. bukem's "atlantis"

i think the idea that the rapture of Nicks vocal, its quality of being both numinous and all-too-material, as being attributable to a failure in my aquired pattern-recognition system's ability to asSIGN a meaning to its texture is... just weird. music is not text.

mr barnes:
>i don't think you can credibly argue that dancing = experiencing intense aesthetic pleasure,

!?!?!


hey, i'm enjoying being in agreement with K-punk. i'd actually been thinking he is more Romantic than he'd like to think, but this is almost certainly due to a misunderstanding of Romanticism on my part. (Isn't Gothick part of Romanticism?) i would be interested in hearing further hearing explanations of Romanticism and why it's a bad thing to be.


someone mentioned Derrida not denying the Real. i expect you're right, but i have known Derrideans in the past who've claimed that there's nothing outside the text -- the text is all there is. Even then i thought this utterly loony, and this was when i was at the height of being under postmodernist influence.. it was paul oldfield actually who was also well into his baudrillard at that point and claimed that power didn't exist. that also seemed utterly loony to me.

Tim F
13-04-2005, 05:10 AM
"tim, i'd always thought i was a reasonably bright fellow, but i'm having real difficulty catching your drift. not false modesty, i honestly can't get my head around it"

No it's not you I don't think, I'm very verbose and muddy most of the time!

but as far as i can get a grip on it, you seem to acknowledge there's more to music than just a sign-system, "and then immediately go back to treating it as a sign system, a code we acquire."

I think that music is always simultaneously a sign-system <i>and</i> a pure sonic excess of that sign system; one is always reacting to both. But for the purpose of articulating our engagement we generally rely on the sign-system to structure it. The excess is difficult to represent except in quasi-mystical terms (although, as I continue to stress, it's not <i>actually</i> mystical).

"it was years and years before i could recognise an Amen. during the absolute prime of me being a hardcore raver, i had no idea even of the Amen's existence. we're talking a good couple of years, maybe longer, when i seriously doubt i could even auditorily distinguish that break from the other breaks in use. which must surely mean they were affecting me in a psychomotor sense without me having any knowledge of what they signfied as meta-jungle. if there was pattern recognition it was entirely at the somatic level, pre-conscious. but even the concept of 'recognition' seems inappropriate because when you're raving, the music is dancing you. there's no interval of recognition and then choosing to respond."

Was your body still not reacting to the speed of the break, its place within the track etc at this early stage? Could you not recognise these things as being constitutive of a jungle track? These are all signs too! My point was that until the "amen" is identified as a sign in and of itself it has no meaning, its signifying capacity lies in other elements like its speed, its use, its volume. Before the "amen" became a sign (or, more specifically, a sign that <i>you, the particular subject experiencing it, could recognise as such</i>) it was impossible to talk about what it was specifically doing as distinct from the apache or paris break. So at that pre-sign stage the amen is only enjoyed as pure sonic difference, and for that reason it is not addressed specifically, it is not theoretically accounted for. By entering the sign system - or, to put it another way, by you becoming aware of it as a sign - it can become accounted for theoretically, and yet this is merely accounting for it <i>as</i> a sign, because it can still only be referred to in terms of other signs.

"but even the concept of 'recognition' seems inappropriate because when you're raving, the music is dancing you. there's no interval of recognition and then choosing to respond."

I think the brain works faster than this. I think the physical response to music is <i>experienced</i> as a compulsion from the outside but that doesn't mean that's all it is.

"i think the idea that the rapture of Nicks vocal, its quality of being both numinous and all-too-material, as being attributable to a failure in my aquired pattern-recognition system's ability to asSIGN a meaning to its texture is... just weird. music is not text. "

Ha but this is my very exact precise point!!!!! What is your pattern-recognition system but an ability to understand certain sign systems? I feel like shouting "DO YOU SEE?!?!?" in a Mark Sinker style.

The broader point of course is that text is not text either.

Tim F
13-04-2005, 05:21 AM
An analogy for what I'm talking about might be this:

Sometimes I will wake up in the middle of the night and see a certain arrangement of light and shadow in my bedroom, a sense of the closeness of certain shades and their orientation in relation to eachother. But this does not, to my half-awake mind, translate into the following: "the end of my bed, my stereo, the door, the chair in the corner over which is draped a pair of jeans, the very faint amount of reflected star and lamp light through the window etc." It is merely an arrangement of differential intensities whose arrangement strikes me as deeply alien and simultaneously <i>meaningless</i> because I am not looking at in terms of a sign system. I feel a certain traumatic feeling - "where am I, what is this?" I can't even say "what are those things?" because they haven't even turned into concrete objects, it's just different shades of light and shadow.

Immediately my focus and my brain sharpens and I begin to realise where I am and what all these things are. I "recognise" them, I can think about them, and my momentary panic begins to look deeply silly. This is "only" a chair, "only" a bed. But it's also a "bed that I am sleeping in", so it has a use value, a meaning to me. It is a sign system. But that doesn't mean that it isn't also a shape, an experience of light and shade that, were I not able to draw on my general knowledge of beds, would not contain any of the comforting associations that I can now attach to it. It might even be deeply unsettling.

What I experience in the moment before I begin to wake up is a sort of Deleuzian schizophrenia.

Tim F
13-04-2005, 05:25 AM
Oops I just misread the last bit I quoted of your Simon re Stevie Nicks - I thought you were restating your own position, not mine...

blissblogger
13-04-2005, 05:36 AM
i have to go to bed now but i think:

a/ your disoriented experience of your bedroom sounds really cool and intense, and the kind of thing one would want to actively seek out!

more to follow tomorrow, doubtless (and despite the doubters -- hey 4186 views can't be wrong, surely!)

tek tonic
13-04-2005, 05:50 AM
mr barnes:
>i don't think you can credibly argue that dancing = experiencing intense aesthetic pleasure,

!?!?!


oh come on, don't tell me you've never faked the funk.

"i lost my friends, i danced alone
it's six o'clock, i wanna go home,
but there's no way, not today,
makes you wonder what it meant, and, uh..."

Tim F
13-04-2005, 05:51 AM
"a/ your disoriented experience of your bedroom sounds really cool and intense, and the kind of thing one would want to actively seek out!"

I agree!

But I think this is what I-as-a-poptimist mean I talk about pop listening! ie. it's the same thing as when you listen to Stevie Nicks' "Sara" - music as "pop" because there is nothing else that can be said about it *yet* except that it affects you deeply, unsettles you. Unfortunately you cannot think about it afterwards without converting it into sign systems ("what was <i>actually</i> happening was [x]"), so there's no point hanging on to this mystical-seeming moment.

Of course "Pop" in this sense is very different to chart pop, "classic" pop *AND* pop-that-produces-populations. This is because all of these are grounded in the social, and there is no social relationship except relationships of sign systems (ie. even if you feel this and someone next to you on the dancefloor feels this too, you can't really share that feeling except in the form of signs to eachother - dance moves, smiling at each other, shouting incoherently, using slang words, having a theoretical conversation on a message board).

The somewhat Habermasian point I would make in defence of these sign systems is that they can be distinguished according to their fidelity to the event of the pre-signification "rapture". Eg. I'm much more sympathetic to a sign system that described the experience of being on the dancefloor in terms of responding to certain sonic cues than I would be to one which described the same experience in terms of having a personal connection with the artist who made one of the particular dance tracks. Both are sign systems that can only describe imperfectly the differential affectivity of the sound itself, but the former is much closer I think to what is actually going on.

borderpolice
13-04-2005, 10:12 AM
Borderpolice:
>Well, how do you know it was a dud? Did you test the pills?

>Nah? Didn't think so!

so you're saying, despite really wanting to have the
E-xperience, i would somehow trick myself into feeling good E as dud
E?! that don't sound terribly plausible.


Well, what can I say? Why don't you settle the matter with a double blind test
and an MDMA testing kit? Please report on the outcome!



your explication of the mimesis theory is really interesting -- it's
so intricate. in the end though i don't buy it. it seems to empty out
the whole dimension of the aesthetic, the affective, the emotional. in
your description liking music comes across as this enormously complex
game of socialisation, with no point.

it reminds me a bit of Bourdieu's theories, which are interesting and
telling as far as they go, but always seem to point towards the
implication that the only reason people invest in particular kinds of
music or art is as a form of social cohesion or social distinction --
consolidation of one's membership of one group, and defining oneself
as others. again chucking pleasure and afffect out the window.

that's why i found sarah thornton's club cultures book, with its
bourdieu derived 'subcultural capital' concept, in the end
unconvincing -- cos it made irrelevant what would be appear the whole
point of club and rave music ie. intense aesthetic pleasure, bodily
pleasure etc. for her it was all about hierarchies of cool and
inclusive/exclusion devices


I may not have expressed myself very clearly, so I'll try again. I'm
emphatically not "chucking pleasure and affect out the window". I try
to understand how it works. I begun my introjections here by
suggesting that this pleasure is IN PARTS generated by mimetic
effects, by observing that same pleasure in others, in the same way
that yawning, sexual excitement of mirth is contagious. In a strong
sense music is partly about THE SELF_REPRODUCTION OF PLEASURE BY
MIMESIS. I never DENIED that other causes may be important too.

What I want to get a handle on is the following set of phenomena.


* Music internally, phenomenological, is experienced, and maybe only
experienced in intense emotional ways. I am hit by music, it makes
me move, I adore it, I hate it. This reaction is strong and
compelling. No conceivable vocabulary for its description exists,
other than emotional intensities. Let's call this internal emotional
reaction FIRE!

* FIRE is unstable and changing almost at random: a piece of music can
trigger intense joy one moment and loathing one bar later.

* The external reaction to music, that which can be observed by
others, is much more stable and predictable. Let's call it ICE! One
can rely on a classical concert's audience to sit still and quite
during a performance, just as much as any metal crowd will mosh and
stagedive (where permitted). grinding, flexing and locking will be
the moves of the night in urban environments.

* There seems little connection between a style of music, it's aural
properties, and the FIRE it generates. Moreover, every (mature)
genre caters for the whole palette of emotional responses (FIREs).

* There seems little connection between a style of music, it's aural
properties, and the ICE it generates. Moreover, every (mature) genre
locks itself into one (or just a few) form(s) of dancing and way of
communicating about music.

* A piece of music's information content is important for FIRE: if it
is too confusing, too complex, I don't like it (otherwise white
noise would be brilliant to listen too), but if there's too little
novelty/surprise it's boring. It is worth pointing out that
information content is not an intrinsic property (at least regarding
the music that is actually listened too): It is a measure of a
listener's surprise.

* FIRE is a game of extremes, for me at least, maybe that is different
in others: I love or loathe a piece of music, but I'm rarely in
between.

* Sometimes counterfactually, I expect others to burn the same
FIREs. Musical emotions are experienced as compelling. That is to
say I expect others to share my enthusiasm or loathing of any given
piece of music, despite a fair amount of disappointed expectation.

* It is impossible for me to think about music -- and I'd be
interested in other people's experiences in this matter --
non-socially, by which I mean that whenever I think about music,
even of its most remote acoustic properties, I inevitably think of
(imagined) others and the effect that sound may have on them.

* There's little short-term but lots of long term correlation between
FIRE and ICE. I may be in utter despair and lonely in a club, yet I
dance like I do when in love. You just can't tell.

* Crucially, and that deserves its own paragraph, and has been missing
in the discussion so far, in as much as my FIRE is socially
coloured, it is also erotically coloured. I cannot dissociate music
and sexual/romantic possibilities. More generally, I think of future
possibilities (for pleasure of all sorts) that I imagine music to be
associated with.


To explain FIRE and ICE, I use the following mechanisms.

* ICE is generated by MIMETIC MECHANISMS of pleasure, similar to
language acquisition in children. What is being copied is other
people's expression of emotion(a reaction to music), especially
where it is pleasure. The reason for copying is that it can (to
some degree, not reliably), produce that emotion in the copier. This
mechanism is crucial to human development, one thinks of the
parent-child bond and can be related to all sorts of psychological
theories. One key pleasure, maybe the key pleasure being reproduced
is (structured by) the possibility of sexual/romantic gratification.
Public self-presentation to members of one's preferred genders
appears to be a fairly deep-seating human need.

* It is important to realise that what is copied may be quite subtle.
Emotional attitudes are in body posture, minutes variations of tone
of voice, glances, not necessarily in the most visible aspects of
one's behaviour.

* The mechanisms generating ICE are not strongly affected by FIRE.

FIRE is more complicated. I stipulate several seemingly
independent mechanisms at play.

An INFORMATION CONTENT EVALUATOR: it asks, does this music have the
right kind of predictability (with respect to my current,
historically evolved level of familiarity)? Incidentally what you
said about Amen fits very nicely here and chimes with my
experiences. In my rave youth I could certainly not distinguish any
breaks at all. All jungle was just incredibly complicated,
energising, confusing, compelling and amazing. It was only when I
started DJing and producing, that I finally understood breakbeat,
acquired the skill to distinguish them all, that I, for want of a
better term, understood Jungle. Contrary to my expectations, this
understanding did not engender an intensification of pleasure, an
increased infatuation with the scene, but disenchantment. Thank fuck
UK-Garage came along just at the right time to take over!

* A CONFORMITY EVALUATOR: Does my emotional response conform with that
of others, especially those whose opinion I care about (the
scene). If yes, good, if not bad. [These others are in a large
part, but not entirely an imagined community, with complicated
feedback mechanisms.] Why do I expect conformity? This expectation
is formed because of the subterranean experience that pleasure has a
strong mimetic element. I get consistently electrified by other's
excitement and vice versa. This experience of pleasure generation by
mimesis is so ubiquitous, so unproblematic, only the rare cases
where this breaks down are consciously noted.

* A POSSIBILITY EVALUATOR: what kind of pleasure possibilities,
especially sexual/romantic possibilities does any particular piece
of music/scene is promising to provide? This is the place, where
your social transformation stuff fits in because
one's emotional response is intimately tied in with possible future
worlds and promises of pleasure.

* Finally, and crucially, there's the IDEO-MEMO-MUDUL, my way of
saying: I-don't-know. There are other mechanisms at play, I have
just no idea what they may be. Neuromagic!

I emphasise that FIRE is always and inevitable an UNCONSCIOUS
EMOTIONAL response: I am being HIT by a song. I LOVE it or I HATE
it. This is the only phenomenologically adequate description I can
think of. But this adequacy says nothing about the genesis of the
feelings.

I think your complaint about technical descriptions like mine being
inappropriate because they are not couched in terms of emotional
responses and possibilities is telling and working in my favour. You
dislike it precisely because it it cold and anti-mimetic. The
disenchanting technical description does not generate excitement about
music (except maybe in weird freaks like me). But you have the
expectation that that pleasure generation should take place when
dealing with music. You do not trust intrinsic aural properties to
cater for your enjoyment. You need your pleasure being regenerated
through observing other peoples' pleasure, even in highly sublimated
contexts of ivory towers. And why would your have that expectation,
that need? Because of all your previous experiences with music ...

borderpolice
13-04-2005, 10:13 AM
Here's a suggestion: Discourse is Rockist, where it denies, or
denigrates mimesis of pleasure as an important mechanism, instead
stipulating intrinsic properties. It is Popist, where it feels no
need to deny or denigrate this mechanism.

borderpolice
13-04-2005, 10:14 AM
also your theory of change is quite odd too -- are you saying that
society is changing all the time, slowly, by itself -- and therefore
doesn't need any help from specific individuals or groups of humans,
and in fact can't be pushed forward by conscious efforts -- sort of
gradualism without any scope or purchase for human agency, right --
that seems to fit what kpunk was saying about the mystification
re. Society as this quasi-divine entity that has its own agenda and is
like Nature or something...

As to social change, maybe this is not the right time and place to
discuss it, especially as my understanding of society and agency is
highly contrary to common sense. In brief, I do NOT believe that
society (note the singular, there's only one!) is made up of humans
(for otherwise I'd cut off a piece of society every time I get a
haircut), but rather the collection of all communications (a
communication being a relation between two anticipatory systems,
modeling each other). One of the effects of society is the production
of agency by ascription. Because communications are atemporal events,
society regenerates itself all the time in a dynamic and chaotic
process. What this communication is about is mostly society itself and
changes in society are an evolution of self-descriptions and agency
ascriptions. <pheew!> As to divine, what pleasure could come from that
vocabulary?

borderpolice
13-04-2005, 10:20 AM
Borderpolice don't you dare self-deprecate, these last few posts have been awesome!

I had this sudden flash of "YES! He is right!" (which I wasn't certain about immediately prior; or at least hadn't yet turned my mind to that question) with your reference to dance moves.

I've always been fascinated by what I would call the infectiousness of dance moves - when I'm at a club I'll see someone make some particular move and, somehow before I've even registered that I'm impressed or enamoured by it, it's like my body is watching and learning that move and I'll feel my limbs either flow or snap into it. The sensation is of some sort of physical compulsion, or perhaps rather that my body has become liberated to the point of being a stronger social "agent" than my consciousness (supposedly in the driver's seat) is. But of course it's really the same thing that happens when someone uses a word I don't know in a sentence and yet I can understand exactly what is being said without puzzling over it; the mind is so well trained at picking up what is necessary for building social interactions that it can do it at a preconscious level. Significantly, I never start doing this only for my mind to catch up and realise "oh no, actually that dance move looks <i>awful</i>." But the fact that I'm instantly copying moves from someone near me while still feeling like my body has an unmediated connection to the music kinda cuts through the binary between music's-direct-impact/social-mimesis.


Thanks. The funny thing is, that mimetic understanding of music occurred to me when I realised just this: that
I locked into other people's dancing and their pleasures. Using words/phrases I don't really understand is also
rather familiar to me.




There's a potential third strand between the reification of meaning for the sake of coherent shared understandings and an insistence on deconstructed instability, and this is the act of deconstructive criticism itself.


Talking aboutmusic , discussing it, is certainly an important aspect of the reproduction of scenes.

borderpolice
13-04-2005, 10:24 AM
Likewise with ideology: it is never experienced as being ideology or it would be useless. No-one ever says "I am being ideological", it's always the other person.

The term "Ideology" is unfortunate -- because of it's negative connotations, noboys accepts being ideological, hence blocking the cruicial circularity. Being socially constructed is better because it's neutral: good constructivism accepts it's own constructed nature and the really exciting one derives much of its force from the coherent integration of it's constructed nature into it's own theorising (the "Re-Entry of the observed in the observer", or vice versa).

borderpolice
13-04-2005, 10:34 AM
but isn't there also the case of freaky dancing -- the complete and total freak with all the freaky moves -- nobody else dances like this person and nobody else picks up his moves -- and yet if he's a really good freaky dancer, then nobody is going to deny that he's seriously down with the music, that he "gets" the music on a very deep level

ALSO -- I think the mimetic theory is a bit too formalistic -- i.e., its formalism is neutral as regards the TESTIFYING and PERSUADING that goes on when people are dancing to music -- i.e., the dancing testifies both to the power of the music and to the fact that yeah man i feel the power of this music coursing through my veins -- or dancing as persuasion, i.e., look at how i'm dancing -- isn't this powerful? don't you agree that this music has got power? and that now i've got the power running through me?

I agree with the freaky dancing thing, dont have the time to respond in detail. as to formalism and persuasion: the mimetic reproduction is not one-off but rather happens continually: at each point in time one (subconsciously) compares how the others react/dance/sing/talk against one's own expectations, which were formed by prior such
observations. At the same time, expectations are modified by the new observations. A musical scene (and its pleasures) are a dynamic process in constant need of reproduction by more singign/dancing etc.

borderpolice
13-04-2005, 10:37 AM
do birds 'copy' each other when they flock? Flocking, propagation, contagion are infinitely better models... memes not mimesis....

better in what respect?

bird flocking is an emergent phenomenon (in the technical sense) where birds copy the flight trajectory of their
neighbours locally, like in dancing. only the behaviour of the leader brid cannot accounted for in this way. it acts
instinctually i would imagine.

Woebot
13-04-2005, 11:02 AM
Feel mildly embarrassed that I haven't really done this thread much justice, short of coming up with my (heartfelt) initial conjecture. I printed it out with the intention of trying to tackle it over a lunch break, with two children to look after my dayjob and writing for two magazines at the moment I'm stretched pretty thin, and it was 108 pages long. Kind of stunning in every sense.

Thanks firstly to Tim F, Freelance ILX Stormtrooper, for his contributions.

what i've been trying to think about a lot over the last year is a sort of new formalism - ie. trying to break down exactly what is happening when we experience a piece of music from a phenomenological perspective (as opposed to a musicological perspective). This is probably the thing that fascinates me most in music criticism, and it's why most of my writing takes the form of tiresomely repetitive "close readings" of my own experience of any given piece of music.

Thought you were harsh on yourself here. Prompted me to reflect that the "Rockist" position (nothing to do with Rock people!) can tend to be quite monosylabbic, grunty even. If anything the theoretical flowering of ILM/Freaky Trigger has been enabled by people allowing themselves to get frothy. And frothy is good.

Also I noticed people were asking about my (OK quite "empassioned") suggestion that Pop-ism has tainted alot of writing about music. I was definitely referring here, as Mark K pointed out, to the mainstream press. I'll confess my tastes in music writing were shaped by quintessentially Rockist "organs" (ha ha). What I liked in the writing of Lester Bangs, Griel Marcus, the old Melody Maker (let's not name names eh!), and The Wire (roughly 1991-1996) was it's reflections into history and geography as much as it's enlightening forays into theory. Anecdote, stories and insight into character as much as musical analysis. Music for me at least, was libidinised by these these things. Isn't music just one function of life? Don't we use music as puzzle to teach us more about the cosmos? Doesn't that shock of misrecognition one gets from really powerful music prompt us to act, to inquire, to re-assess? It seems as if the Rockist is more equipped to handle this charge than (giant 20-foot cartoon cut-out) Popist.

I think I've noticed a bottoming-out in this kind of writing in the media. Xgau must be the archetypical writer in this sense, free-ranging, without anything as tired as allegiences to any music, writes punchy reviews and gives stars. Actually, can you think of any music journalists these days who do have allegiences? Reynolds, Keenan, er......... Furthermore it's status as an "almost-career" for people travelling to some other destination (like translation, writing fiction, writing on different more profitable subjects like politics and film) underlines this.

I'd actually go further. In my background emails with Tom Ewing, I affectionately accused of him of using Pop music as though it were "Rock" (nothing to do with Rock music people). Forming communities, throwing club nights, collecting music, hmm doesn't this look awfully like Rockist behaviour to you? This was kind of echoed in Mark K's describing Finney as a Rockist at heart. (winks) Mark himself is, as Simon observed this time, more of a Rockist than he thinks he is... OK (yawn) everyone's a Rockist now ;)

Who's headlining Glastonbury this year? Kylie. Nuff said innit.

borderpolice
13-04-2005, 11:48 AM
but I think that in the case of music -- or at least dance music -- the overwhelming feeling of being seized by the music is EMpowering -- it's what makes you dance -- we could even say that this comes out of the Quaker and Pentecostal traditions

if one must pin it down, wouldnt that be much more the african contribution to music?

dominic
13-04-2005, 04:23 PM
if one must pin it down, wouldnt that be much more the african contribution to music?

yes

i like to call it voodoo

however, pentecostalism in the united states, at least in early stages, was a largely black american movement

not that i know much about pentecostalism or anything

not even sure why i bothered to argue w/ k-punk on this one anyway, as it's a pretty minor point -- at least at this stage of the discussion, i.e., who knows the twists and turns that are ahead, or whether this thread will suddenly come to an end

though it may reflect k-punk's affinity for early industrial music as against my affinity for 90/91/92 rave music

i should also say that my emphasis on "empowering" does fit nicely w/ Tim F's argument that what I've been (naively) describing is in fact interpellation, i.e., the person who is seized becomes a petty lord in the feudal system

whereas in k-punk's version the "overpowered" listener is reduced to his empty status as mere creature, stripped of all vain conceits about himself, etc

k-punk
13-04-2005, 04:31 PM
Dominic, Simon and Mark all argue against the "reductive" position of music-as-social-enunciation, and fair enough, there is a basic affective materiality to music which sign systems and socalisation don't account for. But this does not need to be a scarce transcendental sublime, some mystical property which jungle and Stevie Nicks' voice possess and which other music does not.

Ah! Now THAT'S a strawman if ever I saw it...

I have been very careful to say that the sublime is precisely NOT transcendental, i.e. Kantian. I take it that the whole point of Lacan, Zizek, Zupancic etc is that the sublime is not 'rare', unknowable and mystical... as animals, we cannot help sublimating.... but surely that doesn't mean that Stevie Nicks' voice DOESN'T possess qualities that other voices don't... clearly it does...




Mark being "drearily predictable" and being "simple" or "straightforward" are so far from being the same thing that I'm astonished you conflate them here. Ideology's success in producing similar, predictable subjects is not a function of its simplicity! Again, the correct analogy here is with language - choosing the right words in a given context usually appears to be both the simplest thing in the world and an almost unconscious, unmediated process. And if you ask different people to provide you with a synonym for one word it's hardly going to be surprising that most will offer up the same alternative word, or maybe one of a very small group. But this very dreary predictability is the result of a very complex and counter-intuitive system whose complexity and counter-intuitiveness has to be actively over-looked by the subject in order for them to feel confident saying anything at all!



Fine... people are drearily predictable for complex reasons... why is this interesting?


Sonics and Language are not the same, of course, but I think patterns of <i>recognition</i> are at a fundamental level the same across different signifying systems, which is to say that the success of a signifying system can be measured by the extent to which it is not recognised as such - the extent to which what is being "recognised" by the subject is experienced as a direct presence, an unmediated essence, rather than some sort of socially agreed construct or placeholder.

How does sound signify though? It clearly doesn't.... What does an amen signify? I'm not sure I'm grasping what you are saying, but it seems to amount to an equivocation between two levels: the nonsignifying level of sonic impact and the signifying level of ppl's INTERPRETATION of that impact....


The irony is that in most writing about music this is tacitly acknowledged. When Simon talks about the history of the mentasm or the amen isn't he talking about the way in which a certain differential affect - a strange and harsh metallic squiggle, a percussive flash and skitter - is transformed into a social signifier via repetition and mimesis?

Proving my point... the only way it is 'transformed into a social signifier' is when it is talked and written about.. on the dancefloor there is no signification... and, really, this mimesis thing is going nowhere: a digital copy is precisely NOT a copy in the mimetic sense... it is a reiteration of exactly the same code... in the same way that if you have a virus, your organism hasn't mimetically copied one with the virus....

The recognition thing is so depressingly Hegelian I don't even know where to start...

k-punk
13-04-2005, 04:51 PM
hey, i'm enjoying being in agreement with K-punk. i'd actually been thinking he is more Romantic than he'd like to think, but this is almost certainly due to a misunderstanding of Romanticism on my part. (Isn't Gothick part of Romanticism?) i would be interested in hearing further hearing explanations of Romanticism and why it's a bad thing to be.

There are obv many different interpretations of Romanticism, but the only one that makes sense for me is one which places emphasis on the Imagination as opposed to the Thing-in-Itself. Kant had argued that it was impossible to know anything about the Thing-in-itself; all we could legitimately talk about was our own Operating System - because that OS is necessary for any experiene or thought we could have. Romantic poets then garble this by claiming that everything in the world is a product of our own imaginations - and that changing the world just involves re-imagining it.

The great benefit of Lacan etc is to overthrow this... the idea that the Real is Impossible, but that it happens... the traumatic enounter with the Real is the founding moment on which any signifying system is based...

Badiou has a specifc sense of Romanticism, which I think basically means 'Heidegger'... he sees Romanticism as being about pathos, finitude, being-towards-death

The Gothic - Romantic relation... Gothic preceded Romantic, if it is defined in terms of the production of Gothic cathedrals (that's certainly how Worringer does it in Form in Gothic and Abstraction and Empathy)

That's why I love that joke at Coleridge's expense in Powers' The Anubis Gates. At the end, an opium-intoxicated Coleridge is imprisoned underground with some mutated monstrosities. Naturally, being a Romantic, he interprets the monstrosiites as aspects of his own mind, and frees them.

I suppose the post-structuralist equivalent would be, 'Be free, monsters - for I know you are only social signifiers...'

dominic
13-04-2005, 05:38 PM
i think borderpolice and tim f are winning this argument!

which is not to say that i'm giving up

merely keeping score


Music internally, phenomenological, is experienced, and maybe only
experienced in intense emotional ways. I am hit by music, it makes
me move, I adore it, I hate it. This reaction is strong and
compelling. No conceivable vocabulary for its description exists,
other than emotional intensities. Let's call this internal emotional
reaction FIRE!

right

and i'd say that fire has priority over ice (this is the key point)

it's why i lose myself while dancing to this track

and why i come back to my senses when the dj plays the next track -- b/c this track extinguishes rather than feeds the fire


FIRE is unstable and changing almost at random: a piece of music can trigger intense joy one moment and loathing one bar later.

i'm assume you meant to say that a song may trigger intense joy if you're one mood

or if not loathing then at least very little reaction (apathy, annoyance) if you're in another mood

and yes, this is an accurate description of what may happen in private


The external reaction to music, that which can be observed by others, is much more stable and predictable.

not necessarily

you need the right kind of crowd, the right dynamics

you need the stars to shine that night

magic in the air

you can have more or less the same people at a bar on two consecutive wednesdays, play more or less the same music on both nights, and one night rocks and the other doesn't

i suppose this furthers your side of the argument -- b/c on the nights that rock a few people in the crowd take a chance, i.e., they start to dance -- but i call this "persuading" others to dance, showing others that the music is right, the situation is right and this is the way to celebrate

and yet it is all too often the case that the initial dancers fail to persuade -- they dance for two or three songs, but nobody else at the bar cares or feels like dancing or perhaps they even snicker


There seems little connection between a style of music, it's aural properties, and the FIRE it generates.

different genres of music have their own enthusiasts

different kinds of music spark fire in different people

the question is whether this is purely a function of socio-empirical factors or whether there's a quasi-religious explanation

and i'm not sure on which side of this binary to slot the neurological wiring explanation for fire

i.e., k-punk would presumably file the neurological under the quasi-religious as opposed to the socio-empirical

and yet if it's a question of wiring, then how is that not empirical?

or is neurological wiring transcendental b/c science can at most explain the OS -- i.e., maybe someday -- but not the content that runs through the wiring -- i.e., how the content gets assigned value?

that is, sounds that give me intense pleasure or light my fire cause in someone else intense loathing or displeasure

or again, is this a case of different people assigning different values to the same neurological sensations?


Moreover, every (mature) genre caters for the whole palette of emotional responses (FIREs)

errrrr -- what about TAKING the listener up and down?

the TAKING is not simply manipulation -- it's a LEADING, a COME FOLLOW ME and YOU WILL SEE

i.e., the listener is taken through a range of emotions, but there's an internal thread

an ARGUMENT, a TAKE on the music -- i.e., the listener is given a chance to get the music, to get the vibe, to the message

again, i don't think it's as simple as pushing different emotional buttons to get different kinds of fires

in many ways it's more like an ARGUMENT that the BODY understands

"understand this groove" -- a classic mantra

and then it becomes understand these different grooves, understand the ups and downs

understand how these different songs, these different rhythms, these different sounds -- understand the argument they are making


There seems little connection between a style of music, it's aural properties, and the ICE it generates.

by ICE you seem to mean the outward forms -- e.g., how people dance, gestures, manners, etiquette, and so forth

so i here i must disagree w/ you -- certainly w/ dancing there does seem to be a pretty close fit b/w how people dance and the nature of the music


Moreover, every (mature) genre locks itself into one (or just a few) form(s) of dancing and way of communicating about music.

yes -- b/c here the arguments have been made, people have been convinced (rightly or wrongly) that this is the way to dance to this music


A piece of music's information content is important for FIRE: if it is too confusing, too complex, I don't like it (otherwise white noise would be brilliant to listen too), but if there's too little novelty/surprise it's boring. It is worth pointing out that information content is not an intrinsic property (at least regarding the music that is actually listened too): It is a measure of a listener's surprise.

EXCELLENT POINT!

but this also means that even long-standing participants in a community continue to be seized by the music

to the extent that they get bored with what the music scene produces, the music loses its hold and they move on to another kind of music -- as w/ your move from jungle to garage

or they become like me and become addicts of retro sounds

though perhaps the addict of the same damn sonic pleasures believes that the argument has yet to be properly made


FIRE is a game of extremes, for me at least, maybe that is different in others: I love or loathe a piece of music, but I'm rarely in between.

i'm often indifferent -- could take or leave a lot of stuff

often bored with music if it doesn't light my fire

not so much a case of loathing -- just boredom -- unmoved, unaffected


Sometimes counterfactually, I expect others to burn the same FIREs. Musical emotions are experienced as compelling. That is to say I expect others to share my enthusiasm or loathing of any given piece of music, despite a fair amount of disappointed expectation

i agree -- especially if i think a song is brilliant -- i expect others to share my enthusiasms but not necessarily my hates


It is impossible for me to think about music -- and I'd be interested in other people's experiences in this matter -- non-socially, by which I mean that whenever I think about music, even of its most remote acoustic properties, I inevitably think of (imagined) others and the effect that sound may have on them.

YES YES YES -- in fact i said the same thing upthread


There's little short-term but lots of long term correlation between FIRE and ICE. I may be in utter despair and lonely in a club, yet I dance like I do when in love. You just can't tell.

i will sometimes dance when in despair -- but i think my dancing reflects the despair

that is, i feel alone in the crowd, not connected with others, it's more a kind of burning for love than the ecstatic feeling of being empowered


Crucially, and that deserves its own paragraph, and has been missing in the discussion so far, in as much as my FIRE is socially coloured, it is also erotically coloured. I cannot dissociate music and sexual/romantic possibilities. More generally, I think of future possibilities (for pleasure of all sorts) that I imagine music to be associated with.

i associate music w/ eros and a kind of intoxication

but not with sexual/romantic possibilities

there's a relationship to sex, a relationship to promiscuous desire

the music makes use of these desires -- and would be ineffectual if it didn't make use of sexual desire

but for me it's ultimately asexual

it's about losing oneself

OR it's about feeling empowered as part of the collective

but it's not about sexual/romantic possibilities


A CONFORMITY EVALUATOR: Does my emotional response conform with that of others, especially those whose opinion I care about (the scene). If yes, good, if not bad. [These others are in a large part, but not entirely an imagined community, with complicated feedback mechanisms.] Why do I expect conformity? This expectation is formed because of the subterranean experience that pleasure has a
strong mimetic element. I get consistently electrified by other's excitement and vice versa. This experience of pleasure generation by mimesis is so ubiquitous, so unproblematic, only the rare cases where this breaks down are consciously noted.

so much of this is right on -- yes yes yes

and yet i think you're losing sight of the TESTIFYING and PERSUADING that occurs on the dancefloor

it's not simply mechanistic mimesis

it's a kind of argument -- it's about convincing others -- and about shared convictions

blissblogger
13-04-2005, 06:23 PM
you've kinda lost me with Fire/Ice thing

except that it that sounds more or less the same as me making a distinction between the music itself and the discourses/practices/etc that enweb it

thinking about the mimetic idea, that's definitely an interesting dimension to the discourses/practices... for instance part of my conversion to rave was seeing the shapes people threw on the floor, how they responded to it... but i already loved the music... what i learned and was entrained in, almost semiconsciously, simply by sharing these dancefloors, was how to express and enact that love... or in Dom's terms stake my claim to membership of the throng of believers

if there is a mimetic element with dancing, i think it is as much the dancer having a mimetic relationship with the music, physically analogizing with gesture and movement the intrinsic properties of the music

all the discourse of dance culture emphasizes this, it's the groove that makes you move, you are being compelled to do something... it's not an arbitrarily chosen response... mere sign-play... for a start the dancing doesn't signify anything, just as an Amen or a certain sub-bass timbre doesn't signify anything

there are pioneer dancers perhaps whose, cough, terpischorean sensibilities are in advance of the pack and are first to uncover the "correct" way of responding to the music.... e.g. that guy who invented Liquid dancing on the East Coast rave scene, Philly Dave i think his name was... or the first breakdancer

* * *
i'm going to revive my earlier comment about music being similar to sex and food as something that transcents the line between culture/pre-cultural bodily/neurological/appetitive

it's no coincidence we talk about music in terms of taste

on the one hand, with food or sex, attraction and aversion seem utterly visceral... something we have no control over, responses we didn't choose to have

on the other, it's possible to cultivate tastes... you can develop a taste for stinky cheeses, or incredibly, painfully spicy food... ditto with the wacky world of bodies and pleasures... and similarly with music

and musical/sexual/gastronomic taste is culturally inflected, obviously

that doesn't mean the actual sensations and pleasures/disgusts you experience aren't real

it's how your respond to the stimuli, and what's constructed around them

but your horizons can be widened depending on the social milieux you move through

* * * * *
what BP is calling ICE and i would just call discourse is something that can definitely become so overdeveloped and overgrown that it almost has an iron grip over the visceral, the immediate response is utterly mediated by discursive constructs

that's how i felt by the mid-80s, that the discourse about music that came out of punk > postpunk > new pop had become inimical and oppressive, a chain-link fence of text.... it was time to un-punk the discourse of music and free sound-in-itself so we could become lost for words and lost in music (of course getting to that point involved generating a lot of words, many of them polysyllabic and some of them French!) ... i thought of certain kinds of neopyschedelic rock, and later acid house, as discourse-free zones of pure sonic intensity... acid house, since it had no media of its own at that point, and was so new , turbulent and fast moving, it had a very unfixed oral discourse around it, actually seemed to fit that bill

now i think that's perhaps naive... and part of the power of pop and/or rock is the way sound and discourse have been entwined and inseparable

the Fire and Ice things seems to demand someone bring up the Derek Smalls bassist of Spinal Tap and his famous remark about being lukewarm water.

dominic
13-04-2005, 07:17 PM
The point of being claimed by a scene is that one is claimed by the sign system overlaying the music, one is interpellated by it! This doesn't mean of course that scene members don't engage with and enjoy the differential affectivity at work in the music - the point is that they're engaging at both levels

i agree

when i go out at night i experience the music and the scene together

certainly i can distinguish b/w the music being played over the soundsystem and the composition of the crowd, the vibe, the culture, etc

but for me the overall scene is just as important to my experience as the music, if not more so

this has always been my consciously held position

i'm interested in social dynamics

crowds composed of disparate elements

i get really depressed when i go to subtonic and everyone looks like they're in grad school

i'm very "superficial" about the subject


Firstly I'd argue that when Dominic talks about having a claim over music by virtue of being claimed by it, he is talking about interpellation as per Althusser - eg. the play on the word "subject": in the process of interpellation one is both "subjected" as subordinate to the Big Subject (the ideological system; the musical scene) and formed as a "subject", ie. recognised by the system, perhaps even honoured. A basic example of this is the fuedal system, where the condition of possibility for power and status is the subordinate relatonship to the monarch.

you appear to be correct

i disagree not w/ the description but rather the notion of "ideology" -- that we're all somehow manipulated

call me naive but i think people are attracted to scenes b/c they think it good or a worthwhile option, i.e., that it will enrich their lives -- and yes, the attraction has to do both with the music's claim and w/ the web of significance that is wrapped around the music -- but significance is not merely significance -- it points to what we deem good or bad

and they avoid other scenes b/c they think it bad or less than desirable or not worth the time and investment

i think people are pretty rational when it comes to joining scenes and avoiding scenes

i.e., they may be mistaken, they may make the wrong choice, but it's a rational process

people think they are RIGHT to belong to this scene and not to that scene -- and even if it's not the right thing for everyone, it's right for them

or they think they're RIGHT to keep their distance from all scenes


Zizek says interpellation works in the same manner. The very material, social nature of ideology is such that in performing these actions, by acting <i>as if</i> you believe, you will come to be interpellated by the ideology anyway. In musical terms this means that if you continually engage with the particular signifying system of a certain scene you will begin to understand that system and see yourself in relation to it.

yes -- this is an accurate description of what happens

you have to be open to belief -- you can't be hard of heart

there's a kind of conversion experience w/ house or rave or jungle music -- at least there was for me -- like being hit by a lightening bolt

i can only speak from experience

i.e., i construct models based on my own experience and my observations of other people, i.e., what i think other people are doing & thinking

before college i was not terribly preoccupied w/ music -- i liked a grab bag of stuff -- g'n'r, the cure, depeche mode, rolling stones

then all at once, as soon as i arrived at college, there's this kid down the hall playing gto's "pure," d-shake's "yaaaahhhh," the "black betty" remix, the family stand, etc -- and i was enraptured from the get go, endlessly curious about what this music was, where you had to go to hear it, etc

and yes -- almost from the beginning i made a whole series of associations w/ this music -- i.e., the kid down the hall was much cooler than me, he was rich, he was glamorous, he was from nyc -- i then began to go to clubs, there were drugs, there were stylish people, there were gay people, there were wonderfully bizarre people -- and people that i met at clubs would explain matters to me, tell me what the scene was about, etc -- and then i'd also read the odd magazine article about raves in england or southern california

and then when i returned to saint louis for the summer i began to investigate raves, which at the time were ridiculously small affairs, more about people trying to will a scene into existence, but i understood and appreciated what they were up to -- i loved the music and i liked the whole entire political project

and was i predisposed to buy into it? absolutely

i used to read books about the rolling stones and the beatles back in the seventh grade

i had always thought of 1967 as the apex -- when the stones were pyschedelic

i had always fantasized about some kind of psychedelic project, some kind of new psychedelia

(which is perhaps why i wasn't too invested in much as a teenager -- b/c in the midwestern suburbs in the mid to late 80s it was all about punk -- the sounds didn't grab me, nor did the culture)

so yeah -- i had a definite predisposition

and i was from the standard background for ravers in america -- white, middle class, in college, grew up in the suburbs

and yet i still think it was the sound of the records that the glamorous kid down the hall was playing that first seized me -- something exceeded all the other socio-empirical factors

and yeah alot of it was willed belief

i went to england during my third year of college mainly b/c i wanted to experience the real deal

b/c i felt that elements were missing in america, things hadn't come together in the right way

(ironically, had i stayed in america i would have experienced the first year of nasa)

and then i began to think that things had gone into serious decline -- i.e., as soon as it became a reality in america, i didn't much like it

so for me it was more about glimpsed possibilities -- or what i imagined were real possibilities

and the more i think about it, the more i talk about it, the better understanding i think i have of it

and yet i also know that it's very much my own private fantasy -- a fantasy that most people no longer share, especially on this side of the atlantic

but this is all irrelevant or largely irrelevant to why i like some records and not others

it explains only my disposition for the dance scene

it doesn't explain why some records grab me and others don't

it doesn't explain why i consider most dance records chaff

why even with the fetishized 90/91/92 stuff i consider most of it chaff


The cause is a kind of "belief-before-belief", a conviction that engaging with the Big Subject will suture permanently the gap in their subjectivity, protect them from the trauma of the Real.

errrr -- could you maybe explain this passage?

put it into more concrete terms

that is how is joining a music scene an attempt to suture a gap in subjectivity?

and what is a gap in subjectivity?

and how is joining a music scene an attempt to gain protection from the trauma of the Real?

and what is the Real in this context?


When Dominic argues that being "claimed" by music is a self-evident and "real" process and that the working out of the social meaning of this claim is "politics", he seems to be using a realist/positivist model of politics - that politics is just the process of managing real-but-competing interests.

errrr, this is your restatement of my views

not sure what you mean by a "realist/positivist model"

not sure what you mean by "politics is just the process of managing . . ."

by politics i mean not only trying to convince others that you belong to the scene -- not only the dynamics of including and excluding others, or of forming hierarchies

politics is also about persuading others of what is "good" and "bad"

persuading others about the power of the music, testifying to the music's powers

getting others to dance with and alongside you

getting others to agree with your "take" on the music -- and this is accomplished in all kinds of ways, not simply through writing music criticism


What his theory seems to leave out is that no interests are the pure expression of uncomplicated "real" subject positions; all interests are the result of ideological formation and hegemonic enunciation.

again, i suppose i allow more room for a kind of argument

for being PERSUADED about music

and for PERSUADING others

again, i don't deny the role of predisposition

but even predisposition is not merely the product of ideological formation

you're inclined toward certain things, you seek out certain things, you're receptive of certain things b/c you THINK them desirable or meritorious or good

k-punk
13-04-2005, 07:26 PM
better in what respect?

Better in the sense of having some purchase on reality.

k-punk
13-04-2005, 07:43 PM
i'm assume you meant to say that a song may trigger intense joy if you're one mood

or if not loathing then at least very little reaction (apathy, annoyance) if you're in another mood

Wow, no shit, I can see why you think they are winning the argument with incisive theoretical moves like that... :)

This whole FIRE/ ICE thing starts off at the wrong level, by knocking out the primary nonsignifying zone of IMPACT of the sound, which is NOT phenomenological, not about subjective experience

It's better put in terms of the psychoanalytic between primary and secondary process:

primary process: what is really happening (scarification, bruising, abrasion, addiction)

secondary process: what the perceptual-conscious system narrativizes as happening (this is where phenomenology and 'experience' come into play). What are you calling ICE would be one level up again.

Primary process is not cognitive, that is why there is no question of re-cognition at this level.

But it's the idea that the secondary process has NO RELATION to the primary process that I most resist....
that's poststructuralist relativism given a bizarre twist by this neo-theistic mimesis stuff (first bird, first dancer, first cause....)

dominic
13-04-2005, 08:28 PM
Wow, no shit, I can see why you think they are winning the argument with incisive theoretical moves like that... :)

i hope you won't make a habit of quoting my least incisive remarks

plus, i think border police meant what he said -- that the first 16 bars of a song may light your fire, and then the next 8 bars of the song inspire loathing

so neither border police's original remark nor my recasting of it is particularly incisive -- i.e., both state the obvious

however, doesn't fire burn the flesh and leave scars?

blissblogger
13-04-2005, 08:41 PM
>that the first 16 bars of a song may light your fire, and then the next 8 bars of the song inspire loathing

it's weird, i cannot think of a single example ever of me feeling that way about a music

k-punk
13-04-2005, 09:55 PM
i hope you won't make a habit of quoting my least incisive remarks


lol, sorry, that was a bit cruel.. but was done to highlight my exasperation about the way in which an awful lot of theoretical effort seems to be being expended in the cause of saying what for me appears quite banal... ppl like different things for often quite complex reasons... so what?

s_clover
14-04-2005, 04:32 AM
have only sorta grasped the discussion but it's odd from the sidelines -- a recasting of groundedness debates in musical terrain. retrospectively i've been thru these debates myself, but i find them not that useful since in practice we're talking from a critical standpoint a personal valuation of music anyway, esp. in this crowd. so it comes down not to debating what we're knowing but taste in what we feel is worth knowning (and valuation of music from that regard as well -- how we can make it part of our discourse of knowledge). on the other hand, these debates only seem moderately more useful in their original academic context, where at least stance is defined by a larger field of disciplinary utility.

but that's not mainly what i wanted to do. what i wanted to raise was the idea of fractal discourse as yanked from andrew abbott in his lovely book "the chaos of the disciplines." basic notion: these stances are not only inevitable, but infinitely fractated. within a "hard" community -- say standard causal analysis in sociology -- you have a self-similar split between those who only do causal on "hard" facts like income and those who do causal on increasingly "soft" facts like opinion polls. a split over hardness of opinion polls comes next, a split over hardness of coding of other discourse that can be marked with "opinon" comes next, etc. similarly in the qualitative side of soc, etc.

this is a nifty concept (that in itself doesn't explain anything) that maps onto rockist/popist discourse to a degree, constructionism/groundedness to a greater degree, and absofrikinloutely onto musical scenes themselves. one key aspect is that if the split is an inevitable/necessary product of larger enstructuring dynamics, then its apparent "resolution" at any given moment is determined by shifts in those dynamics + the contingencies of which side has better topics/work/product/exponents etc. which means that the "winning" side splits along the same lines & for the same reasons.

i like the idea of fractation better than the odometer model where the discourse just swings back and forth, becuz fractaction lead to grasping temporally striated sequences.

anyway, abbott does a better job at this than me and i'm not even talking directly about dancing or music.

anyway, the provocative question is -- if we could demonstrate the ultimate "groundedness" of music, why would that matter, and to whom?

borderpolice
14-04-2005, 07:16 AM
i like to call it voodoo

however, pentecostalism in the united states, at least in early stages, was a largely black american movement


i didn't know that. "Voodoo" is a problematic term

Tim F
14-04-2005, 07:57 AM
"lol, sorry, that was a bit cruel.. but was done to highlight my exasperation about the way in which an awful lot of theoretical effort seems to be being expended in the cause of saying what for me appears quite banal... ppl like different things for often quite complex reasons... so what?"

Mark, this debate has hinged on a whole bunch of questions like eg.

- how do popists listen to music?
- how do rockists listen to music?
- how does the 12 cd a year casual fan listen to music?
- what is the best way to listen to music, and is it one of the above?
- are the above options fundamentally different or ultimately similar?
- what is the difference between critical engagement and uncritical enjoyment?
- when does music "create" communities and when is it encouraging a complacency with the status quo?
- is social enjoyment/engagement more important than individual enjoyment/engagement?

I think that to answer these questions, we need to know the following (non-exhaustive list):
- what do we think is going on when we listen to music?
- what is happening when we enjoy a piece of music?
- where does individual enjoyment/engagement stop and social enjoyment/engagement begin?
- to what extent can music be said to directly "create" anything?

It seems to me that you're saying that most people's enjoyment of music is this simple and drearily predictable process so that you can justify moving away from any real examination of that enjoyment. But without understanding this process of enjoyment how can we decide whether it is right or wrong? Good or bad? And if we dismiss this examination as being beneath our contempt, aren't we simply leaving the process unexplainable, ineffable, mystical? "Stupid people like Kylie, it's irrelevant how or why..." - isn't that just bad-popism-in-reverse? Would you take seriously a Marxist who banged on and on about how everyone was being controlled by ideology but didn't bother to actually theorise it?

"But it's the idea that the secondary process has NO RELATION to the primary process that I most resist....
that's poststructuralist relativism given a bizarre twist by this neo-theistic mimesis stuff (first bird, first dancer, first cause....)"

I don't think this is what BorderPolice is saying though. Both BorderPolice and I have agreed and frequently asserted (though this appears to be overlooked) that music <i>does</i> have a direct sensory sonic impact. And of course that sonic impact is one condition of possibility for all social experiences of and responses to the music. This is true for all sensory experiences - eg. we use the colour red to signify fire because we frequently experience a mixture of colours we can generalise as being "red" when we look at fires.

Such conditions of possibility are present right through dance music eg. the dance music <i>itself</i> encourages dancing which is "in time" with it, which takes advantage of certain properties within the music (trance dancing is very blocky; house focuses on the hips; no-one would try to waltz to either style). At the same time though, the dancing is never <i>only</i> shaped by the music; it's always <i>simultaneously</i> a social act which responds to other social acts and is in turn responded to. And I think that those social acts also in turn set conditions of possibility on our unmediated experience. By the time I was old enough to go to a jungle night I had been listening to it and privately dancing to it for so long that I had a style of dancing readymade, pieced together from what non-jungle dancing I'd already done and then warped by the physical demands of the music itself. But when I'd take unitiated friends to jungle nights their dancing for the first hour or so would often be a mixture of appalling or hilarious, their bodies simply not knowing what to do. By the end of the night they'd be dancing like everyone else there. But my jungle dancing has only very gradually drifted closer to the predominant style on Melbourne dancefloors; for the longest time I was very resistant to the social insistence that one dance to the basslines and not the beats. I had read in some of Simon's articles actually when I was 16 about jungle being "two lane" music dancewise, but my body didn't understand this until I saw it in action. So where's the social aspect of my original jungle dance style? It is precisely in the ideas of how my body was supposed to dance (ie. to the beats) that I had transplanted from the other non-dancing experiences I had had. These in turn had been a mixture of direct-physical-response and social mimesis, and so it goes back back back...

In this way we can see that there is never a "first dancer" because no sign system <i>actually</i> springs into existence entirely "ex nihilo"; all sign systems are deviations from other sign systems, moulded to suit the demands of the music. In that sense no new dance move is really a new dance move, it's actually a deviation from a previous dance move. And certainly a big factor in why certain deviations occur and become popular is that they fit in with the direct-physical-experience of the music.

P.S. Dominic I agree that "ideology" has a unfortunate negative overtones (although I don't always use it negatively). BorderPolice made this point too I think? The suggested replacement was "social construction"

borderpolice
14-04-2005, 08:58 AM
but it seems to amount to an equivocation between two
levels: the nonsignifying level of sonic impact and the signifying
level of ppl's INTERPRETATION of that impact....

For the record, I'd like to point out that I'm not making that
evocation.


Proving my point... the only way it is 'transformed into a social
signifier' is when it is talked and written about.. on the dancefloor
there is no signification...

In what sense are you using "signification". And please bear in mind that
people inevitably talk (in the every sense) about music, even on dance floors.


and, really, this mimesis thing is going
nowhere: a digital copy is precisely NOT a copy in the mimetic
sense... it is a reiteration of exactly the same code... in the same
way that if you have a virus, your organism hasn't mimetically copied
one with the virus....

Was anyone talking about "Digital Copies" (by which I presume you mean
perfect copies"? No! I've chosen to use the term "Mimesis" because it
is somewhat vague. However, and this is an important point, "Copy" is
an observer relative concept. There is no perfect copy if you look
hard enough. Once you go to the molecular level, digital copies
degenerate to analog similarity. The degree of precision an observer
achieves to decide if two things are copies of each other, or are
being similar, depends on effort and discreminatory abilities, for
example in terms of time or energy, and that is always limited. One
has other needs that may take priority over arcane questions about the
similarity or otherwise of two dancers' moves.


Better in the sense of having some purchase on reality.

Would you mind expanding a bit more on why that would be the case and how?



This whole FIRE/ ICE thing starts off at the wrong
level, by knocking out the primary nonsignifying zone of IMPACT of the
sound, which is NOT phenomenological, not about subjective
experience

Well, you can't be talking about my FIRE/ICE distinction because I've
gone out of my way to include this level, I even termed it
"IDEO-MEMO-MUDUL", trying to convey by this strange word that there's
something else, which I don't understand. The problem with it though,
is that it's fairly unaccessible and unknown.


It's better put in terms of the psychoanalytic between primary and secondary process:

primary process: what is really happening (scarification, bruising, abrasion, addiction)

secondary process: what the perceptual-conscious system narrativizes as happening (this is where phenomenology and 'experience' come into\
play). What are you calling ICE would be one level up again.

Primary process is not cognitive, that is why there is no question of re-cognition at this level.



Well, as I said, I've always acknowledged those primary processes, you
are attacking somebody else's position here. Moreover, speaking of THE
psychoanalytic is problematic as there are about as many diverging
interpretations as there are psychoanalysts. What's more "primary
processes", as conceived by Freuds early work, is itself not what is
"really happening", as always acknowledged by Freud, but rather, using
modern technical terminology, an emergent (hence observer dependent)
description and simplification of a more complicated and fine-grained
neural level (which itself is emergent on molecuar effects and so
on). Freud was a neuroscientist by training and always hoped that
someday it would be possible to connect his emergent description in
terms of drives, the Oedipal triangle and so on with the biological
level of decription. As we all know that has proved impossible to this
day.

Be that as it may, I have not seen an interesting description of
musical effects in terms ofstric psychoanalytic language, not to
mention biology. I'd be happy to be convinced otherwise, but for the
time being I go with what I have easy access to, i.e. Sociology and
(my own) phenomenological level, and infer/stipulate underlying
unobservable processes like the several modules in the fire/ice post,
as the need arises, without commiting myself to psychoanalytical
vocabularies.



But it's the idea that the secondary process has NO RELATION to the
primary process that I most resist....



Well, as I've gone out of my way to make clear, I don't hold this
position, I hold the opposite one: Fire/Ice are emergent descriptions
of a more basic, lower level, what you call primary processes. It's just
that that latter level is mostly inaccessible and it's properties are
only be inferred from observations at the higher level.



that's poststructuralist
relativism given a bizarre twist by this neo-theistic mimesis stuff
(first bird, first dancer, first cause....)

What's your problem with the first bird in a V-Shaped formation flight now?

borderpolice
14-04-2005, 09:04 AM
and i'd say that fire has priority over ice (this is
the key point) it's why i lose myself while dancing to this track and
why i come back to my senses when the dj plays the next track -- b/c
this track extinguishes rather than feeds the fire

I have do disagree with this. Fire and Ice are two incomensurable
categories. No matter how much you (think you) loose yourself on a
dancefloor, you are still observable to others, your dancemoves are
still socially acquired in a long process. And you are still,
observing and reacting to others, even though this isn't obvious to
you, because your consciousness is maxed out with the music. But
conscious content is not a good indicator of what else is going on in
your body.


i'm assume you meant to say that a song may trigger
intense joy if you're one mood or if not loathing then at least very
little reaction (apathy, annoyance) if you're in another mood [\QUOTE]

That's right. Music is always contextualised, whether you listen in the
presence of others or not.


[QUOTE=dominic] or is neurological wiring transcendental b/c science
can at most explain the OS -- i.e., maybe someday -- but not the
content that runs through the wiring -- i.e., how the content gets
assigned value?

I'd say that the OS is only understood once the content can also be
explained. But, and I don't know if that's reassuring to you or not,
current science is nowhere near anything like an understanding of that
OS. As I pointed out upthread, even single neurons are not understood.


errrrr -- what about TAKING the listener up and down?
"understand this groove" -- a classic mantra

Yes, it fits quite nicely.


so i here i must disagree w/ you -- certainly w/
dancing there does seem to be a pretty close fit b/w how people dance
and the nature of the music


There are the constraints of the body: there's a maximal speed with
which a human body can change legs and the like, yes. But taking these
physiological limits for granted, I don't see why the remaining
musical details restrict the evolution of dancing styles. Take D&B
versus Metal. Two forms of music that are very similar in their
rhythmic structures, but rather different chromatically and
socially. One can take a D&B track, have it played by a metal band,
and get a fairly convincing thrash workout, and vice versa. This
musical similarity in the face of widely diverging styles of bodily
movements indicates that music and dance are only weakly correlated.



YES YES YES -- in fact i said the same thing
upthread

Sorry, I had missed that. So much stuff to read, so little time. What you
write there is staggeringly similar to how I experience this.


but not with sexual/romantic possibilities but for me
it's ultimately asexual

That's quite different for me.



and yet i think you're losing sight of the TESTIFYING and PERSUADING that occurs on the dancefloor

it's not simply mechanistic mimesis

it's a kind of argument -- it's about convincing others -- and about shared convictions

I agree. When I speak of mimesis, that's a simplification of
course. Mutual observation, perhaps? One can always make the theory
richer and more empirically adequate. I've proposed a crude
approximation. But there is what may be termed a basic vocabulary, for
example of dance moves, of gestures, of ways to talk about music, that
has a certain stability.

borderpolice
14-04-2005, 09:05 AM
you've kinda lost me with Fire/Ice thing

except that it that sounds more or less the same as me making a
distinction between the music itself and the discourses/practices/etc
that enweb it

I'm sorry to have been unclear, I wrote that in a rush before work.
And yes the fire/ice thing is similar to what you speak about there.
I find the term "music itself" slightly problematic, because no
individual has access to music itself. Instead there's (1) the private
conscious representation, (2) other people's observable behaviour and
(3) the (unobservable, unconscious hence inferred) brain activity
generating in some sense (1) and (2) above. Cruicially, there are
several billion human bodies. For each of those things may play out
differently. This distributed nature is important.



thinking about the mimetic idea, that's
definitely an interesting dimension to the discourses/practices... for
instance part of my conversion to rave was seeing the shapes people
threw on the floor, how they responded to it... but i already loved
the music... what i learned and was entrained in, almost
semiconsciously, simply by sharing these dancefloors, was how to
express and enact that love... or in Dom's terms stake my claim to
membership of the throng of believers

if there is a mimetic element with dancing, i think it is as much the
dancer having a mimetic relationship with the music, physically
analogizing with gesture and movement the intrinsic properties of the
music

all the discourse of dance culture emphasizes this, it's the groove
that makes you move, you are being compelled to do something... it's
not an arbitrarily chosen response... mere sign-play... for a start
the dancing doesn't signify anything, just as an Amen or a certain
sub-bass timbre doesn't signify anything

there are pioneer dancers perhaps whose, cough, terpischorean
sensibilities are in advance of the pack and are first to uncover the
"correct" way of responding to the music.... e.g. that guy who
invented Liquid dancing on the East Coast rave scene, Philly Dave i
think his name was... or the first breakdancer



Oh sure, I couldn't agree more. This is why I emphasise the
distributed nature of the phenomenon. There is not the music, the
dancer, the subject, but billions, observing each other. This leads toj
evolution. One could use metaphors of cross-breeding and the like.


* * * i'm going to revive my earlier comment about
music being similar to sex and food as something that transcents the
line between culture/pre-cultural
bodily/neurological/appetitive

fully agree!


now i think that's perhaps naive... and part of the power of pop
and/or rock is the way sound and discourse have been entwined and
inseparable

Totally. We have an entertainment industry, with tens of thousands working on
producing and shaping this music. The current exchange is part of this shaping.
This obviously has strong effects. Is anyone denying this?

henrymiller
14-04-2005, 09:49 AM
The point I keep trying to make is that, of course, NO-ONE is a popist, NO-ONE is a geeza: the demand to enjoy (and only enjoy) is not something that anyone can live up to... but that doesn't mean that popism and geezaesthetics aren't extremely powerful discourses....

this is what's still stumping me 12 pages on: how in hell is ILX/NYPLM a hegemonic force? only in a tiny corner of the internet, and even then no-one who actually posts to ILX would say that the popist 'hivemind' really exists. that said, people are popists, it isn't a straw man, but otoh, dividing pleasures (and, covertly, the people who enjoy them) into 'libidinizing' and 'delibidinizing', isn't doing anything to argue the point -- what is good about pop music -- either way, unless you subscribe to that particular binary in the first place.

k-punk's notion that no-one can be a popist because no-one can live up to the demands of the superego needs clarification: a) how far is this popism reducible to the 'demand to enjoy' and b) doesn't this apply to anything? ie no-one can truly be a 'german' or a 'muslim' or a 'woman' insofar as they can't live up to etc etc. why is popism different? if no-one is a geeza, no-one is anything.

k-punk
14-04-2005, 03:56 PM
this is what's still stumping me 12 pages on: how in hell is ILX/NYPLM a hegemonic force? only in a tiny corner of the internet, and even then no-one who actually posts to ILX would say that the popist 'hivemind' really exists. that said, people are popists, it isn't a straw man, but otoh, dividing pleasures (and, covertly, the people who enjoy them) into 'libidinizing' and 'delibidinizing', isn't doing anything to argue the point -- what is good about pop music -- either way, unless you subscribe to that particular binary in the first place.

It is the clearest statement of the bourgeois values that dominate the Pop industry; that is how it is hegemonic. It doesn't create that hegemony, it merely expresses it.

If you don't subscribe to the binary 'libidinizing'/ 'delibidinizing', you are probably a victim-advocate of Popism.

Of course, the next move, endlessly rehearsed, is to now say, 'I'm not a Popist... I'm just defending Popism... Not that I believe it of course...' But there is no more to being a Popist than this... That is why the fact that no-one is actually a Popist doesn't mean that Popism doesn't exist. Quite to the contrary.


k-punk's notion that no-one can be a popist because no-one can live up to the demands of the superego needs clarification: a) how far is this popism reducible to the 'demand to enjoy' and b) doesn't this apply to anything? ie no-one can truly be a 'german' or a 'muslim' or a 'woman' insofar as they can't live up to etc etc. why is popism different? if no-one is a geeza, no-one is anything.

I have quite clearly defined what the meaning of the term Popism is in my discourse. If there is some other, more complex position, that is not what I mean by Popism. (The position Tim is advocating, for instance, is not Popist as I define it). It remains, then, for people who are positive about Popism to come out and state what position it is they are actually advocating. Of course, no-one will do that, all that we get is the endless negative theology about Popism, 'it's not that', 'no, it's more complicated than that'... What is it, then?

You can be a German without having to live up to any behavioural requirement. Similarly, one can be a Muslim without holding to any tenets of Islam. Being a woman is more complex, obviously.

The idea that no-one is anything is not so extreme. In fact, it is the first principle of existentialism. But isn't being a geeza more about being anxious about being a geeza; just as 'being normal' is about being anxious about being normal?

Tim F
14-04-2005, 04:51 PM
"I have quite clearly defined what the meaning of the term Popism is in my discourse. If there is some other, more complex position, that is not what I mean by Popism. (The position Tim is advocating, for instance, is not Popist as I define it). It remains, then, for people who are positive about Popism to come out and state what position it is they are actually advocating. Of course, no-one will do that, all that we get is the endless negative theology about Popism, 'it's not that', 'no, it's more complicated than that'... What is it, then? "

Mark, I have to assume you take issue not just with Impossible Pure Popism, but also the not almost-but-not-quite-pure-popism that can actually exist in the world - otherwise your objections wouldn't make much sense or have much bite. So I think it would be useful if you would refer to a critic who you believe embodies this almost-but-not-quite-pure-popism which can actually exist in the world. It's clear that we disagree pretty radically in our interpretations of "The Geezaesthetic Manifesto" based on differing perceptions of the mindset(s) behind it, so perhaps if you choose someone who you believe represents the mindset (of almost-but-not-quite... etc.) you're talking about I (and anyone else obviously) can respond to the concept more cogently than I may have so far.

Despite your disagreement, I still consider my position to be pretty popist at least insofar as it does not contradict what I consider to be the FT/NYLPM ethos (I did write FT's first actual full article on Britney I believe!), but maybe you can provide a different example, or hone in on specific aspects of that example, that I can then distinguish myself from as you are able to do.

k-punk
14-04-2005, 05:46 PM
Mark, I have to assume you take issue not just with Impossible Pure Popism, but also the not almost-but-not-quite-pure-popism that can actually exist in the world - otherwise your objections wouldn't make much sense or have much bite. So I think it would be useful if you would refer to a critic who you believe embodies this almost-but-not-quite-pure-popism which can actually exist in the world.

No, because Popism is not a critical position; it's an anti-critical position, precisely defined by a refusal of commitment. Because commitment is itself 'rockist'. Let's be clear: Popism exists in the world - of course it does, it is everywhere you look IN THE INDUSTRY ITSELF - it's just that there are no Popists. The closest you are going to get to a statement of Popism IS something like the Geezaesthetics manifesto. If I knew more about Kogan, I suspect I'd think he was too, but anything I've read either by or about him just bores me silly so I don't know.

But Popism's real force comes into play negatively, when it tells you what you are NOT allowed to do - i.e. to hold popular culture to account, to say that it is failing in some way, to argue that people's self-descriptions aren't always accurate, that people can do useless, negative and self-destructive things whilst still enjoying them. And if you want to see that in action, go and look through the k-punk comments box from last year.


It's clear that we disagree pretty radically in our interpretations of "The Geezaesthetic Manifesto" based on differing perceptions of the mindset(s) behind it, so perhaps if you choose someone who you believe represents the mindset (of almost-but-not-quite... etc.) you're talking about I (and anyone else obviously) can respond to the concept more cogently than I may have so far.

You've responded to it quite cogently, but you haven't defended Popism (as I define it). I radically disagree with your aesthetic theory, but not for the same reasons I disagree with (what I understand to be) Popism. Will you now unequivocally say, 'This is what Popism is, and this is how I am a Popist.'


Despite your disagreement, I still consider my position to be pretty popist at least insofar as it does not contradict what I consider to be the FT/NYLPM ethos (I did write FT's first actual full article on Britney I believe!), but maybe you can provide a different example, or hone in on specific aspects of that example, that I can then distinguish myself from as you are able to do.

If liking Britney made one a Popist, then I would be one, so it can't be that. :p

Is the FT/NYPLM axis defined by geezaesthetics or not? If it is, we've already discussed that the term 'geeza' could hardly be applied to your writing. It's the degree of unashamed intellectualism that marks out your writing as different; precisely its well-worked, clearly stated theoretical agenda. You've made clear your differences from the 'only enjoy' position. Fine, if you want to call your position 'Popism' Ok, I don't really care about the label. But it is not what I am attacking when I use the term.

blissblogger
14-04-2005, 06:43 PM
i was thinking this thread was going to peter out in a welter of amiability but it seems to be circling back, after massive detours, to where matt started it, and could even get querulous again

how about we forget the word Pop-ist and talk about Pro-Pop, which is a stance many more people i expect would step up and identify themselves with?

i always thought that term funny, as it positions pop music as this underdog that needs our support and sticking up for... but it's only in quite small zones of discourse that this would be needed (and even pitchfork succumbed quite some while ago) given that Pop rules the world with a Formica Fist

from my admittedly aged perspective all the battles that the Pro-Pop squad are fighting were won long ago, surely?

one of the battles is that: great music can be made by a committee, not just by lone auteurs

erm, anybody who loves a Motown record, a Spector record, a Moroder/Summer record has conceded this already haven't they? or more recently any R&B greatness you care to nominate... i would just say that a committee can be an auteur (c.f. cinema where it's a whole team not just the director -- writers, cinematographer, editor, stage design, costumes, casting, etc et)

another battle: to show that music can be great w/o being "deep" or having lyrical content.

erm, again, this strikes me as long established... a notion i'd personally absorbed 25 years ago with my first disco singles... i mean, "I Feel Love" has about four words in its lyric in total but it's obviously like one of the pinnacles of 20th Century art... there may be some sadsack indie-rock fans who still prize lyrics above all else but cmon, we don't need to bother with them! (this is not to say that there aren't disco reocrds or R&B records or whatever with great lyrics in, BTW)

another battle: people's motives don't need to be pure to make great art, that wanting to make money or be commercially successful is not an obstacle to producing fabness

well i must admit i still honestly doubt that anybody who was purely mercenary could make something truly great, but i suppose it's possible... certainly with so many of the pop greats, from Berry Gordy through Moroder to Timbaland, these are sharp businessmen as much as sonic visionaries... Lee Perry was a breadhead and a Rasta... wanting to get paid in full and make cutting edge music are not in contradiction through so much black music...

or you think of say Abba, or the Michael Jackson/Quincy Jones/Rod Temperton team, obviously selling lots of records was important to them, but i kind of thing as much as a kind of sealing of the aesthetic deal, the success and mass approbation completing the point of the records, in a similar way to how making the Top 10 was so important to Green ( i don't think the resuliting royalties were on his mind AT ALL)... wiht Abba or Jones/Jackson/etc i don't think as they were making those records they were thinking of shifting units or making it radio-ready, they were first and foremost pursuing a vision of perfection... i saw a documentary on Abba recently and it was quite moving, the dedication they applied to making those records... struck me as quite a "rockist" mindset in the sense of being fanatical and questing

but perhaps it is these very concepts like visionary, landmark, genius, masterpiece, breakthrough, quest, etc that are rockist...

now have i missed any other major Pro-Pop precepts?

in the end i return to this idea that the two camps are divided by sensibility and rhetorical tone rather than clear bodies of thought

tek tonic
14-04-2005, 06:46 PM
But Popism's real force comes into play negatively, when it tells you what you are NOT allowed to do - i.e. to hold popular culture to account, to say that it is failing in some way, to argue that people's self-descriptions aren't always accurate, that people can do useless, negative and self-destructive things whilst still enjoying them. And if you want to see that in action, go and look through the k-punk comments box from last year.

where does the Geezaesthetics manifesto prohibit any of those things? "Criticism is conversation and we want to hear about your reactions, especially if you express yourself interestingly. Disagreeing is part of the conversation." disagreeing could certainly involve holding pop culture or the critic to account, couldn't it?

dominic
14-04-2005, 07:20 PM
Dominic I agree that "ideology" has a unfortunate negative overtones (although I don't always use it negatively). BorderPolice made this point too I think? The suggested replacement was "social construction"

it's not simply that the term has negative overtones

rather, first, the notion of ideology seems to deny the possibility of the subject being a subject of truth, i.e., fidelity to the event of music

second, "ideology" is anti-political -- the notion that we are all puppets of ideology denies the validity (primacy) of our sense/conviction that this music scene is good and that music scene bad, this song powerful and that song weak

MOREOVER, how was it established that the concept of ideology is valid and true?

we use this concept to deny the truth of the political

and yet why do we think it true that nothing is more powerful than ideology?

and what exactly is this ideology that it causes some to rally to camp A, some to rally to camp B, others to rally to camp C

if we're so dominated by ideology -- then why doesn't everyone from the same social background join the same scene, have the same views on what is good and what is bad?

or are their an infinite number of ideologies? -- a different ideology for each music scene, each much sub-scene? -- but once we say that each of the hundreds of existing music scenes has its own ideology, and that in the case of each scene its members have been subjected to it by ideological forces -- once we say all of this? then what are we even talking about?

is this kind of ideology even remotely like "free market" ideology, or capitalist ideology, which applies to the whole of american/western/modern society

seems to me this concept of ideology as applied to music & music scenes is pretty damn mystifying

so mystifying that i don't think it true or helpful

again, i don't deny the role of predisposition, prior life history, etc, in determining what we value and like -- but i don't think these factors all-determining

and i certainly don't think that the concept of ideology has much explanatory power

how can we seriously claim that "ideologicla forces" are determinative when people's decisions about which music scenes to join, the degree to which they identify with this or that kind of music, etc, are so manifestly diverse -- i.e., so manifestly political in nature -- i.e., so manifestly a case of people saying they like this kind of sound & scene but not that kind of sound & scene, so manifestly a case of some people choosing to become heavily invested in music and others choosing to invest in non-musical projects and endeavors -- why deny the political?

why resort to "ideology" as explanation of first choice rather than the naive explanation that people are captured by the music -- i.e., think this music powerful and therefore good and therefore worth making an investment in?

seems to me that music & music scenes & art & culture are the SITE of the political -- spaces where we still have strong opinions about what is good and what is bad

spaces where people don't walk around in ideological blinkers

dominic
14-04-2005, 07:31 PM
by contrast, pop-ism is an ideology because it applies to everyone

everyone has to resist its claims -- i.e., pop-ism doesn't claim or seize you in the way that music does, but rather makes claims about how to understand the world -- i.e., pop-ism as a claim about how to understand and relate to music

and this is ideology as produced by the capitalist system -- and it works top to down

but to say that our choices as to which music scenes to join, which records we like, etc, are ideologically determined is to make a complete and utter mish-mash of the concept of ideology

again, though we've used the analogy of feudalism to explain interpellation into a music scene -- and the analogy is helpful, e.g., in feudalism the property owner is not really an owner but has "seisin," i.e, this is same etimological word as "seize" -- we shouldn't lose sight of fact that scenes are in the end about reciprocal recognition, i.e., more democratic than hierarchic

interpellation is *perhaps* a helpful concept as applied to music scenes

ideology is a mystifying concept

dominic
14-04-2005, 08:11 PM
or maybe i need a refresher course in althusser & lacan -- or rather, need to read more

so Tim F means something as follows:

the Real = the music

ideology = the imaginary relationships of subjects both to the music and, as mediated by the music, to one another

so ideology is roughly the same as "imaginary order" = the narcissism by which the subject creates fantasy images both of himself -- e.g., i'm seized by this music, i really get this music, i belong to this scene -- and his ideal object of desire = e.g., 90/91/92 rave as most powerful music ever

is this what you mean?

so therefore all music scenes are by definition ideological, i.e., imaginary orders formed by narcissistic processes

AGAIN, not everyone here is conversant in Lacan & Althusser

i.e., resort to jargon clouds debate

i.e., please use jargon in a such a way that non-adepts can understand the argument you're making

i'm not saying not to use theory or concepts -- on the contrary -- just make the thought clear

(which is not to say that i'm always clear -- or that i don't use terms in unclear ways)

also, i recognize that you've made deeper and more rigorous arguments than i have -- therefore you get more slack for being unclear

dominic
14-04-2005, 08:50 PM
so i guess i'd like to see some intersection of the political & psychoanalytic explanations of how music and music scenes work

i.e., the political as sense of being seized, identifying w/ some and excluding others on the basis of this sense of beign seized, and the strong convcitions we have of "good" and "bad" music -- i.e., this music is powerful therefore it is good

i.e,. the psychoanalytic as the fantasies that we form about ourselves and others in relation to the music

which is to say that i have the very strong sense that my relationship to rave music is largely my own private narcissistic fantasy -- i.e., the spatial and temporal separations b/w me and the actual rave phenomenon of early 90s england scream "fantasy" -- i.e., the fantasy aspect is undeniable

and yet i also feel claimed by it and think really good rave music best stuff ever

AND is this merely a case of me being weird & pathetic

OR is this the way that we all relate to music

s_clover
14-04-2005, 09:29 PM
ok now i see how ppl get sucked into debates like these coz it's yanking me too. dominic speaks of "fidelity to the event of the music." but let's break that down. the event of the music is obv. a different event in a different medium, a different setting (any valorization of say, the rave experience on the dancefloor is indeed *premised* on this), a different soundsystem, among a different circle of tastes and friends. c.f. the show on vh-1 with the ppl. caught singing in their cars to poptunes. the event of the music for them in this setting is obv. v. different than as it becomes the moment they understand it as recorded and on television. the frission generated by wrenching the "event" of music out of its context is precisely what gives the show whatever draw it has. the problem is that anyone who wants to claim any single field for "the event of the music" is stuck, coz it'll never hold up in all circumstances. e.g. ashlee simpson in 2004 may be more faithful to britney in 1999 than hearing britney from 1999 *in* 2004 is faithful to britney in 1999 (maybe). sarai before i knew she was white was, like it or not, v. difft. from sarai after i knew she was white. etc.

also, on a difft. tip, one way to understand the geezaesthetic manifesto is to compare it to the (or an) orig. f-t manifesto which said simply, as i recall, that the aim was to write about pop the way ppl. write about "serious" music and to write about "serious" music the way ppl. write about pop.

k-punk
14-04-2005, 10:10 PM
where does the Geezaesthetics manifesto prohibit any of those things? "Criticism is conversation and we want to hear about your reactions, especially if you express yourself interestingly. Disagreeing is part of the conversation." disagreeing could certainly involve holding pop culture or the critic to account, couldn't it?

It would seem not, no. Not construing things in terms of agreement and disagreement, i.e. pub chat opinionism, is what is verboten.

Criticism in any interesting sense is not about 'conversations'. It is about logics.

k-punk
14-04-2005, 10:15 PM
Was anyone talking about "Digital Copies" (by which I presume you mean
perfect copies"? No!

Right... so we WEREN'T talking about amen breakbeats then? How do you think they were produced and propagated? By people sitting round on the pianer, 'you hum it, I'll make a mimetic copy of it?'

borderpolice
14-04-2005, 10:32 PM
Right... so we WEREN'T talking about amen breakbeats then? How do you think they were produced and propagated? By people sitting round on the pianer, 'you hum it, I'll make a mimetic copy of it?'

I was talking about human behaviour to music.

BTW, Amen was generally heavily compressed and sped up, chopped, and on occasion given cromatic
makeovers. so hardly perfect copies. clearly there is a lot of mimetic absorbtion of music going on.

dominic
14-04-2005, 10:34 PM
ok now i see how ppl get sucked into debates like these coz it's yanking me too. dominic speaks of "fidelity to the event of the music." but let's break that down . . . .

errrr, no -- you miss my point -- but it's my fault

that is, having lectured tim f on the sins of jargon, i then turned around and used jargon

i have in mind badiou's notion of the event

and badiou's notion of the subject of truth

and badiou's ideas on this matter are not unlike althusser's notion of interpellation

except that badiou talks about truth and fidelity to the event

and althusser talks about ideology

AND so we could say that a "produced population," in the sense that such a population brings together disparate elements, in the sense that such a population does not simply represent existing socio-empirical realities -- that such a population consists of subjects formed by the event

of course badiou likely wouldn't think of "rave" as an event

but we vulgarians do with high theory as we please

k-punk
14-04-2005, 10:40 PM
Once again Simon is right... all of those pro-Pop positions have been won long since....(except with teenagers, actually - you might be surprised by how many of my students would baulk at ALL of the things Simon listed) but that's partly why I would say that neither Simon nor myself are rockists, because surely a died-in-the-wool rockist would RESIST all those moves....and why the real straw man being called up here is by the position-I-would-call-Popist...Who is it that does resist those claims?

I'll happily sign up for Pro-Pop but the position-I-would-call-Popist does make a further move - the one we've identified above - the cult studs effacing of the sonic object under listener-response. I'd just be repeating myself, but it's that middle class will-to-desublimation, all the more grating for its supposed populism, that I find utterly depressing and deflating...

Once again - it's not the reduction TO the social I object to... it's the reduction OF the social to the sociable and to this mysteriously self-causing construction machine (the First Cause Deus ex machina of Cult Studs) which I reject....

k-punk
14-04-2005, 10:44 PM
BTW, Amen was generally heavily compressed and sped up, chopped, and on occasion given cromatic
makeovers. so hardly perfect copies.

Really? Never....

All of which proves that there is absolutely no


mimetic absorbtion of music going on.

It's the same code that is being cut, pasted and effected.. how is that mimetic?

borderpolice
14-04-2005, 11:14 PM
It's the same code that is being cut, pasted and effected.. how is that mimetic?

it's difficult to tell sometimes if you are taking the piss or not (how is one's style of
dancing or talking about music "cut and paste"?), but assuming the latter, maybe
we are simply having a terminological confusion. My use of the term is probably somewhat
informed by Adorno's use, for whom it is one of the central concepts. But the term has a heavy
tail of previous uses, so maybe you are using it in different ways? I had hoped my usage would
have clarified what I intended to convey, while being sufficently vague, as would be appropriate to
the subject.

Tim F
14-04-2005, 11:40 PM
Mark, surely the "digital code" of the amen is different from track to track? Once the sample is immersed within the sonic field of a track it cannot again be sampled cleanly from the new track, it is always tainted by the sonic field, however precisely the sampler tries to isolate it. Of course if a producer supplied to a remixer copies of all the different sound samples they originally used then they could redeploy the "same" Amen, but in doing so the remixer is going one step backwards to the pre-track, virginal amen sample. And certainly not every jungle track samples the amen from it's original source, and that's one of the reasons why there's such a range and variety of textures to the beats (the other is whatever else the producer decides to do to i t- detune it, chop it up etc.

So you get this situation where the development of the amen's usage in jungle is a combination of deviation-by-intent (actively attempting to screw up the sample) and the inevitable near-enough-is-good-enough deviation of the imperfect copy.

s_clover
14-04-2005, 11:42 PM
ok, i think i get it? i thought we were talking about groundedness, but we're really talking base/superstructure (the debate over which, natch, eventually went over to the debate over grounding). the question isn't "is music grounded" but "can music change the world" (i.e. produce a population). i have to confess i became a "popist" (in the crudest sense of really beginning to enjoy, listen to, and think about pop music, which at the time was significantly a greater leap than today, actually) precisely when i realized that my tastes were founded on the eminently silly notion that music *could* change the world.

to descend from theory-land back to reality-land, the proposition that consumers create more than producers -- at least more than evah generally appreciated in rockcrit discourse -- is sort of obviously verifiable. two tests leap to mind. first the degree to which an audience surprises producers (even seasoned ones, and whole recordcos & marketing depts. too) on a regular basis by what is and is not picked up on. second, the degree to which decisions on what to pursue are conditioned on what is already popular. another and more subtle element is the manner in decisions on what to pursue are conditioned on what *isn't* popular -- i.e. a sense of what's *missing*, what people are "ready" for (or in a more abstracted form what "music" is ready for).

ask a raver about fidelity to the event, and yeah it's the creation of the dj. ask a dj about fidelity to the event and it's about responding to a crowd. so yeah, in a broader sense, a dj is a medium by which crowds talk to one another. i.e. a return of the dancer's message in inverted form (c.f. "if they can't sell it back to you it was never yours to begin with)

(of course, craft, talent, brilliance, creativity, etc. are all in there too -- but as we all know, none of them suffices to make something popular!)

dominic
15-04-2005, 03:49 AM
ok, i think i get it? i thought we were talking about groundedness, but we're really talking base/superstructure (the debate over which, natch, eventually went over to the debate over grounding). the question isn't "is music grounded" but "can music change the world" (i.e. produce a population).

there's been too many twists and turns to even say what the argument is about now

that is, roughly 100 posts ago i tried to sort out the various positions -- but that'd be too daunting a task now!

i consider myself a non-popist -- and a sort of rockist -- something along the lines of a retrospective sound fetishist or a rave nostalgist/fantastico -- so my own position is hardly unproblematic -- that is, i find blissblogger's unstinting modernism and quest for new and avant and strange sounds admirable -- but at the end it's not my own position -- i'm more like an addict -- i've got my drug and i'm quite content to keep pushing it through my veins (the nature of my quest is to get more and better samples of same drug) -- though if i had enough money, i would seek out the wicked badman psychedelic voodoo elements of grime -- but it seems to me pointless to buy unless i can buy a lot

so yeah we've got all kinds of metaphors running through these arguments as well

anyway -- the reason i keep pushing "political" notions is that such notions can account for allegiance and fidelity to certain kinds of music and scenes -- for passionate commitment -- emotional investment -- righteous conviction

that is, the popist position seems to me promiscuous -- they say they have an open ear -- i say they sleep around

my allies in this argument are blissblogger and k-punk --

they're great powers, and i'm canada

and when i say k-punk's my ally, i mean to say that he could easily be my enemy in the next war

(assuming that tim f and border police don't conquer all -- next war will likey be b/w those two as they compete for the spoils -- i.e., i still think they're winning)

k-punk attacks popism not b/c it's anti-political or promiscuous but b/c it's delibidinizing and obscures the need for rigorously logical criticism of "what is" -- i.e., the sort of criticism that does not stop (b/c delibidinized) w/ spouting one's opinion about this single or that album but is rather part and parcel of a thoroughgoing cultural-political critique -- or at least this is my facile and muddled version of k-punk's position -- i.e., i'm not really sure what his position is

and yet the popist can quite easily turn the tables and say . . . .

first, that the political relationship to music is in fact mere ideology

second, that there is no conversion experience but only the interpellation of the always already predisposed

third, that fidelity to the so-called truth of music is in fact a narcissistic fantasy and therefore cannot be opposed to promiscuity

fourth, that there is in fact no persuading going on about what is "good" and "bad" in music, no persuading about the best way to dance, etc, but only the mechanistic process of mimesis, which shifts and varies of its own accord -- what the naive take for testifying and persuading is nothing more than expressive gestures reflexively taken from other contexts that others then react to and mimic, however inexactly -- there's no logic, only the play of difference

fifth, that the popist insofar as he accepts all of the above is way more critically astute & honest than the impassioned rockist

sixth, that the portrayal of popism as shallow opinionism is an elitist prejudice

seventh, that there's no proper way to relate to music, no best or better interpretation of a work of music, but only differential experience

eighth, that music has no uniform affect on listeners but only differential affects

and so on and so forth

is this a fair summation?

i.e., fair but not exhaustive

blissblogger
15-04-2005, 04:42 AM
a rigorous bugger, that dominic

but what exactly is a fantastico?

dominic
15-04-2005, 05:01 AM
a person given to making ridiculously extravagant claims about the object of his fantasy

or perhaps it means something else, and i just like the sound of the word

tek tonic
15-04-2005, 07:57 AM
k-punk's suggestion that Geezaesthetics opposes anything but opinion-based criticism sent me back to the books in an attempt to find an explanation for a positive vision of a popist critical culture. after wading through James Heartfield's 'death of the subject' stuff (not encouraging) and others, here's a thought:

reading Fredric Jameson's 'Postmodernism', he brings in the idea of cognitive mapping ("a pedagogical political culture which seeks to endow the individual subject with some new heightened sense of its place in the global system"), and it reminded me of Tim's description of Skykicking as an attempt to read classic/timeless emotional narratives through sonic variations (i mangled that, didn't i). tim maps his knowledge of, say, love songs (though it could be music for riotous celebration, art music, almost any 'timeless' form) onto songs from german techno, baile funk, grime and observes the difference. it acknowledges difference between individuals based on their background and individual preference - the critical logic/engagement returns by sorting out the details of the global system. it's necessarily individual, but it doesn't eliminate the possibility of smaller communities within the system.

henrymiller
15-04-2005, 09:24 AM
there may be some sadsack indie-rock fans who still prize lyrics above all else but cmon, we don't need to bother with them!

we-ell -- this is the thing, sometimes they're hard to ignore. some people still won't accept 'slave to the rhythm'. as it goes i think sinker squared the circle in re this debate by renaming "popism" "rockism about pop".

but to engage with the interesting question of auteurism: the converse of the argument that hollywood cinema was a collective scenius (the only reasonable course) is that european cinema gave free play to auteur-geniuses like godard and antonioni, unconstrained by commercial drives -- and *this* is film-rockism, because the truth is that european cinema (quite often indirectly funded by hollywood, hence the collapse of uk cinema circa 1970 when the us studios pulled out) was just as much a matter of scenius. (not even going into the barthes/foucault anti-auteur thing, which is obliquely related.)

and so this might be the positive content of popism: its pro-scenius-ness. scenius does not negate genius, but it surely makes genius possible -- there are comparatively few 'lone genius' types who don't draw on some kind of collective culture or work on some collective creative problematic.

k-punk
15-04-2005, 09:39 AM
Mark, surely the "digital code" of the amen is different from track to track? Once the sample is immersed within the sonic field of a track it cannot again be sampled cleanly from the new track, it is always tainted by the sonic field, however precisely the sampler tries to isolate it. Of course if a producer supplied to a remixer copies of all the different sound samples they originally used then they could redeploy the "same" Amen, but in doing so the remixer is going one step backwards to the pre-track, virginal amen sample. And certainly not every jungle track samples the amen from it's original source, and that's one of the reasons why there's such a range and variety of textures to the beats (the other is whatever else the producer decides to do to i t- detune it, chop it up etc.

So you get this situation where the development of the amen's usage in jungle is a combination of deviation-by-intent (actively attempting to screw up the sample) and the inevitable near-enough-is-good-enough deviation of the imperfect copy.

All of that is correct, you are right, I was too hasty.... apart from this 'imperfect copy' thing... this whole model of original and copy does not seem to me appropriate to something like the amen... mimetic for me would mean 'imitation', but that is ignoring what is unique about sampling culture.. if (uttunul forbid) I was a rock guitarist, I might 'copy' a Keith Richards lick, my attempt to do so would inevitably be imperfect etc. But if an amen is an 'imperfect' copy, it is not in the same sense: it is a degraded version, not a failed reconstruction. A sample of an amen is a copy only in the sense that a photograph is a copy: i.e. it is not a MIMETIC copy at all. That is why (as Steve Hyperdub has long argued) the correct model for this kind of process is virus, not mimesis...

dominic
15-04-2005, 05:02 PM
virus, not mimesis...

yes, but don't viruses replicate?

or does the replication of a virus follow a kind of logic?

the virus as creature of the body

whereas mimesis is external to the body and uninformed by logic -- merely image (inexactly) mirrored by image

that is, what is at stake in the virus vs mimesis distinction???

why is this point so important?

perhaps the virus metaphor can account for pathos

for why people feel the need, feel the rightness of dancing in a certain manner?

for why people feel the rightness of this sound and not that sound?

again, what is at stake here?

why are you insisting on the point?

or do you simply think mimesis an inaccurate description

or perhaps the mimesis explanation cannot account for why people don't think they're "copying" others when they dance -- i.e., reflecting empty & arbitrary forms -- as opposed to this way of dancing feels so goddamn right

i.e., mimesis explanation would have us all be surfaces who mirror what we see

i.e., the mimesis explanation is so counter-intuitive that it is in fact false

whereas the virus explanation makes it a matter of pathos -- i.e., viral movement is the dynamic principle

so the question then shifts, perhaps, to the value of different kinds of ease and disease

again, what's the upshot?

and could we even say that it is sound itself that afflicts the body?

that music is the agent of disease

that rhythm is infectious

which is an explanation that is both logical and which accords with experience

again, what is at stake in the virus vs mimesis distinction?

dominic
15-04-2005, 07:21 PM
Fire and Ice are two incomensurable
categories. No matter how much you (think you) loose yourself on a
dancefloor, you are still observable to others, your dancemoves are
still socially acquired in a long process. And you are still,
observing and reacting to others, even though this isn't obvious to
you, because your consciousness is maxed out with the music. But
conscious content is not a good indicator of what else is going on in
your body.

so with the virus explanation we can have an account whereby everybody on the dancefloor is afflicted by the same sounds and rhythms

and what others do before their eyes reinforces what the feel in their bodies

i.e., the others before their eyes are similarly afflicted

i.e., there's a kind of amplification of the viral proces


Take D&B versus Metal. Two forms of music that are very similar in their
rhythmic structures, but rather different chromatically and socially. One can take a D&B track, have it played by a metal band, and get a fairly convincing thrash workout, and vice versa. This musical similarity in the face of widely diverging styles of bodily movements indicates that music and dance are only weakly correlated.

yes -- but can't two separate viruses be in someways structurally similar and yet cause entirely different symptoms and effects?

moreover, the viruses are operating on separate populations

each population has already been afflicted, shaped, conditioned, formed by previous viral processes

of course the viral explanation does not seem to give an adequate account of the "conversion experience," i.e., the feeling of being seized

unless this is explained in terms of a fever that utterly disorients its victim -- i.e., sets him on a new direction

explained in some such terms

so rave as mass epidemic -- an affliction that reorients bodies and so produces populations

and yet to succumb to the epidemic you have to be predisposed to one extent or another

or whatever

dominic
15-04-2005, 08:19 PM
the great advantage of the virus metaphor is that it can *perhaps* explain both the political and the psychological

the political is now understood in terms of the epidemic's disorienting effects

politics is about orientation -- directionality

bodies that succumb to the viral disease are ravished and ravaged, disoriented and reoriented

"good" and "bad" are questions of ultimate orienation

sense of near and far

petty and great

meaningful and trivial

and the passion of political commitment is simply a matter of fever and fervor

as for the psychological side of the equation, the fantasy complex is now seen as a pathological effect of the virus

certain people become so diseased in body and mind that they develop elaborate fantasies about music

OF COURSE the popist reply is to say that such people are hypochondriacs to begin with -- that they merely imagine that they've been ravished and ravaged by music

dominic
15-04-2005, 08:27 PM
the viral theory of music and music scenes -- aka the theory of musical disease -- also provides great insight into the nature of popism

that is, the peril of popism is not disease but complacency and ease

rather than the ravishing and disorienting effects of music, we now have the prick to the ear

the tincture that merely titillates

the innocuous tickle

that is, just as music has psychosomatic effects -- so too do arguments

and the effect of the popist argument is to close off body and mind from the power of music

to immunize and make resistant

popism as anti-virus

and so it goes

s_clover
16-04-2005, 01:43 AM
that is, the peril of popism is not disease but complacency and ease

rather than the ravishing and disorienting effects of music, we now have the prick to the ear

the tincture that merely titillates


ok, now i'm finding this interesting. because yeah, for me the assumption is that music/art is tremendously disorienting and powerful and compelling at times, and the point of criticism is in a way precisely to transcend that, and tame it by making it something that feels less private and more able to be shared and shaped and discussed. like it can give us ways to talk about things that we maybe wouldn't otherwise, but the key is that we *do* end up talking about them. disarming the music is rearming the listener, yeah. but it takes a lot of work to get there, dig? which isn't to say that changing the world shouldn't be done, but if say the music is parta how you structure your understanding of *why* you wanna change it (c.f. teenager in bedroom w/ radio & angst & identifying with, say, haha Blink's "Anthem pt. II") isn't the actually changing it part also about getting *over* the music?

on another note it hit me re: "fidelity to the event" that that's a fine way of describing the task of say, history, where there is "an" event -- a particular set of circumstances, time, place, actors, etc. Hey, even with art you can have fidelity to "a" performance, or "an" opening at a gallery. but unless you reduce music to the live performance, yr. stuck with a v. hazy and confused notion of "event." Is the "event" of 50's "candy shop" the entire multi-month span of it playing out on charts worldwide and blossoming and then ppl. getting sick of it, and kids getting the words wrong to it, and then maybe an answer track by Lady Saw (or whoever) and then a skit on SNL 3 years later when he guest hosts that has a gag about a "candy shop" in there too? Or what then?

nonseq
16-04-2005, 01:52 AM
I don't think pop is antithetical to unterground when it comes to viral processes. Sound memes also play an important role in pop dynamics. The difference between pop and unterground is in the limits to the space of possibilities. Pop must remain in the comfort zone, while unterground is free to explore the outer regions.

borderpolice
16-04-2005, 08:12 AM
so with the virus explanation we can have an account whereby everybody on the dancefloor is afflicted by the same sounds and rhythms

i don't have any particular beef with the viral metaphor, but it's a bit biological for my licking. it lacks a social dimension. The beauty of the mimetic approach is its being radically social. it acccounts for what's observably happening. the viral approach just says something is happening -- let's call it an infection or affliction -- but not what or how, so it's in effect just a new name with interesting connotations. I also find the spatial associations somewhat misleading: a virus enters your body (or are you talking about computer virii, that would be more fascinating, maybe), whereas one of the most interesting facts about humans is that they are monadic, they are operationally closed, and yet they are fundamentally and irreducibly social creatures. there is of course a strong spatial dimention to dance events. one sees only a few at each point in time, those dancing near you. The sound, the darkness, and the preoccupation with music and sexuality prevents the brain from being able to process more than just a few humans at a time. so the mimetic mechanisms are working locally. given the imperfections of the copying, this leads to local clusters of dance styles.

how about this compromise: musical fragments are the virii and the affliction they creates are pleasure intensifying memetic behaviour?

k-punk
16-04-2005, 05:38 PM
I wouldn't say viruses were biological (as Wiener says, it's a real question as to whether they are alive or not) and I wouldn't say it was a metaphor, it's an abstract description.

There's a whole chapter (Xerox and Xenogenesis) in my thesis on this if anyone's interested: this (http://www.cinestatic.com/trans-mat/Fisher/FC3s3.htm) is the most pertinent section.

dominic
16-04-2005, 06:44 PM
a virus enters your body (or are you talking about computer virii, that would be more fascinating, maybe), whereas one of the most interesting facts about humans is that they are monadic, they are operationally closed

sound afflicts the body -- sound and rhythm have psychosomatic effects

and that is how the virus enters or, if you wish, seizes hold of the body or, still again, wracks the body

reworks and reorients body and mind

and yet we still think and feel in more or less the same ways as before

it's just that a new code has become entangled with the other content that our OS processes

we're now diseased -- not transformed into monsters -- and not terminally ill -- but living w/ a kind of disease

the new orientation -- the dis-ease -- is most manifest in how we relate to music and sound

and yet the pathology effects the other logics by which we live

e.g., it gives rise to fantasy complexes

or it makes us discontent w/ the real possibilities that we have in hand -- e.g., to be an accountant and get married and have kids -- the standard biological-reproductive content -- we now want different content

dominic
16-04-2005, 08:25 PM
how about this compromise: musical fragments are the virii and the affliction they create are pleasure-intensifying mimetic behaviour?

yes -- but why can't the pleasure-intensifying mimetic behavior be considered amplification?

amplification = massive replication of a gene or DNA sequence

amplification = the particulars by which a statement is expanded

NOW THE KEY POINT to grasp is that even though music and dancing are heterogeneous, each reproduces the other

the sound that afflicts the body is the wasp

the dancing bodies are like so many orchids


Deleuze-Guattari make a point of distinguishing the wasp-orchid relation from models of imitation, which imply a unilinear causality. “It could be said that the orchid imitates the wasp, reproducing its image in a signifying fashion (mimesis, mimicry, lure, etc.). But this is true only on the level of the strata - a parallelism between two strata such that a plant organization on one imitates an animal organization on another. At the same time, something else entirely is going on: not an imitation, but a capture of code, an increase in valence, a veritable becoming-wasp of the orchid and a becoming-orchid of the wasp.”

and the same point re-stated --


The heterogeneous quality of what appears at different stages of the process of reproduction should not be considered a reason to disqualify a system from being considered a system of reproduction. The “animalacules” from which we develop do not resemble us . . . . We are not made in their “image."

now the difficulty here is that flowers in a species blossom in the same way after the encounter with the wasp

whereas human bodies are given to dancing in different ways while being afflicted by the same sounds and rhythms

as tim f noted upthread, his manner of dancing to jungle music in private was completely different than the forms of dancing to jungle that had taken hold at australian raves

and yet as he began to experience jungle with and alongside others, his way of dancing became assimilated to theirs

tim f's account therefore appears to support border police's notion that the primordial sound affliction gives rise to pleasure-intensifying mimetic behaviors

but what i want to argue is that when bodies are afflicted by the same sounds and rhythms, they're gripped by the same pathos and logic

the others who dance around you reinforce the power and logic of the sound virus by amplifying the virus

so whereas you could previously dance to the music in some willy nilly manner, you are now persuaded of the rightness of particular ways of dancing -- not necessarily precise moves, but ways that are in agreement with the shared pathology

so this allows for considerable diversity in how human bodies may dance to the same music -- but it eliminates ways of dancing that are non-pathological

the pathology compels bodies to dance

and the dancing must accord with the pathos and the logic

AND YET b/c dancing is replication on a different plane it is not the same pathology that is reproduced -- but altered versions in different bodies

or maybe i'm simply playing juvenile word games at this point

dominic
16-04-2005, 08:50 PM
as for the "event of music," i.e., music that is experience as radically new and which therefore re-orients bodies

perhaps this can be explained as a VIRULENT STRAIN of previous viral infections

that is, were the music not closely related to previous sound viruses then it would not be geared to these specific human bodies

the music would merely be an "alien" curiosity -- a disease that afflicts others or perhaps nobody at all (as w/ inconsequential fringe music)

whereas the virulent strain runs its course through existing formations and so produces new populations

the new population = survivors of the epidemic, i.e., they weren't untouchable or immune = their bodies have been reworked and reconditioned

dominic
16-04-2005, 10:19 PM
tame it by making it something that feels less private and more able to be shared and shaped and discussed.

actually i take it as axiomatic that music is most powerful when experienced with and alongside others

i don't have in the mind "teenager in bedroom w/ radio & angst"

again, i'm using rave as paradigm -- you might contest that paradigm

so perhaps by "private" you mean outside of language?

or do you in fact mean by "private" the teenager's bedroom testing ground?


disarming the music is rearming the listener, yeah. but it takes a lot of work to get there, dig?

errrr, no -- a bit befuddled actually


which isn't to say that changing the world shouldn't be done, but if say the music is parta how you structure your understanding of *why* you wanna change it isn't the actually changing it part also about getting *over* the music?

first, no matter how one engages or chooses to engage w/ music -- as rockist, as popist -- he cannot deny the seeming fact that this is a "low-level political choice" -- see especially the 2nd or 3rd pages of this thread

and indeed a persistent theme of this thread has been the notion of "fantasy" -- the person who engages with music retreats from the world of action and (real) politics into a fantasy world of record collecting and scene politics

second, it is abundantly clear that the adult world of politics and law and management is so far gone that its participants have no serious beliefs -- only desperate strategies for perpetuating their position -- or, if in opposition to the system, half-hearted measures whose only effect is to assuage their own conscience, i.e., make themselves feel good

that is, get into a conversation about politics with ANY person and i predict that person will soon waver and confess utter confusion about the best course of action in today's world

i realize i'm making a sweeping claim -- and to pursue it here would take this thread way off track

however, as k-punk recently said on his blog -- no one can imagine the end of capitalism

and yet i think we're pretty damn near to the breakdown of the world system

and once that happens new political positions will be elaborated

but until then -- does anyone seriously have a position

(a) severe austerity for america which would entail great material suffering w/ little by way of spiritual consolation

(b) naked imperialism -- i.e., though we have nothing of value to exchange for the world's products, we're not just going to vanish like the dispossessed -- no, we're going to deprive others of resources -- make them render unto caesar by one brute method or another

(c) crusade for a worldwide minimum wage as the best way to save global capitalism

(d) nay say doomsday as just a bad dream -- and continue to invest in parliamentarian politics as though it mattered

choose your position now!

of course what we have instead are pseudo politics

turning to music . . . .

music is not about "how you structure your understanding about why you wanna change the world" -- rather music is one of the few sites where politics still happen

that is, the SITE OF THE POLITICAL since the end of wwii has been music & art & culture

the traditional site of politics is today non-political -- not about serious alternatives

the alternatives that (at least some) people take seriously are in music

this is why i describe members of music scenes as willing to die for their claims

let's put the matter this way --

the rockist agrees w/ nietzsche -- serious belief is far superior to weak belief or no belief at all -- and so too the products of such belief as compared w/ other products

the popist wants to affirm lack of belief as descriptive of who we really are -- i.e., popism as the post-therapeutic position -- i.e., even though popism as ideology is prescriptive -- i.e., the drug that if swallowed whole has wondrously therapeutic effects, dispelling all fantasies about music

OR in the case of the k-punkian sublimating popist -- critical purchase as opposed to belief on the one side and drug therapy on the other


on another note it hit me re: "fidelity to the event" -- that unless you reduce music to the live performance, yr. stuck with a v. hazy and confused notion of "event." Is the "event" of 50's "candy shop" the entire multi-month span of it playing out on charts worldwide and blossoming and then ppl. getting sick of it, and kids getting the words wrong to it, and then maybe an answer track by Lady Saw (or whoever) and then a skit on SNL 3 years later when he guest hosts that has a gag about a "candy shop" in there too? Or what then?

first, the event need not be a single instant in time

(although badiou -- whose idea i'm vulgarizing -- seems to have in mind a single diagonal that cuts across existing processes -- the diagonal that interrupts linear time -- or rather, i forget the details of badiou's theory as soon as put him back on my bookshelf -- what stays with me is the idea of fidelity to the event -- and the event as that which has changed everything -- at least for its subjects, i.e., those who are formed as subjects by the event)

so let's call the event the "conversion experience"

and let's say that the conversion experience may occur all at once -- paul being struck by lightning on the road to damascus

or that the conversion experience may occur as a series of encounters that together constitute a unified experience when viewed retrospectively -- or rather as viewed through the eyes of the believer

viewed from the outside and analytically, the conversion to rave may have occurred over a series of months -- and through a series of discrete small "e" events -- perhaps consisting of hearing a couple of rave tracks at your friend's house, then listening to pirate radio first time, then going to a rave, then reading a couple magazine articles, then talking to people who are part of the scene, etcetera

and then suddenly, at some point, you cross over -- you shed the old clothes and take on the new garments

you are now a believer -- and the conversion experience is for you the unified Event -- the Event that has formed you as a subject of its truth

you also raise the question of how to distinguish true events from false events

and that's a difficult question that can perhaps be taken up later on this thread -- though surely with no adequate answers

though i don't think 50 cent's "candy shop" could in any way be construed as an Event

it's simply a blip on the radar screen

a passing moment in hip hop

though you could perhaps argue that 50 cent is a subject of the truth of hip hop -- and that his works have a place in the process of hip hop's truth

others might call 50 cent a charlatan and his works cheap & disposable

and this is what i mean by music as a site for politics

Tim F
17-04-2005, 08:24 AM
"tim f's account therefore appears to support border police's notion that the primordial sound affliction gives rise to pleasure-intensifying mimetic behaviors

but what i want to argue is that when bodies are afflicted by the same sounds and rhythms, they're gripped by the same pathos and logic

the others who dance around you reinforce the power and logic of the sound virus by amplifying the virus

so whereas you could previously dance to the music in some willy nilly manner, you are now persuaded of the rightness of particular ways of dancing -- not necessarily precise moves, but ways that are in agreement with the shared pathology"

This is an interesting theory Dominic except that I consider it to be wrong in this case: the crushing predominance of dancing-to-the-bass at drum & bass events is <i>not</i> a good thing; it's a way of reinforcing the body <i>against</i> the destablising quality of the beats, the tempo etc. To continue with the virus metaphor it's like a vaccine which adjusts the body to a small, safe portion of the affectivity of the virus so the body can cope with the music's bigger menace without being compromised. I'd also argue that it's a sign that most people in the post '97 drum and bass scene in Australia just imported a lot of their dance moves wholesale from hip hop as opposed to it arising out of rave.

My style of dancing - dancing to the beats, which I persevere with but <i>intersperse</i> with dancing to the bass when I exhaust myself or my legs become sore - is surely more pathological by your definition: my body is more truly transformed by the radical sonic qualities of the music, more synergised with its intricacies; my body and the music have arrived at some sort of symbiotic relationship whereby we mutually reproduce eachother. My dancing isn't a less "true" response to the music in this sense, and the style used by the majority of the scene isn't <i>more</i> true. The scene's dancing style is as much a response to the cultural/fashion demands of the scene itself (which in Australia consciously models itself on hip hop) as it is to the demands of the music. At the same time, <i>my</i> style was also partly produced by an accident of social forces.

The virus model strikes me as a way of arguing, "yes, there is a social component, but this itself arises as a direct result of the sonic-physical relationship between the music and the dancer." The virus expresses as one of its symptoms a pathology, but that pathology has no effect on the form of the virus. It's strictly a base/superstructure arrangement.

Whereas I would argue that the direct sonic-physical relationship and the social apparatus always shape, delimit and reproduce eachother. This is true for all pleasurable activities: listening to music, dancing, eating food, having sex, looking at art... the social component always responds to <i>and</i> transforms the direct physical sensation of pleasure. The fact that some of these forms of pleasure are more physical than others expresses itself as a question of degree rather than outright influence, because even direct physical experience can never be the sole ground for any <i>meaningful</i> sensation (ie. a sensation that seems to possess some particular meaningful property, ie. being seized by the music at a rave).

ie. I reckon one of the big misreadings re Foucault is to think that through the idea of "bodies and pleasures" Foucault is somehow defending some underlying <i>distinctive</i> enjoyable physical component of sex that exists beneath its socialisation and, er, sexualisation (the emancipation of this non-socialised libidinous capacity is totally Marcuse's bag, and Foucault despised Marcuse's theories) - surely the point of "bodies and pleasures" as a descriptive term is that it could apply to absolutely anything eg. eating a peach? Which is one of the reasons peach fetishes can exist probably: the "real" component of sexual desire is structureless, non-specific sensual enjoyment of difference (it doesn't even have to be physical in the sense of contact; sight, hearing and smell, can come into it too), so the social codes and sign systems which structure it can seize on pretty much anything basically. It is in this sense that sexuality is "empty"; its positive content is so tenuous-and-yet-obvious that it doesn't really belong in the same category. (thinking about one's sexuality is a bit like looking into an empty, unlit well for water, or gold or something: at the bottom there is indeed <i>something</i>: a brick floor, but you knew that before you looked into the well anyway). Which is not to say that one doesn't enjoy specific physical sensations when engaging in specific sexual acts; rather that these are always sensations which have been partially structured by social codes/sign systems.

P.S. On an entirely unrelated note, I forgot to mention earlier how surprised I was to read Mark saying he had always found Frank Kogan's writing extremely boring. Mark have you read any of his "Why Music Sucks?" stuff? He really is a great writer and thinker, and I would have thought that his whole operating concept of "PBSification" would appeal to you immensely.

My position in this debate is really determined by the constellation of the writers who I would consider to have had a fundamental shaping effect on my thinking/writing about music: Simon, Tom Ewing, Frank Kogan.

Tim F
17-04-2005, 08:29 AM
"The fact that some of these forms of pleasure are more physical than others expresses itself as a question of degree rather than outright influence"

Sorry, the last word there should be outright <i>distinction</i>.

blissblogger
17-04-2005, 03:30 PM
dominic: "that is, the SITE OF THE POLITICAL since the end of wwii has been music & art & culture

the traditional site of politics is today non-political -- not about serious alternatives"

this is true i think, although one thing i toy with in the conclusion to Rip It Up and Start Again is the horrifying notion that "all this" (the discourses and dissensions coming out punk through postpunk to include, i think, distantly but insperably, the conversation we're now involved in), all this urgency and debate, is in fact a MASSIVE DIVERSION from actual processes of change

in other words, punk (or arguably the Sixties: the rockist original sin moment when POWER and IMPORTANCE was glommed onto popular music occuring circa 65) created this myth that music could create change the world and that punk renewed this myth immeasurably and opened an entire field where you could get worked up and use revolutionary language of upheavals etc.... but if you really wanted to change things you'd have done better to apply your good intentions and idealistic energies to proper politics

i don't actually believe that (and i'd have been a lousy politician or activist) but the thought does cross my mind sometimes and cause a flutter of anxiety

so that idea of a "low level political choice" does seem a useful corrective/keep it all in proportion type thing to keep in the forefront of your awareness

at the same time Dom is right, pop music has changed the world in big and small ways, and perhaps, conversely to the above, it is good to remind yourself of that and keep that alive, rather than underestimate it... perhaps the worst thing is to get into believing that it's all depleted of transformative power and is just a social game of references and subcultural capital and mimetic folderol... that would in fact be the ultimate impoverishment and self-disenfranchisement, to think it had no transformative power left

if you do believe in that idea-or-is-it-myth of transformative power (Sixtes>punk>postpunk>rave, or hip hop, or...) then i think that this Rockist Original Sin is precisely what allows for/enables/mayb even requiresa judgemental tone... the trivial/urgent distinction... because if music did once have that power, then instances of music that don't live up to those past possibilities are failing to be all that music can be

sometimes (not knowing much at all about philosophy) i think of poptimism/geeze as being like logical positivism (AJ Ayer, right?), getting rid of the metaphysics and the nonsense that gets people's mental knickers in a twist (no more revolutions)... remove the moral tenor to articulations of music preference entirely

Tim: stuff
well it seems like we're almost in agreement re the relative roles of the real and the discursive, except again i feel these mimesis/etc leaning accounts tend to downplay the visceral impact/"love at first hearing" aspect of music... the idea that we don't set ourselves up or predispose for these experiences, that they're involuntary, a seizing and claiming in Dom's terminology

that what it feels like anyways but an appeal to feeling is i suppose a cop-out

dominic
17-04-2005, 07:20 PM
at the same time Dom is right, pop music has changed the world in big and small ways, and perhaps, conversely to the above, it is good to remind yourself of that and keep that alive, rather than underestimate it...

not sure if the Sixties>punk>post-punk>hip hop>rave have changed the world in "big" ways

what these music movements have done, rather, is create a kind of ANTICIPATORY DISSATISFACTION with the "adult" world = careering, building a household, having kids = putting one's nose to the grindstone in exchange for nothing of great importance, merely the prospect of more $ than others and some modicum of respectability

they give the lie to the ideology of possessive individualism

if you've experienced the power of music -- been swept up in a social movement centered on music -- you are unlikely to be impressed by what the "adult" world has on offer

does such dissatisfaction change the world?

i don't know

perhaps it merely gives rise to fantasy & alienation complexes

but i suppose it's better than feeling at home in the world

ALSO -- in the cases of hip hop and rave -- these movements have probably helped to create better race relations

i.e., enabled their "white" adherents and sympathizers to recognize more fully the humanity of blacks

i.e., certainly many whites made rave music, and certainly many sounds like belgian hardcore had a white pedigree, but there was no getting around the fact that the music and culture owed it greatests debts to the black diaspora

although in the case of hip hop such improved understanding has been undercut and counteracted by the propagation of gangsta imagery

plus there's no shortage of racists who strum along to the delta blues -- so why not the same for rave and hip hop

AND THEN there are all the "small" changes that the great music movements have (likely) wrought, i.e., changes in sensibility that are hard to detect and work in subtle ways -- but which may in the end add up to something

that is, maybe there's some connection b/w the fact that an entire generation in england was shaped by rave and the demise of the conservative party -- though what you're now stuck with is tony blair

ALSO -- most such changes in "sensibility" are quickly accounted for and catered to by the market

so we should probably be really cynical about any claims that music movements have changed the world

AND YET WHEN BLISSBLOGGER REMARKS AS FOLLOWS --


sometimes (not knowing much at all about philosophy) i think of poptimism/geeze as being like logical positivism (AJ Ayer, right?), getting rid of the metaphysics and the nonsense that gets people's mental knickers in a twist (no more revolutions)... remove the moral tenor to articulations of music preference entirely

then i really must say this --

yes yes yes yes yes

dominic
17-04-2005, 08:05 PM
so when i say that music is the site of the political -- i mean only that it is more productive of the kinds of meanings & affects that people take seriously than the field of conventional politics is -- not that it has some grand transformative effect on the world that we share with all others, i.e., the world as a whole, i.e., the world that conventional politics governs

taking seriously = a belief or feeling or argument or claim that you'd be willing to DIE for (if only figuratively) -- AND which ORIENTS you in your dealings with others and in trying to make sense of your own life

borderpolice
17-04-2005, 09:02 PM
well it seems like we're almost in agreement re the relative roles of the real and the discursive, except again i feel these mimesis/etc leaning accounts tend to downplay the visceral impact/"love at first hearing" aspect of music... the idea that we don't set ourselves up or predispose for these experiences, that they're involuntary, a seizing and claiming in Dom's terminology

i agree that this is a weakness, which i pointed out right from the start, but i don't think the answer should be
to ditch pleasure enhancing mimetic behaviour as a fundamental mechanism, because it's pretty untouchable,
but rather to improve on it, to make it more complicated, to add other elements.

in this vein, i'd like to point out that certainly for me that "love at first hearing" effect is rare. the average case
is that i need to get accustomed, have to warm up first, quite literally so in the case of dancing. most of my
favourite tracks or albums crept up one me slowly.

about the policial element, couldn't it simply be the case, that it's the pleasure one derives from music, that
reminds us that life could be better, that that's all, but no less that art contributes? If one take the mimetic
theory on board, group identity forming processes, collective identities, mass mobilisations and their relation
to music can also be tackled [but music is agnostic with respect to the explicit political content of such usage].

NP: Marcos Valle, Os Grillos

borderpolice
17-04-2005, 09:21 PM
There's a whole chapter (Xerox and Xenogenesis) in my thesis on this if anyone's interested: this (http://www.cinestatic.com/trans-mat/Fisher/FC3s3.htm) is the most pertinent section.

i'm interested, but i can't say i see at this point how it relates to the present discussion, it seems more about deleuze and guattari, with whom, i'm say to admit, i can only claim superficial famiiarity.

dominic
17-04-2005, 09:38 PM
My style of dancing

given that i've never seen you dance -- let alone met you (if you ever visit nyc, then . . . ) -- it's a bit silly to discuss your style of dancing

i.e., you had mentioned your dancing experiences, and then i rather foolishly alluded to your remarks

but by pathological dancing i suppose i mean dancing that ACCORDS w/ pathos & logic

not dancing that simply mirrors the moves of others

i.e., i'm using a metaphor that relies on the heart rather than sense of sight

accord = the Greek "kardia" = the psychosomatic

so i'm not really doing what i purport to be doing -- which is abstract description -- i.e., i keep resorting to metaphors rather than describe abstractly


The virus model strikes me as a way of arguing, "yes, there is a social component, but this itself arises as a direct result of the sonic-physical relationship between the music and the dancer." The virus expresses as one of its symptoms a pathology, but that pathology has no effect on the form of the virus. It's strictly a base/superstructure arrangement.

actually -- the relationship as set forth in the virus model should run both ways -- i.e., the orchid affects the wasp, and not only the wasp the orchid -- i.e., each reproduces the other

so even though i followed up k-punk's suggestion and made appeal to the virus model, i haven't fully embraced the model

i equivocate b/w the virus model and the base/superstructure model

that is, i don't see how the dancing bodies affect the music -- other than in the obvious respect that it's human beings who both make the music and dance to the music -- UNLESS we say that the dancing bodies AMPLIFY the music -- but what exactly does that mean?

you shift the terms, however, when you remark as follows:


I would argue that the direct sonic-physical relationship and the social apparatus always shape, delimit and reproduce each other . . . . The social component always responds to <i>and</i> transforms the direct physical sensation of pleasure

that is, we intially had (1) music that afflicts (2) the body which then dances

you made the terms (1) the direct sonic-physical relationship and (2) the social appartus

once the terms are shifted, the argument follows --

but you've established nothing b/c you haven't shown that the body's movement affects the music (in the way that the orchid affects the wasp)


Even direct physical experience can never be the sole ground for any <i>meaningful</i> sensation (ie. a sensation that seems to possess some particular meaningful property, ie. being seized by the music at a rave).

what else do you need?


I reckon one of the big misreadings re Foucault is to think that through the idea of "bodies and pleasures" Foucault is somehow defending some underlying <i>distinctive</i> enjoyable physical component of sex that exists beneath its socialisation and, er, sexualisation . . . . Surely the point of "bodies and pleasures" as a descriptive term is that it could apply to absolutely anything eg. eating a peach? Which is one of the reasons peach fetishes can exist probably: the "real" component of sexual desire is structureless, non-specific sensual enjoyment of difference (it doesn't even have to be physical in the sense of contact; sight, hearing and smell, can come into it too), so the social codes and sign systems which structure it can seize on pretty much anything basically. It is in this sense that sexuality is "empty"; its positive content is so tenuous-and-yet-obvious that it doesn't really belong in the same category.

i agree w/ your reading of Foucault -- and I think that Foucault is right about sexuality

however, what i question is whether our relationship to music is structured in the same way as our relationship to sex

that is, sexuality is about desire and lack -- that's perhaps why it can seize on anything

music, by contrast, is always there to have -- granted there is the questing disposition of the record collector -- but once you have a record you can play it on your turntable as you wish

and sexual preference is so much more obscure and unjustifiable

that is, i doubt that anyone who has a sex fetish knows the origin of his fetish or when he fell under the power of the fetish or even why -- it is sheer speculation -- a true mystery

in the case of sexuality we often feel intense guilt about what we want -- and yeah, such guilt may provide a kind of frisson, and the taboo may serve as incitement, etc -- but the point is that we cannot justify what turns us on (the most that some people can do is claim their desires are natural, i.e., the heterosexual couple into strictly plain vanilla -- but that's an argument few of us would deem persuasive)

by contrast, we know more or less exactly when we were seized by the event of music, and we can give a rational, if not fully satisfactory, account of why we're into this music, this scene, etc

that is, we can argue in good fatih about the superiority of this record or this music scene as against some other record or music scene

but nobody can argue about the superiority of his sexual preferences over someone else's particular set of sexual kinks unless he's intellectually dishonest or blinkered

MOREOVER sexual preference is hard to justify b/c it treats the other as an instrument for one's own pleasure, i.e., it's open to question whether you can treat the other person as an end in himself or herself while satisfying your own desires

whereas music allows us to relate to others in a way that is fully human (errrrr, that sounds rather sappy -- but i think the point holds)

last -- in pursuing the pleasures of sexuality the actual act of sex can be deferred indefinitely if not altogether avoided -- i.e., "deviance" and "perversion" -- i.e., the deviant fetishist must have his fetish actively satisfied if he is to be able to consummate the sex act, and the fully perverted fetishist may lose interest in the sex act entirely and wants only for his fetish to be satisfied

whereas the enjoyment of music REQUIRES that sound and rhythm afflict body and mind DIRECTLY

i say all of the above not because i think it dispostive of the issue, but because i think there is good reason for pause before comparing the structure of sexuality with the structure of musical enjoyment

certainly in both cases we feel "seized" by a kind of pathos and logic

and certainly in both cases the elements of reproduction are heterogeneous -- especially as in the case of fetishes or various sex games

but again, i'm highly skeptical of any argument that explains musical enjoyment in terms of sexual enjoyment

k-punk
17-04-2005, 10:59 PM
The virus model strikes me as a way of arguing, "yes, there is a social component, but this itself arises as a direct result of the sonic-physical relationship between the music and the dancer." The virus expresses as one of its symptoms a pathology, but that pathology has no effect on the form of the virus. It's strictly a base/superstructure arrangement.

Almost... but the base-superstructure metaphor doesn't go far enough really, in that it implies a lack of immanence, whereas my problem with the way you are constructing this precisely that transcendent dualism: the (implictly) non-reflexive 'physicality' of the sound versus the reflexive 'social'

By contrast, I would want to insist that there is no beyond of the virus or of the physical... the social itself is a field of viruses, intensities which replicate via subtle differentiation... and of course part of the benefit of talking about viruses is that they (particularly retroviruses) are extremely reflexive.. .they learn and adapt... and the apparently 'negotiated' behaviour of the meat components of sonic viruses is just one vector of their mutation...

I'm now clearer (I think) on what you mean by social... but for me this is not 'social' at all, quite the opposite, it is a form of anti-collective individuated connosieuring... this is what I find so difficult about cult studs, this INSISTENCE on that position of audience transcendence... but it's a broader problem I have with any theory that starts with experience... it is so anti-structuralist, so anti-systemic....


P.S. On an entirely unrelated note, I forgot to mention earlier how surprised I was to read Mark saying he had always found Frank Kogan's writing extremely boring. Mark have you read any of his "Why Music Sucks?" stuff? He really is a great writer and thinker, and I would have thought that his whole operating concept of "PBSification" would appeal to you immensely.
.

ok, I admit I haven't been fair; it's just that anything to do with audiences etc raises my hackles and lowers my boredom threshold.. is there anything online worthwhile?

s_clover
17-04-2005, 11:13 PM
the whole social vs. "visceral" element introduced reminds me of the debates over great man history, etc. (& really, as always with these things, it's best to talk them out in the concrete of particular songs, etc. but eh...) i don't think there's ever music you're not "prepared" for in a sense -- i.e. there's music which takes you by surprise, which jolts yr. system and your connections and understandings in new ways, but it's still acting in dialogue with and by virtue of yr. prior accumulated musical experience. lots of moments of jolting change can only be understood by recovering the framework of the time, by reminding yrself of what it was like before that sound was created, and hence the strangeness of canonized things posessing a freshness that has to be "taught."

k-punk
17-04-2005, 11:18 PM
As for this political thing... (another thread anyone?)... surely it's evident what role art in the broadest sense has politically now that we don't we are deprived much visionary art and have our noses rubbed in the crotch of the empirical... the chief political function of art is to expose not what Breton called the paucity of reality but the paucity of realism... the way in which commonsense so-called reality is merely a tissue of uninteresting fantasies....

k-punk
17-04-2005, 11:26 PM
the whole social vs. "visceral" element introduced reminds me of the debates over great man history, etc. (& really, as always with these things, it's best to talk them out in the concrete of particular songs, etc. but eh...) i don't think there's ever music you're not "prepared" for in a sense -- i.e. there's music which takes you by surprise, which jolts yr. system and your connections and understandings in new ways, but it's still acting in dialogue with and by virtue of yr. prior accumulated musical experience. lots of moments of jolting change can only be understood by recovering the framework of the time, by reminding yrself of what it was like before that sound was created, and hence the strangeness of canonized things posessing a freshness that has to be "taught."

Ok, well that's as concise a statement as I could wish for of everything I utterly detest about cult studs. :D

Naturally, nothing about it is true... it's a retrospective narrativization which a priori screens out the possibility of incursion... i.e. it is how things look from the perspective of the perceptual-conscious system... but the perceptual-conscious is only possible on the basis of a founding trauma which it represses but is totally shaped (warped) by ...

Nothing is familiar. Everything is uncanny. Especially 'you'.

Tim F
18-04-2005, 02:02 AM
Dominic:

"that is, we intially had (1) music that afflicts (2) the body which then dances

you made the terms (1) the direct sonic-physical relationship and (2) the social appartus

once the terms are shifted, the argument follows --

but you've established nothing b/c you haven't shown that the body's movement affects the music (in the way that the orchid affects the wasp)"

Okay, I'll concede this. But that's why I don't want to use the virus model, because the thing about viruses is that, while they work better under certain conditions (ie. if you slept out in the rain all night), these conditons are purely physical. Whereas music's affectivity and hence effectiveness is affected by all sorts of not-directly-physical social conditions as well (by not-directly-physical, I mean factors of socialisation which are convoluted responses to the fact of physical existence (eg. sign systems) - in the same sense that consciousness is a convoluted (and perhaps accidental) response to the fact of physical existence).

As I quote below, Mark says that the social is an entire field of viruses. This complicates the virus model above because it suggests the body is responding to a multitude of "viral" forces, some physical and some not-directly-physical, and many not arising from the music being played but something else altogether. Ie. this definition of the virus removes the ontological priority which the previous model gave to physical sensation; physical sensation and the socialisation with which it co-exists become uneasily co-existing forces, competitive viruses contesting the terrain of the body and consciousness. I hope I'm not misrepresenting Mark because I would totally agree with this and it would be nice for us to agree on something!


"Almost... but the base-superstructure metaphor doesn't go far enough really, in that it implies a lack of immanence, whereas my problem with the way you are constructing this precisely that transcendent dualism: the (implictly) non-reflexive 'physicality' of the sound versus the reflexive 'social'

By contrast, I would want to insist that there is no beyond of the virus or of the physical... the social itself is a field of viruses, intensities which replicate via subtle differentiation... and of course part of the benefit of talking about viruses is that they (particularly retroviruses) are extremely reflexive.. .they learn and adapt... and the apparently 'negotiated' behaviour of the meat components of sonic viruses is just one vector of their mutation... "

Okay, as I said above, I think I could agree with this. I have never insisted that the social experience of music is radically disconnected from "non-reflexive physicality" - only that attempting to get from physical experience of a specific thing (eg. the music being played) to conscious perception cannot be achieved in one or two easy steps, as our consciousness is never directly reflective of the "real" physical state of affairs but is, as you say:

"a retrospective narrativization which a priori screens out the possibility of incursion... i.e. it is how things look from the perspective of the perceptual-conscious system... but the perceptual-conscious is only possible on the basis of a founding trauma which it represses but is totally shaped (warped) by ... "

The point is that socialisation/symbolisation/repression/signification - all of these inter-related terms which attempt to explain how we function as social beings - form the basis upon which we can reflect/judge music. Now one could as easily use the viral metaphor to explain this, insofar as perhaps the perceptual-conscious system is the "first" pathology, the first symptom we develop and adjust to as a result of our contact with social viruses.

The problem is, I don't think <i>any</i> of our music criticism dislodges this first pathology (I hope you won't be offended Mark when I say that all of your descriptions and judgments of music imply a perceptual-consciousness system from which you can make descriptions/judgments), so from a practical perspective it may as well be transcendental. Even the combination of ecstasy and really great dance music doesn't dislodge the pathology fundamentally (although it gives it a good kicking!), because the perception of the experience itself remains a retrospective narrativisation.

"I'm now clearer (I think) on what you mean by social... but for me this is not 'social' at all, quite the opposite, it is a form of anti-collective individuated connosieuring... this is what I find so difficult about cult studs, this INSISTENCE on that position of audience transcendence... but it's a broader problem I have with any theory that starts with experience... it is so anti-structuralist, so anti-systemic...."

I'm not sure how you got this from what i'm saying, but i may be misunderstanding you.

I guess I would argue that collectives are never fully stable insofar as they are never closed, never focused solely around their founding principle (eg. a certain type of music and its effects). Every member of a collective is individual insofar as the constellating web of social forces and interactions which marks out their "position" always exceeds the boundaries of the collective ie. a junglist might have a conversion experience and listen only to jungle and only go out to jungle parties, but that doesn't mean that their prior history as a b-boy or cheesy quaver raver or punk rocker or [x] doesn't undermine slightly the consistency of their experience of collectivity compared to other collective members (this is borne out empirically in eg. Simon's tracing of different punk or hip hop influences throughout dance scenes in <i>Energy Flash</i>). Individual bodies never enter into an area of viral contamination (the collective) disease-free.

This doesn't invalidate the collective as an object of discussion, but it does mean that to talk about the impact or purpose or meaning of a given piece of music to this collective as if said impact or etc. was a single substance is pretty reductionist, in the same way as expecting a virus to work on all bodies in the same manner is. The value of the collective is precisely the extent to which it coheres and perseveres despite/because of this differentiated field of experience.

It would seem to me quite obvious that experience can be structured and systemised. My obsession with ideology as a concept is a reflection of this, I think. I don't want to emphasise phenomenology (experience, subjective states etc.) at the expense of structual/systemic theorisation, but I think that the latter, when it attempts to exclude the former, hits a brick wall pretty quickly. This is why Lukacs is suddenly hot property again: there's a growing recognition of the fact that experience and structuralism are not mutually exclusive components within theory.

k-punk
18-04-2005, 10:00 AM
Okay, I'll concede this. But that's why I don't want to use the virus model, because the thing about viruses is that, while they work better under certain conditions (ie. if you slept out in the rain all night), these conditons are purely physical. Whereas music's affectivity and hence effectiveness is affected by all sorts of not-directly-physical social conditions as well (by not-directly-physical, I mean factors of socialisation which are convoluted responses to the fact of physical existence (eg. sign systems) - in the same sense that consciousness is a convoluted (and perhaps accidental) response to the fact of physical existence).

I still think this is a troubling ontology - deeply dualist and implicitly anti-materialist. What ISN'T physical?


As I quote below, Mark says that the social is an entire field of viruses. This complicates the virus model above because it suggests the body is responding to a multitude of "viral" forces, some physical and some not-directly-physical, and many not arising from the music being played but something else altogether. Ie. this definition of the virus removes the ontological priority which the previous model gave to physical sensation; physical sensation and the socialisation with which it co-exists become uneasily co-existing forces, competitive viruses contesting the terrain of the body and consciousness. I hope I'm not misrepresenting Mark because I would totally agree with this and it would be nice for us to agree on something!

Lol, yes, I think this is fair....
what I don't like about the virus model is its negativism.... i.e. the association with sickness... but it is the easiest way to get across this idea of mutagenic propagation....
another way is simply the Spinozist notion of 'bodies', but the problem is that this is liable to be equated with organisms.... the radica Spinozist thought is that there are nothing but bodies, but these bodies are infinitely re- and de-composable.... there is no question of the physical being acted upon by something else (mind, spirit, whatever)



The point is that socialisation/symbolisation/repression/signification - all of these inter-related terms which attempt to explain how we function as social beings - form the basis upon which we can reflect/judge music. Now one could as easily use the viral metaphor to explain this, insofar as perhaps the perceptual-conscious system is the "first" pathology, the first symptom we develop and adjust to as a result of our contact with social viruses.

The problem is, I don't think <i>any</i> of our music criticism dislodges this first pathology (I hope you won't be offended Mark when I say that all of your descriptions and judgments of music imply a perceptual-consciousness system from which you can make descriptions/judgments), so from a practical perspective it may as well be transcendental. Even the combination of ecstasy and really great dance music doesn't dislodge the pathology fundamentally (although it gives it a good kicking!), because the perception of the experience itself remains a retrospective narrativisation.

But it is BOTH that the judging and reflecting of music is autonomic and physical (there is no pre-reflective; intelligence is distributed across the skin), AND that the pct-cs system is not what it presents itself as: i.e. a self-present transparency. The problem with saying that 'the perceptual-conscious system is the "first" pathology, the first symptom we develop and adjust to as a result of our contact with social viruses' is that it implies that there is an 'us' that pre-exists social viruses, whereas I would want to keep insisting that trauma is founding and originary and any notion of 'I' is retrospective narrativization. Consciousness as such is a kind of transcendental illusion, since wherever it is, there is continuity - it is nothing more than a type of continuity editor which by its very nature eliminates everything that doesn't fit.

As for 'our' criticism - do we really think that when we write it comes from this spectral entity, the conscious self? Surely nothing could be clearer than that writing passes through you.... Only when writing is going badly is it not like dancing...


"I'm now clearer (I think) on what you mean by social... but for me this is not 'social' at all, quite the opposite, it is a form of anti-collective individuated connosieuring... this is what I find so difficult about cult studs, this INSISTENCE on that position of audience transcendence... but it's a broader problem I have with any theory that starts with experience... it is so anti-structuralist, so anti-systemic...."

I'm not sure how you got this from what i'm saying, but i may be misunderstanding you.

I guess I would argue that collectives are never fully stable insofar as they are never closed, never focused solely around their founding principle (eg. a certain type of music and its effects). Every member of a collective is individual insofar as the constellating web of social forces and interactions which marks out their "position" always exceeds the boundaries of the collective ie. a junglist might have a conversion experience and listen only to jungle and only go out to jungle parties, but that doesn't mean that their prior history as a b-boy or cheesy quaver raver or punk rocker or [x] doesn't undermine slightly the consistency of their experience of collectivity compared to other collective members (this is borne out empirically in eg. Simon's tracing of different punk or hip hop influences throughout dance scenes in <i>Energy Flash</i>). Individual bodies never enter into an area of viral contamination (the collective) disease-free.

None of this poses any problems for me, but I wouldn't restrict the concept of collectivity to membership of social groupings. Collectivity goes all the way down (or up, whichever way you're starting :) ), that would be the Marxist-Spinozist point; or, to put it in Deleuze-Guattri-ese, there are nothing but collective assemblages of enunciation. No doubt I'm still not getting what you're saying, but what worries me about what you are saying is that it seems like capitalist ideology in that it not only maintains a place for, it radically privileges, the position of the consumer-connoissieur. As if there was this substantial bricoleur-ego that stands outside and enters into collectivities, whereas I would say that what we call our 'selves' are simpy the agglomeration-production of processes that are 'without a subject': bricolage without a bricoleur.



It would seem to me quite obvious that experience can be structured and systemised. My obsession with ideology as a concept is a reflection of this, I think. I don't want to emphasise phenomenology (experience, subjective states etc.) at the expense of structual/systemic theorisation, but I think that the latter, when it attempts to exclude the former, hits a brick wall pretty quickly. This is why Lukacs is suddenly hot property again: there's a growing recognition of the fact that experience and structuralism are not mutually exclusive components within theory.

But the all-important issue is what comes first: experience or the structure. Of course experience can be systematized post-hoc, but that is to radically evade the implications of structuralism. Something like Barthes' S/Z, in exemplifying structuralism to the point of parodying it, is pitiless in its exposure of the ways in which literary structures produce the experience of literature. Or to take another example, Shiller's Irrational Exuberance, which demonstrates that the kind of 'new era' economic thinking which was dominant in the 90s (there will never be another crash; the laws of economics have now been surpassed) did not in any way issue from any sort of 'negotiation' of individuals with structures, it was (really, strictly) a mind virus that the 'bubble economy' had to propagate in order to happen (Shiller in fact shows that exactly the same thinking always occurs in periods preceding a big crash). In terms of sonic intensities, Susan Mclary's musicology makes substantially the same move: your experience of music is entirely about the impact of sonic and social machines on a 'you' which is nothing more than a network of cause and effects.

Shiller's example is perhaps the clearest in demonstrating how this notion that 'experience comes first' is in the service of capitalism. All Shiller is doing, in fact, is re-stating Marx's claim that the idea that we can start from experience, that experience is somehow some indubitable, baseline real, is the core ideological claim of capitalism.

henrymiller
18-04-2005, 03:57 PM
dominic:
that is, the SITE OF THE POLITICAL since the end of wwii has been music & art & culture

blissblogger:
one thing i toy with in the conclusion to Rip It Up and Start Again is the horrifying notion that "all this" (the discourses and dissensions coming out punk through postpunk to include, i think, distantly but insperably, the conversation we're now involved in), all this urgency and debate, is in fact a MASSIVE DIVERSION from actual processes of change

i think a second's reflection will totally reject the idea that the primary site of the political has been music and art and culture; i don't understand the date (surely the '30s was the high point of 'political' literature? in any case there is a history of 'oppositional' culture going back to the 1870s), and i don't understand the conception of politics. i'm talking in the voice of an old corporatist labout voice or anything like that but in the very real changes that have taken place -- the founding of the welfare state, the dismantling of same -- what role did culture play? not, i would argue, a big one. the old sites of political power -- states, business interests, workers' movements -- have been the sites of the political.

at the same time i don't think "this kind of thing" is a massive diversion -- actually the political avant-garde's worst argument has been that eg pop music and hollywood films have been a massive diversion from reality. and of course that argument was the key to the althusser/lacan position: for althusser, '68 failed because the french working classes were duped by divers ISAs, RSAs, RZAs etc etc. nothing to do with the baleful influence of the PCF-dominated unions, for example. but when french film-makers took up althusser's ideas the effects were baleful, and given the maoism of the whole scene it's a GOOD THING that these chaps were diverted from 'politics as such'.

s_clover
18-04-2005, 05:26 PM
ok what confuses me is that music can do all sorts of things that viruses can't. you either get a virus or you don't. but sometimes you hear music and hate it, or sometimes you're unmoved, or sometimes bored, or sometimes annoyed, or sometimes disappointed, or jerked into a moment of personal recollection, or etc. of course this is all "retrospective narritization" from one point of view -- but it's narritization of a richer field than the binary infected/immune/sorta infected field that a real virus can put forward.

k-punk
20-04-2005, 12:33 AM
But viruses can do things that music can't do too, lol.

I think the alleged 'richness' of human responses depends, once again, on this secular religion of the aleatory unpredictability of human beings. Human responses are structurally produced by specifiable sonic and social machineries. Narrativization conceals this because by its very nature it is anti-structural - it plugs gaps and produces continuities.

This isn't to deny that the virus thing has problems; it does, for the reasons I suggested above. Cronenberg's imagery of more or less stable, more or less congenial recombinations of bodies would perhaps be a better way of thinking through what is at stake.

What is important to lose though is the dualism behind so many of these positions - sound = physical, human response = cognitive. The so-called high level 'critical' responses to sound are not more cognitive, they are _differently_ cognitive.

Bacon, for instance, famously rejected the idea that he worked from pure inspiration. He compared himself to a tennis player, who if she is good, will be so attuned that her fingers, legs, feet etc will make the right moves without the intervention of the conscious mind. In fact, the lumbering into play of the conscious mind would always spell disaster for someone seriously engaged in sport. Her cognition is distributed all over her body.

Why shouldn't responses to art be of the same type? Dancing is no more or less 'natural', no more or less 'social', no more or less 'theoretical' than writing about music.

Tim F
20-04-2005, 03:05 AM
Argh I lost my entire response and have had to write it again, so if I don't sketch things out enough below it's probably because I'm impatient with finishing this reply!

"What is important to lose though is the dualism behind so many of these positions - sound = physical, human response = cognitive. The so-called high level 'critical' responses to sound are not more cognitive, they are _differently_ cognitive. "

"I still think this is a troubling ontology - deeply dualist and implicitly anti-materialist. What ISN'T physical?"

I agree that we are dealing with an immanent field of physical processes, but those processes include socialization, interpellation etc.

Saying "not directly physical social factors" is a bit misleading here on my part, I'll admit. To use the viral model, I would simply emphasise that there are always multiple viruses at work in a given situation. When you listen/dance to music, you're both being affected by the virus of the music itself and a multitude of social viruses, which will then influence the nature of the music-virus's effect on you (symptoms, pathology) etc. It's a multilateral relationship - between you and the music-virus, you and social-viruses, the music-virus and the social-viruses. So all I'm arguing against here is the idea of some direct, exclusive relationship between the listener/dancer and the music, especially (and I'd hope you'd agree here Mark) as that idea rests on a privileging of the <i>experience</i> of that relationship as "true", the "indubitable baseline real." The experience of the pathology is used to attribute certain components to the music-virus in and of itself, but of course the question that needs to be asked is: to what extent is this pathology I'm experiencing the result of the music-virus affecting me, the social-viruses affecting me, or one of those affecting the other in its capacity to affect me?

"I think the alleged 'richness' of human responses depends, once again, on this secular religion of the aleatory unpredictability of human beings. Human responses are structurally produced by specifiable sonic and social machineries. Narrativization conceals this because by its very nature it is anti-structural - it plugs gaps and produces continuities."

I agree with this completely! On the point of experience as an "indubitable, baseline real", I would simply stress for the nth time that I have <i>never, ever argued this</i>. I agree that experience is structurally produced, that it is in fact entirely inconsistent, fragmented etc. and only retrospectively does it take on some appearance of continuity and "truth". But, again, <i>this is why it is interesting</i>, and why we must continue to start with it as the basis of our enquiry. Those who claim to reject the influence of experience in a discussion like this are almost always being dishonest rhetorically, because no-one seeks to defend or reject certain pieces of music without basing that in a reaction they have had. Saying "I like [eg. M.I.A.'s music] but take issue with [eg. her pseudo-political sloganeering]" is a position which is experienced as a reaction as well as formulated as a theoretical statement.

The reason I came onto this thread in the first place was that the consensus forming implied the existence of certain legislative categories for enjoyment - "musical dilettantism is bad", "liking pop is bourgeois consumerism" etc. which were presented as floating free from the position of the speakers pronouncing them. But as Simon noted, these pronouncements only form through the speaker noticing certain tendencies in <i>their own</i> enjoyment and extrapolating from there (Simon stating this would seem to conflict with his attempts to rehabilitate rockism, which is precisely about legislating enjoyment, but that's another issue). So when Simon talks about such concepts, he does begin from the basis of experience. To assert then that such a position held [eg. "M.I.A. is bad" or "Pop music is bad"] is correct and all those who think otherwise are wrong, misled, gripped by false consciousness etc. is simply privileging the speaker's experience over and above any other person's experience, and turning the former into an "indubitable, baseline real".* Whereas I would say that both reactions are equally socially constructed, and therefore the first task of any music critic is to attempt to understand and deconstruct their own enjoyment, to determine how they as subjects or collectives have been sonically and socially produced.

Simply asserting that there is an objective truth about a certain piece of music separate to how it is experienced is akin to Kautsky-style (I could say Stalinist, but that might get people's backs up unnecessarily) scientific materalism - "Whatever appears to be happening, objectively it is in fact [x] that is happening." The point of course is that there is no ontological distinction possible - appearance and experience are part of reality. That's why "subjectivism" is a flawed concept: it assumes that there is an objective world which is separate to any subjective view of it; but the truth of the matter is of course that our gaze upon reality is always part of reality, and it transforms reality-itself as much as it distorts our <i>perception</i> of reality itself - this is what Zizek refers to as "universalised perspectivism" I think.

"I'm still not getting what you're saying, but what worries me about what you are saying is that it seems like capitalist ideology in that it not only maintains a place for, it radically privileges, the position of the consumer-connoissieur. As if there was this substantial bricoleur-ego that stands outside and enters into collectivities, whereas I would say that what we call our 'selves' are simpy the agglomeration-production of processes that are 'without a subject': bricolage without a bricoleur."

No this is not at all what I'm saying Mark! My point was simply that - as above - no collective's response to a musical virus is characterised by undifferentiated unanimity, because of the multitude of viruses that each component of the collective carry. I'm not interested in the individual ("consumer-connoissieur") for him or herself, but rather insofar as the inconsistency and mutability of the collective is both its condition of possibility and precisely what makes it interesting - the consistency of the collective is as much a necessary fiction as the consistency of the individual subject. It is the question that needs to be asked of both collectives and individuals - "what are the processes that shape your experience, and what is repressed in order to give that experience consistency" - that is important.

I get the impression you're trying to read bourgeois consumerism into everything that I write just for the sake of it.

"Why shouldn't responses to art be of the same type? Dancing is no more or less 'natural', no more or less 'social', no more or less 'theoretical' than writing about music."

I agree (I think it was Simon who said that dancing doesn't signify whereas I would argue that it does); but it's highly popist of you to say this!

dominic
20-04-2005, 03:36 AM
To use the viral model, I would simply emphasise that there are always multiple viruses at work in a given situation. When you listen/dance to music, you're both being affected by the virus of the music itself and a multitude of social viruses, which will then influence the nature of the music-virus's effect on you (symptoms, pathology) etc. It's a multilateral relationship - between you and the music-virus, you and social-viruses, the music-virus and the social-viruses. So all I'm arguing against here is the idea of some direct, exclusive relationship between the listener/dancer and the music

tim's argument here seem to me valid

and they accord with experience

that is, i've said repeatedly on this thread -- as an axiom -- that music is most powerful when repeated with and alongside others

AND YET there are also cases of music utterly failing when we experience it w/ others -- i.e., the disappointing show, the bad party

SO HOW do we theorize the art of being a party promoter?

that is, how do we make sense of choosing the proper venue, the right kind of space, for the performance and experience of music

and how do we theorize about trying to draw to such space an "interesting" crowd -- i.e., in circumstances where there is no collective or the collective is weakly held together

THAT IS, isn't the promoter a sort of chemist -- i.e., he knows the properties of the music, the properties of the performers, the properties of this space as compared w/ that space, and the properties of different kinds of people -- i.e., he knows how all these properties will likely interact

or if you prefer, how all these bodies and viruses will likely interact

dominic
20-04-2005, 03:54 AM
somewhere in all this "virus" talk, we seem to have lost sight of each person's capacity to judge some music good and other music bad . . . .

or is this capacity merely a bourgeois illusion?

that is, music afflicts the body -- but the body may also resist -- and the resistance may be effortless or made w/ some determination

MOREOVER, even if we find music powerful, even if we dance to it, we nonetheless reflect on whether we SHOULD like this or that piece music

that is, mind and body are not simply parallel -- they interpenetrate and inform each other

and granted each of us has been shaped by previous music and social viruses -- but surely there is some room here for autonomy -- the autonomous bodily reaction to sound, the autonomous assessment of whether the music is good or bad

again, i say "some room" for autonomy -- not complete autonomy -- but some

ALSO -- i realize that "autonomous bodily reaction" appears to be a manifest contradiction -- but that's perhaps only b/c we don't give enough credit to the powers of the body -- i.e., "reaction" is perhaps not the right word

Tim F
20-04-2005, 04:22 AM
"THAT IS, isn't the promoter a sort of chemist -- i.e., he knows the properties of the music, the properties of the performers, the properties of this space as compared w/ that space, and the properties of different kinds of people -- i.e., he knows how all these properties will likely interact

or if you prefer, how all these bodies and viruses will likely interact"

Yes. Although I think many promoters are still at the medieval physician stage.

"and granted each of us has been shaped by previous music and social viruses -- but surely there is some room here for autonomy -- the autonomous bodily reaction to sound, the autonomous assessment of whether the music is good or bad"

But on what basis can music be good or bad except by reference to previous music and social viruses which have afflicted us?

What appears to be "autonomy" in this sense is, I would argue, more a result of the sonic/social differentiation between components (I'm resisting using the word "individuals" for Mark's benefit) in any collective. Which isn't to say that the body is merely passive; rather that the space for action is a space created and opened up by the operation of "viruses".

Tim F
20-04-2005, 04:34 AM
"MOREOVER, even if we find music powerful, even if we dance to it, we nonetheless reflect on whether we SHOULD like this or that piece music"

Is this not a case of our response to a particular virus (the music we hear) then being mediated through the operation of other viruses which have, as one of their symptoms, may have created musical and social codes which issue an injunction against the symptom (enjoyment) of the first virus?

One might even say it's <i>all</i> the pathology of experience; the capacity to reflect on the worth of a particular pathology is not itself extra-pathological, but is merely the operation of a conflict of pathologies, a symptom of their contest for control of the body.

This is why it is necessary to have a supreme skepticism towards the self-evidence of any our reactions to music; but because these reactions are ultimately the subject of discussion (explicitly or implicitly), this skepticism requires us to foreground our experience and investigate it rather than marginalise it.

s_clover
20-04-2005, 06:54 AM
i'm getting v. confused here, or maybe have been all along.

ok. obv everything is an interacting process and there's no absolute individual ego and one can't distinguish the purely "physical" from other "levels" and blahblaahblahblah so yeah everyone shares therefore some universal-perspectival whateverwhatever.

but then once elements of music (not a track itself obv, b/c that's another assemblage of rhytmic viruses sonic viruses whateverwhatever) are simply some viruses among many, then the whole thing lets go of whatever bite the "viral transmission" thing had in the first place!

this, i think, is what i appreciate about latour's recent move. rather than positing some metaphysical "event" he simply points out that constructionism is by now a very easy and established move to make, and the difficult task is establishing reasonable categories (suitably humble in their claims) of analysis to better understand the surprises and complexities of the constructive process in a action.

i mean dancing (or better yet, not dancing) is obv. a form of "criticism" as is writing. but the point is to deliniate the difference between the two (and between high and low and etc.) in actual practice.

the constructionist move isn't made just once -- rather it's a constant check in the process of establishing a richer and more complex story.

getting ppl. to examine the conditioning and encoded meaning in their notions of "individual" taste is well and good, but getting someone to alter their taste on this basis is one of the cruder, easier, and least effective moves to make. rather, i've found that it's generally the return to the original sites of taste that is the most nuanced and important. ppl. don't grow by rejecting things from repulsion so much as by stages of successive fascination and boredom.

(related and good question -- how does one distinguish between "shallow" boredom of incomprension and "genuine" boredom of deep comprension, or is that always an after-the-fact call?)

(doubly related notion -- perhaps pop music is "good" becuz by definition it is never fully subject to deep comprehension and "genuine" boredom, by virtue of posessing a synchronic rather than genre-marked definition?)

k-punk
21-04-2005, 10:54 AM
Saying "not directly physical social factors" is a bit misleading here on my part, I'll admit. To use the viral model, I would simply emphasise that there are always multiple viruses at work in a given situation. When you listen/dance to music, you're both being affected by the virus of the music itself and a multitude of social viruses, which will then influence the nature of the music-virus's effect on you (symptoms, pathology) etc. It's a multilateral relationship - between you and the music-virus, you and social-viruses, the music-virus and the social-viruses.


Agreed, except this implies that there is a 'you' who isn't viruses....


So all I'm arguing against here is the idea of some direct, exclusive relationship between the listener/dancer and the music, especially (and I'd hope you'd agree here Mark) as that idea rests on a privileging of the <i>experience</i> of that relationship as "true", the "indubitable baseline real." The experience of the pathology is used to attribute certain components to the music-virus in and of itself, but of course the question that needs to be asked is: to what extent is this pathology I'm experiencing the result of the music-virus affecting me, the social-viruses affecting me, or one of those affecting the other in its capacity to affect me?

Again, I'm broadly in agreement with you, except for this notion of a 'me' which is afflcited by rather than constituted out of viruses...


"I think the alleged 'richness' of human responses depends, once again, on this secular religion of the aleatory unpredictability of human beings. Human responses are structurally produced by specifiable sonic and social machineries. Narrativization conceals this because by its very nature it is anti-structural - it plugs gaps and produces continuities."

I agree with this completely! On the point of experience as an "indubitable, baseline real", I would simply stress for the nth time that I have <i>never, ever argued this</i>.

I don't think I implied that you did; I think it has become clear that this is not the basis of our disagreement. However....


I agree that experience is structurally produced, that it is in fact entirely inconsistent, fragmented etc. and only retrospectively does it take on some appearance of continuity and "truth". But, again, <i>this is why it is interesting</i>, and why we must continue to start with it as the basis of our enquiry.

There's an ambiguity here, I think: what does 'basis of our enquiry' mean? Is experience what has to be accounted for (where that accounting would involve all kinds of structural factors) - or is it the final arbiter, what has to be utlimately appealed to? With a genuine structural analysis, you start off with structures and end up with structures and treat experience as an effect of structures, nothing more.


but take issue with [eg. her pseudo-political sloganeering]" is a position which is experienced as a reaction as well as formulated as a theoretical statement. The reason I came onto this thread in the first place was that the consensus forming implied the existence of certain legislative categories for enjoyment - "musical dilettantism is bad", "liking pop is bourgeois consumerism" etc. which were presented as floating free from the position of the speakers pronouncing them.

While I would NEVER say that 'liking pop is bourgeois consumerism' - I would, of course, say that certain accounts of liking Pop are consumerist ideologies - I don't have a problem with legislative categories for enjoyment, naturally; for me the idea that legislative categories are bad is a cult studs doxa that really should be questioned now. For me, the problem with rockist 'legislation' is not that it legislates - it is that its legislation is wrong-headed.

Also, I have no problem with statements floating free from speaker position. Are you suggesting that the only legitimate statements are those that are tied to a particular, presumably embodied, subject position? Again, I would resist that cult studs orthodoxy utterly. The issue for me is not 'speaker position' but theoretical position: contra Nietzsche, it is the consistency of the position, rather than who/ where it comes from, that interests me...


But as Simon noted, these pronouncements only form through the speaker noticing certain tendencies in <i>their own</i> enjoyment and extrapolating from there (Simon stating this would seem to conflict with his attempts to rehabilitate rockism, which is precisely about legislating enjoyment, but that's another issue). So when Simon talks about such concepts, he does begin from the basis of experience. To assert then that such a position held [eg. "M.I.A. is bad" or "Pop music is bad"] is correct and all those who think otherwise are wrong, misled, gripped by false consciousness etc. is simply privileging the speaker's experience over and above any other person's experience, and turning the former into an "indubitable, baseline real".* Whereas I would say that both reactions are equally socially constructed, and therefore the first task of any music critic is to attempt to understand and deconstruct their own enjoyment, to determine how they as subjects or collectives have been sonically and socially produced.

You know that I won't buy any of this.

For a start, it is a circular argument. It is assuming that there is no such thing as truths, that all there are embodied perspectives - and what is the evidence for this - only the claim that this must be true. Any claim about false consciousness is always a claim AGAINST experience. But it is also a claim against the relative autonomy of aesthetics. 'Deconstruction', by contrast, is a transdentalization of the aesthetic; which is to say, a suspension of the ethical and the political in the name of the complexities of the 'text' and its reception.

I'm still not clear what force the concept of 'social construction' has here: how does it operate, what does it do? As far as I can glean, the point of invoking such a concept is entirely negative: it is employed solely to refute the notion of an unmediated encounter with the sonic. And what is the point of 'deconstructing one's experience'? Why do it? This seems to the closest thing to a bottom line here: the tracing back of one's enjoyment to certain 'social' factors. But unless there is some ethical or political - which is to say LEGISLATIVE - impulse here, all you are left with is the kind of resentful guilt-mongering demystification that Brit cult studs made its own. That is what I have always found so depressing about cult studs: its apparent populism (hey you can't tell people what to like!) nevertheless is always accompanied by what it professes to object to in other positions (namely the belief that you can know better than other people what their enjoyment is). Simply pointing to the 'social' 'construction' of one's enjoyment seems to me of no more significance than doing a chemical analysis of coca cola... The issue is not how the experience of coca cola has been constructed by stim of certain bio-social responses, but whether people SHOULD drink coca cola at all...

And what is repressed in such relativist discourses is their own legislative impulses - i.e. we quickly encounter the familiar relativist paradox whereby the legislation that legislation is bad is immediately disavowed. Such inconsistencies are of course treated as vindications of/ within deconstructive discourse.


Simply asserting that there is an objective truth about a certain piece of music separate to how it is experienced is akin to Kautsky-style (I could say Stalinist, but that might get people's backs up unnecessarily) scientific materalism - "Whatever appears to be happening, objectively it is in fact [x] that is happening."

Better Stalinism than Nietzschean cult studs obviously!

part 2 below

k-punk
21-04-2005, 10:55 AM
part 2


The point of course is that there is no ontological distinction possible - appearance and experience are part of reality. That's why "subjectivism" is a flawed concept: it assumes that there is an objective world which is separate to any subjective view of it; but the truth of the matter is of course that our gaze upon reality is always part of reality, and it transforms reality-itself as much as it distorts our <i>perception</i> of reality itself - this is what Zizek refers to as "universalised perspectivism" I think.

But you sound to me as if you are pushing that in the Nietzschean direction - collapsing appearance into reality - when the other alternative is to push everything onto the side of the 'objective' (I'm none too happy about this binary either). To say, in other words, that the gaze isn't part of or transforms reality - how does this not reinforce the binary that is ostensibly being deconstructed? - but that the gaze is itself produced by the Real.

My problem with what you seem to be saying here and in general is that there is no space from which to criticize aesthetic choices.... The Marxist-Spinozist-punk position would straightforwardly say that people can be WRONG... both ethically and epistemologically... It would deny that this position is yet another 'perspective', arguing that it is only from the perspective of perspectivitism that it can appear that way. The point is that there are standards (ethical, veridical) that are independent of human beings.... This seems to me to be the fundamental point of divergence between 'Popists' and others... Anti-Popists are happy to be judgemental, to take the risk of holding an ethical positon, a committed stance THAT MAY TURN OUT TO BE WRONG.... But relativism can never be wrong, because it has removed the very category...



"I'm still not getting what you're saying, but what worries me about what you are saying is that it seems like capitalist ideology in that it not only maintains a place for, it radically privileges, the position of the consumer-connoissieur. As if there was this substantial bricoleur-ego that stands outside and enters into collectivities, whereas I would say that what we call our 'selves' are simpy the agglomeration-production of processes that are 'without a subject': bricolage without a bricoleur."

No this is not at all what I'm saying Mark! My point was simply that - as above - no collective's response to a musical virus is characterised by undifferentiated unanimity, because of the multitude of viruses that each component of the collective carry. I'm not interested in the individual ("consumer-connoissieur") for him or herself, but rather insofar as the inconsistency and mutability of the collective is both its condition of possibility and precisely what makes it interesting - the consistency of the collective is as much a necessary fiction as the consistency of the individual subject. It is the question that needs to be asked of both collectives and individuals - "what are the processes that shape your experience, and what is repressed in order to give that experience consistency" - that is important.

But it is the opposition between collectives and individuals that is the problem for me. As if 'collective' just meant 'group of individuals', as if there were some 'private' space beyond collectivity...



I get the impression you're trying to read bourgeois consumerism into everything that I write just for the sake of it.

No, I'm honestly not. I just can't distinguish your position from a sophisticated version of consumer capitalism is all. Ultimately, my problem would be with deconstruction as a methodology. It's abundantly clear that deconstruction poses no problems for capitalism at all --- how is providing a nuanced account of a consumer response an ATTACK on consumerism rather than a re-presentation of it?

I'm also especially puzzled by the relationship of Zizek to your position. Again, I'm sure I'm STILL not getting it, but it seems to me that much of your position is what Zizek has been most dedicated to destroying over the past couple of decades...


"Why shouldn't responses to art be of the same type? Dancing is no more or less 'natural', no more or less 'social', no more or less 'theoretical' than writing about music."

I agree (I think it was Simon who said that dancing doesn't signify whereas I would argue that it does); but it's highly popist of you to say this!

No, it's more the Kodwo position, I would have thought. I didn't say dancing 'signified', though, that would be grotesque! ;)

Tim F
21-04-2005, 02:42 PM
"Agreed, except this implies that there is a 'you' who isn't viruses...."

I would distance myself from that implication.

"There's an ambiguity here, I think: what does 'basis of our enquiry' mean? Is experience what has to be accounted for (where that accounting would involve all kinds of structural factors) - or is it the final arbiter, what has to be utlimately appealed to? With a genuine structural analysis, you start off with structures and end up with structures and treat experience as an effect of structures, nothing more. "

The problem here is that you <i>do</i> appeal to experience Mark - your own comments in relation to Scritti Politti are good examples of this. And it's precisely because everyone who discusses music in the intimate manner that we do implicitly appeals to experience that it is what needs to be accounted for. No-one in this debate is sufficiently disinterested enough to get around this.

"While I would NEVER say that 'liking pop is bourgeois consumerism' - I would, of course, say that certain accounts of liking Pop are consumerist ideologies - I don't have a problem with legislative categories for enjoyment, naturally; for me the idea that legislative categories are bad is a cult studs doxa that really should be questioned now. For me, the problem with rockist 'legislation' is not that it legislates - it is that its legislation is wrong-headed. "

I don't have a problem with legislative categories per se either, but in this case they seem to mostly be arising <i>out of</i> individual experience (again, individual experience is what is implictly being appealed to even as it is outwardly scorned), and so there is somethingly deeply contradictory about them.

"But it is the opposition between collectives and individuals that is the problem for me. As if 'collective' just meant 'group of individuals', as if there were some 'private' space beyond collectivity... "

I have been attempting to avoid this oppositional terminology in my last few posts for this very reason. Again, I disavow any interest in or commitment to the status of the individual within the collective. What interests me is the fact of difference within the collective, but that difference can be expressed in components of which the individual is but a part, or components which make up the individual - components and individuals are not synonymous.

"Also, I have no problem with statements floating free from speaker position. Are you suggesting that the only legitimate statements are those that are tied to a particular, presumably embodied, subject position? Again, I would resist that cult studs orthodoxy utterly. The issue for me is not 'speaker position' but theoretical position: contra Nietzsche, it is the consistency of the position, rather than who/ where it comes from, that interests me..."

My concern is not that statements are illegitimate if they're not tied to a particular subject position; rather, it's that they're often presented as not being tied to one when in fact they are. Legislative categories don't transcend or escape experience and perspective merely because the person espousing them says so. Especially when the evidence being put forward to support them is experience! In other words I'm somewhat loathe to trust someone who is a music critic first and foremost when they claim that liking or disliking certain musics is philosophically/politically unsound.

BTW, as to whether what I am saying disagrees with Zizek, I suspect that he would say that "speaker position" is very important, only not in the same way that most post-structuralists would. As I understand him, for Zizek there is a single truth to any particular situation and only the repressed, abject speaker-position has access to it - eg. the jews in relation to the Holocaust; the third world/sweatshop workers/slum dwellers in relation to modern capitalism etc. Their "truth" is that they <i>are</i> the truth of the situation.

"For a start, it is a circular argument. It is assuming that there is no such thing as truths, that all there are embodied perspectives - and what is the evidence for this - only the claim that this must be true. Any claim about false consciousness is always a claim AGAINST experience."

I'm not claiming that there are no truths, but I always immediately suspect any position which sets itself up as being anti-ideological in symmetrical opposition to false consciousness. You know that Western capitalists did this all the time in relation to Communist Europe.

"My problem with what you seem to be saying here and in general is that there is no space from which to criticize aesthetic choices...."

There is a space, and that space would of course be outside the aesthetic (or, rather, outside the aesthetic's terms of reference). But none of the grand claims I ever see rockists or anti-rockists or anti-popists make ever seem to be genuinely motivated by some extra-aesthetic imperative. What motivates the Anti-Popists who are happy to be judgmental, to hold ethical positions, other than their own aesthetic criteria? The political edge which can be attributed by critics to grime/post-punk/pop-that-creates-populations/Bob Dylan/Bob Marley/etc. seems like post-facto argument-bolstering to me, a restrospectively issued license-to-enjoy. Which isn't to stay that the perception of a political edge can't itself be enjoyed, but then we are still stuck at the enjoyment level.

Simon can say that M.I.A.'s music falls short for him because she comes from "nowhere", but this attempt to come up with an explanation that fuses the political, social, cultural and aesthetic is ultimately a way of explaining an aesthetic preference. As Simon himself says, his conclusions arise out of patterns within his own taste, his own experience of music. So again experience creeps in as the implicit ground. To determine whether these preferences might have some extra-aesthetic political validity, we would need to understand the ideology of Simon's enjoyment.

"Ultimately, my problem would be with deconstruction as a methodology. It's abundantly clear that deconstruction poses no problems for capitalism at all --- how is providing a nuanced account of a consumer response an ATTACK on consumerism rather than a re-presentation of it? "

Very few positions on aesthetics pose problems for capitalism, Mark. But I don't think the point of music criticism is the ultimate destruction of capitalism (if it is then my own is profoundly pointless). The celebration of the politics of the explosive act/event (which, and correct me if I'm wrong, someone like Bourdieu might say is the only thing that can really disrupt capitalism) (and I hardly consider post-punk or glam or grime or whatever to qualify as an event of such magnitude) is all well and good, but it kinda cancels out aesthetic criticism entirely. Rockism, popism, anti-popism... all of those fade into irrelevance in the face of the kind of requirements you're setting (I could be wrong though, maybe your brand of critique really does pose a threat to capitalism.)

But anyway I'm more heavily influenced by someone like Machery than I am by deconstructionists per se.

"I'm also especially puzzled by the relationship of Zizek to your position. Again, I'm sure I'm STILL not getting it, but it seems to me that much of your position is what Zizek has been most dedicated to destroying over the past couple of decades... "

Zizek isn't opposed to post-structuralism/deconstruction/cultural studies point blank, although he might strongly oppose certain recurring strands within them. Disputes over eg. whether Lacan was a transcendentalist and whether that's a good or bad thing aren't a good enough reason to just walk away from 50 or so years of lots of insightful (if occasionally flawed) thinking.

Tim F
21-04-2005, 03:42 PM
"Simply pointing to the 'social' 'construction' of one's enjoyment seems to me of no more significance than doing a chemical analysis of coca cola... The issue is not how the experience of coca cola has been constructed by stim of certain bio-social responses, but whether people SHOULD drink coca cola at all... "

The difference however is that your objections to coca cola presumably rest upon the fact that it's unhealthy, not the nature of its enjoyment. So the injunction against drinking is based on something other than the enjoyment, it is a subordination of enjoyment to another type of concern. (if your objection is based on the fact that coca cola is a multinational, the logic remains the same)

Whereas with pop music, the question is whether the enjoyment itself is good or bad (or healthy or unhealthy). The injunction against enjoying pop in a certain manner is based on the fact of enjoyment being in that case, as you yourself say, expressive of a consumerist ideology. Presumably your ability to say this is predicated on an assessment of how that enjoyment is socially constructed?

blissblogger
21-04-2005, 04:22 PM
>What motivates the Anti-Popists who are happy to be judgmental, to hold ethical positions, other than >their own aesthetic criteria?

so in your view Tim all music criticism is at heart and in the end just a massively elaborated expansion on the statement "i dig it? This might in fact be the case for all i know, but what's more interesting is to ask: if you think that's the case, then i wonder why do think it's worth bothering to do? because it seems to me nothing could be more pointless than undertaking such detailed anatomies of one's own pleasure. perhaps it is pointless (the thought has crossed my mind a fair few times over the last two decades!) but when i see the tremendous diligence and finely tuned attention to detail you bring to bear in your own writing about music. i just find it hard to believe that you don't secretly believe there's some truth value to your analyses, and that it might be worth doing for some sake or other beyond merely doing it. That might be a myth or illusion but equally i don't see how one could operate, put fingers to keyboard, without believing in it.

>Simon can say that M.I.A.'s music falls short for him because she comes from "nowhere", but this attempt >to come up with an explanation that fuses the political, social, cultural and aesthetic is ultimately a way >of explaining an aesthetic preference. As Simon himself says, his conclusions arise out of patterns within >his own taste, his own experience of music. So again experience creeps in as the implicit ground. To >determine whether these preferences might have some extra-aesthetic political validity, we would need >to understand the ideology of Simon's enjoyment.

didn't particularly want to bring it back to this again but since you've brought it up -- well my position is a tad more complex than that. for a start in the original piece i acknowledged that the record was enjoyable, up to a point. i've never been one of the "it's a shit record/she can't MC for shit" camp. it's enjoyable, but in fact where it falls short is not the hedonics/aesthetics (although they don't seem overwhelmingly compelling to me) so much as all the (thoroughly rockist!) reasons that people had supplied for why she's "important", a "complex artist" etc. Ie. it's the non-hedonic, extra-aesthetic credentials that both the artist and supporters have proferred that I questioned. The lyrics don't stand up for me, I think the point that Space Is the Place guy made about "one liners and moderately interesting beats" captures it well.

In terms of the infamous "nowhere" comment, again I must point out that i said Arular was from nowhere, not MIA. And this is a very clear reference to the fact that while the record is modelled on various musics that operate around scenius-dynamics and are locally situated, Arular itself is unplugged from those scenius-dynamics. Any intertextuality the record possesses is much more of a pop order (the references to Missy and Timbaland -- bit cringy, that lyric, dare i say it) rather than the intertextuality that a dancehall or grime record has, where each record is a part of a greater whole, a contribution to a collective conversation. Arular is much more like a commentary on those conversations (hence my analogies of the essay on the Black Atlantic, or a diasporic studies phD in fine fleshly form -- especially given that the commentary/essay is addressed to an entirely different audience, the music-fan equivalent of academia, ie, bloggerland). (well perhaps not addressed to consciously, but certainly 'read' by -- and maybe addressed to, given there's a thank you in the CD booklet to Paul Kennedy, as far as he can tell, for starting an ILM thread about Piracy!).

Now this unplugging/meta-scenius/meta-street syndrome has a whole bunch of effects, and one of them is a certain lack of "fire"; the pressure that lies behind dancehall/grime/baile/hip hop/etc, that is vented through those musics, is to me palpably absent. It is a cooler record, emotionally, than the things it is inspired by. But of course it's possible that some people may not actually want "fire". For me "fire" is perhaps something like the happy overlap of the aesthetic and the political-social-etc, it's where the two categories are inextricably intertwined and inseparable and possibly even the same thing. It's not unique to scenius-type dynamics or street musics by any means, although in recent years arguably those have been the place to look for it, given the state of rock. but that perhaps is the ideology of my enjoyment that you refer to -- fire worship.

(this of course being far from an exhaustive account of my enjoyment of music, which encompasses a whole bunch of non-fiery musics, most recent on my turntable being Fripp/Eno's no pussyfooting/evening star, durutti column 'LC)

Woebot
21-04-2005, 05:11 PM
i've never been one of the "it's a shit record/she can't MC for shit" camp

This is true.

dominic
22-04-2005, 12:07 AM
except this implies that there is a 'you' who isn't viruses

this is the kind of grand claim that makes me skeptical . . . .

and it's why i wouldn't entirely dispense with experience as an arbiter of truth

if each of us has a sense of himself -- the "me," the "I" -- then at the very least you have to account for that sense

the sense that there's something separable about "me"

that there's a "me" that stands apart from all that has constituted me

something like the soul in plato -- a soul that is born w/ the body and which then dies w/ body

call me superstitious, but i've yet to be persuaded that each of us doesn't have his own soul or identity that is qualitatively different than the dna or social factors or viruses that constitute it


Again, I'm broadly in agreement with you, except for this notion of a 'me' which is afflcited by rather than constituted out of viruses

i think the me that has already been constituted by viruses experiences the new viruses as affliction

and i think, moreover, that there is something about this "me" that is not reducible to viruses and dna and all such other factors


There's an ambiguity here, I think: what does 'basis of our enquiry' mean? Is experience what has to be accounted for (where that accounting would involve all kinds of structural factors) - or is it the final arbiter, what has to be utlimately appealed to? With a genuine structural analysis, you start off with structures and end up with structures and treat experience as an effect of structures, nothing more.

experience has to be accounted for, yes

experience explained as the effect of certain structural factors

AND YET experience is also the final arbiter, what must ultimately be appealed to

b/c otherwise what's the arbiter? logical consistency? theoretical elegance?

what's to prevent a perfectly logical account from being nothing other than a beautiful poem?

and really, this is to obscure the meaning of the term "logical" -- which is not so much about consistency as it is about gathering together


contra Nietzsche, it is the consistency of the position, rather than who/ where it comes from, that interests me...

then you're going to far in the other extreme

it seems to me that you have to be interested in both -- i.e., take both seriously

philosophy must concern itself with consistency AND take seriously the speaker's particular nature and position

if the drive for theoretical consistency does too much violence to the truth of human diversity, or if we forget the particular nature of those who make the drive for consistency -- then we've fallen into a kind of error


Any claim about false consciousness is always a claim AGAINST experience.

yes -- but the argument must still appeal to experience in the final instance


But it is also a claim against the relative autonomy of aesthetics. 'Deconstruction', by contrast, is a transdentalization of the aesthetic; which is to say, a suspension of the ethical and the political in the name of the complexities of the 'text' and its reception.

i'm sympathetic to your argument here


I'm still not clear what force the concept of 'social construction' has here: how does it operate, what does it do? As far as I can glean, the point of invoking such a concept is entirely negative: it is employed solely to refute the notion of an unmediated encounter with the sonic.

and i'm also sympathetic on this point, and all the remaining points you make

dominic
22-04-2005, 12:37 AM
The problem here is that you <i>do</i> appeal to experience Mark - your own comments in relation to Scritti Politti are good examples of this. And it's precisely because everyone who discusses music in the intimate manner that we do implicitly appeals to experience that it is what needs to be accounted for. No-one in this debate is sufficiently disinterested enough to get around this.

i agree with tim f on this point


I don't have a problem with legislative categories per se either, but in this case they seem to mostly be arising <i>out of</i> individual experience (again, individual experience is what is implictly being appealed to even as it is outwardly scorned), and so there is somethingly deeply contradictory about them.

yes -- but experience is the ground for any truth claim -- perhaps not the ultimate ground -- but it's certainly what we all work from and, in the last instance, appeal to -- how else do you persuade others if not by way of an account that accords with their own experience?


My concern is not that statements are illegitimate if they're not tied to a particular subject position; rather, it's that they're often presented as not being tied to one when in fact they are. Legislative categories don't transcend or escape experience and perspective merely because the person espousing them says so.

so are you suggesting that legislative categories can indeed be valid DESPITE being tied to a particular subject position?

this seems to me the proper suggestion to make


But none of the grand claims I ever see rockists or anti-rockists or anti-popists make ever seem to be genuinely motivated by some extra-aesthetic imperative. What motivates the Anti-Popists who are happy to be judgmental, to hold ethical positions, other than their own aesthetic criteria? The political edge which can be attributed by critics to grime/post-punk/pop-that-creates-populations/Bob Dylan/Bob Marley/etc. seems like post-facto argument-bolstering to me, a restrospectively issued license-to-enjoy.

yes -- but what about blissblogger's remarks about "fire"?

and again, he's not saying that music that has "fire" is the only music worthy of enjoyment -- merely that it's the most powerful kind of music


Which isn't to stay that the perception of a political edge can't itself be enjoyed, but then we are still stuck at the enjoyment level.

or perhaps the perception of political edge has yet to be properly theorized


Simon can say that M.I.A.'s music falls short for him because she comes from "nowhere", but this attempt to come up with an explanation that fuses the political, social, cultural and aesthetic is ultimately a way of explaining an aesthetic preference. As Simon himself says, his conclusions arise out of patterns within his own taste, his own experience of music. So again experience creeps in as the implicit ground. To determine whether these preferences might have some extra-aesthetic political validity, we would need to understand the ideology of Simon's enjoyment.

this seems to me a reasonable argument -- so long as you clarify what you mean here by "ideology"


Very few positions on aesthetics pose problems for capitalism . . . . But I don't think the point of music criticism is the ultimate destruction of capitalism . . . . The celebration of the politics of the explosive act/event (which, and correct me if I'm wrong, someone like Bourdieu might say is the only thing that can really disrupt capitalism) (and I hardly consider post-punk or glam or grime or whatever to qualify as an event of such magnitude) is all well and good, but it kinda cancels out aesthetic criticism entirely

unless events like punk or rave are premonitions of the truth

i.e., the power of such events may be said to instill in their subjects dissatisfaction with the existing order of things -- this is a side effect of the event's power -- and so the power of the musical event perhaps works as a premonition (or glimpse) of the truly explosive event that will disrupt capitalism

or maybe it's all a matter of carnival

carnivals that are perfectly consistent w/ the perpetuation of the standing order

k-punk
22-04-2005, 12:39 AM
so in your view Tim all music criticism is at heart and in the end just a massively elaborated expansion on the statement "i dig it?

Well, exactly. And I wonder in which ways this postion differs from that of the so-called Popist straw man? Isn't the reduction of all discourse about music to aestheticist opinionism precisely what Popism was being accused of above?




"There's an ambiguity here, I think: what does 'basis of our enquiry' mean? Is experience what has to be accounted for (where that accounting would involve all kinds of structural factors) - or is it the final arbiter, what has to be utlimately appealed to? With a genuine structural analysis, you start off with structures and end up with structures and treat experience as an effect of structures, nothing more. "

The problem here is that you <i>do</i> appeal to experience Mark - your own comments in relation to Scritti Politti are good examples of this.



1. That isn't answering the question, it's evading it. I'm still not clear on what you think the 'basis of our enquiry' means.

2. It replaces one ambiguity with another. What does 'appeal to experience' mean? That one mentions or refers to 'experience' (which is itself becoming an increasingly mystified category) as part of one's analysis? Or that you treat experience as the first and final narguable arbiter of all discussion as you now appear to want to? I might do the former, but never the latter.

3. This is an ad hominem attack which might at a stretch establish some inconsistency between my theoretical position and how I have practised critiicsm, but that does nothing to invalidate the former.



And it's precisely because everyone who discusses music in the intimate manner that we do implicitly appeals to experience that it is what needs to be accounted for. No-one in this debate is sufficiently disinterested enough to get around this.

But 'accounting for' experience is the OPPOSITE of appealing to it. You seem to be sliding from one to the other.



"While I would NEVER say that 'liking pop is bourgeois consumerism' - I would, of course, say that certain accounts of liking Pop are consumerist ideologies - I don't have a problem with legislative categories for enjoyment, naturally; for me the idea that legislative categories are bad is a cult studs doxa that really should be questioned now. For me, the problem with rockist 'legislation' is not that it legislates - it is that its legislation is wrong-headed. "

I don't have a problem with legislative categories per se either, but in this case they seem to mostly be arising <i>out of</i> individual experience (again, individual experience is what is implictly being appealed to even as it is outwardly scorned), and so there is somethingly deeply contradictory about them.

This is the classic Nietzschean anti-rationalist move; don't talk about theory, speculate about motives. What is your evidence - beyond the circular argumentation you're deploying here and in previous posts - for this assertion about the provenance of judgements?

By 'individual experience' you don't obviously mean ''the experience of an individual person/ subject' - otherwise you would be immediately contradicting yourself when you disavow any special interest in the individual below. Individual experience seems then to mean some phenomenological singularity which you now appear to be treating as primordial. Subjects 'have' these experiences - which seem for all the world IN THE FIRST INSTANCE to be unmediated - which then apparenty function as the sole motivation for any critical stance - or as you might prefer, 'speaking position' - they adopt. It is then, it appears, that 'structural' analysis can come into play: but basically as an theoretical ornamentation of an unarguable baseline aestheticism. Precisely, then, 'a massively elaborated expansion on the statement "i dig it?"'

part two below

k-punk
22-04-2005, 12:40 AM
Part two




"But it is the opposition between collectives and individuals that is the problem for me. As if 'collective' just meant 'group of individuals', as if there were some 'private' space beyond collectivity... "

I have been attempting to avoid this oppositional terminology in my last few posts for this very reason. Again, I disavow any interest in or commitment to the status of the individual within the collective. What interests me is the fact of difference within the collective, but that difference can be expressed in components of which the individual is but a part, or components which make up the individual - components and individuals are not synonymous.

"Also, I have no problem with statements floating free from speaker position. Are you suggesting that the only legitimate statements are those that are tied to a particular, presumably embodied, subject position? Again, I would resist that cult studs orthodoxy utterly. The issue for me is not 'speaker position' but theoretical position: contra Nietzsche, it is the consistency of the position, rather than who/ where it comes from, that interests me..."

My concern is not that statements are illegitimate if they're not tied to a particular subject position; rather, it's that they're often presented as not being tied to one when in fact they are.

Once again, this is the Nietzchean orthodoxy underlying Cult Studs. The fact that sometimes such positions can be 'pathologized' does not mean that all positions are pathological.


Legislative categories don't transcend or escape experience and perspective merely because the person espousing them says so.

Nor can all legislative categories be tied back down to experience because a Nietzschean relativist says that they can.


Especially when the evidence being put forward to support them is experience! In other words I'm somewhat loathe to trust someone who is a music critic first and foremost when they claim that liking or disliking certain musics is philosophically/politically unsound.

Why? Because music critics have a duty first and foremost to be aesthetes and to recognize music as a relative autonomy?


BTW, as to whether what I am saying disagrees with Zizek, I suspect that he would say that "speaker position" is very important, only not in the same way that most post-structuralists would. As I understand him, for Zizek there is a single truth to any particular situation and only the repressed, abject speaker-position has access to it - eg. the jews in relation to the Holocaust; the third world/sweatshop workers/slum dwellers in relation to modern capitalism etc. Their "truth" is that they <i>are</i> the truth of the situation.

Yes, but this is Marxist as opposed to Nietzschean perspectivism, and it seems to be highly misleading to use the former to legitimate the latter. For instance, the proletariat have access to the truth of capitalism precisely because they can transcend their positioning within the social system. The position of the proletariat is attained only when people cease to trust their own experience as members of the working class and identify with a universal substanceless subject. This is precisely where the emphasis on false consciousness comes from: until they attain class consciousness, people _experience themselves_ as individuated wage slaves who deserve a life of emiserating labour etc. Hence Zizek's relentless, tireless emphasising of the theme of 'unplugging' : what you are unplugging from is your assigned 'speaking position'.

As for the Jewish issue, my understanding is that Zizek makes exactly the OPPOSITE move to the one you are suggesting. He precisely does not defend Jewishness as a 'speaking position'; that's why he celebrates Freud's Moses and Monotheism which destroys the very basis of the faith, the very idea that there is some 'agalma' that Jews possess. It was the Nazis who ascribed a 'speaking position' to the Jews; Freud's genius, as Zizek understands it, was to have undermined the possibility of occupying that speaking position.

Part 3 below (gasp!!!!)

k-punk
22-04-2005, 12:41 AM
Part 3


"For a start, it is a circular argument. It is assuming that there is no such thing as truths, that all there are embodied perspectives - and what is the evidence for this - only the claim that this must be true. Any claim about false consciousness is always a claim AGAINST experience."

I'm not claiming that there are no truths, but I always immediately suspect any position which sets itself up as being anti-ideological in symmetrical opposition to false consciousness. You know that Western capitalists did this all the time in relation to Communist Europe.

Well, certainly positions can be wrong. But the most ideological position of all is one that refuses to take a political position; or worse, that assumes that there is some zone - in this case aesthetic - which lies outside the political.



"My problem with what you seem to be saying here and in general is that there is no space from which to criticize aesthetic choices...."

There is a space, and that space would of course be outside the aesthetic (or, rather, outside the aesthetic's terms of reference).

But that presupposes the very point at issue: to wit, is there an 'inside' of the aesthetic - i.e. an outside of the political?


But none of the grand claims I ever see rockists or anti-rockists or anti-popists make ever seem to be genuinely motivated by some extra-aesthetic imperative. What motivates the Anti-Popists who are happy to be judgmental, to hold ethical positions, other than their own aesthetic criteria? The political edge which can be attributed by critics to grime/post-punk/pop-that-creates-populations/Bob Dylan/Bob Marley/etc. seems like post-facto argument-bolstering to me, a restrospectively issued license-to-enjoy. Which isn't to stay that the perception of a political edge can't itself be enjoyed, but then we are still stuck at the enjoyment level.

Again, what is the evidence for this, beyond speculative supposition in the service of a circular argument? Even as an account of experience, this seems to me profoundly wrong. Surely it is clear that people have PRE-facto dispositions: Goth kids will often be relucant to like pop, hip hop kids will be ill-disposed to like indie etc etc. The point is enjoyment NEVER floats free from 'license to enjoy' - but the idea that such 'licences to enjoy' are ONLY issued post-facto on the basis of an (again, it would seem, unmediated) miraculated 'experience of enjoyment' seems to bear no relation to reality.

The conclusion I would have to draw from your claims here is that, for instance, Greil Marcus wrote Lipstick Traces, trawled through all those situationist and dadaist texts, produced all those disquizitions on the irruption of the political into everyday life, because he 'enjoyed' the Sex Pistols and wanted to rationalize that 'aesthetic preference'? This is to miss the point that the 'enjoyment' of the Sex Pistols primarily consisted in the fact that THIS WAS NOT JUST AN AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE. The whole force of the punk attack on Prog was fundamentally a rejection of the allegedly pure aestheticism of Prog. For punk, pop was bad because it had withered into - perhaps had always been nothing but - a 'leisure' activity ---- surely it should and COULD be about a new way of thinking, living, being....


"Ultimately, my problem would be with deconstruction as a methodology. It's abundantly clear that deconstruction poses no problems for capitalism at all --- how is providing a nuanced account of a consumer response an ATTACK on consumerism rather than a re-presentation of it? "

Very few positions on aesthetics pose problems for capitalism, Mark.

So deconstruction is now (merely) a 'postion on aesthetics'? Not a philosophical position about the generation of meaning, the production of subjectivity, the nature of writing and language?



But I don't think the point of music criticism is the ultimate destruction of capitalism (if it is then my own is profoundly pointless).

Once again, this presupposes that any writing about 'music' is 'music criticism' in your restricted hyper-aesthticized sense.


The celebration of the politics of the explosive act/event (which, and correct me if I'm wrong, someone like Bourdieu might say is the only thing that can really disrupt capitalism) (and I hardly consider post-punk or glam or grime or whatever to qualify as an event of such magnitude) is all well and good, but it kinda cancels out aesthetic criticism entirely. Rockism, popism, anti-popism... all of those fade into irrelevance in the face of the kind of requirements you're setting (I could be wrong though, maybe your brand of critique really does pose a threat to capitalism.)

I'm completely happy to rule out all aestheticist criticism altogether.

And, sorry, I know I'm supposed to bend my head and say, no, no, my brand of critique doesn't pose a threat to capitalism, I apologize for getting above myself, but actually I do believe it can be effective, which is why I attempt to practise it. No, it won't lead to a cataclysmic collapse of capitalism tomorrow, but reading Badiou, Zizek etc certainly has had an impact on the way I live my life, on how I behave at work, on what struggles I involve myself in, on how I view myself and how I treat others. It poses a challenge to me that I seek to live up to. And of course Pop can function in the same way for me, and has.

Again, this is precisely my irritation with Popism: its obsession with Pop as relative autonomy conceals a deep aggression AGAINST Pop. You are only permitted to discuss your enjoyment of Pop, because Pop can only be enjoyed, and that enjoyment can only be aesthetic. Obligatory trivialization. DON'T FOR ONE MOMENT THINK THAT POP CAN BE IMPORTANT.

But, sorry, I do think it is important, and the reasons it is important have nothing to do with nimble bass lines.



"I'm also especially puzzled by the relationship of Zizek to your position. Again, I'm sure I'm STILL not getting it, but it seems to me that much of your position is what Zizek has been most dedicated to destroying over the past couple of decades... "

Zizek isn't opposed to post-structuralism/deconstruction/cultural studies point blank, although he might strongly oppose certain recurring strands within them. Disputes over eg. whether Lacan was a transcendentalist and whether that's a good or bad thing aren't a good enough reason to just walk away from 50 or so years of lots of insightful (if occasionally flawed) thinking.

Not sure what the dig about Lacan is supposed to establish, but I am sure that Zizek is dedicatedly opposed to the bits of cult studs and post-structuralism that you seem to want to celebrate. His postion could not be further from aestheticism and he is a psychoanalyst, so by defintion, he won't be celebrating experience (psychoanalysis being based on the presupposition that 'experience' just is false consciousness).

Tim F
22-04-2005, 04:35 AM
"As for the Jewish issue, my understanding is that Zizek makes exactly the OPPOSITE move to the one you are suggesting. He precisely does not defend Jewishness as a 'speaking position'; that's why he celebrates Freud's Moses and Monotheism which destroys the very basis of the faith, the very idea that there is some 'agalma' that Jews possess. It was the Nazis who ascribed a 'speaking position' to the Jews; Freud's genius, as Zizek understands it, was to have undermined the possibility of occupying that speaking position."

You're mischaracterising my statement, Mark. I said that Zizek said the Jews were the only ones who could speak the truth <i>about the Holocaust</i>, no that they have an ongoing speaking position as such. My use of "speaking position" is entirely situational, eg. "what position is the speaker in at the moment that they speak?"

"1. That isn't answering the question, it's evading it. I'm still not clear on what you think the 'basis of our enquiry' means.

2. It replaces one ambiguity with another. What does 'appeal to experience' mean? That one mentions or refers to 'experience' (which is itself becoming an increasingly mystified category) as part of one's analysis? Or that you treat experience as the first and final narguable arbiter of all discussion as you now appear to want to? I might do the former, but never the latter.

3. This is an ad hominem attack which might at a stretch establish some inconsistency between my theoretical position and how I have practised critiicsm, but that does nothing to invalidate the former."

To the extent that it's an ad hominem attack, it's because I believe there is a short circuit at work in your position, whereby an attack on the role of experience in any aesthetic judgment concludes with a sleight-of-hand reinstatement of experience. If experience was irrelevant, was not a starting point, the actual sonic or stylistic properties of any piece of music (early Scritti Politti or whatever) would be strictly irrelevant to their worth (the point being that, whatever model you use to explain how one is affected by music, viral or otherwise, these properties are only recognised insofar as they are experienced). Saying that the body has an unmediated relationship to the sonic properties of the music may appear to bypass consciousness but it doesn't bypass experience (and anyway while I agree that the body can be affected by the music without much recourse to consciousness I don't think this ever happens in isolation).

I believe that music can have politically/socially/culturally transformative effects and this is worth celebrating (or decrying in some rare instances I guess), but, in terms of making an aesthetic choice on this basis, it is still mediated through experience. eg. the issue for Greil Marcus is how he experiences the Sex Pistols as politically subversive, what inspires him to start making the connections that he does, and this would be a certain experience of and enjoyment of the Sex Pistols' subversiveness, and a realisation that this links in with other experiences/enjoyments of subversiveness that he has had, eg. with situationist art. Of course Greil (and goth kids and indie kids) can have "pre-facto dispositions" but I think these dispositions are determined more by how their enjoyment has been structured.

I'm not saying that eg. the Sex Pistols' political subversiveness is illusory, that Marcus makes it up to dress up his enjoyment. Rather, I'm saying that it is first experienced and enjoyed, and then theorized and championed. Subversiveness (if you'll allow me to be terribly reductive about it) becomes for Greil what "fire worship" is for Simon.

"Well, certainly positions can be wrong. But the most ideological position of all is one that refuses to take a political position; or worse, that assumes that there is some zone - in this case aesthetic - which lies outside the political."

Well it's lucky that I don't hold such an ideological position. I'm happy to take a political position but I don't assume that in doing so I have escaped false consciousness or ideology (and i certainly don't assume I've done this with regard to my music enjoyment or criticism, which as you say doesn't lie outside the political). As far as I'm concerned, as much as I think that Zizek has more than anyone tried to think through and thus pass through ideology, he remains within ideology as we all do, he doesn't escape what he theorises. It's not that ideology is some inevitable universal, just that i think it's very very very very hard to move outside of.

"I'm completely happy to rule out all aestheticist criticism altogether."

This is the clincher, isn't it? I'm not. I realise that this is a fetishistic persistence on my part, but if you don't share in that fetish I'm surprised that you care about music much at all; it would hardly seem to be the most exciting or crucial pressure-point in the anti-capital struggle.

(re whether there is an "inside" to aesthetics that is outside of politics, I agree with you that there is not; I think of aesthetics not as being devoid of politics so much as being willfully blind towards it most of the time; I myself am wilfully blind insofar as I find that blindness to be a useful and enjoyable pursuit)

"reading Badiou, Zizek etc certainly has had an impact on the way I live my life, on how I behave at work, on what struggles I involve myself in, on how I view myself and how I treat others. It poses a challenge to me that I seek to live up to. And of course Pop can function in the same way for me, and has."

So this sort of answers the above question, but then I remain totally confused as to how it is anything other than the <i>experience</i> of Pop that has had such a profound effect on you.

"And, sorry, I know I'm supposed to bend my head and say, no, no, my brand of critique doesn't pose a threat to capitalism, I apologize for getting above myself, but actually I do believe it can be effective, which is why I attempt to practise it."

I should stress Mark that I wasn't being nasty or sarcastic when I suggested that perhaps your style of criticism was a threat to capitalism. I meant that, precisely to the extent that your brand of criticism is prepared to do away with aesthetics, it potentially becomes more purely revolutionary politics. I cannot hold my own criticism to that standard, I'm afraid. Please allow me to concede to you on this point (indeed, i suspect that this is the ultimate end-point of our argument, and i'm fully prepared to walk away from it at this point - I mean that good-naturedly, by the way). Again though, it makes me wonder at the relationship between your anti-experience position and your claim that Pop has profoundly affected you.

What I would like to particularly stress at this stage (as the conversation seems to be drifting more toward the heated side of things) is the extent to which my own sense of the relationship between my musical enjoyment and my broader philosophy/politics feels as if it as the "questing" stage, and I don't pretend to have worked out anywhere near as coherent a position on these things as you have. This may mean that I should just shut up but I've been loathe to do that because debating these points with you is a good way of running through these issues with myself.

Tim F
22-04-2005, 04:38 AM
Simon re your comment about <i>Arular</i> coming from nowhere, I wasn't questioning its truth value (an issue better left to the More Maya thread, and since I haven't heard all of <i>Arular</i> I don't really want to engage with the debate except on a tangential level), and your elaboration of your position above is pretty sensible I reckon. But surely you would agree that what that elaboration ultimately attempts to account for is what you perceive as <i>Arular</i>'s lack of fire? If <i>Arular</i> impacted you like a top-notch dancehall and grime record, would you have been so focused on distinguishing it from those?

The response to this question might be (and I'm not putting words into your mouth, Simon, just trying to play devil's advocate with myself) "well, that's impossible, M.I.A.'s music is structurally incapable of impacting in that manner because it doesn't arise from within the internal dialogue of a scene. So asking this question is getting it the wrong way around."

To which I'd then say: Okay, but obviously there are critics who <i>do</i> think that it impacts <i>them</i> in the same manner as dancehall or grime (see Chuck Eddy's rather extraordinary position that M.I.A. outperforms all dancehall since "Under Mi Sleng Teng"!), and those people seem to fall all over the shop from popists to rockists, so it can't simply be related to a meta-position on how we should enjoy. It is something about the enjoyment itself - specifically, your enjoyment Simon, and how it differs from that of others (to put it in K-Punkian terms, what are the structures which have produced your enjoyment as an effect).

And what is this difference:

"but that perhaps is the ideology of my enjoyment that you refer to -- fire worship."

So what we've done very quickly and painlessly is established why you like M.I.A. but are not blown away, contra critic x, y, and z. Of course I felt that this is what you did in your original article anyway, which I was absolutely fine with, but then unlike others I already had a sense of the role of fire worship in your enjoyment.

" i just find it hard to believe that you don't secretly believe there's some truth value to your analyses, and that it might be worth doing for some sake or other beyond merely doing it. That might be a myth or illusion but equally i don't see how one could operate, put fingers to keyboard, without believing in it."

Do any music critics (except Mark perhaps) successfully avoid suffering intermittent crises of faith? I know I have these all the time, though it's a point of honour for me now to never shut down my blog in some grand statement. What propels me to continue is not some revolutionary belief or some insistence on the truth value of my statements but rather the further enjoyment I derive from investing my capacities back into my enjoyment of music. Which is why I have insisted that I am a popist.

s_clover
22-04-2005, 06:00 AM
b/c my reading of zizek is absolutely *against* a position that aesthetic choices of enjoyment are important. zizek near completely insists on at least the *illusion* of autonomy of the "cultural" sphere and the sphere of the real, and near as i can tell is tremendously cynical towards culturalist projects for social transformation, or the delusion that choices of consumption can mean anything, when in fact the most "radical" choice of consumption remains within the *framework* of the consumptive act and so constitutes a displacement of unease with the world-as-it-is in "totality" onto an element of that world, providing a *perverse* enjoyment of mild self-abnegation. the vegitarian yuppie, etc.

i mean, if zizek has a gripe with the anti-smoking lobby, is he really gonna have a problem with drinking COKE?

i mean if you want to say i trivialize pop, i can't speak for anyone else but yes -- i do trivialize it -- i enjoy it as pop and nothing more -- i enjoy the act of consumption as the act of consumption and nothing more, rather than finding some displaced "subversion" within it. i recognize full well that the realm of symbolic exchange is not to be challenged within its rules and logic, with the mistake of substituting an act of consumption for striking a blow against consumerism. you think that's nuts -- fine. but how do you drag zizek into this? if anything, his take on cultural enjoyment is a varient of the old lacanian notion of "talking through the fantasy."

oh, and the zizek subject-position debate seems to bypass his reading of lacan's four subject-positions of discourse? (i.e., the master signifier, the signified, the observer(?), and la petit a -- the last being the position of the therapist, the detective etc., and also a position never fully attained, or rather attaind in the process of laying claim to it; i.e. whose full constitution involves the dissolution of the discourse?)

Tim F
22-04-2005, 06:22 AM
I tend to agree with yr reading Sterling. Zizek usually revels in his own enjoyment and its pathological quality, and doesn't seem at all compelled to subordinate his tastes to a political programme at all - because of, as you say, his suspicion of the usefulness of doing so.

k-punk
22-04-2005, 01:30 PM
Are we reading the same Zizek?

Clearly not Sterling: but in what sense have you read Zizek at all? Clearly you've read some of the words (with notable exceptions, see below), but to ask the question 'how dare you bring Zizek into this' actually beggars belief. I mean that literally, I am stunned, aghast.

To go from Zizek's rejection of facile cult studs gestural micropolitics (the view, also rightly exoriated by Baudrillard that watching TV is an act of resistance) to the idea that pheww, coast is clear, get the beers in chaps, it's OK just to enjoy, Slavoj says so, is a leap so stupefying I can hardly credit it. Surely Zizek's most famous move is his critique of enjoyment (i.e. the superegoic injunction to enjoy).

Perhaps a subtle clue that Zizek just might think there are political implications to enjoyment is given in the subtitle of this (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/185984460X/qid=1114173073/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/202-3091865-9891029) book.

To be clear:

Like Adorno, Deleuze-Guattari, Baudrillard, cult studs, in fact everyone who isn't a teenager and or an American, Zizek of course recognizes that acts of consumption are inherently and of their nature political and psychoanalytic. He doesn't buy into a silly commonsense binary between consumption and 'serious' things.

He does reject the idiotic notion from cult studs - doubled in consumerism per se - that changing your buying habits (i.e. buying organic carrots from hippies in Wiltshire) is making a political change.

HOWEVER that is not to say that reading or listening to music cannot CONTRIBUTE to a transformative political project. They do so PRECISELY WHEN THEY CEASE TO BE acts of consumption and affect ppl's structure of living.

As for coke, you clearly haven't read his famous analysis of coke-consumption in The Fragile Absolute. It's repeated here (http://www.egs.edu/faculty/zizek/zizek-superego-and-the-act-1999.html)