Low End Theory. A book by Nomos

luka

Moderator
but still very strange when you consider the importance of purposeless causality to deleuzian metaphysics - in contrast with music, for which purpose and intentionality are obviously central
Im not sure Im following you here.
 

vimothy

yurp
just that music is characteristically purposeful whereas for delueze the universe is purposeless, so there's almost a strange contradiction lurking in the background when music theorists draw on the language of delueze which doesnt ever seem to be addressed
 

luka

Moderator
If Deleuze isnt worried about whether kafka bacon proust etc is purposeful/purposeless I don't really see why this should trouble music critics. Again, perhaps I'm missing something.
 

luka

Moderator
One of the things I would say about the sonic body, if I take it over and ignore what anyone else might have said about it, is that it doesn't share the same limitations as our physical bodies and can dance what they cannot.
 

other_life

bioconfused
jumpin in to say music doesn't *have to* be about intentionality, though. it can be something you're just compelled to do, certain gestures and movements you're drawing from the wider field of sound, the song is only in potential, only implicit until you draw it out, carve it out, there doesn't have to be a goal in mind or even a loose concept or thinking/feeling it as 'a sequence of choices'
which for me resonates lots w the idea of 'purposeless causality', no?
 

luka

Moderator
jumpin in to say music doesn't *have to* be about intentionality, though. it can be something you're just compelled to do, certain gestures and movements you're drawing from the wider field of sound, the song is only in potential, only implicit until you draw it out, carve it out, there doesn't have to be a goal in mind or even a loose concept or thinking/feeling it as 'a sequence of choices'
which for me resonates lots w the idea of 'purposeless causality', no?
Well said
 

nomos

Administrator
First, please excuse any lapses on my part - it’s almost ten years since I wrote most of the text.

just that music is characteristically purposeful whereas for delueze the universe is purposeless, so there's almost a strange contradiction lurking in the background when music theorists draw on the language of delueze which doesnt ever seem to be addressed
Vimothy: Well spotted. That gets to the heart of the book: forcing that contradiction. On one hand, it’s a sonic-cultural history (lots of stories), but a strange one because it starts from the sonic rather than the cultural. It lets vibration lead us around - cutting across the ’sites’ around which humanities/soc-sci work is usually organized (i.e. they usually ask: “How is sound/music in whatever place/time reflective of the culture”). I try to develop an understanding of the work vibration does in advance of ideas about - i.e. “not what we make of bass, but what it makes of us: […] how does it draw bodily thought into new equations with itself and its surroundings.” There are no “case studies”, just “tales of becoming” (ideas emerging from vibratory encounters), “sonic fictions” (reflections/speculations) and “affective strategies” (“what can we do with this…?”), all of which are grouped together as a “myth-science of the sonic body.”

(One of my reviewers thought theoretical scaffolding wasn't entirely necessary but that it made for an exciting read, nevertheless (“a stimulating sonic haze,” in fact). I disagree, but I wrote it to also be readable as a collection of tales in themselves.)

To assemble the above I draw on theory that seems to already have a good sense of vibration in its autonomy: Guattari, Deleuze, Massumi, James, Eshun, Sun Ra. Sometimes it’s a bit earnest and that’s because of the environment I was in: popular music studies, cult studs PhD where social construction (“the world is only what we make of it and never the other way around”) was rigidly normative and everything is reducible to authorship and the implied intentionality behind all things worth thinking about. For me, this is all coming together before Jane Bennett (“vibrant matter”) and that wave of “New Materialist” work, ca. 2010, that similarly treats materiality as autonomous and constitutive of the social. So I had to make my own tools.

Back to intentionality and sound: the first proper chapter (“Spectral Catalysis: Disquieting Encounters”) looks at various forms of “hauntings” (ghosts, Hums…) in which anomalous vibrations have been implicated. It focuses on inadvertent exposure to infrasound and situations in which very powerful but unheard vibration elicits unsteadyingly synaesthetic responses (e.g. visual anomalies, dermal effects, etc.) to a “something” that’s otherwise not perceived. A jarring “presence-absence” effect emerges. Weird, largely sub-perceptual vibrations texture space and catalyze thought about what’s happening and how to work with it. Culture responds (E.g. the idea of “ghost” as coping mechanism) but it’s playing catch-up.

From there, I’m looking at how religious cultures, artists, musicians (and some scientists, architects, writers, etc.) have recognized sound’s structuring agency, studied bodily responsivities, and experimented with ways of channelling and intensifying vibration for various purposes, generally with at least a tacit acknowledgement of the openendedness and unpredictability of the situation. So intentionality returns but can never take over. It follows, reacts, speculates, prods, teases…
 
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vimothy

yurp
Thanks nomos, that's very interesting. I think understand: your subject is (low-end) sound rather than music per se, which might overlap with music in certain, perhaps paradoxical, ways - for example one might experience a purely functional and deeply physical sound like a generator hum musically, or design a piece of music to evoke it.
 

vimothy

yurp
jumpin in to say music doesn't *have to* be about intentionality, though.?
music doesn't have to be about intentionality to be music in the same way that a conversation doesn't have to be about intentionality to be a conversation, but a conversation has to be about something - it has to be intentional - to be a conversation.
 

luka

Moderator
A lot of it rhymes with this very famous passage from the poem Prediction Tablet, although here the context is word

"Now a lot of it is transmitted as pressure alone
So weight of it, as force transmitted through it- see it?
Degree of tenderness degree of strength,
as touch, felt at skin receptor site
Maternal to paternal axis
Weights and measures
Where the force locus?
Where generated?
How applied?
Torque inclement
Gale force precipitating
Cyclonic
Atmosphere disturbance
Abnormal fluctuations
In instruments
Spatial acoustic dimensions of the
Frame-cavern-extent-cave-chest
Echo location very advanced sensing equipment
Speaking out of what depth, what extremity torn this utterance/against that cyclonic torque withstood
In that tearing
Lashed that is, to the mast"
Think about what is referred to as 'the great organ music" of Marlowe and Shakespeare.
 
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