3.26.2009

And

(And) I would hate to seem to reduce the concerns of my writing down the merely selfish ones, but, here I am, in my late twenties, still interested in making a great record, in DJing, in doing all the things that follow from having been turned on to techno and house, my punk music, way back in my very early teens, and yet, the assumed sense that I had for so many years, that participating in this culture had ramifications beyond my own self, is something that I have believed less and less as the decade has worn on. 

While this need for "something more" could be seen as me covering my ass, not wasting the benefits of my middle-class upbringing and education "messing around" with music when I could be doing something "more constructive", I would rather try and figure out why it is now me, not my parents or some outdated notion of society filled with men in grey flannel suits, that is so unsure.  

Following On From...

It was certainly right to define my last post before the cat picture as clutter and not a real essay. I would certainly need to go back and reread a lot of books before taking a stab at turning that into a real critique, something I am not in the position to do at the moment, but I still want my readers to understand that, even if I can't quite explain it as well as I should, I have addressed something fundamental to the issue of "what is wrong with music" in 200x. Anyone coming to this site knows that, on the one hand, there are certainly plenty of great records coming out, and yet, no record is a piece of a larger picture, but rather is the totality of the picture itself. Anyone who grew up in the shadow of punk, post-punk, hardcore, and rave in the broadest sense surely must feel a lack if their interest in music went beyond simply the sound music itself.  

When I speak of the religious in music, in art, it is not that those sentiments directly mirror, or should mirror, the exact sentiments of actual religion, but certainly there was some confluence. Choosing certain sounds, certain instruments, and using them in certain ways had moral implications for artists, even if there was and is no intrinsic morality in sound. In other words, and following from earlier writing, there is no inherent superiority to sampling versus making ones own sounds, or lush reverbs versus dry recordings or improvisation versus through-composition. But what unites ABC and the Sex Pistols and Basic Channel and Production House is that, whether explicitly so or not, the sounds that were deployed were deployed with some sort of critical perspective, a reasoning based on beliefs that were broader that the simple desire for self-expression that any artist has. With the failures of this discourse external to the artist, the failure of the quasi-religious discourse, this assumed and redundant rationale for artmaking, self-expression, which used to be interrogated, becomes not the invitation to discourse but its closure, the self being inviolate. The question that must be asked of any work at all now must not be whether the work is any good, but rather, should it have been made at all?

3.18.2009

Hang In There


Two more RoCs tomorrow.


RoC Fragment 2: A Theory Of Recent History

Marx once said that "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce." I have been thinking about this saying in the context of the death of religion, and, although my thoughts don't quite match the structure of Marx's, here is the outline from what I was working on. Probably a lot more writing would turn this into a truly insightful essay...

If we cite, either in deference to Nietzsche or purely for the convenience of this theory, this death as having happened sometime in the late 19th century, then what followed was the massive transferring of religious energies into other social realms. Looking back, it is easy to see how art and music, and certainly politics, replaced religion as the "organizing force" around which the same modes of religious discourse were repeated. There were the same talks of purity and impurity, the same fervor, the same willingness to kill for something greater than a life, and the same intellectual zeal that early Catholics must have felt while enumerating the various types of sins, etc., and writing on the nature of belief. 

The tragedy of this era is apparent, of course. First, for the religious person, the tragedy of a language developed for holy concerns now quotidian, secondly, the tragedy of death, of how all of these modes of belief played themselves out in an era of mass murder, and lastly, the tragedy that, in the end, it all failed. The twentieth century left us with nothing but an unwillingness or fear of ever feeling that way again. Which brings us to the farce.

Sometimes it seems to me there is nothing quite as foolish now as conviction. Look behind the critiques of religion made everywhere from academic circles to late-night comedians to certain sectors of the worlds of art and music, and what seems to mocked is not just the particularities of religious belief, ie that the earth was created in six days, etc., but belief itself, the idea that anyone could hold anything to be true at all. In fact an infamous London bus campaign invites us all to "stop worrying"and "enjoy" our lives.

But what is worrying if not, at least in an intellectual sense, the attempt to reconcile what is with what could be? Do these seemingly progressive atheists understand the nihilism behind their statement?  

While it is true that there are better gods than God or Hitler, certainly it is not me.

RoC Fragment 1: Thought On Burial

(After/Sub K-Punk)

I made a distinction between retro and nostalgia in the "Music Post-Baudrillard" essay below, and I want to discuss it further by giving a quick example.

The interesting contrast between Burial (yes count me as another typical Leftists [temporarily] ex-raver fan), is that, while he renovates past styles, the music itself is not contingent on recognition. It works as music in and of itself.  Contrast that with, say, the worst mash-ups or Girl Talk. With this music, retro to its core, the pleasure in the music is purely from recognition. If there is any interesting clash of meaning, some purposeful collision that alludes to a perspective on the part of the artist, it is incidental, possibly accidental (Rauschenberg didn't make these records). Rather the whole purpose of the music is to ask "do you remember?". Burial assumes you do. Burial knows you can't forget.

Rid Of Clutter Introduction

As I said form the outset, I want to write great long essays instead of publishing fragments, but somehow the fragments that have been adding up here are not acting as catalysts for great writing but are instead preventing it. What follows are some of my pet theories, etc., some of which I may include in later writing. Think of this as Pensees but without the same level of coherence or intellectual rigor.

3.14.2009

Interesting Notes On Changes In Capital

Some great notes to a talk I hope someone will archive somewhere (before summertime).

At the risk of coming off like the only thing I have ever read in my lifetime is the first chapter of Simulacra and Simulation, I can't help but feel there must be some comparison between speculative capitalism and the concept of the simulacra as laid out in that work.  In the same way that the map covers and then replaces the physical real of the territory it used to merely depict, the world of finance capitalism, speculative capitalism, seems like an edifice built on nothing.  It is a purely intellectual construction, based on a collective belief in values that are not tied to a physical reality, the same house gaining and losing value while the rights to collect on the loans are traded a thousand miles away.  

In a sense, the choice to sever the tie between paper currency and gold can be seen as the real beginning of the current era of finance capitalism, a faith-based economics.  In this context, the language of bubbles and bursts seems so unsatisfying.  There seems to be this idea that there is some sort of real value to return to, when value itself is speculative.  The stock market is a very costly mood ring.

Maybe.

Also noted in the linked-to article is the IKEA model of the transferring of collective work back to the individual.  No story of this decade can be told without a significant section on how DIY was inverted from a seemingly anti-capitalist gesture into the apotheosis of capitalism itself.  What unifies the seemingly disparate narratives of, say, the record-making process, MySpace, and grocery shopping is that at the same time as some sort of middle has been cut out, debatably, another level of alienation has been added.  It is useful to think in threes, for instance:

1.  Raw materials.
2.  The added value provided by physical and intellectual labor.
3.  The act of purchasing or consumption.
and

1.  The global realm of the undifferentiated.
2.  The realm of mediation.
3.  The individual.

The story of this decade is the story of the loss of "2", and the transference of the labor of "2" on to "3".