Friday, October 21, 2011

fragments picking up from this but also chiming with this


always had this suspicion that the drive towards in-ESSENTIAL-ism – the centripetal drive away from monoculture, the canon, the idea of a music or band that has universal applicability -- while seemingly valuable in its anti-totalizing drive -- ultimately had a tendency (unintended but latent, creeping, insidious) towards inessentialism

once you rid yourself of that tyrant, THE ESSENTIAL – the thing that everyone should pay attention to -- what ultimately transpires is that everything becomes equally inessential

and the solipsistic narrative of "i like this, i don't like that" is all that's left

(and why, unless you're a personal friend, should i care about anyone's completely individual and idiosyncratic taste-patterns or journey-through-music-consumption)

if the confidence that what you are writing about could and should matter to “all” withers away... it is replaced by diffidence

and diffidence is never going to shake anybody out of indifference

the abandonment of the desire to occupy the central place means that there is never a moment of usurpation, coup d'etat, transfer of power... the throne is perpetually empty

it is an opting out of the dialectic altogether, in favour of pluralism... coalition government... shuffle politics... stasis

or to bring it back to Jarvis and his scented candles, the end result of getting rid of "THE CENTRAL" has been that music as a (diffuse, scattered, dissipated) totality has become less central in the scheme of things


the consequences of the (post-broadband) revolution in listening habits = no revolution(s) in music

as once anticipated (in both the predictive and looking-forward-to senses)

the triumph of this vision can now be seen to be pyrrhic

it's a musical-cultural landscape that is flattened and voided -- placid and flaccid

as atemporality takes hold and the privatization of music experience intensifies, you just have an archival wasteland of spent signifiers, that are, fatally,not fully dehistoricized yet (and therefore not yet capable of being repurposed)

a state of entropy, i.e. music as dead energy, energy that can't be put to "work"

less and less capable of being used to generate stances

Taste-stances that are also life-stances

Taste positions that are also subject positions

what has declined in this is the role of music in identity formation

as a result musical choices (by consumers) and aesthetic decisions (by musicians) carry less and less freight

the decision of e.g. Zola Jesus to "go Goth" is far less meaningful than the people who formulated Goth as a look/sound/worldview

the struggle behind that formulation – psychological/personal, social... and just the sheer creative effort to create a new form.... is largely absent

the style/stance is taken from the repertoire of existing, established, archival stances (sound /sartorial)

And there are few consequences or resonances to its adoption – or stakes

Goths, once, risked ridicule, occasionally even attack, for the way they look

Long since acceptable, part of the menu of quasi-subcultural looks, it’s been on fashion runways, it’s underpinned mainstream movies (Tim Burton)

it’s a choice, an option, a flavor

subculture involves putting on the clothes and not taking them off – investment without divestment

today, under the aegis of plus/and aka everything/and, to side with one music and its corresponding identity does not require you to reject or oppose any other

antagonistic and nihilatory energy is not capable of being generated through your likes

perhaps all that (serious choices, taking sides, identity-as-stance-as-moral-choice) now lies outside the realm of music – back where it should be even – in politics

and people keep asking 'where's the soundtrack, the songs, for this political moment(s)?' (student protests/street riots/Occupy____)

perhaps there isn't ever going to be one, or any... perhaps it's not needed... perhaps the relationship between the two is finally uncoupled, for good

(and maybe that is "for good" in the literal sense)

further reading

1 comment:

  1. Very astute points/conjectures, especially in the second half. The bit about "an archival wasteland of spent signifiers" and entropy really got at the heart of something I'd been thinking for some time -- something I'd intuited, but hadn't tried to nail down in concrete terms.

    As far as the bit about using Goth as an example -- interesting. But I remember something almost exactly like that happening with punk back in the early-mid 1990s. Like after Rancid became a bit deal, and on the the streets you quickly saw a lot of "fashion punk" kids fastidiously sporting the archetypal (but ultimately specious) "classic" UK punk look.

    But yeah -- funny thing how the punk and goth played out in its first-gen run, in the way (as you indicate) it was part of subcultural identity formulation & whatnot. The aesthetics of such stuff were tied up with positioning oneself in some sort of contrary position to the dominant culture (or so the rationale had it at the time). Which perhaps played a part in why punk and goth music was always so dodgy. To many of those in each respective "scene," it didn't matter if the music of artist x, y, or z was "good" or "bad" -- just so long as it was sufficiently punk/goth.

    Dunno if that last part made any sense, if I explained it as well as I could've. But the only similar thing I can think of that's of slightly more recent vintage is in the metal scene -- what, with all the business of declaring "false metal" on this, that, and the other.