[NetBehaviour] Doing music among the digital, philosophy in real-time

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sat Feb 27 00:55:03 CET 2010



Doing music among the digital, philosophy in real-time

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so beginning, a list of topics (re)created almost in a dream or trance
state:

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1. presence of flesh. Investing in playing a physical instrument of the
traditional type involves thinking through the presence of flesh. Playing
string instruments for example results in constant manicuring: nails,
skin, and muscle are shaped, exercised, and controlled, as much as
possible, using operations that seem efficacious. Work-arounds, kludges,
are also cultivated so that, for example, if a nail splits or muscles
cramp, other means of continuing play are available. One is never far from
the flesh, which asserts itself during production. (The production perhaps
is also the production of flesh, of a certain inscribing of flesh.)

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2. what the flesh can do. The flesh inheres between interior and exterior,
mind and sounding objects in the world. The flesh is both subject and
object; the player intends through tending. The flesh of the mind and body
is of the fabric of time, inheres within a phenomenology of human time-
consciousness that absorbs and renders a body within musical production.
The body is continually rendered during production, both present and
forgotten, autonomic and abject-inert. (Human time-consciousness: think
organism time-consciousness as well: what constitutes flesh, then; what
constitutes sounding objects?)

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3. recoil of the body. The body recoils from forgetting, stating its
limits which are the limits of production in the world. The recoil is
that of death: beyond this speed or stretch, for example, one cannot go.
This is usually taken for granted, set-aside, just as the sounds of flute
or saxophone keys, or cello bow reversal, are set aside, but it - this
barrier - is integral to musical production. Let me also place, then,
under the aegis of recoil, all those sounds, necessary and often consid-
ered parasitic, accompanying what one is intending; I also assert that it
is these sounds, subtextual, almost subterranean, that constitute the
true-real of music, that assert world and worlding among a displaced
purity - which, however, already harbors the digital at its core. (I
assert? one asserts... is asserted...)

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4. tending the real. As with the tending of flesh for playing, there is
also the tending of the real: what one plays is tended-to, placed with a
potential potential well, keeping an instrument safe and ready for
production. As with everything else, instruments tend to decay; if this
isn't checked, the music itself falls apart, and tending the real moves
from the autonomic to control of anomaly in production - for example,
taking into consideration finger-board warping, pad leaking, or small
cracks that might develop in chromatic harmonicas. (Of course this also
reinscribes the music, which is now of these anomalies as well, part and
parcel of production.)

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5. irreducibility. Because of parasitism, the history of an instrument,
the tendencies of the flesh and the real, the very moment of sonic produc-
tion is irreducible; technique only goes so far, even on an electronic
keyboard. To the extent that production occurs in real-time, unless one is
using a digital recording device (and perhaps even then, outside of
keyboard), what one is doing possesses a fundamental surplus or Benjaminic
aura that differentiates one session from another, one musician from
another, as if there were unique events in real-space, real-time. This is
basic to rock-thought, punk-thought, and musical romanticism; it is also
fundamental to music itself. Even one replay of a digital recording (cd
for example) is different from another, as habitus and environment subtle-
ly change. The industrial revolution resulted in equivalent instruments
(for example the Boehm flute or saxophone), but their presence is always
of separation and a unity that speaks of communality, as in horn sections
of big bands or orchestras. (Or think, for example, of violins-in-unison:
clearly differentiable!)

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6. inhabiting in real-time. Instrument and player inhabit real-time; so
often in improvisation, for example, what occurs, occurs in an expanded
present that appears horizonless, if it appears at all. Rather, there is
the continuous doing and undoing of structure, remembrance of things past
and subconscious projection of things future, which may or may not appear,
as the dialog between instrument and player may take one elsewhere than
what one has 'thought,' if such projections are of thought (and not, for
example, of a pauseological nature) at all. (Pauseological: subterranean
structure not yet 'filled' or fulfilled, a basic concept in enunciation.)

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7. 'purity' of structure. I am playing something and the doing and undoing
of structure is of the purity of structure, undermined and presenced with
and among the abject. The purity of structure is the purity of the world;
in this sense the world is always (already) pure, just as wave equations
and quantum fields are pure. We drift towards greater levels, macro-levels
in the world, ignoring the fine-structure or seething granularity that
constitutes the cosmos - ignoring (for it appears deeply unknowable and
irrelevant) the generation of dynamic objects and information, from which
or of which, we may be, along with those objects and information, only
projections at a distance. So a purity of structure, seething structure
always (already) under deconstruction, is the constitution of the cosmos
within which we play, unknowingly, that constitution and its harmonic
deconstruction.

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8. deconstruction of 'purity' of structure. This goes literally without
saying, a deconstruction through the presencing of noise: look at the
dialogic/dialectic: between noise and structure, abjection and purity,
flesh and sounding, metaphor and explanation - all occurring within time,
within the real-time of improvisation. So improvisation unravels what it
ravels; in another century, this might have been called the pursuit of
life itself. (And deconstruction of edge-phenomena: what occurs as
diacritical or 'curlicue,' peripheral, as well.)

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9. philosophical emergence. On one hand the utterly trivial production of
music, and on the other, emergence after the face, recuperation of
critical thought. But critical thought emerges through trivial production;
it is the interaction of flesh, consciousness, the autonomic, and
structure, that creates a different discursive space. Every philosophy
demands a writing which is simultaneously elsewhere than real time,
inhabited and uninhabited. The room for thought is not the lived thought
of musical production. Or is it? Is there a philosophy within the real-
time of its production, a philosophy that perhaps dies or dies out after
the production itself?

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10. tied into digital habitus. It is the digital that, beyond tissue,
sickness, and death, inhabits us; it is the digital, unrecognized and
seething, that we inhabit. Our production within the cosmos is also our
distance from it, an inauthentic distance constructed from potential wells
and the remnants of inscriptive processes designed to ward off just about
everything: death, dream, menses, semen, feces, wounds and illnesses -
anything (ignorantly? popularly? mythologically?) smelling of pollution,
discomfort, breakdown of musical structure. This is of course old news;
what is different is the substrate, violation or virtual fabric everywhere
and nowhere at all. What does one do with the neutrino? proton? electron?
quark? Higgs boson? knowledge of the K-meson? Inscription and naming? The
habitus is the production of sound - or paint, dance, or body, rite, or
ritual. If there is deity, it is the digital itself, that division among
virtual + and - (and the rest of it), everything and nothing at all -
which is also everything. All this (buzzing) confusion disappears in the
care and caress of the flesh, tending of an instrument or lover, following
one following through sound through and beyond conclusion.

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11. inhering within the digital. How to do this? From Plato on mud, the
last sections of Being and Nothingness Duvignaud's Change at Shebika,
Kristeva's Powers of Horror, Chatterton, Swinburne, Lingis, Gilman, any
number of contemporary books and theses - one moves through the history,
phenomenology, and habitus of the abject. When my fingers throb in and
beyond the act of improvisation, the abject asserts itself. But what is
this? The residue of inscribing, as well as inscription: the chalk-dust or
debris of writing, the wearing-down or annihilation of inscription: the
presence of inscription and philosophy as real-time phenomena - events,
not occasions, processes, not states. (The aegis of the digital kernel,
its processes, undermines the horizon.) Improvisation is living through,
and recognizing, the simulacrum, the uncanny and imaginary habitus; it
draws worlds under erasure. As organisms, we are among ourselves; as
producers of sound, we vibrate woods and metals and skins and air and
worlds, things in the process of unthinging. We slide against ourselves,
absorb and project the analogic, retain a sense of continuity, forgo
inescapable and alien truth. From music we know that we emerge from the
virtual; the vacuum and its energy are in our bones. Philosophy enters,
passes through, and disappears; philosophy grounds our unknowingness as
organisms, tethers us for a moment: philosophy dreams the unaccountable,
accountable; philosophy murmurs the habitus of essence and existence,
purity and impurity, analogic and digital; philosophy creates inscription
under the sign of erasure; philosophy is not; philosophy _becomes._

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32,33c32,33
ered parasitic, accompanying what one is intending; I also assert that it
is these sounds, subtextual, almost subterranean, that constitute the
ered parastic, accompanying what one is intending; I also assert that it
is these sounds, subtextual, almost suberranean, that constitute the
51c51
keyboard), what one is doing possesses a fundamental surplus or Benjaminic
keyboard), what one is doing possesses a fundamental surplus or Benaminian
63c63
present that appears horizon-less, if it appears at all. Rather, there is
present that appears horizonless, if it appears at all. Rather, there is
91c91
9. philosophical emergence. On one hand the utterly trivial production of
9. philosophical emergence. On one hand the utterly trival production of
107c107
everything: death, dream, menses, semen, feces, wounds and illnesses -
everything: death, dream, menses, semen, faeces, wounds and illnesses -
154c154
its processes, undermines the horizon.) Improvisation is living through,
its processes, udermines the horizon.) Improvisation is living through,

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