Mentoring the 21st Century

I promise I’ll post up some political thoughts soon – specifically on the Occupy movement and on economics. The thoughts are there, but they’re still much too nascent…

In the meantime, yesterday I sent off an application to Youth Arts Queensland for assistance to undertake a mentorship with François Nicolas in Paris for a few months next year. For the application, I asked him to write two short paragraphs on the artistic and professional advice he will be able to offer as part of the mentorship. Of course – and rightly so – François largely ignored this and instead wrote a wonderful theoretical statement, the opening of which goes:

It will be a matter of supervising an artistic research project bearing on what musical intellectuality might mean for a young composer having not directly known, qua composer, the 20th Century.

If one situates themselves resolutely after serialism and its counter-currents (spectralism, minimalism, neo-tonalism…) of the preceding century, what are the effects upon a possible musical intellectuality proper to the beginning of the 21st Century?

He then went on to elaborate on various questions arising in the field of criticism (which pieces are relevant?), theory (what new logics are available?), and aesthetics (what new relationships does musical practice proper maintain with other regimes of thinking: philosophy, politics, science, psychoanalysis, other arts?).

Two things in particular that I like in the above quote are:

1) The point that I have not known, as composer, the 20th Century. I hadn’t really thought about it in this way, but it is true: I did not subjectively experience, from the inside, the movement of thought in The Century. I’m very glad that Nicolas frames my mentorship this way. It opens up a space for the new generation. Our relationship to the last century will necessarily be different – perhaps ‘flawed’ from the perspective of someone who was part of it, but “it is a matter of usage and continuation”: how do we ‘sublate’ this massive century?This is the same in politics. We should be excited by this. Of course this is an immense problem.

2) The materialist way of talking about situating oneself in the world as producing effects on a musical intellectuality: set an axiom with only very amorphous and indiscernible ontological outlines, and then slowly deduce the effects of this in the world (via construction), clarifying the axiomatic as things progress. Now, if we’re to be more Badiousian about this, it is not a matter here of one substituting this more existential approach over the attentiveness to evental flickering or upsurges, but rather that this axiomatic-deductive stance is a kind of ‘ethics of the interim,’ which both Badiou and Nicolas more or less espouse.


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