The highly alienated vanguard of musical consciousness

Recently I’ve found myself incredibly busy with political tasks – in fact for the last few months. Hence very few posts here. This is not to say that I’m not thinking. Quite the opposite. It has just had to develop in a different way out of necessity. It’s proving to be very productive (the nature and conditions of that productivity will be the subject of another post I hope).

But this weekend I’ve taken off to read about and listen to music and think about next steps musically. So a few posts on this blog are in order.

Throughout this last period my thinking on music has developed subterraneously, in spare moments of brain.

I’m increasingly seeing music in the totality of social relations, but while not reducing it to a mere ‘expression’ of these prior relations, as vulgar materialists would have it. This is the relative autonomy idea that I’ve been on about again, but it has been made much clearer after reading Doug Lorimer’s brilliant Fundamentals of Historical Materialism (although François’ theory is still critical for making this picture crystal clear for music). It’s simply a matter of conceiving musical development as a process of both internal and external dialectics. That it has an internal process (or processes) means that its existence in itself and for itself is undeniable. Music exists.

Additionally, I am thinking more and more about music as a decisive component in the development of the capacities of the human body – but conceiving this in the grandest sense. Permit my rhetoric, but it must be world-encompassing and world-transfiguring. It has to be sung and felt. The song and the dance. Music’s essence isn’t sound (which is then supposedly represented or alienated in the score), but the material production of song and dance. That capitalism inhibits this and keeps us desiring so much wretched 4/4 120bpm pop music with simplistic harmonic and phrase rhythms is in keeping with the dumb repetitive rhythms of its own production and the stultifying effects it has on us in other arenas. (Needless to say this way of thinking is dependent upon a critique of the Badiouian paradigm that I was working in previously. I’m intending on writing this critique up and posting it here, but while it is currently sketched, it would take some time before getting to sit properly.)

So my music, ‘abstract’ in a sense, is part of the highly alienated vanguard of musical consciousness (this phrase started out as a joke with some of my comrades in Socialist Alliance, but I quite like it, humour and all). And by ‘consciousness’ I mean the typical aesthetic fusion or dialectic of the intelligible and the sensible; and by ‘highly alienated’ I mean it still needs to have a relationship with the more advanced bodies (insofar as they can to a degree ‘sing’ and ‘dance’ this music), and by ‘vanguard’ I mean there are always more than one vanguard because the development of music as a social totality will emerge (is always emerging) from different national, cultural and historical (and I should add simply, musical) contexts.

Of course, this vanguard needs the political vanguard to create the conditions of its liberation (redemption?) in a new socio-economic construction: socialism; which in no way means we sit back and wait as artists though.


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