Counterpoint: Real and fictional

Gains in reality are proportionate to losses in the fiction; gains in the fiction are proportionate to losses in reality.

This is to say, any attempt to undermine the imposed division of labour (composer, performer, audience, etc) and alienation of music by way of improvisation, ‘audience participation’, and so on, yield an advance in terms of the reality of the counterpoint (the breadth of its social practice) but undermine the quality of the counterpoint as fiction. Which is to say that the complexity and subtlety of the counterpoint diminishes, its capacity to be truly a symbol of freedom and equality, as the work gains a real freedom and equality (freedom for the participants to engage as they like, equality of engagement). Several improvisors can make incredible sounds, but not as intricate counterpoint as chamber musicians interpreting a great score. Several hundred people engaging in mass improvisatory music making, will make a horrible mess. On the other hand, as the work gains in complexity and a ‘re-presentation’ of a possible set of utopian social relations, so it engages more and more in a performative contradiction: the set of relations that produced the music is increasingly hierarchical and fixed.

This contradiction is imposed on music by the social relations in which it operates, not by the whims of artists.

This also means that fiction is not absolutely separated from social reality, but only relatively so. The ‘fiction’ or the medium is in fact composed of the same social reality as the reality itself, but alienated from it via particular historical processes going back to the beginning of humanity. It is not some kind of eternally separated space that has descended somehow from heaven for the sole purpose of either amusing people, or reflecting history from a distance.

Advertisements