It's fall again, which means decisions and plans are made with enthusiasm and vigor until it gets cold and we give up on them. Therefore I'm starting up this old engine, this media monster, and we'll see how it goes.
Music is both literate and illiterate. Some say it must be heard to exist, and if hearing is prime, then signification at the level of language or literature is obviously absent. When analyses of music strive for a level of systematic signification such that each musical aspect is subsumed into a system they have brought forth the death of music as an aural/acoustical event. What's to hear when all is explained? If we continue to believe music must be heard to exist, then we should not either make the mistake of thinking that because music can be notated that it therefore exists as a text. However, what if music did exist without the phenomenon of sound? Then it could be said that anything is music only if it's named so. In that regard, if a given text was deemed musical it would be literature. But we also tend to say that music changes the language such that it ceases to function fully as language and becomes merely, mostly, or at least partly just sound, rather than sound that has been codified. Where to draw that line is the thing. But then we're back calling music sound. As language is infused with musical attributes, it is destroyed as a system of signs and chaos ensues. Or so the fantasy goes. Why is it that of all the arts, and of all the phenomena in the world, music is the most universally misunderstood? People think music is magic, they don't know what it's made of, how it moves, what its shape is etc. Why is it so hard to conceive of music as an object? It is comprised of matter that moves. Music is both as material and as immaterial as anything else. The problem with calling music sound, as so many "radical" sound artists and composers and fake free jazz players do, is that it's too nice, too trim, too worldy. If music is only sound, then who cares? It's like saying buildings are just dirt. In one sense, they are, but how is that a point that gets us anywhere in defining what a building is? It is the laziest manuever in a ghostly game that died when everyone decided that music was either literate or illiterate, high class or low, good or bad, art not art etc.

1 comment:

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