Week 10: Listening II – Context, Quotation and the Structure of the Non-Acousmatic
2x Mental Exercises:
1. SpitballWrite down the name of any number of genres and/or artists. Respond by writing the most vicious thing you are capable (with the only criteria that it must be something you believe to be real)Ask yourself to what degree each musical act (and its associated mythologies) constitutes a failure.‘Try again, fail again, fail better’
2. Listen Unknowingly
‘Particularly with regard to music within the communal repertoire, one can even assume that daily listening is often more conditioned by the situation in which one meets the music than by the music itself, or by the listener’s primary cultural identity…’ - Stockfelt
‘…Unlike many another art form, music conspicuously lacks any obvious referent external to itself and is thus largely constrained to enter into conversation with its own past – the active memory, as it were, of its own successivity and anteriority…’ - Ferneyhough
‘The object of composition is no longer the sound material alone. Instead, the composer's thinking also necessarily includes the social contingency of his or her means of expression and construction’ - Mosch
Helmut Lachenmann – Accanto (1975/76)
In Accanto, Lachenmann appears acutely aware of his inherited context; in this case meaning not only in physical sense of the concert hall (an epicentre of ‘the culture industry’) but also the generic object of ‘Western Art Music,’ and its bindings to the monuments of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Unlike his Darmstadt peers, who persisted in their “utopian social expectation” (Lachenmann 2003, p.44) that their new sounds would be divorced from certain historical associations, Lachenmann is painfully aware that both composer and listener alike are oppressed by contextual assumptions; Toop (2003, p.136) notes that “for many (most?) music lovers, the mere presence on stage of a solo clarinettist in front of an orchestra implies Mozart (rather than Weber, Nielsen, or anyone else)”.
The listener’s understanding is, therefore, forcibly historical – that is, the composition is evaluated largely in its relation to tradition (see Fischer 2001, pp.49-52). Yet, rather than attempting to escape this association, Accanto draws attention to the fact that it inhabits the territory of another, and that its presence there is brief and in no way eternal. Only via this observation do the limited signifier relations contained within the composition (that is, between the quotation and the spoken text) come to aesthetic relevance; the Mozart work is, of course, ‘the excerpt’ rather than ‘an excerpt.’
By self-consciously integrating the listener’s contextual understanding into the composition, Lachenmann attempts to render this understanding anew; Mohammed notes that the social criticism contained within Accanto ‘destroys’ the Mozart work only in order to underline “the way in which we destroy it every day”
(Mohammed 2003b, p.145), and thus forces the listener to confront the nature of their musical perception; Accanto seems as much about the fact that familiar (or, in fact, institutionalised) sounds interfere with the listener’s perception as it is about the conclusions drawn from those interferences. It is almost humorous to note that, in utilising as a tool the very objectification he criticises, Lachenmann welcomes into the arena of musical perception the interferences and dialogues which inhibit his creation.
Quotation and Allusion as objective extra-musical signifier.Representation and metonym (for artistically/culturally attributed meaning)
Question: Can this stretch beyond quotation (‘this piece’) and allusion (‘this style of music’) to use ‘Music’ itself as a metonymic cultural signifier.
Walker Brothers: The Electrician (1978)
The ‘love song’ and Stockholm syndrome
Scott Walker: Clara (2006)
Illusion as reality (cinematic music), Reality as surreal (non-music)
Multiplicity of other presuppositions and criteria which we frame aesthetic assessment (and the ruptures that evidence them).
Value-based presuppositions (i.e. ethical).
James Whitehead – Air Attack over Kabul Airfield
Rupture with expectation (Genre, Artist and other ‘narrative’ structures)
Rupture with performance context
Rupture between mode and message:
Helmut Lachenmann - Das Mädchen mitden Schwefelhölzern (1988-1996)
Rupture between tone and message:
ABBA – The Visitors (1981)
Modes of production:
Money and privilege:
Ata Kak – Daa Nyninaa (1994)
Mike Patton’s Mondo Cane – Senza Fine (2010)
Tommy Wiseau: The Room (2003)
From what Greg Sestero / Tom Bissell say, the film that Tommy Wiseau actually wanted to make was even crazier than the one he was able to, mostly due to restrictions imposed on him by the laws of physics. In the original script, characters would routinely talk to each other over the phone, but the scene would end with them saying goodbye to each other in person, in the same room. Tommy had just forgotten, mid-sentence, that he'd set them miles away from each other. Surreal.
The best bit, though, was learning that Tommy decided halfway through filming that there should be a scene where his character’s car, which was for some reason parked on the building's rooftop, should start flying. He wanted to include a flying car midway through a film that otherwise had no supernatural elements in it (beyond his vaguely vampiric accent).
Lindsay Buckingham – Not Too Late (2006)