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Sunday
Oct182009

Cultural resistance?

As with other experimental music, a kind of cultural resistance provides an important underlying motivation. Did people used to use that term? Cultural resistance? Did it mean something that requires us to remember an older definition for the word culture?

What kind of cultural resistance?

I spend time thinking about what might be possible in music, that hasn’t normally been actual in the music of our cultures, popular, modern cultures. (The cultures I mean to suggest we might resist are the cultures in which we cannot remember anything other than our own time, or produce anything other than the domination of the modern.)

I am resisting a musical culture — it’s difficult to define what that culture is. I certainly don’t dislike the music of my culture, or any culture, in particular, but there is a way of understanding music, maybe even a language for the comprehension of what music is, that I feel the presence of, in every note that I write, and I am an outsider to the language, constantly in a process of translating it, just to show that it is a language, and that it is a language that not everyone thinks fluently within.

Some cultural resistence, in “contemporary music”, is the old resistence of the moderns against the romantics…replaying itself decades later, even a century later. Resisting tonality…resisting the Romantic notion of the musical idea, the Romantic narrative of musical emotion.

These works — my works — are attempts to escape some other kind of entanglement. Truisms that affect both Romanticism and the avant-garde equally, I think: ”organicism”, “generativity”, and “complementarity,” (Or, if those words don’t resonate, then think of words used in their places, by like-minded artists.)

Instead of organicism (e.g. large objects “growing from,” and reflecting, the small ones, the notion of the singular beginning…): I hope you will find, in this music, something like an intertwined machinery, or ecology, of gestural difference.

In place of generative processes (e.g. imitation, and the syntax-constrained repetition of building-blocks): I try to acheive a kind of energetic sense of change, and purposeful incongruity.

In place of complementarity (the idea that one thing “goes with” and “completes”, another): I try to suggest a calculated negotiation between strangers, a heterarchy of ideas crossing between reluctant conversationalists.

But what does that mean, to try to make something incongruous, incomplete, or ambiguous, if that is precisely the state we find things in before we bother to make anything of them?

It means to me that unity is more delicate, and has a function to be cherished in a different way. If there is any unity in these pieces, it is not merely consistency or balance, but a process of becoming and belonging. I have tried to make every event suggest a parsing of things that contradicts some organization that preceded it, until a string of contradictions has invited listeners 1000 times to enter the world of the music through its abundant little ruptures. If I am successful, then we will have nothing but abundance, and every moment will be an opportunity for release from illusion, for a return to the surface. More than anything, these pieces are about a technique, about a surface: sotto voce, floating rhythm, and perpetuality of inimitable and inchoate differences, which (for all their differences) are, in the end, the same.

 

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