Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Notes on sociology of musical form and rhythm

from Bill Martin Avant rock: experimental music from the Beatles to Bjork, Open Court: Chicago. 2002

In the first half of the twentieth century, a good deal of ink was spilled in comparisons of Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky. Indeed, there is a dynamic to this comparison that describes well what happens when traditions seem on the verge of exhaustion. Schoenberg was extolled by Theodore Ardono for his systematic deconstruction of tonality, while Stravinsky was sometimes denigrated for his expressivism and exoticism. . . Schoenberg's move to the dodecaphonic (twelve-note) system can be seen as the next step in the progression from the extreme chromaticism of Mahler. . . In some sense Stravinsky, who comes after Mahler . . . instead of asking what the next step was for "the scale" and for harmony, asked what this "scale" was all about, anyway [:] a desire to be liberated from Western tonality altogether. [9-10]

[P]art of what came out of the attack on "the scale," and the concomitant turn to other scales and sounds, was an elevation of percussion. . . .In some sense, even in "classical music" . . . the "rhythm section" steps forward [11]

Robert Fink Repeating Ourselves: American minimal music as cultural practice, U California P, 2005

repetitive music implicates creators, performers, and auditors in repetitive commercial culture like advertising and television [xi]

[We] trace the presence in minimalist music of both Eros and Thanatos, of dialectical entrainment to desire as well as libidinal liberation from it, never forgetting that these lofty psychoanalytic terms are just metaphors for the bodily effects of material social constructions. [7]

[T]he repetition-structures of American minimal music broke into the Western cultural mainstream around 1965, the precise moment that the complete transformation of American network television by commercial advertising established the medium's distinctively atomized, repetitive programming sequence. Minimalism, whatever judgement of taste one might pronounce upon . . .takes on a unique cultural significance: it is the single instance within contemporary art music of what Raymond Williams called "flow," the most relentless, all-pervasive structural trope of twentieth-century global media. The sheer scope and intensity of this media torrent index an aesthetic effect that we might call the media sublime. Minimal music turns out to structure its repetitious desiring-production in much the same polyphonic way as a spot advertising campaign spreads out across diversified media vehicles . . .; its effect on the listener is the sublime perception of all those campaigns and all that desire creation perpetually coruscating across the huge expanse of mass-media flow . . .[I]n an aesthetic effect absolutely characteristic of consumer society, the sheer excess of processed desire turns out to be the biggest thrill of all. [10-11]

Justin Winkler, Space, Sound and Time: A choice of articles in Soundscape Studies and Aesthetics of Environment 1990 - 2003, 'Rhythmicity (2002)'

Rhythm is defined by the approximate repetition of a cycle – thus standing out from measure, the precise, identical repetition of a cycle. I would like to make the point thatalthough rhythm thus implies many kinds of elasticity and resilience it is actually a structure of extreme robustness. We can, together with Lefebvre, imagine that rhythmic systems develop a strength similar to those well entwined paper fibres which serve as a bridge capable to support heavy weights. Rhythm is concrete, worldly time, rhythmicity its systematic aspect. [2]

Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth Sequel to History: Postmodernism and the Crisis of representational time Princeton UP, 1992.

In this conjugating rhythm, each move forward is also digressive, also a sideways move. A postmodern narrative submits to the sequential nature of language grudgingly and at every juncture keeps alive for readers an awareness of multiple pathways and constantly crossing themes. Rhythm is parataxis on the horizontal and in motion: a repetitive element that doesn’t “forward” anything, one that is always exact but never “identical.” Narratives where time is rhythm give readers an opportunity to take up a new kind of residence in time, a way of staying in the narrative present – often literally or effectively in the present tense – that requires new acts of attention.
Rhythmic time – the time of experiment, improvisation, adventure – destroys the historicist unity of the world by destroying its temporal common denominator. In rhythmic time mutual reference back and forth from one temporal moment to another becomes impossible because no neutrality exists between temporal moments; on the contrary, each moment contains its specific and unique definition. Each “time” is utterly finite. [53-4]

[P]ostmodern narrative forces readers into a new kind of present: not the dematerialized present of historical time but what Nabokov calls the “Deliberate Present” of rhythmic time. [54]

Jacques Attali, Noise: the political economy of music, U Minnesota P, 1985.

Composition thus leads to a staggering conception of history, a history that is open, unstable, in which labor no longer advances accumulation, in which the object is no longer a stockpiling of lack, in which music effects a reappropriation of time and space. Time no longer flows in a linear fashion; sometimes it crystallizes in stable codes in which everyone’s composition is compatible, sometimes in a multifaceted time in which rhythms, styles and codes diverge, independencies become more burdensome, and rules dissolve. In composition, stability, in other words, differences, are perpetually called into question. Composition is inscribed not in a repetitive world, but in the permanent fragility of meaning after the disappearance of usage and exchange . . . It is also the only utopia that is not a mask for pessimism, the only Carnival that is not a Lenten ruse. [147]