paul rothman's psychedelic shack
the fine art of writing about the fine art of repetition

Gertrude Stein said it best: “a rose is a rose is a rose.”  Now Drop the beat.  The primordial chant has come full-circle in the age of electronic circuitry; as if modeling the constant cycling of voltage itself, music has steadily embraced (more and more) the drone pattern &, for intensive purposes, the “chant.”  And what is seemingly hinted at early on in the reading is the notion that, while YES Brahms & Co. were utilizing a sort of “intertextuality” in their “literal repetition of what ha[d] been heard before,” we have reached an age where this idea has been exploded even further.  

Where they were composing, riffing off of things they had heard before, there were no recording technologies; thus, our version is predicated on such technologies, allowing us to literally create “intertextual” works; sampling, remixing, hiphop to a large degree, lives in an age where the repetition (as a device) can only happen through an almost ’copy&paste’ praxis; what the Baroque & classical composers were doing was merely prophesizing the 20th & 21st century aesthetics.  This isn’t a bold claim by any means.  

This is maybe an offshoot of the “organism” model, in so much as a biological approach jives with concepts like intertextuality (which is in line with something like, say, evolution, or whatever …. that is to say, a genetic kind of repetition that occurs and mutates slightly over time, in an effort to remain contemporary).    This is probably as good a time as any to make the claim that: Bach would probably hate Suicide.   

All in all repetition is a funny thing to talk about in music, as it only functions when we agree on what is repetition (& what is music, for that matter); the notion that Cone thinks there’s no real redundancy in music is cute, if not quaint.  In other words, it sounds very meta & very academic (I guess), but really, it’s just kinda whack.  I understand, perhaps, what he’s trying to extract out of a quotable quote like that; I think the author handles this claim quite well (Obviously, as he introduces it only to break it apart).   I’ll end this with one more bold claim; Kant doesn’t know shit about shit.  Neither does Socrates.  If you gave Kant (or Socrates, for that matter) any number of John Cage pieces (4’33” for example, or any of his “sonatas”, or whatever), they’d probably be like, well — Kant would scratch his head and go: ‘ist das ein Witz?’ Socrates, however, would be so beside himself that he probably wouldn’t say anything at all.  And while I think it’s productive to discuss the grammars and syntaxes of musicality; only dorks and academics do this & this is mostly because they don’t actually make cool music themselves.

What is Music?

Music isn’t sex; it’s more like gender, in so much as it’s culturally defined & almost democratically agreed upon.  The old adage, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” comes to mind.  Where the Catholic church (one group’s ‘micro-democracy is another group’s fascism) once voted the tritone as Not-Music, that move has since been vetoed.  

By now everything’s ‘music’ if you want it to be.  And as we move towards a ‘Total’ global assimilation of cultural values, which some find dangerous for its ability to snuff-out (or pave-over) pockets of ‘not-western’ (for lack of a better term) cultural tendencies (in our case: musical traditions), ethnologists & ethnographers & linguists alike are scrambling to ‘jot-it-all-down’ before it’s ‘too late’.  

I say that by now anything’s music for perhaps one obvious reason: the 20th century happened.  We might argue that, as technology advanced, we made more and more headway exploring every creative possibility for tone / timbre et al; this certainly lead to aleatoric / computer music, a logical next step.

It’s with precisely that in mind that I would argue that now, in the 21st century, certain genres (or explorations) of ‘music’ are no longer interesting, even quaint.  Most ‘noise’ music was interesting maybe 40+ years ago, but that’s because those technologies were fresh, new; it was a kind of: “check out these new tools…check out the sounds they can make”; adding a contact mic to an object is boring in 2011, IMO.

Certain constants hold true though; these mostly revolve around technical definitions: tone, rhythm, tempo et al —- these are still the building blocks of music.  We might say generally, music is the aestheticization & organization of said building blocks, with emphasis on organization (composition); for the most part (& again, to reiterate), building a ‘John Cage machine’ aka ‘random atonal crap’ is no longer interesting.  We live in a hybrid era, which I think translates to how we should think about creating ‘new’ music; this means striking a kind of balance between not only analog & digital means of expression (hardware), but also in terms of how we value random chance versus composition/organization.

note* downloaded openOffice with the specific purpose of double checking notions of “page-length” 8.5” x 11.”