Because the object is strange

“An experimental method in music means listening: first of all, all the time, before, during, after. Because the object is strange, courage lies in going on to define its humanity and beauty, in seeking reassurance not by pursuing the kilometric path, the white pebbles of measurement, but because we have used our taste, made a choice. Because also, for years, we have had the honesty to reject found objects if they are ugly or poisonous. Because we will go to the lengths of burning our furniture if at last we find a varnish that is purer and above all more durable.”

(page 169)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

And to think about who will be helped or harmed by their work

“The secret sound penetrates us, extending into disturbing and profoundly hidden realms beyond. This immediately gives rise to associations that are contradictory, confused, and varied enough to make us have to admit that communication between author and listener is based on total misunderstanding. It is at this point that we must ask whether we are still dealing with a language, and whether concrete music, even willed, should strive to say something. Maybe, by constructing series along the lines of previous, more or less successfully generalized, intellectualist schemes, we are turning our back on a possible future. Maybe it is our instinctual onomatopoeia that should be seeking an outlet in constructions that would result in more visceral musics. By unleashing a chaos of concrete sounds we are at least assured of one response; we strike terror, we arouse anguish. Young authors like nothing so much as that and have not yet enough human experience to be careful with mankind, and to bother about what they put into circulation. I do want a visceral music, but I don’t want it to be just violence and bodily disorder. Moreover, most of all I dread the opposite: that an excess of intellectualism not tempered by instinct might produce effects that will themselves trigger anguish, and anguish alone. A welter of sounds like this, very much in keeping with the times, it is true, would be only yet another example of mankind not up to the job, the apprentice surpassed by his sorcery. I have little interest in success at this price. I urge composers of concrete music, if there are any, not to unleash anything and everything, and not to be just anyone churning out just anything. And to think about who will be helped or harmed by their work.

(page 165-166)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

Meditating in four voices

“Let us return to the example of Bach and see how the subject-object relationship develops. Even when we have accepted that good intentions do not make an artist, and that from the beginning there must be genius, how can we imagine Bach’s work without a religious context? Because Bach is depicted as a good family man churning out his cantata every Sunday, does this mean that he isn’t a mystic? On the contrary, miracle workers and seers have always come from the common herd and have had the strongest constitutions. We would happily project our own weaknesses, our brokenness, onto the extraordinary works of a Bach; we would have him a genius on one hand, a mystic on the other. We find it hard to imagine that here the two are one, that Bach directly expresses his mysticism in the musical object, and that this and his technical skill are one and the same. When Bach juggles with the voices in a fugue; when, in a rigorous universe watched over by the four cardinal points of the dominant, like archangels, he builds structures and forms; when he calculates how they attract and repel, I like to think that Bach, both architect and priest, is meditating in four voices, revealing the identity of the human and the divine, and participating in an incarnation mystery.

Conversely, how can we hear Bach except by taking on this dualism, or, more precisely, by striving, for a few privileged moments and because of his work, to resolve our latent dualism?”

(page 163-164)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

To honour every inch of flesh in words

“I become obsessed by the palpable edge of sound. The moment when language at last surrenders to what it’s describing: the subtlest differentials of light or temperature or sorrow. I’m a kabbalist only in that I believe in the power of incantation. A poem is as neural as love; the rut of rhythm that veers the mind.

This hunger for sound is almost as sharp as desire, as if one could honour every inch of flesh in words; and so, suspend time. A word is at home in desire. No station of the heart is more full of solitude than desire which keeps the world poised, poisoned with beauty, whose only permanence is loss.”

(pages 162-163)

Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996.

Somehow unread until now; borrowed from les Bibliothèques publiques de Montrèal, Succursale Mile-End.

Contact is crisis

“As members of human society, perhaps the most difficult task we face daily is that of touching one another – whether the touch is physical, moral, emotional or imaginary. Contact is crisis.”

(page 130)

Anne Carson, “Dirt and Desire: Essay on the Phenomenology of Female Pollution in Antiquity.” in Men in the Off Hours. New York: Knopf, 2000.

Borrowed from the Mile End branch of the Montreal public library.

A phenomenon that needs to be felt rather than named

“The expressionism of musical decadence is countered by an objective impressionism. Bringing it to light has nothing to do with words. A falsely explanatory language could not possibly exhaust a phenomenon that needs to be felt rather than named. If music is a language, then it is a specific language. There is no more a parallel between music and speech than between sound and light. Sound and light bring us different categories of information. Intelligence and heart open us up to complementary worlds, which are not opposed but cannot be dissociated. So music should remain within itself, like a fully current language in a classical period, and serve.”

(page 161)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

Theory creates new, necessary situations and emotions

“When theory happens outside of academia, it means something different. It’s more mobile, edgy, responsive to experienced conditions. When theory happens at home, right where life is most concentrated and messy, it’s bound to disrupt the banal and gendered dualism of public and private language. Its space is symbolic, not institutional. So theory is also transformational: “Theory, a story I tell so that the world changes in my favor, so that it swerves towards my own eyes” says Louise Cotnoir, who goes on to discuss how theory changes “the registers and forms of the real. To invent the language of a knowledge based on decategorized emotion.” So the work of theory is a work of and upon the imaginary, which is to say that it creates new, necessary situations and emotions. In this sense, theory is not a second order language; it doesn’t only speak about something else, it generates knowledge on its own terms. Theory is an agent, and it is a resistance.”

Lisa Robertson. Theory, A City: Introduction.

Shared by a friend on social media.