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.

All that is complicated, creative, vulnerable, intelligent, adventurous and critical

The task of articulating cultural value is now urgent in both the museum and the academy, where a tsunami of fiscal imperatives threatens to deluge all that is complicated, creative, vulnerable, intelligent, adventurous, and critical in the public sphere. Significantly, it is a question of temporality around which this struggle now takes place: authentic culture operates within a slower time frame than the accelerated abstractions of finance capital and the annual cycles of accounting (based on positivist data and requiring demonstrable impact). But it is precisely this lack of synchronicity that points to an alternative world of values in which museums – but also culture, education, and democracy – are not subject to the banalities of a spreadsheet or the statistical mystifications of an opinion poll, but enable us to access a rich and diverse history, to question the present, and to realize a different future. This future does not yet have a name, but we are standing on its brink. If the last forty years have been marked by ‘posts’ (post-war, post-colonialism, postmodernism, post-communism), then today, at last, we seem to be in a period of anticipation – an era that museums of contemporary art can help us collectively to sense and understand.”

(pages 62)

Claire Bishop, Radical Museology: Or What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? London: Koenig Books, 2013.


The study of a relationship

“As a result of a chain reaction going from the most sensory to the most spiritual and using the most material or muscular means of expression, the subject attunes to the object. Music is of particular interest because it is without a doubt one of the obly areas in which the chain reaction is so extensive and goes so far in linking together worlds that without it would be closed and sealed. What are we to make of musicians who are wholly occupied either with the object or with one or another of the subjects, and who thus refuse what is most exciting in the phenomenon of music?

So the object is at the centre of the chain, and it could be said that it raises a question about awareness rather than facture. How is the object made? How is it perceived? The second question again belongs to the how of science; an answer could be found by putting the various specialties to work: from the biologist to the psychologist, from the historian to the philologist, from the ethnologist to the acoustician, there is much to be done, and especially to ensure their work is not carried out in a vacuum, with no links between them. If the specialists are left to their own devices, there will be interesting studies about music – biological, psychological, historical, ethnological, etc – but as music is the very thing that links them, and as it is the thing that links them that should be the subject of a new field of study, there is every probability that the aforementioned specialists will miss the essential.

The study of music should therefore be first and foremost the study of a relationship, the double relationship between the object and the subject.”

(page 160)

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.