lundi 7 mai 2012

David Meskhi

Resisting the Rhetoric in Retromania: Philosophical reflections on popular music criticism (4/4) 
 
Part IV: The Aesthetic Value of Limited Knowledge

The DJ mix that I have made to accompany this article is 'bookended' at the start and the finish by two vocal samples quotes that articulate opposing positions on the nature of time – namely that time is real vs that it is not. The quote at the beginning is sampled from episode 13 of the excellent philosophy podcast Partially Examined Life, the subject of which is Werner Heisenberg's 'Physics and Philosophy'. The sample expounds a view that is held by many physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, and theologians and which is exceptionally difficult to disprove – namely that the concepts of time, change, and free will are logically incoherent and so do not exist in the way that they seem to, in spite of appearances to the contrary. The second quote is the vocal in Underground Resistance's 'Transition', and supports the opposing view – that time is real by virtue of there being some fundamental difference between the present and the future, that this future can be influenced and chosen, and therefore that free will is not an illusion, that change is possible, and time thus does exist in the way that it seems to.

Both positions are plausible for different reasons. The first because it is logically so formidable that it is almost impossible to defeat on purely rational grounds, the second because it fits with our intuitions and experiences and on this basis seems to supply a more recognisable picture of life from a phenomenological point of view. Frankly, however, there is no way to settle this dispute. Our perspective as human beings will always be too limited to find out which of them is correct, assuming that these two positions have even apprehended the two possible poles of the argument accurately in the first place. My argument is that it is the ability to ask questions such as these, along with feelings, beliefs, intimations, and moments of intensity or transcendence, which are responsible for driving human curiosity, imagination and creativity, and ensuring that they remain characteristics of our species. As long as humans possess consciousness and the capacity for self-reflection they will meet the limits of their comprehension and ask questions about it, and as long as this happens art will occur. As long as humans can ask existential questions there will be people who want to find solace or an answer to them, and as long as this is the case there will be people seeking to find new ways to provide answers using art. The opening of access to the archives of music of the past in digital format is itself one expression or iteration of human creativity, and whilst from a limited perspective it may be understandable why within our tiny frame of reference some people might conclude that it is a threat to creativity, I think this conclusion is implausible. 


Nonetheless, there is a sense in which the retromania argument contributes positively to the emergence of the next game-changing musical phenomenon or movement, whatever that happens to be. The book itself has been extremely popular, and judging by the majority of the reviews the retromania argument has many acolytes. Support has come from far and wide, and whilst I do not know the sales figures of the book, the reaction has been resoundingly positive amongst other music journalists, writers, and critics – i.e. people who inform the public about what music is 'out there' and describe the current pop cultural landscape. It articulates a view which resonates widely within this community. The problem - and simultaneously the opportunity - here is that with sufficiently wide support the retromania argument, or in fact any argument, can become an orthodoxy. Given the popularity of the book in combination with the reach available to music writers and critics via papers, magazines, journals and blogs, the retromania argument may be at a stage where it represents a hegemony of beliefs about what is happening to music, and which bits of it are and are not valuable. If this is the case then the argument itself is now not original but canonical by being the now conventional position held by the community of people who know a lot about music and whose job it is to communicate this knowledge to the world. 


As I have said, I believe the retromania argument is in some respects negative because it misrepresents the nature of creativity and suggests that originality may be under threat. Fortunately for music's sake this is a positive development, however. It is a truth to which any number of groundbreaking movements in modern music will attest - from rock n roll via rhythm & blues, prog rock, mod, punk, disco, new wave, electro, house, techno, rave, hardcore, jungle, breakbeat, grime, dubstep, all the way to whatever is emerging at the present and hasn't been given a name yet - that orthodoxy provides the conditions necessary for artists to be able to define themselves as different, conditions in which creativity can flourish, and originality can continue to occur. Episode 13 - Werner Heisenberg's 'Physics And Philosophy' (Excerpt) By Partially Examined Life 
Flickering Alderbaran # 3 By X-102 
The Avalanche (Original Mix) By Wk7 
“Thirst” Buy By Regis 
Solstice - Original Mix By Axel Karakasis 
Eat What You Kill (Kiko Remix) By Oliver Giacomotto & Dj Tonio
Jungler (Original Mix) By Victor Vera & Mijail 
Relate To Bongos (Original Mix) By Chris Chambers 
Geylang (Dub) By Dj Shufflemaster 
Killing All Anarchists By Takaaki Itoh 
Pounding Grooves 27 By Lawrie Immersion 
Contact (Original Mix) By Oxia
Refund (Dave The Drummer Remix) By D.A.V.E. The Drummer 
Logic Bomb By Dave Clarke 
Sneak By Mark Broom 
Re-Frame (Danilo Vigorito Remix 2) By Danilo Vigorito 
J'S Back (2008 Remaster) By Paul Mac 
Transition By Underground Resistance