kagablog

August 15, 2017

Hannah Arendt

Filed under: dick tuinder,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 2:21 pm

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Cyclonopedia on openness

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 1:37 pm

If the so-called despotic institutions of the Middle East have survived liberalism, and have grown stronger instead of being shattered into miseable pieces long ago, it is because openness can never be extracted from the inside of the system or through a mere voluntary or subjective desire for being open. Openness can never be communication by liberalism (not to mention the free world).

Human history is an experimental research proess in designing and establishing modes of openness to the outside. Openness is not ultiately, so to speak, the affair of humans, but rather the affair of the outside – everything minus the human, even the human’s own body. But opennness is not only associated with human history. Parsani argues that the Earth, as the arch-puppeteer and occult-manipulator of planetary events, has a far more sophisticated openness of its own. If the human is the subject of openness or the one who opens himself to his outside, then the Earth is the ‘inside-out subject’ of human openness. Undoubtedly, human openness is full of twists. This includes social openness, gender communications, and openness between populations and governments of the contemporary world, whether cultural or petrological. Parsani shows that human openness has a strategic and tisted spirit for which every communication is a tactic and every openness is a strategy to be unfolded … It is difficult to study the politics, culture and economy of the world without questioning its issues and concerns regarding the ethics of openness.

Openness comes from the Outside, not the other way round. Nietzschean affirmation was never intended to support liberation or even to be about openness at all. It was an invocation of the outside, in its exteriority to the humand and even to the human’s openness (which includes desires for being open to the outside). Radical openness has nothing to do with the cancelation of closure; it is a matter of terminating all traces of parsimony and grotesque domestication that exist in so-called emancipatory human openness. The blade of radical openness thirsts to butcher economical openness, or any openness constructed on the affordability of both the subject and its environment. The target of radical openness is not closure but economical openness. Radical openness devours all economic and political grounds based on ‘being open’.

While the subject of the economical openness manifests itself in the statement ‘I am open to’, the objective of the openness is what ‘being open to’ aims at. Economical openness is constantly maintained by these two poles which must afford each other. For an entity, the act of opening to its environment is only possible if the environment has already afforded the entity within its environing range, and if the entity itself is able to accommodate part of the environment within its capacity. The capacity of the entity is directly influenced by the subjective survival of that entity. For this reason, so-called (economical) openness represents the affordability and the survival capacity of its subjects, not the act of openining itself.

‘I am open to you’ can be recapitulated as ‘I have the capacity to bear your investment’ or ‘I can afford you’. This conservative voice is not associated with will or intention, but with the inevitability of affordance as a mesophilic bond, and with the survival economy and the logic of capacity. If you exceed the capacity by which you can be afforded, I will be cracked, lacerated and laid open. Despite its dedication to repression, its blind desire for the onopoloy of survival and the authoritarian logic of the boundary, the plane of ‘being open to’ has never been openly associated with paranoia or regression. Suchh is the irony of liberalism and anthropomorphic desire.

However, while affirmation is tactically nurtured by affordance, it is also a stealth strategy to call and to bring forth Epedemic Openness whose eventuation is necessarily equal to the abortion of economical or human openness. As far as survival is concerned, radical openness always brings with it base-participation, contamination and pandemic horror, the horror of the outside emerging from within as an outonomous xeno-chemical Insider and from without as the unmasterable Outsider. In any case, radical openness is internally connected to unreported plagues. If affordance is the mesophilic extension between subjective and objective fronts of communication, the outside is defined by the exteriority of function rather than distance. If affirmation is ultimately strategic, this is because epidemic openness is inherent to the repression of the outside and the suspension of its influences. In a polytical twist, epidemic openness craves for solid states, manifest closures such as dwelling and subsistence and survival economy. Conforming to the secrecy and the conspiracist ethos of affordance, for which every tactic is another line of expansion (to afford more), radical openness requires strategic calls or lines of subvervions from within affordance. Radical openness, therefore, subverst the logic of capacity from within. Frequently referred to as sorcerous lines, awakenings, summonings, xeno-attractions and trigggers, strategic approaches unfold radical openness as an internal cut – gaseous, odorless, with metallic wisdom of a scalpel. Openness emerges as radical butchery from within and without. If the anatomist cuts from top to bottom so as to examine the body hierarchically as a transcendental dissection, the the katatomy of openness does not cut anatomically or penetrate structurally (performing the logic of strata); it butchers open in all directions, in correspondence with its strategic plane of activity. Openness is not suicide, for it lures survival itself into life itself where ‘to live’ is a systematic redundancy. Since the Outside in its radical exteriority is everywhere, it only needs to be aroused to rush in and erase the illusion of economical appropriations or closure. Openness is a war, it needs strategies to work. Openness is not the anthropomorpic desire to be open, it is the being opened eventuated by the act of opening itself. To be butchered, lacerated, cracked and laid open – such is the corporeal reaction of subjects to the radical act of opening. Accordingly, affirmation is a camouglaged strategy, a vehicle for cutting through affordance and creatively reinventing openness as a radical butchery.

August 8, 2017

Molyneaux’s problem

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 12:51 pm

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‘A Man, being born blind, and having a Globe and a Cube, nigh of the same bignes, Committed into his Hands, and being taught or Told, which is Called the Globe, and which the Cube, so as easily to distinguish them by his Touch or Feeling; Then both being taken from Him, and Laid on a Table, Let us Suppose his Sight Restored to Him; Whether he Could, by his Sight, and before he touch them, know which is the Globe and which the Cube? Or Whether he Could know by his Sight, before he stretch’d out his Hand, whether he Could not Reach them, tho they were Removed 20 or 1000 feet from Him?’

Dick Tuinder on timeless cinema

Filed under: dick tuinder,film,film as subversive art,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 11:20 am

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Alain Badiou on being blind

Filed under: philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 8:27 am

Any real movement, especially when its blind mission is to reopen History, maintains that what is merely visible should not be considered genuinely given; that one should know how to be blind to the self-evidence of representation so as to have confidence in what is happening, what is being said, here and now, about the Revolution and its implementaiton.

August 7, 2017

Gilles Deleuze on cinema after the cinematic

Filed under: film,film as subversive art,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 7:23 pm

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This is the stage where art no longer beautifies or spiritualizes Nature but competes with it: the world is lost, the world itself “turns to film,” any film at all, and this is what television amounts to, the world turning to any film at all, and, as you say here, “nothing happening to human beings any more,but everything happening only to images.” One might also say that bodies in Nature or people in a landscape are replaced by brains in a city: the screen’s no longer a window or door (behind which . . . ) nor a frame orsurface (in which . . . ) but a computer screen on which images as “data” slip around. How, though, can we still talk of art, if the world itself is turning cinematic, becoming ‘just an act” directly controlled and immediately-processed by a television that excludes any supplementary function?

Cinema ought to stop “being cinematic,” stop play acting, and set up specificrelationships with video, with electronic and digital images, in order to develop a new form of resistance and combat the televisual function of surveillance and control. It’s not a question of short-circuiting television-how could that be possible?-but of preventing television subverting or short-circuiting the extension of cinema into the new types of image. For, as you show, “since television has scorned, marginalized, repressed the potential of video-its only chance of taking over from the postwar modern cinema . . . taking over its urge to take images apart and put them back together, its break with theater, its new way of seeing the human body, bathed in images and soundsone has to hope the development of video art will itself threaten TV. ” Here we see in outline the new art of City and Brain, of competing with Nature. And one can already see in this mannerism many different directions or paths, some blocked, others leading tentatively forward, offering great hopes. A mannerism of video “previsualization” in Coppola, where images are already assembled without a camera. And then a completely different mannerism, with its strict, indeed austere, method in Syberberg, where puppetry and front-projection produce an image unfolding against a background of images. Is this the same world we see in pop videos, special effects, and footage from space?Maybe pop video, up to the point where it lost its dreamlike quality, might have played some part in the pursuit of “new associations” proposed by Syberberg, might have traced out the new cerebral circuits of a cinema of the future, if it hadn’t immediately been taken over by marketing jingles, sterile patterns of mentaldeficiency, intricately controlled epileptic fits (rather as, in the previous period cinema was taken over by the “then hysterical spectacle” of large-scale propaganda . . . ). And maybe space footage might also have played a part in aesthetic and noetic creation, if it had managed to produce some last reason for traveling, as Burroughs suggested, if it had managed to break free from the control of a “regular guy on the Moon who didn’t forget to bring along his prayer book,” and better understood the endlessly rich example of La Region Centrale, where Michael Snow devises a very austere way of making one image turn on another, and untamed nature on art, pushing cinema to the limit of a pure Spatium. And how can we tell where the experimentation with images, sounds, and music that’s just beginning in the work of Resnais, Godard, the Straubs, and Duras will lead? And what new Comedyll will emerge from the mannerism of bodily postures? Your concept of mannerism is particularly convincing, once one understands how far all the various mannerisms are different, heterogeneous, above all how no common measure can be applied to them, the term indicating only a battlefield where art and thought launch together with cinema into a new domain, while the forces of control try to steal this domain from them, to take it over before they do, and set up a new clinic for social engineering. Mannerism is, in all these conflicting ways, the convulsive confrontation of cinema and television, where hope mingles with the worst of all possibilities.

excerpt from the book: Negotiations by Gilles Deleuze

August 2, 2017

WOLE SOYINKA: Re-positioning Negritude

Filed under: literature,philosophy,politics,race — ABRAXAS @ 1:07 pm

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July 26, 2017

Mircea Iliade on sexuality

Filed under: philosophy,sex — ABRAXAS @ 11:08 am

“Sexuality, for desacralized, urban populations, represents the last source of the “numinous” : it is life, mystery, sacredness, all in one. Sex is everything because, for an urbanite, it is the last organic link with life.”

Mircea Iliade

July 2, 2017

nietzsche – on artists and inspiration

Filed under: art,kaganof,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 10:33 pm

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June 19, 2017

art and revolution

Filed under: art,philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 11:08 pm

“There is no art that does not create a style and there is no style that does not eventually kill art. By injecting the idea of revolution into art, our era has created a plurality of styles and pseudostyles. This abundance turns into another abundance: that of styles that die aborning. Schools proliferate and propagate like mushrooms until their very abundance finally erases the differences between one tendency and another; movements live about as long as insects do, a few short hours; the aesthetic of novelty, surprise, and change turns into imitation, tedium, and repetition. What is left for us?”
Octavio Paz
Conjunctions and Disjunctions
1969

June 18, 2017

HOW HISTORY BECOMES IMPROVISATION

Filed under: literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 2:16 pm

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The idea of process implies that things happen one after the other, either in the form of sudden leaps and bounds (revolution) or in the form of gradual changes (evolution). Progress is a synonym of process because it is thought that every change results sooner or later in an advance. Both modes of succession, the revolutionary and the evolutionary, correspond to a vision of history as a march toward something – we are not exactly certain where this something is, except that this where is better than the situation today, and that it lies in the future. History is envisioned as a continuous, never-ending colonization of the future.

There is something infernal about this optimistic vision of history; the philosophy of progress is really a theory of the condemnation of man, who is doomed perpetually to move forward, knowing that he will never arrive at his final destination.

This way of thinking is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and its mythical counterpart is the expulsion from Eden. In the garden of paradise, a present without a single flaw shone brightly; in the deserts of history, the only sun that guides us is the fleeting future. The subject of this continual pilgrimage is not a nation, a class, or a civilization, but an abstrac entity: humanity. As the subject of history, “humanity” lacks substance; it is never present in person: it acts by means of its representatives, this people or that, this class or that. Persepolis, Rome, or New York, the monarchy or the proletariat, in turn represent humanity at one moment or another of history as a member of the legislature represents his electors, and as an actor represents the character he is playing.

History is a theater in which a single person, humanity, becomes many: servants, masters, bourgeois, mandarins, clergymen, peasants, workers. The incoherent shouting of all these voices turns into a rational dialogue and this dialogue into a philosophical monologue. History is a discourse. But the rebellions of the twentieth century have violated both the rules of dramatic action and those of representation. We have unforeseen irruptions that disturb the linear nature of history. Both the events and the actors betray the text of the play. They write another text, or rather invent one. History becomes improvisation. This is the end of discourse and rational legibility.

Octavio Paz
Conjunctions and Disjunctions
1969

June 8, 2017

The Disaster

Filed under: literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 1:18 pm

The disaster was already there and they didn’t realize it, since the disaster is the very idea of the disaster to come, which ruins everything long before term.

Jonathan Littell

The Kindly Ones pg.443

June 5, 2017

on the selfie generation

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 3:40 pm

“There will soon be nothing more than self-communicating zombies, whose lone umbilical relay will be their own feedback image – electronic avatars of dead shadows perpetually retelling their own story.”
– Jean Baudrillard in Telemorphosis

April 18, 2017

noise and the mind

Filed under: african noise foundation,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 2:55 pm

But the body knows the score, recognizes the crisis before the mind. It not only gets the steel ball rolling onto the intestines, but also activates the senses, setting them to the frequencies, at which the signals of new dangers can be received. Those signals appear as noise to the previous – pre-war – mind, as a breakdown in communication. The new mind, which the body floods with adrenaline, begins, like a rabbit in a forest of foxes – to decode all the signals, even if it’s not capable of fitting them into any narrative. The unified, ontologically comfortable mind splits: on the one hand, the pre-war mind refuses the possibility of catastrophe; on the other the war mind perceives everything as the signal that the end is nigh.

Aleksandar Hemon
Stop Making Sense: What is noise now will be music later

January 12, 2017

SAY IT WITH FLOWERS

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every act of creation is inseparable from the critique of its medium, and every work, intensely reflecting upon itself, looks like the embodied doubt of its own possibility.
Erich Heller

Say It With Flowers
24min24sec
2017
South Africa

A found footage bouquet arranged and abused by Aryan Kaganof.
Film material shot by Charles Weich between 1948 and 1973 was mashed up with the soundtrack to Brief Encounter.
The result is an indictment of the pathological whiteness that manifested itself virulently as “apartheid”.
produced by Stephanus Muller for Africa Open

December 27, 2016

Filed under: philosophy,politics,signs of the times — ABRAXAS @ 9:57 am

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October 30, 2016

Julien Benda – The Betrayal of the Intellectuals

Filed under: 2016 - Metalepsis in Black,literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 8:20 pm

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September 20, 2016

Filed under: literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 11:00 am

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August 24, 2016

Time To Bleed – in conversation with Walter Mignolo

Filed under: philosophy,politics,Walter Mignolo — ABRAXAS @ 12:10 pm

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on disciples

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 11:59 am

But disciples have no hearts. They only want to get inspiration and warmth from the master.
Wilhelm Reich
The Murder of Christ

August 23, 2016

on reality

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 3:22 pm

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August 19, 2016

Promethean and Posthuman Freedom: Brassier on Improvisation and Time

Filed under: music,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 9:34 am

September 30, 2015, in Uncategorized, by enemyin1

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This is the full text of enemyindustry’s presentation at the improvisation panel at The Society of European Philosophy-Forum of European Philosophy joint conference in Dundee, 2015.
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1) Introduction: Improvisation and the Politics of Technology

Ray Brassier’s “Unfree Improvisation/Compulsive Freedom” (written for the 2013 collaboration with Basque noise artist Mattin at Glasgow’s Tramway) is a terse but insightful discussion of the notion of freedom in improvisation. It begins with a polemic against the voluntarist conception of freedom. The voluntarist understands free action as the uncaused expression of a “sovereign self”. Brassier rejects this supernaturalist understanding of freedom, arguing that we should view freedom not as the determination of an act from outside the causal order, but as the self-determination by action within the causal order.

According to Brassier, self-determination is reflexive and rule-governed. A self-determining system acts in conformity to rules but is capable of representing and modifying these rules with implications for its future behaviour. This is only possible if we make the rules explicit in language (Brassier 2013b: 105; Sellars 1954: 226).

Brassier’s proximate inspiration for this model of freedom is Wilfred Sellars’ account of language and meaning (1954.) Sellars analytic pragmatism buys into the Kantian claim that concepts are rules for unifying or linking claims to cognitive significance rather than representations of something outside thought – concepts are “cooks rather than hooks”.[1]

Sellars distinguishes a more or less automatic and unconscious rule following from a metalinguistic level with the logical resources for reflection and self-awareness. Indeed for Brassier’s Sellars, thought and intentional action emerge only with the metalinguistic capacity to make reasons explicit in “candid public speech” (Brassier 2013b: 105; Sellars 1954: 226-8).[2] Or as he puts it: “Autonomy understood as a self-determining act is the destitution of selfhood and the subjectivation of the rule. The ‘oneself’ that subjects itself to the rule is the anonymous agent of the act.”

For Brassier, an avowed naturalist, it is important that this capacity for agency is non-miraculous, and that a mere assemblage of pattern governed mechanisms can be “gripped by concepts” (Brassier 2011). As he continues:

The act …. remains faceless. But it can only be triggered under very specific circumstances. Acknowledgement of the rule generates the condition for deviating from or failing to act in accordance with the rule that constitutes subjectivity. This acknowledgement is triggered by the relevant recognitional mechanism; it requires no appeal to the awareness of a conscious self…. (Brassier 2013a)

Now, there are criticisms that one can make of this account. For example, Brassier struggles to articulate the relationship between linguistic rules or norms and the natural regularities and behaviours on which they depend. For this reason, I’ve argued that the normative functionalism associated with Sellars and, latterly, Robert Brandom bottoms out in Davidson-style claims about how idealized interpreters (privy to all the facts) might construe a given stretch of behaviour (Roden 2015).

Brassier’s position thus depends on the conception of an interpreting subject it is not in a position to satisfactorily explain. Despite pretensions to naturalistic virtue, his world is bifurcated between a natural real and an order of thought that depends on it without really belonging to it (Brassier 2013: 104).

These issues lurk in the background in Brassier’s short text on improvisation. This claims that the act of improvisation involves an encounter between rule governed reason and pattern governed mechanisms. However, Brassier does not specify how such rules operate in music, or how the encounter between rules and mechanism is mediated.

In what follows I will argue that one reason he does not do this is that such rules do not operate in improvisation or in contemporary compositional practice. Claims about what is permissible or implied in music index context sensitive perceptual responses to musical events. These exhibit tensions between the expectations sedimented in musical culture and actual musical events or acts.

However, I will argue that this perceptual account of musical succession provides an alternate way of expressing Brassier’s remarks on the relationship between music and history in “Unfree Improvisation” – one that eschews normative discourse in favour of a descriptive account of the processes, capacities and potentialities operating in the improvising situation.

This metaphysical adjustment is of interest outside musical aesthetics and ontology, however.

Brassier’s text suggests that the temporality of the improvising act is a model for understanding a wider relationship with time: in particular the remorseless temporality explored in his writings on Prometheanism, Accelerationist Marxism and Radical Enlightenment (See Brassier 2014). I hope to use this suggestion as a clue for refining an ethics that can address the radically open horizons of being I discuss in my book Posthuman Life (Roden 2014).

This paper can, then, be thought of as a staged encounter between Prometheanism and my own Speculative Posthumanism. Brassier’s Prometheanism, like Reza Negarestani’s “inhumanism”, proposes that all reasons and purposes are “artificial”: implicit or explicit moves within language games. (See Negarestani 2014b). Thus the Promethean rejects all quasi-theological limits on artificialisation and enjoins the wholesale “reengineering of ourselves and our world on a more rational basis” and (2014: 487).

Speculative Posthumanism (SP) does not propose any theological limits to artificialisation. Far from it! However, it holds that the space of possible agents is not bound (a priori) by conditions of human agency or society. Since we lack future-proof knowledge of possible agents this “anthropologically unbounded posthumanism” (AUP) allows that the results of techno-political interventions could be weird in ways that we are not in a position to imagine (Roden 2014: Ch.3-4; Roden 2015b).

The ethical predicament of the Speculative Posthumanist is thus more complex than the Promethean. Given AUP there need be no structure constitutive of all subjectivity or agency. Thus she cannot appeal to a theory of rational subjectivity to support an ethics of becoming posthuman. So what – for example – might autonomy or freedom involve from the purview of unbounded posthumanism? What counts as emancipatory as opposed to oppressive violence?

I will argue that the idea of freedom embedded in Brassier’s text on improvisation can be elucidated by comparing the obscure genesis of improvisation to the predicament of agents in rapidly changing technical systems. Thus Brassier’s treatment of improvisation retains its resonance on this posthumanist reading even if it militates against his wider ontological and political commitments.
2. Harmonic Structure and Succession

I will begin by making use of some analyses of performance practices in post-war jazz and Julian Johnson’s analysis of the disruption of the rhetoric of harmonic accompaniment in the work of Anton Webern to support this model of affective subjectivity in improvisation.

Novice jazz improvisers must internalize a large body of musical theory: e.g. they learn modal variations on the Ionian and harmonic minor scale or “rules” for chord substitution in cadences based on shared tritones. This learning enables musical performance by sculpting possibilities for action during improvisation. For example, ambiguous voicings involving tritones or fourths decouple chords from the root, allowing modulations into what otherwise distant keys to slide easily over a tonal center.

This harmonic know-how consists recipes for honing expectations and sensations, not the acknowledgement of norms. The statement that a tritone (augmented fourth) belonging to a dominant seventh chord should resolve to a tonic reflects listener expectations in diatonic environments where a tonal center is defined in practice. This is not an intrinsic feature of the tritone, though, since each tritone occurs in two dominant chords. For example, the B-F tritone occurs in both G7 (resolving to C) and Dflat7.
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This provides a recipe for substituting a dominant chord at a tritone remove in perfect cadences.
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However, it also allows harmonic series to modulate into unrelated keys.
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As jazz theorist Martin Rosenberg notes, the use of augmented dominants with two tritones by Bebop players such as Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk produce multiple lines of harmonic consequence and thus an ambiguous context that is not conventionally diatonic, even if (in contrast to free jazz) some adherence to a tonal center is preserved.
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Symmetrical chords built of fourths (as used by pianists such as McCoy Tyer and Bill Evans) or major thirds have a similar effect, whether in diatonic contexts (where they can render the tonic ambiguous by stripping it to the 3rd, sixth and ninth) or in modal contexts where a tonal center is still implied by a pedal pass.
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In consequence, the home key in the modal jazz developed by Miles Davis and Coltrane never prescribes a series of actions but furnishes expectations that can make an improvisation aesthetically intelligible after the fact. As Rosenberg explains, when Coltrane improvises in modal compositions such as “A Love Supreme” he deploys pentatonic or digital patterns modulated well away from the implied tonal center suggested by a bass line or by the “head” (the tune that traditionally opens or closes a jazz improvisation):
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During his solos, Coltrane performs constant modulations through a series of harmonic targets or, what avant-garde architects Arakawa and Gins would call tentative “landing sites” (2002: 10) that become deployed sonically over a simple harmonic ‘home’ through the use of centered and then increasingly distant pentatonic scales from that home. In doing so, Coltrane seeks to widen what I call “the bandwidth” of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic relationships possible. He does so as he maintains the coherence of the melodic line (or narrative) through the aurally comfortable shapes (from the perspective of the audience especially) enabled by those very pentatonic scales, despite the juxtaposition of distant and dissonant tonal centers implied by this method. (Rosenberg 2010: 211-12).

This differential/transformative structure is, not surprisingly, characteristic of scored Western art music. In his analysis of Anton Webern’s Three Little Pieces for Piano and Cello, Op 11, Julian Johnson argues that the opening two bars of the first piece allude to the framing and introduction of melody in traditional song and opera. For example, in baroque recitative the onset of a lyrical melody is frequently indicated by an arpeggiated chord. However, the high register chord that occurs in the first bar of the piece follows a single muted cello note and is followed, in turn, by a descending piano passage, bathetically marking the absence of the expressive melody portended by the chord (Johnson 1998: 277, 272.).

Culturally transmitted musical structures consist of exquisitely context-sensitive patterns of expectation– like the chord/recitative framing relation discussed by Johnson. These exist in tension with the musical act and are transformed in exemplary works.[3] Their linguistic formulations do not prescribe but indirectly describe how musical transitions are perceived and felt. Thus in the context of improvisation and composition, we are not free in virtue of acknowledging or declining musical norms since these are not in place.

Brassier’s conception of autonomy seems ill adapted to musical contexts, then, even we if buy into his naturalist dismissal of the sovereign self. Thus if we are to tease out the implications of his text for posthuman agency, we need to formulate an alternative account of autonomy in improvisational contexts that is not predicated on the acknowledgement of musical norms.
3. The Time of Improvisation

An improvisation takes place in a time window limited by the memory and attention of the improviser, responding to her own playing, to the other players, or (as Brassier recognises) to the real-time behaviour of machines such as audio processors or midi-filters. It thus consists of irreversible acts that cannot be compositionally refined. They can only be repeated, developed or overwritten by subsequent acts.

Improvisation is thus committed to what Andy Hamilton calls “an aesthetics of imperfection” as opposed to a Platonism for which the musical work is only contingently associated with performances or performers (Hamilton 2000: 172). The aesthetics of imperfection celebrates the genesis of a performance and the embodying of the performer in a specific time and space.[4]

If improvisation is a genesis, it implies an irreversible temporality. Composition or digital editing is always reversible. One develops notational variants of an idea before winnowing them down or rejecting them. One hits Ctl/Cmd + Z in the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) when a mix goes bad.

An improvisation, by contrast, is always a unique and irreversible event on the cusp of another. An omniscient being would be incapable of improvising because its options would be fully known in advance. Unlike the improviser, it could never surprise itself. Its act would be fully represented before it took place and thus reversible.

It follows that an improvisation must exceed the improviser’s power of representation. The improvising agent must work with things or processes that it cannot entirely control or fully know. Paraphrasing Amy Ireland’s discussion of H P Lovecraft and Michel Serres in her excellent paper “Noise: An Ontology of the Avant-garde” improvisation requires a “para-site” – an alien interloper capable of disrupting or perverting the prescribed order of events. In Serres’ retelling of La Fontaine’s tale of the country rat and the city rat, this might be the Master who interrupts the rats’ nocturnal feast and sends the country rat scurrying home. Yet from the human position, it is the rodent feast that interrupts the Master’s sleep. The take home moral of this – for Ireland – is that the context in which a disturbance counts as noise requires a subjectively imposed norm that distorts the radical otherness of an inhuman reality to make it comprehensible for a human subject (Ireland 2014; Roden Forthcoming).[5]

With improvising subjectivity, however, parasitism is the rule – the noise that actualizes an always-tentative decision in real time performance.[6] This sensitive, yet tenuous agency implies a complex disunified subject in the dark about its complexity. As the tagline to Scott Bakker’s ultra-dark near-future thriller Neuropath has it: we are not what we think we are (2010, 2014).

Brassier veers towards such a model at the end of his article. It is, in any case, implied by his naturalistic proposal for explaining the evolution of reasons in terms of the organization of pattern governed physical systems. The freedom of improvisation requires, as he puts it, “an involution of [or reciprocal interaction between] mechanisms” to compose the (“not necessarily human”) agent of the act.

The ideal of ‘free improvisation’ is paradoxical: in order for improvisation to be free in the requisite sense, it must be a self-determining act, but this requires the involution of a series of mechanisms. It is this involutive process that is the agent of the act—one that is not necessarily human. It should not be confused for the improviser’s self, which is rather the greatest obstacle to the emergence of the act. The improviser must be prepared to act as an agent—in the sense in which one acts as a covert operative—on behalf of whatever mechanisms are capable of effecting the acceleration or confrontation required for releasing the act (My emphasis)

The claim that there is a potential act needing to be “released” in a given music setting might appear to impute rule-like structure or normativity to the improvising situation: something that ought to be. However, this claim does not cohere well with context sensitivity and underdetermination of musical expectation described in the previous section.

So what, then, is the nature of the paradoxically compelling, selfless freedom that falls out of this interaction between pattern recognizers, pattern generators and effectors? If we exorcise the specters of transcendental thought –Brassier’s own normative functionalism included – how, if at all, do we conceptualise he calls “the subjectivity of the act” or its “self-determination”?

I think clues about this selfless self-determination can be gleaned from improvising situations we know about. The real of the improvising situation might be all protean complexity, but as with other aspects of the world, we have techniques for coping with that complexity. And these work (more or less).

For example, in a field study of post-hardcore rock musicians, Alec McGuiness provides a vivid example of musicians using a procedural learning technique to prime a series of musical riffs over which their intentional control is fairly limited. Songs are built by associating riffs with riffs, but, as one informant explains, are varied in performance when it “feels right” to do so:

[S]ometimes there’ll be moments when we’re not looking at each other but all four will either hit that heavy thing, or really bring it down […] And yeah, those moments […].. it’s priceless, when everyone just hits the same thing at the same time. […] That’s when you know that that song’s definitely going to work. ‘Cause it’s obviously sort of pressing the same buttons on each of us at the same time. (McGuiness 2009: 19)

So, here, releasing the act involves a distributed response to a “felicitous performance”. This is a collective judgement expressed though performance act itself rather than by application of formal musical rules (of which the performers are largely innocent in any case).

The phenomenology of this act is also dark. All experience is, I have argued elsewhere, striated with “darkness” (Roden 2013; Roden 2014 Ch. 4). Having it only affords a very partial insight into its nature. We are not normally aware of it because, as Bakker writes, consciousness “provides no information about the absence of information.” Experience seems like a gift because we are unmindful of the heavy lifting required to produce it. We are in the dark about the dark.

The “state of grace” felt in felicitous improvisation is, then, an artifact of our technical underdevelopment. A technics like chaining riffs enables a groove but not groove control. It allows us, in Brassier words, to do “something with time” even as time “does something with us” (2014: 469).

However, if this is self-determination but not rule-governed rationality, what is it? I think we can understand this better by utilizing a conception of autonomy that is not exclusive to discursive creatures (as is the case with Kantian or Sellarsian self-determination).

In Posthuman Life, I call this “functional autonomy”. This idea helps articulate an unbounded speculative posthumanism because it applies to any self-maintaining system capable of enlisting values for its functionings or of becoming a value for some wider assemblage. A functionally autonomous system might be discursive and social; it might be a superintelligent but asocial singleton that only wants to produce paperclips. It might be something whose existence is utterly inconceivable to us, like a computational megastructure leeching the energy output of an entire star.

A diminution of functional autonomy is a reduction in power. Arthritis of the limbs painfully reduces freedom of movement and thus the ability to cultivate agency in other ways. Acquiring new skills increases “one’s capacities to affect and be affected, or to put it differently, increase one’s capacities to enter into novel assemblages” (DeLanda 2006: 50).

To be sure, success at improvising is not like acquiring a new skill. However, it requires that the agent embraces and is embraced a reality and time that interrupts any settled structure of values and ends.

This embrace might seem atavistic, divorced from the Promethean prospectus for engineering nature in compliance to reason. But this assumes that the means for engineering nature are compliant. In Posthuman Life I argue, to the contrary, that the systemic complexity of modern technique precludes binding technologies to norms. Modern self-augmenting technical systems are so complex as to be both out of control and characterised by massive functional indeterminacy – rendering them independent of any rules of use.

As the world is re-made by this vast planetary substance any agent located in the system needs to maximize its own ability to acquire new ends and purposes or bet (against the odds) on stable environments or ontological quiescence. Any technology liable to increase our ability to accrue new values and couplings in anomalous environments, then, is of local ecological value (Roden 2014: Ch. 7).[7] This is not because such technologies make us better or happier, but because the only viable response to this deracinative modernity is more of the same.

In this “posthuman predicament” agency must be febrile, even masochistic. The agent must tolerate and practice a systemic violence against itself and its world. Thus improvisation – because it necessarily embraces and is embraced by the involuted mechanisms of performance – rehearses our tryst with the ontological violence of the hypermodern.

References

Bakker, Scott. 2010. Neuropath. New York: Tor.

Bakker, Scott. 2014. The Blind Mechanic II: Reza Negarestani and the Labor of Ghosts | Three Pound Brain. Retrieved April 30, 2014, from https://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/the-blind-mechanic-ii-reza-negarestani-and-the-labour-of-ghosts

Beaty, R. E. (2015). The neuroscience of musical improvisation. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 51, 108-117

Brandom, R. 1994. Making it Explicit: Reasoning, representing, and discursive commitment. Harvard university press.

Brandom, R. 2001. Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Brassier, Ray & Rychter, Marcin (2011).” I Am a Nihilist Because I Still Believe in Truth”. Kronos (March). http://www.kronos.org.pl/index.php?23151,896 (Accessed 9 May 2015).

Brassier, R. 2011b. “The View from Nowhere”. Identities: Journal for Politics,

Gender and Culture 17: 7–23.

Brassier, Ray 2013a. “Unfree Improvisation/Compulsive Freedom”, http://www.mattin.org/essays/unfree_improvisation-compulsive_freedom.htm (Accessed March 2015)

Brassier, Ray. 2013b. “Nominalism, Naturalism, and Materialism: Sellars’ Critical Ontology”. In Bana Bashour & Hans D. Muller (eds.), Contemporary Philosophical Naturalism and its Implications. Routledge. 101-114.

Brassier, Ray (2014). “Prometheanism and its Critics”. In R. Mackaey and Avenessian (eds.) #Accelerate: the Accelerationist Reader (Falmouth: Urbanomic), 467-488.

Budd, M. (2001). The Pure Judgement of Taste as an Aesthetic Reflective Judgement. The British Journal of Aesthetics, 41(3), 247-260.

Hickey-Moody, A. 2009. “Little War Machines: Posthuman Pedagogy and Its Media”. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 3(3): 273–80.

Huron, D. B. 2006. Sweet anticipation: Music and the psychology of expectation. (MIT press).

Ireland, Amy. 2014. “Noise: An Ontology of the Avant-garde” https://www.academia.edu/3690573/Noise_An_Ontology_of_the_Avant-Garde (retrieved 30th April 2015)

Johnson, Julian, 1998. “The Nature of Abstraction: Analysis and the Webern Myth”, Music Analysis, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 267-280.

Limb, C. J., & Braun, A. R. (2008). Neural substrates of spontaneous musical performance: An fMRI study of jazz improvisation. PLoS One, 3(2), e1679.

McGuiness, A. 2009. Mental and motor representation for music performance (Doctoral dissertation, The Open University).

Proulx, Jeremy (forthcoming). “Nature, Judgment and Art: Kant and the Problem of Genius”. Kant Studies Online.

Roden, David 2013. “Nature’s Dark Domain: An Argument for a Naturalised Phenomenology”. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements 72: 169–88.

Roden, David. 2014. Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. London: Routledge.

Roden Forthcoming. “On Reason and Spectral Machines: an anti-normativist response to bounded posthumanism” Forthcoming in Rosi Braidotti Rick Dolphijn (ed.), Philosophy After Nature.

Rosenberg, Martin E. 2010. “Jazz and Emergence (Part One).” Inflexions 4, “Transversal Fields of Experience”: 183-277. www.inflexions.org

Shaviro, Steven. 2015. Allie X, “Catch”. http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1287 (accessed 6 May 2015)

[1] These determine how one ought to move from one position in the game to another (language-transition rules), assumes an “initial position” in the game – say, by observing some state of the world (language-entry rules) or exits the game by intentionally altering a bit of the world (Sellars 1954, 1974). In the case of assertions, the language-transition rules correspond to principles of material inference such as that allowing us to move to x is coloured from x is red. Language-entry rules, on the other hand, are non-inferential since they are made on the basis of reliable dispositions to discriminate the world (Sellars 1954: 209-10). As Robert Brandom puts it, statements like “This is red” (uttered in response to red things) are “noninferentially elicited but inferentially articulated” (Brandom 1994: 235, 258).

[2] For example, Robert Brandom cites the conditional (if… then…_statement as “the paradigm of a locution that permits one to make inferential commitments explicit as the content of judgements” (Brandom 29914: 109)

[3] Compositional prescriptions are regularly honored in the breach: “For hundreds of years musicians have been taught that it is good to resolve a large leap with a step in the other direction. Surely at least some composers followed this advice? The statistical results from von Hippel and Huron imply that for each passage where a composer had intentionally written according to post-skip reversal, then they must have intentionally transgressed this principle in an equivalent number of passages. Otherwise the statistics would not work out.” (David Huron, Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation, p. 84-6). However, the post-skip reversal heuristic is, it seems, applied by musician listeners, which makes sense given that it is easier to apply than a more accurate regression to the mean heuristic – which would require the listener to constantly infer the range (tessitura) of the melody (Ibid.).

[4] “Improvisation makes the performer alive in the moment; it brings one to a state of alertness, even what Ian Carr in his biography of Keith Jarrett has called the ‘state of grace’. This state is enhanced in a group situation of interactive empathy. But all players, except those in a large orchestra, have choices inviting spontaneity at the point of performance. These begin with the room in which they are playing, its humidity and temperature, who they are playing with, and so on.” (183)

[5] As she writes: “Looking from the inside out, the transcendental conditioning of experience establishes clarity by admitting certain contents of an unknowable site of primary production; yet from the outside in, the transcendental conditioning of experience is itself a degenerative noise that degrades the clarity of its external input, rendering it unintelligible and ultimately inaccessible to internal modes of apprehension. What, for the observer-as-subject is clarity, for the observer-as-object is noise. As Niklaus Luhman once remarked: ‘Reality is what one does not perceive when one perceives it’ “ (Ireland 2014)

[6] For example, while improvising in the first eight bars of Miles Davis’ “So What” I might decide (more or less consciously) to play some digital patterns in the home key then transpose these up a minor third. I might have a conception of how I’ll land in the home key of Dm: say by transposing down a tone to Eflatm, resolving to Dm with in a semi-tone descent. This will leave much to be resolved on the fly as my body engages the keys. What patterns will I employ? Will they be varied melodically or rhythmically during the root movement from D to F to E flat? Will they employ chromatic elements (outside the related modes) that further muddy the sense of tonality; will I (at the last) refrain from taking that timid semi-tone resolution, instead repeating or varying the modulation into more harmonically ambiguous terrain?

[7] For example, space technology, nanotechnology, or the use of brain computer interfaces –

first published here: http://enemyindustry.net/blog/?p=5895

August 10, 2016

on hatred

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 10:19 am

Man does not show his hatred openly. He hides it and lives it clandestinely in a masterly manner. This hatred is too well disguised as hatred of the eternal enemy, of the emperor, of the outer evildoer, so that no trusting, loving soul would or could ever dream of suspecting it right within righteous man. Yet, this is true: The sticky love of the mother toward her child is true hatred; the rigid faithfulness of the wife is true hatred; she is full of longing for other men. The dependent caretaking of men for their families is true hatred. The admiration of the crowd for their beloved fuehrers is true hatred, potential murder. Let the redeemer turn his back on his flock, let the shepherd for a single day only abandon his sheep, and the sheep will turn into howling wolves and tear the shepherd to pieces.

All this is too unbelievable to be conceived and handled. Yet it is true. It is true to such an extent that we suspect, with good reason, that it is at the bottom of the big evasion of any and every truth, the big as well as the small one. To get at the truth, the big lie has first to be uncovered. And uncovering this big lie means disaster to every soul involved.

The big hatred is well concealed and well enough controlled on the surface not to cause harm at close range. The child which was strangled emotionally by its mother in early infancy will not show the results until it has grown into a man who faces the task of loving a woman or into a woman who faces bringing up her child.

The distortion of gracefulness in a little girl by a frigid, ugly-faced mother will not show up until this girl has grown into a mother herself and has made her man and child unhappy for life. The last thought on the deathbed in many such a mother’s mind will be the worry as to whether her daughter has preserved her virginity.

Wilhelm Reich

The Murder of Christ, 1951

July 30, 2016

Aragorn Eloff reviews The Garden of Peculiarities

Filed under: Jesus sepulveda,literature,philosophy,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 12:57 pm

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first published here: http://meme.co.za/?p=111

July 27, 2016

on what affect is

Filed under: philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 2:03 pm

It is enjoyable to enjoy. It is exciting to be excited. It is terrorizing to be terrorized and angering to be angered. Affect is self-validating with or without any further referent.
Silvan Tomkins

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