Ultima 2018, Oslo (Review)

Published in Tempo, Vol. 73, Issue 288 (2019)

View at Cambridge University Press

Acoustics of The 21st Century

Published in the Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik, Band 24 (2016)

View at Schott Music Germany

Noise, sound and objecthood: the politics of representation in avant-garde music

This essay offers both a historical analysis of twentieth century avant-garde practices relating to representation in music, and a prescriptive model for contemporary methods of composition. I address the taxonomy problem in classical music, clarifying the ontological divide identified by German musicologist Michael Rebhahn Contemporary Classical music and New Music. I demonstrate how neoliberalism has developed a Global Style (Foster 2012) of "Light Modernity,” evident in both contemporary architecture and music alike. The central problem facing composition today is the fetishization of materials, ultimately derived from music's refusal to allow the question of representation to be addressed. I argue that composers have largely sought to define noise as sound-in-itself, eliminating the possibilities of representation in the process. Proposing instead that composers should strive to tackle representation head-on in the 21st century, I show how Jacques Rancière provides a model in which noise and sound—representation and abstraction—function in a conjoined, yet non-homogenized aesthetic regime. Governed by what he calls the "pensiveness of the image,” it allows for a renewed art form that rejects repetition and neoliberalism, re-connecting to the spirit of the avant-garde without slavishly echoing either its outmoded aesthetics or dogmatic philosophies.

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Brooklynism: The Logic of Junkspace

Despite its recent coronation as the global arbiter of Cool, Brooklyn’s real claim to fame has been its status as one the most important test sites for the urban neoliberal experiment. Contemporary Brooklyn symbolizes the post-modern shattering of the citizenry’s faith in public institutions. The 1980s collapse of political will for large-scale civil works projects corresponds with a failure of the collective imagination to envisage urban spaces as anything other than a physical mechanism to foster transactional, commodity-oriented social interactions. What we could call “Brooklynism” is defined by the death of fantasy and the narrowing of the urban imaginary; the vengeful triumph of the suburbs over the city; and an insidious corporatism that deploys the style and language of the new urban manufacturing class, “DIY artisans”, to disguise the true nature of multinational firms from a generation of people who would otherwise be critical of them.

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