Music and the Mundane

May 28, 2013

Music, for the sake of this discussion, can be as simple as a clock ticking or as complex as a Beethoven piece. My argument is that every sound that you might put into the rather loose category I just outlined is as mundane and everyday as walking or drinking a glass of water. I’m not trying to just make a case for Nihilism here. What compels me to write this post, mostly, is that many people seem to differentiate the deliberate flicking of a keychain, or the tapping of a pencil on a desk from the flicks and taps of music found on itunes. I don’t see much of a difference. The complexity and degree of cohesiveness of music is only relevant to the degree the culture it expresses itself from declares it. When my 4 y/o niece sings “You Are My Sunshine”, I genuinely have a difficult time measuring that and making distinctions between a Paul McCartney song, other than a few hundred thousand dollars on equipment and production. I suppose it’s obvious that I’m focused on the will of the musician here more than what’s resonating in the ether. The significance of any music is necessarily contingent upon the walls the sound is reverberating against. To talk about about music in any meaningful way (not just a mere discussion about building processes) I think one must talk about the building process as a social expression (as a type of acoustic signage of attitudes). Generally, with the exception of maybe classical music, this is not a contrived metaphor. It is merely a coincidental appearance from the will to make music. Anyone that makes an utterance from the will to be genuine, will (by coincidence) critique something. It doesn’t even need to remotely resemble the rhythmic pulse of a clock (or anything we might consider “music” for that matter). It is here, at the heart of the will to sing – the emotional core of all (emotional) artistic activities – where concepts like “timbre”, “Rhythm”, “Rhyme”, “harmonics” etc… are finally allowed to dissolve. As profound as that might seem, it is a regular human activity.

Smithsons dialectic of Site / Non Site

Site                                                                       Nonsite

  1. open limits                                          closed limits
  2. A series of points                              An array of matter  
  3. Outer Coordinates                           Inner Coordinates
  4. Subtraction                                        Addition
  5. Indeterminate Certainty              Determinate uncertainty
  6. Scattered Information                   Contained information
  7. Reflection                                           Mirror
  8. Edge                                                      Center
  9. Some Place (physical)                   No place (abstract)
  10. Many                                                    One


I think, to understand this Smithson, there needs to be a clear distinction made between metaphysical aesthetics, and dialctical aesthetics.

The metaphysical inquiry into aesthetics we might call “ontological aesthetics”, strips away the logically extrapolated optics, and the vitreous body from aesthetic experience. What Smithson is trying to do, I think, is not to ontologize with logic in his earthworks (see The Spiral Jetty), but to perceive in an indiscriminate relationship between the landscape and the somewhat enantiomorphed eye and ear. The indoor earthworks, or nonsites of Smithson, are three-dimensional logical sculptures extended to their poles, like the Enantiomorphic chambers.

This site / nonsite, or earthwork / indoor earthwork dialectic of Smithson’s is a relationship between aesthetics (site / earthwork) and it’s logical extrapolation (nonsite / indoor earthwork). So his aesthetics are different from formal metaphysical aesthetics of beauty and the sublime, in that it is a dialectical relationship between the logicallyextrapolated optics of the enantiomorphic chambers of the eyes (or stereoscopic vision) and the illogicalseizure of the vitreous body in the landscape where earthworks are made. So, in the site / nonsite dialectic there is no metaphysical doctrines that can link the two. Sometimes the dialectic is diametrically opposed, where other times it seems they can connect in some fashion. For instance, the nonsite enantiomorphic chambers are logically extrapolated optics within the contained category of optics. In the site, the logical, categorical containment of this optics is undermined by the alogos, because it is a fusionof all of the senses that obliterate the logically contained extrapolation of the nonsite.

It doesn’t really have anything to do with beauty at all. It is not a metaphysical doctrine, but an (incompletely) incompatable dialectical relationshipbetween extrapolated contained logical categories, and the combined senses of the “eyes and ears”, where logical containment falls “into a mental bog.”