The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

April 12, 2018


the temporal punctum and the problem of music


http://www.alansondheim.org/btail58.jpg
hidden shore, marble and sedimentary layers

http://www.alansondheim.org/convol.mp3 bodies in extremis

http://www.alansondheim.org/btail57.jpg
hidden shore, dimpled and perforated rocks


for the first two parts ***

In Barthes' description of the photograph, the _punctum_ is
usually considered a placement or intensification of an object
within the image. But then there's this:

"In 1865, young Lewis Payne tried to assassinate Secretary of
State W. H. Seward. Alexander Gardner photographed him in his
cell, where he was waiting to be hanged. The photograph is
handsome, as is the boy: that is the _studium._ But the
_punctum_ is: _he is going to die._ I read at the same time:
_This will be_ and _this has been_; I observe with horror an
anterior future of which death is the stake. By giving me the
absolute past of the pose (aorist), the photograph tells me
death in the future. What _pricks_ me is the discovery of this
equivalence." (p. 96)

"It is because each photograph always contains this imperious
sign of my future death that each one, however attached it seems
to be to the excited world of the living, challenges each of us,
one by one, outside of any generality (but not outside of any
transcendence)" (p.
97)

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, trans. Howard.

This fascinates me, holds me in time; it fascinates me because
of the problem of music it engenders, the temporal punctum
within the aegis of the linear. We might think we peer into our
own deaths, our own futures, in this evanescence that lures,
beckons us, to the ending of the piece (the tonic or not the
tonic, or noise or not noise, etc.); what I held on to has now
vanished, even a recording cannot revive it (what of the
relationship of my body to the instrument my body is playing _at
that very moment_ for example?). One wants to believe in the
fecundity of time, that there's always a potential return,
always a future anterior or forward encapsulation, no matter how
many signs there are of the imminence, immanence for that
matter, of death. The disappearance of the piece signals the
disappearance of music, of the body's movements in relation to
the piece and to music in general, of the body itself. We play
our small lives within our little deaths always already heralded
through the music. This, too, is part of the problem of music,
part of its aporia - no matter what we hear, we hear nothing, no
matter what we see, we see nothing, everything, every
catastrophe, embedded in time. We are time's suitors, without
time or space for wisdom; it always ends this way, and no other.

+++

*** thinking about playing music, description/explanation

*//produced through the KDATE program which is a catalyst for
thought and rearrangement.//*

for the first part **

"I create music because I find music a problem.
I play thinking about that problem, that set of problems.
For example, embodiment and sound.
For example, thought and sound."

in any case i haven't abandoned music, i play with a
sleight-of-hand, i fake fake books, i work around chords and
tend towards confusions which resolve through repetition, i move
from one to another instrument, always on the go, always
correcting, working fundamentally on fundamental speed, i remain
within the bounds of the instrument, i study those bounds and
their history, i persevere.

and for me, the bottom always dropping out, no one could
possibly like this stuff, my explanations forms of false props
holding up lies and empty air, really a kind of bewilderment -
and then of course bewilderment that anyone would want to listen
to this stuff, listen to the 'problem' -their movements bringing
the rest of the body into alignment and sorrow, turning away, a
shade too soon or late -

as well as the problems of music's physicality, beckoning from
another more perfect realm, a kind of physical metaphysics of
music entangled with minkowski space, helmholtz's researches,
current neurophysiologies -

what the issue is with music, an inability to hear pitch
correctly, tinnitus as well, no musical training, no ability to
read notes, confusion over harmony, inability to sing or match
pitch -

every instrument, every moment is a new one, a new resolution
and new problem, something soon forgotten as i move on - i
attempt new scales which i insist on in spite of any
resolutions, i work around them, circumnavigate, circumambulate,
they're in my blood -it remains within my fingers and their
prowess, fighting against repetitions and familiar phrasing,
punishing myself when they occur, finding them problems somewhat
like the major scale, preferring the minor with its intense
slippages at the upper and lower ends of the octaves, acting
theatrically as if i could channel the amazing slowly moving
repetitions of so many cultures and their care of their
intervals -

so i'm tunneling through music rather than reading the notes,
hearing the surfaces to which i might as well be deaf, which is
why my music circulates within me in untoward ways, a form of
fetishization i think, always returning to, expanding and
curtailing, the body and its musculature, its breathing, its
tremors, its tremblings, jouissance -

returning always to holding my breathing within the tsunami of
notes and consonances, furiously presenting dissonance as if
irrationally descending, using repetitions to establish those
dissonances, they upwell from beneath - all of this foreground
the problem of music, problem of sound, within and without my
register -

always mindful, always within a mindfulness and yes, a sense of
shame as well, something that doesn't cohere with me, almost an
embarrassment, anxiety, as if i'm always an imposter, insistent
on that, ignoring or beneath my judgment, as if, 'what have we
here' as if, 'what do we hear' -

a problem related to the body, the mind, the very physicality of
the fingers, the mouth, often without rhythm, without rhyme or
reason, a kind of shameful debris of the body as if it were
closed off to any sound, as if it realized it was impossible to
play any sound, in relation to any other sound, whatsoever -

my life, my music, filling, fills me with regrets, why did i
ever begin something i'm incapable of doing, bringing to any
sort of completion, something, this music, which transforms me
into trash, these fingers which continue and continue, swiftly
and with a life of their own -

or a tending through these to the sound itself, always back to
the sound, although to be honest, often when i play my
consciousness splits, and splits several times over, thinking of
other things while being transported, a kind of
self-consciousness and otherwise thought as well - which i bring
back to the sounds and movements literally at hand - as if there
were a kind of control at work somewhere in the depths of my
mind - another fiction -

Sun Apr  8 02:42:13 EDT 2018

** The Music Problem Manifesto Revisited:

"I create music because I find music a problem.
I play thinking about that problem, that set of problems.
For example, embodiment and sound.
For example, thought and sound.
Or the obdurate in music, or what constitutes attention.
Or the withdrawal of attention, and then, procedures.
Or not procedures but unconscious choice.
Which then returns to procedures and a kind of exhaustion.
Or the instrument itself, instruments themselves.
And what constitutes the tending of these instruments.
What constitutes their embodiment and sound.
And what of the thinking of these instruments.
Their obdurate.
The attentiveness necessary for the production of sound.
And what are the channels of sound through and around them.
What of their relation to us, their beings to us.
The semiotics of sound which is always already behind us.
The semiotics of silence which is always before us.
The sound which is yet to be produced.
The memory of sound which has been produced.
The memory of structure and of structures of structures.
The attentiveness to that memory.
The withdrawal of attentiveness from that memory.
And the unwieldiness of this situation.
Or these situations.
And the obdurate or dynamics of that unwieldiness.
So there is this set of problems and pleasure plays no part.
Or pleasure or unpleasure surrounds this set.
Surrounds this set as forgotten or as a diacritical mark.
The mark which tethers the music to the social or example.
Or to accomplishment for example.
Or the lack of accomplishment.
Or the aegis of failure or success.
So that I am not a musician or am a faux musician.
Or am a musician manque or a failed musician.
Or someone walking near a parapet in the fog.
The walkway along the bank of a nighttime river.
The sound of the water moving slowly.
The lights by which I insist this is not a program.
Nor programmatic music nor a lyric.
It is a walk by the Thames on a rainy night.
It is March 1824 and the moon is new."

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Thu Apr 12 19:26:59 EDT 2018

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