Monday, November 12, 2007


A hard truth is that idealities are not omnitemporal but finite. (Maybe they're omnifinite.) It's a hard truth because our usual ways of understanding idealities assume something like omnitemporality. and so we are left with idealities that we don't fully understand and it seems that even our means of understanding are in question. We think as if idealites could be endlessly repeated and still retain their identities, almost as if we have to think that way in order to make any sense whatsoever of our cultural lives. Do we introject an image of ourselves as infinite beings into our idealities, even as we know ourselves to be finite, or do we project such an infinite being onto idealities only after we have reflected upon them? (One might say that the fantasy of the infinite being has nothing to do with idealities; I disagree, and that's why I'm at an aporia.) A split between thinking by idealities and thinking about idealities may be the only way to explain how we could be so vastly engaged in idealites and yet so abysmally misconstrue them. On the other hand, attending to such a split may actually avoid what needs explaining, which is one modality at least of the creation and destruction of meaning. If the meaning of an ideality is the sum total of its instantiations–I would rather say "improvisations" but I'm holding that word in reserve for a moment–then loss of meaning could be an effect of overuse as much as misuse or disuse. There's no dearth of ways for an ideality to lose meaning, to lose itself perhaps, or rather for people to lose it–and why not lose an ideality if it's lost its meaning? The pathways of human history are not only littered with lost idealities, they are themselves–well, if I told you, you might be offended. Let's just say that I personally feel an imperative to find my own way of getting lost. If you want to put an image to that, think of the Darjeeling Limited getting lost in the desert, a lemonade absurdity (or sweet lime as the case may be). The sourness of loss can be sweetened, which means that the infinite being is not merely a fantasy but also a tragic figure. Is the improvisor also a tragic figure? Maybe not so much.

Bruce Ellis Benson nicely summarizes Husserl's mature thinking about idealities in his book The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue: A Phenomenology of Music (pp. 6-8). Although Benson says that music is a bound ideality–is the octave a bound ideality or a free ideality?–and includes an entry for Husserl's ideal objects in his index, he maintains a distance between his own thinking and his interpretation of Husserl. He identifies a musicological idea of Werktreue and relates this to idealities, but he suspends judgement. He means for a broadened understanding of improvisation to provide a critique of the notion of music as reproduction. Although the gate is open, I'm not sure how far off the Majuscular I Ranch he'll wander. Tellingly, Benson doesn't include free improvisation among the eleven senses of improvisation he identifies (though the list was not meant to be exhaustive). Investigating free improvisation would also mean investigating failure, and that would raise the questions of whether people prefer having idealities to losing them (and therefore to creating them) and why that would be so.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:16 AM.


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