Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Meontic Renewal

Can a harmony be renewed? Renewal may be the only temporal mode of existence open to harmony, if that's possible. Here I'd like to think renewal beyond a reiteration of the dubiousness of repetition and, what goes hand in hand, a reaffirmation of the evanescent. The thinking of renewal must itself be renewed. We really should be speaking of a double evanescence here, and asking whether an evanescence can be evanesced, for as surely as every tone eventually fades away, the harmonies a tone wends through and wends again through also fade (which is not to pre-emptively deny harmony's wendings and wendings again). When we ask about the modality of a harmony's evanescence, and question the play of transitivity in its relation to tone, we are on the verge of revealing a terrific fact of evanescence, which might have eluded us had we approached evanescence directly. That evanescence must be renewed? No, we are only beginning to glimpse what evanescence has in store for us. Is the evanescence of the evanescent, the evanishment of the evanid, primarily a mimetic operation or a meontic operation? You see, once repetition has abandoned us and mimesis reverberates merely as the reverberation of reverberation, we might turn to meontic renewal as the remaining possible modality of the evanescence of the evanescent. Well, by all means let's not make too much of a fuss over τό μἠ ὅν, the meon(t)ic. If meontic renewal is the way the evanescent is evanesced that's not to say it's all that and a bag of chips, any deflation of mimesis and such notwithstanding. If the evanescent in particular is partial to meontic realizations (irrealizations, if we don't mind being twisted around), that tells us about the evanescent; we cannot be sure it tells us anything about all things touched by evanescence.

Harmonies captivate us because they are felt. Try to say what those feelings are, and the thought may sneak up that harmonies are felt because they captivate. The rational position is to remain agnostic on the question of whether evanescence liberates or imprisons—but are our feelings there to be ignored? Are our ordinary encounters with harmonies predicated on sedimentations? That is, are our experiences of harmony experiences of sedimented beauties, beauties we did not ourselves arrive at through our own intuitions? Well, there's no denying that sentimentalism is a force in the world of harmonies. If we do say that harmony can happen only as renewal do we mean that all the forms of harmony that may be experienced are already sedimented? Without going so far as to claim that Occidental music theory has exhausted all possibilities of harmonizing, we might recognize that we don't quite feel anything in the total absence of the sedimentary. What would it be like to feel sedimentation at its source? Would it be like a fading away, a renewal, or maybe a synchrony of both feelings? There's no denying that sedimentarism is a force in the world of harmonies. But is re-activation of the sedimented all that could be meant by renewal? Another possibility remains to be explored: perhaps our ordinary encounters with harmonies are predicated on fadings.

What if instead of the durations of tones (and harmonies) we spoke of intensities? I share Bachelard's skepticism of durations, and seek to explore gaps in the harmonic, though I have not quite internalized his metaphysics to the point where my talk of intensities would dwell in the same habitat of meaning as his. Since I am brushing up alongside Bachelard here, dig what he says regarding temporal consolidation: "the posing of a form and material intercalation are the two inevitable moments of all coherent or rather cohered activity, of all activity that is not purely and simply made of accidents. Only this kind of cohered activity can be renewed and can constitute a precise temporal reality" (Dialectic of Duration, p. 96, my bold). Well, you see what my initial question attempts to renew. I don't regard this matter as settled. So the question of what sort of activity can be renewed persists in the question of the harmonic evanescence of intensities. Are gaps in intensity felt? Coherently? Does meontic renewal have anything whatsoever to do with forms? (Are feelings and forms opposed, or do they perforce work in tandem, coherently?) What can we say about the temporal reality of harmony? Is harmony an activity, and, if so, is it an activity in the way thought is an activity?

Bachelard revisits an idea presented by a certain Georges Urbain that melodic sequence is completely dependent on harmonic sequence, that even in monody there is no note that is not accompanied if only in the aural imagination (p. 130). Well, maybe this is both completely true and completely false. We need to ask what it means to accompany, and what it means to renew a harmony. We have really just begun to test the possibilities of harmony, and we might be well served to wait a few millennia before reaching any conclusions. The fact that harmony is comping—we don't deny it—in no way dims the insight that harmonies may be arpeggiated or even melodized, that is, we needn't forget that the synchronic/diachronic is a two-way street. The synchronic intensifications sounded within a harmonic irreality do not at once cease being melodic for having been brought under a coherence, if such they are. Perhaps Bachelard is not in disagreement? He says that "a homogenous process cannot ever change. Only plurality can have duration, can change, and can become. The becoming of a plurality is as polymorphous as, despite all simplifications, that of a melody is polyphonous. The duration of sound is dialectical in every direction, on the axis of melody as on that of harmony, in intensity as in timbre" (ibidem, my bold). Is a harmony merely a felt coherence, or the form of a coherent activity, or are gaps in intensity also felt, providing a silent accompaniment to every harmony? Is the intensity of tone dialectical in every direction? Again, we wouldn't want to make too much of a fuss about meontic renewal. My feeling is that sounds sound in every direction, fade multivalently, intensify polymodally. Given the plurality of modes of the intensely irreal, the meontic gesture oughtn't be reduced to a unidirectional negation, though of course we would need to say something about the irreal and perhaps how it got that way. If the irreality of the harmonic act acquired its irreality from a process of renewal, then neither negation nor affirmation will get to the bottom of harmony, if it indeed is not bottomless, at least so far as we may speak of its meontic renewal.

What's it like to feel a harmony exactly at its vestige? We're going to have to return to the gap in intensity and think it through in light of Dylan Trigg's Aesthetics of Decay. For now can we begin to describe an intercession between a gap in intensity and its experience as a gap? What sort of repercussions should we be listening for? Is the proper analysis of harmony hermeneutics? What would a pure meontics of harmony sound like?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:17 PM.


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