Sunday, June 01, 2008

Ripple and Howl

Simha Arom agrees with Jean Molino's definition of the musical: "Whenever sound is shaped and recognised by a culture, it is musical" (quoted in African Polyphony and Polyrhythm, p. 147). By this definition we could, though it would run counter to the task Arom has appointed to himself, hear language as musical. We would stumble into trouble on a few points, for instance on the question of differentiating language from culture, which might also call into question the differentiation of language from music and with that the whole project of differentiation, perhaps especially as it is conducted in tandem with a project of thinking by analogy, or amidst analogy.

Sometimes every word is troubling. I probe into words and wonder about the transmiguration of forms and also their persistence (and also the and also), and I do so, in part, because words are tools I think with, and perhaps that gives me trouble. I am troubled by thinking with. What does it mean to think with, or to think by? Thinking about thinking with, in a wee hour, a bout of psychasthenia welcomes another inhabitant of the horizon of thinking. Is this the figure of a muse? Trouble itself? A list of troubles: music, culture, recognoscence, shape, sound.

The musical. You could hardly be blamed for objecting to the personification of thought's other, or, whether or not it means the same thing, its with. (Before we cast ourselves as the feminine of thought, a distinct alternative, we should settle the matter of personification.) We don't yet know what a sonus is, so perhaps it's premature to think of carrying it through, though we may yet find ourselves doing something like that, carrying a sound through to music, or possibly by music. (The interchangeability of by and with?)

Does music call forth sound? Sound may have its own raisons d'être, but what are its reasons for being musical, for being shaped and recognized by a culture as such? Does music dramatize? Does it have its theatre of the labyrinthine and its masks, for perhaps resonance is the destination of sonance and also its journey and its origination, a calling forth. Music's calling forth of sound would be less spectacular than Dionysian, we can imagine, but nevertheless it plays in the same amphitheatre as spectacle and also chorus, the double theatre, the labyrinth of threads and dancers. Its purpose obscure, its dramaturgy amounts to this: a calling forth to airs. The singer's mask, the resonance with listeners and listening, what Nancy refers to as the whole articulatory cinema of the voice (which we insist on calling its theatre, sung and staged before it is cut up and framed, but, here Nancy is most insightful, drawing the face), which is not around the face like an atmosphere, but labyrinthine, that is to say connected to the hip bone, to the knee bone, to the ankle bone to the ball of the big toe, grounded in poises: airs. A ball of airs: entrée, adagio, variations, coda. The disco of words (poussette of the breath) never ceases to astonish, to vary forms that defy pronunciation and at the same time rasp true: larynx (λάρυγξ), diaphragm (δια- + φράγμα), a form which invites us to anatomize the ancient, phrenes (φρένες), and hence phrenasthenia, a weakness of frenzy, of the Dionysian, or of Mynde, a coming unpoised, disequipoise—how quickly the figures recompose themselves.

Culture (adagio). The truth of culture is that it is not a person. To even call it an it is deceptive. Were we to conceive of culture as an it, as a neutral person, we would recognize a defining characteristic: it takes its time. What we affectionately think of as ancient Greek civilization is still becoming civilization, still becoming Greek, still becoming ancient. It takes its time. It veritably drawls. We speak of cult-ure (Kult-ur, though we might have to reclaim a meaning) to call attention to, rather than an instance of caring, an activity of care, an activity that extends even beyond the seasonal, though we can use the seasonal to remind us of the time it takes, to get a foothold on what it means to take time, what it means to till. To think by culture is to become a witness to the intermarriage of the fast and the slow, and to let things into and out of our hands. Culture is not nurturing. It has no womb, no matrix, no biomechanical integuments of its own. It is precisely nurtural. It is in our hands, and, alternatively, out of our hands, or so to speak. It can't be dissociated from passage. That is, it takes its time.

Recognoscence. You know the dilemma. You recognize it. To know is already to know with, already and also again. Turn it on itself again: to recognize is already and also again to recognize by culture. How will you recognize the muse?

Shape. Would a departure here be on a theme of variations? Depart we must. The thought must occur that plasticity itself is a metaphor—feel free to worry about which way the action flows, about what it means to shape by culture. Let's leave form aside for a moment and pla-y with shape. To shape is to skop, and it is skopping (the activity of skops, commonly misspelt as scops) that nurtures its meaning. (Is skopping an end in itself? Wait, please.) Perhaps to nurture is to blur a line between helping along and allowing to be; perhaps it strikes a balance. The skop steps out of the synkairotic, skip skop, and so gives passage to it. The skop becomes, through donation, all about passage, passage through and through. The skop is all over that thing, a virtuoso of passages.

Sound is how we know the world has depths—or, rather, before we can know what a world might be, sound is how we know depths. It would be stupid to consign sound to surfaces, though it would be equally stupid to deny the surfaces their due. Sound unravels the how of depths. The howl is the sound of sounds on the slow, the slow tongue. The slow tongue calls forth the drawl, the ripple of the howl. Does the howl have a bottom? What is the nurture of our inquiry? To hear the howl of existence in a ripple, to know disturbance at its reaches: to sound sound as a double resonance, without priors, a true rap. It was already and also again called forth by passage, the door held open by the figure of the skop, and maybe in that double theatre the figure was doubled too, and you could feel the vibration of trouble itself. Sound.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:31 AM.


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