Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Two Anomalies

Having finished Johnson's Listening in Paris I now feel that any apposite critique of Romanticism must come from a posture of having, if not embraced Romanticism, gone hand in hand with Romanticism for some way. Perhaps I wouldn't want to defend Romanticism except for the existence of anti-Romanticism, which leans towards pulling the shade down on what it's really like to have an experience. Our first anomaly evinces itself in recognizing an experience that one would rather not have taken for an experience in any Romantic sense. It points to a shortcoming in vision of *language as a giver of experience, for even though Johnson is a historian who specializes in musicology, the key to his thinking is the idea that "music is a language," and by "language" he means something that, unconsciously and from the outside, constructs experience. (We may wish to credit Johsnon with giving us something more subtle than a simple critique of Romanticism; he means to criticize the conditions of possibility of Romanticism. I would still turn the critique around to investigate the conditions of possibility of an "anti-Romantic" experience.) The specific problem Johnson's discourse raises is this: given an expectation of silent listening, how does one adequately and appropriately communicate one's boredom at the opera without being mistaken for either having a profound experience or for genuinely being polite? At this point I'd like to register my sympathies with elite audiences who feel that their responsivity, their very capacity for formulating and communicating responses to music, which must in only one respect happen both spontaneously and at once if they are to be responses, has been truncated, repressed, or otherwise mired in stupidities and awkward, if all too easy, niceties. Do such listeners suffer from too much Romanticism or, as may be evident were we to take our feelings into account, too little? Bear with me a second. I'm not going to argue that boredom represents a deep experience or an experience any less constructed or more interior than any other kind of experience. I will say that boredom is felt, and, most germaine to our critique, an urge to communicate this feeling arises even when approved codes of expressing such a feeling are not readily at hand. To think this through we must return to the question of response, which now must be thought with a new understanding of readiness, for it is only in one respect that responses are formulated and communicated spontaneously and at once, and that is in respect to the synkairotic and the spasmoreality that pertains to its breach. The synkairotic differs from synchronic in that its at onces are not in binary opposition to the diachronic, and may be stretched and bent in response to exigencies of moment. What we call one respect of response may be better conceptualized as one moment of response. The fact that response has other moments is not obscured or obliterated by the breach of the synkairotic. In actuality the inculcation of stillness (of which silence is but one mode) into the body of the elite listener reveals itself as an extreme kind of violence not because it denies an expression–this would the Romantic conceit of the anti-Romantic–but because it misplaces readiness. This may also stand as a metaphor for zombification, this stillness. We should not think of this zombification, however, in the sense of there being a Difference between Life and Death which may be suspended, but only in the sense of a readiness having been misplaced or even misappropriated. Readiness belongs with the response and with experience at once. Of course in embracing the momentary we must depart from the instant and the infinite experience it has been made to represent. So be it. We cannot listen well while allowing readiness to be restricted to the instantaneous.

Our second anomaly is a straightforward critique of the Boasian linguistic unconscious by Claude Hagège: On the Part Played by Human Conscious Choice in Language Structure and Language Evolution (pdf). (This may appear to be an ordered catalogue of anomalies; I take the existence of linguistic consciousness to be a single fact which any adequate thinking about language would have to account for, so I count it as one anomaly, without ruling out any finer analyses.)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:10 AM.


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