music as an organisational principle: resonance

August 20th, 2009 | No comments yet
musikal resistance (2000) / dj.glim

musikal resistance (2000) / dj.glim

Revolutionary movements do not spread by contamination but by resonance. Something that is constituted here resonates with the shock wave emitted by something constituted over there. A body that resonates does so according to its own mode. An insurrection is not like a plague or a forest fire – a linear process which spreads from place to place after an initial spark. It rather takes the shape of a music, whose focal points, though dispersed in time and space, succeed in imposing the rhythm of their own vibrations, always taking on more density. To the point that any return to normal is no longer desirable or even imaginable. (The Coming Insurrection 13)

As of 2009, the suspected authors of this lively and at times satirically brilliant text – in the best tradition of insurrectionist French theory, a nod to Voltaire – are still facing charges, some released from prison, others being held & questioned. Any following critical comments are critical only insofar as they applaud the force of this text.

Yet – and there is a yet with this text – something of the darkly humorous & inventive tone is lost by the time the text announces, in a rather didactic fashion, its prescriptions for action as a way of closure. These prescriptives are a tad too prescriptive for me. And I think in this passage all of what invigorates me – yet frustrates me – can be heard.

The shift from contamination to resonance is an intriguing one insofar as what it does not say. Contamination presupposes uncontaminated bodies or spheres. Resonance resonates because all things resonate, vibrate, are in or out of tune, skipping along or playing the wallflower to the dance – no matter what. Thus the potential for a large scale resonance is inherent to its constitution as resonant bodies, assemblages, spaces. Nothing fails to resonate, and thus nothing is pure of resonance. There is nothing to contaminate. Insurrection arrives from within by way of a resonance with an other that is always at play in the rhythm of the within/without. This interplay of inside/outside without need of a linearity of contamination or politic of porosity leads into the motif of music.

Hakim Bey once wrote of “music as an organisational principle” (TAZ 124). As Bey recaps, this principle has been put into action in the Constitution of the Republic of Fiume by Gabriele D’Annunzio, which declared music to be the central principle of the State. D’Anunzio was a First World War hero, “Decadent poet, artist, musician, aesthete, womanizer, pioneer daredevil aeronautist, black magician, genius and cad… with a small army at his back and command: the ‘Arditi’”, who went out to capture the city of Fiume and give it to Italy; Italy declined; so he declared independence… to see how long it would last. ‘The Italian fleet finally showed up some 18 months later, right around the same time the wine & money had run out.’ As Bey notes, though not as serious as anarchist Barcelona or free Ukraine, Fiume is possibly the last pirate utopia and the first modern Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ). And Bey makes the relevant point that Fiume has much in common with the Paris uprising of May ’68, American countercultural communes, and other mid-to-late 20th century anarcho-New Left actions. Point being the significance of aesthetics in organisational principles:

…we should notice certain similarities, such as: – the importance of aesthetic theory (cf. the Situationists) – also, what might be called “pirate economics,” living high off the surplus of social overproduction – even the popularity of colorful military uniforms – and the concept of music as revolutionary social change – and finally their shared air of impermanence, of being ready to move on, shape-shift, re-locate to other universities, mountaintops, ghettos, factories, safe houses, abandoned farms – or even other planes of reality. No one was trying to impose yet another Revolutionary Dictatorship, either at Fiume, Paris, or Millbrook. Either the world would change, or it wouldn’t. Meanwhile keep on the move and live intensely. (TAZ 127)

Music, like all sonics, is a temporary movement of air affecting aesthetic interpretations through the body’s elongated ear, a becoming-ear of the body in which the whole body resonates with the passing temporalization of sound, either in movement (dance) or stillness (meditation). To organise with music as the principle thereof means to embrace the temporary (though a rhythm may last as long as it needs to, or can, it nonetheless is never fixed as-such like a visual object in-the-world) and the temporalization of the temporary (the passing of time through the repetition of what was into what becomes: the principle of repetition and difference). Certainly, then, the kind of music deployed as organisational principle matters. It matters as it comes to shape the matter of things: what matters (gravitas) and what informs the shaping of matter (the organisation of objects in the world; the archi-texture of the world).

In short, top 40 music regardless of genre, oft clocking in at under 3 minutes with a catchy hook is the organisational principle of the 21C everyday, with its short attention-spans, eyeball economies, push advertising, commodification of all aspects of everyday life, and banal sexuality / violence interplays under the great empty signifier of money. Needless to say the trance inducing mixes of electronic dance music form a very different organisational principle, calling for collective, participatory organisation in the creation of such events and in their celebration under dance, while punk intensifies the brevity of the song, eschewing the catchy hook for amped anger against the state of things. These are different sonics that resonate with different organisational principles; in short, aesthetics matters.

Back to The Coming Insurrection:

It [insurrection] rather takes the shape of a music, whose focal points, though dispersed in time and space, succeed in imposing the rhythm of their own vibrations, always taking on more density.

This is where something is amok with the principle. Insurrection organises itself by way of resonance, which is to say the principle of difference and repetition, at its core (we could say music; but music is the aesthetic superposition of (a)rhythmia – np. Lefebvre’s Rhythmanalysis). Insurrection does not take the shape of a music insofar as it is music at its ontological level. Perhaps this is quibbling. But the sentence continues with a mixed metaphor (one needs to consult the French, to be sure) in that it discusses focal points. There are no focal points – points of visual focus over distance – in music. This mixed metaphor then mixes time and space, and begins to introduce a logic of imposition, wherein music imposes rhythm, imposes order, lays down the law of revolution. This kind of rhythm is the organisational principle of a deafening that drowns out echoes, arrhythmia, counterrhythmia, soundclashes, mixes, samples. Imposed vibrations becomes possessive, in this case, as the text notes they are own vibrations, possessed by a sense of ownership. The logic of this mixed metamorphical sentence is thus not empiricist enough; it does not take seriously enough music as an organisational principle, instead seeing it as a (mixed) metaphor. And so it reveals a logic that was two sentences early denounced: that of contamination. Only contamination can infiltrate one’s own, the possessive, insofar as it is a purity, an ownness with borders against which it defends (and a rhythm can be this: the rhythm of a military marching band, for example). And so what is this density that is taken on? This density that feels suddenly so heavy, which weighs down the music into an imposing, deafening regimentation of the march, the battle cry towards The Revolution? It is this battle cry that resonates throughout The Coming Insurrection, which ends with a far too imposing series of prescriptions, which can be read as already making their mark some 13 pages in.

As for the return – beyond the point of no return – music always returns (np. Proust’s ‘refrain’). There is always a return, in time, in temporality, but only insofar as each return strikes its difference (a philosophical observation; but a significant one politically). The re- of the return is why theorists/agitators such as Bey reject The Revolution in favour of the transient principles of the TAZ to begin with. Any movement beyond the point of no return is a movement in which all must march through the same imposed singularity, march on to the same rhythm. This is why such totalizing things are called movements, and not convergences, which is where this passage in the text begins – on the wrong foot, about to trip into a march when I desire to dance.

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