Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Modernism to Postmodernism to Postmortemism

By P. Emerson Williams

We cultural types do love to declare death wherever we cast our jaded blood-shot eyes. When our imaginations are exhausted, hard-ons for the latest arising only with greater efforts require new extremes of fetishism. A point comes when completed work crowds out attention. Art, empire, economy, politics look to us to be sated with days and ready to give in to sweet oblivion.
Lady Gaga killed sex, says the once much discussed Camille Paglia, who quotes her subject who declaims “Music is a lie”, “Art is a lie”, “Gaga is a lie”. The death of the novel is an idea so oft repeated that one can envision members of the literary establishment daring each other to intone the phrase three times in front of a mirror in expectation of the candyman to appear. And closer to home for us here, the right honourable psychonaut James L. Kent writing for Acceler8or the new transhumanist vehicle established by R. U. Sirius says we've come to rest after years of the deceler8ing of music as a living mode of expression. Nice opening shot.
Every style of traditional, ethnic, and world music has been incorporated into the modern pop uber-genre. There are no more Afro beats, throat singers, Middle Eastern microtonal scales, Buddhist Ohms, Irish sea shanties, American folk songs, Navajo ancestral chants, and so on, that haven’t already been chewed up, digested, and shat out by modern pop composers.

Forcing sound snippets into a twelve-tone, four on the floor format is for sure a denigration of these traditions, but it's a very colonial Western POV that would consider that this raiding of sampled sounds a cancelling out of entire traditions of music and culture. I recall a thread in an occult social site that began from a post that stated basically that Eastern philosophies were being killed by Western adoption through Western seekers not understanding the finer points or getting entire belief systems wrong. Well, I have news – taking a photo of a person does not trap their soul in the camera and Americans weaving Tibetan buddhism into candy-coated self help material doesn't make all the monks in exile disappear from the universe.

Maybe he's right. Perhaps the hum that is plaguing many towns across the globe with no detectable source is just the musicological equivalent of the smell of dead plague victims piling up.
Arthur Krystal is a voice in the Death of the Novel chorus for some time. In an interview in Harper's magazine he expands his theme:
Leaving film aside, since it’s a relatively recent art, the arts as we know them have run their course. You can argue this until your face is blue, but it won’t change the historical fact. Time and technology wait for no artist, and unfortunately history has seen fit to alter our sense of time by the invention of new technologies.

Tina Brown Asks Philip Roth About the Future of the Novel from The Daily Beast Video on Vimeo.
Philip Roth has devoted his life to creating novels, but he’s pessimistic about their future.
“The book can’t compete with the screen,” Roth tells Tina Brown in this video, and even the Kindle won’t change that.
“It couldn’t compete beginning with the movie screen," Roth says. "It couldn’t compete with the television screen, and it can’t compete with the computer screen.”

Krystal does admit that this could be in part a personal issue, though. In what appears on the surface to be the similar line of argument, Nick Currie wrote in his blog a few years back that the realm of popular music is an endless exercise in what he termed retro-necro. All a re-hash of old ideas, established forms entirely lacking in innovation. Said Mr. Momus:
There's a very simple, very big problem for today's pop musician: if you fail to attack the father and rip up his rules, the father will always beat you. He will beat you because he did what you're doing first, with more spontaneity and passion, and with less reverence. If you fail to rip up the rules of your father's pop music and start again, you will see pop music becoming what classical and to some extent jazz have become: interpretive artforms dominated by performers who simply run through a canon of set masterpieces.
The retro-necro argument is very different, though. While claiming development and innovation has not been occurring within popular music, he is writing from a point of view that this is not only needed, but also very much possible. Altermodern means Western art will be rescued by assimilating the work of artists outside the Western canon. As if cubists and earlier movements were not doing this generations ago. The answer to retro-necro is to throw out that canon entirely. Forget the necrophilic worship of mouldering rock stars and discard art's previous incarnations.
Postmodernism's endless production of hybrid beasts was an admission of defeat in the face of not knowing where to explore next. So, are we post-cultural, post-production, post-industrial, post-historic, post-consumer, post-toasties...? The feuilleton age has come to a conclusion and music is verily the final cultural corpse to be assimilated by the Glass Bead Game. Looking at who is digging into this scorched ground, it seems that what we have here is 40 to 60 somethings telling the kids that they can go home because we did it already. We're tired and the most compelling myth to the most intellectually exhausted among us is that we built it, we trashed it and the rubble is not worth bothering with.
It occurred to me when soldiers and tanks were sent into Tiannanmen Square that this was done partly because the old men in charge didn't want what they had given their lives to to disappear with their last breaths. It may be natural to want one's age to be the concluding chapter and the rest of time to be the happily ever after. If it is true that the first generation to never die is in the wings, as has been said, these immortals could turn out to be the biggest pains in the ass for those joining them later. Just as the rich want to keep it all. That's why they bought our govenments, after all. Have we reached our full capacity for creation and development? Is there nothing ahead but technocracy and narrower permutations of master-slave relationships until the final death-rattle? We're stuck in a loop of end-time pr0nography and can't see beyond it, but anything not only can happen, but it must happen. This static death-march can only come to a conclusion and what's on the other end of it are events that can only arise there. Survivors will do things that were never done before. If humans are not around for much longer, (we love the ever(sepulchral)green story of final doom), we can be sure the last moments of the last human will be experienced with a head full of brand new stories.

P. Emerson Williams is a writer for Dominion magazine, the host of the Necrofuturist Transmission on Nightbreed Radio, editor and producer for Music Tuesdays on Alterati.com, core member, sound design, actor, artist and composer with FoolishPeople and is currently working with FoolishPeople on the feature film Strange Factories. Williams is product development manager and art director for Weaponized , the publishing imprint of FoolishPeople. He is also a visual artist whose work has graced book covers for Original Falcon, Weaponized and Westgate Press, the pages of magazines including Culture Asylum, Isten 'zine, Ghastly, Esoterra and too many more to list, album and CD covers for Rat King, a Primordial/Katatonia split 10" EP on Misanthropy Records, SLEEPCHAMBER and his own bands Veil of Thorns, Choronzon and kkoagulaa. He has worked with Manes and John Zewizz and is currently recording two albums with SLEEPCHAMBER.

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.(Or sign up to be notified of its release on Amazon.com)

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...