Saturday, January 10, 2009

Do Androids Dance the Electric Boogaloo?

Throwaway as my comment may have been, I'm pleased that Carl decided to spin it into a more meaningful examination of music appreciation. A bit frustrating, then, that Carl either slapped me with a straw man or completely misread me: labeling my stance as materialist - in opposition to "pussy/redundant cultural/psychological readings" - plainly ignored my use of the word "libido." Nowhere did I say that enjoyment of certain music is contingent on being "set up that way." Nothing I wrote could be extended to argue that selective breeding would necessarily produce devotees of a given genre. If your auto mechanic used the words "miasma" and "sensory overload" half as often as I do, you'd rat the guy out to the DEA and get your hatchback tuned up elsewhere. I thought my music-oriented rants here were embarrassingly theatrical & psychonautically flaky, like some bedraggled madman holding aloft a cardboard-'n'-crayon sign that read Stendhal Syndrome or Bust! I thought I was on the street team to promote music "as a form of ecstatic transport and access to jouissance."

Evidently, I'm not making myself clear enough.

For everyone, there are certain "tones & sonic constructions that tickle [their] audial libido." But I'd not argue that this is determined by physical synaptic architecture; how dully didactic would that be? It's more a matter of conditioning: the personal aesthetic topiary that takes place over a patient span of time, via friends, mass & indie media, study, and simple repetition. This, obviously, is in harmony with Carl's contention that enjoying music is - at the very least in part - enjoyment through/of the Other. Nevertheless, social pressure & "cred" are but two tools by which a sonic libido is crafted. Repeated exposure, a hook or phrase ceaselessly pounded into your ears, mustn't be underestimated, and is almost certainly why incredibly smart people will listen to incredibly shit music. Hell, for a few months in early '02, I almost enjoyed "Get the Party Started", just to avoid having to throw myself under a streetcar as it blasted from the storefront across from my workplace every morning.

Chalk that one up to a temporary psychosis triggered by the survival instinct. The point is that our most honest reactions to music are instinctual, and like any of our other instincts, they are subject to change - both inadvertent, by shifting external circumstance, or deliberate, by discipline & practice.

Now, if I were an ice-cold mechanist, there'd be a shortcoming in Carl's argument to which I'd call attention. To rebut a materialist interpretation of his curdled regard for My Bloody Valentine, Carl says:
But my experience of listening to MBV isn’t consistent, it’s had a different character at different times, the music has done different things, been different at different stages, neither it nor I have had a definite fixed form or inter-relationship.
This in no way disproves that enjoyment of music is anything greater or more metaphysical than a well-matched waltz between audial stimuli and neurochemical response, a tickling of the eardrum as the amygdala giggles and the pituitary pumps dopamine. Materials transform over time - they grow and degrade, bloom and wilt. Does our skin not wrinkle and flake as it oxidizes, decade after decade? Does a pert grape not crumple into a raisin in the sun? Do you not occasionally find yourself pleading vainly with a higher authority as your paleolithic hatchback belches a final sooty plume and crumples into scrap on the shoulder of a crowded motorway?

Now, I'm no mechanic, but were I to peer through the smoky miasma billowing out from under the hood of that expiring AC Pacer, I'd probably say that car just had one too many trips and went into overload, man.


Anonymous said...

seb.. i wasn't trying to ascribe that line of reasoning to you.. i was just thinking out loud...


Seb said...

Oh, no worries - ain't thinking out loud what blogs are for?

I've been thinking a lot about this general topic lately, anyway: visiting my sisters back home always leads, for some reason, to violently defend their own musical taste against some perceived threat presented by their music-fascist older brother. Really, I just want to know how someone can hate Steely Dan and Sleep for "the exact same reason."