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/leftpol/ - Left Politics

Winner of the 81rd Attention-Hungry Games
/y2k/ - 2000s Nostalgia

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>Synth-pop musician John Maus has an agenda. He is knowledgeable about experimental classical music (Arnold Schoenberg, John Cage etc.) but is also steeped in continental philosophy. His decision to work in the pop-music idiom is informed by his philosophical training: “I take seriously this claim of Gilles Deleuze… that perhaps it’s our task as artists to make intensive use of a major language.” Maus considers pop to be both a major language and something of a singularity within music history because it for the most part does without thematic development and major/minor tonality- the staples of western music, which is to say that now both “experimental” music and pop music have cast aside musical conventions and, as such, either might be an exemplary idiom for a political radical to be working within. A great pop performance leads to a sense of atavistic recognition between audience and performer, while experimental music becomes a contest in elitist one-upsmanship. In other words if you want to express yourself, write a three chord anthem, not a twelve-tone row. I’m not persuaded by this argument, partially for the same reason as milo: it disregards black music.

>When John Maus talks about experimental music and conflates it with elitism, he is speaking exclusively about white classical composers. Avant-Garde jazz groups like the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Sun Ra Arkestra are coming from a similar place as Maus but create better, more politically dangerous music; his argument seems to hinge upon an ignorance of experimental black musicians. Both the Art Ensemble and the Arkestra play music that expresses black consciousness and identity, and the volatility therein. The Art Ensemble’s catch phrase is “Ancient to the Future”; often on stage some members would wear tribal war paint while trumpeter Lester Bowie wore a lab coat. Their work contains the entire spectrum of African Diaspora musics, rock elements and the clatter of found percussion instruments, all subservient to the purgatorial wail of the blues. This melting pot aesthetic doesn’t lead to an atavistic music, where distinctions between white and black experience fall away. The breaking down of musical and cultural boundaries in search of an underlying unity ends with the abortive and sneering conclusion that existence itself is a boundary; the Art Ensemble’s mastery of jazz, classical, rhythm & blues and Caribbean styles expresses with claustrophobic intensity the terror of black American experience in the present (I’m writing primarily about the Ensemble’s hey-day in the 70’s and 80’s).

>During Ra’s lifetime, Arkestra (an approximation of the ebonic pronunciation of ‘orchestra’) members lived together, abandoning their families in order to pursue music. Sun Ra was a radical and a futurist (he was one of the very early proponents of synthesizers), a man of the people and a recluse. He was very much aware that he was considered a novelty by many music fans, but was apathetic towards his reception. His music often implored people, black people in particular, to face the realities of their situation; he demanded this but deflected questions of progress and action because he was just a concerned interstellar agent. Like the Art Ensemble, the Sun Ra Arkestra’s wild sound reproduced the crisis of black identity. Whereas John Maus makes use of a “major language”- pop music- in order to be seen, Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble make vigorous use of experimental languages in order to give life’s ambiguity and distortion full scope.


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>In Jean Baudrillard’s The Agony of Power, he distinguishes between two modalities of power: domination and hegemony. Domination is characterized by interpersonal antagonism and exploitation. In hegemony, which historically can be seen as domination’s final phase, the connection between human intent and power disappears. What emerges is a network of complicity; critical thought no longer targets sectors of power but uncovers ways in which works, movements and values collude with global capitalism. The “negative” thought of the Hegelian slave or Dostoevskian Underground Man might persist, but it is rendered impotent and by the virtue of its impotence is complicit with hegemony. MC Ride’s lyrics embody Baudrillard’s polemical intensity. On “Come Up and Get Me”, the title proves to be more of a plea than a provocation: "My stone wall it's on dog gaze duct taped to the ceiling/ Stucco cave make me illi okay, okay feel me/ I'm in an eight high abandoned building/ No daylight one midnight lamp lit twenty-four seven/ Murdered out windows two exits/ Street or nosedive to the next life in seconds/ and suicide ain't my stallion/ So I'm surrounded…I'm epiphanic amnesia"

>MC Ride’s lyrical content deals with these dark topics (for instance, the euphoric banality of voracious drug consumption and sex on tracks like “Spread Eagle Cross the Block” and “I Want it I Need it (Death Heated)”), and Death Grips’ sound resonates with people, which is partially why they got signed to Epic. By Baudrillard’s logic, Death Grips’ “nihilistic” sound ought to be prime material for corporate exploitation, but the group’s allegiances were never paid to careerism. If global capitalism is an unscrupulous, “evil” discourse, experimental music is a prima facie irrelevant discourse. In experimental music, personal expression is possible because the musicians have no concern for political agency. Baudrillard claims that only those in formal positions of power can “shed full light” on the state of things, but Death Grips, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Sun Ra’s Arkestra all play music on behalf of disenfranchised people—a growing category—and I think that the song of the disenfranchised contains more truth than the pronouncements of the cynical. John Maus is clearly a thoughtful dude, and he is limiting himself by ignoring not only the black experimental tradition, but also the heights of viciousness and vulnerability found in hip-hop from Big L to Death Grips.



tl;dr Maus makes the point that arthouse wankery does not actually express anything to which the author replies with "but what about black people?" before displaying his pomo power level. It is a spectacular display of how self-impressed liberal academics suck the very life out of every art form they glomp on to.


Art house wankery + knuckle dragging heaviness + problematic lyrics = best combo


he's friends with Ariel Pink

and should be Ariel Pink instead of this repetitive hack who's

been extremely butthurt at basically everything because his bi girlfriend dumped him for a chick





You faggots are incorrigible.



Ew, black metal.


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Thanks. And also with you. Amen.



>while experimental music becomes a contest in elitist one-upsmanship. In other words if you want to express yourself, write a three chord anthem, not a twelve-tone row.

1) Wouldn't that idea be a classist idea? It implies that only the ruling capitalist class can know the complicated roots of music, but these can be learnt easily even by a proletariat (of course maybe Congolese children or children in sweatshops can't learn these complicated artistic ideas because of their poor conditions) in a Western country.

2) If you think about it art is often an means of expression for people, that means that often lower class people can express themselves better and can be more individualistic thanks to more complicated artistic ideas

3) Often many artistic ideas are traditional and come from a popular or lower class, therefore often complicated artistic ideas come from a mix between popular music. For example many instruments were built by common people like African tribes built bongos or Caribbean people made the steel pans or Indigenous american flutes; or take for example the fact that many instruments like mandolin and harmonica are now common instruments that have been played by upper and LOWER CLASSES, but are very complicated instruments to play.

Art can be simple or complicated, it's a form of expression in which people from all backgrounds put time and effort into and it's something that is often developed by upper and lower classes




What does that term even mean?

>If you think about it art is often an means of expression for people, that means that often lower class people can express themselves better and can be more individualistic thanks to more complicated artistic ideas

Except that the lower classes tend to only create music based on simple systems like the pentatonic scale and basic chord progressions. The argument that complexity is inherently more expressive is, I believe, based on a false assumption, namely that expression is some quantifiable substance that requires a greater container to carry more of it.

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