Defining Post-Modernism

Ever since around middle-school when precociousness set in and a few John Cage texts fell into my lap, I’ve always struggled with my working definition of post-modernism. Back then I didn’t want to betray my lack of comprehension with straight-forward questions: what is it? Though when I did explicitly ask the answer sailed over my head. The best clue until recently came from my sexology/cultural studies teacher L. Lewis who told me that “the existentialists passed the ball to the post-modernists.” Phenomenology and existentialism hold a lot of currency in my intellectual Rolodex of ideas and I can see how their efforts to reduce and locate this event in space-time ultimately crash into the wall of Sisyphean ‘to-be-or-not-to-be’ angst. Thus post-modernism.

But I think I’ve broaden my understanding to include a more satisfying and illuminating range of ideas. I’m reading this text called Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture and it’s made me realize that post-modernism is about a new level of process-orientation-awareness. The pre-modern era, in the mythology of Kant and the Enlightened, is little child, lacking self-awareness. Modernism is realizing agency and taking an active role in the processes and patterns that human beings come to see as describing their behavior; in a way, self-awareness. Post-modernism, then, is becoming aware of and affecting the patterns and processes describing our way of becoming aware of and affecting the patterns and processes describing our behavior. I see a parallel in mathematics and physics in the idea of rates. The mind in the pre-modern era is about inertia, matter; in the modern era the focus shifts to constant speeds, velocity; and in the post-modern era it is about acceleration, or speed at which speed changes, the rates of rates of change.

It’s easy to see why so much of the literature comes off as convoluted and abstruse. It’s weird, highly referential way of seeing things, but it is a higher level of reality inasmuch as it’s a valid and logical representation of things, grounded ultimately in common-sense facts about the world. When I read this kind of high-minded literature I get sucked up into the myriad junctures of ideas at levels of abstraction at which I’m not used to thinking about things. All this language is a network of patterns extending human knowledge outwards, all of it constructed from base kernels of logic that seem innocent and unprovocative enough and yet you can blow them out to seemingly meaningless, irrelevant levels of discourse and the whole thing, the patterns of language, still maintain structural integrity.

It’s inspiring and somehow way more empowering than I had assumed to think of things on this level. The undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in this culture runs deep. I don’t know when I become affected by it. Thinking about my backyard in terms of process makes obvious what my top gardening priorities should be. This approach makes even more sense in music. I guess I wasn’t heavily influenced by the dogma of theory until recently, but I realize what a flawed paradigm it is in that it limits the motivic range of music to something unduly formal. Music takes on new meanings all the time! It’s deeply involved in and influenced by its environment! I should embrace the flexibility of meaning in music given context by looking to anticipate any and all environments into music. My next artistic priority: music with sophisticated mobility.

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Chico Marx

Pretty unparalleled.

Damn

Having considerable trouble making all this technology work. I’ve decided in the meantime to stick with the free and relative ease of use provided by WordPress.com. That said, I’ve gotten a better idea, through misguided efforts in the past half-year, of the structure and scope of my page. For now, this works.

I been thinking about the hipster class. They got a lot of nerve. Very nervous.

Coming Soon…

We’re working on a ‘real’ website, to be released by the end of the Fall. Stay tuned for more updates.

What is art, music?

Art in its most primitive state is a simple imitation of nature. But it quickly becomes imitation of nature in the wider sense of this idea, that is, not merely imitation of outer but also of inner nature. In other words, art does not then represent merely the objects or the occasions that make impressions, but above all these impressions themselves, ultimately without reference to their What, When, and How. Inference of the original, external object is here perhaps of only secondary importance due to its lack of immediacy. In its most advanced state, art is exclusively concerned with the representation of inner nature. Here its aim is just the imitation of impressions, which have now combined, through association with one another and with other sense impressions, to form new complexes and new motives, new stimulil. At this state, inference of the external stimulus is almost certain to be inadequate. At all stages the imitation of the model, of the impression, or of the complex of impressions is only relatively faithful. This is true, on the one hand, because of the limits of out abilities; on the other, because, whether we are conscious of it or not, the material [the medium] in which the imitation is presented differs from the material or materials of the stimulus, so that, for example, visual or tactile sensations might be represented in the material of auditory sensations.
–Arnold Schoenberg, Theory of Harmony, p. 18

Wow. If there’s one thing that never fails to satisfy me in the extreme, it’s the succinct, concise technical writing of an expert. To read someone summarize an activity into which I endlessly pour myself is as mystifying as it is illuminating.

Update: Open Source Collaborative Approach

My brief stay in New Jersey today turned out to be an impromptu band meeting. Hanging out with the guys in Teaneck and Hackensack, drinking lots of coffee, we came upon more than a few good ideas. In discussing our musical plans and how and with whom we want to make music, it’s become clear that we’re looking to apply the same kinds of principles and work method expounded by the open source movement to our music making. In short, we want to be an open source band. I want to purchase some server space so I can throw up a community forum for us to post our ideas to. This way we can pick and choose how we want to collaborate on a case by case basis. With server space a song can be posted in its working form, as a file formatted for the program that was used to mix and record it. This and the continued style development of this blog are our top priorities for the next two weeks.

In retrospect: June 2007

Last summer I had some ambitious plans. I was convinced that my band was going to take off, we were going to record some quirky, beautiful songs that people could dance to. We were going to take all our cues from Zazen Boys. Mark and I listened to them religiously back in those days. We even learned to play a few of their songs, namely “HIMITSU GIRL’S TOP SECRET” and “This is NORANEKO.” Sadly, plans alone guarantee little. My ambitions were not shared and I was being naive anyway. You can’t make people be in a band, or in your vision of a band, especially if their your friends. Maybe if you can force money-making-music out of them, that works, but even then, they can’t be your friends. After a year of inactivity and reminiscence, this has come to make good sense. So I will only collaborate now if there’s shared enthusiasm about the idea of making music, about the process by which we make music, and about the direction that the music is going in.

Still, we had a lot of fun, I think that we came up with some decently interesting, cool-sounding stuff for a couple of highschoolers with high ambitions and no expectations. I’m posting the stuff we last worked on when the steam ran out.

Pandas are Totally Cool
Untitled #1
Untitled #2
Sunday

These were recorded in GarageBand which I hope I will never have to rely on again, since I got ProTools 7.4 a little less than a month ago. (A post on that program is in the works.) I somewhat doubt it, but some of these might be rerecorded for an what will someday be a record. “Pandas are Totally Cool” is actually fine musically, it just needs to be remastered. Unfortunately the computer that I had all the GarageBand files we made was just one of many casualties of a lightning bolt that hit the apartment building behind my house in Hackensack, NJ. Remastering will be tricky, but I’m sure there’s a way.