Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I may have thought up a way to expand my paper on philosophy and music. The paper ends (awkwardly) by suggesting that John Cage's work (and that of others) exists in the margin between music and non-music, and that this margin of undefinability is created by the (often gendered) reification of "true" music. (I don't spend enough time discussing the positive, that is to say generative, side of this process. I think I give the impression that I am damning the entire enlightenment tradition, but it is important to note that it is through that tradition that the margin can be created. Apologist?)

I would like to take some time to refine this position. I may have inadvertently implied that Cage's habitation of the margin is a result of his status in the avant-garde. Were this the case, composers from Schoenberg to Lachenmann would sit in this same place.

But I don't think that works. What I'd like to do is use the writings of Schoenberg to establish his debt to Hegelian thought as well as the 19th century German organicists, such as Goethe (articles have been written on this, so I won't need to do too much original reading, which will ease some of my burden). I'd also like to spend some time with Adorno's "Vers une musique informelle" to distinguish between the late Darmstaat serialists, whose debt is to Hegel and Marx, and Cage. Is it problematic here merely to point at debt as evidence? I think so. Especially since Cage's debt is supposedly to Zen Buddhism, the genealogy of which is utterly foreign to me.

So I think what will be important is to read the texts from Adorno and Schoenberg as what they are: source texts. That is to say that their influences, for lack of a better word, are certainly important, in so far as they are tangible, but it is more important to see where they stand in their work itself. I may have to talk to Dr Durand about connections between Lachenmann and Adorno; I don't remember seeing them clearly.

The main point though is to partially recapitulate Peter Burger, who distinguishes between three avant-gardes. I don't want to be so general (and indeed haven't the time to do the necessary work), but I do hope to point at the danger of generality by positioning each of these composers, all of whom are on the edge of music, in different places in regard to institutional validation.

1 comment:

Kai said...

Nice to see that Goethe is appreciated as a scientist, though I might quote:

"Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medicin,
Und leider auch Theologie!
Durchaus studirt, mit heißem Bemühn.
Da steh' ich nun, ich armer Thor!
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor."

Faust I