Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Monday, 25 April 2005


My politics and my music have strongly informed and influenced each other during my foray into Text Sound. I’ve found the ability to work with words directly to be freeing. However, it is also limiting. The words I use come from Americans, discussing American politics. The US political process is important to the world at large, due to our economic heft and tendency towards warfare. However, there is a danger of arrogance and over-estimating the cultural capital this might carry abroad. This is a concern as I go abroad next year.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels end The Communist Manifesto with a call for workers of the world to unite. (Marx) International solidarity remains a valuable goal for progressives. However, by using the words of the American political milieu, I’ve made my music inaccessible to non-English speakers. Information accessibility requires multilingualism or non-word sources. I believe that Esperanto is a key to solving these problems, however, currently more people speak English and politicians seldom deliver speeches in Esperanto, thus reducing the amount of source material available.

In order to be a more internationally oriented musician, I can find non-verbal ways to articulate progressive ideals or I can make my works multi-lingual, perhaps mixing together politicians of similar stripes from many countries. It is also possible to create different languaged versions of an idea or to use subtitles. These multi-lingual approaches seem especially suited to installation environments where perhaps the friendly experiencers could choose the language with which they would engage the piece. Installations may also provide a way to model a political idea or a human interaction in an experiential and non-verbal manner.

I feel that there is an inherently political aspect to just intoned pieces, especially ones with low tuning limits. Giving people a space to calm down is restorative and counters whatever fear their governments may be sowing. In some sense, all music is political, as Susan McClary makes clear in her book Feminine Endings by analyzing indicators gender and alien otherness within “Absolute Music.” (McClary) Defining a term too broadly, however, takes away its meaning. I look forward to negotiating a non-English-specific understanding to political music during my coming time abroad.

Your thesis isn't done until you quote Karl Marx.


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