Music and Ontological Incompleteness


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Music and Ontological Incompleteness A Speculative Approach to Composition
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Peuquet, Sean S
University of Florida
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Gainesville, Fla.
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Doctorate ( Ph.D.)
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University of Florida
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Subjects / Keywords:
composition -- installation -- music -- speculative -- theory
Music -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Music thesis, Ph.D.
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government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
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Across the twentieth century, music has become emancipated from any notion of strict adherence to a prevailing style or narrative governing either its poietic conditions or esthesic access. However, the plurality of musics may be identified as contemporary music’s overarching ‘non-style’. Taking pluralism as the base-condition for any compositional activity, the author asserts that the composer’s ability to know the effect of the music he writes becomes increasingly limited the more differentiated compositional practice becomes. Such epistemological limitation is argued to reflect post-Kantian philosophical prerogatives concerning the finitude of one’s perspective. Finitude is demonstrated to be the consequence of reflexivity, of being (either physically and/or discursively) in the place one seeks to know. Quentin Meillassoux’s term correlationism is used to describe the various discourses that maintain finitude as a fundamental limitation on knowledge; thinking and being cannot be addressed independently, for each is only-ever correlated with the other as a consequence of reflexivity. Max Neuhaus’ Times Square is considered as an example of an aural situation wherein listener experience is not subject to the listener’s limited knowledge or perspective regarding the context of listening. Slavoj Žižek’s notion of parallax, or the shift in epistemological perspective that reflects an ontological shift in the perceived object itself, inverts our understanding of situated listening, vis-à-vis Times Square. The epistemological limitation becomes an indication of an ontological incompleteness regarding reality itself. With recourse to Meillassouxian absolute contingency, material reality is maintained. However, by analyzing the minimal ontological difference between John Cage’s 4’33” and his propositional Silent Prayer, the necessarily contingent basis for our material encounter with vibrational sound requires a further consideration of contingent necessity regarding the quality of sound’s appearance for us. A model of composition is developed by first distinguishing between the totalizability of chance procedures and the un-totalizability of contingent outcomes. Subsequently, Robert Irwin’s notion of site-conditioned artistic intervention is identified as an imperative regarding one’s frame of access. Particular Irwin works are shown to model a ‘speculative’ art, an art through which one retroactively posits the presuppositions of art appearing at all, by not operating under the epistemological limitation, but rather, by being ontologically incomplete. Finally, the author’s own work is presented as an engagement with these theoretical considerations. Convergent and divergent algorithmic processes are discussed as a means to modulate ontological appearances. A gallery exhibition featuring the artist’s works, Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist and Given the Materials at Hand, put these ideas into practice.
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by Sean S Peuquet.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2013.

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SC3 Implementation of the algorithm described in:
Polansky, Barnett, & Winter. "A Few More Words about James Tenney: Dissonant Counterpoint and Statistical Feedback" (2009).


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Full Text




2 2013 Sean Peuquet


3 To La


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would first and foremost like to thank Paul Koonce and the other members of my committee, Paul Richards, Larry Crook, and Hui Zou, for their help throughout the duration of my doctoral studies and for their critical insight regarding my ideas and text. Dr. Koonce dedicated a great deal of time to both thi s text and its ideas, which only adds to a laun dry list of reasons why I am forever grateful to have been his student for the past five years. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the music composition program at UF (past and present) particularly Braxton Sherouse, Thomas Royal, Em ily Kimball, Tyler rien, A ndrew Babcock, Travis Garrison and Mike Solomon for listening to (and sometimes valuing) the ridiculous things that come out of my mouth and for slapping me around when I need it. Special thanks go to James Paul Sain for his support across the duration of my time at Florida and to Nathan Wolek and Stetson University as a whole for investing in me and providing such a wonderful opportunity to teach, collaborate, and gain experience a t the outset of my career contribute work Susanne Eules for all her pragmatic and logistical help, and Stephen John Ellis and Sean Irwin for helping make the group show a success. My previous composition and computer music teachers, including Jon Appleton, Lar ry Polanksy, Charles Dodge, Newton Armstrong, Marina Rosenfeld, Judith Shatin, Matthew Burtner, and Ge Wang have all been invaluable to me. Your insight and guidance continues to make an impact, as I often find myself realizing the full weight of something I remember you saying years ago.


5 Finally, thanks go to all the Peuquets and all the Dawidziu ks for their support and love. And most of all, thanks to my patient, loving, intelligent, and incisively critical wife, Laura, without whom this document would have never taken shape.


6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 9 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 10 LIST OF OBJECTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 11 LIST OF TERMS ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 12 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 14 CHAPTER 1 COMPOSITION SPOILED FOR CHOICE ................................ .............................. 16 The Composer and Misinterpretation ................................ ................................ ...... 16 The Emergence of Pluralism ................................ ................................ ............ 16 Reactions to Pluralism ................................ ................................ ...................... 22 Non Pluralism ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 26 Too Much Choic e ................................ ................................ ............................. 26 Composers as Productive Consumers ................................ ............................. 28 Project Outline ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 35 2 THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL LIMITATION ................................ ................................ 38 Music and Thought ................................ ................................ ................................ 38 Pluralism and Postmodernism ................................ ................................ ................ 39 The Modernist Event ................................ ................................ ........................ 40 The Postmodernist Event ................................ ................................ ................. 43 Thre e Derivations of the Epistemological Limitation ................................ ............... 46 Derivation One: A Matter of Consumption and Production ............................... 46 Derivation Two: Music Semiotics ................................ ................................ ...... 49 Derivation Three: Philosophical Reflexivity ................................ ....................... 56 On the Possibility of Thinking Beyond the Limitation ................................ .............. 61 3 BETWEEN THE TWO: READDRESSING THE LISTENER IN SITUATED MUSICAL PRACTICE ................................ ................................ ............................. 63 Questions Derived from Liste ................................ .......... 63 Externalizing the Experience of Art ................................ ................................ .. 66 Co incident Listener Experience ................................ ................................ ....... 70 Place and Discovery in Times Square ................................ ................................ .... 71 Site: From Literal to Functional ................................ ................................ ......... 75


7 The Minimal Difference ................................ ................................ .................... 78 Parallax in theory ................................ ................................ ....................... 79 Parallax in practice ................................ ................................ ..................... 80 The Confrontational Sound Object in Times Square ................................ ........ 82 The Concert Hall as a Place of Discovery ................................ ............................... 86 4 THE EMPTY PLACE: TOWARD A THEORY OF ONTOLOGICALLY INCOMPLETE MUSIC ................................ ................................ ............................ 89 The Nature of Sound ................................ ................................ ............................... 90 Meillassoux ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 92 Radical Contingency ................................ ................................ ........................ 94 Meillass oux and Speculative Philosophy ................................ .......................... 97 Criticism of Absolute Contingency ................................ ................................ .... 98 Absolute Contingency is Non Transcendent ................................ .................... 99 Sibelius ................................ ................................ ..................... 102 The Cage Event ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 111 Difference ................................ ................................ ............... 112 The performance context of ................................ ............................ 115 ................................ ............................... 120 ................................ ............................. 125 The Frame Enframing the Frame in Reality ................................ .................... 128 The Speculative Path ................................ ................................ ............................ 130 The Performance Context of Silent Prayer ................................ ..................... 130 Contingent Necessity ................................ ................................ ..................... 134 5 A MODEL FOR COMPOSING ONTOLOGICALLY INCOMPLETE MUSIC .......... 139 The Territory of Speculative Compositional Affordance ................................ ........ 139 Contingency and Chance ................................ ................................ ............... 139 Chan ce as a form of empiricism ................................ ............................... 141 Contingency and virtuality as un totalizable ................................ ............. 142 How Contingency Appears ................................ ................................ ............. 147 An Allegorical Example ................................ ................................ ......................... 150 Iden ................................ ................................ ........ 151 Robert Irwin as a Model for a Speculative Art Practice ................................ ......... 155 ................................ ............................. 158 Irwin and Place ................................ ................................ ............................... 162 Ontological incompleteness and the non art place ................................ .. 163 Ontological incompleteness and the place for art ................................ .... 165 The Model and Music ................................ ................................ ............................ 168 6 CONVERGENCE: APPLYING THE MODEL ................................ ........................ 170 A Particular Speculative Music ................................ ................................ ............. 170 Indeterminate versus Determinate Appearance ................................ ............. 171 Modulating the Semblances ................................ ................................ ........... 172


8 Th e Temporality of Change ................................ ................................ ............ 173 Convergence of Set ................................ ................................ ........................ 174 ConvergentArray: an implementation of set convergence in software ..... 176 Using ConvergentArray to control sound synthesis parameters .............. 181 Convergence in Action ................................ ................................ .......................... 182 ................................ ................................ ............... 183 Piece Number One : Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist ............................. 184 Piece Number Two: Given the Materials at Hand ................................ ........... 187 Final Thoughts ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 191 APPENDIX A: MUSICAL SCORE FOR WINDOWS LEFT OPEN ............................... 202 APPENDIX B: HAND ART CENTER FLOOR PLANS ................................ ................. 207 APPENDIX C: TEXT COMPONENT OF GIVEN THE MATERIALS AT HAND ........... 209 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 215 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 220


9 LIST OF TABLES Table page 5 1 Matrix of indetermi nate outcomes and possibilities ................................ .......... 144 C 1 Sestina form, shown as numbered end word sequences for each stanza ........ 210


10 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 3 1 The emergence of the listener subj ect (moving from left to right) ....................... 88 6 1 Convergent dice game: associated va lue outcomes for 250 dice rolls ............. 192 6 2 Divergent dice game: associated value out comes for 250 die rolls .................. 193 6 3 ConvergentArray: values [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] converging across 100 iterations ( = 10, = 1, quantization level: 0.1) ................................ ................................ .. 194 6 4 Co nvergentArray: values [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] converging across 100 iterations ( = 10, = 2, quantization level: 0.1) ................................ ................................ .. 195 6 5 ConvergentArray: values [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] converging across 100 iterations ( = 10, = 0.5, quantization level: 0.1) ................................ ............................... 196 6 6 ConvergentArray: values [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] diverging across 100 iterations ( = 10, = 0.5, quantization level: 0.1) ................................ ................................ .. 197 6 7 Screenshot of real time notation generated by Mildl y Sympathetic Conversationalist ................................ ................................ .............................. 197 6 8 Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist viewed from front right .......................... 198 6 9 Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist viewed from front left ............................ 199 6 10 Given the Materials at Hand viewed from corridor entrance ............................ 200 6 11 Given the Materials at Hand viewed from directly in front ................................ 201 B 1 Hand Art Center: plan view of gallery wall spa ce depicting placement of works ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 207 B 2 Hand Art Center: architectural plan vi ew depicting placement of works ........... 208


11 LIST OF OBJECTS Object page 3 1 Windows Left Open: fixed electronic so und component (.wav file 274MB) ........ 64 6 1 ConvergentArray SuperCollider class as a text file (.txt file 3KB) ..................... 181 6 2 SFRand SuperCollider class as a text file (.txt file 3KB) ................................ ... 181 6 3 Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist zipped archive containing six text files (.zip file 23KB ) ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 184 6 4 Given the Materials at Hand zipped archive containing f our text files (.zip file 20KB) ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 184


12 LIST OF TERMS Esthesis The active process of interpretation and the achievement (or, construction) of meaning given the objects of perception, cf poiesis. In regards to Music, the term refers to achieving meaning in relation to the subjective representation of sound. Facticity A term taken from Que ntin Meillassoux, which refers to the notion that subjective representations (i.e. the correlation between thought and being) may only be described as an apparent fact and cannot be deduced as the logical consequence of an absolute entity or principle. In cidental s ound An instance of mere sound whereby the hearer presupposes a lack of intentionality; sounds that are assumed to be unintended and are not attended to. Living sound self mediation between internal thought and external conditions, cf. mere sound; nota bene: the listener does not need to ascribe causality or meaning. Mere sound That which is heard and de facto understood to be of the world. Music The discourses of known transformations and constructions of vibrational sound that reflect the intention to cause living sound. The configuration of the Musical is (inter)subjectively maintained, historic al, and the basis of convention. m usic A particular transformation or construction of vibrational sound that is (inter)subjectively maintained as being part of Music; an instance of convention. Non incidental s ound An instance of mere sound whereby the hearer presupposes intentionality; sounds that are assumed to be intended, but are nevertheless not attended to. Poiesis The generative process of (re)forming the world cf esthesis In regards to Music, t he term refers to acts of transformation or construction of vibrational sound. Propositional music A particular transformation or construction of vibrational sound that reflects an intention to extend the known configuration of Music, beyond the conventional.


13 Speculative m usic A particular transformation or construction of vibrational sound that may or may not appear to the listener as living sound. The retroactive positing of a lis when living sound appears. Vibrational sound The mechanical propagation of a pressure wave through a physical medium within the range of human audibility.


14 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy MUSIC AND ONTOLOGICAL INCOMPLETENESS: A SPECULATIVE APPROACH TO COMPOSITION By Sean Peuquet December 2013 Chair: Paul Koonce Major: Music A cross the twentieth century m usic has become emancipated from any notion of strict adherence to a prevailing style or narrative governing either its poietic conditions or esthes ic access. However, the plurality of musics may be identified as contemporary Taking pluralism as the base condition for any compositional activity, the author asserts know the effect of the music he writes becomes increasingly limited the more different iated compositional practice becomes. Such e pistemo logical limitation is argued to reflect post Kantian philosophical prerogatives concerning the finitude of perspective F initude is demonstrated to be the consequence of reflexivity, of being ( either physically and/or term correlationism is used to describe the various discourses that maintain finitude as a fundamental limitation on knowledge ; thinking and being ca nnot be addressed independently, for each is only ever correlated with the other as a consequence of reflexivity Times Square is considered as an example of an aural situation wherein listener experience is not subject limited knowledge or


15 pe rspective regarding the context of listening Slavoj parallax or the shift in epistemological perspective that reflects an ontological shift in the perceived object itself, invert s our understanding of situated listening vis vis Times Square. The epistemological limitation becomes an indication of an ontological incompleteness regarding reality itself. With recourse to Meillassouxian absolute contingency material reality is maintained. However, by analyzing the minimal ontological dif ference between John and his propositional Silent Prayer the necessarily contingent basis for our material encounter with vibrational sound requires a further consideration of contingent necessity or us A model of composition is developed by first distinguishing between the totalizability of chance procedures and the un totalizability of contingent outcomes Subsequently, conditioned artistic intervention is identified model a an art through which one r etroactively posits the presuppositions of art appearing at all by not operating under the epistemological limitation but rather by being ontologically incomplete. presented as an engagement with the se theoretical consi derations Convergent and divergent algorithmic processes are d iscussed as a means to modulate ontological appearances. works Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist and Given the Materials at Hand put these ideas into practice.


16 CHAPTER 1 COMPOSITION SPOILED FOR CHOICE The Composer and Misinterpretation Composing music entails an engagement in novel production and acknowledgement of the a priori conditions that support such production. These condit ions appear as pre compositional considerations (i.e. stylistic expectations, the performative context, the use of particular instruments or technologies, etc.). How the composer chooses to address (or ignore) the conditions are always subject to revision. During the process of composition, I operate as both composer and listener to the work in progress. In this dual capacity, my listening never comports directly with my intent, but I seek to minimize the difference. Concurrently, I realize that there is al ways ever a gap between the music I think I write and the music as others listen to it. This poietic esthesic divide, a well known roadblock of composit ion, impedes to effectively convey musical meaning or substantial content. 1 This possibility of misinterpretation pushes me to think about how such misinterpretation could arise. In through the sonic and contextual signs present in a work. I t ry to address this threat of misinterpretation by seeking knowledge about the agreed upon meaning of signs, and thus, account for the conditions of esthesis through poiesis. The Emergence of Pluralism Composers have become so specialized in our various s ub disciplines that our attempts to develop compositional ideas and to make sense out of the music we write 1 see Jean Jacques Nattiez, Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music trans. Carolyn Abbate (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).


17 requires not only a great deal of knowledge and education, but it also requires us to acquire such knowledge at an ever global, technologically oriented society, it is nearly impossible to be a renaissance man, or polymath, as 2 The required level of specialist knowledge precludes other more generalist activities. Furthermore, such specialization is no longer a consideration of any one discipline relative to another, but operates internal to each given discipline as the number of specialists continues to increase. Carr describes the would further: It is not only the explosion of knowledge that puts polymaths at a disadvantage, but also the vast increase i n the number of specialists and experts in every field. This is because the learning that creates would be polymaths creates monomaths too and in overwhelming numbers. If you have a multitude who give their lives to a specialism, their combined knowledge w ill drown out even a gifted generalist. And while the polymath tries to take possession of a second expertise in some distant discipline, his or her first expertise is being colonised by someone else. 3 With many people following poser as specialist espoused by Milton Babbitt several decades ago, the field of composition is increasingly full of specialists. Hence, it is increasingly rare to find a polymath musician, one who is exceedingly well versed in a variety of sub discipline s and provides cutting edge advancements (either theoretical or technical) to each. Our individual cognitive capacities appear to be outstripped by the multiplicity of technological and epistemic advancements. 2 Intelligent Life Autumn 2009, accessed September 2, 2013, carr/last days polymath 3 Ibid.


18 Natasha Barrett, in describing current trends within the sub discipline of electroacoustic music, affirms how technological advancement is accelerating at a rate disproport ionate to thought when she says: music technology changes dramatically in less than a decade while musical aesthetics require ref lection and development benefiting from longer historical periods. Too often we hear new compositions from all environments where refinement and development in both technical approach and musical expression is stark and would have benefited from a deep er i nsight into the repertoire. 4 evaluative lag in relation to the simple deployment of new technological tools for compositional practice, and second, the statement itself becomes implicated in its content. The first point is clear, but the second one is more complicated. If we believe Barrett, we must then question how she has such an ad vanced aesthetic sensibility. How is it that she is able to identify how other c omposers lag behind the times, in both technic al and expressive understanding? Thus, the trend she identifies is only a trend insofar as she objective cap acity. There is something unset tling about her comments: on the one hand, she claims that aesthetic considerations is limited by a cognitive lag, it is beyond us. O n the other hand Barrett nevertheless holds herself in a n exalted position of objective clarity. Her first In d efense of Barrett, we could argue that she is simply more experienced than younger, more nave composers. Her experience gives her a larger wealth of 4 The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music, University Press, 2007), 232.


19 knowledge ( the wisdom ) to identify how technological advances must be considered in their use. If we take a more nuanced reading of her above statement, we might come to understand how she is speaking to the ease with which anyone can make (com pose) electroacoustic music today. And given her experience, which provides her with a stronger grasp on the progression of technological advancement and the history of its musical use she is knowledgeable in a way that is beyond the perspective of the amateur, the dil ettante. Therefore, Barrett asserts from her knowledgeable perspective would have benefited from a deep This position seems no t only reasonable, but almost unquestionably so. However, that her claim a sserts a position at all underscores the fact that her knowledge is itself limited ; knowledge and experience is derived from being within the field (of electroacoustic composition) she seeks to address. No one perspective, regardless of the breadth of experience is a bsolute, simply because we acknowledge that the experience of others is different that there are different positions Consider this: after listening to a new piece from a nave amateur composer that employs new technology, Barrett might interpret the piece as lacking refinement However, it might actually be the case that Barrett is simply victim to the cognitive lag, and the amateur composer actually thou ght deeply about the piece and its use of technology In fact, this new propositional music might gain credence precisely because it does not reaffirm conventions of thoughtful use maintained by experienced composers and listeners like Barrett and others. T o be rhetorical : is this not precisely the misunderstanding that arises all the time between art m usic and vernacular m usic ? When Stockhausen and Aphex Twin trade critiques do both not miss the point of the other? 5 5 see Karlheinz Stockhausen et al Audio Culture: Readings in


20 As composers, I think it is incumbent upon us to identify the consequences of attempting to gain an objective view over the territory in which we find ourselves As technologies continue to be developed and used in support of composition, we must realize that even th e most experienced and laud ed composer s possess a limited knowledge abou t the means of composition and its range of possible aesthetic consideration s ; no matter who we are, know ing h ow our compositions will be heard and understood is as un t otalizable as the technological means of composition Any attempt to assess the field of composition objectively, including reception of individual pieces, must proceed in full acknowledgement of b eing in the field Only by acknowledging our given perspective, the horizon of our experience, may w e begin to consider our agency in relation to the field and to reconsider the possibility of composing new music Currently, the composer can easily compose but cannot easily evaluate the composition as meaningful. This evaluation is difficult g iven the limitations of our knowledge concerning what any propositional music is in relation to the territory of Music and more broadly the territory of listening : the social, cultural, institutional, technological, and discursive contexts of reception Such limitation appears to coincide with what I can only identify as the a scendance of compositional pluralism: our trenches get deeper and the walls between them grow higher. Kyle Gann has described this pluralism well, particularly in his Rey M. Longyea r Lecture from 2008. 6 In this lecture, Gann who considers himself first and foremost a composer, identifies pluralism through a critique of musicology Gann observes that Modern Music eds. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner (New York, NY: Continuum, 2006), 381. 6 American Music 26, no. 2 (2008): 141. The Longyear Lecture is an endowed lecture series in musicology supported through the University of Kentucky.


21 m usicologists largely abandoned of Western art music across the second half of the 20th century. Any notion of direct influence between successive composers and compositional styles that had carved out a singular trajectory of Western art music were deconstructed and attention was turned to more marginalized music nonwestern traditions, and the history of audience reception all those telling fields of evidence that traditional musicology had pointedly excluded [musicologists] broke away 7 But as Gann states further, art music composition has continued to pr ogress T he musicological turn away from the narrative of Western classical composition does not mark the end of the American and European narrative of composed music. R ather, it appears commensurate with the emergence of multiple compositional styles and a diverse web of narratives After the rise of minimalism in t he late 60s and early seventies the word pluralism began creeping into the conversation. Minimalism grew more popular, but not everyone converted to it. Almost as a reaction against it, a noisy scene of free improvisation grew up around John Zorn and Elliot Sharp in New York City. Personal computers made it possible for any teenager to make music from samples of other recordings. Orchestra composers discovered New Romanticism and, exploiting the nonlinear ity of style quotation, ventured into postmodernism. Serialism morphed into New Complexity around the cult figure of Brian Ferneyhough. DJs started making art music by spinning discs. Twenty years later, all of these styles are flourishing, with no one of them gaining particularly more of the market shar At some point, everyone eventually looked back and realized that Leonard Meyer had been right. There was no dominant new style. 8 7 145. 8 Ibid., 143 144.


22 Gann ultimately sees the contemporary hallmarks o f pluralistic compositional practice development of a single fundamental style, but by the coexistence of a multiplicity of quite different styles in a fluctuating and dynamic steady 9 description necessarily leaves out a host of other differences of compositional practice, some of which are even internal to th e stylistic movements he cites. As composers, rather than musicologists, we should be interested not only in circumscribing this emergent dynamic steady state, but also in asking ourselves: how does pluralism potentially influence comp osition, as each of u s practice it ? Reactions to Pluralism I posit that we can have two potential reactions to the phenomenon of pluralism, or the arrival of a dynamic steady state of differentiated compositional practices. First, we can endorse its emergence (or at least our recognition of it) whole heartedly in terms of its consumer oriented benefits A pluralistic compositional universe is one of possibility, choice, and freedom. In such a place, the range of audiences for a wide range of music continues to expand and make way for new stylistic differences, technological inventions, and socio cultural correspondences. However, such an endorsement and acceptance of difference begs a very important question: are we accepting musics as they ap pear on the basi s of u nderstanding what the actual differences are given a meta perspective ? O r are we accepting distinction for 9


23 as a form of cultural tolerance because we have no way of knowing otherwise, of knowing the difference? Culturally, I th ink we demonstrate a willingness to embrace the different stylistic branches of musical activity, which pluralistically appear to follow their own path, without much consideration given to how the branches differentiate, exist in relation to each other, an d perhaps even hybridize If we begin to conside r such branching we may view pluralism a ccording to a second more radical relativist perspective: all distinctions of musical style are of equal value precisely because we cannot know how or why that style appears the way it appears from a perspective outside of the socio cultural context context or a spectacle, the music object has no value in itself. It does not acqu ire one in 10 Music has no objective cross cultural exchange value. So given the current stylistic differentiation of Western art music how do the various (sub)cultures that value any one style comport vis vis each other ? If we maintain that any new style is correlative with the potential emergence of a subculture or commodity market that valu es the style then the absolute value of one style relative to another cannot be obtained To value styles differently is akin to v alu ing the people who appreciate that style differently. Because we are unable to know to understand, what a give n music is out side of its cultural or subcultural context of reception we are prohibited from saying that one music is even than another music Objectivity is impossible because understanding itself is impossible from 10 Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, trans. B rian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 106.


24 the outside, and therefore, any valued distinction regardless of its actual difference should be embraced because we have no philosophic al footing to say otherwise. Ultimately, our two reactions or perspectives on music pluralism can be summarized in the following way: first, we should embrace the plurality of different musics as beneficial as the extension of choice and freedom both for the composer to indulge in a multitude of styles and for listeners to benefit from more options ; second, we must embrace pluralism not simply because we deem it beneficial, but because we have no way to know what a ny given music is outside of the context of listeners who value it and therefore we cannot be anything but accepting of prerogative to listen differently The first perspective marks a wholesale embra ce of pluralism itself its ability to support our exposure to and attempted under s t and ing of otherness ( music that is not our own and the context of listeners who value it ) T he second perspective maintains that we can do nothing but embrace pluralism, because of the relativism inherent to the appearance of any musical difference What happens when we try to provide an argument against pluralism? We have to proceed in one of two ways. First, we could take aim directly at pluralism as being beneficial : u nderstanding (or attempting to u nderstand) is not necessaril y a good thing because of the possibility of misunderstanding At best, misunderstanding complicates how a community of listeners value s a given music and at worst misunderstanding may irrevocably damage ability to maintain value Misund erstanding can take the form of co optation of the Other musical de territorialization in the form of Global Pop, cross cultural stylistic borrowing in Western art composition, etc. However, this argument leaves us reconfirming the relativist


25 perspective. The relativist also disqualifies the possibility for any given understanding of any outsider u nderstanding is impossible. Thus, for the non pluralist what is possible misunderstanding i s for the relativist no understanding at all. Therefore, we must consider a second argument; in order to consider a rejection of pluralism to assert that not all composition must proceed in full embrace of pluralism, we must take aim at relativism Yet, the only way to attack relativism seems to require reasser ting a priori and universal value difference s better than and would amount to a resurrectio n of the Great Man narrative Even if such an assertion were inter subjectively maintained (agreed upon) as a matter of consensus, the aggregation of individual perspectives in no way constitutes an absolute perspective. So even if everyone else agrees, t he assertion that one music is than an other music is at its core an assertion of some divine knowledge whereby some absolute entity (God) serves as the ultimate guarantor of Truth ; such an assertion reactionary untenable and inherentl y conservative When we attempt to describe the contours of an emergent compositional pluralism, and our potential response in light of its identification, it seems that we can only embrace the proliferation of difference ( our unmitigated tolerance) unless we find a way to undermine the relativist argument Again, why would we want to do otherwise? It is my contention that there is a third way one that might reframe our understanding of composition If t ce, a non pluralism


26 according to which our compositional practice is not externally limited by an inability to know the musical object (of otherness) we should at the very least consider it Non Pluralism It is important to clarify what we mean by asser ting the possibility of a compositional practice that does not reify the current state of pluralism. To consider a pluralistic music, is not to consider music as a means of anti pluralism. Our pursuit in fact shares a basic presuppositi on with pluralism, namely that it is possible to understand how music is valued differently It is important to clarify that we are not trying to find a new ground for contesting or challenging the musics of different cul tures and subcultures, but rather, to challenge the idea that the credibility of music derives from intra cultural knowledge alone. O ur aim is to re consider the limits of the that cuts off our ability to know how other s ascri be value to music Therefore our consideration of non pluralism is actually anti relativism. The compositional practice we will ultimately propose cannot simply be another compositional style. To develop and deploy a new style of music composition would, o f distinction of practice, and thus, further extend the possibilities of known musical etation of, and potential commitment to its difference. Too Much Choice politically and economical ly, we ( in the U.S. ) equate choice with freedom or the removal


27 of external limitation. But such common sense does not always comport with facts, particularly when subjective evaluations concerning both the products of such choice and the procedure of choos ing are taken into account. Psychologist Barry Swartz, in his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less provides an opening anecdote an anecdote that may be familiar to us all and is worth considering within the sphere of music composition. Schwartz, being unsure about which jeans he truly wanted when confronted with the vast range of available options, set out to educate himself about their differences and select the best pair for him. In retrospect, 11 T hus an abundance of choice itself (and not just technological acceleration, as identified by Natas of making a good decision. Furthermore, we should consider how fortuitous the tried on, or how much he liked the pair he selected at that time, there always remained run. In fact, several empirical studies have shown that individuals often experience more regret concerning their particul ar choice as the number of options and opportunities for choosing (or reversing their choice, i.e. returns) increase s 12 Schwartz could have spent a lot of time trying to figure things out but ended up dissatisfied anyway T some other pair of jeans ( not the pair chosen) might in hindsight have be en a better 11 Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), 2. 12 he Excess Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48, no. 1 (2012): 28 29.


28 choice. Given the option to return the pair of jeans he chose it is not hard for us to imagine that was just as likely of an outcome To consider the re levance of such an anecdote in the context of music composition is to consider the effects of the proliferation of choice regarding a marketplace for music. Composers as Productive Consumers But composer s are not consumers; rather, they provide assemblage s of sound to spur listeners in thought or affective experience, correct ? Specifically composers operate in a strictly productive capacity ; faces the listener as a matter of music consumption. To maintain this position is akin to saying that composition is produced seemingly out of nothing ; i.e. ex nihilo However composition must take place ; the activity itself is situated both physically and discursively. So our view of co mposition ex nihilo overlooks how the composer is productive in her ad infinitum We realize: the composer is productive as a consequence of her consumption ; she is a productive co nsumer. We should not overlook how a priori emplacement in society ( or even in a society of composers) means that she may consume not only a range of existing music but also, the techniques of composition through study and analysis of other Like other listeners, she consumes the products of existing composition while also (un like the mere listener) consuming the process of composition and the role of Composer in her attempt to learn how to compose In what she chooses to consume she produces distinctions of use before she ever writes a note. Michel de Certea u, in The Practice of Everyday Life provides us with a way to understand the consumption Across his text, de Certeau


29 aims to elucidate the seemingly transparent and direct relationship between production and consumption by showing how consumption itself masks the underlying productivity inherent to actualizing, if not inventing, the possibilities of future use. In addres sing the if it is true that a spatial order organizes an ensemble of possibilities (e.g., by a place in which one can move) and interdictions (e.g., by a wall that prevents one from going further), then the walker actualizes some of these possibilities. In that way, he makes them exist as well as emerge. But he also moves them about and he invents others, since the crossing, drifting away, or improvisation of walking privilege, transform or abandon [ sic ] spatial elements. Thus Charlie Chaplin multiplies the possibilities of his cane: he does other things with the same thing and he goes beyond the limits that the determinants of the object set on its utilization. In the same way, the walker transforms each spatial signifier into something else. And if on the one hand he actualizes only a few of the possibilities fixed by the constructed order (he goes only here and not there), on the other he increases the number of possibilities ( for example, by creating shortcuts and detours) and prohibitions (for example, he forbids himself to take paths generally considered accessible or even obligatory). He thus makes a selection. 13 F rom this perspective, the use of a pre existing and subjective ly evaluated territory of affordance opens up the possibility for creative action. T make music does not arise ex nihilo but rather it emerges as a process of selection or choice her ability to actualize some possibilities over others. T he walker does not walk indiscriminately. He walks a particular path as the actualization of a latent potential given the p arameters of the physical site. Similarly, the composer does not compose music haphazardly (even i f following Cage, the propositional music aims to be devoid of intention) The composer composes through her use or abandonment of the ideas that condition the territory of the musical. She marks a path in thought; she maps the 13 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 98.


30 territory of compositional affordance t hrough each attempt to compose a nd her actions both actualize and invent some possibilities inherent to the task. T is twofold: to make a propositional music that is both directed toward, but also predicated upon, the context in which the composer finds herself the context of Music To draw a more colloquial analogy, composing is similar to playing a game of catch with oneself. The activity of throwing a ball is only productive insofar as there is a target that establi shes the condition of its being caught. Its being caught is similarly productive in so far as it outlines the possibilities and interdictions for a productive throw. The composer, therefore, is always throwing forth a propositional music and catching its c ontext, in a cyclical manner. To continue our analogy a bit further, we ask: who retains agency over the rules of the game the playbook for a successful game of catch ( a meaningful listening to a propositional music ) ? Does the composer or audience write the playbook ? The simple answer is both. The composer pitches to herself, and as catcher, evaluates the efficacy of the pitch according to what she perceives the audience perceives an efficacious pitch to be. For the composer, the paradox of choice concern s the range of possibility for the target at which she aims. Her own listening and understanding of Music inform the range of possible targets In her pursuit to not be misunderstood, she tries to inform her own listening, to productively consume the exist ing music and ideas of others, so that propositional music. Giv en the proliferation of choice, resulting from the diverse topology of the territory of Music she cannot know all there is to know. She is not a polymath; she is a specialist. At best, she attempts to know all she can within the limits


31 of her perspective, her place within the territory. She seeks to make an informed choice regarding the delimitations of her music al target knowing full well the possibility that a different set of choices was not only possible, but probable given a different perspective given the multiplicity of perspectives that any audienc e would necessarily reflect. There is never a single target There are, rather, many targets T herefore, an excess of target productive consumption all the more intractable. W e all produce the significance of that which we choose to consume, and have no way of knowing whether su ch signification can be universally maintained. This gap in knowledge is deepened when there is a proliferation, an excess, of choice. Music, from both listener and composer perspectives So, regarding the composition of music, what is not just another choice? Such a question should force us to consider the implications of attempting to think what lies beyond choice, beyond the logic of pluralism asking what lies beyond Capitalism, beyond the logic of consumption a n d the proliferation (liberation) of choice Alain Badiou against the various forms of what he terms s d c on temporary consensus, in recognizing the plurality of languages presupposes their 14 contemporary world recognizes the object [and] who 14 Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II, trans. Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2009), 1.


32 does not, de facto subscribe, in the pragmatism of desires and the obviousness of commerce, to the dogma of our finitude 15 Here Badiou is actually outlining the relativist persp ective we enco untered earlier: that t he only substantial things the relativist maintains to be extant are (human) bo dies, and that attempting to think anything else only reifies that we have languages with which to think. Accordingly, o ur bodily placement limits our kno wledge of material existence, and our languages may only describe that which we cannot know. Insofar as we identify the composer as an individual who endeavors to know the (to know something beyond bodies and languages) we identify the forces of her limitation: the disjunct ion between technical and cognitive rates of (additive) change, the ascendance of specialization, and the excess of choice that proliferates the territory that presupposes her activity. These all serve to reify the plurality of both musical discourse and compositional practice. So in addition to recognizing that our propositional music cannot simply be a new style, our second consideration regarding any attempt to think how compositional practice might r each beyond pluralism, is, in fact, a radicalization of our first consideration : our propositional music cannot pose any positive distinction in regards to whatsoever to t he pre existing knowledge base of Music or our a priori understanding of the Musical. Thus what we are proposing is a very odd thing. We are speculating on the conditions that might support the emergence of musical truth(s), the conditions by which the cur rent state of Music is shown to be un totalizable or not amenable to all 15 Ibid., 1.


33 encompassing comprehension without merely ex tending the diversity of known m usic al works Again, we may turn to Badiou for support and clarification regarding our founding gesture i n regards to truth, that of subtraction: Nothing can be granted existence by which I mean the existence that a truth presupposes at its origin without undergoing the trial of its subtraction. It is not easy to subtract. Subtraction, that which draws unde r, is too often mixed with ex traction, that which draws out of, that which mines and yields the coal of knowledge. Subtraction is plural. The allegation of lack, of its effect, of its causality, masks operations all of which are irreducible to one anothe r. These operations are four in number: the undecidable, the indiscernible, the generic, and the unnameable. 16 Thus truths, being the product of multiple operations of subtraction, are always the 17 And it is only within lang uage situations that such a plurality becomes pronounced as Truth. 18 Therefore, following Badiou, to consider how the truths generated through music al experience extend beyond the conditions of pluralism is not to seek dogmatic, metaphysical Truth but r ath er, to reconsider the possibilities for composition, both its poiesis and esthesis. If truths are to begin as a consequence of composition then they must do so in a purely imm anent way: in relation to direct aural experience, its taking of place As Badiou further describes: In order for the process of a truth to begin, something must happen. As Mallarm would put it, it is necessary that we be not in a predicament 16 Alain Badiou, Theoretical Writings ed. and trans. Ray Brassier and Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2004), 103. 17 Ibid., 110. 18 Ibid


34 where nothing takes place but the place. For the place as such (or structure) gives us only repetition, along with the knowledge which is known or unknown within it, a knowledge that always remains in the finitude of its being. 19 It is precisely the status of our a priori knowledge (of what is known or unknown) given ng of possibility beyond the reification of an emergent pluralism. Place is the required condition for the making and receiving (access ) of any and all music. The territory of compositional practice is place. Music, being a n aurally delimited subset of more general thou ght about Art, is an evental site: it is in itself part of each instance within the set it describes. 20 This sounds abstract, but it loses any sense of ungrounded ephemerality once we consider Music as a pragmatic and situated socio cultural phenomena. Take for example, the storming of the Bastille in 1789. The storming of the Bastille was part of the French Revo lution, and the French Revolution was also part of is part of the discourse of Thus M usic is a special kind of site; it is an evental site which Badiou claims can only arise in consideration of Art, Science, Politics, or Love. 21 To consider how the practice of composition may reach beyond the plurality of kno wn musics without merely extending that p lurality is to consider the possibility of an e vent ; an event reconstitutes the territory from which it emerges By proceeding across 19 Ibid., 111. 20 Ibid., 100. 21 Ibid., 110.


35 the quaternary framework of the undecidable, the indiscernible, the generic, and the unnameable the event is what subtrac ts itself from Music, the known configuration of existing interventions into aural experience To return to the notion of subtraction, the following serves to clarify our aim: to intervene into aural experience in a new way without reifying the plurality o f Music, to subtract that which is new from M usic To consider a non pluralistic intervention into aural experience is to literally consider that which is not yet a part of Music In practice, s omething must happen as a matter of taking place that is not a priori Musical that is not part of the known configuration of Music It is important to note the following distinction: our definition of Music does not require any particular music (instance) to actually exist in any substantial way. Music neither the configuration of known instances nor any particular instance, is granted existence ; as John Cage would say, m usic is just a word. However, insofar a s that word refers to an idea, the notion of some qualitative aural affect, we cannot say that there is no such thing as M usic. The notion is operative even if it does not actually exist in any substantial way even if Music is purely ideational Accordingly, it will be our task across the whole of this text to circumscribe the structure of that which subtracts itself from that which does not exist (Music) I nsofar as it concerns the activity of composition: we aim to uncover what is real about aural experience and our ability to transform it taking of place the place in which M usic its very possibi lity, becomes operative in conjunction with experience Project Outline In the Chapters that follow I pursue a compositional practice regarding both the work and the conditions of its esthesic access (site) in the following way: first, I outline in


36 both th perspective over the field of composition, the field in which my compositions and compositional behavior is necessarily situated. This discussion takes place across chapter tw reinforces particular practices and discourses within the field of composition. charts a differ ent path, one that is not subject to the epistemological limits described in the previous chapter. I first consider confusions that have arisen in light of my own work, Windows Left Open, and I then clarify such confusions as they are presented through a Times Square. transcendence, and therefore suggests a music that is not driven by epistemological considerations. In Chapter 4, I develop a theory of music that following the example of Neuhaus, posits how music may arise beyond the limits of knowing the musical. With the aid of philosophical texts, primarily the work of Quentin Meillassoux, Alain Badiou, and Slavoj I construct a the ory of ontologically incomplete music that aims to resuscitate supported by the theory of music I develop carry a very different notion of absolutism than the metaphysical Trut h espoused by conservative, dogmatic classicism; it is a theory of music that is neither wholly transcendental (truth is beyond us) nor metaphysical ( t ruth is endowed by God ) In Chapter 5, I provide a model of compositional practice that begins with the distinction between chance and contingency. The un totalizability of contingent


37 outcomes is contrasted with the totalizability of chance procedures, as they arise in bot h Music and Art I then present the work of Robert Irwin as a model for a speculative a rtistic practice. is shown to address its materials in determinate ways while nevertheless hold ing the frame of access in relation to such materials to be wholly indeterminate. in being art at all ; it is ontologically incomplete. In Chapter 6, I present my own artistic and compositional work in light of the prerogatives laid out across the entirety of th is text. My particular solution to the problem nvolve the computational convergence and divergence of value sets governing the construction and transformation of sonic materials The convergen ce (and divergence) of material results in an ever vacillating, though always incomplete, notion of what the wo rk is particularly when considered in relation to the context of its presentation. Our presuppositions concerning the context of presentation are leveraged against the changing nature of the work itself. Two original works are discussed in relation to the theoretical and practical considerations of this text The two works Mildly Sympathetic Guitar and Given the Materials at Hand were presented as part of a group exhibition titled Convergence which ran from September 13, 2013 to October 19, 2013 at Stets Hand Art Center.


38 CHAPTER 2 THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL LIMITATION Music and Thought on of a stylistic steady state or music al pluralism discussed in the last chapter, is not nece ssarily unique to the field of M usic or even artis tic production more generally. Music is simply a discursive domain wherein that which conditions plurality becomes manifest. In this regard, the proliferation of choice or any particular construction of vibrational sound that is agreed upon in its relation to Music may be seen as a subset of lar ger socio cultural phenomena Once we identify pluralism and pose the question concerning what its possible difference may be, we are thus asking a question that is relevant to M usic insofar as it is relevant to society at large. Therefore, if we are to consider music in relation to pluralism, a relation that pre condi tions our knowledge of what is new about new music, we must interrogate thought i ts elf, not just thought about Music Does pluralism serve to limit our thinking about music or is it purely emancipatory? We cannot adequately address this question from within the confines of Musical ( established or agreed upon ) discourses To do so would only reify the plurality of musics by providing a further distinction of a priori Musical thought. fference, of what (if an ything) is not encompassed by or subject to the logic of pluralism is alread y to think beyond Music We must be th eoretical without confining ourselves to theories of Music if we are ever to uncover how the M usical itself may be reconfigured. Ultimately, it is my belief that we would be remiss to continue composing earned from our teachers and other


39 historical models without at least attempting to think our way through that which preconditions composition. This strikes me as an imperative regardless of the historical circumstances. Given our particular contemporary m oment, pluralism just appears to be the issue at hand. Pluralism and Postmodernism A brief discussion about aesthetics may serve as a bridge between music and a theoretical analysis of that which preconditions or presupposes music. Postmodernism is o ne nam e for the set of contemporary (socio )linguistic and bodily considerations that Badiou circumscribes and calls democratic materialism s 1 Postmodernism(s) may be defined in many ways, ways that change according to the discipline or perspective fro m which discursive reality For example, Theirry de Duve has proposed a framework for considering the difference between modernist and postmodernist sculpture and installation practices as a matter of linkage and sacrifice rega rding 2 Following de Duve, modernist imperatives appear as sacrificing place and linking space and scale, while postmodernist imperatives appear as s acrificing space and linking place and scale Thus for the postm odernist, placement and choices take priority over the territory and dimensions of the object being consumed. From a M usical perspective, postmodernism appears retroactively as those ideas that (across the twentieth and now twenty first century) subtract themselves from the 1 Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II trans. by Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2009) 2. 2 Art and Design Installation Art, no. 30 (1993).


40 modernist imperatives of universality and materiality. In this sense postmodernism, like many discursive, terminological distinctions is applied as a positive designation circumscrib As T.J. Clark states in Farwell to an Idea : Modernism had two great wishes. It wanted its audience to be led towards a recognition of the social reality of the sign (away from the comforts of narrative and illusionism, was the claim); but equally it dreamed of turning the sign back to a bedrock of World/Nature/Sensation/Subjectivity which the to and fro of cap Modernism lacked the basis, social and epistemolo gical, on which its two great wishes might be reconciled. The counterfeit nature of its dream of freedom is written into 3 It is the irreconcilability or incompleteness of modernist ideals that paves the way for our embrace of its difference, the emancipation of difference itself. The Modernist Event What Ba diou has termed the Schoenberg e vent, 4 is most widely considered to be musical mod event that Badiou (and most everyone else) identifies in relatio n to Schoenberg is not a reference to his entire oeuvre, but rather, refers to the change found across his oeuvre, namely the advent of serialism or the twelve tone technique. Serialism stands in contrast to any representation of the world outside of the notes back to their serial organization alone, to their reciprocal relations in a determinate sonic space. that only rela 5 3 T.J. Clark, Farwell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 9 10. 4 Badiou, Logics of Worlds 80. 5 Ibid.


41 egalitarian treatment of all twelve equal tempered pitch classes invested music with an air of veracity regarding its construction A relation between elements, M usical or otherwise ca n be described mathematically. For the modernist, math functions as a secular guarantor of t ruth A nd the potentially differentiated appearance of modernist music is grounded in the mathematical verifiability of its procedures. Yet, in trying to elevate ma thematical truth to the level of aesthetic universals, TJ Clark is right, modernism never fully realizes a reconciliation of its prerogatives: to ground the sign in reality and to universalize its meaning ful appearance Why is this so? Even if a composer, following in the footsteps of Schoenberg employs a determinate mathematical system governing the rela tion between materials (sounds) there is nothing to say that the listener knows the system, or can reverse engineer it based on its musical appearance. There is a semiotic gap, one that remains despite the mathematical formalization of artistic procedure s The modernist sign, existing in a discursive space remains subject to interpretation. In modernist art, the hermeneutics of appearance are no doubt dif ferent from the actual, often mathematical, techniques of production ostensibly grounded in material reality A modernist artist or composer may point t o the verifiability of mathematics construction, but knowledge of construction does not ensure that the work appears in the same way for all; regardless of its verifiable construction, we cannot maintain the universal appearance of any work let alone a universal meaning This is not to say that modernist artists and composers all thought that their art was universal. Rather, formalized procedures of artistic construction simply beg the question: to what degree


42 will the varieties of appearance and meaning that arise in consideration of the work be restricte d ( be known in any particular way ) given the work s construction? Though we may assert that a modernist art is universally knowable in the reality of its poietic principles and procedures we must concede that how the work appears or is thought to carry me aning is on ly knowable through the singular perspective conditioning an esthesic access. In Lacanian terms, the difference between our ostensibly verifiable knowledge of poiesis and unverifiable esthesic appearance is gap between reality and the Real ( that which is lost in our symbolic representation of reality ) As Badiou has repeatedly remarked modernism retains the possibility for a Master the One who claims superior knowledge over the reality of the sign. 6 The hi gh/low dichotomies and value judgments that emerge in consideration of a rt music versus v ernacular music re a testament to the knowledge. C an we ever have absolute k nowledge of the reality of the sign? Post Kantian t ranscendental philosophy answer For any claim to absolute knowledge recalls reconciliation of oppositions. S lavoj ests this Hegel. maintains within the dialectical process, in the self annihilation of the opposition and is, therefore, an absolute that is immanent to the conditions of the dialectic not transcendent or beyon d it 7 We will discuss the implications of this perspective further across Chapters 3 and 4. However, before doing 6 see Alain Badiou, Handbook of Inaesthetics trans. Alberto Toscano (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005). 7 see Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (London: Verso, 2012).


43 so it is critical to understand the logic that supports the wholesale rejection of any absolute. Postmodernism is the aesthetic circumscription of such logic and therefore provides us with a window into it. The Postmodernist Event Having identified the Sch oenberg event, we may attempt to identify the appearance of a postmodern music, a music that pre sents nothing but the fractured As Fredric Jameson defines in the opening line of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism concept of the postmodern as an attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten 8 new forms of a universally operative aesthetics severed us from the past. And thus, postmodernism emerges as a discursive reclamation project marking the appearance of historical variation itself an aesthetics of fragmented historical perspective s As d e Duve observes in consideration of late twentieth century sculpture, we find an attempt to reconstruct the notion of site from the standpoint of havin g acknowledged its disappearance. So, in that sense the site of all in situ Smithson once perceptively remarked. 9 In music, we may therefore consider the appearance of postmodernism as the re contextualization of the histor ically musical. s neo classical turn provides an early index for considering the postmodern event. In consideration of Stravinsky classicism we see how musical consumption itself is integral to that which is produced When we conside r the vast 8 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), ix. 9


44 range of historical musics that one may choose as a condition for compositional activity, what knowledge do we have to inform such a choice? This question articulates th e choice is made under the condition of insufficient knowledge concerning the range of possible choices and their possible interpretations In thoroughly rejecting the notio n of absolute mastery or knowledge of a universal aesthetics, postmodernism places the composer securely within a particular frame of reference inside the territory that preconditions any compositional activity. The postmodern composer is cut off from an objective view of the Musical from kno wing how her work will be heard; she is required to acknowledge her position of limited knowledge (perspective) on the territory her work aims to affect. Sociological markers of postmodern ism : Kyle Gann sought to des cribe sociological markers within the field of composition that re flect postmodern prerogatives as they appear in relation to the falling pres tige ) associated with being a ( Classical, Romantic, or Modern ) composer : After the bad old days in which composers used to impress their audiences with technical expertise and quasi scientific musical mandates, we seem to be on a huge swingback, more modestly just trying to to earth g uys. The prestige of the modern composer has fallen so far that I think the reflexive self composers seriously anymore. Still recoiling from the days in which we were all trying t In front of an audience of complete amateurs this has one effect, but seems a bit different in front o Desp ite the thousands of be leaders, or to pretend to be experts. 10 10 alk_about.html


45 Gann is incredibly perceptive here in his description, yet he misses a crucial insight: the presentation of oneself as p art of a pluralist patchwork is today the very mechanism that As David Clarke puts it: alongside Miles Davis, The Doors, and Dunstable (they probably always now flaunt it. No guilt need attach to any nook or cranny of our musical preferences, since these days all music is in one way or another valid; just name your criteria. 11 The com poser, as a music consumer, flaunts eclectic status. It is not, as Gann says, to an expert, but rather it is the presentation of a restrained (if not fearful) exper tise, its very appearance, that enables the composer to retain legitimacy. a part of society, do anymore. In response to her own identification of always already being a part of a society that is critical of her practice, the composer is self critical of any aesthetic disagree ment; because she cannot know, in any absolute way, the reality of her own perspective over another perspective ; she cannot but concede juridicial equality 12 given the plurality of perspectives brought to bear on the appearance of the musical 11 Twentieth Century Music 4, no. 1 (2007): 4. 12 e preface of Logics of Worlds Logics of Worlds, 1.


46 To recapitulate, t he postmodern composer chooses her own particular engagement within the field of composition; she determines the affordances (possibilities and interdictions) for a new music by evaluating the musical as such, as she knows it. The postmo dern composer is acutely aware that her own knowledge of composition is not absolute. Rather, her knowledge reflects her own perspective and experiences in relation to that which has appeared musical. To avoid ignorance, the composer presents herself as genuin ely ironic towards composition; she acts as if she does not believe in Composers, while nevert heless composing in the hope that her propositional music will affect Music ( again, capitalization denoting the field at large in its contemporary moment and its various historical trajectories) Three Derivations of the Epistemological Limitation Derivation O ne: A Matter of Consumption and P roduction T he above sociological observations about contemporary c omposers appear to ref lect, ancien rgime do not in spite of this imagined distance, w e continue to 13 The not Composer still composes, but only in such a way as to accentuate her everyman status to leverage a degree of false modesty against her nevertheless operative ideology of becoming a Great Composer. rd Keynes ) provides us with a precise articulation of how contemporary compositional activity engenders self relating If we consider how the 13 Slavoj First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (Lond on: Verso, 2009), 3.


47 production of music (composition) is conditioned by our consumption of the territory we seek to affect, we may draw a direct analogy with free market enterprise whereby : expectations are part of the game: how the market [for music] will react depends not only on how much people trust this or that intervention, but even more so on how much they think others will t rust them one cannot Long ago, John Maynard Keynes rendered this self referentiality nicely when he compared the stock market to a silly competition in which the participants have to pick several pretty girls from a hundred photographs, the winner being the judgment are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinel y thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligence to anticipating what average opinion expects the average So, we are forced to choose without having at our disposal the knowledge that would enabl e a qualified choice, or as John (2) 14 If we consider the economics of musical consensus making as homologous to Keynes' of groundless self relating which arise between the composer and her own investment in composition as a means of achieving a succes sful (useful) intervention within the field ; her inv territory of composition, but rath er, the map as it all imminently appears to her. Here precession of simulacra of models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal [, whereby] the territory no 15 When we reflect upon the reality of the compositional procedure, it becomes impossible to even think in terms of absolutes 14 First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, New York: Management Laboratory Press Straw Dogs New York: Farrar Straus 15 Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings ed. Mark Poster (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), 166.


48 anymore. We are instead faced with a multitude of differentiated appearances and interrelations that precede any definition of what composition actually is ; we are staring a void s use of Keynes is how this third degree, to choose without having at our dis posal the knowledge that would enable a qualified Or, to put it in compositional terminology: we are forced to pursue a particular compositional prerogative (style or method) without having the knowledge to determine what makes such a choice objec The horizon for composition is thus to compose in an attempt to maximize the comportment between I esthesic access regarding the formalized procedures of poiesis, then postmodernism appears as a full embrace of the impossibility of ever doing so of the di scursive reality of the map without recourse to any territory (ground) The impossibility of universalizing the sign is due to our inability What any given composition is is conditioned by what the composer thinks ot hers will think the work to be; the inability of the composer to take all perspectives into consideration, to know the totality of possible appearance is an epistemological limitation a limitation on effect of any given compositional choice The composer cannot herself be the model for the listener (consumer) she imagines composing for.


49 Derivation Two: Music Semiotics way o f understanding the limitation on a know the reality of the effect she may cause. The history of music, as well as my own personal compositional history, is littered with attempts to represent, model, imitate, and even allegorize a d istinct subject that exists independent of sound. From early liturgical music up to contemporary pieces exploring data sonification and cellular automata, there is a demonstrated compositional preoccupation with representing the extra musical. For centurie s, composers have sought to instill m usical narrative and program into their works and they have give n great care and attention to the development of techniques for codifying the detail, nuance, and precision found within the extra musical subject. Yet, as interesting and sublime as the result of these efforts may be, there is a disjunct ion between intention (on the part of the composer) and interpretation (on the part of the listener). A ttending to the piece we begin to listen into that program with our own intentionality, in effect trying to reverse engineer the process by which the musical elements came to so clearly signify all that is rur al, natural, and of such a landscape. Beethoven himself, [Anton] Schindler claims that Beethoven intended to affix programmatic titles to all of his compositions after the fashion of the Pas toral Symphony 16 This point belies a pre 16 The Musical Quarterly 56, no. 4 (1970): 60.


50 suppositional acknowledgement that music is by definition more varied than text in its meaning, and thus amenable to (if not requiring of) explication. The necessity with which such (textual) explication in fact precedes the direct experience of music underscores (rather than resolves) the question of whether music alone can be explicit in its conveyance of meaning to listeners. Does the sound of the 6th Symphony itself som ehow carry its own intention divorced from any a priori knowledge of Is extra musical intention en coded in the sound? And further, as listeners, what do we decode and how are we able to decode anything extra musical from the sound? Such are the questions immediately raised through an engagement with extra musical representation. As the Beethoven example illustrates, the necessity with which the ambiguous the 6th Symphony forces us listeners to confront how meaning is conveyed through music. To do so brings us into the territory of music semiotics. As Tia DeNora (1986) points out, in approaching the question of what and how music means, we stumble upon the between the apparent validity (at the level of listening) and the apparent invalidity (at the 17 ability to make us feel something, but the sketchiness with which we are able to localize this feeling or in fact define the structure(s) through which it operates suggest that music may very w ell be, as Patricia Tunstall asserts, rearticulating Saussure signs but a system of signifiers without signifi 18 This untenability to pinpoint that 17 Sociological Theory 4, no. 1 (1986): 84. 18 Patricia Turnstall, "Structuralism and Musicology: An Overview," Current Musicology 27 (1979), 54.


51 musical meaning, namely that music may be perceived as expressive, yet simultaneously elude analytical attempts to pin it to sem 19 We assume that what we identify as expressive is specific. However, when given greater consideration, that which is expressive is revealed to lack specificity In trying to come to terms with the various ways that semiologists have tri ed to bridge this fundamental divide between what Nattiez terms poiesis (compositional intent) and esthesis (listener interpretation), 20 DeNora makes the argument that our confusion and angst regarding the complexity of musical meaning stems from the misinf ormed assumption that the linguistic premis as an appropriate model for understanding music as a system of signs. In an ideal 21 Yet, such a speech situation is truly ideal, as it is not reflective of any real world linguistic exchange, let alone the conveyance of musical intention. Indeterminacy of Translation, Gricean Maxims, and the notion of Common Ground in psycholingu istics all serve to confirm the premise that such an ideal s peech situation is impossible Language users select words and comprehend their significance accordi ng to a multiplicity of meaning and a reliance on conte xt. For example: 22 In terms of 19 Musical Meaning, 87. 20 See Jean Jacques Nattiez, Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music trans. Carolyn Abbate (Princeton: Prin ceton University Press, 1990). 21 22 Ibid.


52 semiotics, it is therefore necessary to reassess the referentiality of language as an ideal model for music. Here, we begin to see that the work of co nveying meaning does not rest solely on the shoulders of the speaker/composer. The listener actively constructs meaning out of the signs with which they are confronted. Meaning is in this way achieved rather than received. 23 sical semiotics is in fact grounded on this premise, whereby the composer and listener merely share access to t he neutral level of existence in reality the infinitely receding point of tangency between the two perspectives In this sense, it ap pears more logical to invert the linguistic analogy, to treat language as a refined systemization of music semiotics (on the basis of sonic formed ness) rather than view music as being reflective of an idealized, linguistic referentiality. Yet, as attracti of language, he seems to under appreciate our bias towards meaning. As a particular context, social environment, or perceptually driven situation prescribes, we seek out meaning I am str uck by the example of a particular viral video on YouTube in 2010, DeNora describes this motivation to find meaning in terms of the objec ts of our perception, stating that we in that object are actually and intrinsically of i 24 Not only are we the makers of meaning, but we 23 Ibid., 90. 24 Ibid.


53 conflate meaning with the object from which it is derived W e think the meaning is in the object itself, inherent to its constitution; we misattribute meaning to be in the object and overlook how meaning is the product of our expectations Therefore, our endeavors to identify in the object (at the neutral level) the quanta of meaning we perceive are nothing more than exercises in confirmation bias: we seek to identify and explicate the When w e attempt to analyze music, by peering into its components and trying to assess what they determinately are, we incur that which is meaningful about our intention to analyze. In this sense, analysis will forever be thwarted by our very attempt at analysis our own gaze. The more we try to subjectively peer into the musical object, the more the object resists our efforts to know it as a Thing in itself ; it reflects our own gaze. If the multiplicity of subjective and contextual meanings invariably come into p lay, is it futile to try and make compositional intent explicit ? DeNora says no, but her discussion belies the larger ramifications of the argument she presents. If we, as listeners are searching for musical meaning, then: to find meaning in an object is believing that the object in question is inherently meaningful and that it deserves to be taken seriously, that it is significant. The primary object of study, when focusing on musical meaning is to examine the way in which belief is inspired so that the sketchiness of the music so that it appears to mean something. 25 Hence, the listener who gazes into the object for meaning finds only the listener. This shift in focus underlies what the framing of an experience such that our belief that we should expect an encounter with 25 Ibid., 91.


54 musical meaning ensures that we find it; 26 we are pushed towards finding meaning based around our set of expectations for meaning, which are informed by attuning 27 These cues are often performative, social, gestural, and even architectural. And he re, on this point, we come to refine our understanding of the musical object. Rather than being inherently meaningful, merely cultural practice, music collapses in to its socio cultural situation in a process that constitute s the very means by which it is experienced as musical. Through this process meaning is sought and derived. The collapsing of the musical object into its ground on the semiotic level should shift the discussion towards phenomenology via an address of contextual musical experience rather than reference. Inquiry into the perceptual basis of experience is in fact an inquiry into the territory of musical meaning; the phenome na surrounding music act less as a ground than as an integral and inter active component of the object they frame. DeNora hints at this erceived context of which the 28 In other words, the extra musical is always already a part of phenomenal musical experience. So we can venness of the contextualization 26 The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 15, no. 4 (1957). 27 see John J. Gumperz, "Sociocultural Knowledge in Conversational Inference," in Linguistics and Anthropology ed. M. Saville Troike. (Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press, 1977) and Tia DeNora The Sociological Review 48, no. 1 (2000). 28 90 91.


55 cues cannot be separated from musical appearance, and hence, are a part of establishing such appearance. nterpretations of objects, utterances 29 Framing the listening experience helps to make e xplicit its semantic reference and to make such reference appear necessary because it is al ways already grounded in experience. Again, we find that any pretense to musical objectivity is purely ideational; it is retroactively constituted through the subjective lens of the listener. If we consider the semiotics of listener agency from the perspec tive of the composer as listener the object of aural perception (the sign) becomes even more compl ex. The composer, in listening to her own work, is a listener towards the meaning she intends So once her compositional activity becomes about framing a subjective listening experience (rather than attempting to encode objective meaning into the object itself ) the explicitness of musical reference is moot; experience itself becomes objectified as that which should be meaningful. The frame for such experien ce is nothing other than how the composer has sought to contextualize her own listening. any meaningful listening. It is here where we re incur the epistemological limi tation, as derived from semiotics, which undercuts any pretense toward universalizing composer intention: the composer cannot know if or how the average listener will achieve meaning in her work, because she herself is part of the multitude reading meaning into it. Any consistent 29 Ibid., 93.


56 totality of meaning is therefore compromised because she cannot take into account how her own listening imbues the work with meaning, a meaning that may or may not comport with an average listening. For the composer, her only recou rse is to consider the responses (critiques) of her peers and to subsequently attempt to frame (with recourse to rhetoric a particular listening. By operating directly upon the context in which her propositional music tak es place, the composer attempts to ensure that the meaning derived through listening more directly corresponds with the meaning apparent to her through her own listening Derivation Three: Philosophical Ref l exivity Both composition and listening must take place. We may discuss each term here (symbolically) in the abstract, but insofar as we are talking about activities that happen in the world, they must be situated in both space and time. It is the philosophical consideration of place that provides us with a window into the limits of our knowledge concerning the reality of the world itself. In outlining the spatial characteristics of sound, Yi Fu Tuan made a passing aside c ery moment exactly where one is. 30 music with functional harmony. 31 The relationship between place and music is thus immediately framed as a matter of self [self] 30 as quoted in Yi Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977), 15. 31 see Jonathan Kramer, The Time of Music: New Meanings, New Temporalities, New Listening Strategies (New York: Schirmer Books, 1988).


57 Insofar as knowledge is a matter of thought, we incur the problem of thought attempting to gain traction on being (under the guise of where one is ). To consider music and place is, therefore, to consider the relation between thought and being, a consummate philosophical problem. As Ray Brassier concisely The fundame ntal problem of philosophy is to understand how to reconcile these two 32 reconciliation. Addressing this problem directly may provide us with some insight as to the full weight of the limitation on our ability to know anything let alone the reality of the music we write To begin outlining how musical meaning may be known, we should allow Brassier to frame the problem further: For we cannot understand what is real unles means, and we cannot under is, but we cannot hope to understand what means. This much Heidegger knew. 33 The appearance of Heidegger in this context is important. Philosophically, we may principle currents of 20th century philosophy: analytic philosophy and phenomenology 34 Both the analytic and phenomenological currents, which extend 32 The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism ed. Levi Bryant et al. (Melbourne:, 2011) 47. 33 Ibid. 34 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency ( London: Continuum, 2008) 41.


58 respectively, world independent of the always already immersed in the Here, the word Quentin Meillasoux, in his increasingl y notable book, After Finitude (2008), identifies correlation ism correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term c onsidered apart from 35 relation ism may be further understood as a term that encompasses issues of reflexivity or our finite relation to the world we always already find ourselves in. Reflexivity describes the intractable condition of being a finite Being situated in the world with a necessarily limited perspective and horizon of experience. As a consequence of this condition our being in the world mitigates any claim we make about the world Any claim reg arding language is expressed through language, and any claim about the properties of objects themselves is constituted through the subjective appearance of those objects as given to sense. 36 We cannot gain an absolute perspective over objects, let alone our selves; for the more we strive toward objectivity, the more it implicates the subjectivity inherent to our access of those very objects we strive to know in and of themselves. 35 Ibid., 5. 36 Hilary Lawson, Reflexivity: The Post Modern Predicament (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1985), 9.


59 Reflexivity reflects the deep philosophical problem facing us today, a problem that is the core tenant of our postmodern, relativistic crisis: the un tenability of thinking the reality of objects in and of themselves, independent of their givenness to us. As ns of our own 37 Thus identifying reflexivity as operative given our interactions with the world, only reinforces the limitation it imposes upon our ability to know the world in and of itself. Our c ontemporary, postmodern condition is epistemologically ungrounded, for we cannot find a Ground upon which to ensure that our thought carries any significance in regards to the objects of our thought. This horizon of though t which appears in Kant as a con sequence of the dissolution of dogmatic Metaphysics (rejection of the ontological proof) remains predominate across theoretical discourses within the humanities, ranging from anthropology to art. Within such discourses, the limitations of finitude have pa ved the way for the rise of self reflexive practices. A cting to address the very issues that condition action, our focus shifts toward the inescapability of the reflexive turn itself. In anthropological discourses, such a shift veers towards the consideration of the researcher as herself implicated in the context of observation, recording, and ultimately, re t will reflect the newly problematized relationships among writer, reader, and subject matter... in an age when the native informant may read and contest the eth 38 Whereas in the arts, the construction and transformation of 37 Ibid. 38 Frances E. Mascia Turn in Anthropology: Cautions from a Feminist Signs 15, no. 1 (1989): 9.


60 ma terials now follow a logic of self of the author, the artist includes his own easel in the painting, the film maker films the 39 Within such self reflexive practices, claims to obje ct ivity are treated as untenable. In lieu of the objective, we engage in the whole sale endorsement of its converse: the subjectivization of phenomenal appearance, and the relativistic normalization of any given appearance over another. Such subjective pri oritization begins and ends with the individual, and when expanded and viewed as operative within a larger social, discursive space, it is contingent upon a balancing o f inter subjective agreements. Human finitude not only limits our ability to know that which exists beyond the phe nomenal appearance of objects (i.e. to know the noumenal), but further limits our ability to even think its being, because to do so (to posit an absolute perspective) would necessarily be from within the limitation of our finite perspective and only serve to reaffirm thought alone Without any absolute either principle (mathematics) or entity (God) actin g as a guarantor of the in itself (i.e. the noumenal) to think the possibility of objects existing independent of human access is to think the possibility of accessing nothing at all. As such, all we are left with are appearances and references to objects and referents whose reality cannot be obtained. The consequence of fin ding our is not merely that a rt becomes ungrounded, but that science itself presents no threat to correlationist thinking; one need merely assert that scientific principles and mathematical laws appear for us as absolutes. To think the being of universal laws is thus to reaffirm the priority of thought 39 Lawson, Reflexivity 10.


61 over that which appears. Therefore, science becomes just another form of discourse Scientific truth is reduced to a matter of inter subjective agreement regardi ng our access of not only the results of science, but the core tenants of the scientific process ( controlled experimentation, falsifiability, etc.) On the Possibility of Thinking Beyond the Limitation The epist emological limitation, or my in ability to know what a musi c really is (whether I composed it or someone else did), appears to be rather intransigent, not easily overcome. To even suggest that we can think of an object existing independent of thought seems bound to reify the reflexivity inherent in the pursuit, to reify that we think difference? If we cannot think what this difference really is beyond the proliferation of differences, then are we not simply engaging in the circu lari ty of some ideological thought? A re we not attempting to assert a distinction without any groun d to maintain its difference? A re we not being sophistical? Before we attempt to re ground our knowledge of music, its basis in reality, (see Chapter 4) perhaps we can search out an example that points us in a useful direction. An example of a music or, more generally, an art that does not appear to be limited by the epistemological limitation. xample : Robert Irwi One Wall Removed (1980) seems to provide us with just such an example a work of art that appears not to be dependent on knowledge regarding either its poietic procedure or even its existence. description of his intervention at 78 Market St. in Venice, California may provide us with an introductory model for consideration. Having been granted the use of the space before its renovation, Irwin says:


62 wo boxed back into the space by removing the front wall facing the street and stretching in its place a sheer white scrim, in effect creating as a tangible focus the shifting qualities of light and the varying visual densit ies of the space across the periods of the day. It was quite beautiful. To press the issues, the building went unmarked and the work unlabeled, thus allowing the casual passerby the full excitement of discovering this uncluttered experience, free for the t Perhaps potential for beauty in pure phenomena as well as in worldly things? 40 Irwin took knowledge out of the equation. The work itself has no meaning for us to know To pass by One Wall Removed is to encounter the possibility of see ing. We may decide upon the object we see or we may possibly fail to see anything at all The work contingent existence its being anything at all. If we begin to consider our aural experience of the world, we may ask: what are the possibilities for a composed aural experience to function similarly? If I as a composer am limited in my ability to specify a partic ular understanding of the composition I compose then perhaps I should reconsider the presupposition that the composition is itself whole or in any way complete In order t o reconsider this presupposition we must develop a theory of ontological incompleteness in relation to aural experience. 40 Robert Irwin, Being and Circumstance: Notes Toward a Conditional Art, ed. Lawrence Weschler (Larkspur Landing, CA: The Lapis Press, 1985) 90.


63 CHAPTER 3 BETWEEN THE TWO: READDRESSING THE LISTENER IN SITUATED MUSICAL PRACTICE Upon completion of a musical c omposition, I switch perspective on the object of creation. Relieved of the composer ly motivation to make alterations to the work according to some weighting of rationales, I start (by imagining the listener's perspective) to question the basis on which a ny one rationale became operative in the first place. Herbert Brn's assertion that "where ther e is no choice, there is no Art 1 reflects the importance of making choices as a matter of composition. However, this assertion belies a latent and hierarchical problem : our first choice is actually to choose the basis, reasoning, or even logic upon which we make further compositional choices Therefore, the methodology of compositional activity is at issue here, as it so often provides the territory for further i nvestigation. If the direct phenomenal experience of listening bear s no reflection to the methodology underlying the organization of sound, then the composer should question the function of the chosen methodology Through responsive questioning, a piece of music, which itself may reflect the espousal of a propositional response to some initial set of questions, may then provide the necessary impetus for the formulation of a new set of questions, and a new artistic response. In this (perhaps idealized) way, artist and creation(s) may become forever embroiled in an antiphonal dance whereby one is always responding to the questions of the other. Windows Left Open (2010) is a com position for microtonal chamber ensemble and fixed electronics comprised of pitched percussion sounds place d against a 1 Herbert Brn, When Music Resists Meaning: The Major Writings of Herbert Brn, ed. Arun Chandra (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004), 3.


64 backdrop of envi ronmental soundscape recordings. Live performers are asked to match pitch with the algorithmically generated percussion sounds at their discretion in accordance with the bounds articulated in the score. (Please refer to Appendix A for the complete written score for Windows Left Open Please refer to Object 3 1 for the fixed electronic sound component of the piece ). The sound and score were generated using software I developed that allowed for the creation of multiple, unique versions of the work, versions that aligned the work more with an installation, perhaps, than with the concert hall presentation for which it was intended. This system could have been configured to run indefinitely; Windows Left Open while it is a work intended for concert hall performance, can be presented as an installation that offers an infinite number of variations to l isteners who would come and go. My completion of the work prompted a robust line of thought concerning how the wo rk functions. Object 3 1. Windows Left Open: fixed electronic sound component (.wav file 274MB). I was both enthusiastic and nervous about its actual concert hall performance. As I shifted perspective from composer to potential audience member, I started to reevaluate two particular aspects of the piece: the connections between the fixed electronic sounds and the relationship between these electronic sounds and the instrumental sounds. I was worried the listener would interpret these two parts as having no relationship to each other. I was also concerned to establish a relationship between the instrumental and electronic material; perhap s pitch matching would not be sufficient in order to establish a relationship between the instrumental and electronic material.


65 While t hese concerns may sound like those of a composer still actively refining a piece, this was not the case. I finished the piece; there was nothing left to do. Poiesis was complete, followed out to its as near perfect as possible realization based on the limitations of my own initial conceptions, listening abilities, and the technology at hand. I ran the software that generate s the pitched percussion materials and the data for the performance score several hundred times and intuitively selected five version s of the resultant audio output. These five selections presented in time according to the sequence in w hich each version w as generated, comprised the form of the piece. I also Nature Preserve in North Central Florida. I recorded each soundscape at a d ifferent time of day in autumn and edi ted the length of each to match its corresponding section I then layered the two sour ces with minimal adjustment of amplitude levels. Once the were complete, the wo rk w as then purely subject to esthesic consideration; I sought to 2 As a listener I was able to correctly identify the work as presenting a non unified whole with respect to its three part s : algorithmically generated tones, soundscape recordings, and live instrumental sounds And yet, I was convinced, paradoxically, that a complex understanding of the parts being in relation to each other could arise despite their seeming disparity. This is a confusing and somewhat disorienting response to work. If the points of tangency between the three types of sonic materials are tenuous, how can we nevertheless make sense of the work as a whole through our 2 Jean Jacques Nattiez, Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music trans. Carolyn Abbate (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 12.


66 listening ? in creating a whole work ? That is, how does the composer operate to frame a listening experience in which the possibility of relationships between seemingly contradictory aural objects may arise? Ultimately, asking such questio ns becomes an opportunity to temporar ily set aside the need to analyz e acts of composition. Instead, we may focus on how a listener might experience seemingly disparate aural elemen ts in relation to one another in order to understand how the truth of such experience emerges as a result of artistic intervention. Externalizing the Experience of Art Bruce Nauman's 1968 installation Performance Corridor consists of two fabricated walls placed so that they nearly converge. As a result, audience members are able to traverse a constantly shrinking or expanding corridor space. The resulting effect is that carefully manipulated behavioral pattern that does not signify anything 3 Nevertheles s, this behavior is crucial to the installation; "The viewer must traverse it and experience it for himself. The artwork transcends its traditional role as an object invested with meaning and becomes the occasion for pure consciousness." 4 The viewer subjec t of artistic experience becomes his own object; the experience of walking becomes externalized to he who walks. Thus the work s object falls outside the purview of the artist him/herself. In other words, the installation is understood as the framing of a direct perceptual experience one that implicates the viewer as part of the work; t he work 3 Marcia Bruce Nauman: Work from 1965 1972, ed. Jane Livingston and Marcia Tucker (Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1972), 42. 4 Thomas DeLio, Circumscribing the Open Universe (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1984), 53.


67 functions as an empty frame for an object yet to come rather than as an object to be viewed that requires symbolic interpretation of some representational content Thomas DeLio has thoughtfully connected this understanding of Nauman's installation to Christian Wolff's music, particularly his 1964 piece For 1, 2, or 3 People 5 their own progression through the piece by asking performers to listen to the sounds generated by other performers and respond in a way that is both in accordance with the stipulations of the score and a result of individual performer predilections. As a result, For 1, 2, or 3 People cannot be conceived of through its score along; it rests on the making and interaction. In the same way that Nauman's P erformance C orridor is understood to elicit perceptual experience by conscious traversal of the installation, so too does Wolff's music exist in the direct experiencing of it. However, unlike Bruce Nauman's installation, Christian Wolff's piece does not elicit a "behavioral pattern that does not signify anything." 6 Wolff's compositions are political; performers are asked to make decisions about what sounds to produce, both as individuals and often in relation to other performers as well. Performer agency over the specification of particular sounds and their arrangement breaks from the Western classical tradition of the Composer authority over all aspects of the music that s hould result from performance. precedence over any particular or consistent musical appearance; he eschews 5 Ibid. 6


68 compositional authority in favor of a more democratic and ideally egalitarian basis for the determination of sound characteris tics. We may, th simply outline or frame how a propositional music might take place within (immanent to) the context of instrumental performance Yet the act of framing itself, its conceptual notion, functions indep endent of any propositional music that results through performance. T he notation for For 1, 2, or 3 People pre defines a set of possible relations between performers but unlike a piece by Beethoven, or even Schoenberg for that matter, the work does not ex ist is generated (not just realized) concomitant with its performance However, his work is nevertheless attached to a discursive social function, which emerges in consideration of performer agency and persists independent of any particular musical result. The significance of knowing notion one that is up for interpretation and removed from th e experience of any given performance. Furthermore, Wolff's music remains unbalanced (non egalitarian) in its relation to the audience ; the relationship between composer and performer might be placed on more equal footing but the audience has not been dis pensed with. Performers may be integrated into the generative process of a work the notional object of music is still wholly dependent on her knowledge, or perhap s discovery, of performers behaving in a way that differs from Western classical convention and forces a break from the Great Man narrative of the Composer Accordingly the notion of a listening performer is undoubtedly opera tive, but the


69 emergence of the performing listener as one who is implicated in the completion of the work through the active construction of intentional relations between the disparate objects of aural perception, remains inoperative The identification of the listening performer is similarly significant in Windows Left Open However, the mechanisms through which the listening performer emerges are quite different. The score for Windows Left Open only provides info rmation regard ing the sequence in which microtonal algorithmically generated electronic sounds appear Performers are instructed to articulate particular notes at their own discretion ; they can choose when and where to match p itch with the electronic sounds depending on their own listen ing They are also encouraged to listen to both the underlying soundsca pe and fellow performers and respond in different ways Performers play by listening and responding since there is no score to follow other than the sequence s of pitches representing the sounds they hear The written score is merely a guide for what is oth erwise a phenomenological engagement with the electronic sounds. Like the walls of Nauman's P erformance C orridor and different from how Wolff's For 1, 2, or 3 People functions socially the electronic sounds of Windows Left Open allow those listening, be they performer s or audience members, to share access to the same object of (aural) perception, which suggests no further function beyond itself. When Windows Left Open is performed, the audience members and performers are both able to l isten to the electronic sounds. However, ectronic sounds is not the same; p erformers can choo se to play their instruments in correspondence with the electronic sounds, and so they actively engage with th e electronics whereas the audience only passively listens


70 relationship to the fixed electronics begs the question: what is the with both the sounds present in the electronics and the instrumental sounds that appear as a matter of performance ? That is, to what extent might an audience member listen like a performer? And might we consider such a listener a s a performing listener ? Co incident Listener Experience From an audience or liste ner perspective, the expansion of musical listening through the acceptance of sounds (and noises) of the world around us has stretched, and ultimately redefined, the ontology of music across the 20th century. Within academia, an entire field of contemporar y critical discourse surrounding musical improvisation, from Jazz to live Laptop Performance, addresses the listening performer Yet, rarely do the two intersect; rarely does our identification of the listening performer emerge concurrently with our identi fication of the performing listener Our typology of listener engagement is reflective of the two discourses and may very well be secondary to what their co incidence reveals: even when listener and performer share access to the same object of aural percep tion, a physical and discursive fundamental gap exists between them; the audience member is not on stage, and the pe rformer is not in the audience. Y et, paradoxically, listening serves as a fulcrum that enables an understanding of the audience member as pe rforming via intentional listening and the performer as audience to his/her own responsive listening. The resultant musical 'situation' is reflective of spatial expansion in both physical and discursive domains, which is more appropriately addressed not wi thin the strictures of concert hall convention s but rather in the more spatially variable medium of sound installation practices.


71 Place and Discovery in Times Square Times Square 7 (1977 1992; 2002 most well known work, but, thanks to Christine Burgin and the Dia Art Foundation, remains extant. 8 While many contemporary artists working with sound choose to use video recording to document a sound inst to create what he termed circumscription drawings, which were often diptychs presenting a sketch of the site with some accompanying text describing the work and its intended effect. For the majority of Ne uhaus the only 9 For the circumscription drawing of Times Square Neuhaus drew a slightly elevated, angled representation of the pedestrian traffic isla nd, which rests between 45th and 46th street at the intersection of 7th avenue and Broadway, with what appears to be a column of sound rising directly out of the triangular space. 10 The column of sound rising perpendicular to the street reflects the vertica lity of the two large cubes/buildings framing the far side of 46th street. In the last paragraph of the text that accompanies this sketch, Neuhaus articulates his understanding of how the work functions: ity the island becomes a different place, separate, but including its surroundings. These 7 Italics denote the Neuhaus piece rather than the literal location. 8 Max Neuhaus: Times Square, Time Piece B eacon, eds. Lynne Cooke et al. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 21. 9 Max Neuhaus: Sound Works, vol. II, eds. Yehuda Safran and Max Neuhaus (Ostfildern Ruit, Germany: Cantz, 1994), 7. 10 Max http://www.max


72 people, having no way of knowing that it has been deliberately made usually claim the work as a place of their own discovering. 11 These last few words bear repeatin drawing a direct connection between the process of aural discovery and the identification or perhaps emergence of a sense of place. The hypothesis seems to be the following: the discovery of a sound that is understood (as Neuhaus states earlier in 12 has the effect of heightening, if not disclosing, a sonically delimited, subjective sub place. Neuhaus is not here in order to indicate a mere physical location. Rather, we are to understand place as denoting a history of continual (re)habitation within a particular context, and as the feelingful dimension of the immediate situated experience of being there. Neuha As Pier Luigi Tazzi describes: First we have a place, then we have a sound construct that hinges on that place. Neuhaus begins by attempting to achieve an understanding of a immersed, its historical or traditional connotations, the social funct ions for which it is employed, and finally the physical features that distinctively condition its use. 13 It is clear that not only are considerations of place addressed according to acoustic, historical, socio cultural, and physical perspectives, but the n otion of place itself seems 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid. 13 Max Neuhaus: La Collezione, The Collection (Milan: Charta, in


73 to appear twice. First, as Tazzi indicated, as that which is always already there, and then as the desired, imagined effect of the sonic intervention. For me, Times Square was a sub place within the pre existing commercial that such an installation was extant, and sought it out. When I did experience the work for the first time, I was nevertheless surprised that I still had to find it. While m y experience of Times Square burden of discovery. This experience is echoed by Alex Potts, who in addressing the evening around the wrong end of Times Square... imagining [he] was hearing the work. [He] only happened to come across it just as [he] had given up hope of ever findin 14 However, such accounts beg the question: if even those who know of the installation must in fact discover it, is the discovery Neuhaus proposes merely an art world quasi discovery? Is it even possible for an ideal discovery to take place? It appear s so, considering at least the following account of a person who passed through the site frequently: I work at 45th Street and Sixth Avenue in New York City. One evening some years ago, I walked across a traffic island at 45th and Seventh Avenue, and heard a strange sound coming from the side walk grating. It was metallic, deep and harmonic, with what you might call an urban New York mechanical strength. The sound had no discernible notes, so it o ebb and flow like a musical composition. I asked a police officer about the source of the returned to that area of Times Square specifically to listen. At one point it 14 Max Neuhaus: Times Square, Time Piece Beacon, eds. Lynne Cooke et al. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 52.


74 occurred to me t hat this was a work of sound art. I wrote to the Museum of Modern Art to inquire, but got no answer. Recently, I picked up a copy of Art in America and read the obituary of artist Max Neuhaus. To my surprise, I found out that he had created the sound work in 1977. 15 s Square specifically to listen 16 Furthermore, the aural discovery of the work without an a priori understanding of it reinforces the link between the process of discovery and the emergence of a perceptually bound, subjective sub place. In order to work functions, as framed by the notions of a distinction between place and site from the perspective of the artist. Site, that which is directly addressed by Neuhaus and that which listeners conceptualize in confr onting a is necessarily the bridge between the two instances of place, as first being always already there, and eventually becoming a new re contextualized sensitivity. A decon how we move from one to the other through mere sonic intervention. Because notions of site are much more well formed within the area of what term he has repeatedly found useful for distinguishing his work from that of musicians or composers, it may be helpful to address issues of site as they relate to Neuhaus from that perspective. In fact doing so may further reflect the irreducible shift in perspective that I hope to demonstrate as fundamentally operative in his work. 15 Art in America (December 2009): 24. 16 Max Neuhaus: La Collezione, The Collection (Milan: Charta, in association with Castello di Riv


75 Site: From Literal to Functional A site is little more than an area of ground, in an abstract locational sense. It is an area of ground that is both bound in some way (parameter ized) and amenable to, or demonstrative of, some intervention. Take for instance an empty lot amidst an urban environment. For elucidation purposes, imagine that the surrounding buildings are actively used, maintained, and stand in strict contrast to the e mpty lot. Therefore, we may perceive the lot as if it is yearning for an intervention. It has potentially been forgotten or neglected, and therefore demonstrates the physical manifestation or emergence of site. Yet, such a description also points towards a similar understanding Because I see the lot as an architectural abeyance relative to the surrounding buildings and their cultural use, I can easily imagine another site: a dialectical engagement arisin g between architectural continuity and emptiness. A more complex understanding of site ensues. In recognizing both the physical and discursive manifestations of site, we begin to develop a dichotomous understanding of how each operates as two sides of the same coin. distinction. 17 a site of action. It is the domain in which some intervention is materializ ed and thereby activated. In contrast, his notion of functional site refers to a position of reception within some discursive context, where the intervention means something in terms of thought. 17 see Space, Site, Intervention: Situating Installation Art, ed. Erica Suderburg (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 23 37.


76 Within the territory of the plastic arts, when the interveni ng act is situated both materially and dialectically, notions of the literal site and functional site are both constantly at play. In so far as art is situated in the world, issues of site are not only relevant but take on an increasingly important role in how we understand our own engagement with a work. In the context of more phenomenologically driven site specific art, the literal site and functional site are wholly uneven. Concerning such an approach as evidenced by ell as the work of Light and Space artists Robert Irwin and James Turrell, the address of literal site is direct and substantive, while the address of a functional site is diffuse, if manifest at all. 18 To refer back to the earlier Perfo rmance Corridor the apparent absence of mean ing be yond is reflective of a substantive address of the literal and an eschewal of the functional. Of course placing priority on a literal address of site alone does not preclude any given viewer or listener from projecting meaning upon her own experience from imbuing the work with a functional site that may or may not have been intended by the artist. Yet, as is clear regarding the political implications of Chris site of artistic intervention is not necessarily one sided, is not a framing of pure literal experience versus pure functional meaning. A new generation of artists whose work points towards even more general socio political discours es, such as Christian Phillip 18 conditioned and site specific draws a marked contrast notion of a situated aesthetic e xperience, whereby the literal site takes precedence. Therefore, each artist presents a different approach to the parameterization of site, yet neither of them necessarily attempts an address of functional site through their art or the context of its prese ntation. Neither Serra nor Irwin (nor Turrell for that matter) make art that means something else beyond the experiencing of it. Regarding trivial distinction and thus his wor k is given substantial treatment in Chapter 5.


77 Mller, Andrea Fraser, Anne Hamilton, and Mark Dion exemplify this point. The work of these artists suggests that while neither one side or the other takes precedence, the gap between the two is ever widening. tion of the terms literal and 19 This new generation of artists approaches the notion of site spe cificity as not merely a phenomenological engagement, but as a means to open up a larger discourse in the domain of thought. In doing so, an ever greater separation between literal site and functional site appears to be operative. Miwon Kwon has furth ered our understanding of this trend towards the functional by discussing how notions as the practice of site 20 Using s On Tropical Nature (1991), for which the artist spent time at a (literal) site in the Venezuelan rainforest, collected and boxed a variety of objects found at the site, transported them to a gallery in Caracas, and displayed them as an installation fore fronting issues concerning the representation of nature and larger global towards the functional underpins a transformation of the operative def inition of site a physic al location grounded, fixed, actual to a discursive vector ungrounded, fluid, 21 19 20 See Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002). 21 Ibid., 29 30.


78 functional site operates reflexively with the movement of the artist him/herself. Through the (inter)textually rather than spatially, and its model is not a map but an itinerary, a fragmentary sequence of events and actions through spaces, that is, a nomadic 22 Is this not precisely the artistic activity that DeLio argues stands in strict contrast Performance Corridor and the music of Christian Wolff? externalization of a rtistic experience decentralize the role of the artist/composer such that he or she is no longer the sole carrier of a functional site? Yet, if the artist relinquishes functional responsibility, then on whom does it fall, considering that the intervention is nevertheless sited? It would appear that the trend towards the functional, while nevertheless operative (as again evidenced through a propensity to understand The Minimal Difference s awareness of her own itinerary and the resulting increased onus placed on her role as carrier of the work may point to a more fundamental discontinuity underpinning the distinction between literal site and functional site. Physically, an artist moves f ro m literal site to literal site, but m ovement is also possible within a discursive space, as the artist moves from one functional site of reception to another. The notion of an artist traversing two spaces, one physical and the other discursive, reflects a parallelism of passage. For example, an artist who constructs two different installations at the same literal site may not reflect movement physically. B ut in so far as the two 22 Ibid. 29.


79 installations function differently, i.e., occupy different positions in the w orld of ideas and proposed meanings, the works may demonstrate movement through a discursive space. Therefore, the notion of passage, particularly a parallelism of passage, reflects an understanding that the artist is capable of movement through both liter al and functional spaces, indep endently of each other. Of course, this capability is not the demonstrate both notions o f movement : each may come to and leave a literal site and each may come to and leave a functional site too There is always passage through physical spaces and passage through headspaces. What there is not however is a continuum of engagement bridging the two. Between the two notions of passage, there is an irreducible discontinuity. This discontinuity is in fact the gap discussed in the previous section, between literal and functional notions of site. Parallax in theory literal/functional position against a background), caused by a change in observational position that 23 Parallax therefore becomes useful in d escribing the two notions of site, because of the gap that emerges due to the shift in perspective between site as literal and site as functional. By shifting (moving) between the two perspectives on site, I myself am implicated in the site, as constituted from first a Hegelian and then Lacanian stance: 23 Slavoj The Parallax View (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 17.


80 the object itself. Or to put it in Lacanese the already inscribed into the perceived object itself, f returns the gaze. 24 T he difference we find between literal and functional perspectives on site reflects the minimal difference between a site (its phenomenal presence) and itself (its noumenal notion). This minimal difference, or fundamental discontinuity provides the basis for understanding how arti st or perceiver ( she who mediates the gap between literal and functional) moves to further implicate herself as both the subj ect and resultant object of her own experience. Parallax in practice Sculptor Tony he was able to drive the then un opened Ne w Jersey Turnpike late at night might be able to shed some light on the issue. Smith, in recounting the drive, positions himself as an audience to the aesthetic experience of late night highway driving, and in this capacity, outlines a train of thought which gives rise to a full disclosure of himself as viewer subject. As Smith describes: This drive was a revealing experience. The road and much of the know what it was, but its effect was to liberate me from many of the views I had had about art. It seemed that there had been a reality there which had not had any expression in art. The experience on the road was something mapped out but not socially recognized. I thought to myself, it 25 24 Ibid. 25 as quoted in Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968), 386


81 There are three key a of his NJ Turnpike experience. First, there is the immediate, phenomenal experience of relationship to a larger discourse concerning the ontology of art. And third, there is a self immediate presence of the experience to identifying that same experience as something functional site. As a result, are co incident with a third unfathomable object, the minimal difference between the phenomenal experie nce and its noumenal self: the gap occupied by Smith himself. By discovering, or even positing, the potential for a functional site of reception, his account collapses back in on himself, which he demonstrates by prefacing his final assertion in a self ref lexive subject (seeing as how the highway is a product of civil engineering), the discovery o f the mere potential for a functional site of reception nevertheless coincides with a re emergence of Smi th himself as perceiver own tr ajectory as a perceiver of the work is implicated in th e very constitution of the work ; the work of ar t is nothing but the effort ful attention he brings to bear on his own phenomenal experience of driving along the highway at that particular place and time, nothing but his own intervening mental work of moving from a literal to a functional notion of site. It is here, finally, where we are able to identify the process of discovery as important from the perceiver pers pective. What else is discovery if not a fundamental


82 shift in perspective disclosing a gap between what we thought we knew and what we know now ? When we discover something it is necessarily through confrontation: a penny on the street, a movie discontinuity, a mathematical proof, a missing puzzle piece, etc. The minimal difference between the confrontational object and itself marks an ability to discover distinctions. To the extent an art object (art work or a site of artistic intervention) confronts a viewer/listener and enables a shift of perspective on that object by uncovering a distinction, the viewer/listener is implicated in the process. Di scovery enables the emergence of the perceiver as subject prioritization. Ultimately, it becomes possible to approach artistic intervention as a means of facilitating discov ery through mere confrontation with an intervening object. The Confrontational Sound Object in Times Square Equipped with a fuller understanding of the mechanism by which discovery operates in an artistic capacity, from the perspective of the perceiver, we may return to the work of Neuhaus and assess the potential for discovery concerning the intersection of sound and site. If discovery is to take place that is, occur in a situated capacity, framed by a particular configuration of place and moment, the con frontational object that enables discovery must too be situated. immobility, but rather a particular delimiting (in space and time) of a literal notion of site. Sound, not just mere sound, but a particular, de situated, intervening object. ty of his work is not even labe led on site. Three to One (1992


83 26 acce 27 Nevertheless, Neuhaus recognizes that he himself does not carry the meaning of the work, or in other terms, determine its functional site of reception. this difference is not established a priori. Remember, the singularity of a particular Neuhaus sound object, what he often refers to as its sound character, is derived through his own 28 I n this way, subject within a given context. Neuhaus then moves backwards to address the shape, color, and scale of the sonic intervention, which through an encounter/confrontation, provides the min imal intervention necessary to aurally re frame the given context. Tazzi reinforces this notion of backwards movement, claiming that the experience of a Neuhaus installation artic ulation of sounds elaborated by the artist, and the context. The actual procedure of 29 What Tazzi overlooks however, is that the subject is not pre given, but rather disclosed 26 Max Neuhaus, et al., Three to One: Max Neuhaus (Brussels: Encore,in association with La Lettre Vole 1997). 27 28 29 16.


84 of sound object and subject should actually be switched, such that the subject is always es that the confrontational sound object is always integrally tied to the very place it aims to contextualize. 30 31 conditione ) 32 the confrontational sound object of a Neuhaus work serves as an instigator for uncovering a minimal sonic difference; a plausible but impossible sound serves as a pointer to the mere suggestion once found, embarks the listener upon a Tony Smith like process of subjecting his/herself to the phenomenal presence of sound, shifts perspecti ve towards positing its noumenal notion, and then self reflexively confronts the minimal difference as him/herself. engagement with site. Once a passer she has discovered her own ability to shift perspective on the sound object (listen in a functional capacity), implicating herself as the listener regardless of how the passer by answers that question, that is, regardless of whether she determines the sound to be of the literal site or not, she has posited a functional site, demonstrating a perspectival shift that discloses not an ability to listen, but an 30 31 32 see Robert Irwin, Being and Circumstance: Notes Toward a Conditional Art ed. Lawrence Weschler (Larkspur Landing, CA: The Lapis Press, 1985 ).


85 awareness of being herself through the epistemo logical shift that occurs as a consequence of listening. Returning to a discussion of Times Square object, which at first exists for the passer by only in a pre a point of departure for a shift o f perspective concerning Times Square itself. The shift cultural, inhabited place) be a functional site for Times Square as 33 only requires that the question be asked. The question alone is evidence for the sound object having instigated the minimal degree of discovery necessary to dis close the minimal difference between Times Square and itself: the listener subject. Figure 3 1 provides an illustration of the emergence of the listener subject, as manifest in Times Square If a minimal degree of discovery is required to elicit the minimal difference between Times Square and itself, perhaps we have a better understanding of why the piece remains successful even for those art world individuals who know of its existence and search it out. To refer back to Ale 34 the search for the installation and the subject of the installation are one and the same. Potts was in effect repeatedly encountering himself as listener to a functional Times Square, yet without the accurate identification of a confrontational object. The situated mediation o f a literal and 33 34


86 functional site that ensued as a result of Potts own desire to discover Times Square disclosed potentially elicits. How many times did Potts discover himself in that place? How many aurally bound, subjective sub places were framed through his listening? In this sense, our ca pacity for situated musical experience lies always ready to hand; to even suggest that there is some thing/object to listen to, if one is only able to find it, provides the only intervention necessary to find oneself. This lesson, which Neuhaus toiled to s uch marvelous effect to teach us, is applicable beyond the scope of sound installation work; it may in fact enable composers to re inscribe, or at least re discover, the reflexive capacity of listening regardless of the performance site. The Concert Hall a s a Place of Discovery How might sound confront a listener as an anomaly within the context of the concert hall? And, how might the experience of seated, attentive listening become a process of discovery? These questions bring us back to the initial consid eration of a Windows Left Open It would appear that discovery is precisely the issue at hand concerning my initial worries about the performance of my piece. Is it not the perceived lack of relationship existing between two consti tutive elements that is precisely the object that confronts the listener? As we watch/listen to the performers attempt to match microtonal pitches heard in the electronic sounds, which all are privy to, we identify their imprecision and, in doing so, impli cate ourselves as the subject that perceives the difference. Our listening duly primed, we may then shift perspective on the schism between pitched percussion sounds and the background soundscape, and again, through the difference, self reflexively attune ourselves to our own perception.


87 All too often, the compositional drive is a search for Kantian transcendence, a underlying antimonies presented as objects of au ral perception. However, our capacity to smooth over, to cover up, or to integrate emerges as an avoidance of a more fundamental void: an avoidance of self. Instead, perhaps, composition should seek to accentuate, rather than resolve, an underlying discont inuity of parts, and present a deep structural and formal inharmonicity lurking under the guise of a superficial, harmonious whole. Windows Left Open may be described as both listenable and fractious. Its listen ability is superficial, while its fractious ness is substantive, yet lacking any substantial positive form. Its constituent elements open up a system of irreducible gaps: between algorithmically generated tones and soundscape recording, between computational precision and organic/instrumental imprec ision, and lastly, between the listening performer and the performing listener. These gaps are the objects that the piece offers up to the listener for discovery, the discovery of oneself as both the subject and object of a framed aural experience.


88 Figure 3 1. The emergence of the listener subject (moving from left to right)


89 CHAPTER 4 THE EMPTY PLACE: TOWARD A THEORY OF ONTOLOG ICALLY INCOMPLETE MUSIC In the previous chapter, Times Square provided a point of reference for a composed (or designed) listening experience that is not limited by our knowledge of epistemological limitation as part of its being. In Times Sq uare any potential breakdown in the conveyance of meaning, the semantic leap between poiesis and esthesis, which threatens virtually all m usic, is dispensed with. The threat of meaninglessness of not knowing sound as anything beyond incidental sound, is reconciled ontologizes the epistemological limitation, our inability to know the reality of compositional intervention or its effect. While our treatment of Times Square provided a unique lens for co nsidering non transcendent (imma nent) concert hall experience, in regards to my piece Windows Left Open its le ssons perhaps extend further; Times Square should force us to consider and outline a t heoretical framework for an ontologically incomplete listening experience The difference between the non sound of Times Square (the place) may or may not be noticed by those who pass through the site. However, a potential failure to notice does not reflect a limitation of knowledge R ather, the difference is ontological; failure to notice suggests that All. Times Square is not fully constituted because it remains to be decided upon. Before one thinks to listen, Times Square is not necessarily a work to be listened to let alone a work to be listened to in a particular way, given a particular perspective Listening itself is simply a possibility


90 given the place a possibility that becomes actualized only for those who recognize themselves in the appear ance of an ontological difference between kinds of sounds A more detailed theory of the tenuous ontological considerations that arise between m usic and its taking of place will help us to make sense of how we might move beyond, or at least reframe, compositional intention and, ultimately, practice. The Nature of Sound To begin our search to theoretically circumscribe the possibility of aural expe rience unburdened by epistemological limitation, we must begin at the deepest point of consideration regarding Time s Square : the relation between the listener subject and the confrontational object. In C hapter 3, we outlined the effects of such a relation and its propensity to spur listener self identification. However, what is the status of the object that initiates (causes) such effect? Or more precisely, on what basis may a composer seek to use vibrational sound as leverage, to tear open the gap between a the noumenal notion of that which the listener experiences ? This question concerns nothing other than our ability to think the noumenal, the status of the object (sonic or otherwise) as a Thing in itself the Kantian Ding an Sich To begin at the beginning (at least in regards to the par adox as it appears relevant to M does ability to interrogate this question that provides a foundation in reality that supports us in drawing useful and pragmatic distinctions between objective determinations and subjectivist prerogatives. What lies at the heart of this question is the (old, m etaphysical) consideration of pr imary vs. secondary qualities, primary qualities being those characteristics inherent to the


91 object itself, that are measurable and quantifiable, and secondary qualities being those characteristics that are dependent upon on objectively it may weigh 3.42 ounces, be 4.22 inches wide at its maximum, and have a core length (discounting the stem) of 2.35 inches. Conversely, it is only through subjective representations that one claims that i t looks green, feels firm, and tastes tart. We could, of course, also attempt to estimate its weight, width, etc. based on subjective r epresentations and say that the apple feels like i t weighs three and a half ounces Even if we attempt to link s uch secondary qualities with their primary notion, we must concede that any given secondary quality cannot be universally maintained across subjects; they are only extant for any particular subject. Most often, we answer the tree in the forest question thro ugh a shift of epistemological perspective that reflects both primary and secondary considerations: on one hand we maintain that Acoustics, or the scientific study of physical vibration s and their mechanical production and sympathetic propagation through a medium would answer in the affirmative (the tree fall makes a vibrational sound ), while on the other through perception, and thus answer in the negative (no sound, becau to hear). The switch between Acoustic and Psychoacoustic perspectives is concomitant with objective versus subjective priority respectively, concerning the relation between perception and that which is perceived. Subjectivist priority today appears as the stronger philosophical position, particularly once we realize that the result of any objective measurement must itself be perceived. Thus, even regarding the Acoustic


92 perspective, the objective measurement of vibrational sound is cont ingent upon inter subjective agreement on the results of such measurement. Meillassoux As discussed in Chapter 2, philosophy has, by and large, dispensed with primary qualities; any conceit toward obtaining access to objective reality is dismissed as only appearing as reality for us. The means of such philosophical rejection of primary qualities is founde d upon what Meillassoux termed correlationism to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and ne 1 Science, of course, disregards this philosophical dismissal and proceeds with uncovering and describing the factors that govern objects themselves. The scientist disregards the epistemologically shaky g round supporting scientific pursuit, in light of continued practicality and apparent consistency of scientific results. Within the discourse of post Kantian philosophy, however, the radical finitude of experience reflected in our necessarily limited persp ective on the world means that we can never fully know the world beca use independent material reality only ever appears for us (as dependent upon our access) establish ontology as mathematics (as an identity) fa ils to move beyond correlationist reproaches, for mathematics itself still appears as given in its symbolic quantification of material reality. Hence, mathematics (the discourse of being qua being) and thought still appear in terms of their correlated ness The same argument holds for the acoustic 1 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (London: Continuum, 2008), 5.


93 perspective: it is nothing more than the appearance of an acoustically described reality for the scientist. think beyond correlationi st reproaches and re establish a foundation for considering the mathematizable properties of the object are exempt from the constraint of such a relation, and that they are e ffectively in the object in the way in which I conceive them, 2 The objective reality of vibrational sound, the object that precedes any subjectivist determination of sound as sensed let alone the notion of m usic 3 Hence the results of his argument are exceedingly relevant for any theory of aural experience that attempts to account for the ontological difference between a co occurrent subject and object. In other word s, we must mainta in the legitimacy of thinking the reality of vibrational sound as an object existing independent if such access itself is addressable through compositional intervention Our understanding of material reality inform s how su bjective access can be shaped by intervention Instead of just placing our trust (belief) in science or more generally, in the inter subjective agreement upon that which appears in the world, we should try to re ground our ability to think the independenc e of material reality. Here, w e should defer to Meillassoux Meillassoux provide s us a way 2 Ibid., 4. 3 ity before human access) in his first chapter is a more material driven formulation of the tree in the forest question. Really, the only difference between the two beyond a restriction in the domain of sensory perception (the priority we are giving to aura l experience), is that we would have to frame our consideration of a tree ver, the case of vibrational sound and our perceptual (aural) access.


94 to answer to th e tree in the forest question in the affirmative, saying vibrational sound exists independent of our access, the ( minimal) difference between vi brational sound and sound as it appears for us (as heard or listened to) Radical Contingency Meillassoux accomplishes his task not by attempting to re establish a dogmatic metaphysics or ontological proof, as in the work of Descartes, 4 but by delving into and argument as follows: Correlationism: There are two types of correlationism to consider: weak and strong. 5 The weak model asserts that any claim to the necessity of a tha t knowing the absolute as an entity. It is our epistemological limitation derived through our ability of the in itself. According to Kant, we know a priori that the thing in itself is non contradictory 6 7 As a result non contradiction is maintained a s an absolute, although against any notion of an absolute entity. 4 Meillassoux, After Finitude, 29. 5 Ibid., 30. 6 ibid., 35. 7 ibid, 31.


95 The strong model, however, goes a step further, by undermining the thinkability of objective reality. It begins by taking on the full idealist without recourse to knowing the object in itself, to ground its necessity, the correlation between thought and being cannot be deduced it can merely be described following the fact of its givenness. Meillassoux refers to this as the rrelation. 8 The strong correlationist rebuffs any pretense toward the absolute by simply extending the notion of facticity beyond mere sensory phenomena in claiming to know that contradiction is absolutely impossible, for the only thing that is given to us is the fact that we cannot think anything that is self 9 Thus any absolute (entity or principle) is undermined, uprooting any argument for the neces sary existence of external reality. Yet, its obverse is also maintained: we cannot show as necessary the non existence of external reality. As Meillassoux recapitulates: The strong model of correlationism can be summed up in the following thesis: it is unt hinkable that the unthinkable be impossible Accordingly, facticity entails a specific and rather remarkable consequence: it becomes rationally illegitimate to disqualify irrational discourses about the absolute on the pretext of their irrationality. 10 R by forbidding reason any claim to the absolute, the end of metaphysics has taken the form of an exacerbated return of the religious 11 We incur fideism as a result of unreason. 8 Ibid ., 38. 9 Ibid., 39. 10 Ibid., 41. 11 Ibid., 45.


96 We must therefore take aim at the strong model, for only it abolishes any and all absolutes. Furthermore, we cannot attack it from outside, for to do so would force us to seek recourse in the infallibility of logical princi 12 This means that in consideration of the stro ng model, it is not the correlation but the facticity of the correlation that constitutes the absolute We must show why thought, far from experiencing its intrinsic limits through facticity, experiences rather its knowledge of the absolute through 13 14 After death eventualities: Meillassoux proceeds by interrogating th e correlationist response to after death eventualities from the position of the living. The correlationist, in order to uphold the rationality of irrationality, must maintain an inability to know (an agnostic perspective) in this co ntext. The correlationis t must find a way to longer existing without, through that very thought, contradicting myself. I can only think of myself as existing, and as existing the way I exist; t hus, I cannot but exist, and always 15 maintain that my c apacity to be is just as thinkable as my persisting in 12 ibid., 51. 13 Ibid., 52. 14 Ibid., 53. 15 Ibid., 55.


97 my self identity. 16 Here, ontological nec essity is revealed as nothing other than the capacity to be other. Our ability to think all eventualities concerning the radical this capacity to be other cannot be conceived as a correlate of our thinking, precisely because it harbours the possibility of our own non being. 17 W e have found our absolute within the correlationist circle itself, not as an absolute entity (which is still disqualified), but as an absolute principle: radical contingency ; the absolute is the possibility for all Things (the in itself) to actually be different, to change from any given state into any other state whatsoever for no reason at all. The necessity of contingency means that even mathematical laws are themselves subject to change (not just epistemologically, but ontologically). Meillassoux and Speculative Philosophy positions outlined across the philosophical discourses of German Idealism: metaphysical, transce definitions of each position, respectively: In the first, reality is simply perceived as existing out there, and the task of philosophy is to analyze its basic structure. In the second, the philos opher investigates the subjective conditions of the possibility of objective reality, its transcendental genesis. In the third, subjectivity is re inscribed into reality, but not simply reduced to a part of objective reality. While the subjective constitut ion of reality the split that separates the subject from the In itself is fully admitted, this very split is transposed back into reality as its kenot ic self emptying Appearance is not reduced to reality; rather the very process of appearance is concei ved from the standpoint of reality, 16 Ibid., 56. 17 Ibid., 56.


98 18 This confronts the implications of radical contingency from the perspective of its non appearance: if everything is contingent why do determinant cause effect relationships appear to persist? This is a question that we will come back to at the beginning of Chapter five. Before we do, we should elucidate (from a musical, and [newly then be for u s to consider the consequences and implications for music and, ultimately, how Meillassoux has perhaps not gone far enough. Criticism of Absolute Contingency (who is, in fact translator of After Finitude ) has argued that Meillassoux jumps through extraneous philosophic gymnastics when the correlationist argument can be undermined by revealing a more simple linguistic conflation of sense and reference; the appearance of reflexive, epistemological limitation thus belies an academic tautology. 19 sion of correlationism and provides us with no further insights regarding reality itself. Furthermore, Martin Hgglund, 20 Adrian Johnston, 21 22 have all taken issue with the many 18 Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (London: Verso, 2012), 144 145. 19 see The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism ed. Levi Bryant et al. (Melbourne:, 2011), 47 65. 20 The Specul ative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism ed. Levi Bryant et al. (Melbourne:, 2011), 114 129. 21 see The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism ed. Levi Bryant et al (Melbourne:, 2011), 92 113.


99 even becoming is itself contingent), particularly regarding the maintenance of cause/effect relationships (alluded to above), the possibility for a God yet to come, and an unsatisfactory address en mind and matter not just itself, but in terms of whether or not mind can be explained as emergent from and/or 23 These criticisms basically concern he musical purposes though, these critiques are interesting yet appear to qualify the implications of radical conti ngency rather than undermine Absolute C ontingency is Non Transcendent Hgglund remains skeptical ab out the necessity of contingency insofar as there tries to distinguish his notion of irruption ex nihilo from the theological notion of creation ex nihilo, by maintaini ng that the former does not invoke any transcendence that would exceed rational comprehension but rather proceeds from the virtual power of epistemologically well founde d, or restored, discourse). 24 This is precisely because the 22 in The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism ed. Levi Bryant et al. (Melbourne:, 2011), 406 415. 23 24 Hgglund,

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100 contingency of oscillation between being and being condition for materiality. This may seem absurd, if following Hgglund we merely consider the materiality of life from furnished with sensibility does not emerge directly from inanimate matter but evolves 25 B ut if we skip down a few levels quantum physics provides us with a different s tory of material existence, one that presupposes any consideration of evolutionary processes. 26 In further detailing the non emptiness of s program of emptying the electromagnetic field gets modified by its interaction with a spontaneous fluctuation in the electron field or, in other words, by its interaction with a virtual electron positron pair The virtual pair is a consequence of spontaneous activity in the electron field. It can occur anywhere. And 27 Here spontaneous activity appears as nothing other than a zero level chaos, the reflection of pure contingency. This depiction concerns the ephemerality of virtual particles, or entities that do not directly appear but whose effects disturb the context of appearance. However, regar ding re al, material particles the same contingency of existence seems to hold. burst forth in 25 Ibid. 26 Frank Wilczek, The Lightness of Being (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 73. 27 Ibid., 89.

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101 unst 28 Wilczek formulates the following quantum reaction: [nothing] quark + antiquark + energy. Quantum physics reflects the necessity of contingent becoming regarding the being of both material and virtual forms. Such reality constitutes the building b locks that maintain the higher order complexities of chemical, biological, and ultimately social co nsideration of being and void (empty space, or a pure nothingness). 29 logical bootstrap, a loop: a network produces entities that create a boundary which constrains the 30 the necessity of contingency is no less operative in the domain of biological, and subsequent, socio cultural existence. Biological reproduction and the conditions for natural selection (and hence evolution) could go w precisely what mutation is, whether adaptive or maladaptive? Similarly, social interactions and even systems that aim to codify such interactions (including those that condition musical experience!) are subject to change to being made radically different. No transcendent operative; the notion of radical ontological contingency is an entirely immanent condition of being, of being any (virtual or material) thing at all. 28 Ibid., 90. 29 A further scientific discrepancy lingers, namely the collapse of the wave function, but we will return to th is la ter in the C hapter. 30 The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution, ed. John Brockman (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 212.

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102 It is now for us to consider radical ontological co ntingency as it appears through M usic. We must immediately move beyond represent ational considerations, for representation is always the re presentation of some Thing else and hence dependent on knowledge of the signifier signified relation. Representation is an epistemological consideration, and subject to such limitation as outlined in Chapter 2. We must direct our efforts at the facticity of appearance itself, rather than trying to interpret meaning behind such appearance (or use rhetoric as leverage against the multiplicity of possible interpretations). This much we know in conside ration of contingency as manifest in quantum physics. To ask what the bursting forth of quark a ntiquark pairs means is absurd; their existence is nothing other than the contingency with which they come and go However, to question the structures that yield and support such appearance and the variational forms that such appearance may take is not absurd; the structure and form of appearance does not mitigate the contingency with which any given thing appears. In referring to st ructure as it appears through M usic, we mean the relations between sonic materials out of time. Meanwhile, structure(s) across time. The interpenetration of structure and form thus constitutes our notion of musical space, a Grid (followin g quantum physics) comprising the multiplicity of temporal and a temporal axes. Perhaps we may consider, therefore, the behavior of such musical space when emptied, when cleared out of all meaningful content. To quote the poet A.R. Ammons, in consideration

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103 finework of frailty, the mishmash house of the coming and going, creation s fringes, the 31 A post finitude speculative music must take similar aim. Musical abstraction is thus rehabilitated a s our compositional priorit y, as a clearing away of things or an em ptying out of space, in order to observe more keenly that which may or may not appear. intuitive move, has initiated a theoretical discussion along these lines by reconsidering Sibelius, particularly his Fourth Symphony. 32 Sibelius marks a point of incompatible perspectives in consideration of the known configuration of Being). S choenberg is, of course, the premier figure of the moreover, reframes the entire territory of composition of which Schoenberg is part. As it was (and is), of course, possible to go on composing in the traditional tonal way, but the new tonal music has lost its innocence, since it is e atonal break and thus functions as its negation. This is why there is an irreducible element of kitsch in twentieth century tonal composers such as Rachmaninov something of a nostalgic clinging to the past, something fake, like the adult who tries to ke ep alive the nave child within. 33 war Fourth Symphony to post war (counting his successive revisions) Fifth Symphony is, therefore, particularl y fascinating. While Rachmaninov 31 Poetry (June 1992), 2 3. 32 Less Than Nothing, 603. 33 Ibid., 193.

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104 ignorance. ntrality to the Sibelius oeuvre invites us to ponder difficult historical problems. Chief among them is that of a notable, riod of th e Fifth Symphony this predominately 34 The two irreconcilable perspectives regarding Sibelius are best reflected in the critical rhetoric of Adorno and Olin Downes (music critic for the New York Times from 192 4 to 1955). As Alex Ross states: Downes believed that classical music should appeal not just to elites but to common people, and from the bully pulpit of the Times he loudly condemned the obscurantism of moder n music in particular, the artificiality, capriciousness, and snobbery he perceived in the music of e music from cerebral modernism. 35 Adorno counters t his (almost desperate) praise in an abjectly dismissive way by saying the following: the work of Sibelius is not only incredibly overrated, but it fundamentally categories by which mus ical standards can be measured standards which reach from a master like Bach to most advanced composers like Schoenberg must be completely abolished. 36 34 James Hepokoski, Sibelius: Symphony No. 5, Cambridge Music Handbooks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) 2. 35 Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (New York: Farra r, Straus and Giroux, 2007), 136. 36 as quoted in Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise 137.

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105 in Music is not hing more than the entir e apparatus of knowledge about M perfectly prim ed to envisage such abolishment by revealing a (non transcendent) Hegelian reconc iliation between the positions. argues that the opposition (between Adorno and Down es) is not part of a larger problem or discourse, one that is beyond the limited perspective of each individual, but rather, the opposition is internal to is. third and fourth movement s of the Fourth Symphony, specifically their differential treatment of thematic material, arguing that across the movement, this failure proceeds in extract the main melody, an effort which twice comes to the very verge of succeeding, 37 In opposition to Classicism, viz. Mozart, where the thematic material is explicitly given as t hough it were arriving from above fully formed, the third movement: dramatizes an attempt to build, note by note, a solemn six bar theme of funerary character; the first attempt falters after two bars, the second after five, the third after four, the four th after three. The fifth attempt proceeds with vigor but seems to go on too long, sprawling through seven bars without coming to a logical conclusion. Finally, with an audible grinding of teeth, the full orchestra plays the theme in a richly harmonized gu ise. Then uncertainty steals back in. 38 The theme is, in each instance, undercut and disrupted. Thus we have the image of thwarted representational content blocked transcendence, escape, fulfillment, etc. The 37 Less Than Nothing 606. 38 Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise, 131.

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106 t, therefore, cannot be about any suggested arrival or telos but rather, can be nothing but the representational as such being thwarted In the fourth movement, we incur a wholly different kind of failure. The movement begins with the presentation of them atic material which suggests itself as amenable to along, as if random pages of the orchestral parts have blown off the music stands. This 39 something much more uncanny than t he standard expressionist rendering empty wasteland. We rather witness a kind of musical cancer or virus triggering the gradual progressive decomposition of the very musical text ure consistency; as if, to use another poetic metaphor, the world we live in is gradually losing its color, its depth, its definite shape, its most fundamental ontological consistency. 40 The music itself falls apart; its dissolution is its only content, an d thus points towards no hidden or transcendent signified. Between the two failures, those of the third and fourth movements, there is nothing but the abyss of modernist gaze I n the gap ope ned up between the movements, we identify the formal s tructure of each movement as the only content; the musical subject is nothing but its own capacity to veer towards non 39 Ibid. 40 Less Than Nothing 607.

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107 view the opposition as itself being the content. Or to say it dif Tapiola appearing as an abstract spiritual journey. 41 Once one veer s toward its other, 42 Thus the Eighth Symphony never appears. Oscillation between two irreco ncilable prerogatives (abstract sonic forms versus representational content) was ultimately unsustainable and Sibelius barely composed for the last thirty years of his life. Such structural failure is itself the part of moder nism. towards reifying notions of spiritual transcendence through tonality; the Fifth provides a counterweight to the incomplete modernist yearning evident in the Fourth. As the 1920s approached, with Schoenberg and Stravinsky on the ascent (planting the seeds of modernist and postmodernist prerogatives across the 20th century), Sibelius remained the second decade of the century, the withdrawal phase commonly involved a reflection 41 Ibid., 605. 42 Ibid.

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108 on the nature of a grand but rapidly obsolescing musical language. We are thus presented with a charged dialectic of figure and ground that ought not to be resolved too hast 43 more than the appearance of obsolescing, the very process of musical convention being st ripped away. And then in the Fifth, the Real disappearance of tonality is shown to have not disappeared in reality, in how we remain able to listen tonally, and in fact project tonality upon the objects of atonality. of modernism. Many more contemporary modernist composers, such as Brian Ferneyhough, Tristain Murail, Grard Grisey, Peter Maxwell Davies, and Kaija Saariaho, cite Sibelius as being a significant influence. 44 H is time. No twentieth century composer, with the possible exception of Sibelius in his last years, achieved such 45 Ross thus completes a relation he had set up earlier when closing his discussion on Sibelius, wherein he provided t he following Feldman in 1984, Feldman gave a lecture at the relentlessly up to date Summer re radicals 43 Hepokoski, Sibelius 8. 44 Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise, 139. 45 Ibid., 367.

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109 egan to hum the Sibelius 46 In light of the ontological disintegration that unfolds across the fi than mere personal affinity. The connection between the two resides in each marking a distinction between the ontology of sonic objects (or, materials) and t he virtuality of of Coptic Light could be seen in Sibelius as a set of varied restatements around a central material, the last of which links up with the 47 Again, the manipulations enacted upon the materials sake. Music, its very pretense to represent anything (expressive or impressive), has been subtracted. Wilfrid extinction; yet the little that is left is, like all Feldma it certainly presents the American obsession with emptiness completely absolved from 48 ontological priority over epistemological considerations regarding some representational content. Like sex divorced from its procreative function, the direct manipulation of 46 Ibid., 139 140. 47 The Cambridge Companion to Sibelius, ed. Daniel M. Grimley, Cambridge Companions to Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 216 48 as qu oted in Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise, 365.

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110 in itself, caught in the vicious cycle of repetitiv 49 identifies this distinction as a difference between place and term, a difference that: opens up the possibility (or, rather, structural necessity) of an empty place lacking any element to fill it i n; for this place to occur, it must itself be mediated. This place is not simply empty or without content, emptiness is its content (or, to put it in structuralist jargon, absence of conte nt is itself present in it). We thus get two emptinesses: direct pre symbolic emptiness and emptiness marked as such within the symbolic space; or, in terms of music, we get two silences, direct silence and marked silence, jukebox, some diners offered a simple solution for those guests who preferred silence to the noise music: the machine would contain a disc with nothing recorded on it lasting the length of an average song, so the cus tomer who wanted peace just had to slip in the appropriate coins and select the silent disc itself as present; after the empty disc was selected, not only was there no longer music playing, but, in a way, silence itself was playing. 50 Thus both Feldman and his predecessor, Sibelius (of the Fourth Symphony), must be understood as providing a direct engagement with the immanent presence of place itself, as emptied out, as cl eared of all substantive and functio nal content beyond its being empty. What results is a place that is unstable, akin to a quantum vacuum a silence filled with nothing but the med iation of material contingency, of always possibly being other. Accordingly, we must ask to de 51 We may call it music a term which now describes the facticity of an empty appearin g rather than a term the 49 Less Than Nothing 602. 50 Ibid. 51 Ibid., 598.

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111 significance of which precedes any appearance. It is what emerges in the vacuum as the object The Cage Event i s objec t a makes an appearance amid New York Post article from January 16, 1952, which describes the juke silence. The student puts his dime in and he takes his choice, either the 104 jump records on that big flashy juke box or on one of the three that play absolutely 52 Of course Cage composed 4 in 1952, but his ideas compositional work and thought has completely reframed any consideration of a musical silence, as being, in fact, full of sound, and thus has force d us to consider a host of direct engagements between music and the philosophical treatment of its (empty) subject. While the amount of scholarly material on Cage is daunting (not to mention all he left us directly), perhaps we may re approach some questions posed by the Cage Event by seeking recourse in our newfound consideration of absolute, necessary contingency. The re are three somewhat diffuse and overlapping points of consideration regarding 52 as quoted in Kyle Gann, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 133.

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112 as a dialectic: first, the tension betwee n any propositional music appearing as mere sounds and not all mere sounds appearing musical ; second, the leveraging of empiricism against transcendental idealism; and third, the distinction between chance and contingency (a discussion we will reserve for Chapter 5) We will now seek to uncover the priori ty of the first two It is my contention that any discussion of Cage, regarding both his thought and work, is best initiated by interrogating a particular instance of such output rather than by reaching for example along the way. Or, perhaps even better, w e might initiate a discussion by placing particular instances of his thought and work in dialectical relation (tension) with each other. Following our above stated aim, to reassess the Ca ge Event in consideration of developing a theory of a music that is o ntologically incomplete, we composition Silent Prayer and his subsequent actual composition as our point of entry. Difference In a lecture delivered at Vassar College on Februar y 28, 1948, Cage shared for the Muzak Co. It will be 3 or 4 minutes long will open with a single idea which I will attempt to make as seductive as the color and shape or fragrance of a flower. The 53 Beyond simply stating his intention to confront head on the spurious notion t hat silence i s antithetical to M usic, Cage is generous here. 53 as quoted in Gann, No Such Thing as Silence, 126.

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113 subjective representation, its flower like opening and imperceptible close. His description is deemed by Kyle Gann to be confusing, and th us distinguishes Silent Prayer from 54 To follow Gann, and uphold that such a description is inherently confusing, would merely confirm that any difference between Silent Pray er and is a pure ly epistemological difference a gap in our knowledge regarding silence; our perspective on the hypothetical (potentially idealized) silence of Silent Prayer (1948) is seen through the (1952). The 1950) to the anechoic chamber at Harvard University, 55 Kenneth Silverman describes the impression it left on Cage in the following way: He often told the story of what happened to him in that theoreticall y silent room. He heard two sounds, one high and one low. He asked the sound engineer why, since the chamber absorbed sounds, he hard heard any. one was your nervous system in operatio n. The low one was your blood in Cage summed up axiomatically what he had learned at Harvard: no silence exists that is not pregnant with sound 56 Cage conceived of Silent Prayer b ef ore he considered silence as an impossibility. 54 Ibid. 55 Kenneth Silverman, Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 117. 56

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114 confusion that he sets straight by 1 952. Therefore, while it is an interesting side note, Silent Prayer is dispatched as a mere cursory prefiguration of the greatness to follow. In fact, this is precisely how Gann proceed s Citing William Brooks, Gann aims to show how Silent Prayer was an aw kward first stab at the compositional treatment of silence, a n ill informed conjecture that was necessarily rectified in consideration of and its historical success (infamy): Silent Prayer was problematic on two counts. First, the experience would be imperfect; the listener would be distracted. And intentions; it might be more likely to amuse or irr itate than to sober and quiet the mind. The question was: was it the first failure that gave rise to 10 Cage never performed Silent Prayer The piece does not exist; its description is self contradictory. In order to reach from Silent Prayer, Cage needed to go through experiences that would lead from attempting to listen to nothing to redefining silence as being not nothing, but someth ing. 57 of Silent Prayer is only self contradictory if we maintain that literal what a listener should perceive which is precisely where Gann (and Brooks) miss the mark. What happens if, instead, we take Cage at face value? T o return to his pt to make as idea of silence rather than silence directly. This distinction is crucial, because it rev eals that the actual silence cannot be under consideration. R ather, the facticity of its notional appearance is under consideration Cage is imaginatively describing (because, following Me illassoux it cannot be deduced) the fact that we can think silence. There is nothing contradictory 57 Gann, No Such Thing as Silence, 127.

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115 We therefore cannot simply invalidate the compositional merit of Silent Prayer actual silence. Silent Silent Prayer to is not merely epistemological; it marks an ontological difference concern ing the object itself. We must now ask: what is at stake in this difference between the idea of silence and actual silence as it concerns both Silent Prayer and ? To ask such a question involves reconsidering Silent Prayer as a path not taken, one that is ( perhaps ) no long er invalidated in light of the necessity with which appears. The performance context of To address the ontological difference between the two works, let us begin by considering the context in which each is presented. Regarding silence actually being something in an important dist inction must be made immediately, one that is : the context of its premier was a singular occasion necessarily different from subsequent (now conventional) concert hall performances. The premier performance of took place in the late evening of August 29, the back through four double doors onto additional rows of wood en benches in the open 58 This particular hall is a remarkable place for a propositional music to become revealed as nothing but incidental sounds. 58 Gann, No Such Thing a s Silence 1.

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116 Opening the concert hall to the incidental sounds of nature ensures that there will be a filling in of material there will be clear salient objects of perception to help positivize the lack of non incidental could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all 59 In this situation, Cage ensured the pregnancy of silence. While inter a Zen inspired artistic prayer (certainly not unwarranted in light of the proposed title, Silent Prayer i t seemed at least from what he wrote about it, to have been an act of framing, of enclosing environmental and unintended sounds in a moment of attention in order to 60 Cage meant to d issolve a distinction an ontological distinction between unintended ( incidental ) sound and a propositional music and to show that any mere sound (intended or not) if listened to, equals a propositional music ; they are an identity. The identity (attending to mere sound equals a propositional music) cannot however, be objectively or universally maintained. We can on ly describe the facticity with which mere sound s may appear as a propositional music for us as individual s Herein lies the difference between the first Maverick Hall performance of (or the first performance for any given listener) and subsequent performances: in the first, the 59 Ibid., 4. 60 Gann, No Such Thing as Silence 10 11.

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117 phenomenal presence of mere sound may or may not become a propositional music for any given individual who choo ses to listen and who projects a subjective intentionality onto the mere sound As a result, the individual no longer hears mere sound, but rather she listens to reflexive sound and confronts her own ability to decide up on a propositional music. S ubseq uent performances proceed differently: the relation between mere sound and a propositional music appear inverted, becoming a propositional music in search of mere sound. Or in other word s for a first performance the identity ( that attending to mere sound equals a propositional music ) is decided upon (discovered?) by considering the facticity of incidental appearance within the frame d impossib ility of actual silence W hereas for subsequent performanc es, the propositional notion of attending to mere sound itself presupposes any aural appearance. 61 We should acknowledge that is more than just those mere sounds that happen to occ ur across any given performance; is also the necessity with which the sounds that occur are a propositional music. Accordingly, appears as a necessary extension of our a priori understanding of M usic. Douglas Kahn elucidates such necessity by dra wing a distinction between the impos sibility of actual silence and audience and become [s] ironically noisy. It should be noted that each performance was held in a concert setting, where any m was a breach of decorum. Thus, there was already in place in these settings, as in other settings for Western art music, a culturally specific 61 While there have undoubtedly been other performances of in (quasi )outdoor settings, my point is subsequent performances, regardless of the sett ing. That Cage chose the Maverick Hall for the first performance does not ruin the work for all future listeners. However, that the idea of the work may precede its immanent taking of place is an inversion th at should not be overlooked.

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118 mandate to be silent, a mandate regulating the behavior th at precedes and accompanies musical performance. As with prayer, which has not always been silent, concertgoers were at one time more boisterous; this religious emotion of the Buddha like listeners, drunk with repeating for the by tacitly instructing the performer to remain quiet in all respects, muted the site of centralized and privileged utterance, disrupted the unspoken audience code to remain unspoken, transposed the performance onto the audience members both in their utterances and in the acts of shifting perception toward other sounds, and legitimated bad behavior that in any number of other settings (incl uding musical ones) would have been perfectly acceptable. achieved this involution through the act of silencing the performer. That is Cagean silence followed and was dependent on a silencing. Indeed, it can also be understood that he extended the d ecorum of silencing by extending the silence imposed on the audience to the performer, asking the audience to continue to be obedient listeners and not to engage in the utterances that would distract them from shifting their perception toward other sounds. Extending the musical silencing, then, set into motion the process by which the realm of musical sounds would itself be extended. 62 As Brandon LaBelle claims, Kahn sees this tension between silence and social paradoxically relocates them inside a rubric of preferential silence and subsequently refers back to a musical language governed by taste and aesthetics far from the social, thereby falling short if not contradicti 63 LaBelle acknowledges this contradiction, but opts to simply reframe it as : an extremely productive lens through which a work like gains momentum. It seems important here to underscore the very contextual situation of for the work was self converse with music through its performance in a concert setting. That is to say, the work aims for music, as cu ltural practice and as context. 64 62 Douglas Kahn, Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999),165 166. 63 Brandon LaBelle, Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (New York: Continuum, 2006), 14 15. 64 Ibid., 15.

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119 If we shift our understanding and acknowledge that Music is an object of consideration that presupposes any listening is no longer contradictory In other words, is only self contradictory if the object of consideration (mere sound) Once we reveal that the true object o f is M usic itself (as being comprised of mere sound ), the contradiction becomes a productive paradox. Again, we i ncur whereby a shift in epistemological perspective is concomitant with an ontological shift in the thing itself Not only can mere sounds become a propositional music ( by attending to the impossibility of hearing silence) and thus be listened to in relation to the larger discourses of Music but Music itself becomes nothing but to mere sound. If we follow LaBelle, then we must submit ourselves to the full weight of the consequences that follow; we must acknowledge the capacity of subsequent pe rformances (and interpretations) to change the object of perception that arises in consideration of If the notion of Music appears a priori presupposing any attempt at actual silence then such an inversion forces all mere sounds that appear for any given individual across those four minutes and thirty three seconds to be listened to as they provide the material upon which one projects his or her own Musical intention Accordingly any appearance of incidental sound simply reaffirms a distinctly Cagean propositional music sinc e it was he who instituted the M t, Kahn appears quite aware of M usic being the focus of : filled music up ; he left no sonorous (or potentially sonorous) place outside music and left no more means to materially

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120 regenerate music. H 65 The identity between mere sound and a propositional music is thus reveale d as a paradox: an intentional M usic of unintended ( incidental ) sounds. The paradox of as outlined above, emerges as a result of treatment of the contextu alization cues of a conventional M usical performance The notion of attending a concert where non incidental sound will occur serve s Furthermore, t here is a score for one that was by all accounts meticulously composed according to chance procedures (the concatenation of indeterminate durations of silence); it is in three movements and it is to be performed in a serious manner as a work for solo piano (the stalwart instrument of Western classical M usic). The appearance of any sound is pre conditioned by the contextualization cues (both implicit a nd explicit) that demand that M usic is always already operative. Therefore, the contingency with which any sound is heard and listened to is secondary to the notion that pr esupposes hearing or listening : M usic is not just revealed as sound, but any sound f ills in a pre existing, empty M usic. The frame of retains priority over that which may appear in the frame. usic essentialism, par excellence. F ollowing Badiou we now recognize the Cage Event: M usic is just mere sounds means by saying this. does not mean vibrational sound as the Kantian Ding an Sich its inaccessible noumenal notion. R ather C age means vibrational 65 Kahn, Noise, Water, Meat, 164.

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121 obverse: the irreducible facticity of its phenomenal presence for us The facticity owever, that which is describable remains subject to ontological determination. For Badiou, ontologi cal determination means that sounds are mathematizable (does this notion not underly taxonomic prerogatives in Williams Mix much less the empiricism of c hance operations?). But, in consideration of what about the notion of Music presupposing any such determination ? W hat about the frame that enframes the frame performance (the codes that dictate that the audience must listen) over i ts contents, Badiou reminds us that we must confront: the vast question of that which subtracts itself from ontological determination, the question of that which is not being qua being. For the law of subtraction is implacable: if real ontology is set out as mathematics by eluding the norm of the One, it is also necessary, lest one allow this norm to re establish itself at a global level, that there be a point at which the ontological (i.e. mathematical) field is de totalized or caught in an impasse. 66 Badi ou calls this poi 67 Or, to couch the same what sub tracts the sheer necessity of Music from the general determinations of what sounds ther e are? Simply put, everything hinges on listening itself, the frame of intention in which the appearance of mere sound appears as M usic. 66 Alain Badiou, Theoretical Writings ed. and trans. Ray Brassier and Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2004), 98. 67 Ibid.

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122 Listening is positioned as the decisive cut between the facti city of mere appearance and its s ounding musical. In conversation with Daniel Charles, Cage I can accept the relationship between a diversity of elements, as we do entity itself, seen as having elements or separate parts, I have before me a fixed object which I ma y cause to vary precisely because I know in advance that I will find it identical to itself. From this point of view, I am practicing what Schoenberg said: variation is a form, an extreme case of repetition. But you can also see how it is possible for me t o get out of this circle of variation and repetition. By returning to reality, to that particular entity, to that constellation which is not yet completely a constellation. It is rel ationship I impose on its components. 68 Listening is presented as nothing other than this process of traversing the two poles, between constellation ( M usic) and its constituent stars ( mere sounds). To couch the logic on display in the above excerpt in theoretical terms, we begin (again) with silence: but mere sound, or further, M usic is nothing but mere sound that one listens to attending to the facticity of its phenomenal a ppearance. Thus, the object of M usic is a (repetitive) self positing, la Schoenberg. In th e midst of such illusory M usical appearances/variations, Cage aims to accept the pure facticity of mere appearance, stars without the intentionality of shape. Here is where Cage resi des (at least compositionally) and wherefrom he ceases to proceed. 69 However, we must 68 John Cage and Daniel Charles, For the Birds: John Cage in Conversation with Daniel Charles ed. Tom Gora and John Cage (London: Marion Boyars, 1981), 79. 69 see ibid., 93. In an exchange with Daniel Charles on the tension between Being and Nothingness Cage t we can slip as in a continuity from one sound to the next, from one thought to the next. In reality, we fall down

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123 continue the line of qu estioning he initiated: to say that there is nothing but our capacity to listen to the insistent presence of mere sound is first, to affirm that M usic is wholly insubstantial a covering up of a pure void ; Music i s nothing but the appearance of living sound S econd (and this is the crucial step), we must concede that mere sound is not all there is. The sound ob ject itself retains the capacity to be different. T he terms we have been using to describe different notions of sound reflect that neither sound nor the notion of M usic is ontologically complete. As a result, we must seriously question appearance is not reality as such only partial reality We cannot seek recourse in sound is non All Sound itself its noumenal notion, whether that be vibrational sound, incidental sound, or even non incidental sound, completely a const There is an indiscernible nothingness that inter venes, forcing the iss ue that what kind of sound one hears or listens to must be step is to overlook how the stars ( mere s ounds) themselves are of an incomplete reality before he ever projects their constellation. The incompleteness of reality itself is the ontological consequence of not because a large part of it eludes me, but because it contains a stain, a blind spot, which indicates my inclusion i 70 Thus relationships or representations. Yet, we never see ou have folded back on his practice, in consideration of the a priori determination of m usic, or to say it differently, the M 70 The Parallax View (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 17.

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124 the gaze of the observer/listener gets caught up in the (sound) object itself, the very fact of its self presentation. So how might our consideration of the context of performance regarding the hypothesized Silent Prayer help establish a diff erent path for composition and take into account the ontological incompleteness of sonic reality assessment, opened M usic u p into an emancipatory endgame, then what remains for us to consider? The answer, quite simply, is to ope n up the ontological consideration of sound to an emancipatory endgame independen t of any M usical necessity. If M usic is to mere sound what happens when we subtract the M usic al necessity to listen ? Could some sounds still be considered in relation to the notion of Music, while other sounds ? A fter Music is potentially any sound But we explored the inverse under what range of conditions a mere sound may be co me listened to as being Musical It remains for us to ask the following: how can sound removed from the a priori consideration of Music become a potential music, a speculative music that arises in the midst of all this incomplete sonic reality ? This is Sil difference, a difference that only emerges retroactively after passing through between Music as mere sound and mere sound appearing M usical. To consider this difference is a properly speculative 71 Similarly, referring back to 71 Less Than Nothing 144 145.

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125 n of constellation, we ask not stars themselves?, omething like a constellation (M usic) arise in the midst of all these stars ( mere sounds)? radical ontological cont ingency, the above question ca n not be dismissed by adopting a transcendental perspective, by qualifying Music and all sound as subjective representations alike, each only appearing for us and not in itself Such a transcendental perspective is, however, exactly what supports the Cagean possibility of m usic being means that it is not there, existing as an object. The world, the real is not an object. It is 72 Here, he means: the world is the process of its own self presentation. 73 Such a claim reinforces a transcendental idealism that recall s not only Zen Buddhism, but formally homologous to the Lacanian objet a: like a magnetic field, it is the this activity circulates, yet it is in itself entirely insubstantial, since it is created posited, generated, by the very process which reacts to it and deals with it. It is like the old joke about the conscript who pleaded insanity in order to avoid milit psychiatrists, he does the same, so the psychiatrists finally gave him a paper confirming his release from military service. The conscript reaches 72 Cage, For the Birds 80. 73 Ibid., 88.

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126 generates its object. 74 as process, and (by extension) the world as musical. A vibrationa l Anstoss thu the hazardous knock, the encounter with the Real in the midst of the ideality of the absolute I: there is no subject without Anstoss without the collision with an element of irreduci ble facticity and contingency 75 Anstoss the Lacanian objet a that which is in the object more than the object itself, i s, again, positiviz ed as being M usic; it is the object cause of our sonorous desire; it is what about vibrational sound. And for Cage it is strictly transcendental or beyond us ; lf positing activity. However, Meillassoux shows us that sound is not only the facticity of its appearance for us; vibrational sound really is out there in the Great Outdoors, and its being out there is purely contingent. In consideration of vibrational so und, how can we begin to understand the ontology of in sound (following Cage)? First, we must ask: is the facticity of the appearance of living sound wholly transcendental; that is, does it jar the listener (self posi ting I) from outside (beyond her finite perspective)? Or, is it tied to the immanence of the encounter? I s it an obstacle that the listener presents for herself in order to overcome it in reaching for cceptance of the gap torn open 74 Less Than Nothing 151. 75 I bid., 150.

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127 76 The appearance of living sound is to be positing[....], that which incites the I [(lis tener subject)] to endless self positing, the only non 77 silence that is not insubstantial reality, Is such self positing negativity not exactly what Jean Luc Nancy describes, when he says the following?: To be listening will always, then, be to be straining toward or in an approach to the self Approach to the self: neither to a proper self (I), nor to the self of an other, but to the form or structure of self as such, that is to say, to the form, structure, and movement of an infinite referral [renvoi], since it refers to something (itself) that is nothing outside of the referral. When one is listening, one is on the lookout for a subject, something (itself) that identifies itself by resonating from self to self, in itself and for itself, hence outside of i tself 78 To listen is nothing but the process of (infinite) in ternal and external referral. Should composition attempt to proceed through (rather than retreat from) the endgame adopt view of what it means to listen (rather than a mere transcendental view) which is to say: t o listen so as to encounter oneself as a listener retroactively The listener does not presuppose the process of listening. Accordingly, gelian in nature description is an aural conditioned re 76 Less Than Nothing 152. 77 Ibid. 78 Jean Luc Nancy, Listening, trans. Charlotte Mandell (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007), 9.

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128 this nation and act accordingly; it has a bsolutely no content, no substantial consistence, 79 To listen is thus to encounter the listener who recognizes herself in the call to listen ; it is to encounter oneself as nothing but the very process of aural mediation between inter nal thought and what the external conditions are Hearing, in contrast to listening, is simply metaphysical; it is to fully assume (take it on faith) that what we hear is just out there, in some actual way. The Frame Enframing the Frame in Reality Before proceeding forward and considering overlooked (at least by Cage) path, and the consequences of such a path, we should formulate in a concise For the audience atten ding a concert of each member steps into a framed reality, a frame that is: always reality and appearance is thus immediately complicated, reflected into itself: once we get a glimpse, through the Frame, of the Other Dimension, reality itself turns into appearance. [(Is this not the precise, founding appear to appear. This is why the negation of a negation does not bring us to a simple flat affirmation: once things (start to) appear, they not only appear as what they are not, creating an illusion [(M usic)]; they can also appear to just appear, conceal ing the fact that they are what they appear to be [(i.e, incidental sound s )]. 80 aware of the re doubled frame, for such a re doubling is precisely the intervention of (in its first deployment), and yet the appearance of appearing is always (for him) 79 Less Than Nothing 186 187. 80 Parallax View, 29 30.

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129 an ill usion, a necessary illusion of M usic revealed as mere sound. Cage shares this sentiment when he considers 81 However, we must not forget the missing las t step: the possibility that mere eal the fact that they do not constitute a propositional music We have thus uncovered a different kind of contingency: the cont ingency with which M usic appears necessary. This sity itself is also contingent what we may call contingent necessity We may therefore consider Silent Prayer in the following three way s : first, as an intervention that constructs a lack of vibrational sound second, as a frame for listening to (and potentially) accepting the mere sounds that happen to occur across the work s duration, and third, as being nothing but the appearance of mere sound, as not being a frame at all. It is the third consideration that marks difference from and reflects the contingent neces sity of the relation between hearing and Music. In Silent Prayer the notion of M usic does not presuppose an encounter with mere sound as it does in the case of I nstead, mere sound is made subject to the possibility of its being wholly other, of being living sound double, filling in theorized, unknowable realities) without removing the possibility that mere so und just appears (is perceived) By allowing for this possibility through our transformation and construction of vibrational sound, composition may pass through the epistemological limitation that prevents us from knowing the effect of the propositional mu sic we compose. The mere sound that would occur within the frame of Silent Prayer would not necessarily be heard or even attended to as a propositional music Silent 81 see Cage, For the Birds 87.

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130 Prayer instead, embraces the possibility of a speculative music, one that is wholly decidable regarding the necessity with which it appears in relation to Music at all The Speculative Path Considering that Silent Prayer was never realized, the precise conditions of its pe rformance are unknowable. H owever, we can still continue the though t expe riment and potentially update it a bit by taking into account the contemporary, cosmopolitan soundscape as the in The Performance C ontext of Silent Prayer In his consideration of m usic in the Mall of America, Johnathan Sterne describes : at the Mall of America (Bloomington, Minnesota), beneath the crash of a roller coaster, the chatter of shoppers and the shuffle of feet, one hears music everywhere. Every space in t he Mall is hardwired for The Mall of America both presumes in its very structure and requires as part of its maintenance a continuous, nuanced, and highly orchestrated flow of music to all its parts. It is as if a sonorial circulation system keeps the mall 82 M ere s insistent presence implies when any music is probably ta ken for granted in this context and is heard as non incidental sound on of Silent Prayer silent track would be sold to the MUZAK company for programming in such a public the predominant service 83 Programmed music 82 Ethnomusicology 41, no. 1 (Winter 1997): 22 23. 83 Ibid., 24.

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131 is where commercial stores buy a subscription to a service such as MUZAK and in return get to stream music to fill their stores music that has been selected (from the pre selected popular musics available) in order to comport most directly with the stylistic features valued by a target clientele. This situation is either a travesty for Music (its well founded, historical mandate) or a fantastic opportunity. The former position is, of course, the l east radical of the tw should actually be identified as a loss al melo 84 As such, a reconciliation between the two may be considered on the basis that such on from the ne wly produced territory of Mall m usic, viz. a speculative music, is a negation of a negation, a literal subtraction of vibrational sound from Mall subtraction of authenticity from Music, a n intervention that does not bring us back t o the same territory, that of Music. contemporary context, what might we learn? In the Mall of America, music is not merely a necessary consideration of the space, it is assumedly so. MUZAK provides a mask to cover any conflicting feel ing s about the Mall itself its empty, vacuous function as a place for shopping The mask has become such a part of our experience of all commercial spaces that we rarely think to attend to th e non incidental sounds we hear. The ubiquity of non incidental sound (background music) is precisely what en ables us to 84 Ibid., 31.

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132 think about how a silent intervention might disrupt our aural experience of a Banana tical point, the apparent absence of background music is not necessarily a m usical intervention a propositional music itself The contingency of necessity Music is undercut in the case of Silent Prayer. The intervention only retains the possibility of being a propositional music For those who would recognize their own capacity to listen to the incidental sounds of the Mall by attending to the facticity of aural appearances, may encounter living sound without the a priori consideration of Music. It is in this sense that Silent Prayer may be considered a speculative music, for This is the good news, so what about the bad? The bad news is this: John Cage must disappear too along with any Musical necessity 85 There is no a priori conditioning of the site (discursively) to help explicate the meaning of Silent Prayer intervention There is no idea present in the inte rvention (its material subtraction of vibrational sound) that survives an encounter with multiple potential listeners and the multiplicity of aural appearances. A speculative m usic is nothing but the immanent possibility for living sound to appear when we question our background presupposition s about the given aural situation what it is The situation if listened to may be reassessed such that any ontological presupposition faces the possibility of its own annihilation. Such a speculative music is the radical fulfillment of the modernist approach we find in the Sibelius Feldman tangency. Furthermore, th e 85 This is really only bad news for us those who continue to maintai n (or perhaps more aptly, construct) both his desire to compose less music (per the famous anecdote about his visit with a psychiatrist) and by Conlon Nan Gann, No Such Thing as Silence, 132

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133 extension of this (possible) extinction/annihilation of presuppositions can be seen as a further withdrawal, a withdrawal concerning the necessity of t he frame in reality being a frame at all by revealing the contingency with which the frame is decided upon (by revealing the frame enframing the frame in reality). These are the coordinates of unhinge the artist from the work, the composer from the piece. Such an unhinging is precisely the decisive gesture inherent to any staging of Silent Prayer Accordingly, we must identify Silent Prayer though a mere compositional thought experiment, as a truly speculative approach to composition. The only truly speculative piece of music is one that retains the possibility of being no music at all The withdrawal of necessity, is of course not itself a new idea in composition. As Cage understood the musiq of Satie is an attempt to realize this precise compositional gesture. However, accomplishing such withdrawal has proven to be a rather intransigent obstacle; in each instance (Satie, Cage, Babbitt), it seems to reify, rather than operate a gainst, the priority of intersubjective consensu s. This is precisely because the context of withdrawal becomes the distinctive feature of the ( a priori ) compositional work. It is the appearance of distinction itself (as the gesture of withdrawal) that co opts any assertion of Truth outside of concensus. To follow the Satie example, the radical notion of is most commonly subsumed into normative musical discourse by citing a Milhaud anecdote from an experimental performance at the G alrie Barbazange in 1920: In order that the music might seem to come from all sides at once we posted the clarinets in three different corners of the theatre, the pianist in the fourth, and the trombone in a box on the first floor. A programme note warned the audience that it was not to pay any more attention to the

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134 ritornelles that would be played during the intervals than to the candelabra, the seats, or the balcony. Contrary to our expectations, however, as soon as the music started up the audience bega n streaming spoilt. . Satie had not bargained for the charm of his own music. 86 Thus we see how a prog ram note was used to try and condition the already performative context of the w attempted to manage the affirmed as the utter success of his n ecessary and substantial proposit ional music propositional music remains decidedly his ; the audience always already was an audience to something and therefore his radical intervention under the g uise of a nothing was itself retroactively deemed to be the (necessary) distinctive compositional gesture. The failure of nothing, the n egation usic al convention results in an intervention that is too substantial to overlook. The a udience fills in the gap, and in the case of Satie, it is Satie Again, this is difference: Cage himself would not exist relative to any actual staging of Silent Prayer Cage could not operate as a positive surrogate for the nothingness that would face the listener who recognizes herself in the call of silence d commercial music ; the object of aural experience itself would appear to be d ifferent for no reason whatsoever Contingent Necessity The real resides in the gap between appearances, not in th reality Thus, we have two incompletenesses, that of M usic and that of vibrational sound 86 as quoted in Gann, No Such Thing as Silence 76.

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135 itself. The structure of such incompleteness is the very nothingness associated with the object itself, its blind took as an inability to k now the totality of the object of aural perception is revealed as an ontolog ical gap in In consideration of this notion of ontological incompleteness, we must extend incomplete. Thi against Meillassoux, and identify as a deeply Hegelian point. As Houdt explains, asking who is the subject of enunciation regarding statements about the in properties without a listener): immediately invokes the figure of Hegel as the post Kantian figure who, correlationist subject, while also bringing contingency to the center of his system. But Heg el went a step further by explicitly maintaining a doctrine of the subject produced from within the process of overcoming correlationism. 87 because any perspective remains imma nent to the reality it aims to describe. Again, we incur the problem of reflexivity. Meillassoux acknowledges the role that observation plays in consideration of the object itself, but he also points out an important difference between objectivist and subjectivist priority (showing how an objective stance cannot simply be subsumed by a transcendental perspective): Certainly, the presence of an observer may eventually affect the effectuation of a physical law, as is the case for some of the laws of 87 Meillassoux, Hegel, and the Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 7, no. 1 (2011): 130.

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136 quantum physics but the very fact that an observer can influence the law is itself a property of the law which is not supposed to depend upo n the existence of an observer. 88 The law of quantum physics t hat Meillassoux is referring to here concerns the breakdown of the wave function. As Frank Wilczek describes, a subatomic particle described by its wave function. 89 As Karen Barad further When we observe a system, it 90 Observ ation is caught up in the thing itself, which is not a limit on ou r knowledge of the thing. Rather, this issue is ontological; it concerns where the thing is. The notion of observational resolution holds in not just physical space but discursive space as well. In terms of the products of composition, the inability of any one observational position to accurately capture the significance (meaning) of a particular musical appearance is not an indication of insufficient or limited knowledge. Rather, our inabil ity to know what the music is in any complete sense means the music is itself incomplete; the music could be different for no reason at all. This does not just mean that the composer could have written a different piece; it means that the piece the compos er wrote is not just the One piece it appears to be for me If Meillassoux provides us with the means of considering the object itself, its primary properties, as being absolutely contingent, then Hegel shows us how such 88 Meillassoux, After Finitude 114. 89 Wilczek, Lightness 152 153. 90 Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007) 280.

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137 contingency is always re ( Again, this is ) I defense, the physical laws themselves are not invalidated because they are influenced by observation (that is merely a ten ant of the law), but following and Houdt s reading of Hegel we must consider the lates this tension nicely by accentuating the limitation is ontological and not merely epistemological by enlisting Bertolt Brecht: For Brecht, the background of a stage should ideally be empty, white, signaling that, behind what we see and experience, the re is no secret Origin or Ground. This in no way implies that reality is transparent to us, these blanks are just that, blanks, things we simply do not know, not a 91 In consideration of any music, we encounter the tension between the two frames/stages of performance: framed sound and the frame enframing that reality. The indeterminate conditions of the first are subject to determination regarding our access via the second. The mere sound whose (discursive) position is coordinate less retains the possibility of mere sound] 92 to be heard in relation to M usic or just incidental sound. The arrival of a possible determination of indeterminate aural apprearance s is a profoundly interesting compositional issue. So far, throughout our discussion of Cage, we have neglected some core issues at stake in his compositional practice, specifically the development of musical indeterminacy through the deployment of chance procedures as a compositional methodology. Now that we are armed with a fuller 91 Less Than Nothing 635. 92 Ibid.

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138 understanding of necessary contingency and contingent necessity, we may re approach the issue of ca use effect relationships as they appear in consideration of aural experience And furthermore, we must think of new ways to transform or construct vibrational sound by providing a model for a spe cul ative compositional practice.

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139 C HAPTER 5 A MODEL FOR COMPOSING ONTOLOGICALLY INCOMPLETE MUSIC The Territory of Speculative Compositional Affordance vis Silent Prayer, it is imperative to consider and propose a model of speculative compositional practice. Accordingly, the goal across the remainder of this text is to circumscribe the territory of speculative compositional intervention, to address the practical and pragmatic considerations th at arise faced with the following paradox: I maintain a desire to compose music, while I fully acknowledge that the base condition of any aural my musical task is the following: to provide a space for listening to emerge, whereby the would be listener is only a listener insofar as she retroactively posits her own presuppositions regarding the activity of listening in which sh e is involved. As mentioned in C hapter 4, ju st as the nation is only a nation insofar as its members believe themselves to be members of the nation, music, similarly does not exist in any substantial sense. What we call m usic is only ever a capacity to retroactively posit the presuppositions regar perspective, rather than merely a im to surprise the a priori listener with what sounds are possible within the confines of a pre existing music. Contingency and Chance Our first step toward intervention is to (re)consider what is indeter minate about indeterminate music. The

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140 word indeterminate refers to a disruption of any cause and effect relationships regarding the determination of particular sounds appearing within the context of a musical work. Philosophically speaking, indeterminacy i s the rejection of the Principle of Sufficient Reason or the notion that for whatever there is, there must be a reason for it to be the way it is. For Cage, to pursue an indeterminate music meant that, procedurally, intention (cause) had to be separated fr om sp ecification (effect). To compose indeterminate music, the composer does not directly cause either a specific sound or a specific stars and their constellation, in indeterminate music the constellation is not specified as the consistent object of attention. There is nothing but stars that reflect their own determined distribution. We must realize how the notion of musical indeterminacy operates internal to the frame of a composition While sound may appear to us as indeterminate ( existing without cause or intention) the frame of composition in which sound is sensed is itself not precluded from being necessary from necessarily being a composition Thus the necessity ed reality is not viewed as being indeterminate. Or to put it differently, the incidental sound s we hear and attend to as living sound, are determined a priori to be of a propositional music We incur a proposit ional music that is less indeterminate than something that is not proposed ( to exist in relation to Music ) The music is thus determinate insofar as a composer ( such as Cage) caused the compositional frame to exist; this remains the case even if the incide ntal sounds themselves, which appear in the frame, are understood to be devoid of any determinate relation.

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141 Cage composed by relying on chance procedures. As Cage himself conceded, moment when you listen to it knowing that you can listen to it again. You listen again and the 1 Cage overlooks or chooses to ignore how the necessity of there being a score remains both obvious and consistent For C age, the score supplies the ne cessary frame within which incidental sound appears While the appearance of incidental sound within the frame is indeterminate the intransigence of the frame also ensures (determines) that any appearance be considered in relation to the a priori notion of Music Incidental s ound remains in discourse with Music. Chance as a form of empiricism Cage famously often used the I Ching context of his music. He asked musically appropriate questions and the I Ching provided answers according to the outcome of successive coin flips. As Kenneth Silverman describes: To consult the I Ching about some personal question, one throws three coins six times. The six sequences of heads and tails are t aken to represent a stack of six broken and/or unbroken lines, indicating one of the sixty four hexagrams. Its accompanying text suggests an answer to the question. The final pages of the volume Cage received from [Christian] Wolff contained a graphic inde x of hexagrams four columns depic ting all sixty It occurred to [Cage] that he could think of the 1 John Cage and Daniel Charles. For the Birds: John Cage in Conversation with Daniel Charles ed. Tom Gora and John Cage (London: Marion Boyars, 1981), 79.

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142 hexagra he could select the sequence of sonic materials by throwing coins and consulting the I Ching 2 Cage uses the I Ching as a selection algorithm, whereby certain outcomes are actualized based on pure chance. Cage thus retains control over mapping musical parameters to the list of potential outcomes. These mappings are, in effect, the I Ch ing indeterminate music only insofar as it concerns the framed reality of incidental sound and not the frame enframing such reality. Within the framed (scored) reality of a Cage composition we identify chance procedures as a form of empiricism. Chance, according to Cage is the logic of the natural world, and thus to employ chance is to more directly describe that which is appearance, but our (pre Meillassouxian) understanding remains cutoff from knowing the logic that gove rns the occurrence of vibrational sound or sound as a thing in itself Contingency and virtuality as un totalizable It is important to distinguish between the empiricism of Cagean chance and the virtuality of Meillassouxian contingency if we are to consider the full weight of indeterminate aural experience Meillassoux provides us with concise definitions in an attempt to answer a fundamental question regarding the appearance of cause and effect relationships in general, under the condition of ra dical ontological contingency: if things that are, including natural laws themselves, have no reason to be as they are i.e 2 Kenneth Silverman, Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010) 101.

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143 proposes an answer to the question in a way that for our musical purposes, helps draw a clear and useful distinction between chance operations and the logic of contingency: if the duration of laws does not rest upon any necessity, it must be a favor of their continuation or their abolition. From this point of view their manifest perennially becom To demonstrate why laws, if they can change, have not done so frequently, thus comes down to disqualifying the legitima cy of probabilistic reasoning when the latter is applied to the laws of nature themselves, rather than to events subject to those laws. 3 The mere appearance of consistent cause and effect relationships seem to contradict the absolute contingency of being, an unbridled capacity to be other. Thus it is probabilistic reasoning itself that must be shown to be inoperative regarding the laws that govern material reality. Meillassoux undercuts probabilistic reasoning (following Badiou, with whom he studied) by em ploying the logic of Cantorian sets of infinities. As Meillassoux states: 4 In consid eration of differentiated sets of infinite possibilities, of ever greater infinities governing the temporality of change, a totality of possibility is no longer pre given to the consti tuted; it is un whilst being devoid of necessity, since the notion of possible change and even chaotic change, change devoid of all reason can be separated from that o f frequent change: laws which are contingent, but stable beyond all probability, thereby become 3 The Speculative Turn: C ontinental Realism and Materialism ed. Levi Bryant et al. (Melbourne:, 2011), 227. 4 Ibid., 229.

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144 5 Thus an important distinction arises between the notion of contingency and chance, namely that contingency is un totalizable, while chance operat es under the conditions of a pre given set of possible outcomes. T he difference between the totalizability/un totalizability of those non actualized cases provides a space for considering the difference between chance and contingency. Meillassoux thus form alizes the difference between chance and contingency by defining each in relation to the term that circumscribes the non actualized, lingering possibilities of occurrence Potentialities are the non actualize d cases of an indexed set of possibilities under the condition of a given law (whether aleatory or not). Chance is every actualization of a potentiality for which there is no univocal instance of determination on the basis of the initial given conditions. Therefore I will call contingency the property of an indexed set of cases (not of a case belonging to an indexed set) of not itself being a case of a set of sets of cases; and virtuality the property of every set of cases of emerging within a becoming whic h is not dominated by any pre constituted totality of possibilities. 6 Basically, chance is totalizable (and thus computable) while contingency is not. The matrix in Table 5 1 articulates the dimensions of this distinction using the terms put forth by Meil lassoux. Table 5 1. Matrix of indeterminate outcomes and possibilities. Totalizable Un totalizable Actualized Chance Contingency Non actualized Potentiality Virtuality 5 Ibid., 230. 6 Ibid., 231 232.

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145 the term across circumstances pertaining to the totalizable as well as those pertaining to the un totalizable. The friction between chance and contingency is on full display in the following exchange between Cage and Daniel Charles: D.C.: Why chance? J.C.: We talked about silence as the entirety of unintended sounds. Interchanging sound and silence was to depend on chance. D.C.: Yes but, ultimately, nothing was really continge nt on you any more. You withdrew your piece from the game. People have often criticized you for that, since strictly speaking, you stopped being the composer. Yet, J.C.: But if the wor k I was doing in this state of irresponsibility was accepted by someone else, by somebody who had commissioned the work and who had a need for it, that would mean that it had become cha nce 7 In this exchange, chance is presented as the (natural) logic underpinning the facticity of nations yield a music that was no longer contingent upon Cage himself having composed it. The virtuality of presented as being contingent (this is what we have discussed previously as contingent necessity), while the sonic potentialities extant within the frame reflect a logic of chance sound appears is marked as purely contingent (presuma bly upon intention), yet what 7 Cage, For the Birds 42.

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146 sounds actually appear within the frame are a matter of either chance or contingency, depending upon the means by which the materials are specified. For a work such as the Freeman Etudes chance takes priority inside the frame if we consider the in no way meager but nevertheless finite set of choices reflected across each parameter of musical notation. Each notational mark reflects a choice. And n or totalization of possibility: first regarding the physical actuation of sound on the violin, and second concerning the ontology of the notational system. Thus a set of potentialities (both physical and notational) is prioritized despite a notable dis regard for performative limitation, that is, despite the to mediate the physical and the notational. Comparatively things are a bit more complex f or a work like The of chance (dice rolls mapped to I Ching HVAC systems, a plane crash, etc.). In identifying the difference between chance and contingency, we establish a distinction of compositional agency. I, as a composer following Cage, can control (determine) the use of chance operations to specify musical structures, forms, and materials. However, I cannot ful ly (totally) account for pure, radical contingency regarding what actually occurs. Any occurrence, either internal to the frame or regarding the frame itself, is in reality devoid of any reason (even probabilistic logic) whatsoever. Foll owing this insight, the proper speculative question becomes: how, then, in light of unfettered ontological indeterminacy, can determinate relations appear? Or f urther, how

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147 must we (re)think the relationship between the appearance of consistent, predictable outcomes and radic al contingency? How Contingency Appears between chance and contingency concerns how contingency actually appears. Up to unbridled capacity to be other. to be is, of course, deeply problematic because it concerns the appearance of that which governs (absolutely) the facticity of appearances. The refore, as Meillassoux recognizes, we must: discover in our grasp of facticity the veritable intellectual intuition of the what is that we discover a contingency is neither visible nor perceptible in things and only thought is capable of accessing it, just as it accesses the chaos that underlies the apparent continuity of phenomena. 8 Absolute contingency is found within the facticity of the correlation between thought and being, with in our very intuition that subjective representations may only be described C ontingency does not appear itself ; we discover absolute contingency when we intellectualize our intuition about what appears. totalization of potentialities internal to aleatory logic (chance operations) and the un totalizability (the virtuality) of being other provides the means to intellectually re orient our intuitive understanding of the apparent consistency of natural laws. 8 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (London: Continuum, 2008) 82. (emphasis added)

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148 Internal to a dice game, it is highly probable that outcomes of successive dice rolls change frequently. Yet, the distinction between chance and contingency unties our notion of chaos from the necessity of frequent ch ange precisely because there is no reasoning behi nd when or how things change; change is un totalizable and thus absolutely unpredictable. The appearance of consistency is therefore not an aberration, a strike against absolute contingency, but rather its f ullest and most tenuous maintenance of natural laws, reaffirms, again and again, the contingency of any determinate relations. Continuing with the analogy of a dice game, we should not be astonished that a six interpreting the consequences of Meillassouxian contingency, reaffirms that any such astonishment regarding the consistency of chance determined outco mes: relies on a possible totalization of possibilities/probabilities, with regard to which the uniformity is improbable: if there is no standard, nothing is more which the Strong Anthropic Principle in cosmology counts is f alse: we start from human life, which could have evolved only within a set of very precise preconditions, and then, moving backwards, we cannot but be astonished at how our universe was furnished with precisely the right set of characteristics for the emer gence of life just a slightly different presupposes a preexisting totality of possibilities. 9 Thus, being consisten potential outcome, the possibility remains that a seventh case could emerge at any moment in the six sided dice game. The virtuality prefiguring any contingent outcome 9 The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism ed. Levi Bryant et al. (Melbourne:, 2011) 216.

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149 Divine intervention, but rather, as being a sign of the inexistence of the Divine; it is 10 therefore not sufficient as a means of reflecting the conti ngent being of things, namely of vibrational sound and its phenomenal appearance to us. Insofar as composers seek to reflect ways of hearing the world in relation to what the world actually is, the acceptance of chance determined sonic outcomes is itself incomplete in realizing a speculative music that is not fully constituted, a music that is not the totality of its vibrational sounds. Thus the composer cannot seek recourse solely in deterministic models, nor solely in chance operations; both approaches p roceed based on the totalization of possible outcomes. Instead, the composer must seek to create the empty, un an approach stands in contrast to the more conventional notion of attempting to signify that is, which One meaning should appear. This is to say, our un totalizable approach concerns the ontology of any possible aural appearance, while the more conventional route seeks to address an epistemology govern 10 Ibid.

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150 An Allegorical Example Before I offer my particular solution to t he composition of ontologically incomplete (speculative) music, some examples of art that accomplish this task will prove useful. First, Lacan gives us an allego rical example of an ontologically incomplete art. As part of his Seminar IX ( The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis ), Lacan provides recounting the st ory of Zeuxis and Parrhasios, two classical painters tasked with painting, or fresco: In the classical tale of Zeuxis and Parrhasios, Zeuxis has the advantage of having made grapes that attracted the birds. The stress is placed not on the fact that these grapes were in any way perfect grapes, but on the fact that even the eye of the birds was taken in by them. This is proved by the fact that his friend Parrhasios triumphs over him for having painted on the wall a veil, a v eil so lifelike that Zeuxis, turning towards him said, Well, and now show us what you have painted behind it. By this he showed that what was at issue was certainly deceiving the eye ( ). A triumph of the gaze over the eye. 11 ount of this tale, we encounter the precise difference between two la ck of content regarding the veil, its very emptiness, forces the viewer to confront her own gaze. It is the gaze that deceives the eye through its insubstantial cut into reality. The priority of the gaze undermines the notion of a fully constituted objecti ve realit y that is wholly substantial Again, we are reminded of the Brecht example from Chapter 4 concerning the (ideally) white background for theater: behind the white background 11 Jacques Lacan, The Semina r of Jacques Lacan, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis ed. Jacques Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1981), 103.

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151 there is no deeper, substantial reality not because we cannot know all of reality, but rather, because reality itself is not complete, it is not fully constituted. 12 This, too, is the veil. imes Square not a contemporary sonic manifestation of sounds of Times Square, rather, he seeks to cover them up, to create an endless sonority that may not be heard as an artistic interventio n at all. Furthermore, the sonority generated by the Times Square installation is un totalizable; it necessarily changes based on the physical, material conditions of the site in which it is placed. People who walk over the subway ventilation shafts from w hich the sound emanates physically impede and potentially reflect the acoustic signal; changing temperatures, wind patterns, and atmospheric pressure all effect the sound the list could go on ad infinitum. This notion of contextual change stands in strict contrast to concert hall music (including my own Windows Left Open Times Square is different ; not only do contextu al factors change the material reality of the work in relation to its taking of place but they do so in a precisely Badiouian way: Times Square undergoes the trial of its subtraction from any necessary Musical consideration. Neuhaus subtracted his work from the conventional desire of both c omposers and aud ience members alike to listen in relation to Music An y encounter with Times Square marks the possibility for mere sound to 12 see Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialis m (London: Verso, 2012), 635.

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152 appear as living sound devoid of any necessity beyond the contingency of the encounter. For a composition performed in a concert hall the sounds that appear do so in relation to our a priori consideratio n of Music, in relation to our desire for living sound to be produced and reach its fullest most transcendent expression as an ideal representation of a wholly complet e music. In light of this difference between the contingency of materiality and the idealism of conventional concert hall works, is spec ulative music (an ontologically incomplete music) precluded from arising in the concert hall? Perhaps so, impossible per se, a speculative music would surely prove to be more challenging to realize in a concert hall rather than outside it simply because of our a priori haps stood in consideration of Parrhasios veil, we expect upon entering a concert hall to hear music. materially and discursively). ng the concert hall as a place for music, I must realize that whatever I produce in an additive, substantial way necessarily appears in relation to M usic. So how does a composer re address the concert hall insubstantially? The speculative composer must pro vide the conditions for living sound to be discovered not because of the place of its taking of place, but despite it Our identification of living sound must only retain the possibility of being music, a possibility that is itself purely contingent. Here is where we must instantly mark a difference, or diverge, from Cage.

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153 the most realistic music for concert hall). His propositional answer was to rev eal how the concert hall itself is sufficient in constituting a totality of sound against which we may is akin to revealing the wall itse lf as entirely sufficient in constituting a Real painting. Perhaps even more accurately, is akin to determining the dimensions of a frame through chance operations and then chiseling its negative ehind it. Here, the building cuts of Gordon Matta Clark come to mind. Matta interventions into abandoned architectural structures in the 1970s reflect the precise gesture described in the analogy between and veil In a number of works, including A W h ole House (1973), Splitting (1974), (1975), Conical Intersect (1975), and Office Baroque (1977), Matta Clark cut away (subtracted) material forms from pre existing architectural constructions and situated furnishings to reveal intersecting spaces within the space and structure of the building Matta interventions allowed for the mediation and interpenetr ation of different spaces of different interior spaces as well the notion of interi or and exterior space Insofar as the remaining architectural elements serve to frame the reality of things beyond the architectural, Matta treatment of Music; in the remaining vestiges of Mus ic (the score, performer, instrument, concert hall) now silenced or precluded from the making of sound, serve to contextualize incidental sound, including performance

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154 But what happens when we strip away even the ground (the material reality) supporting a gesture of pure subtraction? We get a different notion of subtraction we incur a subtraction that is always already there In fact, Robert Irwin, in his piece for the 1976 Venice Biennale, points toward a wholly insubstantial notion of subtraction by redu cing the materiality of any frame to its bare minimum Irwin was asked to contribute a small work as part of the American entry for the Venice Biennale in 1976. After having several proposals rejected for fear of negatively impacting the main show, Irwin was pushed outdoors, outside the gallery space, and further told that he no longer had a budget with which to work. Irwin describes his subsequent intervention in the following way: So kind of looking around trying to figure leaves fall between these four trees. Kind of nice little bosk of jus t four money, and the whole thing has t aken on a comic opera sort of quality. So really beautiful sort of composition. And I get this idea. So I go to the hardware store and I buy these four great big nails, you know, an d a piece of string. And I put the four nails in the ground and I put the string around 13 If Irwin had determined the placement of the nails and proportions of string systematically, according to chance proc edur es, this piece would have been directly As Mallarm would put it, it is necessa ry that we be not in a predicament where nothing 13 as quoted in Lawrence Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: Over Thirty Years of Conversations with Robert Irwin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008) 273 274.

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155 14 While technically the intent ful distinction between reality and a framed reality is the constitutive gesture of each piece, it is an epistemological dead end; once we come to kn ow the framed place qua generic place (that is, as just plain old reality), art becomes wholly unnecessary. methodology for composition though he never again stared so directl y into the void of a music that retains the possibility of being nothing at all. To reiterate, it is a commonly Across the remainder of his life Cage composed indeterminat e music, but veered progressively towards more explicit musical realizations of games of chance. This is to say that Cage, over time, retreated fr om the absolute contingency of material reality into further applications of chance procedures inte rnal to the necessary frame of M usical performance. By contrast, Robert Irwin moved beyond the brinksmanship of his work for the Venice Biennale not by retreating into further refinements of a methodology for necessary art, but rather, by turning in the opposite dire ction: he stepped through the frame and began questioning its contingent being from a position in reality. Robert Irwin as a Model for a Speculative Art Practice appears prior to his experiment in Venice in his dot paintings of the mid 1960s. In fact, Whi te Paintings (1951) as a point of tangency between the two. The White Paintings, which consist of seven (rather tall and thin) panels of white paint on canvas, are often 14 Alain Badiou, Theoretical Writings ed. and trans. Ray Brassier and Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2004) 115.

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156 hi the temptation to craft a sonic corollary eventually became too great to bear. 15 In consideration of the White Paintings, which were left as intentionally blank as possible stretched over wooden frames that balloon outward ever so slightly (no more than 2 inches). 16 Irwin prepared the surface of the canvas with lead based white paint. As Irwin himself describes: Then I put on the dots, starting with very strong red dots, as rich as possible but only about the size of map pins, put them on very carefully, about one every quarter inch or so, such th at they seemed neither too mechanically nor too crudely applied either way they would have thereby drawn attention to themselves as patterns concentrating them toward the center and then dispersing them less and less densely, missing one or two here and th ere, as they moved out toward the edge. Then I took the exact opposite color and put a green dot between every single pair of red dots, doing the same thing out to the edge, stopping the green maybe just a little before the red so that there was a slight h alation of the two colors on the edge. But in the center they essentially canceled each other out, so the interaction between the two. 17 remely deterministic. Even as the dots thin out along the edges of the canvas, the process of thinning followed the simple logic of an intuitive coin flip regarding where and when to skip a dot. In a sense, this is like binary painting: two complementary c olors applied systematically, whereby the presence or absence of any given dot is correlative to its distance from center, following 15 Kenneth Silverman, Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage 117 118. 16 Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting, 93. 17 Ibid., 91.

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157 particular works is the contingency of th e gestalt, of each canvas being a painting at all when considered by a viewer. Lawrence Wes c hler describes a particularly fascinating anecdote that serves to show how the paintings themselves were incomplete in their being objects of art: The Philadelphia Museum of Art owns one of these paintings, and I was standing before it one afternoon when a couple walked into the room. The young woman, gesturing with a sweep of her arm, sighed in mock ly (although it was clear that her comment did not arise within the context of any particular conversation they were having but rather tapped an ongoing aesthetic frustration), and the two moved quickly on. They had literally not seen a thing one does not, one cannot in that amount of time. She was just sick and tired of having museum walls cluttered with empty white canvases. 18 For the above woman who dismissed the work as nothing but a white canvas, the painting was no painting at all. Yet, and here is the difference of approach from Rauchenberg/Cage, the emptiness of content (or, more specifically, emptiness as the emerges in the midst of the material composition of dots. Accordingly, Weschler offers us a different account of the effect these paintings may instill: William Wilson, the Los Angeles Times art critic, on first encountering perfect ly captures the experience in all its temporality. A mute white canvas suddenly changes its aspect there is a moment of tart disclosure and we in turn blush back. 19 bound manifestation o 18 Ibid., 94 95. 19 Ibid., 95.

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158 incomplete; the deterministic placing of dots require an insubstantial nothingness to Phenomenology Though Robert Irwin is historically contextualized as a key figure in the Light and the priority of perception that weaves together his myriad of works is not the only narrative that emerges when we look back upon his output. 20 The dot paintings serve as the first instance of a prerogative that extends beyond an investigation of the purely perceptual. I identify this prerogative as an Irwin has, of course, time and time again argued against the priority of the fully constituted object in aesthetic theory. However, Irwin often subsumes that which is nonobjective about aesthetic experience under phenomenological notions regarding the pri macy of perception. This is potentially problematic because modern phenomenology (as it appears in the writings of Heidegger and Merleau Ponty) is wholly transcendental, and reflects a strong correlationist perspective. ation speculative. In his 1985 text, Being and Circumstance: Notes Toward a Conditional Art on, the practical consequences of which have yet to be fully resolved, let alone be permitted to 20 Irwin is, of course, not the first artist to focus on pure perception as a primary consideration, nor would International Blue Black Paintings came earlier f the early 60s. However, as Irwin argues, those artist were confronting perception as an intellectual and theoretical concept rather than as a matter of intuition. Irwin has always sought to present his work as being more inline with Russian constructivi sm artists such as Seeing is Forgetting, 79.

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159 reconfigure society at large. 21 That society itself may be reconfigured in reality already suggests that that which is nonobjective is not necessarily wholly su bjective. Nonobjective does not mean subjective; Irwin is very careful to av oid saying that he is pursuing a subjectivist art. Regarding the non object, we again incur a pure nothingness from which we subtract the (metaphysical) object (that which is a who le, fully formed, totality in itself). We thus arrive at a something that is less than nothing, a less than nothing that can only be maintained in relation to what actually exists (reality itself). Therefore, a nonobjective art is certainly a reinvestment in the (secondary) qualities of appearance, those that are given to us phenomenologically, but Irwin remains a bit torn. idealist) account of the problems posed by human action either creative or free if the individual does not participate directly in the 22 Thus reflexivity is not presented as an epistemological limitation, but rather, it is shown to be the base condition for discursive emplacement p resuppose any appearance. There is a reality that persists precisely because we find ourselves in it. For Irwin, condition (physic) of our universe. In its dynamic, change (alongside time and space) constitutes a given in all things, and is indeed what we are talking about when we speak 21 Robert Irwin, Being and Circumstance: Notes Toward a Conditional Art, ed. Lawrence Weschler (Larkspur Landing, CA: T he Lapis Press, 1985) 13. 22 Ibid., 17.

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160 23 absolute that is the product of his intellectualization of i ntuitive, perceptual experience mics of the phenomenal, as we can know it, exists in the dynamics of our perceiving (experiencing) the nature of the 24 absolute of change (a radical capacity to be other) is revealed as a direct consequence of the facticity of the correlation between t hinking and being, th r ough appearance itself. It is an absolute that is not derived outside of the correlationist circle (which for Irwin stands as our phenomenological finitude), but rather as a direct consequence of it. Since, for Irwin, our phenomenolog ical perception in relation to the environments in which we persist are always at play (change), the question then becomes the following: in any given Irwin piece, what takes priority? the eye or the gaze? What is at stake in drawing this distinction is p akin to asking, does the subject pre exist the encounter with the work as it is situated in reality? If we answer in the affirmative, we adopt a purely transcendental, post Kantian perspective that un no, then we must see retroactively positing its own presuppositions Accordingly, this is to say that the subject emerges onl y insofar as it encounters itself as the object of perception given its confrontation with (bein materiality; 23 Ibid, 9. 24 Ibid, 23.

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161 apperception neither pre exists nor s urvives its encounter with the conditional (read: contingent) object. It is in this way, following the second paradigm, where we can claim Irwin to be properly speculative. Where Irwin shows us the triumph incompleteness, he differentiates himself from other phenomenologically driven artists including James Turrell, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, etc. Take for example a quick Tilted Arc Black on White (2011). Both works were/are situated in public spa ces juxtaposed with architectural elements. Even further, both works stand in contrast to the existent architectural and public space. Tilted Arc was a massive, substantial steel form (120 feet long, 12 feet high) bisecting the open square of Federal Plaza in New York City, while Black on White consists of a smooth 40,000 pound slab of black granite bisecting the entrance hall of the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Black on White presents both a formal and coloristic contrast to the context of its presentation The critical difference between the two both viewer and site. Tilted Arc was necessarily presented as a material and phenomenological obstacle, requiring pedestrian s and viewers alike to physically re regarded the sculpture as plain, ugly, brutal, without any artistic merit whatsoever. Some found its presence on the plaza physically and 25 Conversely, Black on White only retains the possibility of imposition. It is not necessarily an obstacle, in a way that ensures that it is also not necessarily a work of 25 Miwon Kwon One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002) 78.

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162 art; it only retains the possibility for further (self )contemplation regarding the status of its non objective being given the facticity of the contrast between it and its surroundings. Black on White is a non object, which is not to say that it has no materiality, but rather that its materiality is not All it is. As a work of art, it is radically incomplete; it must be decided upon in light of the indiscernability of its material form and the context in which it appears. Irwin and Place The difference between Tilted Arc and Black on White is u ltimately a di fference between site specific art and site conditioned specific site, it was not responsive to the possibility that its relation to that site (and those who pass through it) could change. 26 As Irwin himself state s, regarding the notion of site specificity our process of recognition and 27 That Tilted Art necessarily appears in relation to Art, even if it is specific to a non Art site of reception, is what marks its difference site conditioned work. 28 In Black on White the relation/differential betwe en (material) object and site embraces an ontological capacity to be 26 formal imperviousness to change was ultimately ironic, as it was so disliked that it was (famously) removed. 27 Irwin, Being and Circumstance 27. 28 (sculptural) artwork, site dominant and site adjusted, from a site conditioned approach. Like the site specific art of Serra, both site dominant and si te adjusted works are presupposed (upon encounter) to exist in relation to Art. Site conditioned work must be considered in its possible relation to Art.

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163 affect what Black on White actually i s. Any such effect is the base condition of the work being anything at all. It is imperat manner. the Venice Biennale in 1976, that are explicitly presented as necessarily being art; this is to s ay, works whereby the eye takes priority over the gaze. However, across those being anything at all (contingent necessity), the a priori function of any given site is not ne cessarily a limitation. Rather, the site, and that which pre exists it (namely, the place), may be addressed in ways that belie our a priori knowledge of its function. Again, the point here is that b y addressing, conditioning, or balancing the conti ngent n ature of the work itself what it is from o ne moment to the next epistemological limitation becomes Ontological incompleteness and the non art place highlight a flexible relationship to site. First, we may consider his 1978 proposal, Tilted Planes for Ohio State University. the active focal point of the campus, its most distinguished place. A nice natural confrontation brought on by the real complex ity of criss crossing paths. While the initial layout of its crossing paths and resulting planes of grass may have had a formal geo metry in mind, with the passage of time students have walked in a overlapping informal geometry which now provides the Oval Mall, like architecture, with a richness of variety and surprise. 29 29 Ibid, Being and Circumstance 41 43.

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164 ed as the pre given structure for his proposed intervention. Furthermore, Irwin was intrigued by the hourly flood of and the entire Ov al takes on the spatial temporal 30 Thus at the outset, Irwin identifies the existence of the landscape itself and its function as continually being called into question. The paths themselves are contingent upon use, a use that is not consistent, cause/effect determinations. In consideration of all this contingent reality (the paths really could go anywhere, or nowhere), Irwin propo ses the following intervention: What I suggested was that they take the existing planes of grass some of them, about a fourth and tile them slightly in various directions. From one to the next it migh t go from zero to 18 inches, the n a path, then from 18 to 30 inches, path, then back from 30 to 18, path and on down. The planes would just be tilted very slightly. Zero to 18 inches might happen Ten steel, because Cor Ten looks brown and almost earthlike. W issue of the physical structure at all. The grass would still be grass, just tilted. That was all. 31 This proposal thus responds to the contingent nature of the pre given place, but offers a predicament where nothing takes place but the 32 33 And yet, what it did was a purely contin gent phenomenon. One can easily imagine students 30 Ibid., 43. 31 as quoted in Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting, 202. 32 Badiou, Theoretical Writings 115. 33 Wescher, Seeing is Forgetting 202.

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165 (even freshmen) walking along the paths without attending to or even noticing the subtle existence is thus incomplete i n and of itself; it is not necessa rily anything, let alone art. It is imperative to understand that the contingency of the art object poses no Though the Ohio State Universi have been a perfectly integrated figure/ground sculpture. 34 The possibility of it being nothing, a possibility that reflec ts the purely contingent necessity with which Tilted Planes appears as sculpture at all, only reinforces a material capacity to be other and the un totalizable decidability governing what is. Ontological incompleteness and the place for art While Tilted Pl anes provides an example of an ontologically incomplete art arising in relation to a non art place, we must ultimately address the question of whether a gallery, museum, or concert hall setting. Thus our second example should appear in relation to a conventional context for art, addressing the context itself, the place itself. Again, Irwin provides us with a model in Scrim Veil Black Rectangle Natural Light (1977). with canvas, as a form for art, Scrim Veil cuts open the minimal difference between the contingent object of art and the place for art. The work was part of a retrospective show In an empty room on the 34 Irwin, Being and Circumstance 43.

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166 fourth floor of the museum, Irwin acted to shift the of material intervention. Lawrence Wes c hler describes his own experience of the room th usly: As the elevator doors eased open onto the vast, empty room on the fourth floor of the Whitney, you were immediately in the thick of it, the thin of it. For a fragile moment, all your expectations were suspended, and the world itself seeped in. Alread y as you walked out of the elevator, you were triangulating, calibrating, trying to get a fix, to mend the tear in the fabric of your mundane anticipations. But even as you were doing so, you were newly aware of the way in which that is something you do al l the time. The only light was the natural light of day streaming in from that large, peculiar window over to the side and spreading the length of the hauntingly sheer scrim that, suspended from the ceiling down to eye level, bisecting the room longitudin ally. Also at eye level, a thin black line skirted the walls of the room, describing a huge rectangle and then flashing out along the base of the bisecting scrim. The pristine scrim was by turns uttlerly transparent and then utterly opaque, both at the sam As you walked around the space, under the scrim, into the corners, along the walls, the room itself seemed to stand up and hum. 35 r with the work that is a true event its miraculous phenomenal appearance reconst itutes the known configuration (all possible anticipations) regarding aesthetic effect. But w hat is truly remar kable about the work is that in and of itself, it did not necessitate any suc h determination. In fact, based on the variance of other accounts o f the work, it becomes clear that any one determination regarding that room on the fourth floor is insufficient, incomplete. As Weschler 36 It is precisely this (drastic) discrepancy between subjective accounts, reflect ing the fluctu ating semblances, that indicates the triumph of the gaze over the eye. 35 Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting, 185. 36 Ibid.

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167 Irwin himself was fully aware of the capacity of others to overlook the piece entirely. its an empty room. The question then, of course, is emptied of what? What they do is come into this room with expectations and deal with whatever it is they think the room is supposed to be occupied by. y room is that all the things going on in that room, all that physicality in that room, somehow does no t exist for them. 37 work. Yet, Irwin backs away from the spec ulative implications of gaze regarding the 38 Irwin thus remains guarded against a more speculative understanding of Ho wever, it is precisely the fact that the divergent responses concern what is or in the room itself (its suspect materiality) which marks a notable difference from any conversation per understanding of what the room means. Th e divergent successes/failures are ontological and reflect the rather than reflecting what the work means beco ming manifest across both his work and writing, was (thankfully) not a reticence that extended into his artistic practice. In fact, such theoretical reticence may in fact be existing places for art: For year s already, Irwin had harbored doubts about the compromise of working in museums, because, in effect, all that happened in such situations was an expansion of the frame from the canvas to the entire 37 Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting, 185 187. 38 Ibid.

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168 room, or even the entire museum without a truly fundamenta l suspension of the posture of focus or frame itself. 39 Thus Irwin identified the Great Outdoors, in all of its abject contingency, as the only place to call into question the necessary status of the frame in reality. For Irwin, despite the ontological impl ications (of incompleteness) that arise in consideration of Scrim Veil a ny frame d reality that appears within the confines of the museum still appear s as being in relation to Art should nevertheless identify how Scrim Veil seriously questions ( even if it does not fully suspend contingent, ontologically incomplete. The Model and Music The examples of and p ossibilities for ontologically incomplete art evidenced The model he offers us is not grounded in aural perception, but nevertheless it can be considered from within the field of music composition. Times Square in Chapter 3 and our more thorough treatment of th e conditions for a speculative and ontologically inc omplete art across this Chapter, the practice of composition is now primed for direct experim entation. Our speculative approach to composition can be summarized in the following way: within the frame of a musical composition, form, structure, and material are never wholly deterministic or indeterministic (as a matter of chance), which means that both the appearance of consistent outcomes and probabilistic (chance) procedures are contingent and can change for no reason whatsoever. Thus, internal to the framed 39 Ibid., 189.

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169 reality of composition, knowledge regarding any content or what is actually meaningful abo ut sound is necessarily limited. However, this limitation on knowledge does not reflect our inability to know the work (or any other object for that matter) but rather, it is an indication that itself is incomplete. Our recognition of ontological incompleteness is an opportunity for composition al practice Rather than attemp ting to further specify how her composition may signify a particular something to be interpreted by others the composer may instead intervene int o t he pre given place of reception, augment the vibrational sound of the place and acce pt that any significance attached to the intervention (ascription of a perceptual is only a condition of being there and not a requir e ment The place in which the composer intervenes can be any place, though a stricter set of epistemological limitations emerges when it is a place that is a priori understood to exist in relation to Music. For all appearances of living sound there is a frame e nframing the reality of the place in which we find ourselves to be listeners If a minimal difference (between the phenomenal presence of sound and its noumenal notion) is introduced as a being of the place (of our subjective taking of place ), living sound may appear for no reason whatsoever. The appearance of living sound, for no reason at all means (beyond any unrestricted, possible interpretation) that the place itself its objective reality, is incomplete in being a fully constituted reality at al l. Such a speculative approach remains a largely unexpl ored opportunity for composers

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170 CHAPTER 6 CONVERGENCE: APPLYING THE MODEL A Particular Speculative Music a composer trained in various established idioms reflecting the known configuration of musical of how, why, or even if music exists. As introduced in Chapter 1, most c omposers have been trained to consider misinterpretation as a threat to compositional success. Any semiotic breakdown regarding esthesic access to the work potentially undermines that en we consider that any such misinterpretation, or misalignment between poietic and esthesic is to minimize the variety of possible misinterpretations, to clarify w ith every greater precision compositional intention (even if unintended sound is the intention). Our speculative approach inverts this problem and reveals it to be not merely an epistemological limitation, but rather an incompleteness concerning the materi al reality of that which appears. The great threat, misinterpretation, is thus ontologized: sound is not just interpreted differently by way of subjective access, but is objectively incomplete as being anything in itself. Our limited perspective, the aural finitude regarding our relation to the physical, material world around us, is a reflection of our being in an acoustic reality (of vibrational sound) before it ever aurally appears for us. There is nothing but the material reality of vibrational sound Th is nothingness reaffirms that vibrational sound is not all there is ; vibrational sound ( or any assemblage thereof ) is

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171 incomplete, ontologically un totalizable for us From within the contingent and thus un totalizable acoustic reality that we find ourselves in how does the composer begin to intervene ? How does the composer ( as a material B eing in reality ) condition the possible circumstances for reality to appear to itself (other material Beings) as an aura l experience ? This is the properly speculative compositional question. Many different composers can potentially seek to answer this question in many different ways. I propose a particular way, one that has proven useful for myself thus far and continues to raise interesting questions. I will now seek to derive its relevance to the speculative consideration of music. Indeterminate versus Determinate Appearance material reality would be superfluous, and thus, truly meaningless. Ultimately, this is to say that something mus t intervene (happen) in the domain of aural appearances. So precisely what must happen? For a moment, let u s disregard materiality (acoustics) and consider the notion of a consistent aural appearance (such as a bird voicing the same pitched call at regular intervals for a seemingly interminable duration). Contingent necessity demands that any such consistent appearance is itself always subject to radical transformation, of e un totalizable way or even stops being a call at all). Furthermore, if we adopt the opposite perspective, that of a chaotic aural appearance (such as the sounds of 1000

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172 birds each with different calls), contingency still demands that such appearance coul d be radically different (the chaos of bird songs is the sound of an aviary). Thus, both the aural appearance of indeterminate chaos and the appearance of determinate consistency are wholly contingent. The necessary contingency of sonic materials and the c ontingent necessity governing aural appearances are both operative irregardless of any particular material or given appearance. The relevance of this appears in light of the following desire: if the composer is to intervene, then how (by what methodology) does she seek to specify Should compositional agency take the form of ever greater specification of determinate relat ions ? Or, should such agency proceed as an abdication of intentionality, a deferral to indeterminate chance procedures? The properly speculative answer is, of course, both in a manner that is fully overlapping, yet never solely (completely) one or the other. M y contention is that the composer should proceed in a way that modulates any ontological appearance in a way that presents nothing but the gap torn open between the two. Modulating the Semblances To refer back to our discussion in the previous chapter of R Scrim Veil Black Rectangle Natural Light (1977), we identified how the relations between Scrim Veil was neither wholly a piece of art, nor was it nothi ng at all. 1 It was incomplete, 1 Of course, Scrim Veil has necessarily become a work of art given our perspective today. But, this necessity is nevertheless contingent, it is a product of the work having been decided upon what we

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173 precisely because its appearance shifted between the two (or three, or however many) different accounts of what it was. Our proposed response to the task of composing speculative music, as being a music that is neither wholly consistent in its presentation of sound, nor chaotic, is thus a direct reflection of the following prerogative: to modulate the question remains, how may consistency overlap with chaos? How may we move between the two, without either taking priority? The Temporality of Change We find our answer in the following way: by seeking recourse in the temporality of musical change. Change is perceived as a differential of appearances across some duration of time. In music, sounds general ly appear to change through time. The differences that arise between sounds from one moment to the next can be described in mathematical ways. We have stated (in Chapter 5) that contingency itself is not computable precisely because it is un totalizable. T hus, even though mathematics provides us with the distinction between contingency and chance, our ability to control (intervene in) contingent processes is never fully possible; it is incomplete precisely because contingency is an absolute. Therefore, our only agency over the modulation of semblances reg arding the frame of composition comes in the form of that which is totalizable and thus computable. (Even so, we must still concede that our apparent agency is itself contingent.) It is therefore left to us to devise a particular dice game, one that marks the apparent change of sounds through time as never wholly determined (consistent), nor of its original presentation, or that, as being anything at all, it could have (materially) been radically different.

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174 completely indeterminate (random/chaotic). My particular solution to this problem (proposed dice game) is to determinis tically change the die that we use to indeterminately change the appearance of sound This might seem absurdly simple, but it is an entirely sufficient means to modulate the outward appearance of what the sound s are across time in a manner that yields a wi de (though not un totalizable) set of possibilities. To generate a wide range of possibilities is desirable only insofar as the appearance of sound forces a would be listener to question what that aural appearance is at any given moment. Convergence of Set We can consider the aforementioned dice game in a theoretical way by maintaining an analogy with a real/physical die. Subsequently, I will describe some details of my own software implementation of this behavior. Given a particular die, we identify a number of pre given cases or potent ialities corresponding to the faces of the die When we roll the die a particular case is selected according to an (assumedly) uniform probability of selection whereby all potential cases have equal chance of being selected Let us arbitrarily say th at we have a six sided die so we have six potential cases Each case is associated with numeric values : 1 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 respectively The proposed game unfolds in the following way: 1. Determine a numeric step value (SV) that is equal to 1 divided by some integer that is greater than or equal to 1 (for instance, 1/10 = 0.1) 2. Roll the die to determine a selected case (SC) 3. Record t he associated value (AV) of the SC and store it as the target value (TV) for each of the 4. Roll the die to determine a SC 5. A pply the AV of the SC determined in step 4 to a parameter of sound generation.

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175 6. Update the AV in one of the following two ways : i) if the TV is greater than the AV then add the SV to the AV. ii) if the TV i s less than the AV, then subtract the SV from the AV. 7. Change the die so that the numeric result of the previous step will be the new AV for the SC on any future rolls. 8. Go to step 4 This procedure results in a very specific behavior. The die is initially governed by chance the equal probability of selecting different cases (which we may refer to orthographically as: one, two, three, four, five and six). Each case is associated with different integer valu es (which we may define numerically as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, respectively) However, after successive rolls the value associated with each case progresses toward a consistent value outcome the product of our first roll or the target value (TV) The more we play the game, the more the values conv erge toward the TV until finally all associated values (AVs) are the same ; the associated value equals the TV for all cases To provide an example using the aforementioned die l ets say we roll the die and select five. We then set 5 as our TV We then roll again and select six and then apply 6 to some parameter controlling sound generation. We then update 6 by subtracting (following step 6 ii ) 0.1 from 6, which gives us 5.9 We then change the die value of 5.9 As we continue to roll, we select cases at random (by chance) and in each instance update the values associated with the selected case and then change the die accordingly Eventually, cases one through six all have an associated value of 5. A t this point, any die roll will yield a consistent outcome even though that very outcome was itself determined by

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176 chance. See Figure 6 1 for a graphical representation of value outcomes determined by 250 iterations of this exact dice game. If we stop here our game is over (or it otherwise goes on for an infinite amount of time yielding the same result : 5 ). However, once we have converged we may then invert the process described in step 6 (adding or subtracting the step value to/from the target value) and begin to diverge back towards the original values. Accordingly, rather than it in the other direction and approach randomness. See Figure 6 2 for a graphical representation of divergence within the bounds of the dice game described in the preceding paragraph. ConvergentArray: an i mplementation of set convergence in software In software the game is played using data structures r ather than dice; an array of indexed values may function as a die. Our array constitutes a pre given set of differentiated values a set being a finite configuration of potentialities subject to probabilistic logic. To roll our die in software we randomly select a value at a given index which will replace the term case for the remainder of this section In the SuperCollider 2 programming environment I implem ented a Class that function s like the die described above, with a few notable modifications/extensions. (See Object 1 for the SuperCollider implementation of ConvergentArray). Statistical Feedback Modification : T he ConvergentArray object implements a statistical feedback model governing the selection of any given index in order to ensure 2 SuperCollider is an audio programming environment developed by James McCartney. The software is open source and ava ilable online at the following address:

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177 the appearance of randomness This model is a direct implementation of the dissonant counterpoint algorithm described by Larry Polansky, Alex Barnett, and Michael Winter in 2010. 3 (See Object 2 for a SuperCollider implementation of the dissonant counterpoint algorithm). True randomness, even computational pseudo randomness, is notoriously bumpy. For our purposes, the appearance of randomness is the priority, so I have taken pains to smooth it out: the outcomes of previous selections (history) are taken into account such that more recently selected indices are less likely to be selected and less recently selected indices are more likely to be selected Statistical feedback biases the algorithm toward th e exhaustion of the set of indices if not series and pattern, depending on how the biasing is biased (how previously selected indices increase in their probability of selection across successive rolls). Growth Function Modification : In the SuperCollider i mplementation, I further extended control over the rate and shape of convergence. The rate of convergence concerns the number of iterations (die rolls) until all associated values equal th e target value The rate of convergence is controlled by a numerical argument that we may call the number of steps. The number of steps is a constant passed to each instance of ConvergentArray upon instantia tion 4 that determines how many incremental additions or subtractions (steps) must occur for each initial associated value to reach the target value ; fewer steps make s for faster, more abrupt convergence. The number of steps is a critical value for computing not just the rate of convergence, but also t he shape of convergence The shape of convergence concerns 3 Journa l of Mathematics and Music 5, no. 3 (2011). 4 Instantiation refers to the creation of an instance of a pre defined class or object. Here, the term signifies the creation of an instance of the ConvergentArray class.

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178 the adj u st ability of the increment or step value added to or subtracted from the value at a given index (associated value) To refer back to our dice game analogy, we should consider step 1 in greater detail In step 1 we calculated a step value of 0. 1 in the following way: we divided 1 (which is the smallest difference between any two values in the set of all associated value s) by some integer greater than or equal to 1, for which we arbitrarily chose 10. In fact, 10 served as an arbitrary value for th e number of steps to reach the target value W e may therefore, formalize our calculation in step 1 by providing the following generalized equation for the step value ( ) : where is a constant representing the total number of steps to r each a target value that is 1 from the initial associated value of a given index In step 6 of our dice game analogy, where we update the associated value of the selected index in the direction of the target value, does not change ; only its sign changes (as a matter of addition or subtraction) relative to the target value We may, therefore, consider the above equation as a parameter of the growth function that specifies how all associated values are to be updated. The growth function described by our d ice game analogy can be written in the following way: where is the initial associated value of index is a constant representing the target value, and is the number of times index has been selected where Essentially, we multiply the by the number of times the given index has been selected ( ). This product (either positive or negative depending on whether is

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179 greater than or less than ) is added to the value at i ndex ( ). The growth function may be simplified thusly: We should notice here how the constant does not ensure that the target value is reached in number of steps for all associated values ( ). In fact, is only t he actual number of steps when = 1, 1. If = 5 and = 3, then index would need to be selected 20 times for to reach if we maintain that = 10. To exert more control over the rate of convergence for the set of all assoc iated values, we must change the growth function such that for all converge to in number of steps. In the SuperCollider implementation, the gr owth function is changed accordingly ; varies proportionally with the difference between and such that the number of times that must be selected ( ) for any associated value ( ) to reach the target value ( ) equals for all In other words, any given index will have converged once equals Accordingly, while neces sarily greater than 0, is now bound on the upper end by This new growth func tion, the one that I have implemented in SuperCollider looks like this : where is any integer, is any rational number, and is any int eger between 0 and inclusive. This function ensures that establishes a universal rate of convergence which we may define at the outset T he shap e of convergence is described by the curvature of the growth funct ion ; approaches at a rate that is inflected by an exponential factor ( ) A linear path towards convergence is defined by a power of 1

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180 ( ) while some power greater than 1 defines an exponential path and a power that is a fraction of 1 defines a logarithmic path See Figures 6 3, 6 4, and 6 5 for graphs depicting outcome values generated using Conv ergentArray with an exponential factor ( ) of 1, 2, and 0.5, respectively. An array of integer values 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 was used in order to provide a basis for growth fu nction comparison with the preceding graphical representations of the dice game analogy. Al l graphs converge to the value 5. This value was set artificially in order to further facilitate comparison. Additional Modifications: It is also important to note t hat the ConvergentArray algorithm operates upon sets of rational numbers. Furthermore, decimals may be rounded upon output from the growth function according to a user specified quantization level that is defined upon instantiation. In this way, computatio n proceeds with full decimal precision while allowing the user to determine if the resultant values need to be more or less exact. All of the features implemented in the CovergentArray SuperCollider class also function in reverse, as a means to diverge the given value set. By simply counting backwards ( from to 0 ) the number of times a particular index is selected ( ), a converged value set can be shown to diverge by using the same growth function. Accordingly, an infinite number of iterations (of converging and then diverging) may ensue, and an infinite number of computational modifications may be brought to bear on the parameters governing such behavior. Figure 6 6 provides a graph of a divergent t rajectory and may be considered an inversion of the convergent trajectory shown in Figure 6 3.

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181 Based on the behavior of the algorithm and the modifications discussed here, our ability to control a variety of parameters raise many q uestions about value sets It is through our consideration of how the growth function changes values applied to sound synthesis that we encounter a multidimensional territory of possible change. Object 6 1. ConvergentArray SuperCollider class as a text file (.txt file 3KB). Object 6 2. SFRand SuperCollider class as a text file (.txt file 3KB). Using ConvergentArray to control sound synthesis parameters Once implemented, ConvergentArray is primed to modulate the parameters of sound synthesis in a way that is neither completely predictable, nor wholly chaotic. The way that I have sought to implement such functionality is to instantiate a new array for each defined parameter governing sound synthesis. Take for example the generation of a simple sine tone. Immediately we may want to control the sine its amplitude. My response to this situation is to instantiate two Co nvergentArrays; one governs the frequency of the sine tone, the other the amplitude. Each parameter is thereby left to converge and diverge according to its own set of values, number of steps, and growth function exponent Furthermore, each ConvergentArray may be updated with a new set of values independently (This is usually best to do at a point of full convergence or full divergence.) If we imagine a sample based instrument or instruments with dozens of parameters, with each parameter being modulated according to a ConvergentArray, the set of possible appearances of the resultant sound is vast. However, if all the ConvergentArrays are o perating entirely independently, chaos remains supreme. If only

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182 other parameters vary indeterminately, the notion of consistency is itself perceptually indiscernible Again, our goal is not merely to present chaotic change, but rather, to modulate the semblance of all sound being generated. So I have found it most effective to ensure that all parameters (or at least a high percentage of them) have converged before allowing th em to diverge, and similarly, that they all should diverge before allowing them to converge. We can think of this as a gate in the algorithmically generative system tha t blocks all ConvergentArrays f r o m proceeding (reversing course) until all parameters ha ve fully realized their tasked trajectory. This ensures against disruptions in the gestalt appearance of sound as a result of ConvergentArrays falling drastically out of phase with each other. As a result of convergent/divergent processes, aural appearanc es may shift in seemin gly infini te ways and not just as a matter of indeterminate selection, but rather, as the seemingly miraculous emergence and disappearance of some telos As outcomes veer toward and then away from consistency (i.e. yields fo r all ), we are left with nothing but a sense of directionality that is itself wholly unpredictable and that forever seems to be lagging behind what the sounds (numerical values) are at any given moment. Convergence in Action Since 2009 I have implemented the ConvergentArray algorithm (as well as other convergent processes) in a number of works. However, it is only recently that I have realized how the placement of such works drastically affects what that work is. I have presen ted several musical experiments that use co nvergence of set as a principle governing concept in concert hal l settings. However, when this propositional music is presented in obvious relation to Music it leads to nothing but misunderstanding. I have

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183 taken great pain to write out detailed program notes that mathematically describ e what is going on in my pieces or (at the very least) how different sound synthesis parameters are correlated. But such efforts (my attempts to condition the context of presentation and reception with my music. However, when I thought to begin conditioning my work based on the context of its presentation (that is, addressing it ontologically rather th an epistemologically), any lack of understanding regarding sound and how it was being generated no longer posed a threat. Instead, it became an opportunity to radically re address contingent status as being in relation to Music at all. On September 13th, 2013, I opened a gallery exhibition featuring four new works several other works by two other faculty artists, was titled Each of my four works consisted of visual and aural elements. Yet it was precisely the division between the visual and the aural in each work that functioned as leverage against a ny adherence to its ontological completeness. I will now bri efly describe two of these works (which feature the use of ConvergentArrays) and provide some insight regarding viewer/listener reactions to each. In b oth of these works ConvergentArrays were used to change the appearance of sound by vacillating between co nsistency and chaos. Because the position of each work in the gallery was an important consideration, Appendix B provides documents depicting the floor plan of the Hand Art Center and the positioning of each work. In the discussion of each work, I desc ribe how a visitor

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184 encounters the work in the context of the gallery. Please refer to Objects 6 3 and 6 4 for the SuperCollider code used to generate the audio for Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist and Given the Materials at Hand respectively. Object 6 3. Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist zipped archive containing six text files (.zip file 23KB) Object 6 4. Given the Materials at Hand zipped archive containing fou r text files (.zip file 20 KB). Piece Number O ne: Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist Experiential description: As visitors to the Hand Art Center (HAC) enter the exhibition space and proceed past the reception area one of the first things they see is an acoustic guitar resting on a stand atop a white pedestal. Above the guitar are two microphones in a stereo configuration with cables attached running down the guitar stand and disappearing behind the pedestal. Rather than facing the front door of the gall ery, the guitar is positioned against the right wall of a long entrance corridor and faces the opposing wall (to the visito Visitors must move around the guitar, approaching the work from its right side, in order to stand in front of the sound hole This movement on the part of the visitor often generates a slight bit of sound the sound of footsteps and perhaps the shuffling of clothing The sound produced by the visitor is picked up by the microphones and serves as input to a real time generative sound system As visitors move around the guitar to face it two things occur (not necessarily in the following order) which make the visitor acutely aware that the guitar is not just a guitar. First, the visitor may realize that the guitar may produce sound in response to the sound the visitor makes by physically moving around the object, approaching it, or even talking/vocalizing within some proximity to it. The input gain of th e microphone source is

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185 turned up rather high, so the object is sensitive to even small changes in sound intensity. The sound that the guitar produces resembles (is a semblance of) the timbre of a guitar. However the sound the visitor hears is also more com plex; it seems to stretch the bounds of its causal source, an acoustic guitar by appearing at times more electronic or synthetic Also, the more visitors engage with the guitar by making incidental or even non incidental sound within its vicinity the mo re the guitar responds by producing its own sound Y et response changes over time. Long, pure tones with consistent pitch may ring for some time and eventually fade out into silence. The guitar may even seem non responsive, but then (for apparently no reason whatsoever) the guitar will react more chaotically. Furthermore for those who listen, the o change as correlated with a change in the ab ruptness of its articulation. The guit ar is sometim es consistent in its pitch and harmonicity of articulation while at other times, the sound produced is radically divergent. It is also important to note that t he visitor will most likely notice that the sound generated by the guitar is not co ming out of independent speakers placed relative to the guitar. The sound emanates from the guitar itself, apparently directly from its resonant body. 5 Second, the visitor will notice a flat computer monitor on a stand placed to the left side of the guitar The guitar is not just a guitar, nor is it a guitar that is just vocalizing in response to some input audio signal; it is a guitar that writes what appears to be musical n otation in real time on the computer monitor The monitor presents a grand staff on 5 The guitar does, in fact, serve as the resonating body for all electroacoustic sounds being generated. This is accomplished by using two tactile transducers (HiWave HIAX25C10 8/HS 8 ohm exciter) mounted to the back of the soundboard. Each transducer is po wered by a 7 watt mono amplifier.

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186 which colored note heads (without specified duration) appear in correspondence with the sound s being generat ed by the guitar (see Figure 6 7 ). Functional description: constituted art object is thus undermi ned by its own relation to the context of presentation and modalities of visitor access. The gui tar is not completely anything i t is not a physical art object, nor a piece of music in and of itself. I t is not solely an electroacoustic interactive toy nor is it a device for musical transcription, and so on. Any one functional determination regarding its being is revealed to be unavoidably inco mplete. The work is titled and a (purposefully vague) instruction appears on the gallery pedestal being in relation to Art given its gallery setting, but the work undermines that very same necessity, by presenting an ontologically fractured nono for our visual trument to perform upon; it is, in reality, incomplete. Assessment of visitor reaction: At the exhibition opening, visitors appeared to be most drawn to the guitar out of the four works I presented, though visitors seemed reticent to fully engage with it in a tactile way. Visitors would often reach out to touch the strings, arbitrarily strumming or plucking them, but not a single person picked up the guitar off of its stand. It was not fully an instrument to be played like an instrument of Music (which it nevertheless clearly was on some level ) I also noticed that predominately younger (undergraduate aged) students were most intrigued by it, while older, more senior profession als associated with the University steered clear of it. I have had several people mention to me since the opening that they found the guitar piece

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187 See Figures 6 8 and 6 9 for photographs of the work. Piece Number T wo: Given the Materials at Hand Experiential description: As a visitor walks further into the gallery, she passes between two entries into other gallery spaces and comes to the end of a hallway with a recessed cl osed doorway to the right and an open traffic area to the left. Six panels are hanging on the opposing wall at the end of the hallway, such that the hallway appears to frame the m. The panels are large rectangles hanging nearly level and extend from the wall about four or five inches. They are about two feet by five feet and covered with a beige lightweight, almost sheer fabric. Each of the panels has text written on it covering up t he majority of its surface. The text is black and appears to be hand written upon closer inspection, it looks painted. As t he visitor steps into the space in front of the panels to read them, she notices the words do not follow any syntactic rules. Some wo rds make sense in relation to each other, but most words do not. As she begi ns to consider the text across the panels she may realize many words appear to repeat and some of them are specific or suggest literary interpretation attached to particular words si nce they appear following the same word across the panels. While in the open space and in front of the panels, a visitor might begin to hear sounds of high pitched percussive material, some string instruments, and even piano. The sounds might be rather loud, or perhaps soft. They might also be noisy and chaotic, but if the visitor waits in the spac e for several minutes, they may shift towards a slower

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188 regularity. If the visitor moves into anot her room to consider other work and then comes back, then the sounds might be wholly different, perhaps fast regular repetitions of only a particular piano chord. If the visitor waits again, then the sound s may shift toward slow muted guitar glissandi between nine and ten particular pitches, and then drift off from there. If a visitor attends to localizing t he sound she will realize it is coming from behind her while she is facing the panels. As the visit or approaches the work, the sour ce of sound is not obvious since the speakers producing the sound are tucked just around the corner of each side of the hallway from which she approaches ; visually, the Once the visitor step s into the space at the end of the hallway, she may identify the presence of sound and turn around (to face back down the hallway) Once she turns around, s he will see two speakers one on either side of the wall that frames the hallway space. Each speaker is placed on gallery pedestals and positioned so the sound is focused towards the center of the space between the panels and the speakers. A visitor might alternately approach the work from the left side of the panels, sin ce there is an open traffic space in that direction In this scenario, a visitor walks into the space between the speakers and the panels and the panels on the left) and has two options: turn left and read the panels, or co ntinue walking through the hallway, turn right, and notice the speakers. If this visitor notices the speakers, she might then search for the appearance of sound; she might think to listen. Function al d escription : The panels do not just provide a rectangular surface for the text, they are acoustically absorptive panels, made from 4 inch thick, 8 pound mineral wool. Thus, sound reflections are supressed as the visitor considers the panels.

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189 The visitor must choose to turn around to hear more precisely the sonic component of the work, because the sound itself does not appear to emanate from the panels; it is explicitly distinct. The visitor who returns to a consideration of the text appearing on the panels may then be gi n to seek to identify pattern governing the repetition of words across the panels. Moving from left to right across the panels, the same words appear in different sequences but syntax does not seem to be more or less preserved in considerati on of one panel versus another in the first five panels. In panel six (the last on the right) all of the same words appear, but in an orde r that is syntactically correc t ( i.e readable ) In Appendix C the text is provided for each panel as well as a short description of how the text was generated Regarding the whole work, the visitor is ultimately presented with three elements, each of which interferes with the other two. First, the sound is only coming from behind the visitor who visually no tices and attends to the panels. Second, the text appears meaningless (devoid of content), but in consideration of its repetitious presentation/variation across the six panels, suggests pattern though it is a pattern that is not obvious Third, t he panels themselves might initiall y appear as though they are traditional art objects, perhaps with a canvas surface, while closer inspection reveals that they are not; being made of acoustically absorptive material covered in a thin, breathable fabric the panels appear to have been inten ded to oppose the sound The work as a whole does not seem to be entirely knowable Rather, as a result of the visitors encounter their own inability to address it as being whole; the work is perceive d as nothing but a series of

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190 irreducible gaps between its components know what the work means, its presupposed singular meaning, comes inability to perceive what it actually is The absence of sin gular meaning is thus not a mark of our finitude, but of the ontological incompleteness concerning the work being any consistent thing Assessment of visitor reaction: Visitors seemed to react to the piece in a number of ways. One common reaction was for visitors to find difficulty identify ing or asso ciating the sound materials as part of the piece at all; they were simply not noticed. Sound may have gone un noticed by any particular visitor for two reasons. First, the generative sound processes may have (in reality) converged toward silence ( an amplitude of zero) S econd, the visitor may have simply failed to consider sound as being a functional component o f the wor k. In the first case the apparent absence of sound being part of the work is a failur e to hear, while in the second the absence of sound reflects a failure to listen (again, the difference between the eye and the gaze). Oft en visitors approached the text and attempt ed to read it by starti ng from the furthest left panel slowly working the ir way down and across. In most cases, the visitor gave up attempting to parse the text between panels two and three (counting from the left). At this point, the visitor either walked away or stepped back in an attempt to assess the panels in their entirety. To position herself to be able to see all the panels in f the generative sound material ( while still facing away from the speakers ) Visitors often remained fixated on the text, trying to draw connections between word repetitions

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191 across the panels, and only turned around to face the speakers at the point when they began to leave the work by proceeding back down the hallway verning the text but many tried. N or were visitors upon their failure to find the pattern supplied with any confirmation of its existence Some people identified the consistency and regularity of the sound at times, but also made sure to note that it ch anged and was at times chaotic. Many people sixth panel, logical) appearance. A few people considered the sounds a reflection of the inscrutable pattern governing the text. See Figures 6 10 and 6 11 for pictures of the work in the Hand Art Center gallery. Final Thoughts According to the priorities I have laid out across the entirety of this text, the exhibition was (for me) a success. My own compositional priorities rely on a capacity for my work to be entirely overlooked, to necessarily be misunderstood in its being a complete work at all, and yet to nevertheless retain the possibility to appear in relation to Music for no reason at all. It is the mere possibility of music that should be considered in light of all the reality we find ourselves in. The place in which we listen is always changing. The sounds that we hear are always changing. No one acoustic signal or sonic appearance is impervious to such contingency the contingency of the place and our taking of it The capacity to listen (and no t just hear) is miraculous in and of itself (is this not precisely what Cage taught us?). Yet, we should ask, with what necessity do we listen? In what places do we listen? Again, we may only find our own contingent capacity to listen differently.

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192 Music should be shown to arise despite the concert h all, not because of it. Such a speculative prerogative in no way undermines the intentional musical explorations of others, but rather, ul timately seeks to confront the hard problem in its musical guise : what forces us to pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps, to become a listener by retroactively positing the presuppositions of listening? To investigate this question and to mar k such an investigation through material intervention is to propose a speculative music. This is our task. Figure 6 1. Convergent dice game: associated value outcomes for 250 dice rolls.

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193 Figure 6 2. Divergent dice game: associated value outcomes for 250 die rolls.

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194 Figure 6 3. ConvergentArray: values [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] converging across 100 iterations ( = 10, = 1, quantization level: 0.1).

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195 Figure 6 4 ConvergentArray: values [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] converging across 100 iterations ( = 10, = 2, quantization level: 0.1).

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196 Figure 6 5 ConvergentArray: values [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] converging across 100 iterations ( = 10, = 0.5, quantization level: 0.1).

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197 Figure 6 6 ConvergentArray: values [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] diverging across 1 00 iterations ( = 10, = 0.5, quantization level: 0.1). Figure 6 7. Screenshot of rea l time notation generated by Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist.

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198 Figure 6 8 Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist viewed from front right (Photo c ourtesy of author, Sean Peuquet )

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199 Figure 6 9 Mildly Sympathetic Conversationalist viewed from front left (Photo courtesy of author, Sean Peuquet)

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200 Figure 6 10 Given the Materials at Hand viewed from corridor entrance (Photo courtesy of author, Sean Peuquet)

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201 Figure 6 11 Given the Materials at Hand viewed from directly in front. (Photo courtesy of author, Sean Peuquet)

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2 06

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207 APPENDIX B HAND ART CENTER FLOOR PLANS Figure B 1. Hand Art Center: plan view of gallery wall space depicting placement of works ( Portion of the figure provided by Dr. Susanne Eules)

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208 Figure B 2. Hand Art Center: architectural plan view depicting placement of works ( Portion of the f igure provided by Dr. Nathan Wolek)

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209 APPENDIX C TEXT COMPONENT OF GIVEN THE MATERIALS AT HAND I algorithmically generated the text that appears on the acoustic panels that are a component of Given the Materials at Hand I permuted t he sequence in which words appear in an initial passage of text to generate five additional passages. The initial passage was both input to an algorithmic function and ultimate output However we wish to look at it, the initial passage of text is written on the sixth panel in the gallery exhibition (counting from the left). The initial passage is as follows : To begin to describe the facticity of a syntax, the norm that marks possibility as its only content, is to speak of the nothingness that carves out those empty vistas in the mountains, vistas that haunt sub city bunkers when hue streams of subway cars slow to a flicker. Each gap pixelates the most muted microexpressions of other platform faces bootstrapped into vastness somewhere, each being nowhere but that contingent constell ation toward which I converge. All of these words appear on each of the other fiv e panels but appear in a different sequence on each one I will now describe how the words were re sequenced First, the initial seventy two word sequence was split into twelve sequences (sets) of six words each Each of the twelve sets was assigned to a particular alphabetical character (a, b, which we may use to refer to a given set We may, therefore refer to the original sequence of seventy two words symbolically as the set of six word sets described by: [a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h i, j, k, l]. Ne xt each six word sequence was permuted according to what I call the sestina algorithm (historically referred to as the retrogradatio cruciate procedure the reverse ) A sestina is a poetic form that stipulates a particular word repetition pattern for end words, or the last word for any given line (teleuton) across six six line stanzas (plus

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210 a short three line tercet called an envo y ) In a sestina, there are only six unique words that ever appear as end words ( ) ; the line on which each end word appear s ( ) is permuted for successive stanza s (beyond the first) in a precise way. If we attach a number to each of the six end words according to the order in which each appear s in the first stanza (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) we can easily visualize the patter n that permutes end word sequences for each stanza (see Table C 1 ) Table C 1. Sestina form, shown as numbered end word sequences for each stanza Stanza Sequence of End Words I 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 II 6, 1, 5, 2, 4, 3 III 3, 6, 4, 1, 2, 5 IV 5, 3, 2, 6, 1, 4 V 4, 5, 1, 3, 6, 2 VI 2, 4, 6, 5, 3, 1 We can describe the pattern shown in Table C 1 the pattern that generates the sequence of end words for each successive stanza beyond stanza I in a general way. To generate the sequence of end words for any given stanza, we first split the previous set of six end words ([1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]) in half to generat e two sets of three end words ([1, 2, 3] and [4, 5, 6]) Next we reverse the end word order for the second set of three end word s ( [ 4 5 6 ] becomes [ 6, 5, 4 ] ) Finally, w e then interlace the two sets of three end words starting with the first word in the second reverse ordered set giving us [ 6 1, 5 2, 4 3 ] where the bold numbers represent end words from the second reverse ordered set Giv en an initial set of six end words, this repetition pattern has a cycle of

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211 six stanzas, after which, the pattern repeats If we were to continue, stanza seven would yield the following sequence: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 We may define the permutation using mathema tical notation in the following way: Here, refers to the number of elements in the initial set, which for a sestina always equals six. (However, the permutation may be applied to sets with any number of elements.) And the other variable, For Given the Mate rials at Hand each of the twelve six word sequences (a, b, was permuted according to the sestina algorithm across each of the six panels (once for each panel such that the panels were treated as equivalent to stanzas ) Accordingly, every word of the original text was treated like an end word in a sestina. As a result, each of the twelve six word sets appears once on each of the six acoustic panels following a different permutation each time While the panels may be loosely considered as stanzas, the o rder of panels (their placement on the gallery wall) differs from a sestina. T he sestina repetition pattern was shifted by one panel so that the words appear in sy ntactic order ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ) on panel six ( instead o f panel/stanza one) Finally another process or pattern overlapped with my implementation of the sestina algorithm. For each given panel, t he twelve six word sequences ( each being independently permuted according to the sestina algorithm) were concatenated to generate a sequ ence of all seventy two words. The new seventy two word sequence was then split into three equal sets of twenty four words each We may refer to these

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212 twenty four word sets using capital alphabetic characters A, B, and C The three sets of twenty four word s were then interlaced according to a pre determined offset value that changed given the current panel The sequence of offsets for the set of panels [ I, II, III, IV, V, VI ] was [ 1 2, 6, 8, 12, 24] respectively or, six different factors of the number 24 Thus, p anel one has an offset of one word. This means that on the first panel, word 6 of the first six word set ( word 6 from and the first word appearing in set A ) appears as the first word on the panel The second word on the first panel is the first word of B (word 6 from subset followed by the first word of C (word 6 from subset i ) The fourth word on panel one was then take n from the next (second) word in A (word 1 from subset a) and so on For each panel, t his patt ern continued unt il all seventy two words were used. On panel II the offset value equals 2 so words 3 and 6 from (the first two words of A ) are first to appear, followed by words 3 and 6 of words of B ) and so on. For panel VI the offset value was 24 S ince the sestina algorithm yielded the original sequence of words for each of th th ) the initial passage was (re) generated; all twenty four words of A appeared in order, followed by all twenty four words of B and then C. The text for each panel is provided below. Each word appears following the sequence depicted on the panels Also a dditional information is provided (in the parentheses appearing to the right of each word) about each position relative to the initial passage whereby alphabetic indicate which of the twelve six word subsets the word is a member of and numbers 1 through 6 indicate the ordinal placement in the given su bset ( according to the initial passage) :

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213 Panel I : facticity(6a) vistas(6e) microexpressions(6i) To(1a) that(1e) gap(1i) the(5a) empty(5e) muted(5i) begin(2a) carves(2e) pixelates(2i) describe(4a) those(4e) most(4i) to(3a) out(3e) the(3i) that(6b) haunt(6f) vastness(6j) of(1 b) in(1f) of(1j) norm(5b) that(5f) into(5j) a(2b) the(2f) other platform(2j) the(4b) vistas(4f) bootstrapped(4j) syntax,(3b) mountains,(3f) faces(3j) content,(6c) subway(6g) that(6k) marks(1c) sub city(1g) somewhere,(1k) only(5c) of(5g) but(5k) possibility (2c) bunkers(2g) each(2k) its(4c) hue streams(4g) nowhere(4k) as(3c) when(3g) being(3k) nothingness(6d) Each(6h) converge.(6l) is(1d) cars(1h) contingent(1l) the(5d) flicker.(5h) I(5l) to(2d) slow(2h) constellation(2l) of(4d) a(4h) which(4l) speak(3d) to(3 h) toward(3l) Panel II : to(3a) facticity(6a) out(3e) vistas(6e) the(3i) microexpressions(6i) describe(4a) To(1a) those(4e) that(1e) most(4i) gap(1i) begin(2a) the(5a) carves(2e) empty(5e) pixelates(2i) muted(5i) syntax,(3b) that(6b) mountains,(3f) haunt( 6f) faces(3j) vastness(6j) the(4b) of(1b) vistas(4f) in(1f) bootstrapped(4j) of(1j) a(2b) norm(5b) the(2f) that(5f) other platform(2j) into(5j) as(3c) content,(6c) when(3g) subway(6g) being(3k) that(6k) its(4c) marks(1c) hue streams(4g) sub city(1g) nowher e(4k) somewhere,(1k) possibility(2c) only(5c) bunkers(2g) of(5g) each(2k) but(5k) speak(3d) nothingness(6d) to(3h) Each(6h) toward(3l) converge.(6l) of(4d) is(1d) a(4h) cars(1h) which(4l) contingent(1l) to(2d) the(5d) slow(2h) flicker.(5h) constellation(2l ) I(5l) Panel III : the(5a) to(3a) begin(2a) facticity(6a) To(1a) describe(4a) empty(5e) out(3e) carves(2e) vistas(6e) that(1e) those(4e) muted(5i) the(3i) pixelates(2i) microexpressions(6i) gap(1i) most(4i) norm(5b) syntax,(3b) a(2b) that(6b) of(1b) the( 4b) that(5f) mountains,(3f) the(2f) haunt(6f) in(1f) vistas(4f) into(5j) faces(3j) other platform(2j) vastness(6j) of(1j) bootstrapped(4j) only(5c) as(3c) possibility(2c) content,(6c) marks(1c) its(4c) of(5g) when(3g) bunkers(2g) subway(6g) sub city(1g) hu e streams(4g) but(5k) being(3k) each(2k) that(6k) somewhere,(1k) nowhere(4k) the(5d) speak(3d) to(2d) nothingness(6d) is(1d) of(4d) flicker.(5h) to(3h) slow(2h) Each(6h) cars(1h) a(4h) I(5l) toward(3l) constellation(2l) converge.(6l) contingent(1l) which(4 l) Panel IV : describe(4a) the(5a) To(1a) to(3a) facticity(6a) begin(2a) the(4b) norm(5b) those(4e) empty(5e) that(1e) out(3e) vistas(6e) carves(2e) vistas(4f) that(5f) most(4i) muted(5i) gap(1i) the(3i) microexpressions(6i) pixelates(2i) bootstrapped(4j) into(5j) of(1b) syntax,(3b) that(6b) a(2b) its(4c) only(5c) marks(1c) as(3c) in(1f) mountains,(3f) haunt(6f) the(2f) hue streams(4g) of(5g) sub city(1g) when(3g) of(1j) faces(3j) vastness(6j) other platform(2j) nowhere(4k) but(5k) somewhere,(1k) being(3k) content,(6c) possibility(2c) of(4d) the(5d) is(1d) speak(3d) nothingness(6d) to(2d) subway(6g) bunkers(2g) a(4h) flicker.(5h) cars(1h) to(3h) Each(6h) slow(2h) that(6k) each(2k) which(4l) I(5l) contingent(1l) toward(3l) converge.(6l) constellation(2l)

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214 P anel V : begin(2a) describe(4a) facticity(6a) the(5a) to(3a) To(1a) a(2b) the(4b) that(6b) norm(5b) syntax,(3b) of(1b) carves(2e) those(4e) vistas(6e) empty(5e) out(3e) that(1e) the(2f) vistas(4f) haunt(6f) that(5f) mountains,(3f) in(1f) pixelates(2i) most( 4i) microexpressions(6i) muted(5i) the(3i) gap(1i) other platform(2j) bootstrapped(4j) vastness(6j) into(5j) faces(3j) of(1j) possibility(2c) its(4c) content,(6c) only(5c) as(3c) marks(1c) to(2d) of(4d) nothingness(6d) the(5d) speak(3d) is(1d) bunkers(2g) hue streams(4g) subway(6g) of(5g) when(3g) sub city(1g) slow(2h) a(4h) Each(6h) flicker.(5h) to(3h) cars(1h) each(2k) nowhere(4k) that(6k) but(5k) being(3k) somewhere,(1k) constellation(2l) which(4l) converge.(6l) I(5l) toward(3l) contingent(1l) Panel VI : To(1a) begin(2a) to(3a) describe(4a) the(5a) facticity(6a) of(1b) a(2b) syntax,(3b) the(4b) norm(5b) that(6b) marks(1c) possibility(2c) as(3c) its(4c) only(5c) content,(6c) is(1d) to(2d) speak(3d) of(4d) the(5d) nothingness(6d) that(1e) carves(2e) out(3e ) those(4e) empty(5e) vistas(6e) in(1f) the(2f) mountains,(3f) vistas(4f) that(5f) haunt(6f) sub city(1g) bunkers(2g) when(3g) hue streams(4g) of(5g) subway(6g) cars(1h) slow(2h) to(3h) a(4h) flicker.(5h) Each(6h) gap(1i) pixelates(2i) the(3i) most(4i) mut ed(5i) microexpressions(6i) of(1j) other platform(2j) faces(3j) bootstrapped(4j) into(5j) vastness(6j) somewhere,(1k) each(2k) being(3k) nowhere(4k) but(5k) that(6k) contingent(1l) constellation(2l) toward(3l) which(4l) I(5l) converge.(6l)

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215 LIST OF REFERENCES Poetry (June 1992), 2 3. The Cambridge Companion to Sibelius, edited by Daniel M. Grimley, 196 216 Cambridge Companions to Music. C ambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Attali, Jacques. Noise: The Political Economy of Music Translated by Brian Massumi Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. Badiou, Alain. Handbook of Inaesthetics Translated by Alberto Toscano. Stanf ord: Stanford University Press, 2005. Badiou, Alain Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II Translated by Alberto Toscano London: Continuum, 2009 Badiou, Alain. Theoretical Writings Edited and Translated by Ray Brassier and Alberto Toscano. London: Conti nuum, 2004. Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings E d ited by Mark Poster 166 184. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988. Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music 255. Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism edited by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman, 47 65. Melbourne:, 2011. Brn, Herbert. When Music Resists Meaning: The Major Writings of Herbert Brn. Edited by Arun Chandra. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004. Intelligent Life Autumn (2009). Accessed September 2, 2013. carr/last days polymath Cage, John and Daniel Charles. For the Birds: John Cage in Conversation with Daniel Charles Edited by Tom Gor a and John Cage. London: Marion Boyars, 1981. Clark, T.J. Farwell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

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216 Cultural Plurali Twentieth Century Music 4, no. 1 (2007): 3 45 de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life Translated by Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. Art and Design Installation Art, no. 30 (1993 ): 25 30. DeLio, Thomas. Circumscribing the Open Universe. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1984. Musical Meaning Possible?: Music as a Place and Space for Sociological Theory 4, no. 1 (1986): 84 94 DeNora British Clothing Retail S ector. The Sociological Review 48, no. 1 (2000) : 80 101. Gann, Kyle. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. American Music 26, no. 2 (Summer 2008): 140 155. Gann, Kyle ccessed Ap ril 21, 2009, composers_ talk_about.html Gumperz, John J. "Sociocultural Knowledge in Conversational Infer ence." In Linguistics and Anthropology Edited by M. Saville Troike. Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press, 1977. Role of Counterfactual Thinking in the Excess Choi ce and Reversibility Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48, no. 1 (2012): 28 36. The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism edited by Levi Bry ant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman, 114 129. Melbourne:, 2011. Hepokoski, James. Sibelius: Symphony No. 5. Cambridge Music Handbooks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. ity: Meillassoux, Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 7, no. 1 (2011): 128 141.

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220 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Sean Peuquet is a composer, installation artist and music hardware experimente r. He grew up in southeast Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia, and currently resides in Florida His compositions have be en played at the SEAMUS National Conference, Electronic Music Midwest Festival, New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, International Computer Music Conference Society of Composers, Inc. National Conference, Chosen Vale International Trumpet Seminar the Boston CyberArts Festival, and the Dartmouth Festival of New Musics, among other spots. Before coming to the University of Florida and earning his Ph.D. in Music C omposition he graduated from the Electro Acoustic Music program at Da rtmouth College. At Dartmouth, he wrote his thesis on the to pic of Discoverable Composition He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia, where he majored in Music, P sychology, with a mino r in A stronomy. T he combination of these disciplines led him to approach experimental composition as a unifying field of study. Throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to study composition and computer music with Jon Appleton, Newton Armstrong, Matthew Burtner, Charles Dodge, Paul Koonc e, Larry Polansky, Paul Richards, Marina Rosenfeld, James Paul Sain, Judith Shatin, and Ge Wang. He currently holds the position of V isiting A ssistant P rofessor of Digital Art at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida