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Aesthetics

MEDIATIONS




(photo:dick iacovello)

All of our musical experiences (and almost all of our human exchanges) are mediated to some degree. Some of this is inevitable: language mediates, culture mediates, the tools with which we communicate mediate between us. Insofar as mediation is inevitable, it is empowering and enabling. Extended beyond its usefulness, it generates alienation. Mediation can be either a doorway or a (closed) door. The social culture of capitalism implicitly mediates everything. The ethos of consumerism creates its profits from successive layers of mediation (resorting to –essentially absurd- concepts like "intellectual property" which seek to materialize and define the abstract and indefinable for the purpose of facilitating trade - which largely functions on impedance). This has become so deeply engrained in us as habit that we rarely think to question it or challenge its influence on the ways we live our lives.

Those of us who find ourselves dissatisfied with the condition and direction of our world might benefit from examining the instances of mediation that we’ve been conditioned to take for granted or accept as common practice. On a case-by-case basis we will likely find many of them to be needless impediments to what we actually wish to be doing.

The Edge of the Stage.

The separation between performers and audience is an instance of mediation. It may or may not serve an artistic purpose, but the incentive for it as a template of how we make music derives not from art but from the commercial neccessity of dividing those who pay from those who are paid (the same template applies to the division between instructors and students, "pastors" and "flocks" , etc., although the medium of commerce may not take monetary form). Similarly, the division of those present into ‘musicians’ and ‘non-musicians’ is a merchandizing concept that has (d)evolved into accepted (unquestioned) social practice. In societies not permeated by the structures of capitalism and fascism music was (is?) an expression of community in which all were welcome to participate to whatever degree (including non-participation) they wanted. This includes, subject to local variations, drum circles, gamelans, choirs, etc. of villages, tribes, and cults.

This is where music made by groups came from. The impedance of imposed mediations has driven it nearly to extinction (few of us have ever had a truly communal musical experience and fewer still but rarely). In the ecology of our ethos as humans it is an endangered species of experience and we should ask ourselves if there is any benefit to its extermination.

The point is not to imitate existing, historical, or even imaginary tribalisms but to generate and express tribalism / community as we experience it in the here and now (as ourselves complete with our baggage). We need not aspire to pre-conceived (mediated and defined) ideas of collectivism, but to discover how our particular collectivism construes itself.

The roles we assume in our interactions are other specie of mediations which tend to perpetuate themselves through practice and come to be accepted as inevitable mostly from the creative inertia with which we approach our modes of living / making music. The sonic specializations of our instruments and the techniques required to play them are both an outgrowth and a generator of the mediations between makers and receivers of music (in the technocracy-based musics of the westworld – "classical", "jazz", and "electronica" – these impedances have become so pronounced as to be completely alienating).

With the switching of instruments everybody impacts the sound and the direction the music takes. With the non-identification of individuals with instruments the tendency to assume roles is less pronounced. The music is guided by ears and situations rather than by the technocratic histories of the performers – even though such histories are not excluded or discouraged.

The accessibility of a variety of instruments encourages participants to effect the music sonically through their choices of timbres and ergonomics rather than implementing specific strategies related to their specific instruments, to assume roles temporarily as their need is perceived (and to abandon them), and to approach the music wholistically from a variety of functions and viewpoints.

The non-specificity (in traditional terms) of what the instruments do and the non-complexity (simple physics) of their sounds encourages the participants to accept the sounds as they are made. Harmonies (of form, of content) are discovered rather than implemented (a metaphor for multicultural acceptance), achieved through consensus.

The blendings of the sounds are not mediated (through processors), the edges are not rounded off, because the kinds of blending achieved through the mediation of processing tell us less about ourselves than the kind achieved without it.

The challenge of producing music without the mediating templates of pre-conception, hierarchic direction, homogenizing processes, etc. is one of re-acquiring (ceasing to repress) our most innate human skills and methodologies.


The tendency of Hi Tech, & the tendency of Late Capitalism, both impel the arts farther & farther into extreme forms of mediation. Both widen the gulf between the production and consumption of art, with a corresponding increase in "alienation".
-Hakim Bey Immediatism

 

 

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