Bill Dietz and Gavin Steingo

When Does Structure Become Obscene?

Music may, undoubtedly, awaken feelings of great joy or intense sorrow; but might not the same or a still greater effect be produced by the news that we have won the first prize in the lottery, or by the dangerous illness of a friend? So long as we refuse to include lottery tickets among the symphonies, or medical bulletins among the overtures, we must refrain from treating the emotions as an aesthetic monopoly of music in general or a certain piece of music in particular. Everything depends upon the specific modus operandi by means of which music evokes such feelings.
Eduard Hanslick[1]

I think the oddest response I ever got to my music was […] in Vienna after one of these “Music for Sound Joined Rooms” works. Someone said that they really questioned whether it was such a good thing to have music like this because maybe you wouldn’t need anything else! If you could just live in this experience. And maybe that wasn’t so good socially.
Maryanne Amacher[2]

When Jean-François Lyotard draws a line through nineteenth and twentieth-century musics to state that, “[i]t is not the liberation of sound which seems to me to be [at] stake in Tonkunst, but […] obedience, or rather respect for obedience,”[3] we discern an authentically radicalizing recasting of a particular doctrine of nineteenth-century musical aesthetics at the expense of certain historical elisions. We can only concur with his conclusion, that, “[i]t is at this price, the price of this ascesis, that the Tonkunst can make the walls of Jericho fall, the walls of our body, with their demands accredited by custom, and their haste towards early satisfactions,”[4] by way of certain elaborations that exceed the diminutive, corroborative task Lyotard offers to “those more expert than [him]self”[5] in music. Such corrective addenda to this account of twentieth-century compositional modernity would represent more than simple academic asides or gestures of demystification, and would instead offer means for underlining, specifying, and expanding upon the fragile moment of liberatory anamnesis Lyotard locates in “contemporary” musics. John Cage’s 4’33’’ is crucial here, not as the partisan term so rightly cast aside by Lyotard, but as an apogetic moment in a particular trajectory of Tonkunst after which the tacit complicity with a mode of contemplative listening that lingers in Lyotard’s essay is untenable. In reducing, or even sublating, “the formal” to its definitive instance in attention as such (the listening subject as pre-eminent formalism), Cage effects something like a desublimation of the “contemplative” as it functions in the historical discourses of Tonkunst and their echoes in the remnants of twentieth-century musical avant-gardes. Cage’s post–4’33’’ works through approximately 1968 announce composition not only as the composition of composition (structure generating algorithms mapable onto any actions whatsoever), but as the nascent composition of subjectivity. Cage’s Orientalist/gnostic/Californian rediscovery of “the purpose of music”[6] and his occasional forays into its indetermination are a fragile opening toward a reflexive moment in music’s long history as a technology of the self. Regardless, then, of the objectifying tendencies at work in his thinking and in so much of 4’33’’’s reception(that by lending one’s ear to sounds one perpetuates the musical), when Eduard Hanslick’s assertion that “[m]usic has […] no subject in the sense that the subject to be treated is something extraneous to the musical notes”[7] is aligned with the question of the listening subject in Cage, a substantive rupture is revealed, which remains largely undigested to this day. Which is to say, the equivalence or complicity revealed between protostructural, contemplative listening and the denigrated, embodied, and “pathological” form of listening Hanslick ascribes to women, “savages,” and the “vulgar”[8] has more than anecdotal significance. One might understand 4’33’’ in keeping with Sigmund Freud’s 1936 remark to Ludwig Binswanger: “I have always kept to the ground floor and basement of the building. You claim that if one changes viewpoints, one sees also an upper floor in which such distinguished guests as religion, art, and others reside. You are not the only one – most cultural specimens of the Homo natura think so. Therein, you are conservative and I am revolutionary. If I had another professional lifetime ahead of me, I would dare allocate even to those high born individuals a place in my lowly little house.”[9]
In a manner of speaking, our task is indeed to undertake just this – to see what becomes of those “distinguished guests” from the “upper floors” when they reallocated or relocated to Cage’s or Freud’s “lowly little house[s].” The importance of this dissensual displacement is all the more significant when we recognize that the problematic inheritance of nineteenth-century discourses on Tonkunst remains widespread: primarily observable in the decoupling or disarticulation of music and knowledge (with the nominal exception of scientistic cognitive discourses). Under the banner of what Félix Guattari calls the “despotism of the signifier,”[10] one might draw another line between Eduard Hanslick writing, “while sound in speech is but a sign, that is, a means for the purpose of expressing something which is quite distinct from its medium, sound in music is the end, that is, the ultimate and absolute object in view,”[11] the “shimmering of signifiers”[12] in Barthes’s signifiance, and all manner of less elegant but comparable (and far more prevalent) enunciations. The problem has long since been thinking of music and sound in binary relation to language and meaning, whether in Hanslick’s terms or all manner of Saussurian signifier/signified divisions since. Along such axes, the prevalence of music’s mystified promotions to extra-linguistic medium of transcendence par excellence is no wonder. Guattari points to this and beyond when he notes,
[…] that the linguists have been over-hasty in assimilating Hjelmslev’s distinction between expression and content with Saussure’s distinction between the signifier and what is signified. In fact, the separation between a-semiotically formed matter and semiotically formed substances, to the extent that it is established independently of the relationship between expression and content, opens the way to a study of semiotics independent of the signifying semiologies – that is to say, semiotics that are, precisely, not based on the bipolarity of the signifier and signified.[13]
A conception of a-signifying semiotics such as that which Guattari adapts from Louis Hjelmslev’s framework (in which both expression and content are constituted by matter, substance, and form) offers us a means to think and describe the functioning of nonlexical entities as properly historically and culturally situated substances. “Scandalous when considered in terms of Saussurean linguistics,”[14] listening to “the written language of reality” offers us a means to understand how “sound itself” is never the transcendent outside projected onto it, is always also a further functional component of inscriptive sociality.
In this distinction, we draw inspiration from a wider “underground current”[15] of materialist philosophy through which it is possible to understand sensory perception outside a purely representational framework. Consider, for example, Gilles Deleuze’s radicalization of British empiricism. Beginning with Hume’s epistemological argument that knowledge is based on sense impressions, Deleuze proposes a theory of subjective emergence irreducible to the linguisticality of experience.[16] Instead, the subject crystallizes in a quantitative field of raw intensities – ideas derived from impressions are not mediated by social conventions or language, but are rather distinguishable from impressions solely by virtue of their “lower intensity.”[17] According to Hume, the “idea of red, which we form in the dark, and that impression, which strikes our eyes in sunshine, differ only in degree, not in nature.”[18] This focus on intensities is only one of a wide range of alternative conceptions of sensory experience beyond a strictly linguistic paradigm that coalesce under the rubric of “materialism,” of which Guattari’s a-signifying semiotics would also be a part. Such materialist frameworks allow us to think music and sound outside the bounds of lexical signification without reverting to notions of the ineffable. 
Indeed, pursuing this strain further and from a more speculative perspective, a-semiotic signification may even permit the reorientation ontological concerns as well. Challenging the linguisticality of experience places us on a new threshold where the world is no longer considered a mere “correlate” of thought,[19] and where it is possible to radically destabilize entrenched categories such as human and non-human, nature and culture.[20] Such moves take place, not in some purely ontological realm outside of the political, but rather at the core of contemporary political thought and practice. This is why, though generally sympathetic to the impetuses of actor-network-theory and certain strains of speculative realism,[21] we ultimately see the need for critical listening praxes. In particular, we cannot accept Latour’s argument – his critique of critique – that the only way to proceed in scholarship is by “renewing empiricism” and employing a “stubbornly realist attitude.”[22] For, as Achille Mbembe suggests, “abstract theory has never had such a hold on the material and social reality of the world as it does today.”[23] “Theory,” says Mbembe, “is always a particular theory of the world. And increasingly that world is being constructed by entities such as finance capital and abstract singularities like derivatives.”[24] A similar observation could be made about the shared emphases of “sound studies”: although certain thinkers working within this discipline aim to sidestep the entire problematics of music (of meaning, politics, the social, et cetera) and “return” to the sounds themselves, even a cursory look at the best work in this field reveals much more than a “post-critical” renewal of empiricism. A text such as Jonathan Sterne’s MP3: The Meaning of a Format, for example, illustrates clearly that today “sound” and “music” are comprehensible only in their consideration as constellations of complex practices, inseparable from technologies of compression, the science of psychoacoustics, and the analytics of listening behaviors.[25] In brief, critical thought about “reality” under conditions of contemporary capitalism is necessarily an encounter with the spectrality of the real.
This is why Étienne Balibar, from whose work – via Freud and Fechner – we borrow our title for the larger project of which this paper is a part,[26] insists on the essential heterogeneity of materiality. At least in the sphere of politics, Balibar argues, “‘material’ processes are themselves (over- and under-) determined by the processes of the imaginary, which have their own very effective materiality…”[27] He explains:
“However conflictual or antagonistic, globalization tends to represent itself as a homogenous process that combines given agencies (initially economic forces, but also increasingly ideological ones) into a single system of interactions. Yet when we deal with what makes its evolution unpredictable and possibly unintelligible, ghosts, devils, and virtual forces are not slow to make their entry. It was to help escape this dilemma, which I found intolerable, that I sought an analogy in the Freudian notion of ‘the other scene.’”[28]
Like Balibar, we adopt the notion of the other scene as an analogy for the heterogeneity of materiality within contemporary politics, but we also take up Freud’s thinking more literally as an investigation of the essential heterogeneity of the psychic processes. In sonic terms, we position the general move toward a heterogeneous materialism as parallel and inseparable from the belated and comprehensive broaching of the notion of the auditory unconscious. From “quieting of the mind” in institutionalizations of the sacred to rousing consolidations in the emergence of the bourgeois nation-state, listening’s a-semiotic constitutive moment of subjection has always pointed toward a work of listening. Marx’s well-known discussion of the productive labor of a piano maker versus a piano player includes the caveats of the pianist not only producing the musical ear itself, but also stimulating the listener to “a more positive, vital tuning to our individuality, […] a new need for whose satisfaction more industry is applied in immediate material production.”[29]   At a juncture when such work on and of the self is in a primary position on the stage of advanced biopolitical economy, the analysis of music as a history of self-disciplinary practices mediated by an immaterial “force” seems more than opportune. 
Our alignment with “Freud’s legacy” (and our locating therein of the “modus operandi” Hanslick sarcastically invokes in the opening epigraph[30]) shares little with recent “clinical” applications of psychoanalytic terms and structures to music and its affective reception, instead, our approach to the Freudian text is as an ally in reading and voicing the unspeakable – the overlapping inaccessibility of thinking both music and the unconscious. By identifying the dynamics of what one might refer to as “general libido” at the basis of our experience of the sonic, in the functioning of its a-signifying structure (that is, libido as described in late Freud as preceding cathective bonding[31]), what becomes critical is not to subsume the sonic into a generalized psychic framework, but to articulate the particularities of this sensual, material interstice as a specific mediation of libidinal “fluxes.” Such an undertaking cries out for a more fundamental account of the phenomenology of listening itself, beyond Hanslick’s and so many others’ “properly” contemplative, formal registration of listening as the cognitive processing of “units and groups of units […] or, more definitely speaking, the symmetry of their successions, their contrasts, repetitions, and general working out.”[32] As a physical modality, hearing is a locative registration of occurrence. Sound is the proximal trace of the occurred, the perpetual byproduct of action – of happening.[33] As such, it is essentially secondhand – always already a delay, a deferral – a radiation of the event. Occurrence itself then, a hand on a keyboard or string, the wind, et cetera, must not be confused with sound, its consequent vibrational propagation. In standard musical practice, the score as well as the performer would be redundancies, recursive instances. Sound is not a medium in itself, but rather a disturbance, a fluctuation in a medium. Unlike light, which is in no way immanent to an object “described” in sight, sound is necessarily bound to a source (occurrence) – that is, can only be heard as a proximity to, or even a proximity between. Herein one might also point to an implicit ethics of audibility: the second-person of sounding – the you of its anonymous address. To see is to register a modulation of light – the filtered reflection of an interaction between materialities (photons and an object). To hear is to be touched at a distance – to take in the other’s deferral.
And yet, our aim is not to valorize the ear over the eye or to restore some fictive equilibrium to the “ratio” of the senses. Indeed, while one must acknowledge certain physical and phenomenological specificities within the sensory apparatus, there can be no claim of a determinate relationship between sensory perception and ethics (as though simply tipping the scale in favor of the ear could be in itself an ethical gesture). What one can instead readily ask is how we understand the ethical and political stakes of seeing as opposed to hearing in light of the distinction, so common in “Western” thought, between eye qua objectifying organ and the ear as somehow “inherently”participatory. Such a question recasts ethical and political distinctions between eye and ear (as remain so prevalent, for instance, in academic disciplines of “sound studies”) as so many ideological masks of a more fundamental opposition.  “Evidently,” writes Tim Ingold, “the primacy of vision cannot be held to account for the objectification of the world. Rather the reverse; it is through its co-option in the service of a peculiarly modern project of objectification that vision has been reduced to a faculty of pure, disinterested reflection, whose role is merely to deliver up ‘things’ to a transcendent consciousness.”[34] In other words, the eye is trained to do what it was already presupposed to do. Similarly, if the ear is burdened with establishing a nonviolent and ethical relationship with the Other, this has more often than not less to do with inherent qualities of hearing or observation thereof than a responsibility given to the ear. This argument – which displaces the opposition eye/ear to reveal a more fundamental objectifying consciousness – is important, but, for our purposes, also incomplete; failing to adequately account for the mechanical specificity of the auditory sensorium. Furthermore, by situating sensory perception as subservient to discourse about sensory perception, or by understanding “consciousness” as prior to sensation, one runs the risk of lapsing into the familiarity of semiologies of signification, of once again falling under “the dictatorship of the signifier.” Our position lies somewhere between these two dominant impulses that shape so much of the senses’ theorization. Complicating moralistic discourses that celebrate the ear as inherently de-objectifying, on the one hand, and discourses that reduce the senses to mere social, signifying constructions, on the other, we view listening as a modality of sense-perception endowed with particular material capacities and properties not inherently more political or ethical than any other physical interstice, and yet of a particular (and particularly malleable) proto ethico-political potentiality.
Following this phenomenological excursus, it is clear that Tony Conrad’s allusion to the Freudian notion of identification as eminently operative in listening is crucial (in which we “take in” an outside, bypassing the ego, allowing this other – sound, periodicity, a “Führer” – a place, the place of the ego-ideal, within us).[35] For our purposes, it is important to note the play of this concept in the Freudian text (Conrad’s reference is Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse): from Freud’s question, “if [in leaderless groups] the leader can’t be replaced by an idea, an abstraction,”[36] to his insistence on the link between identification, hypnosis, and infatuation (being in love). This irresolute quality of primary identification in the Freudian project is noted by Laplanche: “[W]e can but recall the fact that the place of identification in the whole of psychoanalytic thought has never been truly filled, despite the accumulation of innumerable clinical observation. For in spite of renewed attempts by Freud himself to define and delimit the different kinds of identification, the notion remains either too simplistic or too vague, as though it were being used to mask under a single rubric phenomena which are quite diverse.”[37]
Instead, however, of following Laplanche’s genealogy of the ego in identification, Freud’s general description of identifications as “mechanisms of affective bonding”[38] not only other than but preceding oedipalized object cathexis[39] might readily be said to productively implicate the workings of the matrixial sphere as articulated by Bracha L. Ettinger. Ettinger’s corrective formulation of “transsubjective” primary affects[40] not only offers a way to sidestep Freud’s jump to early paternal identification in the “prehistory of the Oedipus complex,”[41] it offers a basis for complicating the unidirectional and thus latently fascistoid moment in his conception. Instead, the maternal-prenatal bond offers a model where, “[t]hrough differentiating-in-co-emergence the m/Other com-passionately knows her non-I; she is not blindly fused with it”[42] (this notion of differentiating-in-co-emergence will be important later). Keeping both Conrad and Ettinger in mind and taking Freud’s remark that “the hypnotic relationship […] is a crowd formation in two”[43] into our account of hearing, we might then review the following, albeit amended, diagram:

Our question then, in the case of music, its audition, would be to what degree a-signifying semiotics remain inscriptively functional in the place of the ego ideal. That is, what is the quantitative dimension of the question “with what are we identifying” in listening? If the ego ideal, “comprises the sum of all inhibitions to which the ego should acquiesce,”[44] to what degree does (or can) a materially semiotic structure, an “abstraction” with which a listener identifies in listening (for instance, various common forms of rhythmic entrainment), effectively reiterate the normative contents of the ego ideal? Or rather, to what degree does such a “structural” mimesis of identification re-engrain the listening subject into the social order? The uncertainly of an answer to this question would be the seat of various historical discourses on music’s supposed immorality: the potential promiscuity of its functioning. In the same passage from the Grundrisse cited above, Marx also notes that, “however useful [unproductive labor] may be – it may just as well be harmful.”[45] On the other hand, the degree to which this proposition might be affirmed, to which this promiscuity could be stilled and instrumentalized, would point precisely to the proper location of the production of the self in the work of listening.
It is important to note in our engagement with Ettinger that insofar as her intervention into a masculinist psychoanalytic field centered on castration, lack, and separation does indeed represent a fundamental expansion and reapportioning of the most basic terrain in our understanding of the unconscious and of psychic constitution, her insights must also be retroactively mapped, projected, and generalized onto our genealogies of subjection. This suggests that we not only rejoice in the constructive, co-poeietic pathways opened up by the matrixial, but also to begin to acknowledge and analyze matrixial participation and complicity in territorialization. As such, certain of Guattari’s less jubilant remarks on the functioning of a-signifying semiotics would remain applicable: “A-signifying machines do not recognize agents, individuals, roles or even clearly defined objects. By this very fact they acquire a kind of omnipotence, moving across the signification systems within which individual agents recognize and become alienated from one another. […] There is no moment when we are not encircled by power formations.”[46]
Here, in a particularly awkward alignment, our beginnings of a sketch of libidinal dynamics in an a-signifying semiotic begin to suggest a framework for approaching Althusser’s thesis that “ideology has a material existence,”[47] a thesis which Althusser allows to remain “unproven,” asking instead, “that the reader be favorably disposed towards it, say, in the name of materialism.”[48] In a sense, our effort to articulate the phenomenal and mediatory specificity of the sonic might represent an elaboration of what Althusser means when he writes that, “the adjective ‘material’ in my proposition must be affected by different modalities.”[49] Adjusting our terms accordingly, this would be to suggest that hearing a sound is not only identificatory (which, after Ettinger, would “contain” or perhaps even function via a “metramorphic” moment) but also always interpellative (albeit potentially ambiguously).
Only prefaced thus, via the territorializing and deterritorializing libidinal dynamics of sonic apperception, does it make sense to return to the ascesis Lyotard rightly invokes in music’s obedience. Doing so would however also at least potentially suggest more than the “momentary” collapse of “a whole anthropology of sound.”[50] Following Leo Bersani, we might begin here to imagine a strategic counterinstrumentalization of music’s transsubjective potentials: “The body, once it is relieved of the burden of sex and especially of the prejudicial view of lack as constitutive of desire (and of our relation to the world), can, in its openness to the world, be the site of an inscription of the unconscious. […] To speculate on this proposal […] might be the start of a reconstruction of subjectivity [...] on which all effective political reconstructions ultimately depend.”[51]
Put in another way, music as such is always and already obscene, but always also specifically so – temporally reinscriptive into “the predefined ends and tasks of a given era.”[52] Varieties of such inscriptive obscenity are of course in no way unique to music and are always present and necessary in sexualized interpellation – integral in perpetual re-enactments of an Urszene (even in the phase of its arbitrary operativity). To imagine then a political or ethical efficacy in this moment, in music’s obscenity (the reallocated proximity of obscenity and obedience), would require its transformation into a scene of its own – from obszön to an Ob-szene. Instead of the originary, inescapable Ur-, the “if” and the “toward” in the Ob- would orient a scene toward that potentiality which is “the form of being human in which the ontological condition enters into economy and politics (our immediate experience).”[53] Music always contains this nascent “other scene,” but it is our challenge and the challenge of dissensual musical work to articulate and wrest it into potent generality. As Michael Warner writes: “The publics in which problematizing work circulates cannot remain forever functionally segregated from all other publics if they are to transform politics. Certainly a public practice oriented to redefining public practice is a paradoxical task […]. It is a way of imagining a speech for which there is yet no scene, and a scene for which there is no speech.”

[1] Eduard Hanslick: The Beautiful in Music, trans. Gustav Cohen, Indianapolis and New York 1957, p. 15.

[2] Maryanne Amacher: from a 1988 interview with Jeffrey Bartone, in: unpublished manuscript housed in box M-09-15-09-08 in the Maryanne Amacher Archive, Kingston and New York, p. 17.

[3] Jean-François Lyotard: “Obedience,” in: The Inhuman, Stanford 1988, p. 177.

[4] Ibid., p. 180.

[5] Ibid., p. 168.

[6] “To sober the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences,” as recounted in his 1954 “45’ for a Speaker,” Silence (Hanover, 1973), p.158, or in a later revision, “to sober and quiet the mind/so that It/iS/in aCcord/wIth/what haPpens.” From “Composition in Retrospect,” in X, Hanover 1983, p. 129.

[7] Hanslick, The Beautiful in Music, p. 118.

[8] Listening relegated to “the intense action of our nervous system.” Ibid., p. 87. 

[9] Freud, author’s translation, in a letter to Ludwig Binswanger, October 8, 1936, as excerpted in: Sigmund Freud: Sein Leben in Bildern und Texten, Frankfurt am Main 1985, p. 217.

[10] Félix Guattari, “Toward a Micro-Politics of Desire,” in: Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, Harmondsmith/New York, 1984, p. 89.

[11] Hanslick, The Beautiful in Music, p. 67.

[12] Roland Barthes, “Listening,” in The Responsibility of Forms, New York 1985, p. 259.

[13] Guattari, “The Role of the Signifier in the Institution,” in: Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, Harmondsmith/New York 1984, p. 74, emphasis in the original.

[14] Pier Paolo Pasolini, “The Written Language of Reality,” in: Heretical Empiricism, trans. Ben Lawton and Louise K. Barnett, Bloomington 1988, p. 198.

[15] See Louis Althusser, “The Underground Current of the Materialism of the Encounter,” in: Philosophy of the Encounter: Later Writings, 1978-87, trans. G.M. Goshgarian, ed. Francois Matheron, London 2006, pp. 163–207.

[16] Gilles Deleuze, Empiricism and Subjectivity: An Essay on Hume’s Theory of Human Nature, trans. Constantin V. Boundas, New York 1991.

[17] See Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity New York 2006, p. 48.

[18] David Hume, Treatise on Human Nature, London 1969, p. 51; as quoted in: DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society, p. 50.

[19] Specifically in the sense of Quentin Meillassoux’s “correlationism” in which thinking and being are always correlates of one another and as such are inconceivable separately. See his After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier, London 2008.

[20] To understand “reality” in this way is to think what there is even when there is no thought, or in other words, to recognize properly other scenes. These other scenes do not exist for or because of “us”; and yet, they constitute (often indirectly) our environments, ecologies, and dwellings.

[21] To its credit, Speculative Realism has often clearly delineated the line between ontology and politics. For example, Graham Harman writes: “I’m also seeing intermittent talk of a non-correlationist politics. Excuse me, but what the hell would that be?” (accessed September 2, 2014).

[22] Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” in: Critical Inquiry 30 (2004), pp. 225–248, p. 231.

[23] Achille Mbembe, “Theory from the Antipodes: Notes on Jean & John Comaroff’s TFS,” in: Johannesburg Salon 5 (2012): pp. 18–25, p. 25, original emphasis.

[24] Ibid. Hylton White’s critique of Bruno Latour is also relevant here. For Latour, the fetish is the production of a paranoid concern with demarcating the boundary between people and things. See Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods (Durham, 2010). But as White points out, from a Marxist perspective the fetish does “not refer in general terms to the role of things as such in human affairs, which Latour keeps representing as the paranoid obsession of the modern. Instead it refers to one specific form of life, to a form of life distinguished not by the fact that things are vital to it but rather by the specific way they mediate subjectivity” under capitalism. In other words, “fetishism is specifically the fetishism of commodities.” See White, “The Fetish and its Antis,” in: Johannesburg Salon 5 (2012), pp. 86–88, p. 87.

[25] See Jonathan Sterne, MP3: The Meaning of a Format, Durham, 2012.

[26] This text was originally drafted as an introduction to the authors’ ongoing book project, Music and the Other Scene. The title alludes to Étienne Balibar‘s Politics and the Other Scene, London 2002.

[27] Balibar, Politics and the Other Scene, p. xiii.

[28] Ibid., p. xii.

[29] Karl Marx, “Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy,” as reprinted in The Complete Works of Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, Volume 28, trans. Ernst Wangermann, New York 1986, p. 231.

[30] Statements throughout Hanslick’s The Beautiful in Music such as, “[p]sychical motion […] can never become the object of an art, because without an answer to the query, What is moving, or what is being moved? an art has nothing tangible to work upon,” or, “to explain these particular observations by more general laws, would be to establish that ‘philosophical foundation of music’ to which many writers aspire, though none has ever told us in what sense he understands this phrase,” seem to all but call out for the invention of psychoanalysis. Indeed, one might now reapproach The Beautiful in Music reading “libidinal economy” next to each vague declaration of “the musical itself” or “the properly musical.”

[31] “We imagine an initial condition in which the entire available energy of the Eros, which from this point on we will refer to as Libido, is present in the still undifferentiated Ego-Id complex and serves to neutralize the simultaneously present destructive tendencies,” author’s translation (from the Abriß der Psychoanalyse, as reprinted by Fischer Bücherei, Frankfurt am Main & Hamburg, 1968, pp. 12–13). Or, as Guy Hocquenghem would have it, “there are […] three, four, ten, thousands [of] sexes on Earth but only one sexual desire,” in: The Screwball Asses, as reprinted in Semio:texte, Los Angeles 2010, p. 47.

[32] Hanslick, The Beautiful in Music, p. 123.

[33] Don Ihde: “But what of sound? The mute object stands ‘beyond’ the horizon of sound. Silence is the horizon of sound, yet the mute object is silently present … Of both animate and inanimate beings, motion and sound, when paired, belong together. ‘Visualistically’ sound ‘overlaps’ with moving
beings ….” See Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound, second ed. Albany 2007, p. 50.

[34] Tim Ingold, “Stop, Look, and Listen! Vision, Hearing, and Human Movement,” in: The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling, and Skill, London 2000, p. 253.

[35] Conrad’s desublimatory jettisoning of Freudian vocabulary for his own (“trance”) and his attempt to revalorize the discourse of hypnosis are of questionable exigency (See Conrad, “Preparing for the Propaganda War in the Time of Global Culture: Trance, Form, and Persuasion in the Renovation of Western Music,”, accessed January 11, 2013). Freud’s “disavowal of hypnosis” was not a denial of its obvious (and yet problematic) efficacy, but instead of its mystified articulation of, as Conrad puts it, “access to the great unconscious” – a distinction that need not be read as an affirmation of Freudian scienticity, but, in Conrad’s terms, as a further strategic insistence on “propagandal” legibility.

[36] Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg 1971, p. 39. All translations from the German are by Bill Dietz.

[37] Jean Laplanche, Life and Death in Psychoanalysis, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman, Baltimore 1976, p. 79.

[38] Sigmund Freud, Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse, p. 43.

[39] As Freud writes: “Psychoanalysis has established identification as the earliest expression of an affective bound with another person.” See Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse, p. 44.

[40] “[P]rimary fascinance (that precedes or is in parallel to fascinum and might counter-balance control and submission by its transformational value), primary compassion (that precedes and might counter-balance abjection and abandonment), and primary awe (that might counter-balance shame and fear).” See Ettinger, “Fragilization and Resistance,” Studies in the Material 1.2 (2009)., accessed September 2, 2014.

[41] Freud, “Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse,” p. 44.

[42] “Wit(h)nessing Trauma and the Matrixial Gaze,” in: The Matrixial Borderspace, Minneapolis 2006, p. 146.

[43] “Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse,” p. 54.

[44] Ibid., p. 70.

[45] Marx, p. 231, emphasis in the original.

[46] “Meaning and Power,” in: Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, Harmondsmith/New York 1984, pp. 171–172.

[47] Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation),” in: Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster, New York 1971, p. 165.

[48] Ibid., p. 166.

[49] Ibid., p. 169.

[50] Lyotard, “Obedience,” p. 181.

[51] Leo Bersani, “Fr-oucault and the End of Sex,” in: Is the Rectum a Grave? and Other Essays, Chicago 2010, p. 138.

[52] Akseli Virtanen, “The Time of Arbitrary Power,” in: prepublication manuscript of the forthcoming English translation of his Critique of Biopolitical Economy, n-1 Edições, São Paulo, p. 7.

[53] Virtanen, “Arbitrary Power, or, on Organization without Ends,” in: The Swedish Dance History, Stockholm 2008, p. 177.

[54] Michael Warner, “Styles of Intellectual Publics,” in: Publics and Counterpublics, New York 2005, p. 158.

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