Saturday, February 24, 2007

Free noise Marxism

Here's that rare thing, folks, a post from Muzzlehatch. He had to get me to paste the thing up here because his blogger membership has lapsed. Fill the comments boxes with demands that the man step further out of the shadows of retirement!

Comparing itself to ‘non-profit’ enterprises in the New Zealand music scene like Corpus Hermeticum and the early Flying Nun, The National Grid is a new magazine published by a bunch of arty Aucklanders who want ‘a space to speculate, critically enquire, research and explore graphic design issues within a New Zealand context.’ Maps pointed the zine out to me whilst we were trying to flog copies of brief at a local bookshop, and seeing as how it had an interview with one of the most intriguing figures in NZ's music/arts scene, free noise guru Bruce Russell, I bought it (let's face it: Maps wasn't about to buy it).

This second issue of the zine includes an overview of album stickers used on early Flying Nun records from the likes of The Tall Dwarfs, The Double Happys, Sneaky Feelings, and The Clean, and discusses in depth the DIY punk ethic that formed the basis for the music explosion that centred around Dunedin in the early 80’s.

There is a lengthy article about a new satellite town that is planned for North Canterbury. An artificially manufactured, self-contained settlement, complete with man-made lake, where leisure-orientated residents spend their time playing tennis and water-skiing (who thought it would happen here?), Pegasus Town is financed by National MP Bob 'my left testicle' Clarkson.

After a shortish piece by a local graphic artist who salvaged all the old team signs from the now-desolate rugby league stadium Carlaw Park and studied the synchronic/diachronic meanings of them, and a long interview with Russell, the zine finishes with the great man's essay 'Practical Materialism: Lesson Two; Thinking My Head to the Sky'. Here's an excerpt from Russell's musically slanted take on dialectical materialism:

Karl Marx had several very good ideas, all of which almost without exception have been willfully misunderstood and misappropriated since his death. His basic conception of a true materialist philosophy is one of these. Leaving aside the obfuscations of Engels (an untrustworthy guide to philosophy at the best of times), as well as those of his even less worthy successors, and one is left with a remarkably simple conception. Practical Materialism, as we may denote this ‘purely Marxian’ idea, conceives of an interaction between a fundamental material reality (qua Object) and sentient human actors possessing free will (qua Subject).

The peculiar genius of Marx lay in positing the locus of this interaction outside any imaginary philosophical construct of field of theoretical endeavour, instead he posited the ground of interaction as being work. In this way the subjective ‘thesis’ acts upon the objective ‘anti-thesis’ to produce an integrated ‘synthesis’ which represents a higher stage in the Hegelian dialectical triad. This organic union of theory and practice, posited on a ground of everyday life, he termed praxis.

.....Music is a remarkably pure artistic example of the total interdependence of theory and practice, because music (properly conceived) is not ‘about’ anything other than Time, the ultimate ground of all reality. Music is about the time it occupies, and the way we perceive that time, and situate ourselves in it. In a schematic way we may summarise it thusly:

({Music = Time} = {Time = Music})

More than that, as an artist, my concern is also with the process of making music, which unfolds within time. Further, as a theory-addict (self-conscious subject), I cannot help but think about the meaning of making music from the point of view of praxis. As soon as I began making my own music (as opposed to reproducing learnt routines in lessons), I became aware of the significance of improvisation as self-willed play. There is no intentional thinking about what one might do as an artist without doing, and no doing without thinking. Thus realtime improvisation becomes philosophically more fruitful than composition imagined as a separate activitiy. In the same way, the opposite is true, merely playing without conceiving of the activity in a mindful way is equally barren.

The trick is to unite the two in a ‘practical’ way, this to my way of thinking is analogous to ‘thinking your head to the sky’. Making music is an activitiy that is head-directed but body-realised, and the ‘trick’ is to make both ends of the equation hold up. This is something that cannot be made up (in the theoretical realm), it can only be worked out (in the realm of praxis).

Here's the place to go you want to read more, or look at handsome graphics, or even buy The National Grid .


Anonymous Luke Wood said...

Hey we're not arty Aucklanders! In reality The National Grid is produced in Lyttelton... also the home of Corpus Hermeticum. And we are proud of our small town heritage/bias! We have an Auckland PO Box, but are very wary of any and all design related discourses being very Auckland-centric... and reciprocally highly industry focused, a bit dull, and lacking in criticality. Thanks for the nod here though. We don't do any PR or marketing so any help spreading the word is very much appreciated indeed.

2:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The National Grid is based in Albany - the spiritual heart of Auckland.

Luke Wood is a dissembler from way back.

4:21 pm  
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