Notes on nuance

Notes on nuance Rethinking a philosophy of modern music

David cunningham

this encounter can often seem to fit all too easily into a standard model of ʻOrientalistʼ practice – though this is hardly the whole story – such a model should not in itself be taken as an excuse for prejudging the role that a recognition of cultural and musical difference has played, and (in changing contexts) continues to play, in the formation of musical modernisms, [4] whether ʻinsideʼ or ʻoutsideʼ the traditionally determined (and increasingly complexified) geopolitical and geophilosophical spaces of ʻWestʼ and ʻnon-Westʼ.

What follows is an effort to reflect, critically, in the first part of this article, upon a certain concept – that of ʻdissonanceʼ – which has played a central role in existing ʻphilosophically orientedʼ considerations of musical modernism, most obviously in the work of Adorno, and then to attempt, more briefly, to elaborate alternate conceptual terms which might ʻmake us aware of new variations and unknown resonancesʼ, [5] both in relation to the mediation of contemporary (and increasingly globalized) forms and, retrospectively, in relation to received accounts of musical modernism more generally. The central concept which, in this vein, these notes will begin to elaborate is that of nuance. This is a term that I adopt, and rework, from a number of sources: from the composer François Bayleʼs reference to a ʻtype of sound that attends carefully to the nuances of the materialʼ; and from Walter Benjaminʼs early texts on colour, which invoke an intensive chromatic ʻorder consisting of an infinite range of nuancesʼ. But, here at least, the term ʻnuanceʼ is primarily engaged in its rather elliptical presentation in the later work of Jean-François Lyotard, where it is implicitly proposed as the conceptual mediation of what Lyotard describes as an opening to ʻa sort of infinity … [which is] the distress and despair of the exact divisionʼ. [6] It is, with certain crucial qualifications, the temporal dynamics of this ʻdistress and despairʼ that will be considered as a possible conceptual resource for a ʻsecond reflecThe study of contemporary music can often seem particularly neglected by philosophy, at least by comparison to the attention accorded to literature and the visual arts. It is caught between a still largely conventional musicology, whose received procedures are patently ill-equipped to deal with a vast range of recent musical production, and a cultural theory which is generally content to reduce it to little more than a background noise for the formation of subcultural identity. What then might today constitute a philosophy of modern music, as the title of one of Adornoʼs best-known books would have it, insofar as the ʻphilosophical investigationʼ of music is concerned ʻnot with ideas on styleʼ but with ʻthe unprogrammatic concept inherent in [its] objectʼ, a ʻreflected immanence of worksʼ? [1]

If, according to a now famous definition, philosophy might indeed be understood as that ʻdiscipline that involves creating conceptsʼ, then it is only in relation to the immanent logics of contemporary musical forms and practices that the plausibility and productiveness of any proposed concept must be judged. [2] Nonetheless, if this is to involve more than a mere terminological novelty a philosophy of modern music must also entail a moment of critical reflection upon the ʻlifeʼ that inheres within those concepts which it inherits. It is thus in the criticism of the restrictions imposed by received conceptualizations that new conceptual terms may be developed, reconfiguring, in turn, the cultural field to which they relate. Moreover, to some still developing degree, such a process is in fact demanded by, and converges with, those historical transformations in the structures of social and cultural relations that mark the logics of the interlocking processes we have come to call ʻglobalizationʼ and ʻpostcolonialismʼ. Modern(ist) music, it has been suggested, might well be thought to begin in Debussyʼs encounter with Javanese gamelan music at the Paris Exposition of 1889.3 And if the compositional forms which flowed from tionʼ upon the immanent logics of recent musical production.

adorno, modernism, dissonance

As is probably already clear, in attempting to reflect philosophically upon these immanent logics, I would concur with Georgina Born, as with many others, that Adornoʼs work remains ʻthe best start that we haveʼ, if one which is often ʻblind to aspects of itselfʼ. [7] That said, it is precisely in thinking the ʻoriginsʼ of this ʻblindnessʼ, as well as what is required for its ʻovercomingʼ, that I quickly part company with Bornʼs own analysis. For while I would certainly agree, concerning the problems entailed by Adornoʼs undeviating identification of an ʻauthenticʼ musical modernism with the ʻnew musicʼ of the second Viennese school, such forms of ʻblindnessʼ do not seem to me to result from the general concept of modernism as such, nor to be resolved by its displacement in favour of the kind of conception of ʻpostmodernismʼ elaborated by Born. Indeed, as several recent readers of Adorno – including Osborne, Zuidervaart and Roberts – have asserted, part of the problem with many prevailing accounts of Adornoʼs work is a tendency to misconceive what is meant by ʻmodernismʼ in it, by virtue of this conceptʼs now customary reduction to a form of ʻgeneric-periodizingʼ category. [8] Yet, for Adorno, the modernism of modern music is in fact to be ʻdefined by its inner qualities rather than by chronologyʼ. [9] Such ʻqualitiesʼ are not to be elucidated by ʻideas on styleʼ – with which something like a succeeding ʻpostmodernistʼ style might be contrasted – but, as I have argued elsewhere, are to be understood as relating to an immanently manifested temporal logic or dynamic of artistic production which is not, in principle, restricted to any fixed objective and generically defined referent. [10] It is this conception that must therefore define any philosophical reflection upon the musically modern, and the specific ways in which the work ʻparticipates in history and thus oversteps its uniquenessʼ. [11]

The implications of such a reading – both for music and for cultural production in general – can apparently be drawn out in Adornoʼs work by focusing upon the particular significance he accords to the concept of dissonance, to the extent that, as Osborne argues, dissonance may well appear to be, for Adorno, the ʻbasic principle of modernismʼ itself. Dissonance is ʻthe seal of everything modern … veritably an invariant of the modernʼ, as Adorno writes. [12] What links dissonance and modernism conceptually is the sense in which the former only has ʻconcreteʼ meaning, as musical experience, by virtue of its non-identical relation to traditionʼs ongoing determination of historical modes of harmony as ʻsecond natureʼ. Dissonance therefore should not be understood, in principle at least, as designating any inherent ʻpropertyʼ of a constant musical referent (for example, particular intervallic pitch relations), but in fact requires a continual renewal of its non-identity to what is already given as ʻmusicʼ within the cultural present. As Alan Dunant rightly states, ʻin acquiring their intelligibility in relation to particular musical forms, dissonances have [an] active functionʼ. On this basis, Adorno argues, the dynamic non-identity of dissonance and harmony can be thought of as ʻexemplaryʼ of that between modernity and tradition in general, in so far as both mark – at different levels of conceptual generality – the productive temporal logic of a critical encounter with the ʻcongealed historyʼ immanent in what he calls ʻartistic materialʼ. [13]

It is at this point that aesthetic theory intersects, famously, with social theory, in Adornoʼs claim that the basis of artʼs relation to modern society is not ʻthe insertion of objective elementsʼ into it, but the way in which ʻthe unresolved antagonisms of reality return to art works as immanent problems of formʼ. Artistic material is ʻnothing less than the objectified and critically reflected state of the technical productive forces of an age with which any given composer is confrontedʼ. As such, it is only in the modernist work that mimesis may ʻunite with rationality without regressionʼ, in an attempt ʻto aid the non-identical, which in reality is repressed by realityʼs compulsion to identityʼ. All this, I imagine, is now reasonably well known. Nonetheless, it is crucial in so far as it is this asserted isomorphism between artistic and social form (as well as philosophical form) – as ʻan analogue which goes beyond mere analogyʼ – that provides an obvious basis for the privileging of dissonance in Adornoʼs own account of modernism. [14] Yet, at the same time, it is, I would suggest, precisely the tendency towards a close identification of these two concepts – or at least the making of one the ʻbasic principleʼ for, or ʻtrademarkʼ of, the other – that may also lie at the root of what is problematic about Adornoʼs understanding of a specifically musical modernism. No doubt this has to do, in part, with Adornoʼs personal identification with the Schoenberg School, of which he always considered himself to be a ʻmemberʼ. Yet this oft-noted empirical truth does not, in itself, provide sufficient explanation for the ʻblindnessʼ to which Born refers. Rather, this requires a properly ʻphilosophicalʼ (as well as ʻmusicologicalʼ) examination of the presuppositions underlying Adornoʼs unswerving fidelity to Schoenbergian models of musical development, as he understood them, and thus the roots of the conceptual resources he sought to develop through their ʻreflected immanenceʼ. For it is, I would suggest, precisely these presuppositions which tend to produce in Adornoʼs work something of a characteristic slippage between a specific (relatively limited) musical meaning of the term ʻdissonanceʼ and a more expansive (rather ʻlooserʼ, even ʻmetaphoricalʼ) use of this term in relation to modernist art in general, as an expression of an alienated social reality and of the suffering subject within it; a slippage which, by virtue of a propensity to elide the musical sources of Adornoʼs concepts, has tended to be passed over by most commentators on his work. This is certainly not to suggest that any extension of the term ʻdissonanceʼ beyond a musical reference is illegitimate. Rather, the initial problem comes, as it were, moving in the opposite direction; that is, once one returns to the issue of a philosophy of modern music itself, in so far as it tends to give an inbuilt privilege to the specific mode of ʻnegationʼ involved in the dismantling of tonality – where the non-identity of dissonance is understood in the essentially pitch-based terms of discord – and from which Schoenbergʼs development of the twelvetone row historically derives. [15]

Although it is not immediately obvious, it is this that finds a ʻpracticalʼ parallel in ʻtotal serialismʼ, precisely by virtue of its self-defining move beyond the problems of pitch – and the totalizing definition of ʻnew musicʼ in terms of the ʻnegation of tonalityʼ that it insists upon – in so far as it is its progressive continuity with such a negation that serves to guarantee what Born describes as an ongoing ʻcorrect, rigorous direction of the avant-gardeʼ after Schoenberg. [16] Nonetheless, if Born is surely right about this essentially unilinear determination, it is far less clear whether this has to do with problems internal to Adornoʼs general concept of modernism itself, or, as I am suggesting, with the restrictions placed upon a philosophical account of its possible concrete forms of non-identity as a result of certain other theoretical presuppositions present in his work.

Now, it is evident that, by the beginning of the 1960s, if not earlier, serialism found itself facing an apparent series of impasses, acknowledged by almost all of its proponents. Perhaps most telling was the Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligetiʼs analysis – in a paper first delivered at Darmstadt – of the essential arbitrariness of the ʻrationalisticʼ forms in which the originally pitch-based twelve-tone row was extended to the other parameters of music, and by virtue of which ʻtotal determinacy comes to be identical with total indeterminacyʼ, at least experientially. As Alastair Williams neatly summarizes: ʻThere is no particular reason why a 12-note series should yield a meaningful organisation of duration [or of timbre] … [Thus do] order and disorder map onto each other.ʼ [17] And it is in light of this apparent capitulation to a fundamentally irrational fetishization of rationalist construction – already noted of ʻtwelve-tone rationalityʼ in The Philosophy of Modern Music – that, in a 1961 paper, Adorno frames his own intervention, in the debates going on at Darmstadt, with the famous call for a new musique informelle which would dispense with ʻall forms which are external or abstractʼ. Yet the persistent motif of a ʻreturnʼ – to a lost moment of pre-serialist ʻfree atonalityʼ which he dates ʻaround 1910ʼ – despite all qualifications, only serves to indicate the depth of the historical impasse reached by Adorno himself. [18] It is at this point, I am suggesting, that the limitations inherent in the conceptual constellation of modernism and dissonance may be most emphatically revealed, in a progressive incapacity to account for new historical experiences immanent at the level of musical form, even within the immediate context of post-serialism itself.

It is here, therefore, that one might begin to pursue that confrontation of historical categories with artistic experience that Adorno himself demands. Moreover, it is partially, in response to certain emergent historical experiences, broadly associated with this ʻcontextʼ, that the notion of a post-modernism has conventionally been elaborated, with – at the beginning of the 1960s – the increasing focus on problems of timbre, rhythm and dynamics, the extension of electronic music, the emergence of minimalism, as well as a renewed turn towards non-Western musical models and so-called popular forms. [19] Yet, if our critical mediation of these events is to do more than remain on the level of disconnected empirical-stylistic analyses, then we need to attend, in a properly conceptual sense, to the reflected immanence of the works themselves. It is this that demands not an abandonment, but a re-interrogation of the concept of modernism, requiring an attention to the logics of non-identity which new ʻproblemsʼ may themselves articulate in relation to a reconfigured cultural field.


A brief (and rather simple) example: commenting recently on Morton Feldmanʼs palais de mari (1986), the pianist John Tilbury writes that ʻthe softness of the music … heightens consciousness and encourages attentiveness and alertness … the performer, and the listener, become aware that the dynamic quality within softness (so itʼs not just a matter of playing a “routine” pp) creates an extraordinary variety of sound.ʼ Now, whatever one makes of Feldmanʼs success or otherwise as (in Stockhausenʼs description) a ʻspecialist in music that is as slow, and as soft, as possibleʼ, the ʻdynamic qualityʼ alluded to here clearly involves an experience of non-identity in relation to standardized stratifications of ʻloudnessʼ (the ʻroutine ppʼ). [20] At stake are the ʻconceptualʼ demands made by modes of historical experience, and productive logics, which, in their ʻpursuitʼ of ʻnew dimensionsʼ of non-identity – whether in terms of dynamics, timbre, rhythm or, indeed, new ʻnon-temperedʼ harmonic relations – may well be understood as ʻmodernistʼ in form, but which it would seem inadequate to reflect upon in terms of dissonance. At the same time, this would also entail a retrospective dimension; one which would interrupt the restriction of Adornoʼs own dialectic of modernism to the poles of Schoenberg and Stravinsky, by calling up the names of those who would seem to have no place within it: Varèse, Harry Partch or Charles Ives, among others. For, problematic as her characteristic attempt to link this to some insurgent ʻproto-postmodernismʼ might be, there is clearly much substance in Bornʼs complaint that, ʻaided by Schoenbergʼs substantial influence and pedagogic writings, it was the serialist lineage of musical modernism that became dominant [after the Second World War] … [winning out over] other early modernist experiments, including the various forms of aesthetic reference to other musicsʼ. [21]

Despite his own idiosyncratic claims for the idea of the postmodern, it as at this point that I want to turn to two essays by Lyotard, both written in 1987, entitled ʻObedienceʼ and ʻAfter the Sublime, the State of Aestheticsʼ. The first begins with a meditation upon Adornoʼs question as to whether ʻnew technologies, which allow a refined … (“rational, abstract”) analysis of musical material, also allow its liberation?ʼ [22] Perhaps something of what is at stake in this dialectic of refinement and liberation can initially be brought out by returning to Ligetiʼs analysis. For, if the attempted extension of the twelve-note row to the other parameters of music is necessarily revealed as arbitrary in relation to the starting point proposed, it also works, as it were, to reveal the essential arbitrariness of that starting point itself. Ligeti cites Luciano Berio on the concomitant ʻsuppression of discrete scale degrees and intervalsʼ, as a means of moving forward, and suggests that, for himself, ʻthe 12-note method … has to be liquidated in order that [a new form of compositional] control can be exercised in the changed situationʼ. [23] Yet such liquidation also puts into question any idea of a ʻnatural fit between matter and formʼ in general, to utilize Lyotardʼs own philosophical terms, in so far as the very putative ʻmasteryʼ of the ʻsound continuumʼ may be said to suggest simultaneously the arbitrariness of any specific division of its various parameters, including those sought by serialism. [24] (Hence, perhaps, Berioʼs own posited turn towards alternately conceived questions of ʻsonic quality and registerʼ.) It is this that might be seen to be registered, for example, in Boulezʼs quasi-structuralist assertion, in an essay from 1968, that ʻlanguage, whether musical or any other, is for me a convention – and any convention implies artificial means.ʼ [25] Moreover, in this sense, it might perhaps indeed seem plausible to argue, as Lyotard does, that, in the face of such a recognition, ʻthe analysis of the regulation of pitch leaves as its remainder only the material, the enigmatic presence of vibrationʼ; what he designates, with an explicit nod to the writings of Varèse, as its liberation. [26]

Yet, it is at precisely this point that one needs to qualify such an emancipatory rhetoric. For this can easily risk drifting into a simple utopianism, envisaging a ʻmatterʼ totally liberated from all formal ʻdomesticationʼ; a utopianism which would tend to reinstate its own modes of ʻnaturalizationʼ as an erasure of historical relationships. It is for this reason that what, in his own thinking of ʻmaterialʼ, Lyotard terms nuance must be reconfigured as itself a radically historical and social category. In fact, Lyotardʼs articulation of this concept is fairly brief, Against the ʻidentity-cardʼ, abstracted for the ʻnoteʼ within traditional technology, scoring, and performance ideals, nuance, he writes, ʻintroduce[s] a sort of infinity.… Nuance [is] the distress and despair of the exact division and thus the clear composition of sounds and colours according to graded scales and harmonic temperamentsʼ: ʻ[T]he point is to make felt … what is insensible in the spatial and/or temporal sensory field, what is … inaudible.ʼ Nuance is that which – ʻfor at least “an instant” [which] cannot be countedʼ – escapes the determination of existing specification. The experience of the nuance is, in other words, an experience of the non-identical. [27]

Such experience is, nonetheless, precisely historical, and it is in this respect that Adornoʼs work might offer a partial corrective to Lyotardʼs rather sketched presentation. For if the experience, or ʻperceptionʼ, of the apparently ʻimperceptibleʼ nuance – whether in the spheres of timbre, rhythm or dynamics – emerges from the ʻdistress and despair of the exact divisionʼ, this is still dependent on that already given (ʻconventionalʼ) division of the continuum itself. The nuance which ʻescapedʼ division altogether – as an abstract willing away of social and historical determinations – would cease to be a nuance, would cease to be open to experience. Moreover, this is historical in so far as the division itself is a product of the historical tendency of material, subject to a variation which it nonetheless strives to conceal in the construction of a second nature. The critical momentum of the nuance emerges in laying bare the historical relationships which constitute the illusion of identity. (It is this that marks its proximity to the concept of dissonance, as well as its excess.) Lyotardʼs difficulties here, it should be said, relate to his own characteristic (and ultimately disastrous) attempt to read this, philosophically, back into the terms of the Kantian category of the sublime. A better model, as I implied earlier, might be Benjaminʼs early attempt to elaborate the opening to an intensive and immanent infinity that he associates with colour, although this would require more analysis. [28] At any rate, it can at least be said that Benjaminʼs conception would seem to correspond better to, for example, what Keith Potter describes in La Monte Youngʼs work as an ʻobsession with exploring the innards of a complex sound continuumʼ; or to, say, the processes that mark a piece like Stockhausenʼs 1964 work Mikrophonie I, with its sustained exploration of the timbral range afforded by a single, electronically processed gong. [29]

Of course, as this latter example suggests, nowhere is this dynamic of intensive extension more pertinent than in relation to the development of electronic means of musical production. And if I have largely stuck, up to this point, with the context of post-serialism, in order to draw out the aporias and impasses of Adornoʼs own account of musical modernism, this is just as (if not more) significant in relation to forms outside of the conventionally delineated ʻart musicʼ tradition. That said, returning to Tilburyʼs comments on palais de mari, one might argue that, to some degree, Feldmanʼs piece is precisely defined by its pushing up against the limits imposed by the technological possibilities of the piano itself, even if, famously, it was its own capacity for dynamic variation which, in part, allowed the piano to supplant earlier keyboard instruments. Today, it is above all electronic sound production, and amplification, which have opened up new technical possibilities for exploring extremes of dynamics. If the loudness of rock music, or much contemporary techno (with the direct bodily impact of its sub-bass patterns) is perhaps the most obvious example of this, the capacity for what David Toop calls – in relation to the use of contact mikes and studio processing in the work of Thomas Köner – ʻthreshold soundsʼ on the very fringes of audibility is also of considerable significance. [30] It is in this regard that we might then go back to Lyotardʼs initial ʻAdornianʼ question: to what extent do ʻnew technologies, which allow a refined … (“rational, abstract”) analysis of musical material, also allow its liberation?ʼ – whilst seeking to elaborate further the social dimensions that might be at stake in this.

Once again, the dilemmas of post-serialism are revealing. Williams argues that something like Stockhausenʼs early electronic work ʻcan be seen as a protraction of [the] impulse to maintain absolute control over the parameters of musicʼ. [31] This is no doubt true, up to a point, but this very dynamic of ʻexplora-tionʼ generates its own new dialectics of mimesis and construction, which, as I suggested above, cannot in fact simply be resolved on the side of ʻabsolute controlʼ. Some of the complexities of this dialectic can be gauged in the dynamic of an ever-more reduced refinement of ʻserial organizationʼ that Boulez once envisaged electronics opening up: ʻ[W]e shall be able, within a serial space, to multiply the series by itself. That is, if between a and b of an initial series we can express the series in reduction, this would give a great expansion of the sound-material to be used.ʼ [32] If this seeks to extend ʻcontrolʼ of the ʻsound-materialʼ, it also raises the question of where such a process of simultaneous immanent expansion could ever, logically, come to a halt. At any rate, ʻnuanceʼ, even as it emerges from it, must always escape it. That is to say, the impulse to ʻprecisionʼ always also confronts, and itself ʻcontainsʼ, the ʻexcessʼ of that precision, the ʻdistress and despair of the exact divisionʼ which ʻdefinesʼ the non-identical moment of the nuance, and which it may serve (knowingly or otherwise) to articulate critically in so far as it is dynamically produced through a confrontation with the historical sedimentations (including those of ʻscientific analysisʼ and of technological production) immanent to artistic material. As Lyotard puts it, in a rather Heideggerian vein, ʻmusic reveals a destination which … exceeds the scope of techno-scientific research envisaged technically, yet thanks to which [it] is revealedʼ. [33]

A great deal more needs to be said of this dialectic, particularly in relation to the increasing focus on timbre (over pitch) which it would seem to generate. Moreover, as indicated above, this can no longer be restricted (if it ever could) to a post-serialist (or ʻpostCageianʼ) ʻart musicʼ development, but must be seen to intersect with, for example, the ʻappropriationsʼ of musical technology at work in rock music (the electric guitar) and various genres of contemporary ʻelectronicaʼ, as well as, more generally, what Gilroy defines as ʻthe interface of science and aesthetics which is the required starting point of contemporary black cultural expression and the digital technology of its social dissemination and reproductionʼ. [34] At stake in such ʻappropriationsʼ would be the capacity of music, from a range of different ʻtraditionsʼ, to register immanently the tensions that such an ʻinterfaceʼ entails, as well as its ʻinternalizedʼ relations to the imperatives of commodity production.

Bernard Stiegler has observed that ʻthe pianist [for example] has an instrumental knowledge which someone who is not a pianist does not – including the instrumentʼs maker … The “knowing” pianist has “appropriated” [the] kind of expropriation that constitutes the musical instrument as such.ʼ [35] In the more recent context of electronic means of musical production, the same kinds of ʻinstrumental knowledgeʼ also remain key. Indeed such appropriation constitutes one significant way in which the non-identical moment of the nuance is ʻproducedʼ in its critical and dynamic ʻdistressingʼ of the divisions which musical instrument design itself imposes, precisely to the extent that musical instruments themselves ʻexist at an intersection of material, social, and cultural worldsʼ. If, then, whether in relation to timbre or dynamics, and in the light of the convergence of ʻelectronics and internal musical developmentsʼ, the ʻinvasion of nuancesʼ is to be understood as an immanent process of ʻenlargementʼ of musical perception – the rendering audible of the inaudible – such enlarging is both a historical and a social experience in which the ʻphysical and historical dimensions mutually intersectʼ in a particular configuration of the new. [36] Furthermore, as Gilroyʼs work suggests, this may well be seen to take on new significance in the context of an emergent global modernity – partly driven by the ʻsameʼ technological advancements that certain contemporary music immanently engages – in which non-capitalist and previously colonial societies are progressively integrated into the accumulative structures of a transnational capitalism, with evident ongoing ʻmusicalʼ repercussions, both inside and outside the traditionally determined borders of the ʻWestʼ.

Occidentalism, non-identity and the modern

The coming ʻglobal public sphereʼ, Susan Buck-Morss suggests in a recent interview, ʻwill be a visual culture – or musical, perhaps, but not dominantly printʼ. The appearance of music here as something of an afterthought is symptomatic, and itself reflects, I suspect, the established disciplinary priorities of Western academia. Yet it seems undeniable that ʻthe economic and cultural correlates of aesthetic appropriation through commodification are very highly developed in music in comparison with such fields as postcolonial literature or the globalization of the ethnic visual artsʼ. [37] If this historically converges with, for example, the complex spaces of flows which have long marked the extraordinary African musical diaspora across Europe and both North and South America, and which have few equivalents with regard to other cultural forms, it also indicates a movement and mobility which has evidently been intensified in recent times. While this has undoubtedly provided much fodder for the contemporary culture industries, it has also produced new forms, from ʻoutsideʼ the traditional sites of Western modernism, whose own immanent logics of non-identity, with all too clear social implications, are formed through the unique confrontations that a historically new situation produces; confrontations for which the term ʻWorld Musicʼ – part marketing tool and part ethnological anachronism – is all too obviously inadequate.

At the very least this suggests the need for an ongoing attempt to meet, for example, Gilroyʼs demand that we ʻclarify some of the distinctive attributes of black cultural forms which are both modern and modernistʼ, resulting from the African musical diaspora, but this will also have to take place within an increasingly expanded field no longer restricted to the conventional geographical parameters of the West, or even to those well-established ʻcountercultures of modernityʼ with which Gilroy is himself concerned. If, as Tomlinson reminds us, it was indeed in the context of a late-eighteenth-century ʻphilosophicalʼ establishment of Western modernity that a new concept of music first ʻcame to function as a kind of limit-case of European uniqueness in world historyʼ – meaning that ʻmodern musicology, and not just ethnomusicology [is] a discipline erected on propositions of cultural differenceʼ – nonetheless, as Naoki Sakai asserts, ʻthere is no inherent reason why the West/non-West opposition should [continue to] determine the geographical perspective of modernity except for the fact that it definitely serves to establish the unity of the West.ʼ [38]

One could think here, in a rather different vein, of the ʻinternationalʼ nature of contemporary ʻpopularʼ electronic music by comparison to earlier forms of rock, and the ʻcounterculturalʼ forms that it, too, may contain. For while, in the case of rock, a clear hierarchy was early established between an innovative ʻcentreʼ (North America and Britain) and various local peripheries, whose products were largely understood (not least by their ʻhomeʼ audiences) as mere copies or mildly exoticized variants, increasingly no such clear cultural geography seems to be present in the case of newer forms. Of course this is to simplify somewhat – there are forms of rock which donʼt fit this model (Tropicalía in Brazil during the late 1960s, for example), and techno still partially retains its privileged sites (Detroit, Chicago, Berlin). Equally, one needs to be aware of the ongoing ʻdisproportionate influence of the West as cultural forum … as place of public exhibition and discussion, as place of judgement, and as market-placeʼ. Nonetheless, music, perhaps more than any other form of cultural production, does seem to point to a radical ʻgeographicalʼ expansion of the concept of modernismʼs potential ʻdenotationʼ; an expansion which follows from the emergent global generalization of the temporal dynamics of ʻmodernityʼ itself, with (for better or worse) cultural effects on both non-West and West. [39]

In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber relates that ʻrational, harmonious musicʼ – by which he means tempered music – is ʻknown only in the Occidentʼ. [40] One might note, in this respect, that just as, say, La Monte Young, Ligeti or Ornette Coleman work, in the West, to open up the theoretically infinite non-identity of the nuances within the harmonic series, beyond the ʻexact divisionsʼ of tradition, so equal temperament – via the factoryinstalled tunings of the piano, the accordion and the commercial synthesizer, as well as globally distributed tapes and CDs – proves to be one of Western capitalismʼs most successful (and destructive) cultural exports into the new Empire of global capitalism, seeking to impose an effective demand that local forms undergo ʻalterationsʼ such that they may be represented in the global marketplace. Indeed, it is precisely this generalization of ʻrational, harmonious musicʼ that provides the critical social context, in some sense, for the productive logic of the artists cited, and for their own turn towards forms and practices to be found in non-Western musics. [41] This is a turn which can undoubtedly work to inscribe its own contemporary forms of Orientalism, its own Rousseauian myths of an unchanging, pre-reflective voice of nature located outside the Occident – as has been expertly analysed by John Corbett. [42] But, in its most significant forms, it can also serve to articulate the tension produced by the non-identity of different musical structures and conventions. Moreover, this clearly involves ʻmodernismsʼ that have emerged, uniquely, on the other side, as it were, of any traditional West/non-West divide, such as Japanese noise music (Merzbow, Keiji Haino), and that suggest theoretical and historical complexities of a genuinely unprecedented kind. This should require a reflection upon the different modalities at stake in, as Vieira de Carvalho puts it, ʻstructural fecundation by a musical Otherʼ, and ʻcollage as colonial appropriationʼ. [43] Yet, it is precisely such a distinction – never of course absolute – that dominant conceptions of ʻpostmodernistʼ eclecticism fail to reflect upon, without, at any rate, covertly resorting to an implicit concept of modernism. Moreover, the danger implicit in such unreflective conceptions of eclecticism is a familiar fantasy that art itself might overcome the contradictions and divisions of society, where an ʻaesthetic pluralismʼ (across a now global field) works to erase the differential musical and social relations that it simultaneously implies; a danger that finds its musical corollary in something like the ʻutopian interzoneʼ of Jon Hassellʼs ʻFourth World Musicʼ, where ʻbits of non-Western musicʼ are simply grafted onto ʻWestern structuresʼ (of harmony and rhythm), burying ʻthe intricate hegemonic relationsʼ that are ʻinherent in such a programmeʼ. [44]

There is a great deal more that could be said at this point, but I want to come back, finally, to Adorno and to the conceptual constellation of modernism and dissonance which I have placed in question above. For it is in light of this, and of the proposed alternate concept of nuance, that one might return, as a last example here, to the presuppositions apparent within the much-disputed readings of jazz, particularly given the now general opinion that certain jazz works should, contra Adorno, be considered as properly ʻmodernistʼ in form. The question here becomes one of how such ʻmodernismʼ is to be understood. Once again, predominant accounts tend to approach this in terms of a periodizable ʻstylisticʼ similarity defined in relation to a supposedly ʻcanonicalʼ original. Thus, the forms or techniques of figures like Armstrong, Parker or Coltrane are ʻredeemedʼ as ʻmodernistʼ in character through critical parallels made to the collages of Picasso, the parodies of Joyce, or the ʻAfricanesqueʼ sculptures of Brancusi. [45] Yet, as I have argued, such a ʻgeneric-periodizingʼ definition is itself problematic, at least with regard to its ineliminable tension with the temporal logic inscribed within the concept of modernism itself. At any rate, given this, it clearly cannot serve to counter Adornoʼs essential musical arguments concerning jazz. For, despite the blatant prejudices involved (and the spurious Freudianisms which often constitute their theoretical expression) these are not simply reflective of a contingent Arnoldian distaste. Rather they follow directly from the restrictions inherent within the conceptual identification of dissonance and modernism, in so far as it is this, it seems to me, that most clearly allowed Adorno not only to ignore the relative importance accorded to timbral and rhythmic innovations but also to misrecognise the very harmonic ʻnuancesʼ at stake in jazz, as nothing more than mere repetitions of developments already established in the nineteenth-century classical tradition. Thus, for example, the ʻnewnessʼ of the so-called ʻflattened fifthʼ, characteristic of bebop harmonies emergent in the 1950s, can only be (mis)read by Adorno as replicating the far earlier incorporation of the ʻtritoneʼ, as a ʻdissonantʼ interval, which took place as part of the negation of classical tonality. Yet, as Berendt points out, while these may well look like a process of ʻwhat traditional European functional harmonies would call “diminution”, it is, in principle, a different processʼ; a process relating to the immanent logic of what jazz musicians and critics call ʻblue notesʼ. [46]

Ironically, it is in fact precisely such a misreading which tends to be repeated in the work of many of those who would seek to defend the modernism of jazz against Adornoʼs critique. Thus, for example, Witkin writes that while ʻthe label “jazz” once applied to any dance-band musicʼ, today it ʻencompassesʼ avantgarde ʻcomposersʼ like Ornette Coleman who have ʻassimilated many of the lessons of atonal compositionʼ. Leaving aside the slightly dubious terminology of ʻcompositionʼ employed here, the central problem with such a defence is that it concedes everything to Adornoʼs restricted account of modernism; placing jazz in a perpetual position of playing ʻcatch upʼ to the ʻlessonsʼ already learnt within ʻart musicʼ. Yet this simply does not correspond to the logic of non-identity that defines someone like Colemanʼs own relation to the jazz tradition, which, rather than marking any ʻassimilationʼ of a model of atonality already developed elsewhere, is more akin to a turning of ʻthe whole scale into blue notesʼ. [47] My claim here is that it is this that constitutes the modernism of Colemanʼs work, and not any supposed stylistic proximity to canonical forms. This would go, too, for the appearance of ʻimprecise pitchʼ in the playing of Coleman or other ʻfree jazzʼ musicians such as Albert Ayler. For such ʻimprecisionʼ is only such in relation to the ʻpreciseʼ divisions codified in the instrumental technology and notational systems of ʻEuropeanʼ music. To put it another way, what appears, in the modernist forms of jazz, as ʻimprecisionʼ is nothing less than the critical articulation of nuance: the production of a non-identity to received musical material which opens up to an ʻinfinite continuumʼ of such non-identical ʻimprecisionsʼ. Berendt cites Colemanʼs assertion that ʻan F in a tune called “Peace” should not sound the same as an F in a context that is supposed to express sadness.ʼ As Berendt comments, this is ʻa blues musicianʼs conceptʼ. However, this is not simply a question – any more than the blues itself is – of mere ʻemotionalʼ impressionism, it relates to the historical structures and material of a quite different musical ʻsystemʼ. The notion that ʻall Fs … must have an identical pitch … merely illustrates the influence of the European traditionʼ. [48] At the same time, it is this which does seem to allow for a convergence with certain logics in post-serialism, as traced above. (For example, Boulez concedes – and contrasts this, in somewhat Orientalist fashion, to the non-tempered ʻmodesʼ of non-Western musics – that modern Western harmony and instrumentation have tended towards a ʻstandardization of intervals and of sounds in general … If, for instance, I use a D or an E, it will be a D or an E that is absolute, not relative, and will have no individual characteristics.ʼ [49] ) And it is, of course, precisely such convergences – given concrete form in many contemporary experimental musics – which allow for the suggestion that the problematic of ʻnuanceʼ, as the ʻdistress and despair of the exact divisionʼ, may (unlike, finally, dissonance) connect the modernisms of both jazz and ʻart musicʼ at such moments, as well as the developing interactions between them (in a way that, incidentally, goes far beyond the cultural field of Lyotardʼs own, fairly conventionally limited presentation). Nonetheless, one always needs, still, to register critically the different immanent logics by which different musics may appear to arrive at such similar concrete musical ʻproblemsʼ; and this as part of a more general recognition of the tensions (as well as connections) which persist between the ongoing formation of diverse, ʻlocalʼ cultural forms and ultimately global processes of ʻtransculturationʼ.

As the great Afro-American improviser Leo Smith asserts, in a self-published pamphlet from 1973, it is quite simply a mistake to imagine that the blues ʻis pitch-orientedʼ in a ʻclassicalʼ sense. ʻRather, the blues is determined by its sound [timbre] and its rhythm, and not by its harmonic function.ʼ As such, any ʻmodernismʼ which would develop from such ʻorientationsʼ – such as certain forms of jazz – should scarcely be expected to develop along the same unilinear path of ʻprogressionʼ as modernisms developing from quite different musical ʻfoundationsʼ. What they have in common is not some set of determinate musical ʻpropertiesʼ, but a certain temporal logic of negation, an affirmative articulation of the non-identity of modernity and tradition, which has historically marked their ʻbelongingʼ to certain (Western) societies, as well as their capacity to test its dominant forms and divisions. In failing to hear the distinct nuances of jazz, and of its own logics of non-identity, Adorno thus failed to recognize the way in which the ʻunresolved antagonisms of realityʼ returned to it, too, ʻas immanent problems of formʼ. For the blue notes and ʻimpreciseʼ pitchings which the blues bequeaths as musical ʻproblemsʼ to jazz (and, indeed, certain forms of rock) are themselves formed through a developing and productive cultural struggle between diasporic African forms and the ʻexact divisionsʼ of equal temperament which Western instruments, like the fretted guitar, work to impose. (A similar thing could be said with regard to aspects of rhythm.) This is not, of course, to imply that something like the blues itself, at least in its original ʻruralʼ forms, should be understood as modernist (although it is certainly ʻmodernʼ). Rather, it seems to me, jazz becomes modernist at the point at which the nuances of this non-identity come to be critically articulated and pursued according to its own immanent modes of negation. (Bebop, with its critical relation to the commercial imperatives of ʻswingʼ, would seem an obvious turning point in this respect.) It is in this sense that I think, for example, of what is indicated by Le Roi Jonesʼs description of the ʻwilfully harsh, anti-assimilationist soundʼ of free jazz. [50]

Contra dominant definitions of postmodernism, what is needed therefore is not so much a defence of heteronomous music, as Adorno defines it – though this is not without interest – but rather a consideration of the way in which musics, such as jazz, with roots outside of the so-called Western ʻart musicʼ tradition have for some time now developed their own modes of autonomy, even as they also increasingly come into contact with other ʻtraditionsʼ and interpenetrate with them in a variety of ways. For autonomy is not identical to what is called ʻhigh cultureʼ, even if Adornoʼs social theory tended to promote their convergence. (This issue is particularly confused in music studies by virtue of an assumed identity between the historical development of ʻautonomyʼ and the specific ʻclassicalʼ idea of an ʻabsoluteʼ – non-vocalized, non-representational – music, which may also, via the fixity of the score, be abstracted from any contingencies of context.) Indeed, the ongoing renewal of a genuine autonomy – as opposed to what Adorno terms, in The Philosophy of Modern Music, a ʻhermeticʼ art reified by aestheticism – is itself dependent upon a continual critical technical engagement with what is already given, as immanently registered within artistic practice; a process which is as much at work in (and between) certain forms of jazz, rock or electronica, as in the ill-named ʻclassicalʼ tradition. [51]

The ʻquestion posedʼ by every modernist artwork,

Adorno suggests, ʻis how, under the domination of the universal, a particular is in any way possibleʼ. Yet this does not point to a simple redundancy of conceptuality, but insists, all the more strongly, as a condition of drawing out its social and historical ʻsubstanceʼ, upon artʼs ʻelective affinityʼ with concepts; ʻalthough admittedlyʼ, Adorno continues, ʻto those whose telos is the particularʼ. [52] It is in this vein that I posit here the concept of ʻnuanceʼ, as a determinate theoretical negation of the historical conceptual constellation of modernism and dissonance, and, as such, a concept that might reveal ʻunknown resonancesʼ in the variegated historical character that defines the ongoing critical work of a musical modernism. Moreover, it is in this light that Adornoʼs own conception of the productive logic of modernism, as a process at once artistic and social, is still so crucial – as a ʻstarting pointʼ at least – because it refuses to give up on the necessity of a ʻsecond reflectionʼ through which the social substance of musical forms and practices may be theoretically registered and judged. But such reflection – the condition for a renewed philosophy of modern music today – is marked by its own radical historicity which breaks apart Adornoʼs anxious restrictions of such a dynamic of non-identity. Finally, it is by musicʼs own reflection upon the material of which it is made, and the divisions that traverse it, that it confronts the compulsions of reality.


1. ^ Theodor Adorno, The Philosophy of Modern Music, trans.

Anne G. Mitchell and Wesley V. Blomster, Continuum,

London and New York, 2003, p. 4; Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor, Athlone,

London, 1997, p. 341.

2. ^ See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, trans. Graham Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson,

Verso, London and New York, 1994, p. 5.

3. ^ See, for example, David Toop, Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds, Serpentʼs Tail, London and New York, 1995, pp. 16–22; and Paul Griffithsʼs now standard account, Modern Music, Thames & Hudson, London and New York, 1978, pp. 7, 124.

4. ^ For an extremely interesting intervention here, see Jann Pasler, ʻRace, Orientalism, and Distinction in the Wake of the “Yellow Peril”ʼ, in Georgina Born and David Hesmondhalgh, eds, Western Music and Its Others: Difference, Representation and Appropriation in Music, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 2000, pp. 86–118.

5. ^ Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, p. 28.

6. ^ Francois Bayle, cited in OHM: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music, 1948–1980, Ellipsis Arts, New York, 2000, p. 62; Walter Benjamin, ʻA Childʼs View of Colourʼ (1914–15), trans. Rodney Livingstone, in Selected Writings, Volume One, 1913–1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, Harvard University Press,

Cambridge MA, 1996, p. 50; Jean-François Lyotard, ʻAfter the Sublime, the State of Aestheticsʼ, in The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby, Polity, Cambridge, 1991, p. 140.

Peter Osborne has pointed out to me that the term ʻnuanceʼ in Lyotard, and possibly in Benjamin also, may well have a Bergsonian provenance. In the case of the former this could, one might speculate, have come via Deleuzeʼs 1956 essay on Bergson, which proposes ʻthe logic [raison] of nuanceʼ as a means to thinking ʻinternal difference as suchʼ, ʻdifference itselfʼ, as against ʻthe dialectic of contradictionʼ. See Gilles Deleuze, ʻBergsonʼs Conception of Differenceʼ, trans. Melissa McMahon, in John Mullarkey, ed., The New Bergson, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1999, pp. 42–65.

7. ^ Georgina Born, ʻMusic, Modernism and Significationʼ, in Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne, eds, Thinking Art: Beyond Traditional Aesthetics, ICA, London, 1991, p. 174.

8. ^ See, for example, Peter Osborne, ʻAdorno and the Metaphysics of Modernism: The Problem of a “Postmodern” Artʼ, in Andrew Benjamin, ed., The Problem of Modernity: Adorno and Benjamin, Routledge, London and New York, 1989; Lambert Zuidervaart, Adornoʼs Aesthetic Theory: The Redemption of Illusion, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1991, esp. ch. 2; and John Roberts, ʻAfter Adorno: Art, Autonomy and Critiqueʼ, Historical Materialism 7, Winter 2000, pp. 221–39.

9. ^ Adorno, The Philosophy of Modern Music, p. 4.

10. ^ David Cunningham, ʻA Time for Dissonance and Noise:

On Adorno, Music and the Concept of Modernismʼ, Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, vol. 8, no. 1, 2003, pp. 62–3. This first section of the present essay seeks to extend the analysis begun in this article.

11. ^ Adorno, The Philosophy of Modern Music, p. 358.

12. ^ Osborne, ʻAdorno and the Metaphysics of Modernismʼ, p. 37; Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, p. 15. That this has a more general relevance for broadly ʻphilosophicalʼ accounts of ʻmodernistʼ cultural production is suggested by the role that a certain concept of dissonance, explicitly drawn from Adornoʼs work, plays in the readings of the visual arts to be found in the so-called ʻnew aestheticismʼ. See, for example, the reading of Pollockʼs paintings in T.J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism, Yale University Press,

New Haven and London, 1999, pp. 336–42. A tracing of this use of a concept of dissonance – abstracted be-yond its roots in Adornoʼs specific criticism of musical works – might give further substance to the critical analysis of Clarkʼs ʻhistoricizingʼ of modernism ʻas a lost objectʼ carried out in, for example, John Roberts, ʻOn Autonomy and the Avant-Gardeʼ, Radical Philosophy 103, September/October 2000, pp. 25–8.

13. ^ Alan Dunant, The Conditions of Music, SUNY Press,

Albany NY, 1984, p. 62 (my emphasis); Theodor Adorno, ʻVers une Musique Informelleʼ, in Quasi una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music, trans. Rodney Livingstone,

Verso, London and New York, 1992, p. 281.

14. ^ Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, p. 6; ʻVers une Musique Informelleʼ, p. 281; Aesthetic Theory, pp. 20, 4; Theodor Adorno, Hegel: Three Studies, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1993, p. 136.

15. ^ Schoenbergʼs theoretical works are dominated by an account of the historical development of harmony. It is against the background of this that he defines the practices of his own ʻschoolʼ in terms of ʻthe emancipation of dissonanceʼ. Something of Schoenbergʼs own essential traditionalism can be recognized, however, in the claim that dissonances ʻare merely more remote consonances in the series of overtonesʼ. Arnold Schoenberg, Structural Functions of Harmony (1948), ed. Leonard Stein, Faber,

London, 1983, p. 193. This is a conception that, for obvious reasons (given the homology with social form he wants to maintain), Adorno goes to some lengths to counter. See The Philosophy of Modern Music, pp. 85–6.

16. ^ Georgina Born, Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez and the Institutionalization of the Avant-Garde, California University Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1995, p. 50. See also Cunningham, ʻA Time for Dissonance and Noiseʼ, pp. 65–7. The term ʻtotal serialismʼ relates to the theories and practices of various composers after the Second World War who sought to extend Schoenbergʼs use of the twelve-tone row or series to the musical dimensions of rhythm, duration, dynamics and timbre. It was the various issues surrounding this idea that were the major topics of debate at the famous summer schools at the Kranichstein Institute in Darmstadt, from the early 1950s, which Adorno attended.

17. ^ Gyorgy Ligeti, ʻMetamorposes of Musical Formʼ, in Robert P. Morgan, ed., Source Readings in Musical History: The Twentieth Century, W.W. Norton, New York and London, 1998, p. 113; Alastair Williams, ʻMimesis and Construction in the Work of Boulez and Cageʼ, in Benjamin and Osborne, eds, Thinking Art, pp. 148–9. It is this arbitrariness that is revealed, for example, in Stockhausenʼs Formel for small orchestra (1951), which simply uses a scale of twelve ʻdurationsʼ scored in conventional notational forms.

18. ^ Adorno, ʻVers une Musique Informelleʼ, pp. 272–5.

19. ^ As well as the work of Born, see also various essays in Judy Lochhead and Joseph Auner, eds, Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought, Routledge, London and New York, 2002. The notion of a ʻnew musicologyʼ has, more generally, tended to be closely linked to the reciprocal idea of a musical postmodernism.

20. ^ John Tilbury, programme notes for Confessions of a Piano-Player, concert at Leeds Town Hall, 10 July 2003; Karlheinz Stockhausen, Stockhausen on Music, ed. Robin Maconie, Marion Boyars, London, 1989, p. 52.

21. ^ Georgina Born, introduction to Born and Hesmondhalgh, Western Music, p. 15.

22. ^ Jean-François Lyotard, ʻObedienceʼ, in The Inhuman, p. 166.

23. ^ Ligeti, ʻMetamorphosesʼ, pp. 107, n. 2, 109.

24. ^ Lyotard, ʻAfter the Sublimeʼ, p. 139.

25. ^ Pierre Boulez, ʻWhere Are We Now?ʼ, in Orientations, trans. Martin Cooper, Faber, London, 1986, p. 459.

26. ^ Lyotard, ʻObedienceʼ, p. 171. See Edgard Varèse, ʻThe Liberation of Soundʼ, in Morgan, ed., Source Readings, pp. 69–76.

27. ^ Lyotard, ʻAfter the Sublimeʼ, p. 140; ʻObedienceʼ, pp. 175–6; ʻAfter the Sublimeʼ, p. 140.

28. ^ Benjamin suggests, if only figuratively, a certain basis for such a connection: ʻFor each basic colour there is an octave through to the ninth, and so forth on an ever more diversified scale.ʼ Walter Benjamin, ʻAphorisms on Imagination and Colourʼ (1914–15), in Selected Writings, Volume One, p. 48. Such possible links between a philosophy of modern music and certain conceptualizations of colour might also be related to Varèseʼs conceptions of a musical ʻprismatic deformationʼ, as well as to the writings of the American composer Harry Partch, who constructed, from the 1930s onwards, his own instruments capable of playing a dramatically (intensively and immanently) expanded non-tempered scale: ʻConsider the writer of music … There are no shades of C-sharp, no shades of red, for himʼ. Harry Partch, ʻPatterns of Musicʼ (1940), in Morgan, ed., Source Readings in Musical History, p. 177.

29. ^ Keith Potter, Four Musical Minimalists, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 12. 30. See Toop, Ocean of Sound, p. 255.

31. ^ Williams, ʻMimesis and Constructionʼ, p. 147. Lyotardʼs reference to a critical ʻremainderʼ which would consist only of ʻthe material, the enigmatic presence of vibrationʼ probably in fact relates most directly to Stockhausenʼs experiments at Cologne during the late 1950s, which ʻrevealedʼ to him that the ʻfour basic components of music – pitch, timbre, rhythm and form – could all be seen as facets of the same phenomenon, that of vibrationʼ. See Griffiths, Modern Music, pp. 159–60; and Stockhausen, Stockhausen on Music, pp. 91–6.

32. ^ Boulez, ʻThe System Exposedʼ, in Orientations, pp. 141–2.

33. ^ Lyotard, ʻObedienceʼ, pp. 167–8.

34. ^ Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, Verso, London and New York, 1993, p. 77.

35. ^ Bernard Stiegler and Jacques Derrida, Echographies of Television, trans. Jennifer Bajorek, Polity, Cambridge, 2002, p. 110. The piano, too, is of course a form of technology; one in fact closely linked in its development to the industrial processes made possible by the precision metal lathe, which allowed, for the first time, precision (tempered) tuning on a mass production scale.

36. ^ Kevin Dawe, ʻThe Cultural Study of Musical Instrumentsʼ, in Martin Clayton, Trevor Herbert and Richard Middleton, eds, The Cultural Study of Music, Routledge, New York and London, 2003, p. 275; Adorno, ʻMusic and New Musicʼ, in Quasi una Fantasia, p. [26]

6. ^

37. ^ Susan Buck-Morss, Thinking Past Terror, Verso, London and New York, 2003, p. 132; Georgina Born, introduction to Born and Hesmondhalgh, eds, Western Music and its Others, p. 44.

38. ^ Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, p. 73; Gary Tomlinson, ʻMusicology, Anthropology, Historyʼ, in Clayton et al., Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy 7th Annual Conference

Continental drift?modern european philosophy in britain today

Friday and Saturday 14–15 May 2004

Gustav Tuck/A.V. Hill Lecture Theatres, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1

Speakers include

Miguel de beistegui


Andrew bowie

(Royal Hol oway)

Howard caygill


Simon critchley

(New School, NY)

Peter dews


Alexander garcía düttmann


Joanna hodge

(Manchester Metropolitan)

Stephen houlgate


Kimberly hutchings


Peter osborne


£25 waged; £15 students/unwaged Inquiries: Ray Brassier, Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Middlesex University, White Hart Lane, London N17 8HR. Email:

Further details and forms for advance registration: [archive]

Continental drift?What is the future for modern European (or ‘continental’) philosophy in Britain?What are its projects?What can be done with its canon today?

eds, Cultural Study of Music, pp. 32, 41; Naoki Sakai, cited in Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde, Verso, London and New York, 1995, p. 16.

39. ^ Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, Routledge,

London and New York, 1994, p. 21; and see Peter Osborne, ʻModernism as Translationʼ, in Philosophy in Cultural Theory, Routledge, London and New York, 2000, pp. 53–62.

40. ^ Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons, Unwin University Books, London, 1930, pp. 14–15. It is on this basis that Weber thus relates the music of the Occident to ʻrational, systematic scienceʼ.

41. ^ See for example the account of Ornette Colemanʼs musical encounter with the Moroccan Master Musicians of Joujouka in John Litweiler, Ornette Coleman: A Harmolodic Life, William Morrow, New York, 1992, pp. 151–2.

42. ^ See John Corbett, ʻExperimental Oriental: New Music and Other Othersʼ, in Born and Hesmondhalgh, eds, Western Music, pp. 163–86. Drawing on Said and Fabian, Corbett discusses the ʻconceptual Orientalismʼ of Cage – with its reference to the ʻtimeless emotionsʼ of Eastern music and thought – as well as the early minimalist work of La Monte Young, Steve Reich and others. Nonetheless, Corbett is very careful to insist upon distinctions here, between a kind of ʻcontemporary chinoiserieʼ and the ways in which composers like Young or Henry Cowell, rather than merely ʻreferenceʼ Indian or African musics, work to develop their own music ʻout of them, developing new instrumental techniquesʼ and thus approaching ʻcertain entrenched aspects of Western harmony anewʼ (p. 169).

43. ^ Mário Vieira de Carvalho, ʻ“New Music” between Search for Identity and Autopoiesisʼ, Theory, Culture and Society, vol. 16, no. 4, 1999, p. 133 n.

6. ^ Vieira da Carvalho cites both Debussy and Luigi Nono as representative of the ʻintercultural influenceʼ at stake in the former.

44. ^ Corbett, ʻExperimental Orientalʼ, pp. 175–6.

45. ^ See, for example, Alfred Appel, Jazz Modernism: From Ellington and Armstrong to Matisse and Joyce, Random House, New York, 2003.

46. ^ Joachim E. Berendt, The Jazz Book, Paladin, London, 1984, p. 160. See also Cunningham, ʻA Time for Dissonance and Noiseʼ, pp. 66–7.

47. ^ Robert Witkin, Adorno on Music, Routledge, London and New York, 1998, p. 199; Berendt, The Jazz Book, p. 124.

48. ^ Berendt, The Jazz Book, p. 124.

49. ^ Boulez, ʻWhere Are We Now?ʼ, p. 46.

50. ^ Leo Smith, ʻCreative Music and the AACMʼ, in Robert Walser, ed., Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1999, p. 320; Le Roi Jones, Blues People, Morrow, New York, 1963, p. 181 (my emphasis).

51. ^ See, for example, the interesting argument made for a reading of contemporary electronica in terms of its autonomy – while also acknowledging the dangers of a ʻhedonisticʼ or quasi-scientistic hermeticism – in Dave Clarke, ʻMusical Autonomy Revisitedʼ, in Clayton et al., eds, Cultural Study of Music, pp. 169–70. I think most of all here of the nuances produced by Oval, Pole,

Autechre, or the various contemporary artists gathered together on the Clicks & Cuts compilations, with their fascination with the ʻglitchesʼ, ʻflawsʼ and unintended design ʻfaultsʼ of digital technologies. In Sascha Köschʼs words, non-identity appears here in the ʻmovements from one to zero made audible to and from a computer-