Presence Silence Event (8 SEPT 2005)

The painter Newman says that his paintings “make the viewer present”. So too Deleuze tries to theorize a kind of cinema that makes the viewer constitute itself as a subject actively without merely being “given” in the sequence of images.

Part of my problem with composing music—and why I do so little of it—is that music faces a similar problem. The music of people like Berg and Stravinsky make the listener pay attention, certainly, but it has been noted that it’s difficult to listen to modern music without having a theory about it (Schoenberg had to write a lot of treatises about music while he was composing). Adorno thought that was this was great thing because music then would not pacify consciousness but jar it into the recognition that everything else does. Unfortunately we’re all familiar with the aporias into which Adorno and modernism were led.

Perhaps with music what is needed is not to make the listener present, but to make the listener disappear. Tibetan singing bowls do this; Boulez in a different way, I think, is on the right track.

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