Boring Formless Nonsense: Experimental Music and The Aesthetics of Failure
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Boring Formless Nonsense intervenes in an aesthetics of failure that has largely been delimited by the visual arts and its avant-garde legacies. It focuses on contemporary experimental composition in which failure rubs elbows with the categories of chance, noise, and obscurity. In these works we hear failure anew. We hear boredom, formlessness, and nonsense in a way that gives new purchase to aesthetic, philosophical, and ethical questions that falter in their negative capability. Reshaping current debates on failure as an aesthetic category, eldritch Priest shows failure to be a duplicitous concept that traffics in paradox and sustains the conditions for magical thinking and hyperstition. Framing recent experimental composition as a deviant kind of sound art, Priest explores how the affective and formal elements of post-Cagean music couples with contemporary culture's themes of depression, distraction, and disinformation to create an esoteric reality composed of counterfactuals and pseudonymous beings. Ambitious in content and experimental in its approach, Boring Formless Nonsense will challenge and fracture your views on failure, creativity, and experimental music.
me, saying Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything. And I resumed the struggle. (He broods, musing on the struggle. Turning to Estragon.) So there you are again. As tired and worn as Estragon’s boot, these opening lines of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot are the archetypal image of modern failure: a struggle, a meditation, and nothing to be done. The passion of the mystic and the clown, where holy resignation is a practical joke. Most accounts that take failure as an explicit
a universal embrace. The Fluxus event doesn’t divest these mundane elements of their signification in the way Cage’s parasitic anti-formalism does; rather than try to efface the ego and ascend to universal-immersive position outside the realm of discursive reality, Fluxus shows that the act of radical inclusion entails the matter of subjectivity, a matter of being continuously positioned within an intensively plastic world of signs and bodies. Inclusion therefore cannot take place beyond the
“an opposite to excitement and as a means of bringing emphasis to what it interrupts.”98 For Higgins then, boredom dialectically affirms the intensities that frame its occasion making it “a station on the way to other experiences.”99 But after nearly fifty years of sincere, ironic, and iconoclastic elaborations of aesthetic boredom, boredom as “a station on the way to other experiences” has the ring of cliché. Furthermore, calling boredom a station obscures a metaphysical ambiguity that is
space that allows one to focus on a work’s structural relations. Essentially, Adorno is arguing that audio technology, AM radio transmission in particular, is not a neutral medium but comes with a dimension of sound or noise that alters one’s relation to and perception of music. Specifically, these background sounds modulate the perception of music’s import, which for Adorno pertains to the formal properties explicated through a language of tones.4 Here, the sticky matter of music, which may be
its “component parts are defined less by rigid metric properties than by connectivity: where the specific shape of a figure is less important than its continuity and sense of connection to the whole.”131 Although descriptions of BGM do not elicit such topological figurations, both it and SoS#16 cultivate a mode of listening that privileges continuity over specifics. The difference of course is that SoS#16 is meant-to-be-listened-to and not (merely) heard. Listening to SoS#16’s lull ))))) At