Late-Breaking Scoop: Polarites are Bunk! (!)


1. I would like to reiterate what Simon and I were discussing last week: that the notion of "growth and limitation" is, I think, more useful as a kind of "meta-application," if that is an ok thing to say. What I mean is that its function, on a purely musical/analytical level (i.e. at the level of the text) is problematic, and depends largely on a priori organic models, and a belief in the self-contained nature of the musical work. Contemporary thought about music seems to point to an interest in heteronomy, not, is the application of the idea of growth and limitation, in terms of only notes, form, the music "itself," acceptible practice? I don't really think so. What I was advocating, and I think I'm simply paraphrasing Simon's idea, which I happen to think is fantasic, is a consideration of music as cultural phenomenon, with the idea of growth and limitation pervading the examination of the various agencies that relate to the production and reception of the musical work, and indeed, to the ontological status of the work as well.

2. Irene, in her posting on polarities, suggested that polarities are necessary, and that their interaction, or interplay, or coming together, creates unity. Or am I mistaken? I think that I see the point, if the point is that it is the constant back and forth, the ceaseless tension between polarities, that allows for the appearance, however fragile, of unity. Am I right to say this? I should admit, at this point, to being somewhat confused, but I must respond to the idea of the "neutral product" that Irene suggests. When polarities unite, this is a neutral bond, Irene states, and the product of a neutral bond is a neutral product. I don't think that I quite follow this. There are assumptions in this issue about the nature of unity that I find troubling. That is, that unity of any sort is real, or possible. In the "growth and limitation" article, the authors suggest that the essential "interplay" between polarities has a beginning and an end, and that the processes associated with growth and limitation, directed movement and the cessation of movement are structually determined (determined, that is, by the inherent musical structures). Where does neutrality enter this discussion? I think that the idea of polarities, the paradigm rather, is a construct that cannot be thought of as natural, and that the "unification" of polarities is just as false. I use the word "false" because Irene writes of unity as "truth". I think that truth is relative, and that it is not the same as unity. What is neutral in all of this?

3. Of greater importance is the question of beginning and ending. Where does a piece begin and where does it end? I suspect that the answer to both questions is something like nowhere and everywhere. This is why I think that the idea of growth and limitation, if it is to be taken as some sort of governing, or fundamenal, principle, must be applied in a broader way, in order to consider the growth and limitation of a musical work culturally, politically, economically, philosophically, and so on.

4. Does the above paragraph address the problem of theory--how could someone create a theory that is dependent upon concepts that are, I believe, fundamentally problematic (such as beginning, ending, unity, etc.) without addressing these issues? Is that the nature of theory, as we were suggesting? Does theory, in order to survive, depend on overstatment, polemics, rhetoric, metaphysics? Who knows...

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