17 December 2006

The Ages of Ontological Musicology



The Ages

0 - the Pre Foundational - The Banana Splits, Brotherhood of Man, 'I'm writing a letter to Daddy (his address is Heaven above); the first discovery of music's emotional resonance, the understanding, pre-literacy, perhaps even pre-language that music might be for something and can be separated from other sounds. The initial unerstanding that music might be an element of social inquiry and interaction, that music might have to be shared.

1 - the Foundational - Adam and the Ants; the first stage in recognising that some music might be better than other music. This stage serves a vital pre-identification purpose; to separate them from us and thus partially contradicts the pre-Foundational stage's social intent. It is at the Foundational stage that music initiates the defining paradigm: music is mine although this is unlikely to be made conscious at this stage, since the Founational music will be swamped with (the) other music and the identifical process cannot properly engage until the other has been attenuated and discarded.

2 - The Pre Cardinal - Madness, The Specials, The Who, The Jam; the conscious understanding that music fulfils an important ontological role, resulting in the emotional drainage of leftover musical emblems from the Foundational stage and an increased focus for musical attention. The number of bands and genres listened to dwindles to approximately one+-one, with the side effect that the music can now actively be listened to and, in fact, has to be since it's function as background is temporarily suspended. During this stage it is very difficult to listen to any other kind of music without sneering and totally impossible to dance (whether this lack of non-genre based sensorimotor skills coordination is itself a neurological defecit or a byproduct of a more expansive neurochemical consolidation is unclear but you still look like a gimply goon if you even go near Duran Duran equivalents at this stage).

Those who find this stage a little late in coming to them will be defined as "Plastic _________"(insert genre/subculture) and will buy their clothes at local stores.



3 - The Cardinal - The Sex Pistols, Crass, Bauhaus, The Dead Kennedys; music is now so ontological that it is both necessary for the individuals peace of mind and sufficient in that it is identified as an end in itself. The idea that musical taste will progress by any degree after this point is deemed ridiculous and anyone suggesting this will be assumed to be either conspiratorial or insane. This stage is akin to a Kuhn paradigm shift or a Kierkegaardian 'leap of faith' in that it is not necessarily contingent on what has gone before. This stage is normally associated with the last blurs of puberty, especially the slimy hormonal trails of mid to late Secondary school education.

This stage will be accompanied by a sense of 'uniqueness' (perhaps what Rogers calls 'specialness' which is nonetheless determined by a savage and contradictory subcultural mentality. The 'uniqueness' may not be spotted by casual outside observers (who may conclude that 'they all look/sound the same') but will be immediately recognised by the members of the subculture and santioned explicitly by the alpha members. You buy the same Bauhaus t-shirt as me and I'll fuck you up, big time.

4 - The Pivotal - Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Coil, Foetus, Nurse With Wound, Whitehouse, Eddie Brickell and The New Bohemians; the ontological themes during the Pivotal stage are further constricted, with an increasing focus on discovering 'the unlistenable'. Music is perceived as a conduit for the ontological torture of your peer groups, who may be treated as if they are fixated on the 'uninspired specialness' of the Cardinal stage. This stage is characterised by an increased focus on extremity, with boundaries being pushed and previous musicological 'scaffolding' being removed. Where subcultural commitments mean that increasingly unlistenable music does not have the desired effect a selective reappraisal of 'popular music' may be used to confuse and destablise others opinions. At this, relatively short, stage the zeitgeist is often explicitly disregarded and seen as a potential threat.



5 - The Zeitgeist - Acid House, Techno; at this stage the sudden paranoiac anxiety associated with 'missing the zeitgeist' pressurises the individual into focussing on the 'here and now'. This is thought to be a form of divination in the sense that the individual is made suddenly aware of the existence of things in the now and hence the awful possibility that in a few years time they will be talking to their children about the 'heady days of...' with the realisation that they were not, in any sense of the word that matters, actually there at all. This will necessitate buying white label 12"s on a more or less random basis, to be used as future concillatory tactics in pub discussions, blogs.

During this stage, the individual will fixate on the time as much as the music itself and will, for a short while, find themselves swept away by fashion considerations and zeitgeist chasing memes that, just a few years before, they were too emotionally mature to register. It may involve a sudden understanding of The Happy Mondays, or local equivalents.

6 - The Mediative - Spacemen 3, The Velvet Underground, The Revolting Cocks, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails; this stage is perhaps only seen during the first few years of University when the individual is taken away from the security of their initial attachments / subcultures and forced to musically negotiate with a discontinuous peer set. This process will involve the 'buying and selling' of various musical products, with the dual intention of 1) finding a common ground - thus the social glue effect of music from the early stages makes a reappearance and 2) getting others to cohere to as much of your musical vision, thus acting as a social mirror by which we can gauge our popularity, degree of uniqueness.

At this stage we may revisit some of the early musical meme-sets from stages 1-3, with the hope that a shared cultural history will help cement friendships and devise strategies for future joint musical investigations. It is noticeable that this stage also features a re-emergence of the idea of music as background, which has not featured since the Cardinal stage.

7 - The Forage - Ze Records, rare Funk, Johnny Cash, Palace Music; this stage is characterised by an ending to the social obligations of group living and a focus on the reabsorption of genres outside the Mediative frame of reference. It is typical of this stage for unpopular and 'polarising' genre interests to emerge, e.g. country, hip-hop and prog. It is not clear exactly what the ontological purpose of this stage is except for the obvious motivation towards independence, perhaps a response to the final shedding of peer and familial ties associated with social and geographical mobility.

It is noticeable that one of the key dualities of stages 0-6, the need to enhance your own social status by cohering and expanding the listening habits of your peers whilst simultaneously maintaining ontological security and uniqueness, disappears at this stage and listening becomes a moe solitary experience. This in turn creates the illusion of an end to the individual's musicological development.

8 - The Nostalgic - The Chesterfields, The Field Mice, Pop Will Eat Itself, The House of Love, New Beat; this stage allows a slight deviation from continuity in an attempt to readdress musical opportunities missed, especially, during stages 3 - 5 when thematic / genre fixation and personality development necessitated a more focused approach. Here, musical memes from those days can be re-evaluated without prejudice so that, for instance, 'secret' tapes of jangly C86 bands can now be unpacked and listened to without fear of being a 'genre traitor'.

An associated characteristic of this stage is the gradual reaccumulation (on CD, MP3, whatever) of all the old 12"s and LPs you sold back in the Mediation stage for kebabs and favours and because you knew you'd never listen to them again.

The casual re-evaluator must however be cautious to take their nostalgia slowly. Several accounts of unexplained ontological reversals and even psychotic breakdowns have been attributed to the emergence of previously repressed memories associated with states left unaddressed during stages 3 - 5. For example, the sudden re- identification with stripey t-shirts and bowl haircuts may simply be a prelude to a wider, unconscious trauma, related to cricket ball throwing competitions and inappropriate sexual advances. It is interesting that this stage allows the individual to fully grasp for the first time their own essential duality and this may manifest itself in confused midnight ramblings along the lines of "I never even knew I liked this before...it's like lead turned to gold...". The alchemical metaphor is crucial here, since it is now well known that alchemy has in fact a metaphorical relationship to Pre-Medieval psychoanalysis.



9 - The Inclusive - Girls Aloud, Rachel Stevens, Muse; like the similar stage found in working class people (The Ironic) this stage implies an unequivocal acceptance of all musical genres and yet this belies a very similar line of reasoning to those found in the pre-Cardinal and the Mediative stages. Again the theme of social cohesion emerges, this time because the individual recognises that the strains and symptoms of capitalism demand his re-engagement with not just his immediate peers and family but also the whole world. At first this may simply manifest itself as a grudging respect, for example for 'clinical' example of the 'pop' (Rachel Stevens 'Some Girls' is thought to be a key factor here, itself a mediation from the sinister Dr X) but then appears as an ostensibly 'all or nothing' response where all music is regarded as fundamentally equal. This lack of genre identication is felt by the individual to indicate the first real stage of musical and socio-emotional maturity and they will often use this as a weapon against 'specialists' and 'organ grinders'.

This sense of maturity is, of course, false and may lead to the unacceptable use of Coldplay, Keane or the Kaiser Chiefs.

10 - The Affective - Kemialliset Ystavat, Sunburned Hand of the Man, Jackie O Motherfucker, Burial; this penultimate stage is in part a return to the ontological work of The Zeitgeist. Here, the individual attempts to deal with the onrush of senility and/or maturity with a regression of their own and an anxiety to find the contents of the Wire magazine's "A Glanceback att The 21st Century" (to be published in 100 years time) before the limited edition, 43 copies only, calf skin and bullet tip records are sold out and start selling for thousands of pounds on eBay. While this may appear from the outside as a simple railing against the flow of time it is more subtle than that as evidenced by the fact that this stage is characterised above all else by language as in the oft-heard phrase "This year is the best year ever for music". It is this phrase that the true genesis of this stage can be found: it is an attempt to realign the certainty of the Cardinal stage in order to defeat the implicit understanding that everything is heading towards entropy.

Picking hair out of your ears is a sign that the next big thing is just around the corner.



11 - The Familial - Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, The Byrds, Van Der Graaf Generator; the final stage is a musical approximation of the feeling you get when you look in the mirror and see that your father is looking back at you with the same puzzled expression you saw in him during the Cardinal stage. Ancient, Pre-Foundational memories reoccur and you are drawn into a kind of quasi-nostalgia for something you never had. Music you have dismissed out of hand in the personality forming stages appears in a different light and you suddenly find yourself sitting on an empty bus humming 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' or something by Bread.

At the onset of this stage it is common to attempt an emotional arrest by immediately regressing to the Pivotal stage, updating it to include buying everything you can find by Venetian Snares, early Swans and Brained By Falling Stationery.

16 comments:

GTTRBRKZ said...

well...fuck me.

Speechless....

moka said...

I want to write something about this but I have to go right now. Will be back. Actually I could pretty much resume it the same way as gttrbrks up here:

speechless.

kempernorton said...

I don't know....acres of pretentious invented categories and psychbabble just to justify your listening of Girls Aloud. Outrageous.

Loki said...

Kempernorton...are you talking about this post in particular or my life in general?

Anonymous said...

Would appear to be stuck somewhere inside Forage, with overtones of Mediative and Pivotal.
Eerily accurate, particularly the Forage structure ... discovering the Contortions and taking up sax did indeed disqualify me from any social grouping understandable as such, leading to Stalinist show trial and ejection from own band, and breakdown of family relationships ... result all round, I'd say.
There is always a place for early Swans.

kek-w said...

Affective, affective, affective, affective, affective, Inclusive!

danb said...

brilliant. i guess i'm still stuck in the forage, but i still think that you should shoot me if you ever find me humming simon & garfunkle and will always love early swans.

Prmod Bafna said...

Extensive! A meery christmas to you loki! :)

peter said...

I must say, I think you hit it on the head pretty damn close - yet this is truly a cycle in that once you hit the end, it seems to start over (I've noticed that I've repeated this experience at least once, if not twice).

Anonymous said...

Man, call me cheap and easy, but color me impressed: any post that namechecks the Jam, House of Love, Spacemen 3, Sunburned, Jackie OMF, The Field Mice and Acid House just really makes my day. And our little friend in black ain't too shabby, neither...

Cocaine Jesus said...

shit.

i seem to sit in some area marked PRE, PRE, PRE-FOUNDATIONAL.

Loki said...

pre, pre, pre-foundational? womb music? actually, a lot of music i listened to circa that Isolationalism DCD sounded like it came from the womb... mind you, i was on the dole at the time and only really heard music on late night Brtighton Festival Radio with very dodgy reception...

i guess the cycles do repeat...and they weren't meant to be exclusive... i suppose in the spirit of rhizomatic flow they all have to interconnect all of the time, so that the past and present can never be separated or dismembered...

still wish I could find a way past the kind of juicy emotional topsoiling I get when I hear S & Gs "the only living boy in new york" though...

and kek. surely you can't always be in the affective... i mean, there must be a few things you've settled on - i'm thinking Amon Duul?

or are you saying that you're constantly living in fear of missing the next big thing? me, i'm always missing it; arriving just about 2 years too late to pick over the wreckage and look back over reviews to see what I've missed...

I guess the internet maybe means that I'm arriving earlier and earlier at new trends but I'm still late...

and in 10 years time you'll no doubt be rebuying all those Alan Moore comics just to see because one thing that alwasy seems to happen is that memory of crapness / boredom erodes as quickly as anything else... i've rebought and got rebored of so many things...

Cocaine Jesus said...

alan moore?
did some one mention alan moore.

god bless tom trong.

kek-w said...

LOL! Yes...constantly living in fear of missing something really fantastic, be it new or old...! A feverishly frantic freak-out...and I don't even have an iPod like you guys, so to keep up I have to constantly lug a record-player, vinyl and an emormous cassette-player on and off the bus...!

"...and in 10 years time you'll no doubt be rebuying all those Alan Moore comics..." Double LOL! Yes, probably...

I'm starting to get into Metal, so this year could prove v. troublesome...

kek-w said...

I wish he was called Tom Trong. How cool would that be.

Anonymous said...

That was absolutely brilliant!

I am stuck somewhere between all of the last few sections right now. Finding out I really like John Barry and other previously unapproachable almost easy listening music and occassionally still being stunned by the burial album.

not much luck with the straight pop music though.

Perhaps in the states classic rock would work in here somewhere.

Related Posts with Thumbnails