Sunday, 14 September 2014

M. Lamar and Brandon Masterman (SONIC ABJECTION AND BLACK BEING)

How does a sound become black? How is black sound abjected? 

Masterman's analysis of Lamar's music is expert and precise: it reveals how the techniques work together to develop an experience, and the inter-relationship between the words and music. Without even hearing the piece, I have a good idea of its quality and sound. By intelligent use of theory - Kristeva's description of the abject, he links the use of repetition to the presentation of the eternal struggle of the human to escape the abject (in this case, the digestive cycle that eats and shits, eats and shits). 

Going further, the sense of stasis suggests that the horror has never been resolved, never escaped. And the musical dissonance is an echo of the social dissonance that this history has caused. 

Masterman: Textually, and as part of a sonic history, (M. Lamar’s) music refuses to leave the uncomfortable moments and discussions about race, and being racialized, in America alone. Instead, the performances linger in these moments of discomfort, violence, and abjection. As such, it creates an escape from the complacency of post-race ideology through the persistence of this musical/sonic discourse, and its repetition...

Post-race ideology, I guess, posits a society that has grown beyond the categorisations of people according to race (it's a pigment of the imagination, et cetera). Perhaps it is the global village, the chase after an absolute equality. But Lamar reminds that Africans have a particular history - one in which suffering was inflicted.

MastermanFollowing Scott’s understanding of power through abjection, I suggest that M. Lamar’s music creates the abject space of blackness as well as the black aesthetic that brings into potentiality an affective shared blackness from which listening and feeling the sonic abject might provide the power of resistance. 

Or, perhaps, Lauren Berlant’s notion of “ambient citizenship” might no be useful in theorizing how Lamar’s performances could also work as a site of political collectivity where those present can affectively “encounter stories of survival tactics and of what it has meant to survive, or not. It promises the sense of being loosely held in a social world. You don't have to do anything to belong, once you show up and listen.

You don't have to do anything to belong, once you show up and listen.

This is my problem: it is the reason that I worry about art. It's not enough to just 'turn up': engagement with an art work means it has to change behaviour. 

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