Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Carl's Musical Exchange

A rather, rather nice post by Carl Impostume on music appreciation as a phenomenon of social exchange, a post which provides much food for thought.

Some observations:

- Carl Impostume is completely right when he writes: "There is a deep and gratifying reciprocal element to music appreciation of course, swapping tapes, breathlessly naming tracks and artists in reverence sessions down the pub etc ....". As an ethnographer the words 'reciprocal element' immediately brings to mind Marcel Mauss' classic 1923 work on gift exchange, Essai sur le don. Interestingly, what is exchanged (music is the gift behind the tapes and names of tracks and artists) is in itself also an object of reverence. Where in many gift-exchange relationship the object that is exchanged is passive, this gift - music! - almost seems to acquire a life of its own. The gift exchange between "concrete others, family members, friends, lovers etc" is perhaps at once a sacrifice to music. In the Maussian scheme of sacrifice, the energy expanded in swapping tapes and breathlessly naming tracks and artists would be the sacrificial victim. Sacrifice can, as Mauss demonstrated, be seen as a form of gift exchange with the divinity to whom the sacrifice is offered, and who will reciprocate with blessings. If you sacrifice much to music, you can expect to receive more of music's blessings, can't you?

- The post made me feel rather lonely. Unlike Carl Impostume, there is barely any music that my parents, my sister and I all thouroughly enjoy. My close friends and my missus used to like the same music (Industrial) when we were in our early twenties; we used to listen communally like Carl Impostume does with his friends in the pub; but musically we have grown apart. I know no concrete person personally who likes Black Metal. Carl Impostume is of course right when he writes: "Even if the people for whom/on whose behalf you’re always listening aren’t concrete others, family members, friends, lovers etc, it's non-contentious enough surely to suggest that you are always listening for someone, in terms of critical voices, political ideas and ideals, a sense of the tradition etc ..." But these non-concrete (one could use virtual, if the connotations weren't so wrong) others cannot replace the concrete others. They are mere 'masturbatory phantasmata'. This is why I'm so very happy with people who react to my posts, either with the comment box or in their own blog. But even these cannot replace flesh-and-blood others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That Impostume post was on the money in many ways. Is the new ether-based blogipeligo really an improvement? Many people get a superficial introduction to a lot of music, that much is certain.