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.
forgetting not only of its own metaphorics but of the general role that metaphor—understanding one thing in terms of another—plays in the discursive construction of experience and the expression of that experience. Goodstein’s diagnosis of boredom as the experiential side of a failed metaphorics is difficult to refute. Boredom is the expression of an experience that cannot be qualified, and as such is not something that can be overcome or resolved, for there is nothing to leverage hope or
Boring 73 himself, or rather, entrust himself, to the inevitable elusiveness of that object.”93 So, is this really the virtue that Wallace wants to put us in mind of, a concentration on “the principally open field of endless heterogeneity and multiplicity”94 imagined by Cage as interestingly boring? Having ultimately chosen oblivion, I’m inclined to think that this is not exactly what Wallace was after. Judging by the way Wallace often represented his fragmented thinking through a
historian Georges Didi-Huberman’s 1995 La Ressemblance informe or perhaps more relevantly, Paul Hegarty’s recent writings on noise music.12 But insofar as I am dealing with a contemporary musical practice whose compositional posture invokes the protocols of an avant-garde tradition that seeks to “justify its existence as the search for its own essence,”13 my project resembles Krauss and Bois’ in its attempt to destabilize a dominant understanding of musical modernism that emphasizes formal
each of these models, I’m more interested in how contemporary (un)listening habits cleave to and pervert the normative comportments of concert listening in a way that sensitizes one to percepts that traffic in liminal and ephemeral experience. Furthermore, I am keen to consider how a concern, a love even, develops for these rogue events to become what Rei Terada calls “phenomenophilia.” I focus later in this study on the attraction to “irregular, unstable, and very transient phenomena [over] the
preparation by the nervous system that modifies, without causing or determining, the intensity and significance of a coming perception. Thus, insofar as “attentional blink” arises “between successive changes in the perceptual field,”†c and musical sounds literally constitute such a field, the act of hearing music is rife with primes. This is doubly so, first in the way that change is immanent to and constitutive of a musical field—i.e. change in harmony, tempo, orchestration, as well as the basic