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Digital Music Revolution: Cacophony, Sound, and (the Bestowal and Withholding of) Pleasure

by Virginia Konchan

One must soberly ask, in light of the enthusiastic rhetoric that surrounds new forms of postmodern audience participation: are these forms of “agency” designed to empower the listener, creatively or critically, or merely offer the simulated (“technical”) illusion thereof? The mimetic replication of urban and post-industrial noises reinscribes the very determinisms that all art forms both inherit and strive to overcome, and while on a neurological level the ear enjoys assimilating unfamiliar sounds, and harsh noises generated from dissonance, punk, heavy metal or electronic music, can induce an “unpleasing” cerebral pleasure, the sustained withholding of aural pleasure from the listener may be the last insidiously lingering form of 21st century authoritarian “control” of all.

Nothing Personal: Some Notes on Cage

When Cage began experimenting with chance operations in the 1940s, he was looking for a means of stripping intention and taste from the process of creating art. In the Western world, our notion of “genius,” at least as it relates to artists and performers, is generally shaped by a psycho-historical method of decoding biography to discover the seed of ability.