Back From Newcastle– Thoughts and Impressions from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects All in all this was a truly wonderful experience. I’ve fallen in love with England and am resentfully envious of what the Newcastle folk have.
My impression is that something very exciting is developing at Newcastle. The graduate students are sophisticated theoretically, and are interesting and engaged, taking the study of music in exciting directions that are highly relevant as a sort of critique of high capitalism. The faculty are developing a set of questions about the intersection of music, technology, late capitalism, and the relationship between the aesthetic, the social, and the political that have the potential to open up new ways of thinking the political significance of cultural production that depart from a number of the limitations to be found in, for example, Adorno. This space of a problem is an exciting mix of Badiou, Lacan, Derrida, and Deleuze and Guattari that doesn’t hesitate to liberally rethink their positions, and send their concepts shooting forth in new directions where new concepts are developed...
From the questions and comments I received in response to my paper– “Territories of Music: Distributions, Productions, and Sonorous Individuations” –I think it was well received. I still feel a bit bad at torturing my audience with 28 pages of high theory. I came away with a couple of impressions that will inform my own subsequent work. On the one hand, I think there’s a lot of anxiety about the ontological status of relation, leading to what Hegel or Marx would call an “abstract opposition” between agency and relatedness. Blah-feme had already noted this in his post “When the Music Stops”, pointing out how agency is seen as the opposite of ubiquity. In the paper he gave at the symposium he developed a beautiful self-reflexive critique of the discipline of musicology itself, similar in scope to what Bourdieu did for sociology or Lacan for psychoanalysis, opening the possibility of a ubiquitous agency.
This is a theme I would like to develop as well: how can we simultaneously think agency and ubiquity, or a form of the subject that is always related, always within a relational network that individuates it, without falling into the trap of a theoretical pessimism where the subject is enslaved like a member of the Borg collective?
I think part of what drives current interest in Badiou (truth-procedures and subjects of the event) and Zizek (the Act) is anxiety about precisely this issue. However, Badiou and Zizek seem to search for the un-related, the non-related, as a way of responding to this issue. Is there a way of squarely accepting the ontological thesis that all things are only in problematic fields or networks, while developing a robust account of agency that isn’t simply enslaved by this field but can rebound upon it and transform it?