Wet thoughts on a conceptual framework-drying rack

The first obstacle I would like to level out, is the question of what is the framework going to be ‘based on’. Well the simple answer is ‘nothing’!!

Construting a conceptual framework on something implies, within a mainstream way of seeing things, that you refer to Theory, and that you are now going to suggest a new theory. I would then have to call my project “Artistic processes, a new theory on the effects of art on society”. Something like that. That would presuppose, that there is a) something, an essence, we can actually point to ‘out there’ that we can define as ‘art’, b) there is an essence we can locate, which we can define as ‘society’, and c) as an ‘explanation’ of the relation between the two, art / society, we can deduce our way to an underlying theory, the same way as an archaeologist digging out an ancient ruin, and that this work – although tedious, and very time-consuming – will at some point get us to the essence of the question.

I would very much like NOT to fall into that trap.

Instead of departing from a ‘theoretical’ background, discussing the current ‘development’ in music theory, art theory, etc., discussing the scientific validity of each, and then basing a new theory on some resilient new matters of facts, my approach will be different.

The theories of music / art, I have come across simply do not do the trick. At some point they always seem to miss the most important. They might departure from what we call psychology, and ‘explain’ our relation with music in terms of emotions, of affect. In this framework, art and music, is something that we use in our daily life to enrich it, to feel good, to relate to each other, etc. They might base themselves on theories about society, seeing music and art as instruments for different currents in the historical evolution of a society. Or the might simply use art ‘it self’ and music ‘it self’ as their ‘field of study’, and claim that these phenomenon simply do not have anything to do with anything else, that they are free from ‘the political’, and so on.

Common to these ‘theories’ is that they take for granted 1) that there is some kind of essence that can be dug up, – after years of reading and researching of course, 2) that we can identify the different parts of the ‘field of study’, that they are actually there, although maybe not physically, (and that’s one of the main challenges to these approaches), and 3) that the actual processes of music and art making, producing and perceiving is something that takes place in either an individual, – this is when studying perception, and ‘the creative’, etc., and on the other hand on a larger scale, ‘society’, where they look for the changes that art/music is ‘causing’.

The l’art pour l’art theories simply loose themselves in the mist of misty explanations always coming short at some point, where you simply have to accept that ‘art does things’. In an attempt to free music and art from being used as an instrument for political and other agendas, they actually work for the same forces that they want to be an opposition to. These approaches sustain the current state of affairs, because they remove from artistic processes their potential for change. They castrate art as a revolutionary force while allocating the artistic processes to a harmless, abstract, and almost religious sphere.

As a parallel, here is Bruno Latours illustration from a talk where he is doing his ‘critique of the critique’:

Move one is the critique of the fetish

Instead of talking about theory, I will be talking about a conceptual framework. Instead of looking into the individual, and look for relations with society, I will take the collective as departure point. Artistic processes are embedded in collectives, in networked relations, not in a sum of individuals.

What I expect from a conceptual framework is that it

  • can serve as a drying rack on which to hang the still wet thoughts, I collect from reading books, talking with other people, and from observing my surroundings
  • is flexible, and can change along the way according to how my thoughts develop
  • is accumulative and hybridising, that it can accommodate thoughts from diverse and contradictory sources, whether academic, artistic, common sense-ish, esoteric, etc.

My current sketch for a framework is a triadic one as opposed to majority of mainstream thinking, which is essentially dyadic, and I will dedicate a blogpost to this question.

Wet thoughts on a conceptual drying rack framework


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