Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Notes on digital culture

I'm probably not the first to notice this, but I'm too lazy to google who has. (Or maybe I am "original" after all): *

As facebook's vindicated for its "social utility," I've noticed there's a continuum between how much fun it is and how much work it creates. Case in point: several messages await me. Some are quite important, and would have, 70, 80 years ago, merited telegrams. Others, letters. Some are professionally related in one sense or another.

Now, in the meantime, I'm clearly doing other things. I'm pithily observing the world. I'm commenting on youtube clips of animals gone wild, posting Jon Stewart clips as if I discovered the daily show, and doing all manner of frivolous things.

It's as if you've gone to the DMV and I'm behind the counter. You might be my family, you might be my boss, you might be my best friend, and I hold up the proverbial "it'll be a sec" index finger. You're waiting in line, but I'm clearly blowing you off. Then you drift on to chat, and I slink off, poking my head in to see if you've left.

Why haven't you RSVPd? You RSVPd, why didn't you go? You were clearly up at 11:30; why did you go to sleep without writing me back? Inquiring minds want to know.


In 1935, Hanns Eisler (Brechtian, composer) upheld Schoenberg's twelve-tone style as progressive and potentially revolutionary because it "mirrored the confusion" of late capitalism, running every which way with no sense of what's going on and breaking the connections with a surfeit of data, data, data. The irony is that serialism is all about connections, as any word-search of a (RIP) Babbitt-Square will show you. I'm tinkering with my Berio paper, where he criticizes as falsely utopian the notion by Babbitt-via-Westergaard that serialized rhythm that mirrors pitch serialization "unifies" music. Rather, he argues (applying Eisler/Adorno's idea but reevaluating it), the sense of dislocation does not enable some sort of transformation. It drives us crazy, lulls us, makes us bow down in front of abstractions.

Social media too is revolutionary, and starts to jump the shark when it becomes an entire medium for experiencing life. Integration on a single platform should by all accounts unify things and ideas--lo and behold, it does. We have our same busy rat-race lives, sometimes miserable, joyful, and mostly mundane, but with a blue and white border.

And here I am blogging when I haven't written back to you.

*One of my personal goal is to reclaim the parenthetical followed by a colon from the emoticon