Saturday, 27 August 2011

Ego-tools and Eco-tools

This is a bit of rambling post, but I'm struggling with a number of ideas that are fascinating me. First, I've been thinking about a distinction between what might be called 'Positive' and 'Negative' music:

Positive music is music of the ego: that product of self-expression which (for better or worse) consumes the environment of others. In the hands of genius, everyone takes note and listens because the environmental changes it produces are very striking and recognised as such: others adapt to the music. I think positive music may be more 'attentive' than it is 'aware' (to use Oliveros's categories) - or maybe its range of attention and awareness is constricted in some way...

Negative music is music that expresses the collective ambient environment, not the self. Individuals not only tune in, but act to harmonise with the environment. As a result, sounds emerge through acts of self-organisation. Negative music may be more aware than it is attentive, although it would depend on how 'awareness' and 'attention' are defined.

I'm waking up to the tradition of what I would call 'negative music-making', which I had not really given much thought to until now (tending to dismiss it as a bit of a gimmick). I think I'm beginning to understand it a bit better. What's really made the connection for me is the fact that I've always felt that music is necessary in a society; but much as I might love the products of the Western art music tradition, I cannot assert its necessity on those who do not care for it (apart from defending its right to exist).

Right now we have an enormous social problem which can basically be summed up as an 'excess of ego' (in fact, it's the same old problem that Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Marx, etc. identified, but perhaps a little more acute now because there are so many of us and we have such powerful technology). The hubris of ego-driven rational man is the greatest threat to our survival, and the technologies that rational man has equipped himself with have served the ego to an ever greater extent and to the detriment of convivial existence.

And I don't think social networking is the answer - that's another ego-tool.

We need 'Eco-tools' - the tools of the collective (but I'm not thinking about energy efficiency or bio-degradable tools). I think Cage, Oliveros and other musicians in that tradition might be able to show us how to do it. For the experience of 'coming together' (which was always at the centre of social music-making), the sharing in a ritual.. these play an important role in the regulation of viable societies.

These might be tools which help us to 'tune-in' to our environment and assist in our actions which harmonise with it. They might be seen as 'improvisation assistants', or maybe even 'tools for collective meditation'. If the world was seen through the lens of such tools, what would be the effect on rational decision-making? At the moment we see the world through the lens of rational decision-making ego-tools. The result is rational decisions which further the separation of ego from the world (positive feedback).

Eco-tools are negative tools, which may balance out our positive inclinations (from which I doubt we can escape).

The internet has given us a potential for realising the power of the collective. But we can do that I think in two radically different ways. We can use it to form mass movements for good and bad - but both of which serve the ego, presenting the 'easy alternative' to individuation. Or we can use it for the collective appreciation of the social environment as a way towards individuation, and gauge the impact of the actions we take as we live out our lives.

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