Bach: Two Studies

Here’s a couple of meditations on Bach, and a short essay that attempts to explain the thought process behind them. Thanks for listening, as always.

Georges Bataille and the Economics of Musical Disintegration

An abstract for the talk I will be giving next week:

Utilizing Georges Bataille’s theory of a “general economy”, this paper will explore the potential relationships between the materiality of sound and its restriction within recording media. Although rarely applied to sound and music, Bataille’s thought—as a thinking which attempts to account for an excess inherent in matter itself that is lost in its teleological, humanist applications—will provide a unique lens through which to theoretically develop a trend in experimental minimalist music/sound art that might be called “musical disintegration”. As loosely representative of this trend, works to be discussed will include Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room (1969) and Éliane Radigue’s “Étude” (1970), as well as William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops (2002) and Ryan Maguire’s The Ghost in the MP3(2014). Each of these works, in differing ways, exploits and erodes the processes by which sound is restricted and economized, on both a physical and social level—recorded in order to be owned, streamed, or otherwise circulated in contemporary marketplaces. By placing Bataille’s theory of general economics in relation to these works, this paper will gesture toward a way of conceptualizing the materiality of sound as a site of resistance to the narrow reproduction of music governed by capitalist logistics and the profitability of the entertainment industry.

Abstract for my presentation at ACLA 2015 : “Schizogenesis and Bataille’s Economy Beyond Economics”

In a fundamentally restricting contemporary debt economy (à la Maurizio Lazzarato), the exuberance and expenditure typified in Georges Bataille’s work on general economy seems to provide a powerful site of subversion. But before running off to the bullfights, this brief presentation will trace the concept of general economy through its origins in Marcel Mauss’s Essai sur le don and Bataille’s critique of potlatch in La Part maudite, revealing the mechanics of debt to be equally central to the gift economies that so heavily influenced his writing. Such an investigation will show in detail how Bataille’s concept of general economy cannot thus merely present an alternative economic model—through which one would oppose expenditure to accumulation. Rather, in their generality, Bataille’s notions of economy and expenditure must radically displace the anthropocentric notion of the “economic” into a labyrinth of the libidinal, the geochemical, the astrophysical, and the sacred—into a movement of schizogenesis (reproduction through division) and sexuality (OC II 296) for which identity and utility are only temporary side-effects. This presentation will thus gesture toward the inhuman, material, schizogenetic transpositions that the notion of general economy necessarily implies, and that must be emphasized in the face of an ever-returning servile dialectic. Only after the annihilation of homo economicus in this way can the notion of economy be “put back on its feet”.

I’m going to be looking to ground Lazzarato’s critique of debt economy in Mauss, and then move to Bataille to talk about general economy–emphasis on ‘general’–through his thematization of the concept of schizogenesis (a figure of splitting).