Vol. 7 No. 1 (2018) Aesthetic Intersections 1

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Matteo Ravasio

On Evolutionary Explanations of Musical Expressiveness (pp. 6-29)

In this paper, I will examine an evolutionary hypothesis about musical expressiveness first proposed by Peter Kivy. I will first present the hypothesis and explain why I take it to be different from ordinary evolutionary explanations of musical expressiveness. I will then argue that Kivy’s hypothesis is of crucial importance for most available resemblance-based accounts of musical expressiveness. For this reason, it is particularly important to assess its plausibility. After having reviewed the existing literature on the topic, I will list five challenges the hypothesis is supposed to meet. Although my list of challenges does not aim at exhaustiveness, I believe that the hypothesis must meet all of the challenges I suggest if it is to work as a cornerstone for a theory of musical expressiveness.

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James Rushford

Musical Silhouette: resemblance, trace,
occlusion, self-portraiture
(pp. 30-61)

The silhouette is recognized in philosophy and art as a peculiar means of identification and knowledge, not just through its creation of a visual double (a concept often aesthetically unpacked through the terms ‘image’ and ‘resemblance’), but by bridging a phenomenal space between past and future, absence and presence. Acknowledging an indebtedness to Pliny and Plato’s famous myths, this paper attempts to re-build the image of the silhouette as a sonic phenomenon, using several examples of contemporary experimental music and sound art. The silhouette is used as a linguistic and visual metaphor for elucidating how some experimental music might be said to obscure itself, to obscure our perception of it, or, indeed, to be obscured by that very perception.

A brief discussion of photography and notation extrapolates from Pliny’s symbolic image of the outline, uncovering an epistemological and hermeneutical complexity in the idea of capturing the ephemeral. At the same time, notation’s unbreakable ‘belongingness’ to its interpreter through the act of ‘tracing,’ proposes a kind of performative self-portraiture.

The silhouette is then considered as cast by the listener, referencing Ceal Floyer’s formal spatio-temporal ‘negative’ musical image, and overviewing key theories of temporal consciousness by Edmund Husserl, Henri Bergson and Robert Snyder. A re-imagined temporality of events through memory tracing is then located in key works by Sophie Calle and Alvin Lucier. Finally, in Graham Lambkin’s idiosyncratic and self-reflexive approach to sound, we might locate a silhouette that conceptually and perceptually blurs the boundaries between subject, object and representation: self-portraiture as itself a form of occlusion.

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Joshua M. Hall

The Necessary Pain of Moral Imagination:
Lonely Delegation in Richard Wright’s Haiku and
White Man, Listen! 
(pp. 62-89)

Richard Wright gave a series of lectures in Europe from 1950 to 1956, collected in the following year in the volume, White Man, Listen! One dominant theme in all four essays is that expanding the moral imagination is centrally important in repairing our racism-benighted globe. What makes Wright’s version of this claim unique is his forthright admission that expanding the moral imagination necessarily involves pain and suffering. The best place to hear Wright in regard to the necessary pain of expanding the moral imagination, I would argue, is his poetry collection, This Other World: Projections in the Haiku Manner. To wit, for Wright the necessary pain of expanding one’s moral imagination is the loneliness that results from delegating to others—in the etymological sense of “deputizing or committing”—one’s whiteness qua privilege or social capital. In conclusion, lonely delegation constitutes an imperative template from Wright regarding the painful expansion of our own moral imagination, in the service of social justice for economically oppressed communities of color across the globe.

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Anthony Ballas

Collision. Hip Hop and Event (pp. 90-101)

This essay examines hip hop as an aesthetic practice capable of transcending the ideological fantasies of race and racism existing today. White supremacy and the hegemonic structure of the social order are too often considered inevitable and without viable alternatives. By confronting death as the wound caused by the continual reproduction of white supremacy in American society, Kendrick Lamar demonstrates a radical aesthetic rendering of Alain Badiou’s theory of points and evental subjectivity insofar as he focalizes the subject as agent of change, turning the listener toward the void of death beyond the limits of the social order and thus beyond the seeming inevitability of its reduplication. By understanding the sonorous and spatial features of Lamar’s “These Walls,” and the song’s affinity with Bernini’s use of space in The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, this essay takes hip hop as a spatio-aesthetic practice of liberation, highlighting the interface between the subject and the objective world and the role jouissance plays in modulating the social order. Aesthetically, hip hop is capable of producing a rupture in the social order analogous to Walter Benjamin’s description of divine violence; although to an outsider this rupture might appear violent, to those engaged in the struggle, aesthetic praxis as a means of intervention contains an undeniable truth necessary for the continuation of anti-racist movements against the static truths governing subjectivity in the present.

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Janae Sholtz

Deleuzian Creativity and Fluxus Nomadology:
Inspiring New Futures, New Thought 
(pp. 102-137)

This paper mobilizes a conception of creativity derived from the aesthetic philosophy of Gilles Deleuze that invokes principles from performance art, aesthetics of indeterminacy, and a theory of exhaustion in order to understand the political potential of artworks. After outlining some considerations of the modern conception of creativity and its cultural significance from the mid-twentieth century onwards, I will focus on the confluence between Deleuze’s philosophy of art and the practices of the neo-avant-garde art collective Fluxus during the 1960s and ‘70s in order to theorize creativity as a form of anti-capitalist resistance. I interpret Fluxus performances as nomadological events that open spatiotemporal intervals for the manifestation of futural forces and re-examine Fluxus as a mode of “resistance to the present”—which is so important for revivifying creative and political impulses.

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Daniel Paul O’Brien

Somaster Fiction and the Avatarial Game Body (pp. 138-171)

In this paper, I discuss the elements of the avatarial game body. Using Don Ihde’s philosophy of technology, in addition with Richard Shusterman’s concept of somaesthetics, I break the avatar down into basic parts. I consider these parts through Shusterman’s understanding of the soma and Ihde’s postphenomenological discussions of human-technology relationships to devise somaster fiction. Somaster fiction, as I argue, is a convergence between the player’s real-life body and a computer game experience, presented through avatarial onscreen bodies in games such as the Grand Theft Auto franchise, and invisible non-avatarial agency, discussed in games like The Novelist and This War of Mine.

This paper incorporates each of Ihde and Shusterman’s main ideas about the body, which coalesce during the gameplay experience to enable players to become masters of an avatarial body and virtual topographical space. Somaster fiction discusses the different human-technology relationships that occur during gameplay and how a player is extended into the game world via controllers and avatars. This paper also touches on what a body is in accordance with Ihde and Shusterman, and how these concepts of bodyhood are reverberated within the game world.

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