Sunday, 8 January 2012

Flusser: Kammermusik | Chambermusic

"Kammermusik" is in effect the last chapter of Flusser's work "Ins Universum der technischen Bilder" published in 1985. Flusser's work can be thought of as a web of ideas in flux, which he developed through as he typed essays and correspondences on his typewriter, often translating them from language to language himself. My interest in "Kammermusik" stems from my own curiousity as to why Flusser very rarely raised topics about sound or auditive media in his writings. Compared to other "media theorists" such as Kittler, who for example wrote about the evolution of audio technology from the first speaking machines and efforts to engrain voices onto media, as well as the radio's important role as a tool of war. McLuhan also often spoke of acoustic space and devotes a chapters for example in "Understanding Media" to radio, the phonograph, the telephone - for example the radio also is used to exemplify its role as a carrier of political propaganda.

In his typically provocative style, he re-defines "catastrophes". He states that "Alles Futurisierend ist zukunftstvernichtend" "Everything futurizing is future-destroying" , and states that whilst developments and tendencies can be projected, real catastrophes are unpreventable, as they cannot be foreseen. He even states that nuclear war would not be a catastrophe, as it is something which can theoretically be avoided, real catastrophes are "new information". "Die telematische Gesellschaft ist demnach eine Struktur zur Herbeiführung von Katastrophen" / the telematic society is therefore a structure which creates catastrophes". After this he then proceeds to describe his version of "chamber music", as a computational, cybernetic musical game.

He describes people in front of computer screens, connected to one another in a dialogical network, with the aim via calculation and computation to create "improbable situations". "Die Stimmung, die dort herrschen wird, wird an jene gemahnen, die wir in unseren schöpferischen Augenblicken erleben. Die Stimmung des Aus-sich-Herausgehens, des Abenteuers, des Orgasmus". (Flusser: 1985, 135). It is a pure game, and played by the players for the players, observers are superfluous - "Die Kammermusik ist >reines Spiel<, sie wird von Spieler für die Spieler selbst gespielt, und Zuhörer sind überflüssig und störend." The roles of the game build the consensus, but these rules are permitted to change during the course of the game, which the players decide communally. Each player is simultaneously sender and receiver.

He then goes on to describe how Schopenhauer's "Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung" puts the universe of music in the "Welt als Wille" and "die Welt als Vorstellung" is the universe of images. "Die Welt der Musik ist konkretes Leben (Wollen und Leiden), und die Welt der Bilder ist abstraktes Gaukeln." However, he argues against this and says "Die Welt der Musik ist ein komponiertes Universum. Komponieren und Komputieren sind Synonyme. Wir mußten nicht erst auf die elektronische Musik warten, um diesen Charakter der Musik zu erkennen." ..."Darum läßt sich sagen, daß mit dem Emportauchen der technischen Bilder eine neue Bewußtseinsebene erreicht ist: jene nämlich, auf welcher mit Einbildungskraft musiziert wird." (Flusser: 1985, 138) He emphasizes the audiovisual character of the universe of technical images, as he contradicts Schopenhauer. This emerging universe is both "Welt als Vorstellung" and "Welt als Wille".

The closing thought is Flusser's reference once more to the "homo ludens" "Eine Welt der , des Spielens als Selbstzweck. >Ludus imaginis< als >Ludus tonalis<, und das emportauchende Bewußtsein der Einbildunskraft als das des >Homo Ludens<." "The Playing Man" is a key concept here for the future telematic society.

A long way apart from what classically jumps into mind when "chamber music" is mentioned today, Flusser's conception emphasizes the conversational, dialogic character of this group of music-makers. He states that in the Renaissance it was normal to improvise from notation, and his version of chamber music is a more or less a pure improvisation, using computers and code and the "new, synthetic Einbildungskraft".

It is interesting to note that this is the form which Flusser culminates his thoughts of the whole book into, particularly as music and sound are notably absent in the rest of his writing. The description is close to a description of free-jazz improvisation, (a lesser known fact from Flusser's biography is that he wrote jazz reviews when he lived in London in 1939). And it is furthermore interesting to note, that in Flusser's own library (Reisebibliothek) there is a copy of Adorno's "Einführung in die Musiksoziologie", in which there is also a chapter called "Kammermusik". Adorno, who of course notoriously declaimed and "hated" jazz.

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