January 12, 2013 § 2 Comments

Re-reading Haunted Weather recently, I’m reminded that the early sections (& perhaps the final chapter & epilogue) come close to a certain ideal of blogging. (There are others of course: Marcello Carlin’s Church of Me represents another & the early years of Sit Down Man, You’re A Bloody Tragedy the last corner of the triangle. Floating somewhere off-field is Benjamin’s One Way Street Berlin Childhood Around 1900.) Not merely ‘music blogging’, whatever that term means beyond the killing confines of the mp3 & mix blog, for the obvious reason that Toop takes as an a priori, that music isn’t divisible from film, media, phenomenology, politics, memoir, materialism or de Certeau’s nicely parsed ‘everyday life’. It’s well-versed in technical knowledge & theory but doesn’t dump it on the reader; it moves by fragments but doesn’t force its fragmentation as a kind of negative virtue (cf. David Shields’ Reality Hunger); it finds a form of writing for the ‘personal’ nature of sound wh/ doesn’t turn to confession (the forced wringing of meaning from what is, in many ways, simply itself & what we take it as). Wh/ is, I suppose, what I want or wanted this blog to do (& maybe I’ll try to get it closer to those ideals, I don’t know.) Needless to say an aesthetics shadows this, or rather a set of questions & disjuncts encountered in sound that the writing tries to put into play. Interestingly Simon Reynolds picked up on this in his not-quite-as-wanky-as-it-sounds ‘intellectual portrait’ of Toop for The Wire last year: Toop’s seemingly all-encompassing field of reference in his playing, MusicsCollusion & the books “anticipated the omnivorousness of our bloggy present.” (Well, Simon must be reading – or avoiding – different blogs from me – C. complains on Twitter that, in terms of year-end list tate “there’s little difference between like, small blogs & the NME”, & given the prevalence of shite indie (Tame Impala who?) in the 2012 year-end lists I’d say she’s not wrong.) But then, aside from Ocean of Sound, that sofa-surfer’s guide to the plugged-in image of the mid-90s, Reynolds’ theses, revolving around the theoretical moment of A Thousand Plateaus, don’t, as Daniela Cascella points out, have much relevance to the writing itself, wh/ is a much stranger experience. Cascella: “a breadth of vision, multiple pasts crashing into now, lost histories, debris, dust and charms…. It resists paraphrasing…. It is born out of the erratic density of notebooks constructed around the sensing of a living person. It speaks a hybrid language, attuned to heteroglossia…. A lot is hidden: losses, voids against which the words are even more present as they hover on the disintegrating boundary of a self, that’s constructed and destructed polyphonically.”* Maybe there’s something in the fact that the best piece of writing by Toop I’ve read recently was the mellow soul essay in the Wire a year & a half ago – a piece that so astounded me that I’m still surprised so little fuss was made about it online. But the point is that you don’t get that kind of writing online: the sense of the need to compress a vast amount of material into the constraints of print sharpens it even as it bursts into rapture (that loop of six “I’m thinking”s). There’s something much more difficult here w/ Simon’s argument, wh/ he ends up turning back to his old neo-rockist hobbyhorse (I’m not sure the Toop case ultimately plays that way) wh/ I’ll have to return to. & this has a lot to do w/ the particular, increasingly sad history of the blogosphere as well. But DT doesn’t so much anticipate the actuality of our “bloggy present” as an ideal of digital writing that fights with its own limits, limits met in bodies, instruments, records, media (in the literal sense of the plural of medium: speakers, resonant materials & spaces), political moments.

*Cascella almost convinces me to re-read Sinister Resonance, wh/ I found immensely disappointing – OK, ‘wanky’ is the better word – when I first read it, withered by the very specific desiccation of the academic discourse around sound-art, a language that for those of us who actually enjoy music & writing about it is like reading a particularly excruciating instruction manual.

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§ 2 Responses to

  • Hi Dan. Glad to see you dug out that old post from my blog. I agree with you, that article on mellow soul is an astounding text, I’ve re-read it and dissected it many many times. I think it partly has to do with arranging research material with a ‘sounding’ rather than a linear thinking in mind.
    I disagree though with your remark on the ‘desiccation of the academic discourse around sound-art’ in Sinister Resonance, which I believe is in fact one of the few examples of a book that eschews academic canons.

  • dboon147 says:

    I guess my disappointment was quite specific. I read it not long after reading the mellow soul essay & (I think) his Wire piece on ‘Smile’. So to then read this, where he doesn’t write about music at all (from what I remember) let alone pop, & where the style seemed much less adventurous (wh/ of course has a lot to do w/ the fact of working in a much larger space of text, but still)… & all this seemed to be motivated by the need to genuflect to certain discourses, play to certain academic expectations (it all goes on the RAE sheet after all). It’s more interesting, of course, than many another academic text at warding off desiccation – wh/ is why I can possibly be persuaded to re-read it – but it feels like it does suffer from it.

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