Yet until recently the dominant strains of queer theory have tended to privilege the avant-garde. At one point in my life as a scholar of queer culture and theory, I thought the point of queer was to be always ahead of actually existing social possibilities. On this model, it seemed that truly queer queers would dissolve forms, disintegrate identities, level taxonomies, scorn the social, and even repudiate politics altogether (and indeed, there is one wing of queer theory that does privilege this kind of negating work). But this version of “queering” the social text strikes me as somewhat akin to Eve Sedgwick’s notion of paranoid criticism: it’s about having the problem solved ahead of time, about feeling more evolved than one’s context. Now I think the point may be to trail behind actually existing social possibilities: to be interested in the tail end of things, willing to be bathed in the fading light of whatever appears useless. For while queer antiformalism appeals to me on an intellectual level, I find myself emotionally compelled by the not-quite-queer-enough longing for form that turns us backward to prior moments, forward to embarrassing utopias, sideways to forms of being and belonging that seem, on the face of it, completely banal.
Detective (Jean-Luc Godard, 1985)
fave title card in the history of cinema
sun ra business card
PITCHFORK. So if there is no difference between popular music and commercial music nowadays, does that mean that there is no space for resistance to commercialism?
TIMOTHY TAYLOR. I think there is: Kids who have a garage band but don’t have any intention of signing with a label, or people who sing in a church choir, are a form of resistance. For another project, I’ve been interviewing indie rock musicians here in L.A., mostly associated with Burger Records. I interviewed one person who doesn’t copyright her music, has a day job, and doesn’t have an interest in trying to make a living as a musician. She told me that her goal is to try to stay in the shadows. So I think the only way to resist capitalism now is not so much to try to overthrow it—I don’t think that’s going to happen—but to do things that capitalism doesn’t care about, or is not interested in. A lot of people who don’t have any interest in making a living at music derive a lot of pleasure from playing or singing, and that pleasure matters.
“We looked at how we had constructed some of our more unusual songs, and a lot of them were made from concrete music, found sounds, and we looked at what we had explored in the past and we were trying not to repeat ourselves, and, well, we’ve done trains; we’ve done machinery. And then I actually said to myself “I realise now that everything that we’ve sampled from the real world – trains, machines, computers, guns, typewriters – they were actually accidental”. The audio that we had sampled was a waste product from the specific design function of whatever it was that we had recorded.Let me clarify that: a typewriter is designed to type things onto a page, not make a clicking noise when you hit the key. A steam engine is not designed to go ‘chuff chuff’. That’s an audio waste product of the inefficiency of its engine. And as the world has modernised, the accidental audio by-products, waste products, of the things that have become concrete music are going to be less and less because the designers have designed out the waste so that the machinery of the modern world has actually become more silent.”
I trimmed the quote a bit to zoom in on this really interesting point about “audio waste”
I was thinking the other day about how there aren’t songs anymore with found-audio samples from interviews, like “Little Fluffy Clouds.” It was such a thing in the 90s, and now it’s not. What happened? If anything, it’s become easier to find these sorts of things. And I think that’s precisely the problem. Before, these snippets were rare, passed around on cassettes or bought as secondhand records at flea markets. But now, almost any interesting moment from media in the past lives on YouTube, and everyone has access to them. If you put them in a song, the listener hears someone playing a YouTube clip, not the sounds themselves. In the 90s, though, they would be hearing the obscurity, the rarity, the unexpectedness. The clip functioned as a signal of something ephemeral and therefore magic captured and preserved by an audio connoisseur. Now, however, it’s just another banal aspect of everyday life. You might as well put the audio from “David After Dentist” on your electro track. And you can do that, of course - but it will mean something very different now than it did then.
George Bataille explains that the language of Sade is paradoxical because it is essentially that of a victim. Only the victim can describe torture; the torturer necessarily uses the hypocritical language of established order and power. “As a general rule the torturer does not use the language of the violence exerted by him in the name of an established authority; he uses the language of the authority… The violent man is willing to keep quiet and connives at cheating… Thus Sade’s attitude is diametrically opposed to that of the torturer. When Sade writes he refuses to cheat, but he attributes his own attitude to people who in real life could only have been silent and uses them to make self-contradictory statements to other people.
Gilles Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty
I haven’t put all the pieces together, but I was thinking about the Weeknd recently when this passage came to mind. It seems highly relevant to the Weeknd’s aesthetic.
Whenever a man came onto my bus, he had to drop trou, and I took a Polaroid of him, just to emasculate him and make sure he knew he was in the vagina jungle. That’s what I call my bus.
I like the Tegan and Sara album as much as the next member of the music Twitterati - the first three songs in particular are near perfect - so this isn’t intended as a slight, but I found it interesting: isn’t the narrative surrounding this album basically a poptimist’s dream? Two indie rock…