Monday, September 14, 2015

Conductors and Artists

Conductors have stripped of their halos every instrument hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. They have converted the violin, the trombone, the oboe, the clarinet, the tuba, even the execrable triangle into a mesmerized servant of the baton.

Conductors have torn away from family audiences their sentimental veil, and have reduced the family relation to a mere vessel of group ticketing discounts.

Conductors have disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence, the most pompous time-keepery. They have been the first to show what man’s creative activity can bring about. They have accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian ballads, Roman choruses, and Gothic symphonies; they have conducted symphonies that put to shame all former hymnals of nations and peoples.

Conductors cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the musical instruments, and thereby the relations of music production, attending audience, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of disharmonized orchestras in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier musical groups. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the conductors' epoch from all earlier ones, which like all human history were characterized by utter peace and tranquility before the advent of the hated conductor. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

The need of a constantly expanding audience to fill the seats chases the conductor over the entire surface of the globe. He must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

The conductoriat has through its exploitation of the world's ears given a cosmopolitan character to performing and listening in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of composition the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national styles have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new performances, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by symphonies that no longer play from indigenous sheets, but pdfs downloaded and printed from the remotest zones; composers whose works are listened to, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old favorites, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the laboring composers of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in intellectual production, so also in material. The sitar, the French horn, the Harlem saxophone, these cannot be produced by native materials alone, and so the intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local compositions, there arises a world composition, ripe for unitary command.

The conductors, by the rapid improvement of all instruments, by Napster, and iTunes, and yea, even amazon dot com, by these each and every immensely facilitated means of communication, draw all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of grainy mp3s are the heavy artillery with which they batter down all Chinese walls, with which they force the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. They compel all nations, on pain of extinction, to put on earbuds and be guided by conductors, and then deejays; they compel them to introduce what they call civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become conductors themselves. In one word, they create a world after their own image.

Conductors have subjected the country to the rule of the towns. They have created enormous concert halls in even more enormous cities, have greatly increased the urban listening population as compared with the rural, and have thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life, where music is never as pure or original or refined as it is in the venerable halls of Manhattan, Hollywood, or Universal Music Group, Inc. Just as conductors have made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones.

Conductors keep more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of artistry, and of instrumentation. They have agglomerated population, centralised the orchestra, and have concentrated instruments in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was musical centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected groups, with separate styles, practices, gigs, and informal systems of putting in for the pizza, became lumped together into one group, with one seller account, one file format, one immense pool of potential listeners.

The conductoriat, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more musical recordings in terms of raw gigabytes than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to Sound Booth, Final Cut Pro, Garage Band, even electric microphone — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour? Indeed, creativity itself baffles me, and all like me, and I must look to the dreams of others to anticipate how I might make myself later-on indispensable to their carrying them out.

We see then: the means of performance and attendance, on whose foundation the conductors built themselves up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of performance and attendance, the conditions under which feudal society held the court concert and the village dance, the feudal organisation of verbal instruction and instrumental design, in one word, the feudal relations of music became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.

Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by social ritual adapted to it, and the economic and political sway of the conductors.

A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modern conductors, with their relations of production, of ticketing and seating, a society that has conjured up such gigantic audiences, are like the sorcerers who are no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom they have called up by their spells. It is enough to mention the crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire conductor society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing playlists, but also of the older ones, are periodically ignored. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had left us with nothing to listen to; the music industry seems to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much music, too much to listen to, too many options, too many sub-genres. The compositional forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of music; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder, endanger the existence of conductors and their batons. The conditions by which conductors rule orchestras are too narrow to comprise the wealth of options created by them. And how does the conductoriat get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. Free sail foams with playlists are disseminated widely, and promotional trials of premium radio given away haphazardly, building further dependence on the stream of covers, remixes, and embarrassingly inadequate local fare, which cannot, despite all the efforts of all the conductors, last forever. That is to say, the way is paved for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented, namely, the production of less music, which is necessary to allow a firm and honorable conductor to choose what shall be listened to, and when.

The weapons with which the conductors felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the conductors themselves!

But not only have the conductors forged the weapons that bring death to themselves; they have also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons — the modern slave — the artist.

In proportion as the conductors, i.e., baton-wielding super-jerks, are developed, in the same proportion are the artists, the modern instrument-player, developed — a class of interchangeable instrumentalists, who live only so long as they play well, and who play well only so long as their playing increases ticket sales. These artists, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the whimsical fluctuations of the market.

Owing to the extensive use of software, and to the generalisation of harmonics, the work of the artists has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the artist. He becomes an appendage of the orchestral machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. One stroke of the violin on a sustained D, for example, suffices to preserve the sound on the conductor's hard drive, and the violinist may then be dismissed, his greatest works duplicated by even a program that comes prepackaged with a free OS. Hence, the cost of production of an artist is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a musical note, and therefore also of the minute labour involved in so drawing the bow across the strings, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, say, cleaning the auditorium bathrooms after auditions are held, the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of software and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by the increase of the work exacted in a given time or by increased speed demanded by the conductor, etc.

Modern conductors have converted the little workshop of the patriarchal composer, with his stern, Beethovian browline, into the great factory of the cosmopolitan symphony director. Masses of artists, crowded into the symphony hall, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the musical army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of first chairs and second chairs. Not only are they slaves of the conductors, and of the symphony director himself (also a conductor, though he does not like to let it be known); they are daily and hourly enslaved by the system, by the audience, and, above all, by the individual conductor himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.

The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in musical performance, in other words, the more modern performance becomes developed, the more is the artistry of men superseded by that of women. For yes, indeed, though I shall soon explain to you why all human distinctions are illusory, meant to be ground into fodder by the great globalist project, you see here that I am equally willing to exploit traditional sexism when it achieves my ends. Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity among artists. All are instruments of performance, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex, which before my compatriots Herr Freud and Herr Boas and Frau Stein have done with you, I intend to affirm as inherently different, and sacredly so.

1 comment:

  1. Which legendary Conductor will be called upon to revive and make wholly relevant in new ways the following classic?