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福柯:当代音乐与大众--与布列兹的对话

福柯 : 人们常说这样的话:当代音乐偏离了正轨,它的命运非常奇特,它复杂到如此的地步以致于不可接近,它的技巧使它走上了一条不归路。但另一方面,音乐吸引我的地方在于它与其他文化要素之间的多样复杂的关系。这一点从不同的角度来看都是很明显的。一方面,音乐对技术的进步非常敏感,它对技术的依赖性比其他艺术门类要大得多(也许电影是个例外)。另一方面,从德彪西和斯特拉文斯基之后的音乐发展同绘画的发展有很多密切相关之处。此外,音乐为自身提出的理论问题,它对自身的语言、结构、材料的反思方式,取决于一个在20世纪具有普遍意义的问题:"形式"的问题。这个问题在塞尚((Cezanne)、立体主义者、勋伯格(Schoenberg)、俄国形式主义者或是布拉格学派那里都是存在的。 

我认为我们不应该问:既然音乐已经走得如此之远,我们怎么才能再度体验和重新享有它?而应该问:这个音乐与我们所有的文化如此接近,如此一体化,我们怎么会觉得与它如此疏异、与它有如此不可逾越的距离呢? 

布列兹 : 是不是因为当代音乐的"流通"与交响音乐、室内乐、歌剧、巴罗克音乐的"流通"大不一样?后者的"流通"是很专门化和局部化的,会使人怀疑是否真的有一种总体的文化。唱片摧垮了这些藩篱,但是我们要注意,唱片另一方面又增强了公众和演奏者的专业化。古典或浪漫音乐意味着一个标准化的格式。巴罗克音乐不仅要求一个有限的群体,还要乐器与所演奏的音乐相配,要求演奏家掌握通过对古代的音乐作品和理论著作进行研究所获得的专业知识。当代音乐要求掌握新的乐器技巧,新的记谱方法,对新的演奏形式的适应。凡此种种,不胜枚举,足以表明从音乐的这个领域跨越到另一个领域有多么困难:组织的困难,把自己置于不同的情境中的困难,更不用说适应为不同的演奏而设的场所的困难了。于是,出现了这样的倾向,出现了适应不同种类的音乐的或大或小的群体,在社会及其音乐和演奏家中建立了危险的封闭的流通。当代音乐无法逃避这种发展,它无法逃避一般音乐社会的缺陷:它有它的地盘、它的聚会、它的明星、它的趋炎附势者、它的竞争对手、它的排他性;正如其他社会一样,它有市场价值、报价、盈利计算。不同的音乐圈子也就像监狱体制一样,绝大多数人在其中感到平安无事,但是他们却对别人进行痛苦的折磨。 

福柯 : 我们必须考虑到这样的事实,在很长一段时期内,音乐是为社会的祭祀和仪式而设的:宗教音乐,室内乐;在19世纪,音乐与剧院之间的纽带是歌剧(更不用提歌剧在德国和意大利的政治和文化意义了),这也是一个凝聚性的因素。 

我认为,如果谈起当代音乐的"文化隔绝"的话,在考察其他音乐的流通之后,我们马上就会要修正前面的说法。 

拿摇滚乐来说吧,我们马上就有了完全相反的印象。摇滚音乐(比爵士乐从前的情形更厉害)不仅是许多人生活中不可分割的一部分,而且是文化的一种推动力:喜爱摇滚,喜爱这一类而不是那一类的摇滚,这也是一种生活方式,一种对社会作出反应的态度;这是一整套的趣味和态度。 

摇滚乐紧张、强壮、生动、充满"戏剧性"(摇滚总是把自己弄得多彩多姿,听摇滚是一个事件,而且发生在舞台上),这种音乐本身是贫弱的,但是倾听它的人却能从中达到对自己的肯定;但是,在那种复杂的音乐面前,人们感到脆弱、遥远、充满了问题,好似被排斥在外。 
我们无法谈论当代文化与音乐的普遍的单一关系,而是应该更加宽容,对音乐的多重性采取一种多多少少是亲善的态度。每一类音乐都有"权利"生存,这种权利可以视为价值的平等。每一类音乐的价值都取决于实践并喜爱它的人的认可。 

布列兹 : 这样来谈论音乐的多重性是不是具有一种折衷主义的色彩?能够解决问题吗?正相反,这是把问题掩盖起来了--就像某些致力于激进自由社会的人所做的那样。所有这些音乐都是好的,它们都很棒。啊!多元主义!它对缺乏理解的人来说真是太妙了。爱情,每个人在自己的角落,但是都会爱他人。做自由主义者吧,对他人的趣味要宽容,他们反过来也会这样对待你的。一切都是好的,没有坏的东西;价值不再有了,但是每个人都会幸福。诸如此类的话语,尽管他们希望具有解放的作用,却只会相反地增强自己的隔绝状态,为自己的隔绝状态感到宽慰,特别是当自己看到了别人的隔绝状态之后。这种机制提醒我们不要迷失在这种肤浅的乌托邦中:有些音乐是为了赚钱和带来商业利益而存在的;有些音乐则要花费钱,与赢利的观念毫不相干。任何自由主义也抹杀不了这种界限。 

福柯 : 我有这样的印象,许多帮助人们接近音乐的工具到头来削弱了我们与音乐的关系。这里有一个大而复杂的机制在起作用。如果很难接触到音乐,那倒能保护人们选择音乐的能力,也带来了倾听音乐时的灵活性。但是如果更加频繁地接触音乐(电台、唱片、卡带),对音乐越熟悉,习惯就凝固下来了;最经常出现的变成最能够接受的,最后只有一种保留下来。这导致了某种"追踪",这是一种神经病症。 

显然,市场的法则很容易运用到这种简单的机制之中。产品投放到大众之中,大众就倾听。大众发现自己在听某一类东西,因为提供的就是这种东西,这又强化了某种趣味,划定出一块规定得很好的听觉空间,制订出越来越专门化的倾听计划。而音乐则必须满足这种期待,等等。因此商业产品、评论、音乐会,所有这些增强公众与音乐的关系的东西都使人感到,要接受一种新的音乐是越来越困难了。 

当然,这一过程也并不是十分确定的。对音乐的不断熟悉也会增强倾听音乐的能力,从而导致对多样性的选择;但这有可能不会很普遍,只是少数的情形,如果我们不努力地将熟悉性疏异化的话。 
毫无疑问,我并不赞成减少与音乐的关系,但是要知道,这种关系如果具有了一种日常生活的色彩,再加上经济的法则凌驾其上,就能把传统僵化。并不是说要更少地接触音乐,而是要把它的频繁出现从习惯和熟悉性中拉过来。 

布列兹 : 听众对当代音乐真的缺乏注意和漠不关心吗?这种经常出现的抱怨是不是出于懒惰和习惯于舒适地呆在熟知的领域?贝尔格在半个多世纪前就写过一篇文章,题为《为什么勋伯格的音乐很难理解?》,他描述的困难同我们现在碰到的几乎一模一样。难道情形一点都没有改变吗?也许,所有的创新都会挫伤对之不习惯的人的感觉。但是如今作品向大众的传播带来了特定的困难。古典和浪漫派的音乐构成了人们熟知的主要的曲目资源,它们遵循一定的程式,人们对之的欣赏可以相对独立于单独的作品来进行。交响曲的乐章是根据其形式、特性和节奏形态来划分的,它们彼此区别开来,绝大多数乐章之间有实际的停顿,或者是明显的过渡。交响乐的语言建立在"分类的"和弦的基础之上,它们都有很好的名字,你不用分析就知道这些和弦是什么,发挥怎样的功能。它们像讯号那样富有功效和稳妥可靠;它们在这个作品中出现,又在那个作品中出现,每一次出现都带着同样的功能。逐渐地,这些令人感到宽慰的要素逐渐从"严肃"音乐中消失了。音乐的进化朝着不间断的、越来越彻底的更新的道路上发展,既包括作品的形式,也包括作品的语言。音乐作品变成了独一无二的事件,它并非完全不能让人预料,但是却不服从任何先决的、人们认可的指导体系;这当然带来了人们理解上的障碍。它要求听者熟悉作品的进程,为了达到这一点,就必须把它听上很多遍。当人们对作品的进程熟悉的时候,对作品的理解、对作品所表达的内容的感知就会开花结果。如今,初次的倾听是越来越难带来对作品的感觉和理解了。可能对作品会有自然而然的反应,通过语句的力量,美妙的音色,某些可以理解的暗示性的语句。但是深刻的理解只能通过反复的倾听来实现,通过再现音乐的进程,这种重复代替了以往那种普遍认同的范式。 

这种以往的范式--语汇的和形式的--从所谓的严肃音乐中撤退出来,到某些大众流行样式中去避难,成为音乐消费的对象。在那里,创作仍然是按照特定的样式和人们所接受的形态来进行的。保守主义并不总在人们期待的地方出现:无可否认,某些保守的音乐形式和语言构成了所有商业化音乐的基础,而狂热接受这种音乐的一代人最不想要的也就是保守主义了。这是我们时代的悖论,抗议者的歌唱通过的是受到贿赂的语言,商业的成功使得抗议显得空洞无物。 

福柯 : 在这一点上,20世纪的音乐和绘画还有另一个不同的演化方向。从塞尚以来,绘画倾向于把自己创造的行为本身公之于众:这种行为是可见的、惹人注目的、在作品中确定无疑地表露出来,无论是通过使用要素性的标记,或者是通过对自身运动的追踪。正相反,当代音乐提供给听众的只是它结构的外表。 

这样,在听这种音乐的时候,产生了既困难又迫切的问题。每一次倾听都把自己表现为一个事件,听者关注它,而且必须接受它。没有任何暗示让听者作某种期待和确认。他听着它发生。这是一种非常困难的倾听模式,同重复听古典音乐带来的那种熟悉感是非常矛盾的。 

今日音乐的文化隔绝状态并不简单是教育和传播的缺乏引起的。光是抱怨音乐学院或唱片公司是 很容易的。情况比这严重得多。当代音乐发展到这样一种独一无二的处境,要归咎于其作品。在此意义上,它是有意要这样做的。这种音乐不想让人们熟悉。它就是要用这种方式来保持自己的优势。我们能重复它,但是它不重复自己。在这个意义上说,人们不能把它当做一个物体来返回它。它永远突兀在边界线上。 

布列兹 : 既然它渴望永不停歇的开拓和发现--新的情感领域,试验新的材料--当代音乐注定了是一个堪察加半岛(还记得波德莱尔和圣佩甫吗?),供罕见的探险者满足他们无畏的好奇心吗?要知道,最谨严的听众是在往日的音乐商店中获得他们专有的音乐文化的,而且是特定的往日。而最开放的听众--是不是因为他们最无知呢?--则对其他的表现方式有持续的兴趣,特别是造型艺术。"陌生者"最能接受?一个危险的结合将表明现在的音乐将从"真正的"音乐文化中死去,为的是在更广大和更含混的领域中得到一席之地,在那里业余爱好占主导地位,审美变成消遣。别把这称作"音乐"--只要你别把它称为音乐,随你怎么去玩都行;那属于不同的欣赏领域,同我们所说的对真正的音乐、大师的音乐的欣赏毫不相干。当我们这样争辩的时候,即使带着天真的骄傲,也是在接近一个无可争辩的真理。判断和口味是门类划分和预先设定的范式的囚徒。他们要我们相信,这里区分的是高贵的情感表达与建立在实验基础上的危险的手艺之间的差别:思想对工具。这是一个倾听的问题,它无法被调节了去适应不同的创造音乐的方法。我当然不会去宣扬一种普适的音乐,我认为那不过是一种超级市场的美学,这种蛊惑人心的宣传不敢打出自己的旗号,把自己装扮成具有良好的用心,来掩饰自己可怜的折衷和妥协。我很清楚--幸亏我有很多的经验,而且都是非常直接的--超越了某种复杂性之后,感知就迷失了方向,陷入绝望的混乱,变得厌烦并进入停滞状态。我的意思是说我可以保持批评性的反应,但是我的执著不是自动地从"当代性"本身产生出来的。某种对听觉的调制已经在发生了,这其实是很糟糕的,因为它超越了历史的限度。我们听巴洛克音乐,不是与瓦格纳和斯特劳斯音乐一个听法。但是为了让音乐文化能够相互认同和吸收,需要去适应标准,适应成规,而创新也要视所处的历史情境而与之相适应。文化在冒险中铸造、维持和播撒自身,带着两副面孔:有时是残暴、斗争和骚乱;有时是沉思、非暴力和沉默。这种文化的冒险不管呈现怎样的形式--最吵闹的并不总是最惊人的,但是最吵闹的肯定无可救药地是最肤浅的--忽略它是不行的,取消它则更为徒劳。我们甚至能声称,也许会有更令人难受的时代,创新和成规的合流更加困难,有些创新完全超越了人们所能容忍和"理性地"接受的程度;也许会有另外的时代,到时候又回复到更直接达成的秩序中去。所有这些现象的关系--个体与集体--是如此的复杂,以至于将它们严格地对应和分组是不可能的。我们会忍不住要说:先生们,打赌吧,相信"时间的态度",请玩游戏,尽情地玩吧!否则,那该是多么地令人厌烦啊!

Michel Foucault & Pierre Boulez: Contemporary Music and the Public

MICHEL FOUCAULT. It is often said that contemporary music has drifted off track; that it has had a strange fate; that it has attained a degree of complexity which makes it inaccessible; that its techniques have set it on paths which are leading it further and further away. But on the contrary, what is striking to me is the multiplicity of links and relations between music and all the other elements of culture. There are several ways in which this is apparent. On the one hand, music has been much more sensitive to technological changes, much more closely bound to them than most of the other arts (with the exception perhaps of cinema). On the other hand, the evolution of these musics after Debussy or Stravinsky presents remarkable correlations with the evolution of painting. What is more, the theoretical problems which music has posed for itself, the way in which it has reflected on its language, its structures, and its material, depend on a question which has, I believe, spanned the entire twentieth century: the question of "form" which was that of Cézanne or the cubists, which was that of Schoenberg, which was also that of the Russian formalists or the School of Prague.

I do not believe we should ask: with music at such a distance, how can we recapture it or repatriate it? But father: this music which is so close, so consubstantial with all our culture, how does it happen that we feel it, as it were, projected afar and placed at an almost insurmountable distance?

PIERRE BOULEZ. Is the contemporary music "circuit" so different from the various "circuits" employed by symphonic music, chamber music, opera, Baroque music, all circuits so partitioned, so specialized that it's possible to ask if there really is a general culture? Acquaintance through recordings should, in principle, bring down those walls whose economic necessity is understandable, but one notices, on the contrary, that recordings reinforce specialization of the public as well as the performers. In the very organization of concerts or other productions, the forces which different types of music rely on more or less exclude a common organization, even polyvalence. Classical or romantic repertory implies a standardized format tending to include exceptions to this rule only if the economy of the whole is not disturbed by them, Baroque music necessarily implies not only a limited group, but instruments in keeping with the music played, musicians who have acquired a specialized knowledge of interpretation, based on studies of texts and theoretical works of the past. Contemporary music implies an approach involving new instrumental techniques, new notations, an aptitude for adapting to new performance situations. One could continue this enumeration and thus show the difficulties to be surmounted in passing from one domain to anther: difficulties of organization, of placing oneself in a different context, not to mention the difficulties of adapting places for such or such a kind of performance. Thus, there exists a tendency to form a larger or smaller society corresponding to each category of music, to establish a dangerously closed circuit among this society, its music, and its performers. Contemporary music does not escape this development; even if its attendance figures are proportionately weak, it does not escape the faults of musical society in general: it has its places, its rendezvous, its stars, its snobberies, its rivalries, its exclusivities; just like the other society, it has its market values, its quotes, its statistics. The different circles of music, if they are not Dante's, none the less reveal a prison system in which most fed at ease but whose constraints, on the contrary, painfully chafe others.

MICHEL FOUCAULT. One must take into consideration the fact that for a very long time music has been tied to social rites and unified by them: religious music, chamber music; in the nineteenth century, the link between music and theatrical production in opera (not to mention the political or cultural meanings which the latter had in Germany or in Italy) was also an integrative factor.

I believe that one cannot talk of the "cultural isolation" of contemporary music without soon correcting what one says of it by thinking about other circuits of music,

With rock, for example, one has a completely inverse phenomenon. Not only is rock music (much more than jazz used to be) an integral part of the life of many people, but it is a cultural initiator: to like rock, to like a certain kind of rock rather than another, is also a way of life, a manner of reacting; it is a whole set of tastes and attitudes.

Rock offers the possibility of a relation which is intense, strong, alive, "dramatic" (in that rock presents itself as a spectacle, that listening to it is an event and that it produces itself on stage), with a music that is itself impoverished, but through which the listener affirms himself; and with the other music, one has a frail, faraway, hothouse, problematical relation with an erudite music from which the cultivated public feels excluded.

One cannot speak of a single relation of contemporary culture to music in general, but of a tolerance, more or less benevolent, with respect to a plurality of musics. Each is granted the "right" to existence, and this right is perceived as an equality of worth. Each is worth as much as the group which practices it or recognizes it.

PIERRE BOULEZ. Will talking about musics in the plural and flaunting an eclectic ecumenicism solve the problem? It seems, on the contrary, that this will merely conjure it away - as do certain devotees of an advanced liberal society. All those musics are good, all those musics are nice. Ah! Pluralism! There's nothing like it for curing incomprehension. Love, each one of you in your corner, and each will love the others. Be liberal, be generous toward the tastes of others, and they will be generous to yours. Everything is good, nothing is bad; there aren't any values, but everyone is happy, This discourse, as liberating as it may wish to be, reinforces, on the contrary, the ghettos, comforts one's clear conscience for being in a ghetto, especially if from time to time one tours the ghettos of others. The economy is there to remind us, in case we get lost in this bland utopia: there are musics which bring in money and exist for commercial profit; there are musics that cost something, whose very concept has nothing to do with profit. No liberalism will erase this distinction.

MICHEL FOUCAULT. I have the impression that many of the elements that are supposed to provide access to music actually impoverish our relationship with it. There is a quantitative mechanism working here. A certain rarity of relation to music could preserve an ability to choose what one hears, and thus a flexibility in listening. But the more frequent this relation is (radio, records, cassettes), the more familiarities it creates; habits crystallize; the most frequent becomes the most acceptable, and soon the only thing perceivable. It produces a "tracing" as the neurologists say.

Clearly, the laws of the marketplace will readily apply to this simple mechanism. What is put at the disposition of the public is what the public hears. And what the public finds itself actually listening to, because it's offered up, reinforces a certain taste, underlines the limits of a well-defined listening capacity, defines more and more exclusively a schema for listening. Music had better satisfy this expectation, etc. So commercial productions, critics, concerts, everything that increases the contact of the public with music, risks making perception of the new more difficult.

Of course the process is not unequivocal. Certainly increasing familiarity with music also enlarges the listening capacity and gives access to possible differentiations, but this phenomenon risks being only marginal; it must in any case remain secondary to the main impact of experience, if there is no real effort to derail familiarities.

It goes without saying that I am not in favor of a rarefaction of the relation to music, but it must be understood that the everydayness of this relation, with all the economic stakes that are riding on it, can have this paradoxical effect of rigidifying tradition. It is not a matter of making access to music more rare, but of making its frequent appearances less devoted to habits and familiarities.

PIERRE BOULEZ. We ought to note that not only is there a focus on the past, but even on the past in the past, as far as the performer is concerned. And this is of course how one attains ecstasy while listening to the interpretation of a certain classical work by a performer who disappeared decades ago; but ecstasy will reach orgasmic heights when one can refer to a performance of 20 July 1947 or of 30 December 1938. One sees a pseudo-culture of documentation taking shape, based on the exquisite hour and fugitive moment, which reminds us at once of the fragility and of the durability of the performer become immortal, rivaling now the immortality of the masterpiece. All the mysteries of the Shroud of Turin, all the powers of modem magic, what more could you want as an alibi for reproduction as opposed to real production? Modernity itself is this technical superiority we possess over former eras in being able to recreate the event. Ah! If we only had the first performance of the Ninth, even - especially - with all its flaws, or if only we could make Mozart's own delicious difference between the Prague and Vienna versions of Don Giovanni. . . . This historicizing carapace suffocates those who put it on, compresses them in an asphyxiating rigidity; the mephitic air they breathe constantly enfeebles their organism in relation to contemporary adventure. I imagine Fidelio glad to rest in his dungeon, or again I think of Plato's cave: a civilization of shadow and of shades.

MICHEL FOUCAULT. Certainly listening to music becomes more difficult as its composition frees itself from any kind of schemas, signals, perceivable cues for a repetitive structure.

In classical music, there is a certain transparency from the composition to the hearing. And even if many compositional features in Bach or Beethoven aren't recognizable by most listeners, there are always other features, important ones, which are accessible to them. But contemporary music, by trying to make each of its elements a unique event, makes any grasp or recognition by the listener difficult.

PIERRE BOULEZ. Is there really only lack of attention, indifference on the part of the listener toward contemporary music? Might not the complaints so often articulated be due to laziness, to inertia, to the pleasant sensation of remaining in known territory? Berg wrote, already half a century ago, a text entitled "Why is Schonberg's music hard to understand?" The difficulties he described then are nearly the same as those we hear of now. Would they always have been the same? Probably, all novelty bruises the sensibilities of those unaccustomed to it. But it is believable that nowadays the communication of a work to a public presents some very specific difficulties. In classical and romantic music, which constitutes the principal resource of the familiar repertory, there are schemas which one obeys, which one can follow independently of the work itself, or rather which the work must necessarily exhibit. The movements of a symphony are defined in their form and in their character, even in their rhythmic life; they are distinct from one another, most of the time actually separated by a pause, sometimes tied by a transition that can be spotted. The vocabulary itself is based on "classified" chords, well-named: you don't have to analyze them to know what they are and what function they have. They have the efficacy and security of signals; they recur from one piece to another, always assuming the same appearance and the same functions. Progressively, these reassuring elements have disappeared from "serious" music. Evolution has gone in the direction of an ever more radical renewal, as much in the form of works as in their language. Musical works have tended to become unique events, which do have antecedents, but are not reducible to any guiding schema admitted, a priori, by all; this creates, certainly, a handicap for immediate comprehension. The listener is asked to familiarize himself with the course of the work and for this to listen to it a certain number of times. When the course of the work is familiar, comprehension of the work, perception of what it wants to express, can find a propitious terrain to bloom in. There are fewer and fewer chances for the first encounter to ignite perception and comprehension. There can be a spontaneous connection with it, through the force of the message, the quality of the writing, the beauty of the sound, the readability of the cues, but deep understanding can only come from repeated hearings, from remaking the course of the work, this repetition taking the place of an accepted schema such as was practiced previously.

The schemas - of vocabulary, of form - which had been evacuated from what is called serious music (sometimes called learned music) have taken refuge in certain popular forms, in the objects of musical consumption. There, one still creates according to the genres, the accepted typologies. Conservatism is not necessarily found where it is expected: it is undeniable that a certain conservatism of form and language is at the base of all the commercial productions adopted with great enthusiasm by generations who want to be anything but conservative. It is a paradox of our times that played or sung protest transmits itself by means of an eminently subornable vocabulary, which does not fail to make itself known: commercial success evacuates protest.

MICHEL FOUCAULT. And on this point there is perhaps a divergent evolution of music and painting in the twentieth century. Painting, since Cézanne, has tended to make itself transparent to the very act of painting: the act is made visible, insistent, definitively present in the picture, whether it be by the use of elementary signs, or by traces of its own dynamic. Contemporary music on the contrary offers to its hearing only the outer surface of its composition.

Hence there is something difficult and imperious in listening to this music. Hence the fact that each hearing presents itself as an event which the listener attends, and which he must accept. There are no cues which permit him to expect it and recognize it. He listens to it happen. This is a very difficult mode of attention, one which is in contradiction to the familiarities woven by repeated hearing of classical music.

The cultural insularity of music today is not simply the consequence of deficient pedagogy or propagation. It would be too facile to groan over the conservatories or complain about the record companies, Things are more serious. Contemporary music owes this unique situation to its very composition. In this sense, it is willed. It is not a music that tries to be familiar; it is fashioned to preserve its cutting edge. One may repeat it, but it does not repeat itself. In this sense, one cannot come back to it as to an object. It always pops up on frontiers.

PIERRE BOULEZ. Since it wants to be in such a perpetual situation of discovery - new domains of sensibility, experimentation with new material - is contemporary music condemned to remain a Kamchatka (Baudelaire, Sainte-Beuve, remember?) reserved for the intrepid curiosity of infrequent explorers? It is remarkable that the most reticent listeners should be those who have acquired their musical culture exclusively in the stores of the past, indeed of a particular past; and the most open - only because they are the most ignorant? - are the listeners with a sustained interest in other means of expression, especially the plastic arts. The "foreigners" the most receptive? A dangerous connection which would tend to prove that current music would detach itself from the "true" musical culture in order to belong to a domain both vaster and more vague, where amateurism would preponderate, in critical judgment as in creation. Don't call that "music" - then we are willing to leave you your plaything; that is in the jurisdiction of a different appreciation, having nothing to do with the appreciation we reserve for true music, the music of the masters. Then this argument has been made, even in its arrogant naiveté, it approaches an irrefutable truth. Judgment and taste are prisoners of categories, of pre-established schemas which are referred to at all costs. Not, as they would have us believe, that the distinction is between an aristocracy of sentiments, a nobility of expression, and a chancy craft based on experimentation: thought versus tools. It is, rather, a matter of a listening that could not be modulated or adapted to different ways of inventing music. I certainly am not going to preach in favor of an ecumenicism of musics, which seems to me nothing but a supermarket aesthetic, a demagogy that dare not speak its name and decks itself with good intentions the better to camouflage the wretchedness of its compromise. Moreover, I do not reject the demands of quality in the sound as well as in the composition: aggression and provocation, bricolage and bluff are but insignificant and harmless palliatives. I am fully aware - thanks to many experiences, which could not have been more direct - that beyond a certain complexity perception finds itself disoriented in a hopelessly entangled chaos, that it gets bored and hangs up. This amounts to saying that I can keep my critical reactions and that my adherence is not automatically derived from the fact of "contemporaneity" itself. Certain modulations of hearing are already occurring, rather badly as a matter of fact, beyond particular historical limits. One doesn't listen to Baroque music - especially lesser works - as one listens to Wagner or Strauss; one doesn't listen to the polyphony of the Ars Nova as one listens to Debussy or Ravel. But in this latter case, how many listeners are ready to vary their "mode of being," musically speaking? And yet in order for musical culture, all musical culture, to be assimilable, there need only be this adaptation to criteria, and to conventions, which invention complies with according to the historical moment it occupies. This expansive respiration of the ages is at the opposite extreme from the asthmatic wheezings the fanatics make us hear from spectral reflections of the past in a tarnished mirror. A culture forges, sustains, and transmits itself in an adventure with a double face: sometimes brutality, struggle, turmoil; sometimes meditation, nonviolence, silence. Whatever form the adventure may take - the most surprising is not always the noisiest, but the noisiest is not irremediably the most superficial - it is useless to ignore it, and still more useless to sequestrate it. One might go so far as to say there are probably uncomfortable periods when the coincidence of invention and convention is more difficult, when some aspect of invention seems absolutely to go beyond what we can tolerate or "reasonably" absorb; and that there are other periods when things relapse to a more immediately accessible order. The relations among all these phenomena - individual and collective - are so complex that applying rigorous parallelisms or groupings to them is impossible. One would rather be tempted to say: gentlemen, place your bets, and for the rest, trust in the air du temps. But, please, play! Play! Otherwise, what infinite secretions of boredom!


Foucault, Michel and Pierre Boulez. 1985. Contemporary Music and the Public. Perspectives of New Music, 24 (1 Fall-Winter), pp.6-12.

 

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