Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Anti/Parsimony

Poet Ron Silliman has a sweet small essay on the "parsimony principle": " Is there any dynamic in the construction of meaning more powerful (...) ?"

Personally, I've never been able to settle on one economic regime in my work. A minimum of means or effort has its attractions, its elegance. Often a laconic expression does more that an encyclopedic one, in that it frames or zeros-in on the core of the idea, but it can also be left open to fields of connections, including the tentative, uncertain, and ambiguous. But there is also something to be said for the anti-parsimonious position. Is a life full of the constraints necessary for survival and considered restraint necessary for civility worth living if we can't, at least sometimes, splurge a little, luxuriate a little, exaggerate a little, indulge a little in excesses and revelry dionysic, if only in our dreams or our creative work?

This speaks, of course, to the public debate over minimalism as a musical category, and I'm increasingly convinced that radical music -- in the sense of a turn toward the roots of the musical experience, and which would include extremes of both parsimony and generosity -- is both the more interesting and the more useful term. Minimalism can be understood (heard) as one attitude towards materials within the radical music complex, an attitude connected to those of static, pattern, process, systems (etc.) musics, as well as to musics engaged with the physical and perceptual qualities of acoustical phenomena and, to some extent, with those musics engaged with the production of music as a social phenomenon.

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