Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How (Music) History Moves

Reading Paul Feyerabend's Against Method for the nth time and can't help but once again recognize how much his anarchic account of how science is done echoes how musical invention is made, how contingent it is on individual experience, taste, insight, and circumstance rather than formal programs or dialectical forces.  Why, for example, was European serialism more reliably musical and musically interesting than the Perspectives of New Music-brand competitor, even though PNM had the more legitimately scientific approach (cf Backus's PNM review of die Reihe), and why was experimentalism even more so than either?  Daring to be naive is often more productive than trying to know everything before moving forward.  Feyerabend: "Confusionists and superficial intellectuals move ahead while the 'deep' thinkers descend into the darker regions of the status quo or, to express it in a different way, they remain stuck in the mud." (fn. p. 53)  

Feyerabend described Against Method as a "collage" which is both accurate and confirming in its self-deprecative tone that the book has, formally, a self-similarity to his own description of the scientific enterprise.  While the history of cosmology is, famously, the central concern, on re-reading, I'm struck by the author's casual but powerful use of other examples, in particular the excourses into anthropology and the techniques of epic composition and recitation.  


Office of the Cultural Liaisons said...

I had just finished writing this before i came here so thought i would share.

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