Wednesday, 24 August 2016

'Joy 2016' (essay for 3hd festival, where I'll be in October)

Art by Sam Lubicz
3hd festival is back for its second year in Berlin this October, and its website has gone up (click here). I'll be there lecturing and participating in discussions over various aspects of their theme 'There is nothing left but the future.' In the meantime, I wrote an essay for them (click here to read it) sketching some initial thoughts about some of the problems facing musical futurism and musical sarcasm after a summer of violence and Brexit, through the lens of the 'Ode to Joy' from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and Wendy Carlos's electronic version of it particularly (incidentally, Jeremy Corbyn, something of a lightning rod for various kinds of political tumult whatever you think of him, recently mentioned listening to Beethoven's 5th).

Beethoven's Ode to Joy has accumulated cultural and political baggage of apparently every different kind, and, especially, in extremes. It has played the role of humanity's highest and most noble achievement and an incitement to horrifying violence both. And it is the anthem of the European Union...

Who needs dehumanising machine music when you have Trump, when you have the rise of hatred the world over?

There is an important difference, of course, between the future and the futuristic. The futuristic is a costume, a thrill, a performance, a caricature, all from within the safety of the present. The future is what actually happens to you and at some point, whoever you are, it will hurt you. What can art and music help us to do and to say before that point?