The principal reason we are led to buy and consume one commodity rather than another is the promise that it will offer more than we strictly desire, and certainly more than the alternative. Why drink Coca-cola rather than Co-op own brand? Because ‘Coca-cola is it!’ We won’t get ‘it’ with the Co-op cola. Why buy Nike rather than any other brand? ‘Just do it’, then you’ll see. The ‘something extra’ that commodities offer isn’t always quantifiable, and it’s certainly not consumable. You can’t taste Coke’s ‘it’, can’t feel the just-doing-it-ness of Nike as you lunge around a tennis court. There is simply a satisfaction in the promise, the sense that you’re consuming the best example of whatever it is you’re consuming. Continue reading
There’s a lot of talk on Twitter today about misogynistic responses to the idea that, just as men might leave their upper lips unshaven in November (for charity), so women might give up the razor – on their legs, armpits, muffs – for a month. It reminded me of something I wrote about pubic shaving and the infantilization of women at the end of last year. It was in response to a Daily Mail article (the whole post is here), and here is the relevant bit: Continue reading
Extreme chromaticism by J. P. E. Harper-Scott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.jpehs.co.uk/2011/10/09/extreme-chromaticism/.
Review of Daniel Albright, Music Speaks: On the Language of Opera, Dance, and Song (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2009), and Ruth Katz, A Language of Its Own: Sense and Meaning in the Making of Western Art Music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). Published in the Times Literary Supplement, 7 October 2011, pp. 12–13.
Theodor W. Adorno wrote that music has a ‘language character’ both mimetic and rational. Mimesis – of the human body, of dance, of ritual – gives music expressive and gestural range; the rational logic of its organization, the form and structure, lends music the identifiable air of a form of communication. Both sides of this language character exist perpetually in dialectical equipoise. Daniel Albright cites Adorno at the beginning of his diverting meditations on the language character of music, which however he views more strongly, with frank disregard for non-Western musical traditions, as ‘the one universal language, a sort of pentecostal tongue of fire, a language not learned systematically but understood intuitively by everyone’. Continue reading
The House of Commons voted this week to reject an amendment by Nadine Dorries MP to the Health and Social Care Bill 2011, which could have had the effect of limiting women’s right to abortion by redoubling the social pressure against their decision. It is only one news story this week in which people’s decisions about what to do with themselves bodily was brought into focus. It has two unlikely bedfellows in the Scottish newspapers: Continue reading
The best responses to the riots in London and other British cities have come not from the main British media outlets, particularly not the ideologically collusive BBC (the Guardian and Independent have, predictably, fared better), but from foreign media (see this superb Süddeutsche Zeitung article) and the blogosphere. A number of Twitter commentators have observed that claims, after the riots, that the rioters are not ‘the real London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool etc.’ reflect the political attitude – and political economy – that created the possibility for the riots in the first place. One particularly fine critique of the response focused by the #riotcleanup hashtag on Twitter argues that the exclusion of the rioters, either as ‘scum’ or simply as ‘inauthentic Londoners’ or whatever, is the symbolic means of defining a core, a ‘true’ society, around the eradication of this perverse element. Continue reading
The extraordinary response to the early death this weekend of Amy Winehouse reveals the extent of the affection in which she – and her music – were held. But her life and public engagement with it says equally sorrowful things about life under capitalism, under whose ideological pressure we are all addicts. Continue reading
I received an email this morning alerting me that one of my publications had been recommended as ‘a must-read resource’ on Oxford Bibliographies Online (apparently the latest in Oxford University Press’s online projects), about which I hadn’t previously heard. Naturally interested to find out what this meant I followed the login details provided by the site and found myself listed as ‘provocative’ (possibly the word most frequently used to describe my work) in the entry on Benjamin Britten by Heather Wiebe (the link to the article will probably only work with a subscription to OBO, but my ‘provocative’ article can be found here). Continue reading
I don’t normally feel the need to criticize anything in Mary Beard’s blog but her post from 7 July is a good example of a misunderstanding about their salaries that academics in the UK are quite blind to, and I don’t know how many of that breed (of which I’m a member) take my view. She opens tentatively. Continue reading
This weekend saw the inaugural annual conference of the new RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group, organized with brilliant success by musicologists and philosophers around the UK. I was chairing a session and was invited to join a group of three musicologists live-tweeting the event (the others were @eeleach and @laurenredhead). Since the study group itself is an interesting new venture and the experience of live tweeting from a conference both a relatively new idea and a curious experience, I thought it worth blogging about my reflexions. Continue reading
David Willetts’s white paper on higher education, to be published today, is being trailed in the newspapers. The response from what we call ‘universities’ – which actually simply means their decision-taking heads, the vice chancellors, over whom academics at universities outside Oxford and Cambridge can exercise precisely zero democratic influence – will almost certainly be sycophantic and ideologically collusive. So what will be in the white paper? As a taster, the Guardian reports that Continue reading