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Re: <nettime> New "thought rhythms'
t byfield on Wed, 4 Oct 2017 16:32:27 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> New "thought rhythms'


On 4 Oct 2017, at 5:58, David Garcia wrote:

Don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say.

Funny you should mention that. Some time back I saw some squib go by in which one of The Who said that rock is dead, and that that kind of creative energy has been flowing into rap. I'd like to think it was Townsend, just because I like him, but I think it was Daltrey, who always bugged me (most lead singers do, with all their hair and strutting around). Either way, the remark surprised me. It's hard to imagine that anyone involved in playing Magic Bus on Live at Leeds could say such a thing. I mean, it's like Billie Holiday giving up on the blues or Bach giving up on the harpsichord — not happening. Which is sort of my point. Could it be that this biographical maldistribution of conviction — too much early on, too little later in life — is peculiar to certain kinds of cultural subgroups? Say, the kind whose entire life, more or less, has been bracketed by pundits throwing around Yeats quotes about how "the best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity" etc, etc.

"Generations" are regularly batted around as a Thing, and that kind of reification requires that they be given some timeless status: "'twas ever thus." It's like flight: aside from a few myths or sketches here and there, there isn't any historical evidence that flight is "mankind's oldest dream" — there's just people starting to repeat that meme after aviation became a Thing. New money always(!) looks for old roots, so it shouldn't be surprising that new money would dig around for the old roots of its central organizing ideas. And generational change is one of those ideas: it installs the shifting whims, dynamics, and distinctions of consumer culture as a timeless, universal, and inexorable force that drives all of history and culture. So, for example, we hear all kinds of neurobabble about how "teenage brains" develop, and how the quirks of that development force teenagers to behave in certain ways and say certain things. The empirical observations about material neurological development are mostly true, of course; but the way they're mapped onto current social conflicts *as specific causes* is arbitrary and ridiculous. Most of all, there isn't any evidence that those mappings are trans-historical and/or trans-cultural. The overwhelming evidence, worldwide and stretching back into the mists of time, is that there's no such thing as generational change, or maybe that it was so. impossibly. slow. that. we. can't. even. begin. to. measure. it. Alternatively, by the time you introduce enough caveats to make some isolated set-piece argument — say, that ritualized violence among young medieval aristocrats was "really" neuroblabla — you've introduced so much artifice, equivocation, and abstraction into the argument that you might as well be arguing that it's phlogiston what did it. "Generational change" as we now know it is mostly a by-product of disposable income and the contingent quirks of how it's allocated in a few societies over a few decades. Maybe best text on the subject I know of is in the opening pages of Colin MacInnes's novel _Absolute Beginners_, when the Wizard explains the invention of the teenager.

A few days ago, Keith Hart wrote on Facebook about the moment he realized that, as he put it, "all we have against death is song." But he wrote that on the occasion of yet another rocker dying. There's a lot of that going around right now — the pall of death is hanging around rock now, isn't it? And it'll only get thicker. But truth be told, I started to lose interest in rap a long time ago, when it embraced that pall — and, not coincidentally, lost its sense of humor. But I lost interest in most pop music around then, because it all started to seem like it was morphing into different kinds of lifestyle MIDI.

The idea of "thought rhythms" doesn't speak (or maybe ~sing) to me in quite the way it does to you, but I see what you mean. In a way it's a great metaphor because it can help to ~explain a range of reactions to generational change: a lot of people shout GET OFF MY LAWN at KIDS TODAY, but some learn to listen for polyrhythms, simpatico ways to integrate and accommodate unfamiliar rhythms. And if we give it a little poetic license, it can also help to explain why some generations are really dangerous, like troops stupidly marching in step across a bridge (oops), while other generations are more resistant to pathological forms of organization — say, the difference between a mosh pit and the grand ballroom dances of the interwar years. (Take a few minute to watch the opening of Adam Curtis's film Bitter Lake, which uses dance to speak entire worlds about that: < http://thoughtmaybe.com/bitter-lake/ >). The metaphor also opens up a lot of others doors, too — doors that Amis probably wasn't thinking about. Maybe we should think of it as an invitation to turn our attention away from ginned-up intergenerational stylistic conflict and listen, instead, to rhythms from other cultures.

It's a strange metaphor, part street and part just an updated mini version of the theory of mentalités.

Cheers,
T
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