March 18, 2012
"The sheer idiocy of a mass product created especially for you assumes the character of a ghastly necessity. Individual needs have been so ruthlessly eliminated from the product that they have to be invoked like magic formulae to prevent the customer from becoming aware of the murderous ritual of which he is the victim. The entire life of a lover is proclaimed to have been produced for the first person who happens to pass by. ‘Especially for you that's all I live for / Especially for you that's all I'm here for'... The truth is made clear in the first instance by a warning prominently placed beneath the title of the hit song: ‘Any copying of the words or music of this song or any portion thereof, makes the infringer liable to criminal prosecution under U.S. copyright law.' After reading this, anyone who harboured the illusion that an object existed especially for him, and who had bought it on that assumption, will dismiss the idea that it actually belonged to him. If he wished to change this situation he would be locked up, if he weren't locked up already."
-Theodor Adorno in Commodity Music Analysed.
Have products mass-produced in the machinery of the culture industry stripped us of our belief in music as an emancipatory form? Has technological innovation, enabling home-production, mass dissemination and piracy, created a new realm for antagonistic musical expression? Republished this month as part of Verso's Radical Thinkers series in Quasi Una Fantasia, his astounding collection of essays and music journalism, the panel will take Adorno's short essay Commodity Music Analysed as the starting point for a discussion on music's engagement with radical politics today, and vice versa. Are we seeing a new, popular critical engagement with the politics of musical form, or is Occupy Records, the eponymous record label of the worldwide social movement, the most we can hope for? Our panel will explore the contradictions and complications of politically engaged music today, and ask whether Adorno's belief in the politically transformative potential of music still holds true today.
Adam Harper is a music writer. His new book is Infinite Music: Imagining The Next Millennium Of Human Music-Making and he blogs at rougesfoam.blogspot.com.
Irene Revell is a curator, and director of the contemporary art agency Electra Productions. She writes regularly for The Wire magazine and is a member of Cinenova Working Group.
Ben Watson is a writer and theorist. His publications include Adorno for Revolutionaries, Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation, and Art, Class and Cleavage: A Quantulumcunque Concerning Materialist Esthetix.
Chair: Richard John Jones is an artist and co-director of Auto Italia South East.
Tickets are £4. For more information, please visit the Cafe Oto website.
6.00pm – 9.00pm
18-22 Ashwin St, Dalston
London, E8 3DL