the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

quotes: on repetition

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2010

‘Repetition is a form of change,’ Brian Eno once said, summing up the minimalist ethos. Repetition is inherent in the science of sound: tones move through space in periodic waves. It is also inherent in the way the mind processes the outside world. So, in a sense, minimalism is a return to nature. At the same time, repetition underpins all technological existence. Robert Fink, in a cultural study of the movement, acknowledges that minimalism often mimics the sped-up, numbed-out repetitions of consumer culture, the incessant relations of commercial jingles on TV. But he argues that the minimalists deliver a kind of silent crtique of the world as it is. They locate depths in surfaces, slowness in rapid motion. Borrowing a nelogism from the musicologist Christopher Small, Fink writes: ‘Repetitive musicking rarely express a longing for authentic relationships that don’t exist, and in this way has at least the virtue of honesty that more traditionally avant-garde music often lacks. More often repetitive music provides an acknowledgement, a warning, a defense — or even just an aesthetic thrill– in the face of the myriad repetitive relationships that, in late-capitalist consumer society, we all must face over and over (and over and over…). We repeated ourselves into this culture. We might be able to repeat ourselves out.

– Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise, p. 511.


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