Sunday, 28 August 2011

Romanticising the Riots

Romanticising the Riots by entschwindet und vergeht
You might have noticed that there were some riots recently. I don't really have much to add to the hundreds if not thousands of analyses that have already been contributed, apart from the observation that they all have some element of truth to them.

One of the riots took place right outside my house in "London's Fashionable East End", and as well as going outside to have a look at what was burning (along with a sizable cross-section of the local population), I also, as you'd expect from a pretentious hipster, made an audio recording of the helicopters that were thundering around outside, of which I counted at least four.

Now, it's not as if I couldn't have just left it at that, and had myself an interesting little Chris Watson style audio recording, but I felt it necessary to somehow transfigure it slightly, and the result is the audio that you can listen to here. The helicopters have been combined with a recording of Strauss' 'Im Abendrot' ('At Sunset'), one of his Four Last Songs.

Why? Well, there could be a number of reasons. On the one hand it's a sly gesture towards Stockhausen's 'Helicopter Quartet', but that's by the by. It's also a kind of aleatoric duet - listen to how the doppler effect of one of the helicopters perfectly accompanies the slide from the major to the relative minor! But then it's perhaps about the artistic gesture as such, the impotence, or failure, of any artwork to genuinely transfigure the structure of the world into which it's inserted. The high-romanticism here functions as a phantasmagoric fragment of a world that is not always in the process of collapsing, a fiction that is always drowned out by the harsh sounds of the world in which it is heard. Or, to put it another way, high-camp futility is the mood I'm going for.

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