And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Monday, October 14, 2013

Acheronta Movebo

Humoresque, arguably Robert Schumann's piano masterpiece, is to he read against the background of the gradual loss of the voice in his songs: it is not a simple piano piece, but a song without the vocal line, with the vocal line reduced to silence, so that all we effectively hear is the piano accompaniment. This is how one should read the famous "inner voice linnere Stimmel" added by Schumann (in the written score) as a third line between the two piano lines, higher and lower: as the vocal melodic line which remains a non-vocalized "inner voice," a series of variations without the theme, accompaniment without the main melodic line (which exists only as Augenmusik, music for the eyes only, in the guise of written notes). (No wonder that Schumann composed a "concert without orchestra," a kind of counterpoint to Bartok's "concert for orchestra.") This absent melody is to be reconstructed on the basis of the fact that the first and third levels (the right and the left hand piano lines) do not relate to each other directly, i.e. their relationship is not that of an immediate mirroring: in order to account for their interconnection, one is thus compelled to (re)construct a third, "virtual" intermediate level (melodic line) which, for structural reasons, cannot be played. Its status is that of an impossible-real which can exist only in the guise of a writing, i.e. physical presence would annihilate the two melodic lines we effectively hear in reality (as in Freud's "A child is being beaten," in which the middle fantasy scene was never conscious and has to be reconstructed as the missing link between the first and the last scene). Schumann brings this procedure of absent melody to an apparently absurd self-reference when, later in the same fragment of Humoresque, he repeats the same two effectively played melodic lines, yet this time the score contains no third absent melodic line, no inner voice - what is absent here is the absent melody, i.e. absence itself. How are we to play these notes when, at the level of what is effectively to be played, they exactly repeat the previous notes? The effectively played notes are deprived only of what is not there, of their constitutive lack, or, to refer to the Bible, they lose even that what they never had. The true pianist should thus have the savoir-faire to play the existing, positive, notes in such a way that one would be able to discern the echo of the accompanying non-played "silent" virtual notes or their absence.

And is this not how ideology works? The explicit ideological text (or practice) is sustained by the "unplayed" series of obscene superego supplement. In "Really Existing Socialism," the explicit ideology of socialist democracy was sustained by a set of implicit (unspoken) obscene injunctions and prohibitions, teaching the subject how not to take some explicit norms seriously and how to implement a set of publicly unacknowledged prohibitions. One of the strategies of dissidence in the last years of Socialism was therefore precisely to take the ruling ideology more seriously/literally than it took itself by way of ignoring its virtual unwritten shadow: "You want us to practice socialist democracy? OK, here you have it!" And when one got back from the Party apparatchiks desperate hints of how this is not the way things function, one simply had to ignore these hints... This is what happens with the proclamation of the Decalogue: its revolutionary novelty resides not in its content, but in the absence of the accompanying virtual texture of the Law's obscene supplement. This is what acheronta movebo ("moving the underground") as a practice of the critique of ideology means: not directly changing the explicit text of the Law, but, rather, intervening into its obscene virtual supplement. Recall the relationship towards homosexuality in a soldiers' community, which operates at two clearly distinct levels: the explicit homosexuality is brutally attacked, those identified as gays are ostracized, beaten up every night, etc.; however, this explicit homophobia is accompanied by an excessive set of implicit web of homosexual innuendos, inner jokes, obscene practices, etc. The truly radical intervention in to military homophobia should therefore not focus primarily on the explicit repression of homosexuality; it should rather "move the underground," disturb the implicit homosexual practices which SUSTAIN the explicit homophobia.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Move the Underground"

Flectere si nequeo Superos, Acheronta movebo ("If I cannot bend the Higher Powers, I will move the Acheron").
– Virgil, as quoted by Freud, "Interpretation of Dreams"

1 comment:

WomanHonorThyself said...

listening now* soothing.............