THE ULTIMATE MUSIC
Bourgeois music is a music the melodic integrity of which is usually balanced between rhythm and pitch. Either side of this music, in class-evolutionary terms, is music that is of a melodic integrity either predominantly given to rhythm, as in the case of the grand bourgeoisie, or predominantly given to pitch, as in the case of the petty bourgeoisie, both of which classes are themselves divisible into an earlier and a later stage, the musical constitution of which will be either more or less extreme but never, or rarely, totally extreme. By which I mean absolutist, and therefore given to the production of either pure rhythm or pure pitch. These extreme stages correspond, by contrast, to aristocratic (pagan) and proletarian (transcendental) absolutes - pre-atomic and post-atomic integrities either side of a bourgeois (Christian) atomicity. Consequently they are not, as a rule, to be encountered within the confines of relativistic civilization! The rhythmic purism preceded it and the atonal purism will succeed it. The earlier stage of grand-bourgeois music stems from the former in its predominantly rhythmic content; the later stage of petty-bourgeois music aspires towards the latter in a predominantly atonal context; though such music, whether as modern jazz or avant-garde classical, is rarely atonal in the strictly post-rhythmic sense. There accrues to it at least a vestige of rhythm in either melody or percussion, the latter particularly prominent in modern jazz which, owing to its negroid roots, is more susceptible to percussively rhythmic indulgence than most forms of contemporary classical.
Taking the evolution of music as a whole, we can contend that its progression is from evil to good via an evil/good compromise. There is nothing lower or morally worse, in musical terms, than pure rhythm, while, conversely, there is nothing higher or morally better than pure pitch. The one stems from the diabolic absolutism ... of proton-proton reactions, the other aspires towards the divine absolutism ... of electron-electron attractions. In between, one finds the atomic compromise of melody, as pertaining to all stages of relativistic civilization. Melody is to music what Christ is to religion - the humanistic, 'intellectual' compromise coming in-between the alpha/omega extremes. Thus pure rhythm stands to music as God the Father to religion, viz. the alpha soulful extreme, while pure pitch stands to music as the Holy Ghost to religion, viz. the omega spiritual extreme. Being relative, Christian civilization is content with a melodic compromise equivalent to Christ, either literally, as balanced between rhythm and pitch, or biased towards one or other of the two extremes, depending, to a significant extent, on the epoch in question. It has no desire to embrace a post-atomic absolutism. That must be left to a transcendental civilization, in which free-electron criteria will prevail.
Thus notes are to music what electrons are to atoms - the spiritual, positive, expansive ingredient, and we may define them as electron equivalents. By contrast, rhythm may be defined as the proton equivalent - the soulful, negative, contractive side of the atom, and in the musical equivalent of an atomic integrity notes will be bound to rhythm in melody, either with or without a percussive accompaniment. Jazz and classical are alike subject to percussive accompaniment, which stands to melody as God the Father to Christ. Usually, as noted above, there is more percussion in jazz than in classical, but quite often the treatment of percussion in the latter, particularly in the orchestral guise of symphonies, is more violent than in the former, if, as a mitigating factor, its use is rather more intermittent than continuous.
Yet if classical is, on the whole, nobler than jazz in respect of a less frequent recourse to percussion, it isn't, as a rule, quite so transcendental as regards instrumentation and pitch, since not only tied to acoustic means but, through scores and conductors, to tonal or quasi-atonal notation as well. Indeed, the term 'quasi-atonal' aptly serves as a definition of higher petty-bourgeois music, whether in jazz or classical, since complete atonality, though possible, would transcend relativity and thus render all forms of rhythmic accompaniment, whether percussive (overt) or notational (covert), taboo - a situation hardly compatible with a petty-bourgeois civilization, in which criteria of musical excellence and moral acceptability are ever relative! Besides, no less than contemporary classical, jazz has its own safeguards or inhibitions against genuine atonality built-in to the instrumental integrity of the music, whereby the persistence of a percussive root makes the pursuit of atonality all but impossible. A violin or a guitar that seems to be free on an atonal flight one moment ... will be brought back into line, as it were, with a concession to rhythm or melody the next. This is a fair definition of the quasi-atonal. And yet, morally considered, it signifies a distinct improvement on persistent melody, such as can be found in trad jazz and in most types of bourgeois and early petty-bourgeois classical. The electron equivalent is therein straining at the leash, so to speak, of proton constraint, which can only auger well for the future freeing of pitch from all forms of rhythm. Only when pitch is completely free to exist on its own spiritual terms ... will music attain to a climax, becoming, in consequence, purely transcendent. Such a climax, it need scarcely be emphasized, cannot be achieved or furthered by the adherents of relativistic civilization. It will fall to those nations/musicians specifically concerned with the development of an absolutist civilization.
Which instrument or instruments, you may well wonder, would be most appropriate for a truly atonal music? Certainly none of the traditional acoustic ones, whether predominantly made of wood or of brass. Not, either, such typically petty-bourgeois or, rather, bourgeois/proletarian instruments as electric guitars, bases, pianos, organs, and the like. Although signifying an evolutionary improvement upon their acoustic counterparts, these instruments require a degree of manual manipulation incompatible, it seems to me, with the transcendental criteria of an absolutist civilization. The playing of an electric guitar, for example, presupposes a compromise between rhythm and pitch, the fingers of one hand being concerned with notes, either separately or collectively, and those, or one or more, of the other hand having to sustain the notes through a variety of rhythmical procedures either independent of or, if more civilized, dependent on a plectrum.
Clearly, such musical relativity would be incompatible with an absolutist civilization! The electric guitar is nothing if not a quintessentially bourgeois/proletarian instrument. For though, as an electric instrument, it signifies an expansion of the spiritual, its technical manipulation presupposes a degree of respect for the rhythmical. This, however, isn't the case or, at any rate, needn't be so where synthesizers are concerned, which can be programmed to realize a variety of atonal sequences independently of manual control, being susceptible, in any case, to the minimum of manual effort. I would be extremely surprised if such highly synthetic instruments didn't play a leading role in realizing the music of tomorrow, a music programmed in advance and conveyed by remote control, thereby relieving composers of the obligation to perform their own music in public, an obligation which, though concerned with the cultivation of being, entails a degree of doing. A civilization with an emphasis on transcendent being couldn't countenance very much mundane doing!
And yet, the performance of a particular work by the composer
himself, either alone or in conjunction with other musicians, is preferable,
from an evolutionary standpoint, to the performance by a number of musicians of
someone else's work, and we may note here an important distinction between
modern jazz and its classical counterpart, the latter of which entails, more
often than not, a division between composer and performers, thereby indicating
a greater concession to relativity and making, in the process, for a dependence
on scores and conductors - two factors which presuppose a degree of respect for
appearances and, by implication, the proton root. Were classical music determined to become
completely essential, entirely rhythm-free, this situation could not be
countenanced. But the plain fact of the
matter is that classical music has no such ambitions, being resigned to
reflecting, in various degrees, an atomic relativity, the structure of which
bespeaks a compromise between essence and appearance, inner and outer, in
deference to relativistic criteria.
Here, as in certain other contexts, it is inferior to jazz, a music
which scorns appearance in a partly memorized, partly improvised musical
self-sufficiency approximating to essence and therefore closer, in consequence,
to a musical absolutism, whereby no composer/performer, conductor/score lacunae
exist between performer(s) and music. It
is on account of such facts that modern jazz is entitled to be considered a
mainstream petty-bourgeois music, one more transcendental than its orchestral
counterpart, as applying, in the main, to Europe. And to the extent that, since the
Speaking as an Irish-born writer, it is scant humiliation for me to discover and acknowledge such a fact, since I am led, with my spiritual bias, to identify more closely with American than with European culture, though not to the point of forgetting that the bourgeois/proletarian civilization of the contemporary West and the future transcendental civilization, which I hope Ireland will be instrumental in furthering, are two entirely different things, in consequence of which very little common ground can be established between them. If modern jazz, as pertaining to bourgeois/proletarian civilization in its predominantly petty-bourgeois phase, is the 'best of a bad job' in musical class-evolutionary terms, it is still somewhat short of being a completely 'good job', which could only develop, it seems to me, in a society dedicated to absolute values and, hence, to the establishment of a free-electron music - electronic and, in its pure pitch, highly appropriate to a people who pay no respects to the alpha, nor to its part-alpha 'Son', but are dedicated, instead, to an exclusive, absolutist aspiration towards the omega. Such transcendental music, significant of the post-atomic, will be vastly superior to melodic music and almost infinitely superior to its pagan precursor in the overly percussive past. It will be the ultimate music, of universal import.