Friday, March 22, 2013

Truth, essence and history

"What is found at the historical beginning of things is not the inviolable identity of their origin; it is the disension of other things. It is disparity."

"The very question of truth, the right it appropriates to refute error and oppose itself to appearance, the manner in which it developed (initally made available to the wise, then withdrawn by men of piety to an unattainable world where it was given the double role of consolation and imperetive, finally rejected as a useless notion, superfluous and contradicted on all side)-does this not form a history, the history of an error we call truth?"*

Michel Foucoult

I love these quotes so much. Both seem to strike at the heart of that idea that somewhere, sometime long ago, there was pure essence of something. It happens in music history all the time (Bach counterpoint is the truest counterpoint). It happens in Jazz all the time (Louis Armstrong is the purest form of jazz). At the beginnings of things there is not unity, no essence, only chaos and disparity. The truth of that time is just that, of that time.

My first few posts in the Oxford History of Western Music series, might be construed that way (mistakenly, as I wasn't regarding origins as evidence of pure concepts, but was more fascinated in how the use of concetps, as well as how we regard them,  changes over time).

Dogmatic subservience to the concept of an essence that is always lost in the past only helps people hold sway over others. It's often used as a method for building an establishment with a set of rules that can't be challenged without the highest powers saying so. That, my friends, is not my idea of music-making as a force that brings people together. That sounds like ostracisation.

P.S. It's nice to be back and writing again . . . .

*Rabinow, P., Ed. (2010). Michel Foucault: The Foucault Reader, Vintage Books.

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