Nov. 11 Reading Responses

Echard explores ideas concerning the virtuality of music and actualization versus realization. He discusses the entwined relationship of instrument, music, and the performing body, in the actualization of music. He discusses Gilles Delueze’s philosophy of virtuality and becoming.

Virtuality in Music
Echard defines virtuality as an ontological category of “being what is real but not actual” (p. 8). But, as we unfold this thought more, finding a set definition for the virtual gets tricky, as we discover that there are many ways of viewing the actual, the realized, and what sparks what.

Echard sees virtuality in music represented in two important ways. He writes: “First, virtuality can be evoked through multiplicity in representation… For example, multiple performances of a single work differ yet point to a virtual object which remains perpetually suggested, never manifested.” (p. 10) So, if you were to play a piece of music on the piano twice, the act of playing that piece with intention, each time, points to a virtuality— i.e. the music differs every time.

Echard sees the second way virtuality is present in music is in affect, saying: “Affect here refers to the capacity of any entity to affect and be affected. It is not primarily a subjective or conscious experience. For example, a musical work has an affect insofar as it actualizes certain capacities. Each work has a distinctive affect because it has its own unique capacities for affecting and being affected.” (p. 10) He describes how the mood, feeling, or affect of a musical piece gives it virtuality as it can never be represented fully.

I loved Echard’s description of the “fleetingness” of virtuality. This caught me off guard, as I always think of the actual, or what exists in life, as fleeting and never here all the way. And the virtual, as something that will always exist as some sort of not-quite-reachable absolute. Things are in constant flux, right?! Echard suggests that both the virtual and the actual are in flux. He writes: “There is a flirtation between the virtual and the actual, a difference highlighted by their closeness. Also, our access to the virtual seems to fluctuate. Virtuality is fleeting, yet can be revisited. It is never quite here, but remains accessible” (p. 8)

Questions to discuss in class:

1. How does virtuality play a role in your own musical practice? What about actuality?
2. How does what Echard describes as the “virtual” relate to our discussions of cyberculture, and how music is actualized (or is it realized) in a virtual spaces on-line?
3. What are your thoughts on Echard’s “style of thought, focused on becomings?” (p. 12, see below)
Music becomes sound
Sound becomes music
The subject becomes a musician
Movement becomes music
Music becomes movement
Desire, in the form of aesthetic dispositions, becomes an object of instrumental reason in the form of instrument design and playing technique
And vice-versa

4. Thoughts on Echard’s discussion of “Techniques of Forgetting?” (p. 14) My interpretation of what Echard is saying here This ability for the musician to forget the technique is what gives the music a sense of touch, soul, and the ability to become something new and be actualized This is what I would call the “ artist’s voice” behind the work.

Haraway, 1991

Ok, guys! I found this essay really laughable, entertaining, and quite frightening at the same time. Perhaps the tug-of-war like writing-which seems to be all “punch”-fits the content of cyborgs, irony, blasphemy, and feminism. Let’s hash this out in class, please! I am pasting Haraway’s introduction here as a guide:
This chapter is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism. Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful, than as reverent worship and identification. Blasphemy has always seemed to require taking things very seriously. I know no better stance to adopt from within the secular-religious, evangelical traditions of United States politics, including the politics of socialist feminism. Blasphemy protects one from the moral majority within, while still insisting on the need for community. Blasphemy is not apostasy. Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about humour and serious play. It is also a rhetorical strategy and a political method, one I would like to see more honoured within socialist-feminism. At the centre of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg. (p. 149)

Some questions to discuss:
1. Haraway sees two possible outcomes of the cyborg-reality she describes us living in today. One being harmful, in the cyborgs take away the agency of women and others by laying down a sort of “grid of control on the planet” (p. 154) The other outcome is that the cyborg-reality she describes provides us with a better acceptance of our kinship with animals and machines, and thus with partial-boundaries, and that would mean with ourselves. What do you think?

2. How can cyborgs create “fractured identities”? What is the positive/negative of this? What are the fractured identities you see happening, through the lens of cyberculture, today?

3.Haraway’s question (p. 157): “What kind of politics could embrace partial, contradictory, permanently unclosed constructions of personal and collective selves and still be faithful, effective - and, ironically, socialist-feminist?”
4. How do cyborgs bring up questions concerning identity, boundaries, gender, race, control, and politics? Agency? Progress?


This article addresses the virtual and the real, as well as musical authenticity, gender roles, and amateur musicianship through the discussion of Guitar Hero and Rock Band game play. Miller uses the word “schizophrenic performance” to describe the split nature and pairing that happens in both Guitar Hero and Rock Band game play, between what is performed live (i.e. using a physical, bodily gesture) and what is recorded.

1. How are Guitar Hero and Rock Band game play performances theatrical? What is the mirroring that happens?
2. Where is the virtual and the real in such game play?
3. How is authenticity threatened, heightened, mocked, or recognized?
4. Would you like a musical composition or song you wrote to be featured on such a game?
5. What do games like this say about ownership?
6. How do you think role-play and character-customization have an impact on the possibilities of Guitar Hero and Rock Band game play? How do these options give agency to performers and audiences? How does the virtuality of these games give agency? Or not?
7. Is there humor or a sense of irony or do you find this all very serious?

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