Math Destruction

But if the absoluteness of Modernist aesthetic self-sufficiency suggests doubt rather than certainty, the remixes—neither ads co-opting the pop song nor even vice versa—maybe announce a contrary self-confidence. It's the spell of the original's scale and range they want to take on. Its power versus theirs: Whose noise will stand?

And it's because I can't get more than a fraction of it across in print that I find Persepolis compulsive. Life's happenstance has given me a grasp of the fuckoff-hardcore mathematics—Markovian stochastics in re: points and mass, detail and flow—in Xenakis's little-read manual of method, Formalised Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (English translation, 1971), but if I had the time would you have the patience for a painstaking translation? The point being that such devotion to the master's inner world is self-evidently pointless enslavement. Instead of an elitist-restrictive priestcraft—within which initiates communicate, excommunicating the mainstream world—the barminess of Xenakis's totalist rigor ensures that no one gets in free. High priests and laity are all on the outside, together. Formalised Music is a massive autodestructive engine: It creates the monumental ruin of itself. If the noisenik glitch on this record is to stand, then by self-choice Persepolis is the cataclysm alongside which it will have to stand—except isn't "a work that stands the test of time" the lamest promo-cliché of all?

A titan of bruisingly unfashionable difficulty
photo courtesy of Asphodel
A titan of bruisingly unfashionable difficulty


Iannis Xenakis
Persepolis + Remixes Edition 1

Faced with the near-perfect impenetrability of Xenakis-rigor, I either retreat into lame sour-grapesing, or fast-track evolve until I'm his equal. Because of course a pop song press-ganged into servicing an advert will sometimes reverse the direction of the appropriation (to doubt this is to accept that adverts are by definition stronger art than music). The avant-garde distrusts trade, old and new, because it fears its own power, and also yours: What if the listener brings something to the picnic that turns the composer into spurned loser-mendicant? Uncorrupt non-treacherous response (the critic's mission?) means elaborating an analogy—translation from music-noise into words (and letters)—as far-reaching as Xenakis's lifework. Like Shelley on Ozymandias (or, you know, something equally leftover-throwaway-easyreach). A response which merely folds into itself all history, all philosophy, all mathematics . . . I say my mission, but actually I just decided I mean YOURS ZZZZPhthccrrkkkzzeeeeoweeeeoww- zhzhzhkattattaata . . .

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