In this essay, we present a reading of two dominant (often, though not always, opposed) modes of understanding music's value: first, a “negative posit” associated most closely with Theodor Adorno that valorizes negation and social uselessness and, second, an “affirmative posit” associated with late twentieth-century musicology and sociology that valorizes music's social utility. Recognizing serious limitations in both, we turn to Étienne Balibar's notion of “civility” as an experimental practice that regulates extremes in order to reduce violence. Drawing on psychoanalytic and anthropological theory, we begin to outline the contours of an experimental music practice that affirms music's fundamental ambiguity and radical nonpartisanship.
Bill Dietz, Gavin Steingo; Experiments in Civility. boundary 2 1 February 2016; 43 (1): 43–74. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-3340637
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