This article sketches the development of Jean-François Lyotard's musical thinking through the lens of the composer with whom he was most often associated, John Cage. I contend that the affinity Lyotard felt for Cage's work came about on the basis of two shared concerns: first, an interest in creative strategies hinging on passivity and indifference and, second, a related desire to approach singular events free from the interference incurred by human cognition. In Lyotard's “libidinal” phase, as well as his later Kant-centered work, his investigations indicate that Cage's artistic practice is founded upon a series of logical paradoxes. However, it can be argued that Lyotard's revision of Cage's aesthetic theories in post-Freudian terms more openly faces up to these paradoxes than Cage's own sunny Jungianism does.
“… A Power of Sonorous Paradoxes …”: Passivity, Singularity, and Indifference in Jean-François Lyotard's Readings of John Cage
Matthew Mendez is an independent scholar specializing in the aesthetics of contemporary music. He earned a bachelor's degree in music at Harvard and master's degrees from the University of Edinburgh and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He is active as a composer, having studied with Julian Anderson and Brian Ferneyhough.
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Matthew Mendez; “… A Power of Sonorous Paradoxes …”: Passivity, Singularity, and Indifference in Jean-François Lyotard's Readings of John Cage. Cultural Politics 1 July 2013; 9 (2): 170–187. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-2146093
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