I am heading to Newcastle University to hang with Spurious and Blah-Feme from December 6th to 9th, where I will be giving a talk at the 3rd Symposium in the Music,
Philosophy and Vernacular series. The folks there were kind enough to foot my ticket and lodgings, so hopefully I will have something of interest to say. I have to confess I’m a bit intimidated, as I am certainly not a musicologist and I have 90 minutes to speak (60 minutes for my talk and 30 minutes for discussion). Sadly this will be a whirlwind trip. I fly out Thursday afternoon, land early Friday morning, have fun with all the Newcastle folk on Saturday, and fly back to the States on Sunday. I wonder if I’ll be detained by customs? Why is it a fantasy that I’m “dangerous” enough to be stopped by customs?

The theme of the symposium this year is drawn from work Blah-Feme has been doing and is entitled “After Music”. As I understand it, Blah-feme has been toying with the idea that we live in a post-musical age precisely because music has become so ubiquitous. Of special interest in Blah-femes analysis is his discussions of “distributed subjectivity”, or the manner in which we have shifted from Cartesian models of subjectivity to models of subjectivity where individuals are nodes in a network, coordinated by various media, producing certain forms of life. Finding this idea interesting and provocative, my talk will thus attempt to put some meat on the bones of this concept of distributed subjectivity by drawing heavily on Deleuze and Guattari’s account of territorialization in “Of the Refrain” found in A Thousand Plateaus, and various moments in Marx. I am especially interested in how territories of subjectivity are formed, how forms of life are molded, through various musical refrains, and how this might be thought in terms of Marx’s thesis that “production is immediately consumption and consumption is immediately production” (i.e., not only the question of how to reproduce the conditions of production, but also how to reproduce the conditions of consumption… A problem that becomes pressing in a capitalist milieu when basic needs are met). In part, I would like to show that distributed subjectivity is not something new, but is in fact the “truth” of subjectivity (in the sense that democracy is, according to Marx, the truth of all social formations). This, I think, resituates the question somewhat and helps to ameliorate some of the doom and gloom surrounding the disappearance of agency. Of course, I, no more than anyone else, do not have questions as to what is to be done. At any rate, the title of the paper is “Territories of Music: Deleuze, Guattari, and the Formation of Territories of Subjectivity”… Or something like that.

I am told that the Newcastle folk are somewhat hostile to Deleuze and Guattari, seeing them as apologists for contemporary consumer capitalism and being better friends with Lacan, Zizek, and Badiou. Needless to say, in my view Deleuze gives us the ontology required by historical materialism. Hopefully I can compelling make this case in some form or other and I am not the recipient of rotten tomatoes or eggs!

At any rate, if I’m less than responsive on the blog or email in the next few days, this is because I am busily working… Editing the proofs of a book, giving two conference papers, working on an article, serving on three committees, and teaching a 5/5 load are not conducive to finishing things in a timely fashion. Wish me luck, or not as the case may be.