MPSG 2017 Themed Session: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

Session convenor: Stan Erraught (Buckinghamshire New University)

Repetition has been a recurring trope in the history of music; indeed, it seems to be a necessary feature of (almost) all music. Yet as McClary (2004) has noted, in the latter part of the twentieth century, the use of repetition increased dramatically in Western musics, and the nature of many musical repetitions became more extreme. More precisely, whereas many previous musics from the eighteenth century onwards had wedded repetition with the development of musical material, repetition in much music from the later twentieth century became more purely cyclic, involving extensive repetition of often extremely short musical units, without significant variation or development. Such use of repetition is discernable in pieces as diverse as Steve Reich’s Different Trains, Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two,” or Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn,” amongst innumerable other examples. Further, repetition appears as a feature not simply within works, but also across works; to give an extreme example, the ‘amen break’, a 7- second sample from an obscure soul B-side, effectively gave birth to a whole school of genres and subgenres within and beyond Drum and Bass.

Likewise, repetition has also been a recurring topic in the history of philosophy, in various and often competing formulations, and came to increasing prominence in the later twentieth century, in the work of philosophers as diverse as Adorno, Scruton, Derrida, and Deleuze. For Deleuze, in particular, repetition functions as a critical weapon against the traditional philosophical priority of identity, and supports and supplements difference as the originary ontological state.

We invite papers that address the topic of repetition from musicological and philosophical perspectives. Topics of especial interest might include, but are not limited to:

  • the potential for repetitive musical works to challenge traditional notions of aesthetic originality and identity
  • repetition and technological determinism; does the form of contemporary music reflect its conditions of production? Or does it reproduce ‘analogically’ the conditions of industrial and post-industrial production?
  • Adorno’s critique of standardisation in popular music and repetition as a regressive, even psychotic feature in art-music
  • Scruton’s formalist criticism of repetition in popular music as relying on ‘extra-musical’ imperatives
  • Deleuzian understandings of repetition, especially regarding the enactment of difference and repetition and the virtual in popular musics
  • time and repetition, especially the suspension of clock time in repetitive musics
  • repetition, ritual, and the death- drive
  • the relation of modern to pre-modern (or early-modern) uses of musical repetition

We especially welcome papers that address these or other issues across musical forms and philosophical registers, or that formulate new ways of thinking about repetition musically.

 

Proposals of up to 300 words should be sent to Stan Erraught by 15 October 2016.

 

Indicative Bibliography

The below brief bibliography comprises a selection of works that may be of particular relevance to those with an interest in this topic, or to those seeking to orient themselves therein, but is intended to be neither exhaustive nor prescriptive; there is no obligation to cite any particular work or works, either in abstract submissions or in final papers.

Adorno, Theodor W. – “On Popular Music” in Leppert, (ed.) Essays on Music, Berkeley: University of California Press 2002, pp. 437-469.

—— The Philosophy of Modern Music, Mitchell and Blomster, trans. London: Sheed and Ward, 1973/1987 (Particularly pp. 174-189 on Stravinsky)

Berger, Karol. Bach’s Cycle, Mozart’s Arrow.

Deleuze, Gilles – Difference and Repetition, Patton trans. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Kivy, Peter – “The Fine Art of Repetition” in The Fine Art of Repetition: Essays in the Philosophy of Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1993

McClary, Susan – “Rap, Minimalism and the Structure of Time in Late Twentieth Century Culture” in Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (Cox and Warner, eds.) London: Bloomsbury 2004/13, pp 289-303.

Middleton, Richard – “’Play it Again, Sam’: Some Notes on the Productivity of Repetition in Popular Music”, Popular Music, Vol 3, Producers and Markets (1983), Cambridge: CUP pp. 235-270.

Scruton, Roger – “The Cultural Significance of Pop”