I'm always a little confounded, when I am working to develop a theory of the nature of music, with the problem of the icon - e.g. Kurt Cobain. It is easy to imagine reconciling theories of music as pure will, as cosmic naada current, as a cultivator of divine organization, as true being - but these all tend to take instrumental music as their model. The power of musical icons seems to be something different altogether - it has very little to do with the way music sounds or with an experience of union. Instead it centers around an object of love, often a sacrificial one. One is tempted to remove iconhood from the question of music altogether - positing that it is something different altogether (after all, there are actors, politicians, gurus etc who are also icons). But this seems a little facile. There is nothing quite like the death of a musical icon - the recent untimely death of Lil Peep has really been troubling and fascinating me me along these lines. I didn't know him personally or even really pay attention to his music until now. It's so sad, and also so beautiful, so inescapably glamorous.
I wrote the above in November but abandoned it out of shame. There’s something perverse about one musician commenting on th death of another. Anyway, the point I was driving at is that music should not be separated from the personality of the musician. Even in an abstract theory about the nature and use of music, the iconhood of the musician is extremely important, whether avowed or not. This holds true for composers just as much as for figures from the rock era. Can we really subtract Beethoven himself from Beethoven? Even though music presents itself as somehow pure structure, ontological, beyond culture altogether in some way - it does this only as a kind of hologram of the future or the outside. These holograms are always authored, always situated in a history, even when their author endorses the death of the composer (or even especially - it is even more difficult to subtract the charisma of John Cage himself from his work than to do so with Beethoven).
I was so close to suicide at age 27, in particular; it was so palpable to me the way my death would encapsulate my music. I would have been frozen in time, my face never seen without a certain youthful flow that it has since lost. The irony of the fact that I am technically a ‘rock star’, that suicide would have initiated me into the sacrificial cultural logic alongside Ian Curtis or whatever - what do those suicides represent? That the world is a hard place for a sensitive person to live? Is it that people draw strength from a certain tragic heroism that they themselves are not strong enough to pursue (these two options being opposites)? It’s as though suicide is the ultimate logical conclusion of music as such, because it represents a concrete transcendence of social and biological norms (suicide does no good for the species or for the economy). But then again, there is an unmistakable collective bloodlust that charges society’s reaction. I’m finding it difficult to draw this post to a conclusion (this is the third time I’m returning to it; I rarely go on to elaborate on posts months after they were first written). I guess I need to think more about the relation between music and death.