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Re: GG: Reader
At 02:02 2/5/1996 EDT, Mary Jo Watts wrote:
>>From "Music and Technology" p.354-355 in _The Glenn Gould Reader_:
> "Technology, in my view, is not primarily a conveyor belt for
> the dissemination of information; it is not primarily an
> instantaneous relay system; it is not primarily a memory bank
> in whose vaults are deposited the achievements and
> shortcomings, the creative credits and documented deficits,
> of man. It is, of course, or can be, any of those things, if
> required, and perhaps you will remind me that 'the camera does
> not lie,' to which I can only respond, 'Then the camera must
> be taught to forthwith.' For technology should not, in my
> view, be treated as a noncommital, noncommitted voyeur; its
> capacity for dissection, for analysis-- above all, perhaps, for the
> idealization of an impression-- must be exploited, and no area
> with which it is currently occupied better demonstrates the
> philosophical conflicts with which its practictioner and
> theorists have been too long preoccupied than the
> aims and techniques of recording.
> I believe in 'the intrusion' of technology because,
> essentially, that intrusion imposes upon art a notion of morality which
> transcends the idea of art itself...
I haven't read the article from which this post derived; & am therefore
basing my response solely on the information "to hand". If i've distorted
the arguments of either GG or MJW in doing so; please accept my apologies in
I tend to call this kind of argument "theological"; because it deals with
questions of "what should be" rather than "what is" (a bit like the
arguments of theologians, as viewed by an athiest or agnostic). The fact
that GG is aware of this -
'the camera does not lie,'/'Then the camera must be taught to forthwith.'
- doesn't change my skepticism of what i consider provactive, not
>How might this imply to the Internet, for example? Are GG's ideas about
>technology too centered on LPs, telephones, and T.V.'s to mean anything about
>cyberspace? Can the World Wide Web analyse and dissect? Can the WWW
>idealize impressions? Can you build a Web site that has in its very
>structure, a Gouldian morality?
Since i'm skeptical about the base argument, i'm ever more so about the
"follow-on". I'll deal with the last question first:
I suspect it's impossible to do what you suggest for the simple reason that
such moralities (if they exist at all) can only be recognised after the fact
(in other words, i can "attempt" to create such a Web site; but i only
succeed if you "recognise" it). I would go further & say that i can only
succeed if you recognise it without my prompting... & that the possibility
exists that you can succeed by recognising these moralities in my Web site
without my attempt to create them.
(I'm not sure how this would sit with GG's attitude to art: his apparent
idea that there was a transcendantal "composition" behind & beyond the
written notes seems to see the role of "recognition" as the cornerstone of
his view of art; & if this is so, this can explain why i tend to see him
more as an essayist on art than an actual artist (in other words, i consider
there's a strong element where his performances are "about" music rather
than true performances "of" music))
Obviously the World Wide Web can't analyse and dissect - only the people on
it can do so... & they can only do so if they feel the goal is worthwhile. &
there can be clear diferences between the things an artist & his/her
audience considers worthwhile. Brecht attempted to fragment the theatrical
experience to make people confront the issues behind his theatre - instead,
he fragmented his audience to such an extent that only gung-ho Brechtians
take his plays seriously anymore.
Gould tried to do something analogous with his radio documentaries; & i
would suggest the near-heresy that pieces like "Idea of North" & the
documentary on Pablo Casals work in spite of his interventionist approach
not because of it (in other words, he assembled such wonderful material that
the pieces worked in spite of the way he assembled it). Much like Brecht, in
>I don't thing that many of us believe that 'the camera does not lie'
>anymore, (especially after the Rodney King trial in the US). But is the
>passiveness of a CNN camera pointed at starving children morally
>parallel to the passiveness of a tape deck recording a pianist? Is is
>as dangerous to be a passive listener as it is to be a passive looker?
I would have thought the only thing the Rodney King trial showed was that
judicial systems based on the adversarial model were rapidly becoming
unworkable (the court's jesters are becoming too good at their job)....
Being passive is only dangerous if being active is a feasible alternative -
feeding the starving child may make your conscience feel better; but if you
can't change the situation (usually political) which created the starvation
in the first place, all you've really done is make a mockery of charity
(because the child will die anyway tomorrow... when the camera is gone).
Life is a lot more complicated that art; why is why i doubt that any
meaningful parallels of the kind suggested in you post exist.
>I'm trying to get at what GG means by the term "moral." Later in the
>same article he says that a war such as the Gulf war, fought with
>technology is slightly less objectional to a war of hand-to-hand
For strictly temporal reasons, GG couldn't have referred to the Gulf War;
but if you've outlined the rest of his argument correctly, his view of
morality was both subtle & superficial (again, it sounds a bit like Brecht -
does anyone know what GG thought of Bertold Brecht?; & particularly his
principles of dislocation in theatre?).
Unless he argued that a technological war could be won quicker & with less
unnecessary bloodshed (the blitzkrieg principle) than a conventional war
(sometimes - but not inevitably - true); the only way it could be seen to be
more moral than conventional war was if the definition of morality was
strictly based on the idea of how events are seen (or perhaps felt)... in
other words, the response defines the morality - not the actual consequences
of the action. He seems to be suggesting that if we are less likely to
perceive the impact of technological killing, our lack of perception makes
the war more moral (at least in our own eyes).
(Have we really returned to my argument about "recognition"? It sounds like
it - but without GG's full argument, i can't be sure).
If this interpretation is correct, it puts GG oddly on side with the
wellknown moral philosopher G Gordon Liddy, who in his differentiation
between morality (as that which society agrees is right) & ethics (what the
individual believes is right) clearly allows for a non-ethical morality...
which is what any "response"-based morality must be.
Viewed from the other side, Liddy's differentiation has very practical
merit... & damnation to the ethics behind his view of morality....