Friday, August 7, 2015

The Music of Givenness

According to Marion, that which is given gives itself wholly and unconditionally. The phenomenality of the given rests in its being given and in its reception into experience. A thing given therefore only becomes a phenomenon when a recipient experiences it, yet the attitude of the recipient cannot compromise the integrity or givenness of the given. Being given then is always anterior to phenomenality. These are the conditions of phenomenology: the given and the horizon of its appearance.

Some works of art give themselves more obviously than others. A painting or sculpture gives itself in a wholeness that is more immediate than a novel or symphony. Music presents a fascinating phenomenality. Certainly it is given wholly and unconditionally, yet its presentation to experience challenges the recipient in ways other art forms do not.

A symphony may present itself in partitura, in 'full score' as a text, and its recipient can turn its pages and hear the music play out in time as its being unravels in presentation. Recipients who do not read music or hear the notations of the score do not experience a symphony in partitura, but in performance. What is a performance if it is not an interpretation of a score heard by its composer and rendered symbolically? A conductor and each member of an orchestra read the text of what is before them and represent something akin to what a composer has heard.

What the composer has heard and written and what a musical ensemble performs are acts of creation whose givenness is whole, complete, and unconditional. In the performance (or realization) of the symphony sound and sense march through time and into being well after their givenness has breached its horizon to enter the experience of the recipient/hearer. Each voice of the orchestra cuts a gap in space and time to enter an emerging reality of hearing. Something new has appeared where it was not: music in its pure givenness realized as a gift of sound and sense.

The jazz musician cuts out the middleman and allows for even more reduction of givenness. She hears, improvises and performs in the uncanniest synchronicity. Sound and sense emerge instantaneously from depths of musical consciousness and then penetrate into the depths of musical consciousness of the recipient. This fascinating dislocation of creation underscores the givenness of the self that gives and the self that receives. The kenotic gesture of the giving self (music and musician are so entangled here as to confuse them) in the moment of 'jazz' opens up musical space-time that creates the very consciousness of the hearer.

The musical kenosis in jazz is also present in the composer of the symphony. The unity of the composer and her composition is less obvious in that instance perhaps because of an undeserved privileging of the partitura over the extemporaneous ownership of the jazz musician of her music. The analogy here between Derrida's argument that speech is privileged over writing witnesses to the bankruptcy of that view. Once we dispense with doubt about ownership, dispense with an infantile need for certainty, the sound and sense of language and music can speak for themselves, each self giving itself into givenness and into phenomenality without fear or prejudice.

The music of givenness allows the gift and the gifted to be themselves, the one appearing more and more in the experience of the other; the other truly experiencing from that which is given as given in its pure givenness---whole and unconditional---as it appears in the widening aperture of the receiving self, which empties itself to accommodate more and more of that which is given.

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