Monday, 19 September 2011
Rhythm, a-rhythmia and the Revolutionary Drive
‘Brains are foretelling devices and their predictive powers emerge from the various rhythms they perpetually generate. At the same time, brain activity can be tuned to become an ideal observer of the environment, due to an organized system of rhythms’. György Buzsáki, Rhythms of the Brain.
‘Humans are the only species to spontaneously synchronize to the beat of music’.
A.N. Patel, Music and Language
‘[There is no] assimilation of the drive to a biological function, which always has a rhythm. The first thing Freud says about the drive is, if I may put it this way, that it has no day or night, no spring or autumn, no rise and fall. It is a constant force. All the same, one must take account of the texts and of experience.
Jacques Lacan, Seminar XI.
‘Rock and roll as well as jazz was what they called “imperialist music”… [Guevara] hated artists, so how is it possible that artists still today support the image of Che Guevara?”
If the problem of whether ‘time and space are situated in our minds only or whether they in fact exist independently’ is intractable (Buzsáki, 8), it is rhythm, according to neuroscientist György Buzsáki, that provides the means for the brain to shape its own sense of reality in its negotiation with its environment. Rhythm produces a sense of time, allowing for anticipation, and the imagination of exterior space. For A.N. Patel, the ability to perceive a regular beat is, similarly, ‘anticipatory rather than reactive ...’ and is fundamental, not a byproduct of [other more clearly adaptive] cognitive mechanisms’ (402). Beat perception appears to be an event in the evolutionary history of human beings, the always already cultural yet universal means of establishing a collective. ‘In every culture, there is some form of music with a regular beat, a periodic pulse that affords temporal coordination between performers and elicits a synchronized motor response from listeners’ (Patel, 402). It seems that groups, tribes, nations have always been one under a groove.
It was Jacques Attali who first related music, as a particular organization of noise, to social order, and this paper looks at rhythm as a means of establishing a social bond in a way that is heterogeneous to language. Using various examples, including the arrhythmia of Che Guevara (neither he nor Eva Peron could dance, and both hated the tango), the paper also introduces a quasi-psychoanalytic concept of a-rhythmia in which rhythm is equivalent to the drive’s Vorstellung, thereby becoming the locus of cultural dissatisfaction and discontent. It looks at how the a-rhythmic drive is a revolutionary force in the sense that it revolves around an impossible (extimate) object that holds the place of another conception of social reality, that is to say some Other (groove) Thing (or Thang).
Abstract for the Rhythm and Event Symposium
10am-7.30pm 29 October 2011
King’s Anatomy Theatre & Museum, 6th Floor, King’s Building
King’s College London, Strand Campus, London, WC2R 2LS