Theory As Poetry: Paul Gilroy’s “Darker Than Blue” (2011)


Ethical losses
resulted from marginalizing
the intersubjective,
antiphonal equilibrium
that had been practiced
in ritual real-time collaboration
between performers and crowds.

music creation
on computer screens
compounded these difficulties.
The resulting music
has sometimes celebrated
the expulsion of any trace
of fallible
and funky humanity.
The sinuous warmth
of real-time bass and drum
was often surplus (…)

We should not be surprised
if the ‘regression of listening’
is an idea that springs to mind
when considering the consequences
of this shift.

There is regression in the obvious sense
that ears are no longer
being conditioned
to the possibility
of distinguishing
the sampled and simulated
from the played.

Sequenced and quantized sounds
become indistinguishable
from the older but still-supple
forms of interactivity
that characterised music made
in a culture of listening
for a community of listeners,
rather than an aggregation
of shoppers, downloaders,
and headphoned poddies.

A culture of loneliness
–not merely of isolation or solitude–
accompanied this change
and now fosters a yearning
for forms of sociality
to which the market aims
to provide ready-made solutions.

-Paul Gilroy, Darker Than Blue (2011, pp. 128-129).

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