Wednesday, March 14, 2012

oren ambarchi: audience of one (touch)

Let’s have done with this notion of ‘abstraction’ in music, shall we? Music. Is. Never. Abstract. It’s concrete, physical, irresistibly and incontrovertibly material. As Vladimir Jankélévitch put it in “Music and the Ineffable” more than 50 years ago, “It acts upon human beings, on their nervous systems and their vital processes… This power which poems and colors possess occasionally and indirectly — is in the case of music particularly immediate, drastic, and indiscreet.” And not just in relation to humans either. Music’s materiality extends to tables and windows and dogs and goldfish too. Admittedly, its material effects will be importantly different in each case. Presumably the table is largely indifferent to what Adam Harper would call its ‘non-sonic variables.’ But the fact remains: Music is never ‘abstract.’

I point all this out here because ‘abstract’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot where Oren Ambarchi is concerned. Here it is on the front page of his own website, in an endorsement from The Wire. Ambarchi’s work, apparently, focuses mainly on the exploration of the guitar, “re-routing the instrument into a zone of alien abstraction where it’s no longer easily identifiable as itself. Instead, it’s a laboratory for extended sonic investigation.” The words “disembodied” and “stripped down” tend to crop up a lot too. As do references to water, air, the ether, and transcendence. It’s as if Ambarchi’s music were less there somehow than the work of other musicians, less concrete or present than Dylan or Kanye or James Ferraro or sunn 0))).

Well I call bullshit! There’s nothing ‘abstract’ about Ambarchi’s approach to the guitar at all. Exactly the opposite, in fact...

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