Aura, iteration, and action: Digital technology and the jouissance of live music

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This chapter explores whether live music produces a fundamentally different experience than listening to recorded music. To do this, I shall undertake Miles Davis's prescribed structure for Jazz composition; this involves the collective establishment of a territory, followed by a period of exploration. To establish the territory, I shall examine the benefits attributed to the authenticity of an event by philosophers who prize live performance-namely Walter Benjamin, Theodore Adorno, and Hannah Arendt. In his essay "The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction," Benjamin highlights the importance of presence in time and space for the "aura" of a particular piece of work. His suggestion that the replication of a work of art cannot adequately replicate its full meaning problematizes the digital experience. This position relates directly to the kind of problems that Adorno suggested would arise through the centralization of cultural production and the importance of iteration in cultural expression. While digital technology captures music in a number of ways that Adorno would be concerned about, it also overturns the barriers to culture. However, for Arendt, physical presence itself is fundamental to the creation of meaning, identity, and reality. So does this mean that live music loses its jouissance in digital culture? The second part of this chapter explores this territory through some auto-ethnographic reflection on the experience of watching music live and via digital technology. While I suspect that the territory could sound modal and pessimistic, there will certainly be moments of uplifting melody during the exploration!.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe digital evolution of live music
EditorsAngela Cresswell Jones, Rebecca Jane Bennett
Place of PublicationNetherlands
PublisherChandos Publishing
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780081000700
ISBN (Print)9780081000670
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


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