Modernist Discourse, Psychic Forms, and Agency: Aesthetic Subjectivities at IRCAM

Essay Excerpt

This article offers an analysis of aesthetic subjectivities inhabiting a high cultura linstitution. The institution in question is IRCAM (Institutde Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique), the music section of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (see Figure 1). IRCAM is an internationally renowned institute for the research and production of computer music and its technologies, and is therefore devoted to both scientific and technological research and computer music composition, production, and performance (see Figure 2).1 My research on IRCAM has combined ethnographywith a genealogical history (Foucault 1984) of the aesthetic and philosophical discourse on which it is based-modernism in music.2 In this article, I focus in particular on the aesthetic subjectivities of IRCAM's composers and other music intellectuals.3

This article has two aims. First, I will give a portrait of these intellectuals and their musical dispositions. While their dilemmas are substantively specific to music, they exemplify the problems of intellectuals and artists living in a pluralist world who nonetheless feel compelled to develop universal criteria of evaluation and legitimation for their work. These cond aim is theoretical and has two interwoven strands. I offer some reflections on the limits of Bourdieu's sociology of culture, and I suggest how it is possible to bring into anthropology insights drawn from Kleinian psychoanalysis. In doing so I consider, without resolving, how to theorize the relations between structure and agency, and how to conceive of the interface between discourse, differentiated sociality, and individual subjects. (Born, 480)

About the Author

Born is a Professor at the University of Oxford. 

Her areas of specialization are as follows: Anthropology and sociology of culture, music, art and media. Ethnography of complex institutions. Interdisciplinarity. New media and digitization. Specialisms include: media and cultural production, cultural politics and cultural institutions (high cultural, museums, media organizations). Post-Bourdieuian social theory. Post-Adornian critical theory. Anthropological theory. Mediation theories. Ethnography. Modernism and postmodernism in music and art; art-science. Music and technology, music and digitization. Music, sound and space. Theories of the avant-garde. Intellectual property, authorship, and creativity. Media and cultural policy and media regulation; public service broadcasting; television.

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