The Difference Between the Extreme and The Avant-Garde
พฤศจิกายน 22, 2005
Signifying Form or Content : The Difference Between the Extreme and The Avant-Garde
Extreme Music will face the identity crisis when its form is against its content which primary is its relatively hard-listening feature. The popularity of its form will undermine its content and the form will finally steel the signifier of the content leaving the content anonymous. This is the problem that the identity that posits itself as the non-identity or different to others will face because its identity (content) does not have any positive property in the level of form that would create its own identity. When its form slips into its non-identity, it will suddenly notice that it just does not exist. In short, when the so-call “extreme music” (whatever genres) are no longer extreme and start climbing the billboard chart high it will lose its name to the mass of fashion follower to exploit. That is not the strange phenomenon and every one knows about that. The point is after its signifier is thrown in to the mass market, the new extreme music must emerge even its from is radically different from the former. The ultimate reason that it must emerge is based on the hypothesis that the margin of music it the ultimate site of creation the site that the music innovation will emerge. As far as one might believe in the creation of music in its own sphere outside the market force, one should always prepare every marginal music (not just extreme music) it’s own sphere, it own space of creation like creation for its own sake no matter there is some radical big Other that pulling our strings or not. Creation for its own sake must establish its legitimacy as self referential like the law. Creation could not be the mean, but the end. Celebration of radical creation may be the only way to save all the art at the margin.
The success of avant-garde music is that it seems to celebrate its own marginality. It is self consciously margin unlike lots of extreme music genre that the form emerge from the radical content. I’m not here to debate whether avant-garde and extreme music overlapse each other or not. I think the topic still remain open to debate despite its own uncreativity. In my opinion, the main point in general that avant-garde is different from the extreme music in general is its self conscious marginality. The proof is that avant-garde as signifier seem to point to its content rather than its form, while the particular extreme music signifier seem to point to its form rather than its content. The avant-garde artists reflect there own marginality of music as heard in there music that could be highly difficult to categorize unless put them loosely under the signifier avant-garde. One could even tempt to claim that the avant-garde celebrate pure different (and also creativity) as their identity. Unlike their hard-listening counterpart like the avant-garde, most of extreme music genre tie its identify with its form. The extreme music artist (of course there always be an exception ) and seem to tie themselves to the form of music. Although loosely, the extreme music artist and also fans seem to have fix idea of what is death metal, black metal, grindcore, etc. Each of the genre signifiers point to particular element or property of the form, but not any signifier points to the content of the extreme music. In this way, extreme music identity will forever remain in crisis because it effective property (extremeness) is never realize in any of its species (genres) which could be easily seduced by the market. The problem here is the problem the thing which have the marginal essence, but It contains no mode of resistance to the integration into the centre in its form. That’s why its form has to be constantly change due to the identity crisis to the extent that we cannot understand what is extreme music “as such” quite easily. In contrast, avant-garde embody its resistance to the mass integration in its fluid form itself. No wonder that we apparently could not totalize the positive property of the avant-garde form even in general. This value of radical creativity seems to be celebrated by the artists and fans alike in contrast which those of extreme music which is relatively conservative.
It is not hard to see how extremely conservative the people in extreme music is. I don’t want to mention the piles of examples of the dilemma between the choice of stucking in the same form of music through out band life time (which may make the first album and the tenth album sound the same), the choice of playing it softer a litter bit or more and be accused of selling out and the final choice of playing it harder which will make the band end up with grindcore or brutal death metal, the genres which may signify the fastest and the hardest and haven’t had any creativity for quite a while. The deadlock of creation of the extreme music result in the supplement such as progressive, technical or even math to make the music less stupid and more intellectual. This reflect in the lack of creativity in the rigid form of the genres since it have to add the supplement to create the new space of creation which is good for innovation.
Of course, almost all kind of music have more or less rigid form or even stereotyped form, but the locus of creation have to resist the attachment to the form otherwise it will end up creating piles of B-grade band or lower which the love of listening to all of them will prove the love of that particular kind of music they collectively belong. Back to extreme music, its ultimate problem when it attach to the form is ,as I’ve said, it’s extreme (marginal) content could be threatened when the form getting in the center. At this point, the detachment of its form from its content must be anticipated by the artist and fans alike. If the extremeness is drag in to the center with the form we will lose the extremeness itself as such that’s why we need a detachment to save the extremeness identity.
The current music trend show the great threat to extreme music since lots of so-called metalcore band (which, of course, attach itself to the market) is using some element of extreme music ,or to be more specific Gothenberg melodic death metal in general. Here I didn’t say that borrowing element from other kind of music is bad or metalcore as such is bad, but The future of extremity of extreme music is, for me, in question. The thing is that how could the market integrate the element of death metal in to the mainstream? Death metal is one of the most solid referent point of extreme music. Now, metalcore for the mass have integrated lots of its element in to their music and climbing the billboard chart. Personally, I like bands like Himsa or Black Dhalia Murder. I feel that their music is good even when comparing to the Gothenburg standard. However, the point here is we may have to rethink the concept of extreme music as such before we lose it. Metalcore trend does not just simply put the threat to extreme music. It seem to betray the underground music culture started by punk since the mid 70’s and split to NWOBHM (the precursor of modern day extreme metal which at least start with the underground cassettes culture) and hardcore. Metalcore trend put the metal and hardcore face to face and betray the whole culture of marginality since the spirit of punk emerged. However, this may be the truth inscribed since the start of the whole underground music culture since when the content itself does not contain the mode of resistance to integration to the market in its form, it could finally end this way.
The final answer to the identity crisis of the extreme music may be the avant-garde in the last resort. The mode of resistance to the integration of the market is embedded in the spirit of the avant-garde and people in avant-garde seem to be conscious about it. One may even tempt to say that people in avant-garde do not listen to the music at the level of form but content, the spirit. If there is some thing that we could be able to describe it as sublime in music it is avant-garde. It identity tied to the sublime property itself, unlike extreme music that could be both beauty and sublime at different time. Extreme music may not retain its shock value and become tamer, but avant-garde constantly try to retain its sublime shock value as its identity. No wonder they’re so musically innovative to the extent that lots of people may not regard their music as music. People in the extreme music may have to drop the conservative attitude towards their music and may have to rethink the avant-garde solution to save the concept of extremeness itself or if one see that extreme music seems less and less extreme to the extent that nothing could heal it one may easier resort to the shock value of the avant-garde and listen to the extreme music the same way as ordinary people listening to the pop music like me.