Uneasy times demand uneasy music.
The world is in turmoil. And so are many of us. No matter what perspective we take, what used to be familiar is becoming increasingly alien, oscillating widely between peril and hope, between regression and progress, between standstill and explosive change. Tensions are running high for all of us. But we can’t endure this strain for very long: we are worn down by the overload of polarised politics, of self-righteous agitation, of digital deceit, of neglect and unbridled narcissism paired with authoritarianism, of unevaluated technologies disrupting the fabrics of our community, of the libertarian recklessness of their apologists, of environmental crisis and pervasive violence. All the while, we try to engage with the new complexities of a multipolar world and its increasingly diverse societies, and attempt to distinguish vapid “virtue signaling” from earnest commitment. Squeezed under an almost inescapable regime of permanent excitation, we burn out, we retreat, and we can’t help but to normalise the madness, the pace, the anxiety. Yet, masking the turmoil comes at a price too – a creeping, subterranean unease gains traction and eats away at us
In such a situation, what can we hope to get from music?
Music has always been a remedy for the ruthlessness of this world, yet also a tool for altering our own being in this world. CTM 2018 looks for music and sound that deals with growing strain and that unsettles us for a reason. That doesn’t escape the immanence of our troubles. Music and sound that mirrors the dissonance of the world and resonates with our anxieties. Music and sound that aims to articulate discontent and protest. That shakes up our habits by invading our safety zones and transgressing norms. That cracks open fixed identities in order to bring us into contact with each other. Music that calls for empathy to stir us out of the dullness of our apathy, and to question our compliance with, and complicity in, everyday exploitation and violence. Sound that makes us feel to make us think. Music that cancels out our pains with pain. That deadens inner agitation with external uproar. Sound that provides outlets for our accumulated angers. Music that thrills and exhausts in order to allow a rare moment of rest. Music that mistrusts itself, that challenges fraud with fraud, excess with excess, and consumerism with consumerism. Music that simultaneously feeds and undermines our social media-driven self-deception. Music that allows for another kind of distance despite the intrusiveness of its touch. Music that exposes us to forms of life and ways of experiencing that are foreign to us. Sound which evokes future realities that lie in wait on the horizon. Sound that motions toward new trajectories.
Or so we hope. Yet one person’s hope could also be another person’s fear.
CTM 2018 examines the state of music and sound practice in the face of a confusing and critical present. What is the sound of turmoil? What is an aesthetic of tumult? Is answering the world’s turmoil with aesthetic turmoil our only viable strategy? Hasn’t this long been co-opted by the very forces we try to resist? Should we not, in the face of conflict’s escalating logic and capitalism’s voracious desire for intensification, move on to explore the opposite: an aesthetics of placidness and disengagement? Or which other sonic and musical responses could we conceive of as an antidote, for both the present and the future? How can music in the year 2018 express protest and formulate new futures, both personal and political?