Communication expresses itself
Band practice takes priority on a Thursday night. The current theoretical flavour of the week takes a firm back seat. But this week a casual inquiry into what my musicology-student-friend was reading for class lead me straight back to Luhmann.
Turns out composer Igor Stravinsky approached music in a way similar to Luhmann’s idea that communication constitutes communication. According to Stravinsky, music is “powerless to express anything” (An Autobiography 1936, 53-54). We often think of music expressing the thematic intent of the composer, but an “exact sets of correlatives” that link a musician’s mind with her notation or performance are not required. Music can still be expressive, but it only “expresses itself”, not any, not a composer’s intent (Stravinsky and Craft, Expositions and Developments 1962).
I guess the key thing about music or communication expressing itself is that we human beings get shunted to the side. Function systems, using their own internal communicational logic, take care of themselves. Sure, they need us around to allow communication to occur, to get the ball rolling, but ultimately it seems that they must be self-stabilising.
Tending towards calmness or chaos?
Having recognised equilibrium in biological ecosystems for the “machine fantasy of nature” it is, and subsequently raising concerns the potential for changes to power structures if society is modelled as a self-regulating system, does Adam Curtis give us a context to be concerned about self-regulating environments of calm technology?
Everyware and Internet-0 have been presented to us as a achievable and anticipated “machine dreams”. If calm technology constitutes a media function subsystem it is assumed that it has operational closure, and it responds to surrounding environmental subsystems without direct input. But if the environment is tending towards chaos, what prevents the calm technology system from becoming unstable? Will have to ponder that…