ON THE IDEA OF SPECULATIVE MUSIC
What if in the music we listen to, each one of the several elements constituting it —every note, every rhythm, every frequency— were carefully chosen in relation to a symbolic correspondence with the universal archetypes, endowing every song with very particular mystical ends? For instance, that when the B note was playing, it was with the aim to summon that specific “big idea” that would equal to the moon in the astral plane, to water in the elemental plane, or to the fish in the animal plane?
That’s what it was like in antiquity. But not as an artistic conceptual technique, as we would use it today, but as an effective synesthetic method to establish a relationship with the greater-than-human powers that rule the world. In fact, this was music’s true origin and not otherwise. The most known case were the pythagoreans, to whom numbers were deities and music their most direct expression.
As the history of thought has been passing by, this way to conceive music has kept dissolving itself, not only in practice but also in theory. During the European Renaissance, some Neoplatonic authors left treatises still covering it. Already in the XXth century, some anthropologists and musicologists dedicated themselves to investigate this subject by studying its trails in lost cultures, leading them to astonishing conclusions.
In the present time, the term “speculative music” has been put in agreement to refer to music that is conceived this way, stemming from the word “speculum” —”mirror” in latin language— because it would be a type of music containing the will to “reflect” the cosmic order.
Fig. 1: Diagram illustrating one of the many tonal correspondences suggested in El origen musical de los animales-símbolos en la mitología y la escultura antiguas (Schneider, 2010: 170).Source: self-made.
Of course there would be lots of different ways to make speculative music, not necessarily in the same fashion as the ancients did, but implementing instead the analogies that we consider according to the paradigm in which we subscribe ourselves.
Thus we have the case of the so called “post-industrial music”, that departed from the Burroughsian idea that all recorded sound is a holographic container of the reality from which it is extracted from, and in that sense, the sampler would became a tool for thaumaturgic manipulation, as it was the case for PTV, Coil, C93 or VDO. Others, like Z’ev, applied this esoteric function to rhythm, conceiving its numbers as a language similar to that of the Kabbalah.
——Goldwin, J. (2009) La cadena áurea de Orfeo. El resurgimiento de la música especulativa. Siruela: Madrid.
——Hallstatt, G. (2010) «Aorta XII: Z'ev», in: Blutleuchte. Ajna: Jacksonville.
——McClain, E. (2014) Myth of Invariance: The Origin of the Gods, Mathematics and Music from the RG Veda to Plato. Nicolas-Hays: Newburyport.
——P-Orridge, G. (2003) «Magick Squares and Future Beats. The Magical Processes and Methods of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin», in: Metzger, R. (Ed.) Book of Lies: the Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult. The Disinformation Company Ltd.: New York.
——Schneider, M. (2010) El origen musical de los animales-símbolos en la mitología y la escultura antiguas. Siruela: Madrid.
——Tsao, M. (2017) «What is Speculative Music Composition?», in: Parse Journal Issue 8. Retrieved from: https://parsejournal.com/article/what-is-speculative-music-composition/ (Visited 13.10.2019)
© Marc O'Callaghan, 2019.