This article weaves together futurist electropop, the neorationalist memescape, neoliberal urban planning, and digital finance to illustrate some of the new epistemological and political challenges facing the growing musicological subfield of critical organology. Drawing upon recent studies of financial technology, it argues that calls to erase theoretical abstraction and return to a “common-sense” concern for “tangible things” come dangerously close to endorsing the neoliberal drive to replace public institutions with entrepreneurial competition. The aims are to show that the “affordances” of music technology today are not necessarily discernible when organologists limit their attention to musical instruments’ ontologies alone, and to propose an alternative focused on “repairing” music technology’s capacity for democratization. The first section presents a reading of the Grimes single “We Appreciate Power,” situating the music in relation to an ethnographic account of the scene where Grimes first emerged. The second section seeks a definition of affordance that makes sense of the technological politics at work in things like rationalist meme economies and neoliberal innovation hubs. The concluding section outlines the case for a reparative organology that would both account better for materiality and resolve anxieties around theoretical abstraction.
Grimes’s Hymn to Technocracy, Insolvent Affordances, and the Need for Reparative Organology
Patrick Valiquet is an independent writer, translator, and musician. Between 2010 and 2021 he held research posts at the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and Birmingham with funding from the British Academy, the Institute of Musical Research, the Fonds de Recherche du Québec, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Ongoing projects include a historical monograph on the ontological politics of Pierre Schaeffer’s listening and media research, several articles on experimental music pedagogies in France and Britain in the 1970s, and an English translation of Daniel Charles’ 1978 habilitation thesis, Le temps de la voix.
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Patrick Valiquet; Grimes’s Hymn to Technocracy, Insolvent Affordances, and the Need for Reparative Organology. Journal of Popular Music Studies 1 September 2022; 34 (3): 119–141. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2022.34.3.119
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