Music in Youth Culture: A Lacanian Approach by Jan Jagodzinski (Palgrave Macmillan) (Paperback) examines the fantasies of post-Oedipal youth cultures as displayed on the landscape of popular music from a post-Lacanian perspective. jagodzinski, an expert on Lacan, psychoanalysis, and education's relationship to media, maintains that a new set of signifiers is required to grasp the sliding signification of contemporary "youth." He discusses topics such as the figurality of noise, the perversions of the music scene by boyz/bois/boys and the hysterization of it by gurlz/girls/grrrls. Music in Youth Culture also examines the postmodern "fan(addict)", techno music, and pop music icons. Jagodzinski raises the Lacanian question of "an ethics of the Real" and asks educators to re-examine "youth" culture.
Music in Youth Culture: A Lacanian Approach is a companion book to Youth Fantasies: The Perverse Landscape of the Media (2004), which examined postmodern youth from a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective by concentrating on the medias of video games, Internet, and television. This second volume continues to examine youth fantasies specific to music that emerged in the past decade, from approximately the early nineties to the present contemporary musical scene. It can be read as a portmanteau book (mot-valise) within Youth Fantasies in the sense that it exits as an enfolded space within that first volume—bracketed by it, so to speak. In Youth Fantasies, the thesis concerning the post-Oedipalization of postmodernist society was developed where it was argued that there has been a fundamental "enfoldment" of space between postadolescence and adulthood blurring any distinct boundaries between them as a symptom of the subsequent loss of trust in authority of the Symbolic Order. This thesis is dramatically illustrated by the music industry. Odd spelling throughout this book is used to indicate the newly created space of postmodern youth. Bois, Boyz,`and Boys are the differential signifiers for the psychic conflicts over the limited modernist hegemonic image of Man used to demarcate the skater crowd from punk-metal-Goth-rap Boyz, which are yet again differentiated from pop culture's Boy Groups. Similarly, Girlie/Gurlz, girls and Grrrls indicate similar differentiations among females in various postfeminist contexts. These distinctions are developed in an exploration of fantasies associated with virginity and being called a "slut." This differential array of signifiers is predicated on the cauldron of psychic struggles that are taking place precisely within the enfolded space opened up by the postmodernity of designer capitalism. Purposely (at times), these signifiers have been capitalized to indicate their particular psychic relationship toward libidinal bodily energy referred to as jouissance, which demarcates the experience of intensity through bodily drives.
Lacan took a dim view concerning developmental stages that were based on biological growth when it came to youth. Rather, the "bio" of life took a backseat to the way the rhythms of past "psychosocial" events impacted future growth. Talk of stages referred to the libidinal body of the drives; to our oral, anal, sexual, gazing, and vocalizing bodies, which constantly interrupt the regularities of living, making us undergo processes of repression, frustration, and regression. For example, "tweens" may be identified as a
biological cohort aged nine to twelve, but their struggles are shaped by socioeconomic structures bringing such issues as body weight, bullying, styles of dress, parental desires, and drug abuse to fore at the level of their virtual affective "driven" bodies. These become revealing "nodal points" around which symptoms are structured, and are thus far more revealing of their psychic struggles than the cognitive literature of psychological development based on well-known stage theories such as those of Jean Piaget and his followers, which dominated the modernist theorizing of early child development. At the very least, a psychoanalytic account both supplements and decenters such cognitive accounts as we have already argued in the early chapters of Youth Fantasies.
To what extent can this array of music youth cultures be theorized as examples of "becoming-woman" in Deleuzean terms? Are they the rhizomatic and productive mutually transformative results of the impossible gap between the masculine and feminine heterogeneous binary appositions, like Deleuze and Guattari's (1987, 293) famous example of the orchid (a plant) in exchange with the wasp (an insect) where a becoming-wasp of the orchid and a becoming-orchid of the wasp take place? Is the emerging psyche of youth cultures in the past decade dispersed into hybridic becomings? But, isn't this all simply another instance of Lacan's outspoken claim that "desire is the desire of the Other" which also recognizes difference? This last series of questions raise a pressing concern: just how are these psychic struggles to be characterized? Given the claim of post-Oedipalization, does the neurosis of the Freudian familial drama still apply? Many scholars have turned to the schizophrenic account of the capitalist socius (conduct of relations) offered by Deleuze and Guattari with their strong rejection of Lacanian psychoanalysis exemplified in their two-volume work Anti-Oedipus (1977) and A Thousand Plateaus (1987) to theorize another possibility. Becoming-woman, a Deleuzean term, seems to sit uncomfortably within a book that utilizes Lacanian psychoanalysis, who is often accused of transcendental phallogocentrism against the author(s) of empirical transcendent immanence. To what extent, then, do I find myself "Oedipally" still loyal to Lacan, or to his most eminent practioner in the English-speaking context such as Zizek? Gratefully perhaps, an exploration of pop music can result in a productive misreading so, at the very least, some form of "betrayal" can take place that furthers an understanding of youth today? Such questions address my own anxiety when venturing into the space "in-between" two such powerful systems of thought. The first chapter, Stuttering In-Between Deleuze and Lacan—Acts of Transposition, attempts to define my own position.
The homonym aural/oral in the subtile characterizes the intimacy of the two drives in youth cultures. It refers to two registers of meaning. First, it brings together hearing and voraciously consuming music together as a way to capture the musical entertainment industry of advanced capitalist countries, which is a haptic event that is performed on a dynamic field that is both unifying as well as disruptive. Second, as developed in the second andthird chapters, the oral and aural form a hybrid "diadeictical" relation (Lyotard, 1971, 39) between the drive-demand of oral consumption (pure desire) and the desire of the aural voice through the intervention of the death drive as bodily jouissance. This identifies a transgressive stance toward the accepted performed musical codes. The performative side of music since the Beatlemania phenomenon of the 1960s has now advanced into the concert and television spectacle making marketing based on serialization as simulacra the central concept for commodity production. The political economy of repetition, which is how musical industries supplement commodity serialization, demands that a mold be manufactured from which the mass reproduction of an original can then take place (Attali, 1999, 128). It is the labor that goes into the production of the mold by its producers and design engineers ("molders") where the greatest costs are incurred followed by the costs for its media spectacularization to maintain its currency and demand for its repetition. The costs of reproduction of the commodity are significantly lower as profit is recovered through sales of the music CDs, musical videos, guest appearances, performances, and paraphernalia. It should be apparent that Attali's conceptual language draws on a Deleuzean paradigm with its stress on repetition and moulds. His conceptualization of "noise," as developed in chapter 2, however, is appropriated under Freud/Lacan's death drive when theorizing musical youth cultures.
Designer capitalism signifies a repetition and a serialization of all forms of consumption, from fast foods to ready-to-wear clothes. Repetition in music requires an attempt to maintain diversity and meaning for demands. The artist as performer acts in the capacity of a replicant, a form of upgraded social Darwinism when the spectacle of performance becomes repeated so as to act at a point of idealized unity rather than difference. An American, British, Canadian, or Australian "idol" emerges in the currency of the pop music industry where such repetition enables a leveling of power to superficially appear by making the music "popular." Yet, on the one hand, each Idol is "translated" into its respective culture to make it appear unique. The universal/singular tension seems to be solved through such a repetition of difference. But, on the other hand, power becomes concentrated in the record companies and producers who front the spectacle and invest time and money in it. I attempt to describe this paradoxical process in chapter 10, "The New Castrati: Men II Boys." Ironically, one might call this a "becoming-child," after Deleuze.
Repetition and serialization contain within it a difference, a conceptual articulation generally bestowed in contemporary philosophy to Giles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida's notion of difference as the non-presence of the other, which is already inscribed within the sense of presence. However, Lacan's complex notion of the psychic Real had already explored this same territory in the early 1970s, which Deleuze and Derrida were to claim as their own through their own unique explorations of it. Their debt to Lacan remains, by and large, an uneasy one, dividing scholars in various camps rather than acknowledging the many similarities between them when it comes to the realm of the "impossible." This divisive aspect is articulated, explored, and questioned in the first chapter.
The question remains as to whether such repetition by the music industry simply produces "silence" by eliminating "noise" (or non-sense) through the conformity of popular repetition—as Attali maintains. Just when does the repression of noise erupt? The thesis forwarded here is that the eruption of "noise" has taken place through the perversion and hysterization of the performer/audience relationship throughout the last decade and into the new millennium in ways, I hope, that will be surprising to the reader. In the second chapter, "The Figurality of Noise and the Silence of the Death Drive," I attempt to establish my own position regarding the transgression of difference in music, while in the third chapter, "The Uncannily Figural Voice," I explore the conceptualization of jouissance in such transgression "against and beyond the Law."
The following seven chapters consist of part II, entitled, "Perversions of the Music Scene: The Boyz/Bois/Boys." Here. I explore the masculine postadolescent "stretch" as captured by the signifier(s) bois/boyz and boys of Gangsta rap and hip-hop, metal, punk, and Goth, ending with the pop culture of Boy Bands and the making of American Idol. I claim that these masculine musical developments pervert the music scene. In chapter 7 I attempt to make connections to the much publicized school shootings and suicides. This is then followed by Part III, "The Hysterization of the Music Scene: The Gurlz/Girls/Grrrls," which consists of four more chapters that explore the developments by cultural music forms of postfeminism. I try to discuss the fantasies around the virgin/slut dichotomization and the responses to this. I end the music section with Part IV, an "Interlude" of two further essays, one on the Fan(addict), which maps out our understanding of a new kind of fan that has arisen in postmodernity, and the other develops Techno music as a utopian fantasy of global harmony. Techno music lends itself to a Deleuzean analysis, thereby providing another opportunity for a comparison with Lacanian psychoanalysis. The concluding essay is a meditation on "the ethics of the Real," hints of which the reader will encounter throughout most of the chapters.
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