It is possible that listening to music consists less in distracting the mind from “acoustic suffering” than in struggling to reestablish animal alert. What characterizes harmony is that it resuscitates the acoustic curiosity that is lost as soon as articulated and semantic language spreads within us. — Pascal Quignard, from Hatred of Music
Since 2014’s A Wilderness of Mirrors, Brisbane-based artist and Room40 label head Lawrence English has been investigating the role of music in terror and warfare through harmonic density and extreme dynamics. His latest album, Cruel Optimism, also focuses on fragility and power (or lack thereof) in the face of human greed, malice, and intolerance. Despite the album’s foreboding bent, it is a work built upon affirmation—encouraging resilience, solidarity, and defiance despite recent global calamities. “This record is one of protest against the immediate threat of abhorrent possible futures”, Lawrence writes in the album’s liner notes. With Cruel Optimism, we are kindly invited to engage in endless dialogues just like this one. For, if anyone’s qualified to talk about the primordial, often unacknowledged link between sound and violence, it’s English. We talked enthusiastically about an array of subjects, such as the politics of perception and colonialism, the (mis)uses of technology, the unfortunate depoliticization of music, and the video for Cruel Optimism’s “Negative Drone,” premiering below. Our conversation is after the jump.
Cruel Optimism is out February 17 on Room40.