Fred Moten, Kimberly Benston

How does the reading of black performance as an “ongoing improvisation of a kind of lyricism of the surplus, (26)” that Moten suggests in his chapter “The Sentimental Avant-Garde,” relate to Kimberly Benston’s formulation of black music as, “at once excessive practice and authentic being, disruptive critique and constructive vision, subjective experience and objective truth” (117)?  For starters, in Moten’s work, we are presented with a vision of black sonic performance that emerges (in part) from an understanding of Freud’s An Outline of Psycho-Analysis as a text that represents the critical impulse to categorize the “energy of eros” and that this attempted categorization is “cut” by Ellington’s “sound of love,” allowing the limits of categorization to be re-written or re-sounded into a new force that “swings” in a way that these categories can’t.  Here, a crucial intervention seems to be in fashioning the ephemeral, fluid nature of sound as both phonic and critical force that destabilizes the empiricism that often goes into describing life in more objective terms.  Benston seems to working along a similar trajectory by framing Coltrane’s late musical innovations as performances that trouble the “logical antinomies that have habitually beset linguistic practicioners” (117).  Check out Benston’s elaboration of this point as he focuses on the critical power of sonic dissonance as “the music’s exploratory character as source of a subversive instinct sanctioning the deepest necessities of traditional imagination” (19).  Given these comments, how might we bnegin to think more carefully about approaches to black sonic innovation as inherently theoretical maneuvers?

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