By Alpha Whiskey Mike
“The dimension of the future has disappeared”
*Bane voice* For you.
The idea that the Future is cancelled is just that, an idea. It is this ethereal notion that weighs heavily upon some while it weighs none for most. Take for example America’s great musical contribution to the world: Rap. Mark Fisher talks about how the 70s, 80s, and 90s all having distinct musical styles (he is English so heavy emphasis is placed on the British music scene). Rap, an American novelty, has been created, innovated in, introduced new slang, new fashions, all changing, nothing stagnant in the last 30 years. With all of these alterations that the genre experienced over the years, the question is then, does Mark recognize these changes? Would he have recognized them? Would he said aloud, feigning ignorance, “by golly all of these negroes sound the same”. Wouldn’t his father or grandfather before him thought the same of the trashy tunes that Mark himself might have listened to in the way that Mark thinks of 21st century music? Perhaps Mark is doing 20th century performance art, performing as the 20th century, in his writings.
Rap still has energy behind it, new ways of expression are still being pioneered. Rap has yet to exhaust itself. It has not turned inward with hyper self-awareness. Look at the rap of the 90s and then look at what is produced in the genre now. Travis Scott and XXXTentacion are distinct from Tupac and Biggie. Would Mark Fisher agree to that? Or would he feign ignorance again? Would he acknowledge that the genre of Rap has evolved and undergone changes, or would he disagree with that assertion and thereby destroying it (in his mind, atleast)?
What could Mark think of the music enjoyed by scenie weenies of 2008-12, and of their fashion and culture?
What about Dubstep? “This just sounds like techno” all things come from previous things! Is this your complaint? Your complaints come from somewhere, your words are derivative, your arguments inferior.
But what if I were to disagree with his disagreement? What if my ears could discern the change that his could (or would) not? What if I said, “Actually there is change.” Who is right?
(This Aesthetic has specificity. I am sorry if you cannot recognize that, Mark.)
Take for example Drift Phonk. This new music genre that heavily samples 90s Memphis rap with jazz and funk, and is usually paired with visual media of drifting cars and sigma males on TikTok. Even TikTok itself, the pairing of visual and audio media in novel and accelerated ways allows for and empowers individual artists to create content outside of the boundaries of institutional mediums. Yet the ghost of Mark Fisher haunts Drift Phonk: the same critique that one could level against Vaporwave with it being “old music but chopped and screwed” could be applied to Phonk.
But that is to feign ignorance of these genres, that is to betray the essence of Art. As Kierkegaard once said, “Once you label me you negate me”. Again, if one believes you can hand wave away these music genres and all of the artistry found therein simply because you utter the phrase “old music chopped and screwed” is to be an eternal infant, demanding like a child “New! New! Gimme gimme!”. Why don’t you create new works of art? You have no works of art. You are inert matter that waits to be acted upon by history.
How much literature in the last two thousand years have been inspired by the Bible? For how long did the Greeks recite the Illiad and the Odyssey by oral tradition? Perhaps we have come too accustomed to having new and exciting trends arrive at our doorstep prepackaged, awaiting our consumption, that we chew on as we continue to wait for next product to consume.
Perhaps the ability for new forms of Art and Aesthetics to form, blossom, then die swiftly runs parallel to the economic golden age of post-WWII America: possible only under certain socio-economic-political conditions that can not be easily replicated. Part of constituted America’s dominance was that fact that a great portion of the world experienced destruction and were rendered economically destitute. We cannot “go back to” the way things were (I do not ascribe to this false belief and its erroneous premise), and maybe we can’t experience the same bloom of music (we actually are experiencing this now) like we did in the 70s and 80s because we essentially already created all of the art/aesthetics/music that there is to create (which is facially absurd) within our specific socio-economic framework.
Mark is correct in some aspects of music, with the decreasing number of songs with key changes that registered as number one singles. “All music sounds the same” mumble grumble. But would an academic really relegate himself to lamenting the status of music, and thereby the vast scope and all potentialities found therein of the future, by acknowledging only Top 40 pop tracks? What a sad plight.
So much music has become available to consume and produce with the advent and proliferation of the internet. It is basically a Cambrian explosion, or industrial revolution, of cultural churn. There is so much cross-cultural pollination that to even suggest the idea that music has reached a sort of End of History is absurd. To extrapolate the death of the future because you cannot operate SoundCloud is a bit of a stretch, and a premise that I cannot accept in good faith.
What is similar to Mark Fisher’s idea about Neoliberal Capitalism destroying the specificity and differentiated nature of separate phenomenon, and what I believe has more staying power, is the idea of Refinement Culture. All things are simplified, streamlined, they are minmaxxed. All things are Moneyball. The decreasing number of songs with key changes could simply represent music coming to its optimal point (I disagree with this idea, perhaps optimal only within certain market framework). Perhaps our current Top 40 pop singles is what music sounds like when scientists discover what melodies, chords, and crescendos humans find most physiologically and neurologically pleasing to hear. Maybe the future really is just lightskins shooting 3s from outside the paint, forever.
Or you could say that the dominance of Rap music in the 21st century is a vestige of 20th century American negrolatry, which would be both true and cutting, but I highly doubt Mark would find himself saying anything that could even be remotely interpreted as racist (which, again, Mark would be fully embodying the 20th century unquestioningly, unconsciously by doing so). Or maybe it is due to the dominance of Rap that has which destroyed the proliferation of the alternative in music. Would Mark say this? Maybe as a dig to cultureless Americans, but not to African Americans in particular (why eschew specificity, Mark?). His lament of something like the Marvelization of cinema is only superficial, just as his critique of music is. He does not get to the bone of the issue: Liberalism is the ideology of FOMO, the fear of missing out. Liberalism knows no exclusion, knows only plastering over of differences, the smoothing of striations, through safe market bets on the next superhero that offends no-one and in doing so relays nothing of importance through its story. You can not possibly exclude anyone or anything. This is the regime ideology.
Perhaps the most concise thing one could say about Mark is that he simply waxed poetic about pre-Thatcherite Britain and wished to keep his rose-tinted glasses on. He was Gen X, but spiritually a boomer. We all daydream of our childhood, relish in nostalgia when we can, that pain from an old wound. But only academics would dress this up into a philosophy by using intellectual jargon and making the appropriate collegiate references (merely using the phrase Late Capitalism earns you a PhD nowadays). But Art finds a way. It doesn’t require state funding, it doesn’t require extremely delicate parameters inside imperial capitals in order to come into existence. Niggas from south Florida have been cooking up fat beats in the periphery and in poverty for some time now. Art doesn’t require a fucking STIPEND.
Even the idea that Mark Fisher has, that we are stuck in the 20th century, is wholly and completely 20th century. It feels not so much of a lament when I hear him speak on it, but almost a revelry of the old forms. The classic rock radio station playing on an endless stretch of highway in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Ah, that is the good stuff. If only you kids could have had it so good.
How many times has the future ended? With Fisher, with Fukuyama? All regime academics write that their regime, in particular, is the end-all-be-all of forms. How many times has the Apocalypse happened? How many Renaissances?
The 21st century could be seen as the Neoliberal Capital Y2K temporal Event Horizon in which America cancels the future and stunts progress by worshipping Black bodies, exporting homosexuality, exalting trannies, peddling medical meth to the poor, and facilitating the immigration of millions of brown people into White countries, as a seemingly endless procession of Spic-Nig Cycles smooth over the striations of the civilization that came before it and pave over the remnants with its own aesthetic of Neoliberal Flat Stanley Kitsch. This is the slow cancellation of the future. This is how we are haunted by the past, by Slavery, by the Holocaust, not because those events were so tragic, but because those events are now being wielded as bludgeons used to smash down progress, to destroy specificity and differentiation, to destroy greatness that seeks to differentiate itself from the Yeast. We can no longer send Whitey to the moon.
If you want to see a vision of the future, imagine some fat mulatto twerking on the burning rubble of your civilization, forever.
And actually? Your music sucks. Classic rock sucks. Fuck you, dumbass.