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Listening to Nothing in Particular: Boredom and Contemporary Experimental Music
Abstract

Abstract:

"Listening to Nothing in Particular" examines contemporary boredom through the lens of recent experimental composition. While boredom is typically treated in the arts as a conceit of transcendence or radical indifference, this essay argues that the mood in contemporary post-Cagean compositional practices articulate a much more ambivalent feeling of being unjustified, a feeling whose low-level intensity is largely indistinguishable from the spins and stalls of everyday life. Drawing on Sianne Ngai's notion of the "stuplime," a stilted and undecidable response to expressions of an infinitely iterated finitude, and evoking alternative ways of suffering the passion of waiting, "Listening to Nothing in Particular" focuses the scattered rays of boredom on a conflict between contemporary culture's shrunken curiosity and its imperatives for constant individual self-invention.