Consider for a moment the fretless bass.
Naturally, by this I mean fretless electric bass guitar as nearly all upright basses are inherently fretless (I’ll get back to that).
What might be gained from an understanding of the fretless as a tool to think theory with? Because I argue for play against structure, one might consider the inherent increase in play with the fretless, the ability to play notes between the standard Western chromatics. There are, of course, other benefits to the metaphor. One could look to the increased use of the fretless in jazz and experimental musics and thus the improvisation and unique sound and thus propose a move towards improvisational theory. One could note the increased difficulty in playing a fretless, in playing a fretless in tune, in tune with a band, with other players. Everyone needs to play the same between in order to be playing the same song, after all. Or do we no longer need to be playing the same song while we play in the same room?
I also would mark the concpetualization of frets as disciplinary boundaries. Markers of what is an acceptable note. How one must play in order to be playing music. Perhaps we extend the metaphor to breaking? Consider then the upright bass, so long the standard, and compare the looser disciplinary structures of antiquity. Metaphysics: the book Aristotle wrote after Physics and couldn’t think of a better title for than After Physics.
This does not even get into the question of postproduction manipulation of the soundwaves…
And yet as my colleague Nick Ware put it: “Analyzing a game as if it were a film is like fixing a car as if it were a horse.”
Jean Baudrillard stretches a science metaphor in Impossible Exchange:
The uncertainty principle, which states that it is impossible to calculate the speed of a particle and its position simultaneously, is not confined to physics. It applies also to the impossibility of evaluating both reality and the meaning of an event as it appears in the information media, the impossibility of distinguishing causes and effects in a particular complex process – of distinguishing the terrorist from the hostage (in the Stockholm syndrome), the virus from the cell (in viral pathology).This is just as impossible as isolating subject from object in experiments in subatomic physics.
Of course, now there is this bit of recent research out of Canada.
The principle has bedeviled quantum physicists for nearly a century, until recently, when researchers at the University of Toronto demonstrated the ability to directly measure the disturbance and confirm that Heisenberg was too pessimistic.
What does that say about the metaphor? The limits of metaphor? Is a metaphor about uncertainty more uncertain when the science behind the original metaphor becomes uncertain? Might as well just admit we need to bracket language too while we’re at it. Insist upon the tautology: “I mean what I mean until I don’t. And then I mean something else. Trust me.” and go about our business. Communication breakdown. It’s always the same.
I’d rather just play. Amps to 11, Nigel.
or, Jaco meet Jacques: