An Experimodern Coda To Human Sexuality


Pornography is a transitional stage in human sexuality.

Pornography and cinema are ways of fundamentally conditioning our desire, yet we can use the same techniques to re-possess this very desire, as can be seen in the 1966 experiment on the behavioural conditioning of sexual fetishes and the application to our sexuality and desire of techniques already in use for many years in music composition. The ability to take control of our sexuality is important, as, similarly to serial killers, it finds its unconscious and compulsive manifestation in our artwork in a metaphorical form, such as in the gendered construction of climaxes in sonata form and other more modern musics. A re-configuration of our sexuality using experimodern composition procedures can be expanded outward into life through the construction of formalist ways of living that might mitigate against manipulations of our behaviour, both on a personal and political level, that may happen due to the huge correlational power that can be of Big Data-style analysis. These formalisms help to skew the data at its point of collection as well as insulate against the creepier uses of this type of analysis which can involve the prediction and manipulation of our desires – another re-routing of desire which will have manifestations in the art which we create (this is why porn sites must never implement auto-complete searches...).

Experimodernism is also a transitional stage in human sexuality. One which follows the dominance of pornography.

Contemporary composition has already attempted to apply compositional procedures to sexual acts, in works by Pocknee, Renqvist and Baxenkraft, and whilst these still rely on outdated forms of set theoretical and combinatoric procedures unsuited to the composition of an act that is essentially infinitely divisible existing nested within multiple non-linear systems, they point the way towards a more sophisticated mathematical modelling of human sexuality and multi-parametric composition.38 In the same way that Belgium is the poor man's France, and The Netherlands is the poor man's Germany, the use of set theory or combinatorics for the construction of compositions which move in fluid spaces is the poor man's composition of reality, but the best we currently have.

38 All the works discussed create a semi-permeable membrane against which the force of sexual desire and drive comes into contact and can be re-routed and remoulded. Yet they all deal with types of formalist systems routed in the mathematics of combinatorics and set theory. Whilst these techniques seem apt at dealing with the discrete quanta and finite sets of equal-tempered pitches, hence their prevalence in the structuring of much discrete-pitch-oriented composition, they become problematic when transplanted onto continuous objects, especially ones which exhibit non-linear behaviours. In Baxenkraft's work, the stream of random numbers he uses to control the movement of the hand and rhythmic information deal with the penis as a finite and equally divisible space, and the movement and contraction of fingers as linear. However, similar to a musical instrument, the penis is not a flat ontological space and, whilst its treatment as such renders a compelling re-routing of sexuality, the notational aspects of Baxenkraft's work are problematic. The exertion of finger-pressure is not a linear system, but an exponential one, connected to Newtonian concepts of the application of pressure. The notation is ontologically a prescriptive notation, implying what should be done, rather than the sounding, or (in this case) kinaesthetic result. Yet if the gradients are interpreted as linear, does this mean a finger action which should attempt in its outcome to be linear, even though this would involve an exponential increase of pressure, or does it imply that the application of pressure should be linear, which would result in an asymptotically decreasing velocity. The issue with Baxenkraft's notation of the penis is paradigmatic of the application of set-theoretical and combinatoric compositional techniques onto a multi-parametric notation which privileges prescriptive fluid action over descriptive and discrete sounding results. Baxenkraft's notation falls into the trap of mistaking a curved space for a perceptually flat one. An example from Gunnar Borg's Borg's Perceived Exertion And Pain Scales (1998) looking at stimulus response in relationship to ratio scaling can be used as illustration of this problem:

… “let's start with an extremely loud sound and a treadmill exercise with a very strong perceived exertion and adjust the levels so that a test subject perceives these subjective intensities as being roughly equal. If we then let the subject adjust the loudness until it is perceived to be half as strong and slow down the speed of the treadmill until the perceived exertion feels half as strong, the resulting levels will be clearly different from the physical half values.“
(Borg, 1998, p. 19)

Diagram from Borg, 1998, pg 19

Here we can see how musical multi-parametric composition has the danger of projecting its notation into the space between two perceptual intensities without specifying a way of receiving feedback, whether this should be linearly or exponentially interpreted, and from which system of perception.

If one took the length of the penis as a topological space and split it into three equal segments, with the meeting point of each segment being points at which a finger could come into contact with it in a composition, it already starts to resemble the mathematical problem of the Cantor ternary set, which skirts around the edge of infinity and is uncountable. Musical set theory is designed for dealing with finite sets, once one starts moving music “beyond composition” and composing the entirety of reality, we come across non-linear and continuous systems that can be infinitely divisible, such as a penis or a violin string. It is here that the existing mathematics of finite musical set theory is no longer possible and one must move to a Cantor-ian transfinite set theory, designed to deal with infinite amounts of numbers.

The penis functions on hydraulics and fluid dynamics; to fully exploit its compositional potential would involve the applications of mathematical methods (such as those developed by engineers to deal with such systems) sophisticated enough to deal with its complexity. Whilst, set-theoretical and combinatorial methods for re-designing our sexuality are an important stepping stone to re-constructing our sexuality, and thus our art, I look forward to the point at which interactions between our musical instruments and our sexual bodies embody the methodologies of fluid dynamics and transfinite set theory, to create a sexuality that derives from something more than the half-arsed and unsuited application of techniques designed for the shunting around of twelve, pre-sorted pitches.