Eli Namay and Joan Arnau Pàmies discuss Produktionsmittel III

Photos by Marc Perlish

On Thursday I sat down with Joan Arnau Pamies to discuss the situation we find ourselves in under capitalism, and how he grapples with these issues in his Produktionsmittel (Means of Production) series. We started off by discussing whether or not music can exist outside the commodity form, moving on to define the various characteristics of a music that is resistant to capture by capital. This lead to a discussion on Modernity, the nature of history, and musical signs. After establishing a theoretical framework, Joan discussed the difference between his older work and the Produktionsmittel series, particularly his latest work Produktionsmittel III. I am often frustrated with music interviews where the focus of the discussion is about how the music sounds, which I feel is often outside of the scope of language. This was a very refreshing discussion, however, since Joan shares my interest in getting right down to the heart of the issue, and was very open to spend ample time digging into this medium – critical social and political theory.

1.       Commodified music

2.       Sound is not the only defining feature of “New Music” 

3.       Entertainment 

4.       Interpretation 

5.       Capture by Capital 

6.       Modernity 

7.       Hyper Reality   -    Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord 

8.       Difference between Means of Production series and pre 2014 music

9.       Paradox – “Autonomous creativity can be expressed via socially productive art.” 

A few highlights:

Eli Namay: We were talking last night about starting with a theoretical framework, and then working from that. I think a good place to start would be... I think both of us have an interest in trying to understand how music works under Capitalist conditions, or how it’s influenced by various market place forces, and creating a music practice that is going to be anti-capitalist. So, part of that has to do with music as a commodity, or existing as a commodity. So talk a little bit about your thoughts on that…

Joan Pamies: well I think that commodified music is perhaps inevitable today. I think that most music that is happening functions according to the logic of the market. I provide you with a service and you pay me a salary and you pay me something in exchange for that service. So in that sense all music is part of capital and all music behaves according to the laws of capital. Now the question is not whether you can make music outside of capital, because I do think that you cannot, I think the question is whether your music assumes the logic of capital as a given, or it tries to transcend this logic or at least show that reality could be different….

…Sound is not the only thing that defines how the music can operate within or outside capital. Or at least try to function as a potential alternative to capital. I think there’s more than sound…. I am less interested in newness of form and more interested in repurposing form… 


Eli Namay: You talked about, just now, the relationships between the composer, performer with these works… how has that changed in your Means of Production series versus some of your earlier stuff say like your first two bass pieces or any of your other works?

Joan Pamies: While my older music was more focused on this composer/performer relationship, my current music is focused on composer/performer/audience. As in, the reason I’m trying to be more explicit with certain things is because I’m trying to invite an audience to engage with the logic of the piece in a way that has been pretty much established - that the audience does not have to pick how the piece is going to be interpreted, but actually it’s already given. “This piece is about that.” Period.

 EN: And is this, you know, going back to what we were talking about earlier? Is this motivated by a personal desire to be understood, or is it – maybe it could be a mixture of the two – or is it on the other hand a way of creating something that is resistant to capture by capitalist forces?

JP: I think it’s more a matter of demonstrating that – A beautiful paradox which is that autonomous creativity can be expressed via socially productive art. What I mean by that is that while this music is more explicit and perhaps more constrained in terms of what you can get out of it, I do think that ultimately it’s presenting a world that is more different than what we have. Or, at least, let me put it this way actually, it’s opening the door to this world, whereas… the older music, I think that it was more about showing a different world, but there was no door between this world and that world.