response to Mark Wastell's Epiphany in Wire 292, fascinating
not because it is a Rashômon-like alternative reading of
the same event, but because - contrary to certain prevailing
hedonic relativist orthodoxies - it demonstrates that there is
something more involved in aesthetic judgments than a mere
registering of sensations. The difference between Mark's response
and Simon's was not at the level of pleasure; it wasn't that Mark
found Parker and Braxton any more agreeable than Simon did. But, in
Mark's case, the initially disagreeable sensations induced him to
take a leap beyond the pleasure principle: a cognitive
act, a commitment, a decision to override the 'anger and confusion'
that the music first caused him to feel.(Simon of course has taken
such leaps in respect of other scenes, other musics.)
The mantra of hedonic relativism has it that 'everything is subjective', where subjectivity is construed as an arbitrary set of preferences. But Mark's Epiphany vindicates the view that certain encounters - events - produce subjectivities, even as they destitute us, deprive us of old worlds.