Notes On Musical Order

Siren Song:

This is the one song everyone would like to learn The song that is irresistible

The song that forces men to leap overboard in squadrons Even though they see the beached skulls

The song nobody knows because anyone who has heard it is dead And the others can’t remember

Shall I tell you the secret? And if I do, will you get me out of this bird suit?

I don’t enjoy it here squatting on this island Looking picturesque and mythical

With these two feathery maniacs, I don’t enjoy singing this trio, fatal and valuable

I will tell the secret to you, to you, only to you Come closer

This song is a cry for help: Help me! Only you, only you can, you are unique At last

Alas it is a boring song But it works every time

Western Music

Music produced in Europe as well as those musics derived from the European ancient times to present day:

“Moses was instructed by God to make two trumpets. They were to be made of hammered, or beaten, silver. The priests used them to announce many events associated with the temple and various festivals. Trumpets and horns were blown to call people to worship and to signal momentous events. Harps and lyres were plucked and strummed to pacify royalty.”

Ancient civilizations entered historical times with a flourishing musical culture. That the earliest writers explained it in terms of legend and myth, strongly suggests the remote beginnings of the “art” of sound. Among the speculations about its origin, the more plausible are that it began as a primitive form of communication, that it grew out of a device to expedite communal labour, or that it originated as a powerful adjunct to religious ceremonies. While such theories must necessarily remain speculative it is clear, despite the prehistoric musical artifacts found in central Europe, that the cradle of Western music was the Fertile Crescent cupping the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. There the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Hebrew nations, among others, evolved political, social cultures that were absorbed by the conquering Greeks and, in turn, by the Romans, who introduced elements of that Mediterranean music to much of western Europe.

In all of these early cultures the social functions of music were essentially the same, since their climate, geographic location, cultural pace, and mutual influences produced many more social similarities than differences. The primary function of music was apparently religious, ranging from heightening the effect of magic, to ennobling liturgies. The other musical occasions depicted in both pictures and written accounts were equally functional: stirring incitements to military zeal, soothing accompaniments to communal or solitary labour, heightening aids to dramatic spectacles, and enlivening backgrounds to social gatherings that involved either singing or dancing or both. In every case musical sounds were an adjunct to song, and/or bodily movement: dance, march, game, and work. To support its fundamental role in society, an intricate scientific rationale of music evolved, encompassing tuning, instruments, modes (melodic formulas based on certain scales), and rhythms.

19th Century Music Industry

In the mid-nineteenth century, printed sheet music was the music industries primary product. Publishers marketed songs for use 1.) by the growing number of private piano owners 2.) by touring musical reviews. [Blackface] Minstrelsy was the most popular form of live entertainment in the US through much of the 19th century, and companies became celebrity through touring established theatre circuits. Their endorsement of a song would often result in the popularization of a certain sheet of music.

When the phonograph came to be in 1877, few initially imagined it would be used primarily for music. Yet by the 1890s, “nickel-in-the-slot” talking machines reached urban arcades, introducing the US to mechanically reproduced music. Companies controlled the patents to compelling phonograph technologies, and Thomas Edison controlled his wax cylinder playback technology (licensing it to the fledging Columbia Phonograph Company, thus introducing the first talking machines designed for home use in 1896). By this time, the competing gramophone disk machines and records made by Emile Berliner had already been distributed.

Firms raced to establish their technology as the consumer standard throughout the US – ‘Victors Talking Machine Company’ eventually came out on top by focusing on the home consumer, creating celebrity recording artists, and expanding globally. In 1919, the ‘Radio Corporation of America’ (RCA) was founded and began to market millions of consumer targeted radios – phonograph companies soon began advertising the new medium. In 1929, RCA acquired Victor & the phonograph, and the radio industries continued to increase their ties. Recording artists demanded compensation for the broadcast of their material through organizations such as the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).

During The Great Depression record sales plummeted from 150 million in 1929 to 10 million in 1933, and the industry was again comprised of a few powerhouse corporations. ASCAP, overseeing royalty collection for the vast majority of published music, continued to demand for radio broadcasts. In 1941, they forbade radio stations to play the music they represented. Their rival, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), offered stations its collection of music that had not been accepted by ASCAP. The result was a wave of decentralization within the industry.

Throughout the music industries postwar expansion, musicians organized in attempt to protect their rights and promote their careers. But presumably, unions failed, only garnering rights for their members (including closed shops and union pay scales in established theater circuits, symphony orchestras, society dance networks, and recording studios), losing employment to new technologies and garnering higher royalty rates for record sales.

Music & Trance:

Music in its Relations to Emotional, Communal, and Shamanic Trances:

The role of the music is much less to produce the trance than to create conditions favorable to its onset, to regularize its form, and to ensure that instead of being a merely individual, unpredictable, and uncontrollable phenomenon, it becomes, on the contrary, predictable, controlled, and at the service of the group.

Music in its Relations to [musical] Possession Trance:

Although it is conceivable that a subject can enter into trance without music, it is inconceivable that a subject could experience the trance itself without music. Let us say that, in possession, music is the condition of the trance experience. This is so for a few reasons. First, because possession trance is a change of identity, because that change of identity has no meaning for the subject unless his new identity is recognized by [others], because it is the music that signals it, because this new identity must be manifested. Provided, then, that it is not absolutely fleeting (I am thinking of Malkam Ayyahu's trances, described by Leiris, which often lasted no more than an instant, just long enough to express it with a gesture, word, pose), provided that it has duration, this trance, which is the experience of another identity, has an absolute need for music in order to continue to exist, since it is music that, through its identificatory character, maintains the illusion and that, enables it to be manifested.

The major function of music thus seems to be maintaining the trance, rather in the way an electric current will maintain the vibration of a tuning fork if tuned to the same pitch frequency. Here, however, music is not just physically (on a purely motor level) “in tune” with trance. It is even more “in tune” on the psychological level, since its action consists in putting the individual experiencing his transitory identity “in phase” with the group that is recognizing this identity, or imposing it upon him.

A Brief look at “Music as a Weapon” By CrimethInc:

To dissect for a moment, yet another absolutely horrendous CrimethInc article, let us take a brief look at the preface from “Music as a Weapon: When Punk Was a Recruiting Ground for Anarchy”:

“There are countless reasons not to tie the fate of a revolutionary movement to the fortunes of a music scene. Coming into anarchism via punk, people tended to approach anarchist activity in the same way they would participate in a youth sub-culture. This contributed to an anarchist milieu characterized by consumerism rather than initiative, a focus on identity rather than dynamic change, activities limited to leisure time of the participants, ideological conflicts that boil down to disputes over taste, and an orientation towards youth that made the movement largely irrelevant upon the onset of adulthood… Yet during the decades of global reaction that followed the 1960s, the punk underground was one of the chief catalysts of the renaissance of anarchism. Were it not for punk, anti-capitalists in many parts of the world might still be choosing between stale brands of authoritarian socialism… Granted, the average punk show was as dominated by patriarchy as a college classroom. All the hierarchies, economics, and power dynamics of capitalist society were present in microcosm. And anarchism was not the only seed that utilized this soapbox: countless ideologies competed in the punk milieu, from Neo-Nazism to Christianity and Krishna “consciousness.”

Whilst one might find the off-statement to be true, CrimethInc fails to provide any incite as to why these hierarchies were able to incubate. They fail to acknowledge or even question what it is about the organizational aspect of their anarchism that allows for such eurocentric reflections to fester. They continue the entirety of the piece in constant vacillation. Somehow at times even gushing over how: “all of this makes it that much more striking that anarchist ideas fared so well!... We can attribute this success to structural factors”, and that music and punk “offer a rare model for organizing the affairs of a network, and community defense mechanisms”:

“...punk helped keep anarchist ideas alive between the 1970s and the 21st century in the same way that monasteries preserved science and literature through the Dark Ages... Although the demands and influence of the capitalist economy recreated the same power imbalances and materialism that punks had hoped to escape – limiting the punk critique of capitalism to a variant of the liberal maxim “buy local” – but the anticapitalist DIY underground displayed a remarkable resilience! In a cycle that became familiar, each generation expanded until profit driven record labels skimmed the most popular apolitical bands off the top, setting the stage for a return to grassroots independence and experimentation. So the punk scene provided the music industry a free testing and development site for new bands and trends.”

Elemental Black Metal

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix outlines what they term Transcendental Black Metal in their manifesto of the same name included in the collection, Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium 1. Although I appreciate the philosophical effort (even more so the musical output of Liturgy), Id like to make use of their framework to provide a third alternative. The metaphysics of Elemental Black Metal appeals more to me than the apocalyptic humanism they prescribe, or the Hyperborean nihilism they seek to move beyond.


ELEMENTAL According to Susanna Lindberg, the elementals are “abstract ways of articulating the materiality of being.” Elemental nature is unthinkable (beyond human thought), primordial (always ever there), and chthonic (found in the realm of the underworld). It is beyond the sensible or rational. It is “the absence of transcendental ground” existing as already available images. To Emmanuel Levinas, it is the it when it rains, il y a. It is indeterminate, opaque, and an absence that makes presence possible.

CONTINGENCY Contingency is a potential force, and the force of potential. It is unexpected and not destined. It is an unintended consequence. It foils teleologies and disrupts ecologies even as it erupts from them. It is a senseless reshuffling of the cards. To humans, it is felt as looming cosmic catastrophe. It undoes worlds. It is nihilism to humans, but not something (or a nothing) one can be for.

FORGETTING Creative forgetting is unlearning mastery, as Bayo Akomolafe puts it. This could be also considered unthinking. This is what Friedrich Nietzsche describes as the child stage in Thus Spoke Zarathustra: approaching the world anew having shed the burden of the camel and the ressentiment of the lion. It is what Laozi describes as the uncarved block: the capacity to become. It is not a rejection of the past, but an awareness that the past has yet to come.

DRONE Drone is an enveloping, pulsating resonance. In metal, it is exemplified generally by much of the work of bands Earth and Sunn O))) of Cascadia, and Boris and Corrupted of Japan's urban epicenters. It is exemplified specifically by the track Tanggalkan Di Dunia (Undo The World) by the band Senyawa of Jogjakarta. The blackest of drone metal best accompanies Eugene Thacker's notion of cosmic pessimism. More than listened to, drone is felt.

EARTHLY (SUBTERRANEAN) Elemental metal is earthly, but more specifically subterranean. It lies beneath bogs and marshes, and is buried under sand in windswept deserts. It forms underground caverns and deep sea trenches. It moves through mycelia and magma flows. It is of the underworld: connecting the living and the dead, and blurring the line between them. It is known by humans for its opacity.

GETTING LOST The outcome of becoming lost is unknown. Losing oneself is impure, and resists preservation. It is breaking free from the fixed continuity of self and time, not through external transcendence, but passionate corporeality: a reckoning with the soul, followed by grotesque laughter.

ENTANGLEMENT According to Carlo Rovelli, entanglement is predicated upon three aspects: granularity, indeterminacy, and relationality. An entangled understanding unmasks time for what it is: a relation between human perception and the cosmos. The cosmos is composed of indeterminate becomings in relation to each other, rather than finite or infinite being.

DIFFUSION Diffusion is a withdrawal from incapacitating concentrations. It is an exit strategy. It is fluid, dissolvable, and becoming illegible. It is fleeing to the forest or going underground. It is fugitivity.