Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cage on Branca

"My feelings were disturbed ... I found in myself a willingness to connect the music with evil and with power. I don't want such a power in my life. If it was something political it would resemble fascism" (John Cage, 1982).

When cage made this comment on Branca's loud, experimental-punk influenced music, he was hitting on something very relevant, a criticism that hits harder on this music, and other music like it, than any other critique I've seen. To describe it, as essentially musical fascism has a surprisingly sturdy foundation when we look at fascism more academically.

Fascist ideology, speaking broadly, is the ideology of power, the glorification of violence and militarism, the cult of the personality, and the desire for totalitarian oppression. It is anti-capitalist, anti-marxist, anti-socialist, anti-feminist, anti- democratic, anti-egalitarian, and anti-rational. yet it is not sufficient to simply define Fascism by what it isn't. Turning to the so called "fascist minimum" we can get a better picture of this cult of violence and action. Michael Mann in his book Fascists writes that the five elements of the fascist minimum can be listed as 1) hyper-nationalism, 2) Cleansing, or top-down purging and/or oppression and elimination of defined enemies, 3) paramillitarism

Music which seeks to overwhelm the ears, as Cage viewed it, was totalitarian music, and its aim was express that power and violence. What is interesting about this impulse within the music, is that within other musical circles the authoritarianism and violence of sound becomes manifest within the minds and actions of people. There exists, and has long existed a link between skinhead neo-nazi groups with Death-metal, speed-metal and hard-core punk. This aint a coincidence. Modern punk, and metal-skinhead groups consist of disaffected male youth who clearly glorify and enjoy violence, paramillitarism and action. They might don the apparel of a militaristic organization and fight against some abstracted, vaguely defined enemy. These types of people probably suffer from the acute anomie that sociologists ascribe to the fascist recruits of the early 20th century. These hooligans of the contemporary age mirror that identical type of group that helped push Mussolini into power, and helped terrorize the jews during the 30s. The age of most fascists, like hardcore punk/metal-skinheads, were 18-35, and they were predominantly male.

While it would be stupid to call Branca a fascist (i dont know his politics), it is not a stretch to see a parallel between the manifestation of aggression within sound and the emotional effect of creating an agressive mentality within the listener. Driving, deafening music controls your hearing, it can blast you, like a bombastic parade, into an excited emotional state. Punk-rock prides itself on action, movement and excitement. It asserts a clearly anti-commercialist, anti-intellectual, anti-status-quo mentality, and comes as a prefab identity for many followers and loyal fans. They dont wear arm bands, but they do wear tee shirts.

But does this really condemn any music at all? most music is disliked (or, conversely enjoyed) more for its association than for its actual musical language. So what does someone do when confronted with an art that might be tainted by fascist influences? Even After learning about the futurist affiliation with fascists, I still love futurist works-in-themselves, even if they're creators were very much lost. So does art stand alone despite the people who create, support, or help create it ( with a glance towards Karajan) ?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Any one else use Sibelius?

Because when it runs on my computer, shit freezes up pretty badly. I dont know how the hell Sibelius could be so demanding, but maybe its just too much for my poor ole laptop. Anyone else know?

Anyway, its making composition difficult, especially when i'm busy uses the internets for all kinds of important things. Like Email, and and video memes:

Yeah, i have a pretty crude sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Philip Glass- Music in Twelve Parts (again), part 11.

I really wonder if I'll ever get over the sheer radicalism of early Glass. This is one of the prettier parts of the 12, despite its true minimalist austerity and constant pulse. The composer once described his music as functioning like wheels in a machine, which makes perfect sense to me. These arpeggios become conceptual spinning disks that morph with the music like clay on a potters wheel.

So to approach this music do we have to be armed with metaphors to describe it? Or can we just listen and enjoy? I think, since the music is so extreme in its forms and unconventional, that the only way to become accustomed to it is to approach it with this mindset. This adds to the music's radicalism, since it has to be understood through a conceptual framework, rather then through standard, accepted formulations, even for a 20th century avant-gardist. I would happily argue that the early work of Glass is some of the most challenging of the century, yet it has opened up avenues of thinking-in-music that never existed before. Suddenly music ceases to follow any western narrative form, no begining, no middle, no end. Music becomes the experience of sounds and rigorous patterns where a chord could be held for 20 minutes. Sustained tones become important-in-themselves, sustained patterns are the music. Change is not a given, it becomes a surprise.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

note on blog

Going for a re-vamp of the site. This poor blog has fallen into decline, and started that long, slow decline 2 years ago. I don't know if i can promise any kind of renaissance, but at least I can try and re-organize my links to make more sense.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I hate postmodern lingo and rhetoric.

hate it.

I'm currently taking a senior seminar course on European Fascism, which is fascinating, but i have stumbled upon, much to my chagrin, one of the most inane, pointless displays of verbose gibberish imaginable. Allow me to demonstrate:

According to our ‘reflective metanarritive’ of modernism’s dialectical relationship with modernity, the ardent craving for a new spirituality and new temporality that drives what Emilio Gentile calls Italianism expresses primordial longings for a new nomos, a new canopy of temporalized sacrality generated by a contemporary reality experiences as anomic, as decadent.

Has the author just lost it? Is there a point there at all, or just rhetorical meanderings? I believe I understand that what he intended to say: "That the fascist conception of modernism, as technologically, industrially advanced, or totalitarian, stood in conflict with the modern thought of French-revolution humanist types. "But the expression "modernism's dialectical relationship with modernity" is borderline meaningless in itself. Simply put, the author's language is pompous, self-satisfied and stupid.

I dont understand the point of writing so much and saying so little. I suppose the so called post-modern distrust of the"metanarritives" that can pop up in history might motivate them to create nebulous clouds of lingo, with vague, confused meanings. Yet the author can't sustain it for that long, eventually he has to make a fucking point:

....[ the perception of fascism as] political modernism bent on overthrowing a liberal system identified with the 'Old Italy', whose utter inadequacy to address the forces of modernization irrevocably sealed its fate.
Now, wait, so I just read a massive run-on for no fucking reason? hm. Guess so. And it left me so much the wiser. I now understand that there are some in academia who write down to the reader so as to stroke their own egos. I have little patience with this bullshit, especially when i have other, much clearer, and more thoughtful, well-written texts that I can choose from.