Monday, 16 February 2009

Abstract. Satanforladt: towards an impolitical atheology

The burning corpse of god shall keep us warm in the doom of howling winds. For we are a race from beyond the wanderers of night. -- Xasthur

Dødens nat
Alt er forladt
Kun en sang fra de sørgende ... -- Nortt, ‘Gravfred’

[Death’s night
All is forsaken
Only a song of mourning ...]

The aim of this commentary will be to excavate the traces of an event immanent to black metal. This event is the death of Satan. While it is conventional for black metal acts to be allied to Satan or indeed even assert that Satanism is ‘the true essence of black metal’ (Nortt), the essential is conveyed in sonic conflagrations of divine joy. This is eloquently expressed in Xasthur’s epigraph to the volume in which ‘the burning corpse of God shall keep us warm in the doom of howling winds’. Clearly there are two moments in this statement before it gives way to speculation concerning a people beyond the night. The death of God is not the same as the ‘doom’ which it shelters in the face of howling winds. God’s burning corpse both illuminates and heralds the doom of a much greater catastrophe: the death of Satan.

Satan’s role, as it has been handed down from Romanticism, is to sustain the trace of the divine in the wake of the death of God. The Prince of Darkness, in the playful gravity of his perpetual insurgency, is the last support of modernity’s Enlightenment project. Satan, as the untenable metaphor for nonknowledge, marks the boundaries of being and nothingness, joy and the abyss, centre and margin, life and death, man and beast; as the demonic figure of paradox, possession and the impossible, Satan threatens the undoing of these distinctions, holding them both together and apart. Should Satan forsake us and die, what happens? Can there be the worldwide governance of ‘globalatinization’, biopolitics, without the transpolitical mirror of evil?

While it remains unavowed in black metal, Satan’s withdrawal and demise is effectively and extensively mourned in its ritual howls of rage and sorrow, particularly the ambient/funeral doom of Xasthur, Nortt among others. But this commentary will pursue the hypothesis of Satanforladt, the double notion of the forsaking and withdrawal of Satan, throughout the general articulation of mourning and melancholy in black metal. This is the ‘doom’ that is immanent to black metal and which, at least at the level of its statements, precipitates three of its main tendencies. 1) the forsaking of Satan precipitates the retroactive precession of pagan simulacra without origin that both precedes and repeats Satanforladt (Ragnarök); 2) Satan’s forsaking is a punishment for the failure to live up to his demands – see for example Darkthrone’s ‘Unholy Black Metal’ that consists entirely in a series of impossible Satanic demands. The failure is evident in the toxic superegoic logic that propels the black metal death-drive for (self-) annihilation. 3) ‘To fall as Satan's heir’ (Nortt) or to celebrate the ‘funeral of being’ (Xasthur) is to inhabit the event of the death of Satan in an interminable wake that opens up a different temporality and speed (faster but slower) from which voice, in its in-audible commentary on its absence of meaning, comments, impossibly, on black metal’s amusical destruction of form.
Black metal is not a form of music nor simply an unholy racket, but an amusic that precipitates a trajectory of joyful, singular dissonance in (non)relation to the conformity of the age. It is in this way that black metal, in the wake of Satanforladt, broaches the exigencies an atheological, acephalic community without metaphor or limit ‘beyond the wanderers of the night’.

For Glossator special issue on black metal edited by Nicola Masciandaro and Reza Negarestani

Abstract. The heterogeneity of the sound image in David Lynch's neuracinema.

A recent irony in the on-going amorous non-rapport between art and science concerns cinema and neurology. Even as Gilles Deleuze announces that rather than linguistics or psychoanalysis the cinema should look to the micro-biology of the brain to develop cinematic concepts, so neuroscience is using the cinema as a means of understanding the images generated and edited by neural patterns. As the new neuroscience acknowledges (Antonio Damasio, Joseph LeDoux, V.S. Ramachandran and Francisco Varela), the internal world of the brain is not a sealed-off hard-wired automatism; the external world is inseparable from the structure of neuro processes of self-modification. Circuits in language, art and music create and modify circuits in the brain. Furthermore, these dimensions, while interconnected are also functionally heterogeneous, occupying and connecting-up different parts of the brain in a variety of networks. However, it is for Damasio through assembling a ‘movie-in-the-brain’ with 'as many sensory tracks as the nervous system has sensory portals', that neurones generate subjectivity.

This essay takes up these suggestions in relation to the cinema of David Lynch not in order to make a contribution to neuroscience but in order to attempt to understand unconscious processes through the heterogeneity of sound images rather than through the paradigm of language. It is well-known that the power of Lynch's films resides not so much in narrative, not even the narrative of dreams, but in the arresting and disturbing force of sound images. These sound images are heterogeneous in a variety of ways, not least in the composition of sound and image itself where the affective force resides in their disjunctive (non)relation. Nevertheless they provide points of connection, like the many 'phones (telephones, microphones, gramophones) that provide portals between different domains and parallel worlds throughout Lynch's oeuvre. Discrete sound images articulate disjunctive series of sounds and images whose heterogeneity provides the locus of unconscious desire that proceeds along networks that are cultural and technical as well as neural. Lynch directs a 'neuracinema' where the 'a' denotes the undefinable, mobile points of cultural anxiety, discordance and desire that articulates inner and outer worlds.

For David Lynch edited by Francois-Xavier Gleyzon, Literaria Pragensia

Abstract. From Forests Unknown: ‘Eurometal’ and the political / audio unconscious

The idea of an audio political unconscious is suggested by Jacques Attali when he argues that music, as a particular organization of noise, heralds the coming of a future social order. The extremes of metal, however, push at the intensely pleasurable threshold of dis/organization in which music becomes noise as well as vice versa. Any notion of a future social order promised by metal therefore can only be seen as highly equivocal and as precluded as much as pre-empted. But that does not mean that immanent to metal there isn't the possibility of some future thinking of the political. Certainly the extremes of metal exist in the absence of any political thought adequate to the current state of affairs. Across Europe, old and new, national and regional varieties of DM, BM, Viking, battle, folk, doom and ambient have tracked the expansion of the EU and its borderlands. At the same time, the expansion of the homogenizing force of the techno-bureaucratic EU, that is itself a symptom of the failure of the nation-state in the face of global capital, has left a trail of discontents, some of which have found a voice in metal. This chapter looks at metal as the bearer of both a political and audio unconscious in which can be located, along different tracks, the positive reverse of the absence of any European popular culture in which could be located a political alternative to the ‘globalatinization’ represented by institutions like the EU.

For an ebook Title tba edited by Imke von Helden and Niall Scott, Inter-Disciplinary Press.