Wednesday, 14 October 2009

BAsileus philosoPHOrum METaloricum 1: Blackened Symposium

Seeking death ... I ride the longing winds of my blackened soul eternally.
Emperor, ‘Ye Entrancemperium’

It is in death that black metal finds its infinite resourcefulness; the approach of death – its sovereign gesture, its prominence within human memory – hollows out in the present and in existence the void toward which and from which black metal resounds.
Michel Foucault, ‘Language to Infinity’

Already, with the very notion of a symposium, there is the expectation that music and speech will conjoin and, moreover, conjoin ‘with drinking’ (sum-posion) [Note to Nicola]. Most famously of all, Plato’s Symposium records a somewhat drunken dialogue on love and beauty from the 4th Century BC. Given the misanthropy that characterizes black metal, we might suppose that the Black Metal Theory Symposium will be more concerned with hatred, but of course you do not get one without the other. For the love of black metal we side with ‘the great adversary’ (Nortt) of existence. It is indeed a question of love and hatred and precisely not of judgement, for there is no possibility of conjunction between black metal and academic discourse since the whole point of the latter is to take the former for its object and place it under the spotlight, illuminate the darkness, set up a beacon in the obscure heart of the forest and flash an investigative torch into its sallow face.

Black metal and academic discourse are no doubt heterogeneous and cannot be conjoined, but in bringing one into proximity with the other it is, I believe, our expectation that this clash should result less in the academic illumination of black metal than in the blackening of discourse itself wherein the forces of black metal restore some of the powers and dangers of discourse which the procedures of academic institutions seek to ward off and master by controlling and delimiting them. There is a long history of such procedures but currently they are more often than not justified with reference to ‘ethical’ judgements concerning representations and the ‘power relations’ they are supposed to reproduce and re-instantiate, judgements that do nothing other than draw a work into the University’s own nexus of power/knowledge by which, as a biopolitical function of the state, it seeks to manage and regulate culture in the name of health, life and utility.

Black metal can bring its forces to discourse by drawing it into the freezing orbit of its sonic density, so that, suspended between life and the death that opens it to infinity, academic speech (and writing) might become drawn out of itself, erase itself for the exclusive sovereignty of that which it wishes to say and which lies outside of words. Heterogeneous to language, music, of course, refers to nothing but itself in the universe of sound except, perhaps, voice. Speech enters into the music and becomes it (becomes song) even as it dies, disappearing as music, breathing its last endless rasping breath, that is linked via Le Baphomet (Pierre Klossowski) to a theory of breathing itself linked, by so many threads, to the whole of Western philosophy, and yet which emerges from it, rendering permeable the limits of discourse.

My paper will suggest various ways in which black metal permeates and ‘blackens’ academic discourse across four polarities: the subject, knowledge, non-knowledge and truth. In so doing it encourages a displacement of academic conventions so that there is a constant contamination of force and affinity between black metal and discourse rather than the hierarchy of primary text and the commentary which decodes, recodes and re-states it interminably. Only in this way might commentary hope to have some bearing on ‘the art to come’. By way of example, I here invoke (as I have been throughout) Michel Foucault, that great adversary of commentary, whose theories of power have been catastrophically deployed by the institutions of liberal governance to the very purposes they were designed to undermine.

At the very end of his life, in the guise of a masked philosopher, Foucault dreamt ‘about a kind of criticism that would not try to judge ... it would light fires, (like a blaze in the Northern sky), catch the sea-foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply, not judgements, but signs of existence in the freezing fog, make diabolic shapes float by out from the dark; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes – all the better. All the better. ... I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination [that] would bear the lightning of possible storms’.

This lightning, that gives ‘a dense and black intensity to the night it denies’, conjures an enlightenment that is at the same time a chaotic storm, ‘which lights up the night from the inside, from top to bottom, and yet owes to the dark the stark clarity of its manifestation, its harrowing and poised singularity: the flash loses itself in this space it marks with its sovereignty and becomes silent now that it has given a name to obscurity’ (Foucault).

But as the light goes out and the voices are stilled, the wind yet whispers beside the deep forest that gives its name to this obscurity in which ‘Darkness will show us the way ...’ (Mayhem, ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’).

Notes towards a paper to be given at 'Hideous Gnosis', Black Metal Theory Symposium, Brooklyn 12 December 2009