Wednesday, 14 October 2009
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
Sunday, 4 October 2009
Can you not distinguish the sense, prain, from the sound, bray? You have homosexual catheis of empathy between narcissism of the expert and steatopygic invertedness. Get yourself psychoanolised!
O, begor, ... I can psoakoonaloose myself any time I want.
James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
It is a commonplace to describe Finnegans Wake as a ‘word symphony’ because sound seems to be more evident than sense; comprised of multiple puns and varieties of paronomasia from a range of European languages, the text seems pregnant with meaning, but delivers less than a semblance, offering nothing but infinite resources for interpretative delusions. In an exchange from the book, frequently said to refer to an episode in Joyce’s life when he was offered a Jungian analysis, the inability to distinguish sense from sound is said to require psychoanalysis. The in-distinction of sense and sound generated and perceived in the production of paronomasia betrays, it is alleged, a structure in which the subject is poised between transference with the ‘narcissism of the expert’, a hystericized subject supposed to know, and ‘steatopygic invertedness’. Since ‘inversion’ is a sexological term for homosexuality, ‘steatopygic invertedness’ could be rephrased as a big-arsed desire (for a big arse, perhaps). Or perhaps it refers to an inverted arse, a big arse upturned to the sky. If there is a correlation implied in the conjunction of arse and expert, then clearly sense, the illusory effect of narcissistic criticism and analysis, is confounded by the sound of a great amusical fart. What is psychoanalysis supposed to make of that? Or indeed amusianalysis since Joyce seems to want to turn language into music and vice versa, producing a ‘reading/listening’ experience in which the one displaces the other as sound subverts sense only for sense to return, momentarily, in eruptions of laughter.
In conventional cases of amusia like those discussed by Oliver Sacks, it is tempting to characterize the suffering involved in the amusical perception of noise as a symptom, perhaps a symptom of hysteria. For Lacan, the symptom is not a call for interpretation but a pure jouissance addressed to no one. A symptom is a particular way in which the subject enjoys and suffers from the unconscious. If neurological amusia is a symptom then it is one that experiences music as a pure jouissance. While jouissance emerges in the default of speech, occupying the place vacated by the absence of meaning, with amusia suffering is related not just to absence but to a form. amusia establishes the subject in a negative relation to a form that it recognises through suffering, through an experience of painful noise. In amusia jouissance is correlated to a form – music – that communicates without saying anything. It is thus more like Lacan’s notion of the sinthome in which the jouissance specific to a subject may be embodied in an art that Lacan elaborated in relation to James Joyce. Like the sinthome, the amusical relation to music denotes a singularity, a singular jouissance or rather joy exterior to, or foreclosed from, the symbolic order and the metaphors and metonymies of a purely linguistic unconscious.
In his late seminar on Joyce, Le sinthome, Lacan argued that through producing a writing that was not primarily comprised of metaphors and metonymies but of puns and ‘equivoques’, Joyce managed to construct a ‘singularized’ name for himself through the destruction of the symbolic and the discourse of the Other, the unconscious supposed to be structured like a language. Drawing a distinction between singularity and the particular that supports the universal,Jack Stone writes, that ‘Lacan takes as an exemplary instance of this singularity, or individuality, the Sinthome of James Joyce, who through his writings, particularly Finnegans Wake, constituted and presented this Sinthome "au ciel ouvert," as Jean-Guy Godin puts it--or “arse under open sky”, as the Irish say’. For Lacan, Joyce’s sinthome involves the ‘littering’ of the letter, an inversion of the usual relation of excess and meaning in signification so that it is only a modicum of meaning that remains as the remnant of a general signifying excess. This remnant saves Joyce, or his text, from full blown psychosis, according to Lacan, establishing a relation to the Other (at least in the shape of a readership); laughter erupts when fleeting, imaginary remnants of (double) meaning are (mis)recognized in the rubble of the symbolic order.
But while Lacan is attentive to the affective, singular subversions of language through which the sinthome, as fourth term, hooks the symbolic on to the imaginary via the real, he is inattentive to the approximate yet equally affective relation of the text to music, to the idea that the sinthome is actually a sinthomy. No doubt this is because music is for Lacan pre-eminently just another form of the imaginary, reducible to the infant’s echolalias of the mother’s voice, a kind of ‘acoustic mirror’ that enframes language in lalanguage.
Just as it is a commonplace to emphasise the musicality of language in Joyce, so this emphasis should also be made in contradistinction to vision. A considerable tenor in his day, Joyce was of course also near blind and therefore the field of vision (and all the discursive metaphors it gives rise to: clarity, lucidity, transparency) is not supposed his favoured domain. Music therefore might be expected to compensate for this lack of vision through substituting music’s resources of imitation, counter-point, harmony and echo. As so it does, in the earlier work. But by Finnegans Wake music suffers as much as language as both forms are tortured in Joyce’s attempt to turn language into music and make music speak. It is a fantastic attempt to do the impossible, a great passionate revenge on music and language that demonstrates their incommensurability, even as it consigns both to the grave in a ‘wake’.
Out of his hainamoration of language and music, Joyce produces an amusical sinthomic writing comprised not so much of notes or signifiers but joycigns (Joycean joy-signs). These joycigns are not, like words, full with the promise of a jouissance that is endlessly deferred along with meaning down the signifying chain, the famous enjoy-meant produced by the conjugation of imaginary and symbolic; neither are they the fetish objects of an idiotic jouissance, nor are they the occasion of an Other jouissance, both of which are defined in their negative relation to knowledge in their support of the phallus and God, respectively. Rather, joycigns are full with a Joycean joy that broaches an experience of nonknowledge at the extreme limit of knowledge glimpsed in the very fragmentariness of meaning that is dissolved in laughter, and in which ‘nonsense is the outcome of every possible sense’ (Bataille).
In psoakoonaloose, psychoanalysis gives way to the non-productive expenditure of laughter, intoxication and waste matter. Joyce ‘escapes’ or exceeds psychoanalysis – as indeed he does in spite of Lacan’s last attempts to tie him in Borromean knots – not because he avoids it or rejects it but because, as Lacan avows, ‘he goes in it straight to the best one can expect from a psychoanalysis in the end’ (Lituraterre).
With Joyce, therapee involves a session – a long session – not on the couch but in the bar. Psychoanalysis turns into psoakoonaloose with an ‘eatupus complex and a drinkthedregs kink’, ending an evening of riotous expenditure appropriately enough in the gutter, its steatopygic arse in the air. With its nose in the trash, sniffing out the litter in the letter, as Lacan shows, psychoanalysis is led by Joyce to confront in base matter the traces of a geopsoakoonaloose adequate to the trauma that is civilization for the earth.