Friday, December 16, 2011
Second Letter on Harmony
OK lets try again. Though bear in mind, this is gonna be naive as all hell. I mean, I haven’t done the requisite study, of what harmony is and what it has been etc. What I can gather, from a careful reading of some of Lenin’s Notes on Hegel - he’s got something in there about the Pythagorean harmony of the spheres proposing a perfect cosmology, a hierarchy built on scalar realities that justifies social conditions on earth, where everybody is in their place, and nobody is able to question the beauty and perfection of these relationships. Straightforward. And for it to work, for all these justifications to hold true, a fictional body is essential: the antichthon, or counter-earth. Thus, at the limit, the gravitational pull that holds the entire system of hierarchical harmony together is an untruth, but an untruth with the power to kill. But if this untruth is the site of justification and corporate (ie ritual) slaughter it’s also the site, magnetic as all hell, of contention and repulsion, which can transgress its own limits until something quite different, namely, crime, or impossibility, appears. For Ernst Bloch, the revolution was the crossroads where the dead come to meet. For Lorca, music was the scream of dead generations - the language of the dead. But our system of harmony knows so well it contains its own negation that it has mummified it, and while we know we live within a criminal harmony, we also know we are held helplessly within it as fixed subjects, or rather as objects, even cadavers, of an alien music. But never mind, just as protest is useless only because it stays within the limits of the already known, so the hidden harmony is better than the obvious. Heraclitus. Music as a slicing through of harmonic hierarchies etc, poetic realities as counter-earths where we can propose a new stance in which we can see and act on what had previously been kept invisible etc. Ourselves, for one thing. That sounds just great, absolutely tip fucking top, until you remember that, equally, the harmony of the money fetish is that of the commodity fetish only now become visible and dazzling to our eyes, ie we don’t have any kind of monopoly on harmonic invisibility, and all of those occultist systems that some of us still love so much have always been bourgeois through and through. That is, its not a question of gentrification, but that the whole process has always started from the invisible spot where your feet are, tapping whatever fetishised rhythms right into the star encrusted ground. That famous green door with its sign “no admittance except on business”. That is, however much we may claim that it is not protest, but a fast alteration in the structural scansion at the city’s core, the hidden contours of our songs are still a nasty little rich kid fluttering his hecatombic chromosomes all over our collective history. Shit. Its why I still hate Mojo magazine. OK. Now lets get really obvious. Once, revolutions took their poetry from the past, now they have to get it from the future. We all know that. Famous and so on. In its contemporary form, the slogan Greek anarchists were using a couple of winters ago: we are smashing up the present because we come from the future. I love that, but really, it’s all just so much mysticism: but if we can turn it inside out, on its head etc we’ll find this, for example: “the repeated rhythmic figure, a screamed riff, pushed its insistence past music. It was hatred and frustration, secrecy and despair . . . . That stance spread like fire thru the cabarets and the joints of the black cities, so that the sound itself became a basis for thought, and the innovators searched for uglier modes”. That's Amiri Baraka, a short story called “The Screamers” from 1965 or something like that. That is, metallic, musical screeches as systems of thought pushing away from, and through, the imposed limits of the conventional harmonic or social systems, thus clearing some ground from where we can offer counter-proposals. Slogans. The battle-cries of the dead. Tho, obviously, Pizza Express and the Poetry Cafe have done as much as is in their power to neutralise any truth content that might be lurking within that possibility. On September 30th 1965, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, Donald Rafael Garrett, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones and John Coltrane recorded the album “Live in Seatle”: it is, according to someone quoted on Wikipedia, “not for those who prefer jazz as melodic background music”. Its one of those examples of recorded music that still sounds absolutely present years after the fact, because it was one of the sonic receptacles of a revolutionary moment that was never realised: that is, it has become a Benjaminian monad, a cluster of still unused energies that still retain the chance of exploding into the present. Play it loud in the Walthamstow shopping mall and you’ll see what I mean. Yeh yeh yeh. I’m thinking about a specific moment on the album, around thirteen minutes into “Evolution”, when someone - I don’t think its actually Coltrane - blows something through a horn that forces a dimensional time-loop through the already seismic constellations set up within the music’s harmonic system, becoming a force that moves beyond any musical utterance, while still containing direct, clear communication at its centre: ie fire and death on your uptight ass. Among many other things, obviously. I guess Seattle, like anywhere else, is sealed up in its gentrification by now. But anyway, that horn sounds like a metal bone, a place where the dead and future generations meet up and are all on blue, electric fire. CLR James once said that “the violent conflicts of our age enable our practised vision to see into the very bones of previous revolutions more easily than before”. Go figure. Due to its position in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Seattle is in a major earthquake zone. On November 30th 1999 Seattle WTO protests included direct and rational attacks on, among other things, the Bank of America, Banana Republic, the Gap, Washington Mutual Bank, Starbucks, Planet Hollywood etc etc etc. “Cosmos”. “Out of this World”. “Body and Soul”, you get what I mean. Two years later, in Genoa, the anarchist Carlo Giuliani got a police bullet in the centre of his face. Remember that name. Capital’s untruth, its site of corporate slaughter - ie ritual slaughter - the silent frequency at the centre of its oh so gentle melodies. Ah, I can’t see to finish this, I’ve had a lot of valium today. But anyway, to put it simply, the purpose of song is not only to raise the living standards of the working class, but to prevent the ruling class from living in the way that they have been. The violent conflicts of our age make it impossible to recollect musical emotions in tranquility, unless it is the kind of tranquility that makes clear the fierce shrill turmoil of the revolutionary movement striving for clarity and influence. A high metallic wire etc. The counter-earth rigged to such sonic stroboscopics that we, however temporarily, become the irruption into present time of the screams of the bones of history, tearing into the mind of the listener, unambiguously determining a new stance toward reality, a new ground outside of official harmony, from which to act. Or put it another way, next time some jazz fan tells you that late Coltrane is unlistenable, or something, punch em in the face. Seven times. More later.