Theological thoughts from Metal Machine Music.
by Dave Skipper
In the previous article – Metal Machine Music – I described my response to listening to MMM for the first and second times, along with some background to the album itself. If you have not read it, I suggest checking it first as it gives the context for what follows below. Here I will analyse the thoughts I had. I split this into a separate article for two reasons. Firstly, 9,400 words is maybe a little long for a weekly blog post! (Well, I guess not many people will make it through the nearly-6,000 words here either, but hey-ho!) Secondly, I want to present my ideas here standalone because they relate to MMM only insofar as they were prompted by listening to MMM, i.e. these ideas are not exclusive to MMM per se, but rather surround the overall topic of noise and its extremities. As I mentioned last time, I could have been led down this train of thought from any one of many, many noise records.
A cluster of thoughts
Death of Death, Resurrection
A cluster of notions
Like an invincible bubble in my mind’s hands
Taking no space
Just sitting there
Conscious for years
Though dormant in form
Now finally in words
So many words
Just some musings
Of troves still to delve
To breathe on the world
One caveat before we dive in: this article is a snapshot of some of my ideas-in-germination and ideas-in-progress from recent years. It is particularly heavy on the theology. Even as I wrote this up I was aware of some of the shortcomings and gaps and questions that are evident here. I am very aware of the need to develop, refine, adjust, change, and apply/reapply these ideas, and especially to amplify and tighten up the specifics of noise’s characteristics and illuminations. But if I were to wait for that process to end then I would never actually get around to writing anything at all!
TAKE ONE (MMM encountered for the first time)
MMM Part I: Pointless listening; will power is required to keep going.
MMM Part II: The noise is beating my will, and it will win whether I stop or continue.
MMM Part III: Deep thoughts unfolding.
MMM Part IV: Finally my will triumphs over the noise…
At the heart of the ordeal I experienced was the fact that my will was in a battle with the noise: should I stop, or should I continue right through to the bitter end? It was ostensibly a choice, but really I felt that I had no choice in the matter. Either way I would both win and lose. Especially lose.
To stop listening would signal that the noise had defeated me. It would mean that I couldn’t cope with its onslaught and that I simply had to escape it. At the same time it would also be a victory, as I would have then severed the noise’s presence and arrested its influence, all by the straightforward act of hitting the stop button.
On the other hand, to keep listening would have been to succumb to the power of the noise, its power to batter me and hold me locked under its incessant and debilitating existence. Yet the very act of persevering was in itself a decision, the mustering of sufficient strength to ensure the continuation of the assault, not ending until the punishment was complete.
Can you see the quandary I was in? Whichever course of action I took – to stop or to continue – I felt trapped by the noise. Either way the noise would win. It wasn’t until later on in the piece that I felt waves of relief and release as I finally overcame that struggle.
My choice and my control was a binary matter: stop or continue. As the sole listener, with no other people or distractions present, I could alter my choice at any time. I couldn’t abdicate that responsibility. There was no middle ground or third option. In that sense total control was mine, ever-present and always within reach. Yet how was it then that I was imprisoned by the noise? It was like some kind of mental torture. The noise dictated the terms of victory. Whatever my choice, the noise would still be the victor. My illusion of total power and control turned in effect to zero power and control.
This comment from Lou Reed himself is pertinent:
“That record is the closest I’ve ever come to perfection. It’s the only record I know that attacks the listener. Even when it gets to the end of the last side it still won’t stop. You have to get it up and remove it yourself. It’s impossible to even think when the thing is on. It destroys you. You can’t complete a thought. You can’t even comprehend what it’s doing to you. You’re literally driven to take the miserable thing off. You can’t control that record.”
– Lou Reed
What I understood in that moment was that total power for the human is in the end no power at all. In attempting to overturn our creaturely limitations, we do not surpass humanity and attain some level of divinity. Rather, the line of proposed ascent curves back in on itself, and then further down still, descending underneath into the abyss. The over-reach of human power unto the exercise of imprisonment, torture, genocide, and the fullness of totalitarianism only ends up denying and destroying that which it seeks.
The exercise of maximal power and control leads not to freedom and life, but to death. Another person’s life can only be totally controlled through death, the obliteration of that person from this earthly sphere. Think of the power of individuals to take life through terrorist attacks, random acts of violence, suicide, and abortion. Yes this is real power, but surely not a good, desirable, meaningful, or sustainable power. It is the power of death itself exercising control over the one seeking that power. It is not truly power of self, but an idol of power, power from below, power that enslaves its very wielder.
In Biblical terms this attempt to exercise maximum power over life and death is just another part taken that falls under the ubiquitous human condition of slavery to the power of sin. Freedom from all restraint is not true freedom but reveals the total slavery of the heart. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Roman church (in the New Testament part of the Bible) expressed it like this:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
from the Bible – Romans 6:16
Centuries earlier, King Solomon (described in the Bible as the wisest man who ever lived), put it this way:
For those who find me [wisdom] find life
and receive favour from the Lord.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.
from the Bible – Proverbs 8:35-36
Total noise, perfect noise is the epitome of meaninglessness, the nadir of life, the zenith of death. Total noise removes possibility, change, life. Total noise equals total death. The exaltation of noise to a position of absolute power and presence and influence, when taken to its logical extreme, is therefore the embrace of nihilism.
And yet what does total death and nihilistic enactment yield? Silence. The death of noise. Noise becomes its opposite.
But the reality is that noise does exist. Noise can be experienced as a physical, legitimate entity. Death doesn’t reign supreme, and noise doesn’t fulfill its theoretical endpoint. Noise is still encompassed within the possibilities of sound and creativity and music and art that God has placed in his world.
Elements of noise can be well embraced – if you have read much on my blog you will know that I am a staunch defender of the imputable value and latent goodness of noise by virtue of it being a part of God’s originally untainted creation (see the Creation of Noise articles in my series A Brief History of Noise).
Concurrently, I also hold that noise (along with the rest of creation) is corrupted by the sinfulness of man, tainted by the curse of God, and twisted malevolently by the devil (see the Curse of Noise articles (currently being written at the time of publishing this article) in my series A Brief History of Noise). And so there unquestionably is much noise in the world at large, and noise in the world of human hearts and relationships, that are on the road to death. Were it not for the restraining grace of God then we would spiral inexorably into the abyss of total noise, chaos, and oblivion.
1. the act or an instance of subverting or overthrowing a legally constituted government, institution, etc
2. the state of being subverted; destruction or ruin
3. something that brings about an overthrow
To subvert something means to destroy its power and influence.
As I experienced the turmoil and conflict between my will and the noise during that first listen to MMM, my mind turned to the question of subversion. It was as though the noise was trying to subvert my intention to listen intently to it. An ironic hijacking? By willingly subjecting myself to the onslaught was I allowing the possibility of my being subverted by the noise? Or by dint of choosing to start, continue, and finish listening through the full hour, was this not rather an act of me subverting the noise, by not letting it maintain its attempted hold over me?
What, then, is ultimate subversion? If death is the ultimate subversion of life, then when its work is done there is nothing left to subvert. And so subversion is only ever a temporary struggle, a path to completion waiting to be fulfilled and surpassed. Subversion as an end itself is thus clearly futile, since by perpetuating indefinitely it remains a failure. And if the subversion of life is truly actualised, then what’s left is nothing at all. ‘Vanity, futility, all is useless.’ In this scenario noise fulfills its own criteria of existence, yet in so doing it denies and extinguishes its very existence. Noise as failure, maybe trying to erase itself.
But what if noise isn’t pursued and wielded with the intent of taking it to its fullest logical conclusion? What if its purpose is taken to reside in the incomplete process of generating conflict and provoking confusion, uncertainty, angst? Noise as disruption, with no goal other than to prevent notions of security, predictability, control and oppression of others, the mundane, selfishness and greed, arrogance, wealth, and conformity from taking hold? This form of subversion doesn’t intend to convert its subjects wholesale into the fold of noise. It requires and revels in the conflict itself. It desires and delights in rocking the boat and provoking a reaction. It might be driven by envy, seeking the derailing or the downfall of others. It might be driven by boredom. It might be driven by a sense of injustice, and a resultant pursuit of justice in some form. It might be driven by selfish ambition on the one hand, or by selfless concern on the other. It might be utterly undriven. This form of noise as subversion is self-consciously partial and relative, while presumably springing from what is considered to be some absolute concept or other, even when that absolute is the absolute of individual whim and relativism.
The obvious question then is this: is noise music subversive? But such a question is inherently problematic.
- If no-one is listening then they cannot be subverted; they are beyond the impact and influence of the noise;
- If the listener enjoys noise music, or holds to some ideology that embraces noise, then they cannot be subverted; they are already ‘on the inside’;
- If a noise-hater takes on the gruelling challenge of listening, then can they be subverted by the noise? If they remain a hater then nothing has changed and the noise accomplished nothing. If they become a lover (and this is where I ended up subsequent to my MMM initiation) then any supposed subversion has ended. They crossed over of their own volition, and the noise has ceased to be a disruption.
- If a noise hater continues to deliberately delve into noise, then the whole dimension of masochism comes to the fore. Whether as a means of self-punishment, an act of expurging guilt or shame, the pursuit of pleasure derived from pain, an exploration in the application of nihilism, the need for intense experience in order to just feel something, or a morbid curiosity, this also is not subversion in action as the noise is purely pandering to such a listener’s needs and requests.
- Beyond the individual, is noise music then a subversive force against the system, against a repressive culture, against consumerism and elitism, against society at large? This is of course where the focus of the definition of subversion usually lies. For example, Jacques Attali in his influential book Noise: The Political Economy of Music sets out a post-Marxist theory that suggests that the development of noise musics presages cultural and political upheaval and change. I’ll have to leave these sociological and political questions (and especially a close analysis of Attali’s arguments) for later in this series.
Is noise music challenging? Sure! Is noise music subversive? Maybe, but who is listening?
Subversion requires communication, but since subversion cannot be complete without equating to or enabling the death of something or someone, then this communication is (humanly speaking) caught in the trap of infinite struggle and flux, ostensibly stripping it of the means to communicate clearly.
But then the argument goes that noise is not meant to communicate clearly, or even to communicate at all. Isn’t that the point? Isn’t noise all about anti-communication or the absence of communication? But at the limit this is logically impossible. Communication is inescapable. The question is what is being communicated. The attempt to have no message and to deny the point or presence of any message is in itself a message. A deliberate non-statement is de facto a statement about the invalidity of making a statement!
Thus noise is inescapably ideological at root, even if only at the subconscious level. There can be no neutrality and no absence of meaning. Every person thinks and operates on the basis of presuppositions, those underlying assumptions about the nature of man, time, God, the universe, meaning, justice. These assumptions may be unspoken, and they may be negatively expressed, but they are there. Wherever noise/music exists as human activity, there are roots of some kind under it.
So what is the ultimate subversion, if noise keeps falling flat on its face? I contend that the subversion of death by death itself holds the key, specifically in the death of Jesus Christ (and He as eternal God of God and incarnated as real man of (wo)man). A recurring theme in this series will be that the resolution to the paradoxes of noise is always found in Jesus. This may sound like a very odd idea, but I hope you will see the coherence and sense and joy of this as these articles unfold.
Briefly here, then, the subversion that Christ enacted was an undermining and overthrow of all the kingdoms of death and darkness and of this world. The fundamental problem in the world is that of sin, in other words the deliberate and unavoidable rebellion of mankind against God. The consequences of sin are many and serious: the curse of the ground, broken relationships, all the violence that springs from the heart of man, separation from God, and finally eternal death as the complete judgment of God. The eternal lake of fire is then the place of total and unending noise, where the logical conclusion of total noise becomes a reality.
I said above that total noise is impossible, for that requires total death and chaos. That is true of history, but not of eternity. The significant point is that that is an eternal noise/death that is instigated and governed by the Sovereign Creator God of the universe, and it takes place as his personal and deliberate judgment against all sin and rebellion against his infinite holiness, justice, righteousness, and goodness.
The inevitability of death and the unstoppable forces of evil and violence in our world render history as the apparent kingdom of man. All human attempts at betterment and peace – whether through religion, self-help, charity, welfarism, legislation, or any other means of control – are thus attempts to achieve the unachievable, to subvert the kingdom of man by the kingdom of man. This is no subversion at all, for the impurity and deceit of the human heart lies within each of us. What is required is a unique infiltration, a divine intervention, a mysterious incarnation of the eternally divine into the temporally finite and fallen. And this must result in a fundamental, radical change in human hearts.
The historic and orthodox doctrine of Christ insists that he is fully God and fully man, one Person with the two natures unmixed, undiluted, unconfused. Only by entering into time and space as a real human being could He deal head-on with the problem of sin, and only thus could He be the bridge between mankind and God, completely representing both parties. The climax of the perfect and incarnate life of Christ on earth came in his death on the cross, that Christians have valued and celebrated and relied upon ever since.
In his death Jesus not only experienced that human fate which we will all receive, but more crucially he took upon himself the full force of God’s wrath and judgment against sin. The Apostle Paul, in his New Testament letter to the Corinthian church, describes it even more potently:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
from the Bible – 2 Corinthians 5:21
He became sin for us! God didn’t ignore death; in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, he didn’t cast death aside. Rather He tasted death, He partook in death, He embraced death, He died a true death. He entered into that total noise of fiery condemnation, severed from His co-eternal Father, severed from life, severed from community, severed from peace. Entering total noise He entered total silence. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” He cried from the cross. For the only moment in all eternity, God the Son experienced the utter anguish of separation from God the Father as His face turned away.
Death of Death
If it had ended there, then all would be useless. Submitting to death to let death win? Biblical Christianity proclaims too the marvellous resurrection from Jesus Christ from the dead, without which our faith would be in vain. Not only did Jesus taste death on behalf of all who cast themselves on Him, but He ate death, He swallowed death, thus removing death. This was prophesied centuries earlier by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine –
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
from the Bible – Isaiah 25:6-8
And it is declared after the fact for what it is by Paul in the New Testament:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
from the Bible – 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
The death of death. The ultimate subversion. God became man in order to redeem humanity from within. Jesus died a brutal death in order to cancel the effects of death and render possible eternal life for all who trust in Him. The promise is now assured that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God. All human kingdoms will be shaken and will fall. Overthrow and victory comes by the transformation of the human heart, from within. This is a true subversion, the dramatic shifting of desires as the inherent sinfulness of the human heart is changed by God’s grace to wholehearted worship and surrender and obedience to the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus to embrace the death of Jesus is to confidently hold to the assured death of sin, death of self, death of death.
“A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! The crown will not be restored until he to whom it rightfully belongs shall come; to him I will give it.”
from the Bible – Ezekiel 21:27
How does all this speak to noise? Noise will be subdued by God on His terms. The goodness of original noise will be restored. This is good news for noise music, as it means that it will flourish into new realms of intensity, creativity, diversity, joy, and excitement. But noise as noise cannot be unrestrained from all parameters and limits – it remains a finite part of a created and upheld cosmos, and in the end it will be neither an expression of darkness nor a force for depravity and decay. The only unconstrained noise in its logical maximalism which drowns out all other sound and thought and being will be in the eternal lake of fire.
Resurrection noise: what is it? I have no idea. The implications are yet to be explored. But at least it will be unconstrained by the ravages of sin and death, and it will be unleashed into new unimaginable and non-destructive domains.
Total power. Total noise. Total subversion. Total death.
A crucial question is this: What are the limiting factors that mitigate against or prevent ‘x’ being taken taken to its logical extreme? Often in the history of philosophical thought this has taken the form of a dualistic tension, for example spirit-matter, form-substance, reason-experience, nature-grace, unity-diversity, yin-yang, God-devil, and so on. This typically either entails pitting one against the other in an ongoing conflict, or subsuming one under the other, or conceiving them as opposite ends of a continuous sliding scale that humanity is to work its way along.
Central to Biblical Christianity is the assumption that there is ultimate primacy and order and purpose behind all things, not as abstract concepts but as the expressions and acts of the completely personal and sovereign God of Scripture. Eternity determines time. My conviction is that the primary doctrines of the Trinity (One God in Three persons) and Christology (Jesus as fully God and fully man) underpin the nature of reality and of humanity and of history, and in them the dualistic problems of philosophy find their dismantling and resolution and true balance. It is my intent in this series to explore such matters through connections and applications to the paradoxes of noise.
In the infinity and eternity of God totality does exist. Human totality is a myth, apart from the totality of our natural rebellion against Him and natural blindness to Him. The totality of His grace and restoration through the death and resurrection of the Son of God remains humanity’s only hope. This Christ-wrought invasion of eternity into time is the only possibility. “The humanistic utopias are all prisons, because they insist on a finality which man does not possess.” (Rousas John Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order, Thoburn Press 1968, p177) This returns to my above point, that the total noise of hell exists only in eternity, and any hellishness that noise entails now is just an indicator and downpayment of the unlimited total noise/death to come. (See the forthcoming Culmination of Noise articles in the series A Brief History of Noise for a fuller exploration of this theme.)
TAKE TWO (MMM revisited)
MMM Part I: Disappointing.
MMM Part II: Greater objective awareness of what was happening musically/sonically.
MMM Part III: Boring, tame.
MMM Part IV: Fragment of hope, then final hope.
One of the main things I noticed second time around were the details: atonal fragments, rhythmic pulsings, brief lapses in spectral density. At the micro level, there is a lot of activity and restless shifting, akin to the underwater turbulence of currents, eddies, and vortices. By contrast, at the macro level there is overall a distinct lack of direction and structure. Think of the ripples, waves, and swells on the ocean surface. Close up, these are in state of constant flux, collision, generation, and disintegration. Zoom out and the individual patterns merge and blur into an amorphous mass, eventually revealing itself to be a virtually flat and unchanging surface save for subtle shimmerings and localised zones of alternating colouration.
Sound unwraps itself through both time and space, of course. In listening to a record in a confined space (such as via headphones) it is the time element that is unquestionably the prime domain. Conceiving of a piece of music of such length as MMM (just over an hour) as itself a representation or microcosm of the expanse of time we call history proves illuminating. Viewed in this way, on close attention MMM highlights the incessant flurry of human action in history. At this zoomed-in level we get a sense of the beauty, intrigue, insanity, and tragic comedy of fleeting lives going about their important/irrelevant business, all intertwining and making meaningless rackets in their own ways.
Standing back and viewing the whole, MMM indicates the overall lack of direction and progress in human history. We don’t end up anywhere substantially new or different to where we started, and you get the feeling that it could just have gone on ad infinitum with no significantly new vistas or resolutions to be accessed. To extend human history too far would just serve to amplify the madness.
What is the nature of time? Is it cyclical – with variations but no nett change as spirits are born and reborn via endless deaths and reconfigurings? Or is it linear – but as a flatline with no nett progress, just more of the same despite the development of outward appearances? Sure there are dynamics along the way, but these are within defined limits of exceptionally narrow margins. Like giant ocean swells and storms that seem to be of major import when you are right there, but when you look at the whole earth you see that the Earth’s diameter is to all intents and purposes left unchanged by such miniscule blips.
These are the inevitable results of attempting to import the essence of eternity into history. Pushing noise to its limits, and stretching it out beyond ‘normal’ time constraints, the maximising of noise ironically becomes its downfall as it loses its power and effect through overkill. Similarly, by ostensibly elevating history as the be-all-and-end-all of reality, history is actually devalued and denied, stripped of all meaning and power and purpose. There is of course a word for this state of worthlessness or non-being: hell.
My first listen to MMM was before I was conversant with, attuned to, and engaged in the vocabulary and delights of noise music. Hence, it was a somewhat hellish experience for me as I could barely stand the barrage. Weirdly enough, my second listen (now at a point in time where I am familiar with, enthused by, and actively pursuing noise music), was still hellish, but this time for the polar opposite reason: it’s not noisy enough! It didn’t tick the boxes of my preferred personal tastes in noise. In take two, MMM took on the form of a hell that I observed from afar, that I was not being sucked into, and in which I did not participate. This ‘new’ hell is defined by distaste and distance, as opposed to the earlier hell which was an imprisoning despair and isolation.
The threat or fear of being consumed by the noise has abated. But while the savage ravages of total noise are now placed at arm’s length, the danger is that hell is now seen as tame, mediocre, irrelevant. So there are two sides to this now. One is the prominent theological theme of salvation from judgment. Hell shifts from prospect-in-waiting to peril-no-more, from a terrifying reality to an ever-distant place that will never be experienced. The other side is that what was thought to be hell pales into significance compared to the actuality of hell. Real hell is worse than imaginable, infinitely more horrific than deemed possible. Not only is total noise unattainable, but we can’t even extrapolate to that point from the extremities of noise that we do manage to conjure up. MMM is far away from being a total and maximal noise record after all.
Just a brief comment here. My 2-3 transitory points of pleasure in MMM take 2 were of the relative experience of ‘bass-esque’ frequencies which weren’t actually bass. It’s easy to understand how this happened. In an ocean of nothingness anything out of place is accentuated to a degree beyond its actual attributes. The power of contrast is the illusion of contrast. Dwelling in extreme noise, we will snatch at any scrap that promises some indication of the light and life that we cannot remember or have never seen or touched. Like a mirage in the desert, the false hope is nevertheless felt as real until it is dashed. No, not dashed but smeared and then dissolved, more frustrating due to the concomitant cultivation of a lingering ache, a yearning beyond grasping. Hope cut is painful, but hope fading is soul-agonising. Yet that very existence of fragmentary hope hints at the possibility of a greater hope further down the line…
A glimpse of something different, something better. The hope of bad things ending, the hope for an end to the noise. Or the hope of a different, more glorious noise that the ignoble noise was merely an inverted mirror of. A change of perspective. A new will. A resistance to being overcome by the noise. A detached disengagement with the descent to hell. The promise of (finally) grace and freedom and peace and joy. One of the central themes of the Christian faith is the certainty of hope. This hope is wrought through the God-Man Jesus, through His death that swallows the noise of God’s judgment, and through His resurrection that destroys the power of sin and death and sets in motion the eventual restoration of all things.
The Biblical view of history is in marked opposition to the full gamut of notions of cyclical time or flat linear time. Usually construed in Christian thought as an ascending linearity, history is the battleground of the unfolding conquest of the purposes of God to display his glory via the gradual shaking of all forms of earthly kingdoms: political, intellectual, philosophical, religious.
But note that God displays His faithfulness in part through the regularities of the seasons, day and night, and the multitude of nature’s cycles. So maybe an upwardly spiralling linearity is the best portrayal of history’s trajectory? Simple and complex, a melting-pot of Silence, Music, and Noise across all spheres of being and potential.
Eternity does invade time, but exclusively on God’s terms and exclusively in and through the miracle of the incarnation, of God made flesh. Eternity precedes, determines, and directs time. Any inverted attempt is thus idolatry: man attempting in futility to usurp God’s substance and prerogative, doomed to failure and the worst excesses of spiritual/psychological/ noise.
Regeneration. A new will. A new mind. A new heart. Resistance to the power of sin and temptation. Ultimate victory and life everlasting alike assured. No matter how bleak the darkness, the light will overcome it. This hope extends to noise as much as to any other created zone.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
from the Bible – John 1:1-5
I need to state clearly that my intention has not in the slightest been to cast MMM as sub-musical or anti-Christian. As you can tell, listening to MMM has been profoundly valuable for me. Of course the analogies I have mused on here break down at many points, but I am merely layout out my meanderings into different territories, for further consideration in additional contexts. MMM has merely been my personal springboard and catalyst to grapple with the potentially rewarding possibilities of the conceptual convergence of noise and theology.
In this particular series – Noise. Life. Death. – I am taking a more hardline approach to thrashing out the implications of noise in different philosophical/theological/religious directions, but this should not be construed as an effort to topple noise and noise music. On the contrary, my prime motivation is to discover and unlock greater meaning and possibilities in noise. I am eager to search out noise that not only challenges, indicts, and explodes, but that also flourishes and blesses and serves. My hope and belief is that noise can do all of these things simultaneously, without needing to compromise its God-given potency and mystery. At the same time, this process requires discernment and the critiquing of alternative ‘noisologies’ that will at times inevitably be strongly divergent from, and even diametrically opposed to, what I am formulating here on The Word On Noise.
The Dutch-American Christian philosopher Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) is a major influence on my thinking. One of his common phrases was ‘epistemological self-consciousness.’ This is the notion of becoming more fully consistent with one’s underlying presuppositions. In this series especially I am endeavouring to prod deeply into the presuppositions that drive my own beliefs, and how they inform and mould my perspectives on noise. I will be doing this via interactions, musings, and analyses of themes, writings, or recordings which have direct influence or relationship to one or another aspect of the world of noise and noise music.
Next up in this series will be a consideration of occult themes relating to noise.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
Appendix: My Original Notes
Here are my handwritten notes that I captured as a reference several years ago after I listened to MMM. They represent the moment of inception for my deep thinking about the religious and philosophical dimensions of noise: