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Topics - Eleison

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Metal / Symphonies and Chamber Music
« on: March 21, 2010, 04:49:11 AM »
I have recently been thinking about how, in the classical and romantic eras at least, instrumental music is divided into symphonic music and chamber works.  The former are more popular, not because they are of higher quality, but because they are more accessible.  Despite being larger in scale, the orchestral sound immediately imposes itself upon the listener.  I personally prefer chamber music, whether it be solo piano, string quartet or something else, for a number of reasons.  Firstly I think that the best composers through the classical and romantic periods actually wrote better chamber works than they did symphonies, this is partly due to the fact that in chamber music the composer cannot disguise a lack of musical interest with orchestral effects.  This brings me to my second point, which is that more often that not composers overlook weaknesses that arise like fissure in the large scale form of a symphony, choosing instead to fill these gaps with surface aesthetics.  This is particularly the case in a composer like Schumann, who wrote incredible chambers works and lieder, the violin sonata in A minor and Dichterliebe spring to mind, but whose symphonies were simply not cohesive.

I have recently rediscovered romantic music, which I previously believed to be a worthless era through the chamber works of Schumann and Brahms.  Chamber works are more difficult firstly because it is easy enough to simply get a snapshot of a composer by downloading the complete symphonies, rather than delving into the murkier depths of the always innumerable small scale works of any well known composer.  I recommend that keen listeners take the time to research a composer and get an idea of what they contributed to the string quartet, piano and chamber repertoire rather than simply download the complete symphonies.

Interzone / Scotch Whisky
« on: February 28, 2010, 07:57:07 AM »
Any scotch whisky drinkers out there.  I've only recently discovered this, and despite the fact that I'm not usually an indulgent person I find this to my liking.  It has an air of nobility but isn't as tame as cognac.  So far I find myself enjoying the highland malts like Glenmorangie the most, although I quite like Island malts provided they are aged long enough to mellow them out a little.  I'm sipping a Buichladdich 17 year as I type and find it to my liking.

Metal / Tibetan Buddhist Music
« on: February 15, 2010, 03:15:58 PM »
Don't know how many people are aware of this style of music, but I think the general ambiance will resonate with most metalheads.  The starting point of Buddhism is basically that human existence is suffering, and that spiritual death, extinction of the ego, is bliss (nirvana).  The world is therefore viewed as purely negative, a relative nothingness if you will, which comes quite close to the death metal motto, "only death is real".  I think this may explain some of the atmospheric similarities, most modern day Christians would no doubt be terrified by this music.


I had a recording of about 2 hours of this stuff which I will upload when I track it down.

On a side note, after listening to this check out some "Buddhist relaxation music" to get an idea of how far the western version of Buddhism is from the real thing.

Metal / The Individual and the Universal in Metal
« on: December 29, 2009, 12:55:55 PM »
We could, hypothetically divide the content of a work of art into two aspects.  The first is the imprint of the individual creator, which is what gives a work of art its inevitable ‘uniqueness’, however superficial this may be.  The second is the message that this individual wishes to communicate.  Now depending on the mental and spiritual capacity of that individual, this message may in fact be integrated into the first aspect, that is to say it may simply be an extension of the individual ego, an internal fantasy world externalised in a vain attempt to justify its own existence.  At the other end of the spectrum, there is the possibility that the artist himself identifies with a principle which surpasses him, and that in doing so the art itself converges upon that principle.  In this case it is possible that art, particularly the abstract language of music, serves to elucidate some sort of structure which cannot be easily explained in a literal fashion.  The individual becomes a conduit, where Reality is the cause, and a microcosmic vision of Reality, art, is the effect.  Such a vision is functional in that it naturally directs other individuals towards the principle that it manifests, if they are aware enough.

   Nowadays everybody wants forgets that this is the justification for art.  That it should help us understand the world.  People want to forget that Truth surpasses the individual, because to democratically minded men it doesn’t seem fair that they shouldn’t be allowed to decide what is real and what isn’t.  This mentality has infiltrated metal, to the point where people think that the only way to make new music is to move ‘forward’ in some superficial way.  ‘Innovation’ is the key word, either that or a vain attempt to preserve ‘tradition’ on a purely aesthetic level.  What these people fail to realise is that the individuality of a work of art is inevitable, provided it communicates a coherent idea.  Diversity is beautiful, but what is more beautiful is understanding the principle which makes that diversity comprehensible.  Great works of art are different, but what they have in common is more important than their differences.

Interzone / Taoism: Chinese Philosophy
« on: November 17, 2009, 08:09:16 PM »
I first became interested in Eastern philosophy when I read the Bhagavad-Gita.  Recently I have discovered classical Chinese philosophy, which rivals Hindu scripture in its depth and beauty.  The Taoist texts, the Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tsu’s Inner Chapters are especially profound.  Here are some excerpts, they are chose fairly arbitrarily so I suggest getting hold of a complete text if you find them interesting.  The translators for both texts are Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, I believe their translations are easily the best I have come across.

From the Lao Tsu’s “Tao Te Ching”

Chapter One

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth
The named is the mother of ten-thousand things
Ever desireless one can see the mystery
Ever desiring one sees the manifestations
These two spring from the same source but differ in name
This appears as darkness
Darkness within darkness
The gate to all mystery

Chapter Fourteen

…Stand before it there is no beginning
Follow it there is no end
Stay with the ancient Tao
Move with the present…

Chapter Fifteen

…Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfilment
Not seeking fulfilment, they are not swayed by desire for change…

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done

The universe is sacred
You cannot improve it
If you try to change it, you will ruin it
If you try to hold it, you will lose it

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency
Chapter Thirty-Two

…Once the whole is divided the parts need names
There are already enough names
One must know when to stop
Knowing when to stop averts trouble
Tao in the world is like a river flowing home to the sea

Chapter Fifty-Six

Those who know do not talk
Those who talk do not know…

Chapter Seventy-Six

A man is born gentle and weak
At his death he is hard and stiff
Green plants are tender and filled with sap
At their death they are withered and dry

Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life…

From Chuang Tsu’s “Inner Chapters”

Chapter One

…Hsu Yu said, “You are ruling the empire, and the world is at peace.  If I took your place, I would be doing it for the name.  Name is only the shadow of reality.  Do I want to be just a shadow?”…

…That holy man with all his virtues looks on all the confusion of the ten-thousand things as one.  Because of his very existence, the world is emerging from chaos.  Why should he do anything about it?  Nothing can harm him…Why should he bother with worldly things?...

Chapter Two

…When we are asleep, we are in touch with our souls.  When we are awake, our senses open.  We get involved with our activities, our minds are distracted…Our words fly off like arrows, as though we knew what was right and wrong.  We cling to our own point of view as though everything depended on it.  Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter they gradually pass away.  We are caught in the current and cannot return…Joy, anger, sorrow, happiness, hope, fear, indecision, strength, humility, wilfulness, enthusiasm and insolence continually appear before us day and night.  No one knows whence they come.  Don’t worry about it!  Let them be!  How can we understand it all in one day?...

…Words are not just blown air, they have meaning.  If you are not sure what you are talking about, are you saying anything or are you saying nothing?  Words seem different from the chirping of birds.  Is there a difference or isn’t there?

...Tao is hidden by partial understanding.  The meaning of words is hidden by flowery rhetoric…What one says is wrong, the other says is right…The best thing to do is look beyond right and wrong…

…Everything can be a ‘that’; everything can be a ‘this’.  One person cannot see things as another sees them.  One can only know things through knowing oneself.  Therefore it is said , “‘That’ come from ‘this’ and ‘this’ from ‘that’”, which means ‘that’ and ‘this’ give birth to one another.  Life arises from death, and death from life…

…There is a beginning.  There is no beginning of that beginning.  There is no beginning of that no-beginning of beginning.  There is something.  There is nothing.  There is something before the beginning of something and nothing, and something before that.  Suddenly there is something and nothing.  But between something and nothing, I still don’t really know which is something and which is nothing.  Now I’ve just said something, but I don’t really know whether I’ve said anything or not…

...“The great person is spiritual…Life and death do not affect him.  How much less will he be concerned with good and evil!”…

…If right is indeed right, there need be no argument about how it is different from wrong.  If being is really being, there need be no argument about how it is different from non-being.  Forget time, forget distinction.  Enjoy the infinite, rest in it…

…Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tsu, dreamed I was a butterfly flying happily here and there…Suddenly I woke up and I was indeed Chuang Tsu.  Did Chuang Tsu dream he was a butterfly, or did the butterfly dream he was Chuang Tsu?...

Chapter Seven

…Let your mind wander in the pure and simple.  Be one with the infinite.  Allow all things to take their course.  Do not try to be clever.  Then the world will be ruled!...

…Do not seek fame.  Do not make plans.  Do not be absorbed by activities.  Do not think that you know.  Be aware of all that is and dwell in the infinite.  Wander where there is no path.  Be all that heaven gave you, but act as though you have received nothing.  Be empty, that is all.
The mind of a perfect person is like a mirror.  It grasps nothing.  It expects nothing.  It reflects but does not hold.  Therefore the perfect person can act without effort.

The ruler of the South Sea was called Light; the ruler of the North Sea, Darkness; and the ruler of the Middle Kingdom, Primal Chaos.  From time to time, Light and Darkness met one another in the kingdom of Primal Chaos, who made them welcome.  Light and Darkness wanted to repay his kindness and said, “All humans have seven openings with which they see, hear, eat and breathe, but Primal Chaos has none.  Let us try to give him some.”  So every day they bored one hole.  On the seventh day, Primal Chaos died.

Metal / Melody
« on: October 23, 2009, 07:59:06 PM »
Nowadays, when people are taught classical theory, they are taught about harmonic progressions. It's a fairly dry and academic pursuit.  Back in the era when classical music was actually written, all composers were schooled in renaissance style counterpoint: that is, the way in which melodies fit together.  Most people's idea of a melody is an elaboration on a progression of harmonic notes, whereas in reality it is the only spontaneous part of a composition.

In my view, melody is a sequence of notes which manifests something the artist wishes to express, and this may be disguised by a harmonic progression, meaning that a melody does not have to be a 'tune'.  Every great composition has an underlying melodic structure which is its 'soul'; sometimes this is immediately evident, such as in Gregorian chant, Indian classical music, or even Mozart; in other works, it can be disguised either by polyphony proper, by harmonic notes (romantic music), or through the repetition of small sequences (riffs). 

For me, the study of counterpoint has been far more engaging than the study of harmony, because the melodic integrity of the music gives birth to its theory.  I recommend Gradus ad Parnassum (the counterpoint textbook used by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven) to anyone interested in learning to compose polyphonic music.  This sort of technique could be applied to metal, with some modification.  This is more realistic than trying to include classical harmonic principles in metal, where the distortion would get in the way.

Metal / Spiritual Music
« on: September 30, 2009, 05:10:50 AM »
The way I see it there are basically two types of 'content' in a piece of music.  Firstly there are things we can quantify, pitches, rhythms, pattern based inter-relationships, we can call this intellectual content.  Secondly there are qualitative aspects, moods, colors, implied states of being, we can draw a correlation between these things and quantitative elements, but they are not identical. 

Modernist classical music fails because all composers care about is intellectual content, it is obvious to anybody with the ability to process information, so it impresses people of linear intelligence, it's all about appearances.

Some music I have come across, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss being the prime example, attempts to completely strip away any unnecessary intellectual content to clearly outline the fundamental idea which drives the music.  Any intellectual content emerges as a consequence of a spiritual impulse.  Hence we might only find two or three musical ideas in a piece, but a subtle qualitative shift creates a journey of metaphysical significance.  This is what I call spiritual music.

This kind of thinking also emerges in religious minimalist music and ambient music, although not with the same degree of success as the best black metal.  Theoretically music can incorporate both intellectual and spiritual content, see classical music and later Gorguts, but in my opinion in the age in which we live, where appearances dominate reality, it may be best to avoid unnecessary complications in order to deter foolish listeners.  Burzum has for the most part successfully deterred idiots, whereas Obscura and Beethoven will continue to attract them, unfortunate but true.

Interzone / Metal Philosophy
« on: September 23, 2009, 05:53:16 AM »
Now I guess I'm probably uttering what a lot of you guys have already read in the anus, but I don't make any claims to originality, I'm just trying to come to terms with all of this...

Transcendental Idealism:

We come into being because Reality is, soon we shall return to our origin, Reality will continue, but our fragmentary existence will end.  In the intervening time we are confronted with a multitude of fragments, which, given their singular source share organizing principles, they therefore form patterns which coincide with our mental patterns and are therefore assimilated by us.  

Our intelligence allows us to discern the nature of these patterns according to varying degrees. Minerals manifest structures which harmonize with external patterns and therefore they continue to exist as long as this state of harmony remains.  Plants allow themselves to be passively motivated by their environment. Animals perceive external patterns directly and adjust their behavior to create harmony, their intelligence is therefore active.  

Humans (provided that they exceed animal intelligence sufficiently) are able to perceive these patterns not only in a tangible way, but can become aware of the fundamental unity of these externally divided elements, this is

If we have been granted the degree of intelligence necessary to understand this, what better way to repay our debt to nature than to devote our life to the understanding of these patterns in light of their source.  This, in my mind, is the underlying motivator for all of man's great achievements.


The existence of any structure is determined by its stability.  As the complexity of structure increases, it becomes less stable and in danger of collapse, any structure which reaches a critical point  will cease to exist. Complexity of structure increases provided it can retain a harmonious
relationship with external patterns.  The inter-relationships between patterns are equivalent to musical harmony, certain relationships will destroy
each other, whereas others can exist simultaneously.  Natural selection is the necessary disintegration of patterns which cannot integrate themselves into the whole.

The Eternal:

Despite the fact that I agree with what is stated above, I must make the reservation that all patterns exist in principle regardless of their temporal manifestations, therefore evolution is essentially illusory.  The immutability of the origin of this pattern language is more essential than the language itself, and I think it is this same immutability which we discern in great works of art, a stillness which we may liken to the state of the human being after death.

What does this mean for metal:

Metal must express both the evolution of patterns (riffs) towards either death or higher complexity, but more essentially it must retain its underlying structural unity.  A sequence of riffs should be thought of not only in terms of temporal succession, but also in terms of spatial simultaneity.  This does not mean using simplistic structural mechanisms such as the serial method. I think a qualitative understanding of basic musical material (intervals, modes etc) would be a start.  This kind of qualitative evaluation of pitch (and rhythmic) relationships is foreign to western theoretical practice because of egalitarian thinking over the past 500 years, but it is common to Indian, Islamic and Medieval Christian philosophies of music.

Interzone / Nationalism?
« on: September 20, 2009, 05:28:08 PM »
I've noticed that a few people around here seem to be pro-nationalism.  The way I see it, nationalism came into being in the 19th century, paved the way for world war, after which it was recognized as a failure and gave way to a bigger failure, globalism.  This being the case I'm not really sure why anyone would support nationalism, surely the way Europe was divided before the nations came into being was a much more sustainable system.  To my mind nations are political identities whose goals are situated in the political plane, and are therefore illusory, whereas the independent city states of pre-nationalist Europe (and ancient Greece) have a closer relationship with culture and ethnic identity.

Interzone / All music is rhythm
« on: September 15, 2009, 04:15:25 AM »
All musical pitches are vibrations, that is to say, they are a rhythmic movement, or pulse.  Not sure what this means, but it sure is interesting.

Metal / A Metal Ancestor?
« on: September 14, 2009, 08:55:56 PM »
The earliest form of harmony used in European sacred music, made extensive use of parallel fifths to harmonize a pre-existing melody.  In terms of technique this is exactly how metal works, the composition is essentially melodic, and the harmony is merely for textural effect.  in the medieval period this technique was developed by giving the harmonic line more freedom, until it eventually became completely independent from the original melodic, giving birth to polyphonic music.  Unfortunately the new technical possibilities that this brought distracted composers from the content of their music.  This raises the question, does metal need to move forward in technique or does it simply need to look backward to recapture its spirit, I think the latter is absolutely necessary, and the former is interesting but inconsequential.

Here is an example of a piece that fall between organum and polyphony.


Metal / Spectral Music
« on: September 11, 2009, 06:36:31 AM »
I met a cellist recently who introduced me to a composer called Radulescu.  After looking into his work I've discovered a genre of modern classical music called spectral music,  thus named because it is based on mathematical analysis of the sonic spectrum.  One of the founders of the school is a Frenchman known as Gerard Grisey, he wrote a piece called Partials which uses an orchestra to reconstruct the timbre of a trombone by progressively playing all of the overtones contained within a note played by the trombone.  This kind of thing is fairly rudimentary, but by the time we get to Radulescu the genre is much more highly developed, using tuning systems based around naturally occurring overtones and strange combinations of instruments playing almost entirely in harmonics.  Now I'm not usually a fan of musical modernism, but this genre particularly interested me because, rather than being based around arbitrary methods of pitch organization, it is informed by the mathematical structure of sound directly.  I think this sort of exploration should be encouraged as an alternative to trying to 'invent' new musical systems out of thin air, which always seems to be occurring in conservatories.

Here's an example of Radulescu's music, this piece is called Das Andere (The Other) for solo violin


Metal / 2nd Viennese School
« on: September 07, 2009, 09:46:52 PM »
I find these composers interesting because in my opinion they are not really modernists and yet their idiom became synonymous with musical modernism.  The way I was taught about the development of the twelve tone technique was that Schoenberg, after realizing that tonality had become completely obscure in Wagner began to ignore tonality altogether.  What resulted was music without an external structure like a melodic mode which is like an abstract 'space' within which a melody can occur.  This lack of structure led him to adopt a system whereby an entire piece is derived from a melodic phrase, but to avoid simply returning to tonal music Schoenberg used a method of constructing the phrase which ensured a complete lack of tonal implications.

When I look at it this way serial music is not merely an abstract 'academic' construction, but simply a pragmatic way of dealing with a musical problem.  Of course atonality has inherent problems, but no more so than those encountered in late tonal music, such as Wagner, which is incredibly convoluted and obscure.  I suppose my point is that Schoenberg and Berg (not so much Webern), shouldn't be categorized as dry modernists but rather as post-romantic composers.

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