Mountains

Climbing a mountain is a noble struggle and it is metal as hell. It contains ebb and flow, within and without; without, one finds conflict and peace in nature, in the rocks, in the animal kingdom, everywhere. Within, one has to battle against oneself, tiredness, thoughts, injury, and disease; yet all those things make the achievement of reaching the summit real and worthy. They fill life with meaning.

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Music, Musick and “Ick”


by Andreas Languetus

Music serves many roles in our lives, but the one closest to our sense of well-being is a rediscovery of beauty and purpose in the world. While neither is universal, or experienced by all people, the former is closer to the objective, meaning that it concerns the world itself, and the latter is closer to subjective, in that we each find our own path and so our purpose — while a descendant of broader purpose like adaptation, excellence, or knowledge — reflects our discernment and choice of that path in the moment.

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Human Mediocrity and the Rise of Artificial Intelligence

terminator (human obsoletion)

Article by David Rosales

As technology progresses, machines are increasingly able to replace humans when it comes to menial jobs such as those that take place inside factories, where often repetitive movements are better done by untiring mechanical arms that do not tire. But the progress of machine work is not limited to mere rote, and now includes not only machines that can make calculations many times faster than any human being, but also any other function that a programmer can reduce to a set of instructions in an algorithm. This spells bad news for almost everyone, even those who work high-level jobs: once computer scientists and mathematicians decode your decision process and reduce it to an algorithm, you are done.

Many think that the last bastion for human endeavor in the future, then, will be the arts, since a machine may be faster, more precise and more enduring than any human being, but it may never reflect the feelings that man possesses. There is this intuition, this unconscious level at which our kind operates that we do not finish understanding. This precisely is that nebulous area which Immanuel Kant defined as particularly problematic since we are not equipped to produce answers to questions which our very nature seems to insist on pushing questions for.

While I am in agreement with such a concept, there is a considerable gap with respect to how the average citizen seems to understand this. The issue is not whether or not machines may replace creative human activity in the creation of art. In music specifically, programs have already been written which can compose scores on the spot that fill out the aesthetic requirements of a Mozart symphony (Editor’s note: These have, in fact, been around for decades. The earliest example I can think of is CPU Bach, released in 1994 for the 3DO). In fact, such a program is not limited to a particular style and has been written such that when given a collection of pieces, the program will determine the style to be used by the approximate differences between the pieces given. This spells very bad news for all those brainless clone bands out there who have no vision between “the riff” or “the feeling”.

What are the limitations of this kind of style-replicating program? Perhaps the most important is that even though it might be possible to redirect it so that it produces a new style if given a seed for random variation, it cannot actually replicate human originality, at least in the sense that humans create art from the unique way in which they perceive the world and manifest it through music and particular expression. The sort of results arising from this human originality may be “objectively” indistinguishable from what the machine produces given X reference styles and a random factor, but there will be no way for the machine to supplant the former, at least until it can also emulate a great deal of the higher brain functions humans use for creativity, which is admittedly a far more difficult task.

So, in a future (present?) world where computer programs produce commercial jingles and pop tunes for big garbage music companies, all those mediocre soundtrack composers will be out of a job. Furthermore, modernist idiocy would be quickly replaced by machines exhausting all the possibilities of that most unnatural “music”. This result is quite interesting, because in trying to get rid of tradition, modernists ran away from what keeps music in touch with our humanity. In the end, the advent of music made by artificial intelligence will not represent a stamping out of human creativity, but an exalting of those who survive the onslaught. I for one hail our machine overlords.

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On the difference between art and propaganda

tabacs_ajja

When issues arise like those of ideological fascists in metal, whether of the SJW or far-right types, the inevitable division between art and propaganda arises. Having written about this for over two decades, I make the following distinction: art has artistic purpose, which is to reveal; propaganda has dogmatic purpose, which is to condition and manipulate the mind through projecting a sense of self-congratulatory correctness onto the perceiver.

Luckily, others have written about this topic, and well. From Canadian author Robertson Davies writing at First Things comes this cogent analysis:

When I was a boy, I was a voracious reader. My home had plenty of moral literature on its shelves, and I was urged to read it for my betterment. There was lots of other literature, as well, but I was not forbidden, only discouraged, from reading it as it was said to be “beyond me,” which I quickly discovered meant that it dealt with life pretty much as life was, and not as the determinedly moral writers wanted me to think.

…I could not stomach Little Lord Fauntleroy, who presented me with a political puzzle especially hard for a Canadian: What was that boy, and what did he do? He was an American, but by chance he inherited a title and went to England and became a Lord, and thereafter was remorselessly democratic toward anyone who kept it firmly in mind that he was a Lord, and behaved accordingly. The Little Lord existed to hammer home two things that were presented as mighty truths: We must be democratic and we must recognize the moral superiority that goes with poverty. It was easy, I thought, to be a democrat if everybody toadied to you, and I wished that the Little Lord could spend a few days at the school I went to, where to be known as a tireless reader (for I could not conceal it) was to be an outcast. Many of my persecutors enjoyed the blessing of poverty, but it did not seem to improve their characters. They were savage, jealous, and without bowels of compassion.

My sanity was saved by the books I read on the sly. Dickens, where evil people were plentiful and often rich, successful, and attractive. Thackeray, where snobbery seemed to be the mainspring of much of the action. Thomas Hardy, where life was complicated by opposed moralities and the uncontrollable workings of Destiny, and where God was decidedly not a loving Father. I did not know it at the time, but of course these were the works of literary artists who observed life with keen eyes and wrote about what they saw, as their widely varying temperaments enabled them to see. When I myself became a writer, it was these whom I chose to follow, as best I could, and not the aggressive moralists.

SJW is a form of aggressive moralism. Nazism, which is an attempt to mold far-right values to a Leftist-style ideological structure, makes that same error (which became fatal for it). Similarly Communism and Socialism are moral appeals, meaning that they base themselves not on practical reasoning — “this works” — but on what should be, based on the feelings of individuals united into large angry groups dedicated to tearing down all people above them. Similarly, Christianity in metal attempts to be a dogmatic ideology, and so we get ludicrous songs about fighting for the Lord which like the propaganda above, present the world in black/white distinctions: one side all is goodness and purity, and the other is bad, stupid, rich and horrible.

When approaching these types in metal it is essential to see this distinction. The victimhood music of indie-rock bands for example presents us perfect, innocent, suffering victims of the type that appeared in moralist Christian literature, opposed by equally dark, evil and cruel forces of large corporations and right-wing tyrants. These overly-simplified moral models exist to make people want to be the good, and to polarize against the bad, without digging into any of the complexity of life that a realistic perspective provides. They are baby food for the brain, as manipulative as television commercials, and as deceptive as the seductions of a whore.

Art will always be better than propaganda, but people like propaganda because it makes them feel good about themselves. When you are presented with absolutes like good and evil, and those are put into simple terms of intent rather than achievement of goals, it makes every idiot shuffling in off the street into a hero just by wanting to be like the good guy in the propaganda. This is why propaganda is easily recognizable through its extreme polarization between the bad enemy scapegoat and the good virtuous long-suffering victim who is secretly a hero, just like the average person with a half-failed life wants himself to be, but will never take steps to be alone and can only do so in a large angry mob.

The assault on metal has taken many forms. During its early days, it was rock bands pretending to be metal to try to capture the authentic feel and thus the bourgeois rebel audience. Later the Christians came in, feeling that a message of evil needed to be replaced with a good one. The white power types have tried for years, often with sympathy from legitimate metal bands, but have never taken ground because metal emphasizes realism over politics. Now the SJWs — who are more similar to Communists than Nazis, but use the same methods — are trying to exact same approach. It helps to see this, recognize it as the attempted mind control that it is, and show it the door.

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Help death metal ascend the throne again

dig_on_for_victory

“If you live under a rock…” the old cliché begins, but the truth is that you can live in a glass house in the center of the world’s biggest city and still miss the obvious. Denial is the most universal of human traits, and without the application of discipline and honesty we are nothing more than “talking monkeys with car keys.”

Unless you live in denial, it is obvious to you that death metal is in a bit of a recession. That is to say: there are too many bands coupled with a lack of quality in all but a very few, which makes for the inflationary but bearish (negative) purchasing that marks a recession. As warned, rock ‘n roll assimilated death metal, the imitators came in, and now you have death metal flavored rock music with lite jazz mixed in to make it seem progressive and “deep.”

Very few people understand this because very few people stop to consider anything beyond their immediate wants. They want to be listening to good music, so they pretend what they have is good, and by doing so blind themselves to what is good and bad. This is a great way to walk right back down that evolutionary ladder, have your legs turn to nubs and then jump in the sea to become a fish. You have literally undone any higher thinking ability you have.

For those who want their music to be of actual quality, these times are grim. A few bands stand out — Blaspherian, War Master, Imprecation, Sammath, and Demoncy — while the rest fade into the background like hipsters, with each one trying so hard to be unique that it loses sight of the ability to express something deeper than aesthetic re-arranging of known ideas. Death metal bands today are like the guy with the beard, glasses, skinny jeans and snarky t-shirt who has ironically decided to wear an Iron Maiden jacket. He thinks he’s being different and unique and showing what a precious snowflake is, but when the camera zooms out he is in a group of special people who from a distance look like chaos. And that is what they are: they have no purpose, because they have replaced the idea of having purpose with the idea of looking like you have purpose.

By now, I have filtered out most of the human species. Very few care about the topic, being much more interested in their desires, judgments and feelings right now, a state which flatters their sense of self-worth, and very few more can handle the flow of words which would have been zero challenge to an eighth grader in 1950 but are complete bafflement and a threat to the ego to your average citizen in the 2010s. I have also pushed away those who want to be hipsters or other self-aggrandizing people, and been cruel to enough hopes and dreams of delusional people to shock and drive away the love-bunnies, kumbayas and other zombies of the postmodern intellectual landscape. This writing will also disturb those who depend on a system of rigid rules and strict obedience to dogma and money for their self-esteem; it requires humans who are willing to go beyond humanity and look toward reality itself, a.k.a. the results of actions by ourselves and others, for their meaning.

For those who remain: it is worth acting to put death metal back on top. It is surprisingly easy to do so. But you will have to get out of your comfort zones. What you must do will be revealed in the second part of this article, coming soon.

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How to kick metal into overdrive

andres_segovia-shredding

In a saner world, all children approaching the age of purchasing their own music would be given the 2-disc set of Andres Segovia entitled The Art of Segovia and made to listen and understand it before moving on. This collection of songs reveals not just how good music can be, but how to think about music both as technical musicianship and as art.

A collection of songs arranged and performed by Andres Segovia, this set shows instrumental prowess at its best where it seems more controlled. Most of these pieces came from composers who originally wrote either for guitar or small ensembles, and Segovia laid them out so he could play multiple melody lines on guitar over the length of each song. As a result, these songs are dense in a way that most popular music is not, in that each part relates to the previous material in the piece but seeks to not just complement but expand upon what is there. Melodies grow from a few notes to a full-fledged expression and then modify themselves with material from contrasting voices in each song, creating an effect like reading a great book where every character changes over the course of their adventures while simultaneously influencing the course of that journey. What at first sound like fills and turn-arounds are not spurious material but continuation of the song, with every note played serving some purpose and nothing extraneous or for the sake of showing off. This alone puts the lie to technical music of the current time, where a simplistic song if dressed up in recognized “hard” techniques becomes “technical,” even if those adornments contribute nothing to the song itself. The technical art here is in the writing and arrangement of the music in addition to the performance.

In addition, The Art of Segovia forces us to look at what makes a song — one medium among several for the mental process we call “art” — strike us as great instead of simply adequate plus novel. Each of these songs evokes a feeling that is both unique to the song and can be found in life itself, not a subjective sense but more a subjective perception of the objective translated into a form that any logical mind can process. This transcends the limitations of not only the medium but the human mind itself, creating a commonality based on an accurate view of reality that is nonetheless interpretive, instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator that a crowd would find pleasing. All of the tools of art — rhythm, melody, harmony and phrase — apply themselves to revealing the inner essence of a complex experience, not so much distilling it to a simple statement as walking us through its evolution and reaching a moment of clarity, then allowing it to fade away as we absorb what we have sensed.

Very few people who listen to rock, metal, jazz or blues have sat down to listen to a great work, understand it, and understand outside of its medium what makes it great. As with a great book, a great piece of music reveals something in life that we have not discovered or denied. It shows us the truth within, not creating another surface category, and in doing so makes us consider how this experience is universal to those who invest the time in understanding it. Truth meets us halfway between our perspective and the world. Great art lifts us out of the subjective, transforms the objective through not just the power of personality but the insight of talent, and delivers it to us in a form that re-discovers life with freshness through a vividly accurate portrayal that shows the hidden possibility lurking even within the mundane. When we have that level of expectation for art, the trivial novelty and diehard pandering to comfortingly familiar sounds fades away and instead we seek something of greater clarity, power and ultimately meaning. Naturally this is not popular with record labels, for whom discovering a Segovia each month is impossible, but for those who value their time and want to listen to music that shows the best of what humanity can do, The Art of Segovia gives us a yardstick against which all great albums must compare.

Not all of these will be as technical as Segovia’s playing or the writing of the composers he arranges. They do not need to be. If they uphold the same spirit of discovery and revelation that makes this art so profound, they can do so with fewer musical techniques. But if they do not live up to that understanding of what art and by extension music can be, they sound hollow in comparison to Segovia and stand no chance of comparison. The best of metal lives up to this standard and it refuses to be controlled by those who wish to dumb it down so they can sell more of it or use it to push a message. As we go into a new year, and the second half of a dubious decade, demanding metal that live up to this standard ensures that we will have less to listen to, but enjoy it more.

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Bolivian metal band mixes native instruments, modern technique

bolivia-heavy-metal
Photo: New York Times.

One of the better developments during the past decade is that it’s now acceptable to talk about heavy metal in the mainstream press as something other than entertainment. It might even have, you know, artistic or cultural value and stuff.

A recent attempt looks at the heavy metal of Bolivia, which combines native instruments with modern underground metal technique:

The band members wore black. The lead singer screamed into his microphone and whipped his long, black hair around. The guitarists clawed at their instruments. The drummer pounded with fury. And then the panpipe player took his solo, and the fans packed into the mosh pit went into a frenzy…those songs, characterized by the use of the panpipe, known as the zampoña, and a wooden flute called a quena, have a special impact among fans.

The article makes the point that the hybrid style is more accepted among many of the people there, and that it directly references Incan cultural ideas including the ancient moral code that still lives on today in Bolivia.

Our question is: if it’s art, culture and morality there, why isn’t it art, culture and morality here?

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