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Anti-Sound and Non-Silence

Few of us were surprised to discover that experimental music in general, and Guitar and Plunger Studios in particular, is at the epicentre of a perfectly spherical crystalline universe surrounded by a swirling non-reality called the Non Ens, most likely the thrashing anti-malevolent Ancient Ones referred to in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos (see The Plunge #1).  What may have not been clear is exactly how a harmless little hobby like music could be so connected to the Next Coming of the Dark Ones, and why it is the experimentalists who are tools of Chaos, and not the metalheads as everyone believes.

1) Music is Not in a Vacuum

“Music has been shown to have marked effects on the ill, the emotionally disturbed, the mentally disabled and the profoundly insane.   Music can increase the growth in plants or even the activity in yogurt cultures... Musak has been proven to make us buy things. White noise can increase productivity in the workplace.  Annoying sounds emanate from certain areas of shopping malls to help corral people into the stores.”1

Music is a powerful tool; in the wrong hands, it can wreak havoc; in the right hands, it can heal flesh.  But what is it?  Traditional Western music has been a buncha notes played together to create harmonies that sound good together.  Weak.   Powerful as it may be, traditional Western music is a self-deception, a doomed attempt to re-order sounds, to exert power over the friction of the universe. Western music strives to conquer; play it this way.  

But music is not in a vacuum, it is in an environment.  To attempt such fascist sound-delegation is to ignore the ‘imperfections’ that occur in a recording, in a performance, in the listening environs, in the head of the listener. The only ‘perfection’ is the perfection of the stars, and they are fixed to the edge of the universe, while we are smack bang in the middle.  The centre of the universe is not the place for celestial harmonies, but for the hum and click of Nature.  To call someone coughing during a performance of ‘Les Miserables’ undesirable, is to deny the true vibrations of the Universe, and insist upon a Nature that is Unnatural.   

2) Shut up and Listen

Music, then, is sounds, all sounds, the sounds of life.  The only thing that changes when someone walks in from the sounds of the street and puts on their Aretha Franklin is that that perceiver has changed their sound-classifying mind-set and is ready to pay attention.   Music is anything in life that is marked by this perceptual change.

“For living takes place each instant and that instant is always changing.  The wisest thing to do is to open one’s ears immediately and hear a sound suddenly before one’s thinking has a chance to turn it into something logical, abstract or symbolical.”2

That is the experiment in experimental music; less about the composer than the perceptions of the listener; or more truly, the possibilities of those perceptions.  The Plunger label (certainly not only, but definitely) encourages music that is less about creating a permanent piece than recording one chunk of life in which particular (unplanned) combinations of sounds co-existed; experimental music is more about “outlining a situation in which sounds may occur, a process of generating action (sound or otherwise), afield delineated by certain compositional ‘rules’.”3  The task is not to bring some sort of Celestial Perfection out of the chaos of life, but to promote a realisation of the listener’s own biological orderings; rejecting the idea of an ‘artist’ who makes something beyond the world of ‘ordinary things’; instead, appreciate the ‘ordinary things’ for what they are to you.   

‘Ordinary’ sounds are just as ‘composed’ as any music, composed by the resonance of a reed in the wind, which is composed by the structure of both the reed and the air, in turn composed by the intricacies of electrochemical reactions and self-sorting systems; ad infinitum.  And sound waves, primal vibrations in the fabric of the universe itself, “effect us in real, organic ways.  They are not just ideas.  They are physical events... Sound has a direct effect on the way our brain functions.”4    

And why not?  We too vibrate to the universe’s rhythm.  The Big Bang was the first and loudest sound ever, the echoes of which make every possible sound we hear today. Anything we can hear now is just Bang echo, reverberations wobbling the Ether that connects us all.  Is this pre-Bang-state what the Ancient Ones want the Universe returned to?  Tape the big bang, play it backwards; that’s what they want.

3) Or Maybe Not

Perhaps. The Universe is a field, bound by certain rules; any sound within it is the music of itself. But what is the sound of the Non Ens?   Obviously, it must sound like everything that we can’t hear within the Universe. The greatest challenge of any experimental musician is to try to capture those sounds, those sounds that do not exist; and to hear the sounds that cannot be made within the universe, you need to stop listening with yourears.

“The way to use music to change consciousness is to bring new resonances to the brain.  New rhythms and textures create new patterns.  Thrown off-balance, even temporarily, the mind gets busy.  It frees the consciousness to explore new territory.”5

And, of course, this territory is the Non Ens, where the Ancient Ones un-dwell.  The fractal holism of the Universe is nothing compared to the post-fractal nonism of the Non Ens; the Ancient Ones can get you high.   The Experimentalist sets up the field for possible sounds, and then switches their perception to LISTEN, rather than PERFORM.  Tribes since the dawn of time have used chanting, rhythms, sounds to connect with the Ancient Ones and misunderstand their meaningless messages, using the exact same techniques:

“As with any soundmaking, the most important thing is to listen.  Your consciousness will not change if it is not open.   In this case, you must be open to the sound.  This means you should relax and listen.  Do not bear down with your own sound.  Listen, and resonate with the sound that is around you...  Listen to every sound.  Create a fabric of resonances that intertwine with each other.  You can graduate to tribal instruments like drums, kalimbas, flutes, and bells if you wish.  But remember: you are not playing instruments in order to make music.  You are playing and listening.”6

The Non Ens has often been mistaken for Sin, Rebellion and Satan, and represented by the number 13.   Of course, it is not Satan; it is not anyone; nor anything.  It is everything else.   The black metal bands have felt the Non Ens, have touched it, but it scared them so much they had to keep playing metal riffs.   The Ancient Ones are not Satan, nor Yog-sothoth, nor the Everlasting Absu.  They are the No-Things that inspired them all, and you can hear them by tuning out of the tones of the universe, vibrating through the fractal ether like the last few drifting chords of an earthquake,  and tuning in to the negative frequencies of everything else.  Listen to the gaps between the notes, and you’ll hear the resonances of the Spheres; listen to all the sounds thatcould fill those gaps, and you might just hear the Void beyond.  

You’ll know it if you do.

(first published in The Plunge #3, now out of print)

1. Stoned Free: How to Get High without Drugs, Wells and Rushkoff, 1995, page 19
2. John Cage, 1952, in Experimental Music: Cage and beyond, Nyman, 1974, page 1
3. Experimental Music: Cage and beyond, Nyman, 1974, page 3
4. Stoned Free: How to Get High without Drugs, Wells and Rushkoff, 1995, page 20
Stoned Free: How to Get High without Drugs, Wells and Rushkoff, 1995, page 24
6. Stoned Free: How to Get High without Drugs, Wells and Rushkoff, 1995, page 22
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