The Aesthetics of Noise

Torben Sangild writes:

Apollo represents appearance, form, individuality, beauty and dream; the Apollonian aesthetics is an embellishment of suffering, a self-conscious lie, a veiling of cruelty by use of form and elegance, a semblance of beauty. Dionysus, on the other hand, represents ecstasy, being, will, intoxication and unity; the Dionysian aesthetics is a direct confrontation with the terrible foundation of being, an absurd will driving us all in our meaningless lives. In the Dionysian ecstasy individuality is transgressed6 in favor of identification with the universal will – a frightening yet blissful experience. Frightening, that is, because it is a death-like giving up of the Ego, if only for a few seconds; blissful in letting go of the responsibilities of being a subject. The Dionysian experience is a “metaphysical comfort”, knowing that suffering is a necessary part of the effects of the eternal will – the destruction of things in order to create anew. In the Dionysian ecstasy one is no longer concerned with one’s individual suffering, seeing instead things from the universal point of view.

In music, the ecstasy of noise is undoubtedly a Dionysian effect, as opposed to the Apollonian melody and form.7 As mentioned above, the German words Rausch (ecstasy) and Geräusch (noise) are related, pointing towards this fact. The Dionysian is that which is not totally controlled or formed, e.g. screams and noises. The Apollonian elements are seductive, inciting the listener to enter the ecstatic bliss of the Dionysian, enabling the listener to dare the confrontation with the dreadfulness of existence. Therefore, Nietzsche says, the Dionysian needs the Apollonian.

Merzbow is so demanding exactly because he refuses this; he does not soften the harshness of noise with any Apollonian elements. Listening to Merzbow is thus a very different experience from the Sonic Youth maelstrom.

One of the reasons for the ecstatic effect of noise is its sublime character. The sublime is that which exceeds the limits of the senses, perceived as chaos or vastness. Despite our ability to put these words to it, the sublime goes beyond making sense – we never really understand it. The complexity of noise (in the acoustic sense) overloads the ears and the nervous system and is perceived as an amorphous mass, incomprehensible yet stirring. The delight of the sublime is the satisfaction of confronting the unfathomable.

Full Story: Ubu Web: The Aesthetics of Noise

(Thanks Adam and Ryan!)

One hundred years since the death of Friedrich Nietzsche: a review of his ideas and influence

World Socialist Web Site’s Nietzsche retrospective from 2000:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

(Thanks Nick Hate)

A very good set of essays, if unfair to Nietzsche’s work as a whole. The third part is the weakest. Steinberg obviously has an axe to grind with the post-structuralists et al. and that’s fine. But it’s perfectly reasonable to agree with some things a philosopher wrote and disagree with others. Nietzsche was clearly a reactionary, but does he offer nothing of worth?

Apologists for Nietzsche seek to distance him from the policy and activities of the Nazis. But is Nietzsche’s position here so remote from Adolph Hitler’s entreaty, in an internal NSDAP memo of 1922, for the: “most uncompromising and brutal determination to destroy and liquidate Marxism”? Adolph Hitler was certainly no philosopher, just as Nietzsche was not merely a political ideologue. But who can reasonably doubt that the former had little difficulty in seamlessly incorporating the latter’s thoroughly backward-looking programme of biological racism, hatred of socialism and the concept of social equality—together with his advocacy of militarism and war—into the eclectic baggage of ideas which constituted the programme of National Socialism?

Here Steinberg is correct: there’s no reason to put lipstick on a pig. Nietzsche held some reprehensible views and to pretend otherwise is either dishonest or naive.

I’m reminded of the conversation we had about H.P. Lovecraft’s racism: some racists get a pass, others don’t. I caught some flak about posting the complete text of Might is Right here, but I doubt I would have heard a peep if I’d posted the complete text of On the Genealogy of Morals.

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