Saturday, April 5, 2008

Is Doom Music High Culture?

I realize one could make a pun from my question above, but, seriously, can doom music be considered on the same level of art as, say, the music of Berlioz, Beethoven, or Strauss? I recently found a discussion on one of Hellride's forums where this question was discussed. Here is an excerpt which I found to be particularly poignant:
doom metal, when it is played properly and with sincerity, plumbs the same depths as a poem by holderlin, rilke or early goethe for me. it is the most poetic medium in heavy music, the most introspective, the most introverted (in jung's terminology at least), the most pensive. of course all this can, if taken too far, become lachrymose mawkishness, but i do think that great doom, like poetry, demands a great deal from the listener as it siphons and communicates sentiments that we try to obscure in our quotidian existences, doom makes you look inwards. as john has suggested, i think something like the new WARNING album crystallizes an ephemeral sentiment and transmutes it into sonic poetry..i think there is something aeschylean about this, it's the courage to stare deep into the chasm of human experience and embrace it. that's why the new WARNING album is so cathartic, it's simultaneously affirmation and unfettering, nietzsche's ''yes'' and reconciliation with suffering.

in contradistinction to this you can compare something like thrash, which often involves itself in (sometimes poorly phrased and arbitrary) socio-political concerns or black metal, which is mired in imagery that has become so threadbare it has been lampooned. the primary reason why heavy metal has become an object of derision for so many is because it can so often seem inauthentic (in heideggerian terms), it operates within a circumscribed set of norms (ie black metal bands have their own uniforms and jargon, not to say that doom metal is exempt from this) and can come across as disingenuous with its slew of inherited opinions, ideologies, posturing, etcetera. real doom metal is sort of like the phenomenologist's heavy music- getting back to the ''things in themselves'': pure sensation, all the pain of personhood, alienation and mortality, a priori afflictions that come before our secondary concerns with politics, religion and the like.

i don't think you can be apathetic towards a song like ''the skull'', ''spectre'', ''dying inside'' in the same way that you can be indifferent towards the politics, redundant sacrilege and abstruse mystical mumbo-jumbo of some other heavy metal. form and content are indivisible in truly great doom music, they are inextricably interwoven. i think a lot of music (and a lot of other media like bad books and bad movies) is unilateral- the listener stands back and consumes the music passively, like a receptacle for sensory stimuli. doom demands something from you, because its voice is so naked, immediate and so honest. it is like a wholly present Other that REQUIRES you to respond, to reciprocate, and that's why one cultivates such an intimate relationship with his favorite doom records, and why one feels like he KNOWS the lyricist involved after some time.

in all of music i think only wagner (though not all wagner) and beethoven have touched me so much, like i've had a truly personal communion with the artist, as though the art has been conceived specifically for me. i don't know if this makes it ''high culture'', and i guess i've gone off on all sorts of tangents here, but i have tried to articulate just why it remains my favorite form of music.

think of rilke's nineth elegy:
"Here is the time for the Tellable, here is its home.
Speak and proclaim. More than ever
Things we can live with are falling away, for that
which is oustingly taking their place is an imageless act.
Act under crusts, that will readily split as soon
as the doing within outgrows them and takes a new outline...

...These things that live on departure
Understand when you praise them: fleeting, they look for
rescue through something in us, the most fleeting of all.
Want us to change them entirely, within our invisible
into- oh, endlessly- into ourselves! Whosoever we are."

for me, doom rescues us from ''acting under crusts'', the carapace of insincerity and inauthenticity. it is the DEMAND for honesty, first of all with ourselves and the transience of things. it rescues the ephemera of emotions from being forgotten, transmutes them.

and "To Music"
"Music: breathing of status. Perhaps:
Stillness of pictures. You speech, where speeches
end. You time,
vertically poised on the courses of vanishing hearts.
Feelings for what? Oh, you transformation
of feelings landscape!
You stranger: Music. Space that's outgrown us,
heart-space. Innermost ours,
that, passing our limits, outsurges,-..."

i feel like that poem was written for doom metal!
pardon the prolix and arty response.
No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
- Shelley
Last edited by Equimanthorn666 : 11-17-2007 at 01:45 PM.
Read the entire discussion here.


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