The sound was fast, loud and shrill. What more could you want from a basement performance of “Living after Midnight” by four teenage boys from Detroit? Judas Priest‘s metal masterpiece is custom-made for this type of rudimentary but enthusiastic playing. And that sound certainly felt good at the time. Even defiant and rebellious. I remenber telling the guys that they sounded “fuckin’ amazing” and so they did. The atmosphere that night was close and thick with the celebration of youth and friendship.
Writer and philosopher, Christopher Hedges tells us that it is the role of art/music in the human experience to be transcendental. “It’s about dealing with what we call the non-rational forces in human life, those forces that are absolutely essential to being whole as a human being but not quantifiable“. The music reminding us “who we are, why we’re struggling and what life is about“. And let’s be clear, the “struggling” that Hedges is referring to is the rebellion of a faithful resistance. It’s the voices of the truly oppressed. Those voices that have not been silenced despite decades of manipulation, economic sanctions, and, mostly, violence. In it’s finest form, art is the language of humanity deprived of hope but without surrendering their humanity. Music is the language of a higher spritual order that will never succumb to tyranny. The “not quantifiable” factor is the the essence of this resistant and rebellious soul. And the nobility of continuing that resistance when all hope is gone and a people are truly alone.
That rebellious spirt is at the heart of Jim O’Rourke‘s compositional-album, Shutting Down Here. A fully realized revoluntionary nobility and a subversive act. Purposely rejecting the rather limited dialogue provide by the western traditions of melody, tone and harmony. For this reason, some will struggle to reach beyond their assumptions regarding music or beauty or attraction. But we must move beyond this type of thinking. To qoute Rene Guenon‘s Crisis of the Modern World, “So long as western people imagine that there is only one “civilization”…no mutal understanding is possible”.
If ever there was music that told a complex story of our past, present and future, Shutting Down Here reflects all that we struggle to subvert. Firstly, let’s understand that this isn’t a linear story. There are no trite tales of witchy “Dreams” or millionaires pleading for us to “take it easy“. O’Rourke creates an abstract collage of sounds, colors and textures from which we see our own broken yet rebellious existence. Those lost feeling of suppressed beauty and desires unfilled resurface as we carry them within. And there is the deep admission that we have not always acted bravely within those moments.
Shutting Down Here is a ghostly trip through these forgotten passageways. A late night visit from a spirt whose intentions are never really clear. The sound of piano, violin and trumpet circling around an aural enviroment that feels both strange and oddly familiar. As if a photo-negatives of the past and future were placed before us in random order. And we must choose carefully and be true to ourselves as we walk through these struggles. Each section of this amazing record can be inescapabliy personal with a devilish melancholia lingering underneath. Rarely does music or art identify so personally on this level. This is our singular journey and the rules have not been written for us. We can bid farwell without being destroyed. And the depth of all we have seen together is still there in that place. Our place and only ours.
It is worth noting that the creation of Shutting Down Here was part of a series of releases called the “Portraits of GRM” with a 30 year gap-in-time between O’Rourke’s first visit to the GRM Studios (which was called the Groupe de Recherche de Misique Concrete until 1958) and the follow-up recording. Amazingly, the composition and recording is seamless. The two periods melting together by the instrumental playing of Eivind Lonning on Trumpet, Eiko Ishibashi on piano and Atsuko Hatano on violin. The avant-acoustic playing of the musicans is liquefied together with the experimental use of silence, found-enviroment recordings and smooth electronic texturing. The harmony and chaos of sound is a true discovery that takes us on a journey through our own struggling, rebellious spirit.
Go now. You have some listening to do.