CFP: [Medieval] Glossator - Black Metal - CFP

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Nicola Masciandaro
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Glossator 7: Black Metal Commentary
Volume editors: Nicola Masciandaro and Reza Negarestani
Call for Proposals

And thereafter I saw the darkness changing into a watery substance, which
was unspeakably tossed about, and gave forth smoke as from fire; and I
heard it making an indescribable sound of lamentation.â€"Corpus Hermeticum

NIGHT.]â€"George Bataille

The burning corpse of god shall keep us warm in the doom of howling winds
For we are a race from beyond the wanderers of night.â€"Xasthur

The editors of Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary
( seek proposals for a themed issue on Black Metal, to
be published in the fall of 2012. In keeping with the journal’s focus and
scope, contributions may take the following forms, with strict priority
given to the former: 1) original commentaries on music, lyrics, images, or
events within the Black Metal genre; 2) articles or essays investigating
relationships between Black Metal and commentary. The editors have a
special desire for dense, rich, copious commentaries, as the generous
publication time frame permits. Collaboration is also encouraged.
“Commentary” should be understood in its traditional senses (catena,
commentum, gemara, glossa, hypomnema, midrash, peser, pingdian, scholia,
tafsir, talkhis, tika, vritti, zend, zhangju, et al.) and in light of the
following guidelines:

1. A commentary focuses on a single object (text, image, event, etc.) or
portion thereof.
2. A commentary does not displace but rather shapes itself to and preserves
the integrity, structure, and presence of its object.
3. The relationship of a commentary to its object may be described as both
parallel and perpendicular. Commentary is parallel to its object in that it
moves with or runs alongside it, following the flow of reading it.
Commentary is perpendicular to its object in that it pauses or breaks from
reading it in order to comment on it. The combination of these dimensions
gives commentary a structure of continuing discontinuity, which allows it
to be consulted or read intermittently rather than start to finish.
4. Commentary tends to maintain a certain quantitative proportion of itself
vis-à-vis its object. This tendency corresponds to the practice of "filling
up the margins" of a text.
5. Commentary, as a form of discourse, tends to favor and allow for the
multiplication of meanings, ideas, and references. Commentary need not, and
often does not, have an explicit thesis or argument. This tendency gives
commentary a ludic or auto-teleological potential.

At the same time, the editors welcome formal and disciplinary innovation
within the commentary genre. Commentaries may be philosophical, poetic,
critical, historical, philological, etc. or some combination thereof.
More specifically, we encourage proposals for work that draws inspiration
from and explores the spaces of contact between commentary and Black Metal.
Such as:

Vacuum/Void/Abyss: Black Metal and commentary share concern with explicitly
spatial forms of emptiness and absence, and with the horror/joy/creativity
of being before them. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht finds a relation to emptiness
as the context for commentary’s imminent return: “The vision of the empty
chip constitutes a threat, a veritable horror vacui not only for the
electronic media industry but also, I suppose, for our intellectual and
cultural self-appreciation. It might promote, once again, a reappreciation
of the principle and substance of copia. And it might bring about a
situation in which we will no longer be embarrassed to admit that filling
up margins is what commentaries mostly doâ€"and what they do best” (The
Powers of Philology). Black Metal similarly fills voids, sounds abysses
with its sonic/verbal/visual representations of them. So they share a
deeper function beyond explanation/representation, namely, to multiply
explanation and representation fractally, to generate more and more
perceptual enclosures, spaces within which the
unexplainable/unrepresentable is brought into presence.

Liminality/Marginality: Black Metal and commentary situate themselves, and
derive power by operating from, margins of genre, history, ideology,
knowledge. Both enjoy “unofficial” cultural status. Both destabilize, by
holding intimate relation to, categories of the center: truth,
onto-theology, “God.” Both enjoy forms of authority that are fundamentally
ambivalent, safe from attack in a space of irrelevance, yet therefore
capable of perfect incursions, the most dangerous unrecognizable raids.

Avant-Garde: The expansion of the margin and the perforation of the
boundary associated with Black Metal and commentary provide both with a
vanguard front capable of exposing the established order to the corrosive
influence of the outside and affecting any outside-oriented determination
with the non-escapist influence of the established. To put it differently,
since the zone of operation for both Black Metal and commentary is the
margin, by expanding the margin of the established order they increasingly
expose it to the influence of the beyond. Yet since they also perforate the
boundaries, they establish an affect between the beyond and the center. The
vanguard in Black Metal and commentary does not merely set itself against
the status quo in order to make difference (the hallmark of modernism) but
rather operates as a form of resistance which is bent on conjuring the
potentialities of what has already been grounded and bringing about the
obstructed possibilities of beyond within the established (primary text,
world, idea, etc.). The modernist determination against the status quo
presumes an emancipatory sublime which adheres to the modernist temporality
of progress and the possibility of unilateral determination against the
established. For Black Metal, however, this unilateral determination as the
vector of modernism is too reliant on the initial possibility of a
unilateral separation from the established gravity and the promise of an
escape or access to the outside free from the influence of what is already
there. Breaking from such promises, Black Metal resorts to action whose
scene is here, within and in relation to what is already there, its
initiation is not dependent on a hypothetical opportunity, its resources
are limited to what is available and its line of determination deflects
inward in the direction of what is already there. Black Metal, in this
sense, confounds the distinction between expression and praxis. For Black
Metal as well as commentary, the deferral of aesthetic or ideological
resolution is not compatible with the concrete and conciliatory model of
the sublime developed by despotic, fascist and racist movements. Since a
notion of the sublime that belongs to another time and is dependent on a
promised opportunity or the fulfillment of an initial possibility is prone
to ethico-political manipulations, both genres grasp the avant-garde
through reworking of the sublime as “beyond within” (Lyotard, Lessons on
the Analytic of the Sublime).

Arcana/Enclosure: The nexus of erudition and the esoteric. Commentary and
Black Metal collude in perverse attachment to sedimentary, occult lore, to
what is buried in books, and more generally in relations to lore as buried,
in need of excavation. This shared loric perversity may be understood on
the analogy of archaeology, as a discipline which unearths so as to reinter
in the tombs and vaults of its own expertise, which understands by
entombing itself in a relation to the object as artifact. So, like the
alchemical manuscript, itself often the story of another found-and-lost
text, commentary makes itself available via indirection, not generally but
for those who want to know, who love to follow the multiplying referential
labyrinths of knowing. Similarly, Black Metal delves into obscure
discourses only to sing them through the dark veils of its own trobar clos,
so as to produce and enjoy itself as a hidden relation to the hidden.
Hermetic, subterranean, semi-anonymous, Black Metal and commentary pursue
parallel adventures in conspiratorial and melancholic epistemic conditions,
in erotic relation to their objects as always already lost. At the same
time, commentary and black metal, by pro-ducing their arcane or enclosed
condition, by bringing it into presence as art, also keep open and play in
freedom from it, as modeled in Robert Burton’s melancholic and
melancholy-curing commentarial Anatomyâ€"“I write of melancholy, by being
busy to avoid melancholy”â€"and in the black bile-sweetening musicâ€"“a certain
melancholy disposition . . . made sweet for us by frequent use of the lyre”
(Letters)â€"of the saturnine occultist commentator Marsilio Ficino, who
understood “that the melancholy man was uniquely suited to perform the
talismanic incantations which he believed were capable of liberating the
spirit from the world of appearances” (Robin Headlam Wells, “John Dowland
and Elizabethan Melancholy”). Haunted by the principle of ignotum per
ignotius as its own logical spectre, the clarifying-by-complicating and
explicating-by-obfuscating movement of commentary, which is captured in
Montaigne’s complaint that “everything swarms [fourmille] with
commentaries,” is analogous to Black Metal as a motion/anti-motion of
artistic expression that articulates from and through enclosure, or, as
Dante knew, bubbles to the surface from black depths: “Fixed in the slime
they say: ‘We were sullen in the sweet air gladdened by the sun, bearing
within us the sluggish fumes [accidioso fummo]; now we are sullen in the
black mire.’ This hymn they gurgle in their throats [si gorgoglian] ne la
strozza, for they cannot speak it in full words” (Inferno 7.121-6).

Necrology: Black Metal is usually characterized among its followers and
opponents by its ambivalent relationship with death and decay to such an
extent that it is often said that the only protagonists in Black Metal are
festering corpses. It is the ambivalent relationship of Black Metal with
death that gives rise to the most criticized aspect of Black Metal, namely,
necromanticism. As a part of vitalistic investment in death, necromanticism
involves a liberalist or hedonistic openness toward death in the form of a
simultaneously economical and libidinal synthesis between desire and death.
Capable of safe guarding the innermost political, economical and libidinal
recesses of vitalism, necromanticism simultaneously enchants the necrotic
Other with the charm of animation and romanticizes a vitalistic escape
through death. Yet Black Metal can also be approached from a more twisted
and colder intimacy with death, an impersonal realm where the already-dead
finds its voice in the living. The voice of the living, in this case,
bespeaks of dejection from a world for which vitalistic ideas are spurious,
yet they cannot be simply disillusioned or disenchanted by recourse to
death in the form of utter annihilation or solution as termination. Black
Metal, in its lyrics, sounds and performances, simultaneously presents the
impossibility of this recourse and vitalism’s precarious position through
the concept of blackening or decay. Aside from Black Metal's necromanticism
which usually takes on a medieval gloss, Black Metal's ambivalent
relationship with death and decay corresponds with medieval necrology which
appears in commentaries of scholastic theology and natural philosophy. More
than just assuming a successive role for the medieval commentaries on
death, decomposition and macabre, Black Metal can also be examined as a
unique genre capable of disinterring the necrological dimensions of
commentary. It is in commentary that the dead is impersonally animated
according to its own laws and not by the laws of the living. Both Black
Metal and commentary genre internalize the concept of decomposition and
infinite decay by putting to the test the tolerance or the limit of the
world, a text or an idea without completely erasing or silencing it. Here,
commentary and Black Metal respectively correspond with an
interminableâ€"therefore a limit processâ€"explication or disintegration of a
primary source. Such a limit process constitutes the basic principle of
decay in which the object degenerates to no end without returning to its
constitutive elements (a better and older world), or without becoming
silent and ceasing to exist.

Problematicity: Rather than seeking resolving solutions, both Black Metal
and the commentary genre operate as functions of the problem. Their
approach to their objects, themes, ideas and genres is characterized by
relentless problematization. They do not resolve the problematic situations
but rather contribute to the internal tension of the problem. Quite
literally, they situate themselves as problematical entities. The internal
duplicities of Black Metal toward death, (anti-)humanism and extremities
are the consequence of such problematical nature which requires means of
investigation and commentary other than pejorative, purifying and
absolving. Where other musical genres are constantly tempted towards
justification and purification (musical, philosophical, aesthetical, etc.),
Black Metal tends to bask in the speculative glory of the problematic.

Praxis: Whatever their utility, commentary and Black Metal intersect in an
essential anti-instrumentality. Commentary and Black Metal make useful,
enjoyable products, but their production of them is determined by various
kinds of counterimpulses that would unmake production as such, that would
perform it freely, at once for itself and for nothing. For commentary,
anti-instrumentality shows up primarily in the way it is pursued as praxis,
as a way of being with a text that only produces the commentary as a record
or residue of an essentially relational “extra-textual” experience, like
the reader’s marginalia, so often not written to be read. But this negative
production, production as residue or waste, is exactly commentary’s
fertility. Formed of the accumulated impressions of innumerable actions and
reactions to the text, commentary accomplishes nothing and so becomes
capable of everything. As waves are to the stones that caused them, the
gloss is to what it glosses, spreading out in unending uniqueness from the
page’s unmarkable center, giving witness to depths the undisturbed,
undefaced surface cannot. Commentary thus materializes a form of
consciousness that may be understood as phenomenological, following Gaston
Bachelard’s understanding of the reverberation of the poetic image as an
experience whereby being realizes itself in a movement of reading becoming
writing: “Through this reverberation, by going immediately beyond all
psychology or psychoanalysis, we feel a poetic power rising naïvely within
us. After the original reverberation, we are able to experience
resonances, sentimental repercussions, reminders of our past. But the
image has touched the depths before it stirs the surface. And this is also
true of a simple experience of reading. The image offered us by reading
the poem now becomes really our own. It takes root in us. It has been
given us by another, but we begin to have the impression that we could have
created it, that we should have created it. It becomes a new being in our
language, expressing us by making us what it expresses; in other words, it
is at once a becoming of expression, and a becoming of our being. Here
expression creates being” (Poetics of Space). For Black Metal,
anti-instrumentality shows up above all in its paradoxical nihilistic
visions of itself, in the identity of being a useless and alienated
activity (given the futility of all things and in particular pathetic
humanity’s imminent demise) that is yet ordered as agency towards the
apocalypse and/or universal transformation which renders its own production
futile. Whence, for instance, Mortifer’s account of Abonus Noctis’s latest
release as producing in the listener the event it narrates: “Penumbral
Inorgantia is a chronicling of a man's journey to ancient underground
kingdoms haunted by the inhuman entities that once dwelt therein. He must
seek their arcane instruments to rid earth of all organic life after
sinking into the abysmal pools of their souls to shed his human frame and
assume an elevated, blackened, and immortal state of being, enabling him to
eternally reign over the desolation he has created. Each song represents a
specific stage in his journey and shall consequently engulf the listener in
an experience of metamorphosis into inhumanity”

Possession: In Black Metal, all elements from musical to vocal and visual
must reflect the voice of the outsider, the indifferent or even the hostile
and the incompatible. The explicit distortions and to some extent
theatrical discordance of Black Metal are the outcome of the genre's
embracing of possession as a conceptual and structural determinant.
Referred to by Oesterreich as the “terrible spectacle” (Possession:
Demoniacal and Other), possession not only suggests the usurpation of one's
voice qua possession but also draws a vector of determination that moves
from outside to the inside in order to dismantle the self or turn its zone
of activity inside-out. It has been objected that since commentary does not
necessarily ground a thesis of its own and is basically determined by an
external thetic framework (someone else's possession), it is inherently
deficient for hosting radical thinking. Yet this is exactly what makes
commentary genre a playground for ascesis of thought, for it determines
thinking in relation to that which does not belong to the thinker and is
indeed exterior to it. In doing so, commentary simultaneously disturbs the
hegemonic harmony between reflection and thinking-for-and-by-oneself, and
aligns itself with the true contingency of thinking for which the necessity
of the thinker does not have an anterior position or a privileged locus. It
is in commentary genre that thinking transmits both voices and contents
which are exterior to the thinker yet they do not enjoy a pre-established
status either, because commentary entails the concomitant possession of the
primary source by an outsider's voice and thereby, creates a speculative
opportunity for thinking and writing on behalf of no one. What is usurped
in possession is belonging per seâ€"as an appurtenant bond between
partiesâ€"rather than the possession of someone else on behalf of another.
Both Black Metal and commentary regard possession as the true vocation of
art and thinking.
Nota Bene: 400-500-word proposals should be sent via email to Proposals should indicate the scope, form, and length
of the intended work. Deadline: March 1, 2009.

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Received on Wed Oct 29 2008 - 11:18:03 EST