Nietzsche would have none of it
I regret to inform my devoted popolo that I am temporarily abandoning the proposed paper on Coltrane’s late music and its usefulness for those on the frontlines of the fight against modernity. Although it seems straightforward enough – a quick summation of modern music, its ascending and descending properties, its racial/national characteristics, and its magical ability to keep us “thinking modern” through structures, notes, chords, melodies, and harmonies (a grammar for the instincts!), all with only a superficial knowledge of music theory – the project ran aground when it became apparent that Nietzsche would have none of it.
Some of you chastise my devotion to Nietzsche, and rightfully so (not really). But Nietzsche had to be central to the paper, for how could I write on music and modernity without using his ideas on both? I said before that Nietzsche had much to say about anti-bourgeois music. In fact, he had too much to say! He says music is the playground of the passions, that it shapes the instincts. Sometimes it is metaphysical, but usually it is merely human. Sometimes it reflects modern decadence, but it most certainly can work against it.
Like physiology, music runs through the entirety of Nietzsche’s written work. But unlike physiology, Nietzsche’s ideas about music – and what makes it either indispensible or harmful to transvaluation – changed with each phase of his thought. This had much to do with his break with Wagner, and this is a problem for me, for I know too little of Wagner from any perspective but Nietzsche’s. And, while I trust and adore that perspective completely, it would still be disingenuous to discuss Wagner as if I really know his work.
PVLCHRVM EST PAVCORVM HOMINVM
Speaking anecdotally on Nietzsche, however, it is clear that in whatever terms he critiques and transvalues modernity, he critiques and values its music. Music that is overly sentimental, nationalistic, hysterical, or vulgar meets the same fate as anything else he so describes. Music that is designed for easy consumption by a thankful mob of philistines is of value only to such a mob. This kind of music Nietzsche discusses like modern art in general: as a diversionary salve or intoxicant for the exhausted and empty soul of the modern workhorse. It’s not that Nietzsche doesn’t sympathize with these workhorses, but the beauty to which he aspires remains forever beyond the unworthy grasp of modern men. PVLCHRVM EST PAVCORVM HOMINVM, as he loved to quote from Horace.
Anyone who paid close attention to the characteristics of modern music that I just gleaned from Nietzsche will see a serious incompatibility with Coltrane. The pieces that I love so much seem like trite collections of modern tropes when digested with Nietzschean ears: the hysterical exaltation, the bombast, the glossolalia – it’s the black church! It’s old black women flailing about in cheap polyester suits and ugly hats! And yet, its so elitist, exclusionary, and just plain difficult to hear – and Coltrane was so maddening for communists and nationalists alike – that there must be something there for us, even if Nietzsche seemingly disagrees.
So, I started thinking about how to better make my case that Coltrane is one of us. I came back to Deleuze and Guattari, the French post-structuralist (post-everything, really) philosophers who were my first and only true love in critical theory. Without giving away the punch line, Coltrane works smashingly with their anti-hierarchical thought. Time is dissolved, territory is liberated, and desire is de-capitalized. This gave me a brilliant idea: write a paper on Nietzsche and two of his semi-heretical postmodern disciples with Coltrane as conversation piece. Even saying it now it fills me with warm radiant light – deconstructing the whole damn lot of modern decadence at the expense of two of its most critical and high-minded moralists while Nietzsche nods approvingly like a proud papa.
But . . . there’s just no time right now.
Two hippy psych-ward loving commies
Instead, what I can do is something Greg Johnson put to me last year: write a paper on D&G from a New Right perspective. He and I are both committed to making the North American New Right a counter-academy to the progressive, leftist, egalitarian, anti-racist/sexist/anti-gay citadels of civilizational/cultural exhaustion that we call universities. Taking our cue from Jonathon Bowden, we are committed to creating a space – virtual, for now (not to be overly metaphysical in opposing virtual to an actual space) – from which to challenge bourgeois hegemony.
We must make it possible for men like us to actually think differently; that is, to think beyond the terms, concepts, and grammar given us by bourgeois modernity. While Greg wants us to be able to critique the comings and goings of the contemporary world from a learnedly New Right perspective, I feel we should discriminate (heavily) against the banalities of modern life. And I’m not just talking about its multiculturalism, democratic politics, Zionist wars, hyper-consumption, and turbo-capitalism, but its very conceptual basis – the entire reality that gives form and purpose to our made-pathetic instincts.
And, while I always give credit to men like Homer, Nietzsche, and Otto for showing me how to make my home (and the bodies of me and my family) a derelict space, I must credit Deleuze and Guattari as well. It is, after all, their concept. For they truly understood what it means to be a derelict of modernity – to think completely beyond the truths, moralities, and ethics of global America. Although D&G wanted us to be derelicts of the West (its reason, ideas, ideals, and identities) I propose that we remove ourselves from an obligatory relationship with modernity, instead. In order to make such a proposal, I misread D&G, quite fundamentally, really. But, I’ve got an in – a shared love interest: Nietzsche.
Nietzsche provides the intellectual thrust of Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy. While it is unfortunate that GD’s politics are less than “great,” there has been no one of the French radical left that so clearly understands what Nietzsche demanded of us – creation! Transvaluation, in the hands of GD, becomes less about a genealogy of oppositions between the Classical world and Judeo-Christian modernity than about re-constituting the very ground of human thought. Nietzsche’s critical aversion to decadence was unknowable without the connection of slave morality to ressentiment, for ressentiment is the driving instinctual force of the slave and his metaphysical worldview/conceptual system. GD begins his philosophy at this moment – at the Genealogy of Morality’s second essay!
At the base of all of GD’s anti-metaphysical thought (perhaps the only true example of post-metaphysics in the Western canon – that’s right GD, I just included you at someone else’s expense!) is a true but radical reading of slave morality. As he says:
The instinct of revenge is the force that constitutes the essence of what we call psychology, history, metaphysics, and morality. The spirit of revenge is the genealogical element of our [i.e., modern] thought, the transcendental principle of our way of thinking. [. . .] We do not really know what a man denuded of ressentiment would be like. A man who would not accuse or depreciate existence – would he still be a man, would he think like a man? Would he not already be something other than man? To have ressentiment or to not have ressentiment – there is no greater difference, beyond psychology, beyond history, beyond metaphysics.
GD, then, demands that we think beyond the terms of the dominant conceptual, intellectual, teleological, theological, and actional systems of modernity. Otherwise we are merely slaves with new clothes. Desire, capitalism, schizophrenia, machines, and de/re-territorialization are the hallmarks of D&G’s thought. Each of them is designed to force us to think beyond ressentiment; beyond, that is, the enslavement of our minds and bodies by the forces that have made us – the 15 or so members of the New Right – the last free men on earth.
My plan is to explain what D&G are trying to do with their maddeningly complex works, to demonstrate how we might benefit from their diagnoses, and to demand a radical revision of what we are fighting to become. I have a burning desire to redeem these two hippy psych-ward loving commies! To do so, I will use their critical methods against the decadence they unfortunately celebrated – a transvaluation of a transvaluation! I will once again stress how crucial it is that we think with new concepts in order to be free from modernity’s grasp. I will show what music, philosophy, and art do to us. I will show that we must create, and not merely represent, our post-modern world – the most glorious of Nietzsche’s propositions for the Übermensch brought to life.
 Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983) pg. 35.