Tag Archives: America

Osama bin Laden and the power of nightmares

A couple of days ago, I read what in retrospect was a fortuitously timed article on CNN.com. After detailing Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora, Tim Lister ended by noting that OBL probably wasn’t hiding in the ‘tribal’ area on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border at all. He reckoned that the fugitive might be holed-up in the wilds of Kunar, a remote zone that includes places where “no man has set foot”.┬áLister was, as we know today, only half right. Osama bin Laden was actually hiding near Islamabad in what seems to have been relative comfort. He was shot dead last night by US special forces.

So the era of bin Laden at #1 on the FBI’s most wanted list (he was already there when the September 11th 2001 attacks happened), is over. I can’t help but feel that it makes little difference now. Because America has already accepted mortal head wounds as ‘justice’, permanent internment camps as ‘security’, and permanent war as normality.

Adam Curtis’s film “The Power of Nightmares” dealt with the twin forces of militant Islamism and neo-conservatism that ended up shaping much of the current geopolitical landscape. Together (and they must always be taken together, for they needed each other desperately), they succeeded in causing probably over a million deaths, most of which occurred in the middle-east. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend that you try to get hold of a copy. UPDATE: As Erik points out in the comments below, the film is available to watch or download for free at the Internet Archive.

If all this is making you nostalgic for the days of “Get this!” Iberian Notes, check out this online novel which features a familiar-sounding character. It’s eerie.

More national policy soon. Until then, sleep well: they haven’t invented their new nightmare yet.

Harmolodics

Aged 13, free jazz was something I couldn’t understand. It sounded to me like Iggy Pop’s description of punk rock: it sounded to me like “a load of trashy old noise”.

I hadn’t realised that it was in fact “the brilliant music of a genius”.

That genius, Ornette Coleman, is one of the key proponents of free jazz and the inventor of harmolodics, a music theory associated with the avant-garde music scene, dedicated to freeing composers and performers from the rigid structures and rules prevalent in the western tradition.

It is a theory employed in rock music too. Yes, this is about Royal Trux. Talking about harmolodics, Neil Hagerty says:

“harmolodics is not a comprehensive controlling or rigid philosophy (at least not to rock and roll) but almost a substitute for that language and efforts to control music (which is an entirely abstract thing) and make a metaphor of it. It returns the composition back to the musician and allows each musician to select functions for their labours rather than solicit a class of intervention because of the misconceptions that always arise when music meets commerce.”

Harmolodics, together with jazz as a whole, deserves recognition as one of the great gifts America has given to the world. It’s about music without the rules, and it sounds all the better for it. For me, its influence on Royal Trux’s music is magnificent: they forced me to listen to music in a new way. I still find it hard to completely understand it, but harmolodic theory lies behind some of my favourite music. So let’s hear it for Ornette Coleman and harmolodics!