Last week I ran into the “blog” of Mark Sedgewick, the author of Against The Modern World, a scholarly investigation of Traditionalism that I haven’t read. On his “blog” Sedgewick puts novelties, thoughts, new leads, etc. One of these new leads is what he calls “music scene Traditionalism”, of which he writes “It is one of the most important and fastest growing forms of Traditionalism in the West today.” In the course of his investigation, he ran into an article with a similar subject in a new periodical called Journal for the study of radicalism (see volume 1, issue 2) which is published by Michigan State University. Apparently it is under editorship of Arthur Versluis who is also one of the editors of the esoteric publication of the same university (some university!).
In the second volume of the Journal for the study of radicalism is an article by Stéphane François translated from French by Ariel Godwin. It speaks about “Euro-paganism”. The article is announced by Sedgewick and commented by Joshua Buckley, editor of the Tyr journal which is spoken about in the article.
François tries to make a consistent message of a varried scene, linking it with French new right and other “radical” and “extreme” rightwing organisations. The article is not a bad read, but the writer makes too much of things and tries to underbuild his point by using external sources.
Buckley has made a lengthy and interesting reaction, that I agree with for the larger part, but not entirely. I am not sure if Buckley is ‘part of the scene’ or just an interested outsider of a variety of scenes. Of course he must be well informed, since another editor of Tyr is Michael Moynihan of Blood Axis. In any case, Buckley makes the following statement: “One would expect that a music-based subculture would consist of music groups with an identifiably similar sound.” However he elucidates his point in the following sentences, I do not agree with this statement. The way I see it, there is a gigantic umbrella that we could call “gothic”. This enormous scene has many subscenes and genres, but it all loosely hangs together (and comes together on the annual Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig). People listen to some genres within that scene, identify with (the clothing style of) some subscene (it is often easy to say where the main musical interest is to be found), but also listen to some other genres. Under the umbrella there is not only a wide variety of musical styles, but also of non-musical interests. François’ term “black romanticism” makes a good cover for musch of that. Often that is a romanticised view on the Middle Ages, S&M, death and despair, but there are also (semi-)political tendencies going all across the political spectrum. A part of “the gothic scene” is in several ways conservative, with “esthetics” in that direction and makes a more-or-less consistent subscene that has had many different terms, but never a definite one.
Inspite of Buckley’s statement, what I have liked most about the scene, is that most people have a wide musical taste. Dancefloors are filled with Strength Through Joy, but some of the same people are also there when Genocide Organ cracks the audience’s ears. Whether the music is neo-classical, medieval, neofolk or extreme power electronics, there are people like myself listening to it all. Of course there is also a whole lot of “gothic” that I can not listen to.
Then there are groups of bands and audience with somewhat of a similar taste in music and “esthetics” which could be seen a subscene. However François came to different conclusions, with Buckley I cannot repeat enough: “I would contend that the majority of participants in these subcultures are largely attracted by music and fashion, and that any ideological component is strictly secondary”. As a matter of fact, when I continue in a more personal direction, I can even say that the similarity in ideology is almost purely accidental!
Just an example: me
Let me give my musical curriculum vitae in just a few lines. Soon after starting to listen to independent music, I got to know extreme metal music, listened to death metal for a very brief period. It was not completely my thing, but I liked black metal better when I got to know it. However not particularly interested in what bands and the people in them had to say, I liked the idea that these people actually read books, put some effort in their lyrics (sometimes) and had ideas of their own. The music started to get boring after a while and I rolled into the “gothic scene”. First more dark ambient and industrial things (Cold Meat Industry, many metalheads’ first source of ‘other music’), then more medieval, gothic and darkwave kind of things. Again my taste started to drift, this time more towards neofolk and “martial industrial” and later the more extreme kinds of industrial music.
Apart from that, I had a similar ‘evolution’ philosophically. During my rebelious puberty years (metal) I dug a little into satanism (not much interested), Nietzsche (not too interested) and then the other religions (that is where I drifted away from the music that I listened to). After a Theosophical/Antroposophical period this became smaller religions, esotericism and occultism (Mithraism, Kabbalah, that kind of stuff). By the time I listened to “Euro-centric” music, I heard many names and terms that did not really interest me, but when I was asked to write an article about Julius Evola, I had enough contacts to help me with gathering information, so I wrote the article that can still be found within these pages. These contacts were (by the way) both inside and outside the scene. Around the same time my focus has shifted from subjects from everywhere around the world, to things more close at home: the prechristian religion of Northern Europe. I can only stress that this has nothing to do with the music that I listened to. There are only a few bands that are really ‘pagan’ and I doubt that just music would have brought me to reading certain books. I got involved in a ‘pagan’ movement with an overtly Dumézilian and Traditionalistic approach. That is where I was introduced to the Traditionalistic ideas of mainly Guénon (Evola is regarded too political).
Where the inspiration comes from
I could be regarded as the “music scene Traditionalist” of Sedgewick and in a way even the “Euro-pagan” of François, but I can only say: not because the music that I listen to! It just so happens that these two things go relatively hand in hand, but I listen to the music that I listen to, because of the music. On the other hand, I also listen to very different music, not from that “Euro-pagan scene” and unregardless the ‘ideas’ or ‘message’ in the music. I gladly play Von Thronstahl first and then Ec8or if I feel like it. And to say something about that “Euro-pagan scene message”; did François actually notice that some artists can be regarded ‘politically conservative’, but there are also “eco-anarchic” communistic bands such as Militia? Buckley says: “some of the imagery they use defies the Left/liberal consensus view of what is acceptable, and is therefore troubling for outsiders.” This is done on purpose too. A long time ago I read an interview with one of the guys of Tesco who said something like: we don’t care if it’s left, right or whatever, as long as it’s extreme. There is no (political) agenda and there is no consistent message.
And then, as part of ‘that scene’, where do I stand among all that ‘information’ I am bombarded with? Honestly, I have no interest in the ideas of the artists that I listen to, nor in the message that a release (in whatever form) conveys (if any). I almost never read interviews, I don’t buy magazines, I don’t study lyrics, I am not trying to find out what the images on the cover or symbolism in lyrics refers to, these things I usually read in ‘anti-publications’ when they happen to cross my eye. Also I don’t care what organisations some artists are or have been involved with. François tries to connect the scene to far right by saying that some persons are or have been part of this and that group. I couldn’t care less! I think outsiders try to make too much of a lifestyle out of things. For some individuals this may be true, but that doesn’t mean that somebody who listens to someone’s artistic outlets, also wants to know about that person’s personal life and copy that. The music that I listen to and the things that I am interested in, are two things that happen to come close together sometimes. I enjoy the journal Tyr that happens to be edited by a person whose music I like, but I also enjoy the journal The Initiate which has no connection with the music that I listen to. Like I said, this does not necessarily go a step further either. I enjoy Tyr, but I don’t care too much what they editors do outside of that. I don’t buy Moynihan’s other publications (to name an example) just because he published them (I have no interest in Willigut because he has) and I like the music of Changes, but I never knew about his ‘philosophical pursuits’ before François investigated them and now it’s still all the same for me.
The moral of the story
People listen to music, they may even like things around that music (clothing style, magazines, concerts to meet people who also like the music, ‘esthetics’, etc.) and maybe once in a while even get inspiration from it to study something (Madonna fans starting to read Kabbalah), but it is far too easy to poor everything in the same bucket. The people in the scene are as much individuals are the other people in this world (even though some of us argument against individualism), they have their own ideas and interests, their own friends (who listen to other kinds of music, etc.). In the scene nothing is organised. Sure, some people want to organise a concert, call up a few bands to play, but I have never ever heard about a gathering of people from the scene for non-musical reasons on a larger scale than just meetings of friends. Concerts are no political gatherings as some people want majors to believe, there are no books sold at concerts or suggested if somebody wants to ‘understand’ some band as as regards with symbolism and ideas put in releases (I said it before), only if I happen to recognise them, I might understand them. Even a person like me, who has read quite a lot about what François thinks to find in our scene, recognise little of what artists subtely put in their releases. Yesterday I had “Bury Me Standing” of Foresta Di Ferro in the player. Hm, what would that “Iron Forest” be, what is that “Oak Leaf”? Some things I could perhaps place, the album title and the songtitle Kshatriya, “On The Marble Cliffs”, well, I read that booklet, but didn’t enjoy it much. Would there actually be people who do try to find everything out and become ‘converted’? Perhaps, but I have my doubts (I even have a doubt if there is a message. Aren’t there just references in order to make people think a little? Thinking of it, I even have my doubts about the point if the people that visit my music reviews section will be the same who read my articles, even though this website might be the place to go from music to “Traditionalism”. I don’t try to advocate, Gangleri.nl simply shows a few of my interests.
And of course never to forget: there are always many more ‘fans’ than bands and of course investigators only take interest in the smaller group.
Funny, that after ‘left-wing’ investigators also scholars start to take interest in a marginal musical current for different reasons (investigating radicalism and investigating Traditionalism); yet the approach seems to be similar (proving organised extreme right by jumping conclusions). What I personally don’t like is that everything not ‘according to society’ is called “radical” or “extreme”. Also I don’t understand why the old-fashioned terms of “left” and “right” are still used. “Different” is not enough of a label and “difference” has to be differentiated and categorised, otherwise it’s too hard to investigate it seems.
Yes, I may be seen as a “music scene Traditionalist”, but the story is a bit different from what some people expect.
Should there be people who visit Gangleri.nl for both the musicreviews and the bookreviews and articles and/or even got inspired by the music to read my articles (and which), it would be interesting to hear your story. Of course the same goes for people like myself, who just happen to have two interests that somehow come together here and there (or not at all you happen to listen the music reviewed in the music reviews section, but are a fanatical Protestant ‘in real life’). I think that that will show that François and Sedgewick (and the many ‘left-wing’ protesters) jump conclusions.