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  • Writer's pictureartahammer


Updated: Nov 9, 2019

A huge part of me is a political creature. It came to me at my father’s knee, as it were, and has remained prominent throughout my life. I have come to enough of an understanding of government to know that I need no part of it, beyond as subject for socio-political observation. Politics, while abysmal at human harmonic existence, is spectacular as art. My art is the cumulative result of all that I have learned up to the point of creation. To avoid repetition, I keep learning. This has other benefits as well….

I have chosen some fascinating sources from which to gather my understanding of the world. Alas, most are not about for me to offer my tributes to directly, which saddens me. But some still are, which gives me hope. Professor Noam Chomsky is and none is more deserving. He has influenced and inspired me for many years and his work of explicating reality has most assuredly colored my own.

I offered him the lyric to “Dissent” by email. He, to my great pleasure and surprise, responded with thanks and compliment. This means the world to me. As I don’t wish to occupy time better spent, my correspondence with him has been brief. But in asking as to his style of music preference he characterized himself as fairly conservative, though he likes Stravinsky.

As I like Stravinsky I felt another kinship. So I plunged in to “Dissent”, the music. It was a challenging birthing to say the least. Join me, if you will, in the delivery room:

As the song has a central theme of anarchy regarding the successful anarchism of the Spanish Revolution (ultimately crushed by the even more successful fascism of pretty much everywhere), I decided to take an Iberian flavor. I started with a flamenco guitar and developed several prominent themes which would represent the republican forces. To counter the republican guitar came the extreme violins of the nationalists, backed by their external sources of support and influence, the percussion of the German and Italian fascists, with the droning support of the Big Brass from those places seldom mentioned in this regard. To offer balance to the overwhelmed guitar of the republicans, the anarchist piano joins the musical fray. I also threw in a French horn to aid the resistance as well as some additional brass for the Soviets to horn in with.

The piece begins with an overture to reason where the players state their points with lots of interference from the percussion, banging away there, as they try to drive the action. The nationalists initially ape the republican statement as a question but then alter it while ignoring the anarchists input, eventually drowning out all voices but their own. Just like in real life. Then as they all leap up to defend their respective positions, they slam right into each other and come crashing down.

Just like in real life.

Behind the main verses, the guitar lays down the republican line with minor variation, though it does slip some quick ones in when the violins aren’t looking. The violins counter, appealing to tradition and sentiment, really tugging at the heart strings as they try to lead us from the progression of the republican perspective. All the while, the anarchist piano slips in little hints of its own beauty without all that sentiment.

Everybody joins in the chorus, more than slightly Germanic in temper, each voice demanding to be heard over the competing voices. It is here the Brass become increasingly horny, trying desperately to convince us to give it up, that they’ll still respect us afterwards. The simple repeatable chorus which appeals so well to Groupthink is of course confounded lyrically by its lack of repetition, but the music doesn’t know that; not into long winded moralist dissertations, more content with passing notes in bars.

After the first chorus, the fascists make their move and this nightmarish section is hearkened by the German bombing of Guernica and brutal nationalist attacks upon republican and civilian positions. The percussion increases until the crash, leading into the middle lyrics where all hell breaks loose. The music tells the story of the war as all the conflicting elements come together in a driving musical assault, inspirational while overwhelming.

In the end, the guitar and piano are vanquished (only to reappear in the second verse as they again support the lyrics in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed), and the beating and violins dominate Orwellian throughout. The second chorus dissolves to the verse in a very strange transition almost dreamlike, offering a taste of the surrealism so prominent in the age. By the third chorus the guitar and piano are completely buried under the strings, horns and percussion dominating the ominous end they so strive for.

As it began with an Overture it then must end with an Underture. As revolution assures us we’ll come around again, the theme of the Overture is restated, this time by the victors in the battle that so demands our dissent: the nationalist violins, fascist percussion and the Big Brass – the capitalist masters. Of course, while they state their original positions exactly as before, even incorporating the opposing voices to allow a sense of equilibrium, they get it all backwards and horribly out of time. This then is the message of the piece encapsulated: with our leadership sinking in wild yet diminishing spirals, we are all out of time.

We should spend it well.




Assuming the position

Blindly forth we charge

Reason on occasion one must purge

Presuming imposition

Target to disparage

Their interests and our interest converge

Establish coalition

Asset base enlarge

As soon as consensus does emerge

Political ambition

Judicial miscarriage

Once again a conflict on the verge

Man, you’re fracturing dissent

By continuing compliance

Manufacturing consent

Demands human defiance

For a brief shining moment

In human social lore

The anarchists prevailed

In the Spanish Civil War

Professor Chomsky noted

Likewise Orwell before

Where anarchism flourished

Fine social fruit it bore

Anarchy’s aristocrat

Is equal to the whore

Control through monied power

A notion to deplore

Fascists fought it fiercely

Unevened up the score

Propaganda’s prominence

Over the battle roar

Sunken in dictatorship

Modern conquistador

The taste of freedom soured

Lest people demand more

Man, you’re factoring assent

As a perceived alliance

Manufacturing consent

As much an art as science

Decidedly reliant

Development arrest

Excess with so very much at stake

Successfully defiant

The giant you can’t best

See how far you bend before you break

Media serves client

Issues unaddressed

Impossible to avoid mistake

Pummeled public pliant

So easily impressed

What we gain dwarfed by what we forsake

Man, you’re fracturing dissent

By continuing compliance

Manufacturing consent

Demands reasoned defiance

Man, you’re factoring assent

Upon systems reliance

Manufacturing consent

Dissent our shared alliance

© 2012 ArtAHammer


With infinite respects to Professor Noam Chomsky

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