Vol. 3, Issue #1 January 11th - January 24th, 2008

Tiger Bear From Hell at NONzine.com

By: Wilhelm Murg

Meditations on Noise & Silence

While sitting around in the darkness after our recent apocalyptic ice storm, I found myself meditating on the accompanying silence. I live on the edge of Midtown Tulsa, where it meets downtown, and while it was disconcerting to not see the epic grandeur of our beautifully lit downtown deco, it was even stranger not to hear it. The constant hum of the lights in the city ceased, along with the subliminal sounds in my bed room, like the hum of the computer and the TiVo; for the first time in years I experienced near total silence, aside from the occasional snore from my two dogs who were piled on me for warmth. I found it very relaxing. I slept better than I had in years the first night. A friend of mine who is into isolation tanks says that the experiences are similar.

I was reminded of an article I read many years ago by the late founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, in the anthology “Apocalypse Culture.” In “The Invisible War,” he wrote about our subliminal addiction to white noise, the electric hums and the machines on standby. He made a good point about this frantic energy that is all around us - something humans didn’t have to deal with until a hundred years ago. Is it distorting out psyches like the discombobulated electric appliances in a David Lynch movie? Is it evolution? Or mind control? (LaVey, always going for the dark side, voted for the latter).

I heard of two accounts of people having withdrawal symptoms during the blackout, literally becoming twitchy from not being on the internet. Have we really become this weak as an animal? Are we simply parasites feeding on electronic media?

Ironically, during the blackout, I kept tuning in to our CBS affiliate for local news, KOTV Channel 6, on the FM radio. I usually tuned in a few minutes early and caught the last segment of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” While most days seemed to be about makeovers and Oprah giving away Cadillacs like Elvis, one segment had a doctor (of some sort) who claimed that half an a hour of noise as loud as a street can cause stress, and that the reason we turn down car stereos when we’re looking for a house is to relieve the stress that it causes. Later that night I spent some time at a friend’s house where they have five children and every electronic gadget known to man; it was like being in the arcade at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I went to TU just like Dr. Phil, and I question a lot of the concepts that come out of the Oprah circle. For example, the doctor didn’t explain if music was being categorized as noise. I never heard of anyone coming out of a concert, classical or punk, and being stressed out. It would be easy to say our noise pollution is the cause of all our ills, but I’ve always suspected it was a lot of other factors, including going from an agrarian to an urban culture (and thus having more time on our hands,) the post-modern dilemma (knowing a bomb could wipe out our culture in seconds) and people being brain-washed by stupid television shows (like Oprah’s).

Of course, LaVey’s concepts from the Church of Satan are far more interesting than this over-simplified concept from the House of Oprah, yet neither of them have me unplugging everything in my house. I was reminded of the old wives’ tale about how baroque music could stimulate the brain because of its timing - which is absurd as a sweeping statement, the baroque had as many radicals that experimented with unorthodox timings as any other period. C.P.E. Bach’s Concerto in c, WQ.31, where he accidentally stumbled upon ragtime and Jan Zelenka’s “Amen” to his surviving “Magnificat,” which has the choir singing “ah, ah, ah” for three minutes before getting to the final “men,” come to mind.

Of course in recent times we have seen how noise has been used as a weapon, though not very effectively, by our own government in the standoffs with Panamanian Strong Man, Manuel Noriega, and noted cult leader and child molester, David Koresh.

1989, after attempting to steal the election in Panama, Noriega declared a state of war with the U.S. President Bush (Sr.) responded by launching the invasion of Panama. Noriega fled the attack and took refuge in the Vatican’s Apostolic Nunciature (embassy). The U.S. responded by setting up loud speakers and barraging the embassy with music, noise and talk 24 hours a day, everything from amplified cow noises and Tibetan Chanting to the Howard Stern Show and Van Halen’s “Panama” (Noriega hates heavy metal). The Vatican complained and the noise was stopped. It failed to drive Noriega out, though he did surrender shortly thereafter.

During the 51-day standoff at David Koresh’s Branch Davidian sect’s Mount Carmel the sounds of drilling, animals being slaughtered, and radio shows denouncing Koresh were also blasted into the camp, but it also failed, perhaps more infamously. The standoff ended with a fire - over which there is still a controversy as to whether it was started by the Branch Davidians or the ATF. Seventy-six Branch Davidians, including Koresh, died. Some of his followers believe Koresh will come back from the dead, but so far nothing has happened on the dates that have been prophesized for the event.

The late apocalyptic novelist William S. Burroughs thoroughly believed in sound being used as a weapon, not only in a conventional psychic warfare way, but through magic - cutting up tape recordings and pictures of a building to displace it in time - and through atomic weapons - where the waves are capable of disrupting and killing a human soul, in his view.

I truly believe the problem was that the people who could turn sound into an effective weapon probably never joined up with a government agency, and those who could, like Burroughs, could have been the next Red Adair, but they would better serve their country by not being involved in an ultimate weapon of any sort.

The power is back on in Exploding Tree City, U.S.A. I wonder what bears think about when they’re going into hibernation.

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