Sunday, 6 September 2015


In the recent past I made an album of instrumental electronic music called Forces of Nature. You can read about what's behind that album elsewhere on this blog. The album Intoxication that I have just completed is a companion piece to this.

Sadly, for those second guessing the subject of this album, it is not about alcohol. The "intoxication" at issue here is metaphorical but no less real or powerful in its effects. The intoxication under discussion here is intoxication as discussed in the written works of German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche discusses intoxication from his first book, The Birth of Tragedy from The Spirit of Music right up until books in his final year of sanity in 1888. For example, in his Twilight of the Idols. "Intoxication" is what Nietzsche thinks the greatest, most creative, artistic spirits must have. He writes in that latter book:

For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity or perception to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.

But what is this Nietzschean intoxication? Nietzsche recognizes many forms of it - sexual, feasting, agitation, victory, cruelty. The list goes on. "The essence of intoxication is the feeling of plenitude and increased energy.... In this condition one enriches everything out of one's abundance: what one sees, what one desires, one sees swollen, pressing, strong, overladen with energy."

In short, Nietzsche envisages that the artist is full, and overfull, with inspiration as we might put it today. From their own fullness the creation comes to be. And surely there is something to this. Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy, was writing in the context of Dionysian feasts and so it is not hard to understand where the idea of intoxication might have come from since at these feasts many were often quite literally intoxicated. Nietzsche expands on this idea metaphorically in the course of describing the conditions of culture and art as he saw it.

My album Intoxication is a hybrid project, however, in that it conflates two at first seemingly unrelated subjects that find their point of common interest in this idea of "intoxication". It is not the first time that I have done this this year. My first album projects of the year were Jedem Das Seine and Arbeit Macht Frei, two albums which united twin themes. In this case it was the horror of the Nazi concentration camps and the film Under The Skin which I conceived these two albums as an alternative soundtrack for. Here in Intoxication one side of the work reflects an interest in this Nietzschean notion of "intoxication" but the second is an altogether more serious subject - as before where I combined matters cultural and historical.

The second sense in which I use the term "intoxicated" here is in reference to current world events: specifically I use the term with reference to refugees - what some others may call "migrants". These are people I conceive of as being "intoxicated with life". That is to say that they find themselves in the direst of straights and they have that all consuming will to survive that only those who have looked death in the face really know. I can say from my own personal experience that someone never wants to stay alive so much as in that moment when their continued existence might be terminally in doubt.

So I find it easy to describe the many refugees we see across the world, many fleeing from war-ravaged areas, many others merely from living in poverty and squalor, as "intoxicated with life". They want to live and this desire fills them and overflows within them, pushing them across land and across seas and oceans in the hope that they might find the circumstances for it. I do not blame a single one of them. Indeed, I find it strange that in the 21st century, in 2015, the idea that we might let people die or go hungry because they happen to come from a different country to us is still prevalent. I ask myself if border regulations and our notions of civilization really count for much in such circumstances. In 2015 have we not progressed to the point where a human life can expect to find food, clothing and shelter as a matter of course? The answer, I'm afraid, is no. Our Western societies are very much infected with the idea that in order to have food and shelter you have to earn it. Thus, those who are not seen to be earning it are regarded as "scroungers" who are receiving "hand outs".

I don't see things this way. I say a plague on all your polite notions of society, of progress, of humanism, of needing to "earn" the right to live. Life will find a way and those intoxicated with life will naturally be pulled, as a magnet pulls iron, to those places where food and shelter and safety seem evident. Do not be surprised. Do not say "Go back where you came from". You would not go back where they came from. Do not say "They belong back in their land" when the history of this planet is the history of the people upon it moving around to places that supported them best. It is the significant characteristic of life that it wants to survive! Expect life, wherever it shows itself, to want to do exactly that!

So this album of mine called Intoxication unites an interest in the refugees of the world with the Nietzschean notion of a creative superabundance of energy. It is in this sense that it is a companion piece to Forces of Nature. I see it as a personal version of those forces. The force to create, the force to live and survive. Don't be surprised these things exist. Every organism that comes to be only wants to grow and make more of itself. Its genetic. It is the mystery of why there is anything at all instead of nothing.

You can listen to Intoxication on my Bandcamp HERE!

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