“Revelation March” (James Blood Ulmer)

As album’s inside cartoon implies, the revelation that inspires marching toward must escape the orbit of anarchy’s desire—in Sex Pistols’ reference—to resituate the state. The tension in this process of extrication accompanies harmolodic theory’s structured freedom, demanding support as much as it does innovation. Ascending/Descending, downward-sliding, shared pair of doublestops on guitar and bass at beginning lay claim to this commitment, initiating the destabilization of strict rules of instrumentation; for example, bass primarily maintains walking technique while honing in on and, alternately, initiating key changes. Coleman’s reverbed performance stresses revolution’s commitment to the past through its distant (re)incarnation, if only to reinforce the work of transforming so that, like track’s end, dominion emerges through consideration.


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“Different Trains” (Kronos Quartet)

Steve Reich’s setting of three groups of voices (“America—Before the War,” “Europe—During the War,” and “After the War”) amid repeated figures representing “different” trains implies a certain technocratic base: triumphally major and mobile in “America” as the trains race between the oceans and unite the land; clashing and discordant in “Europe,” as the Holocaust comes into view. “We” are superstructural/epiphenomenal, it appears, cut into (musical) phrases as the State-machines track our similarities and differences. So why are the genders made instrument-specific (woman = viola; man = cello)? Where do these particular differences emanate from, if not a certain technics? The error in (any form of) social constructionism is, of course, that it leaves no room for a true and legitimate point of view, even though it insists it has one. Here, it’s smuggled in, manwise.




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“The Logical Song” (Supertramp)

An attempt to reclaim “simple” status in response to institutions that produce logical, intellectual, and clinical subjectivities. Desperately seeking a content as last wish: “please tell me who I am.” Acutely aware of state coercion (“watch what you say”), but this is just a cover; reclamation and self-making inherently disciplinary. Thinking the birds are “playfully watching me” is wishful: sun logic.


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“Rocket” (Smashing Pumpkins)

Limitlessness denied. Similar to ideas from both Nikolas Rose and Jean-Luc Nancy, freedom, which comes with the free disposal of rights, is presupposed by both a State and psy- discipline; the result for singer: he “couldn’t stay free.” The human body becomes a projectile, hurling into celestial emptiness (instead of into another) to be rid of “those voices in my head.” Ingesting love and consuming hate becomes the necessary fuel to attain escape velocity. The catch: “no more lies” assumes that once future being emerges, the true, sovereign subject will materialize. The irony not fully realized—here or there.


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“In My Own Time” (The Patterns)

The first verse of this International Artists track (penned by the Bee Gees) remains the most interesting: singer once received an “invitation” to come to the “United Nations,” but “that was when I was somebody.” Being somebody in the international community involves a temporal recognition/leveling: one cannot participate so long as one remains “in my own time.” There are no singularities in the family of nations, and no figures not judged present (i.e., precisely co-temporal with the “modern” and the “civilized”; cf., Justice William Johnson’s concurrence in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia [1831]).


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“Only a Fool Would Say That” (Steely Dan)

A modern-day gunslinger in a Stetson (LBJ?) announces that with his weapon he can produce “a world become one” “where all is free.” Hard-working, everyday Joes feel the pull of this tuneful argument: after all, who wants to be told the opposite—that the world will always remain divided against itself, and that freedom cannot be universalized? And it seems quite reasonable that some old-fashioned “murder,” liberally distributed, would do the globe a lot of good, and at least move things in the right direction. From Korea and Vietnam to 21st century drone strikes, a certain idealism makes “fools” (and not holy ones, but just plain ordinary fools) of us all.


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“Til the Last Shot’s Fired” (Trace Adkins)

While Adkins’ micro-display of the Confederate flag and his narration as a Confederate soldier certainly resides over the edge of credulity, his call to “say a prayer for peace” centers the conversation. Though George W. Bush expressly focused on anti-poverty religious and community organizations in his first Executive Order, he also forcefully argued for the relative autonomy of faith-based financial assistance. And this trax’s association with the Wounded Warrior Project, in some way, hinges on a faith in the power of cost-shifting from government apportionment to people directly funding each other’s care. (Recurring donations that are tax-deductible if the amount is large enough!) More directly, this is institutionalized and structured prayer that takes place within a war economy. But Adkins isn’t singing about survivors or “warriors;” his primary narrators are corpses who have died grisly battlefield deaths. From the grave, they yearn for rest (“Let us lay down our guns”) despite war’s relentless forward march (“But we can’t come home til/The last shot’s fired”). Peace founded upon a corpse, and the price of doing (nation) business. Also: a monument to living.


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“Not in Our Name” (Liberation Music Orchestra)

In memory of Charlie Haden, written on 14 July 2014.

The Not in Our Name Project (NION) diagnosed the American imperial order in 2002 as a spatiotemporal problem: Afghanistan-Iraq-the West Bank in a continuum of U.S.-inflected terror/policy decisions and Japanese American internment alongside the detainment and interrogation of Arab Americans post-9/11. And a similar strategy shaped the project’s self-definition and the enumeration of role models: abolitionists, the Underground Railroad, Vietnam War draft resisters, and the refusal of Israeli reservists to serve in the Occupied Territories. The Saul Williams-penned “Pledge of Resistance” commits “to make common cause with the people of the world” and stops short of calling for a general strike by refusing, as a group, to “supply weapons and funding” for foreign wars. Yet this all came to an end in 2008 with the disbanding of the project’s “national office and related infrastructure.” In some ways, everything here was on the verge of getting it on. (George Clinton, by the way, would have your “funky mind” freed “out into another reality.” And as Clinton knew, other realities have been and are already here as one continually imagines (and practices) being the “people.”) Charlie Haden’s and Carla Bley’s Liberation Music Orchestra deals with the NOIN’s central bifurcation problem—(dis)owning one’s nation-state—through difference. A Latin-inflected tune involving passages with synchronized horns, the key sonic decision is to allow each instrument a solo. The duration of each solo sometimes runs against type, and the instruments involved straddle the (non-) traditional, with the tuba solo as the most extreme example. Much like the album’s cover photograph, we can be both under the banner and at the helm of an organization’s varying structure through time. Haden, then, knew this as well: the Liberation Music Orchestra’s personnel may change, but it’s an inclination requiring stamina, adjustment, multiple voicings, and perpetual practice/praxis.


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“Who Made Who” (AC/DC)

It’s in the ream(ing): the taxes and the infinite dependence upon the creation of artificial intelligence (or video games). Facing things “on the level,” sober and mindful, you’ll still get taken in a “one on one”; there’s no use: “look[ing] down,” like transition from apoplectic to sauntering arpeggios, reinforces the state’s economy (roughly, here, consumerism unaware of its own intrusion). Even though the world’s “8-bit” (or 64-bit or 4K for that matter), going beyond conception would still beg for the pristine, virginal demand. The pentatonic scales and the Pentagon are still in the same family, triangulating.


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