“Untitled” (Mauthausen Orchestra)

It’s the early 1980s, and industrialism is at its most obnoxious in terms of referencing Nazism and the Holocaust: William Bennett’s Come Organization already has released Buchenwald (1981), the collection Für Ilse Koch (1982), and the two controversially re-edited M.B. projects, Triumph of the Will (1981) and Weltanschauung (1982). And Maurizio Bianchi’s own Symphony for a Genocide (1981) belongs here, too. Pierpaolo Zoppo, a protégé of Bianchi, entered the mix in 1983 with Dedicated to Josef Goebbels, a cassette released on Andrea Cernotto’s Aquilifer Sodality label. There’s a bunch of trax, but no titles, so let’s listen to the opener, which runs about eight and three-quarter minutes. Zoppo is borrowing from M.B.’s early methods of appropriation and transformation; at the heart of the sound is some piece(s) of music, massively sped up and treated with shades of pink and white noise. It sounds like we’re within a sea of sonic data clogged inside a modem, churning and surging with no place to go. It’s an aural cocoon–a sound environment–but what does it signify? Though the trax has no name, the project’s title hyper-contextualizes our experience of it: first, given that Goebbels headed the Propaganda Ministry in Nazi Germany, and oversaw, among other things, the cleansing of atonal music from the Reich, one has to agree with the blogger at “Die or D.I.Y”: “Straight into the ‘Degenerate [A]rt’ exhibition it would have gone, and . . . Zoppo . . . would have been sent to a concentration camp, or just executed without trial.” One can imagine that the original, treated piece of music might be a Nazi march, a Strauss waltz, or even a recording of a tune played at the Mauthausen-Gusen labor camp by the original “Mauthausen Orchestra.” The whole tape, then, might well be a thumb in the eye (or ear). Relatedly, but more subtly, Zoppo certainly seems to be exploring the wide difference between the Nazi-approved arts and Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo’s earlier aspirations toward noises of violent, technological and social “renewal” in “The Art of Noises” (1913). In which case, we’re witnessing in this trax a fraught, high-stakes attempt to sever the historical link between such futurism and fascism, reclaiming the “infinite variety” of “thirty thousand different noises” as an unresolved challenge to governance.

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