As is often my wont, I spent a few minutes having a think about aspects of my situation. That means every part of it, including the things I use to distract myself from it. And after one minor crap-exchange during a World Of Warcraft dungeon run with a very ignorant person that I and my party-mate of preference both disliked, I began to think to myself. What do the cultures that other people partake of look like to me, and why?
During my childhood in Western Sydney, there was a popular buzzword to promote the integration of peoples with different cultures, races, and ancestries. The word, multiculturalism, is still used today, although not with the same frequency. I am not kidding when I say that you could not swing a dead cat during the 1980s without hitting someone who said “multicultural” or variations thereof within the last few minutes. But now that I reflect back on some of the words exchanged during that instance run, I am thinking a lot on the subject of cultures and how they work.
For instance, I hope that one day, autistic people of all shapes and sizes will be able to put forth a representation of actual autistic culture, as opposed to what the Ronald Basses of this world want us to accept as autistic culture. Maybe this post can help further us along that path by providing some clues as to what autistic culture should consist of.
I am going to make an admission here that might make some think less of me. When I am really in a hurry during conversations about culture, I will grossly oversimplify by saying “black culture”, “white culture”, “Asian culture”, and so forth. This is incredibly lazy, I know, but it brings me to one of my points. You see, if you think that I am the only one who has engaged in this practice at least once, then you are clearly too young to be using the Internet at all. In fact, I think the only people in the world who have not referred to a cultural collective as one monolithic group are children who have yet to meet other children. Even as toddlers, when we start to meet other toddlers and see those toddlers’ parents, we start seeing that even people who spent their entire lives living in an address on the exact same street as we did differ from each other in a number of ways.
I also believe that part of the current downturn in paid-for media consumption can be traced to the fact that even now, the media wants us to have only one culture, one view of ourselves, one idea. Just as I began to write this article, I received an email (yes, people still use that) from iTunes, advertising the offerings from their store. All of the images in the first immediately-visible part of the email in question appeared to be exclusively white (and canary yellow, if you count the offering of yet another product from The [still being flogged as they decompose] Simpsons), mostly male, and in a slight majority of cases looking prone to starting a yodelling competition.
Even when I was a small child, I never thought of the music I heard on the radio as any monolithic culture. And the words “white culture” never passed my lips until sometime around my reaching of legal adulthood. During the dungeon group’s discussion of their mutual dislike of the person concerned, in fact, talk turned to the races represented in the rest of the party. I am not a thousand percent sure of this, but two stated themselves to be black, and the other said that they were Italian. I joked that I might be as white as a polar bear (seriously, I am not too far off it), but I am also autistic. I am sure my meaning went over the heads of the two other participants in the group, but the regular group-mate probably understood that my being autistic figured into why the hated individual’s propensity to attempt to speed me up by engaging things in combat before I was in readiness was getting on my nerves.
During earlier and more impulse-driven times in my life, I have made a statement here and there of the effect to hating “black culture”. But if I had thought about it properly at the time, I would have recognised that even if one took the worst examples of culture featuring black people from any part of the world, I still would not really hate it. I use the word hate fairly regularly, but the truth is, hatred is a strong feeling reserved only for the worst of the worst. So unless you have knowingly aided Autism Speaks, or are a member of Autism Speaks, or see the slightest merit in what Autism Speaks has to say, I think you have the right to ask me to go easy on the use of the word “hate”.
But during my adolescence and early adulthood, a change occurred in the media that was being presented to us, and this change had a lot to do with the way black people were presented in the media. If you keep in mind the following John Lydon quote (copied from his IMDB profile):
Well it started out bloody well and fine, didn’t it? It was very varied, it was very multicultural and had no limitations. And it soon narrowed itself into a very ridiculous, black-only attitude. And even as an all-black music formula, they still disrespect each other, in the most appalling ways.
you can understand something about how I reacted to the “black culture” I was seeing on my television from 1991 to 1996 or thereabouts. I hated it. Despised it. You name it. But it is not until now that I start to really, really think about it and realise that to a black man in America who was raised on Blues music, the ilk of Will Smith, Technotronic, or whatever example in the “popular” media of the time you care to name, probably looks the same as Poison, Warrant, et al look to this Black Sabbath fan.
And what Black Sabbath fan can really think about culture without acknowledging the black American musical genre known as the Blues? One great comedian, I forget which (he also happens to be black, not that this is really important), delivered a hilarious description of what Blues music is about. He went on about how the Blues is concerned with people who lead shitty lives making songs that tell other people with shitty lives about the shitty life that they lead. Or something like that. So when you really get down to it, you could make the good case that doom metal is really nothing more than the Blues for white people.
And when you get down to it, I do not like every doom metal song that is out there. In fact, I am willing to bet that I have heard more doom metal songs that made me yawn and hit fast forward than Blues songs that drew the same reaction. I think if you took all the Blues songs that I clearly remember hearing and put them on one compact disc, it might just barely fill half of that disc’s capacity. One of those songs is a piece by Cab Calloway called Minnie The Moocher.
Minnie The Moocher is an awesome song. Not just because of Cab Calloway‘s awesome voice, either. The version that I have heard more than once, which (duh) featured in the soundtrack for The Blues Brothers, is an awesome display of integrated musicianship between a dozen men. Although I did not grok it at the time, this performance of Minnie The Moocher set me on the path toward wanting to play the bass guitar. Donald “Duck” Dunn gently pounds out notes that, although they have to be dug for by the listener, grabbed me and never let go. And let me tell you something else: Calloway‘s scat-style singing in the chorus parts of Minnie The Moocher meant that even if I live to the point where a Dwarf would die of old age, I will never forget that song.
So allow me to reiterate something. I wonder, genuinely wonder, what an individual who was raised on the like of Cab Calloway or Aretha Franklin think of the family-friendly style rap that became the seeming entirety of eMpTyV’s rotation in the 1990s. If anyone out there reading this can enlighten me, please do.
This, of course, also begs the question of how what I will refer to as my culture looks to others. I think everyone has their own little sense of culture, where they take the cultural input that they receive from those around them, mix it up like so much paint, and throw it at a wall. But let us talk for a moment about the primary and most pervasive aspect of my culture in a musical sense: doom metal. As I mentioned, doom metal is like a reconstruction of the Blues by and for white people. In its original form, it was inspired by similar things to the Blues. Specifically, how the gap between rich and poor was hurting people (especially the performers), horror stories of a real-world nature, and the threat of worse to come. In the now forty-two years since it first appeared, doom metal has evolved, adapted, and converged with so many things that it beggars belief. So as an example, I would like to offer the Finnish “funeral doom metal” band called Skepticism.
I doubt it will come as much of a shock when I say that doom metal in its pure, un-Disneyfied form appeals a lot to people who are unhappy with their present direction in life. But I would qualify that further by saying it appeals enormously to intelligent people who are unhappy with their present direction in life.
In contrast to most doom metal bands, there are only four members of Skepticism, and they do not particularly go for collaboration. Vocalist Matti‘s style can best be described as sounding very Finnish. That is, he sounds like he is vocalising after gargling a mixture of sand and pebbles before washing the taste away with methylated spirits. Skepticism’s music is very surreal in its nature and Matti‘s verses often make no sense even after repeated listens. But if there is a better example of how a good vocalist integrates himself with the band instead of expecting them to revolve around him, I have yet to hear it. And some of his choices of words, delivered in hoarse-sounding roars, bring images the like of which I feel better for having had to mind. Feet would crave for solid ground is the best description of what it is like to have a blood sugar level of 0.7 mmol/l that I remember hearing.
For your edification, I will present this YouChoob video of a somewhat low-quality rendition of one of my favourite Skepticism songs, The Raven And The Backward Funeral. At about 3:42, the song goes into a rhythm that, for reasons I will not go into here, makes me visualise a previous girlfriend swaying her substantial hips about in just the right rhythm to the thud of the bass drums.
I am unsure if I have written about the Swedish operatic doom metal band Therion in the past. This is another example of my culture and why it is my culture. You see, a lot of vocal-oriented pop (especially in the era of the aforementioned Poison-ing (ba-dum tish!) of black culture) is just basically people singing about how awesome they think they are or how wonderful normie things are whilst a bunch of idiots keep a beat behind them. Vocal-oriented doom metal, on the other hand, spits on this and goes all out in all departments.
Not only do Snowy Shaw, Thomas Vikström, Katarina Lilja, and Lori Lewis present vocal performances that are actually impressive, they fit with and complement the music instead of smother it. This is an important distinction, because as the title card puts it, presentation has an effect on everything that you show to me, including your culture.
Included below is the official video that Therion have made for one of the songs from their most recent album, Sitra Ahra. Kali-Yuga III (Autumn Of The Aeons) is a song based on the ages that Indian scriptures have it our world is ageing through. Kali-Yuga is said to be the last of them, and represents the time at which Humans will be at their most estranged from the spirits. I will give you two guesses as to which of the yugas most Hindu scholars believe we are in now.
In saying that, I am hoping that all of us, regardless of race, sex, or socio-economic status, can share samplings of their cultures more freely as time goes on. I even welcome suggestions of good examples that I have not already written about in this or other posts. So drop me a line if you can think of anything that might appeal to me (or others) (and a hint about me: the more unusual or odd, the better).