Free Jazz Musicians Intentionally Play Terrible Music to Drown Out the Noise of a Danish Far-Right Politician

Art makes a way where pol­i­tics fail. I don’t mean that in any mawk­ish sense. Sure, art brings peo­ple togeth­er, encour­ages empa­thy and com­mon val­ues. Those can be won­der­ful things. But they are not always nec­es­sar­i­ly social goods. Vio­lent nation­al­ism brings peo­ple togeth­er around com­mon val­ues. Psy­chopaths can feel empa­thy if they want to.

When faced with fas­cism, or neo-fas­cism, or what­ev­er we want to call the 21st cen­tu­ry equiv­a­lent of fas­cism, those who pre­sume good faith in their oppo­nents pre­sume too much. Val­ues like respect for human rights or rules of log­i­cal debate or use of force, for exam­ple, are not in play. Direct con­fronta­tion usu­al­ly pro­vokes more vio­lence, and cor­re­spond­ing state repres­sion against anti-fas­cists.

Cre­ative thinkers have devised oth­er kinds of tactics—methods for meet­ing spec­ta­cle with spec­ta­cle, dis­rupt­ing and scat­ter­ing con­cen­trat­ed fear and hate by use of what William S. Bur­roughs called “mag­i­cal weapons.” Bur­roughs meant the phrase lit­er­al­ly when he aimed his occult audio/visual mag­ic at a gen­tri­fy­ing Lon­don cof­fee bar. But he used the very same ideas in his nov­els and man­u­als for over­throw­ing cor­rupt gov­ern­ments.

One might say some­thing sim­i­lar about the pio­neers of free jazz, a prod­uct of Black Pow­er pol­i­tics expressed in music. Coltrane drew on Mal­colm X when he divest­ed him­self of west­ern musi­cal con­straints; Ornette Cole­man estab­lished “har­molod­ic democ­ra­cy” in place of Euro­cen­tric struc­tures. These were inher­ent­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary forms, respond­ing to repres­sive times in new lan­guages. They were not, as many peo­ple thought then, just jazz played bad­ly.

But, as it turns out… free jazz delib­er­ate­ly played bad­ly makes quite an effec­tive rejoin­der to fas­cism, too. So a group of Dan­ish jazz musi­cians dis­cov­ered when they began crash­ing the staged events of far-right politi­cian Ras­mus Palu­dan, founder of the Stram Kurs (Hard Line) par­ty. As Vice reports:

[Palu­dan] is noto­ri­ous for organ­is­ing “demon­stra­tions” in neigh­bour­hoods with large immi­grant pop­u­la­tions, where he burns, throws, and stomps on Qurans behind walls of police offi­cers. A self-pro­claimed “guardian of free­dom” and “light of the Danes,” Palu­dan con­sid­ers immi­grants and Islam ene­mies of the Dan­ish peo­ple, as well as the country’s val­ues, tra­di­tions and gen­er­al way of life.

Does one respect­ful­ly argue with such a per­son? Try to breach the line of cops and knock them out? Hear out their point of view as they inspire acts of vio­lence? Or show up “armed with trum­pets, bon­go drums and sax­o­phones” and play right in his face, or at least “loud­ly enough to drown out his voice or draw atten­tion away from him”?

The col­lec­tive “Free Jazz Against Palu­dan” takes the mag­i­cal weapon of Sit­u­a­tion­ist free jazz pub­lic and rad­i­cal­izes har­molod­ic democ­ra­cy (done very, very obnox­ious­ly bad­ly on pur­pose, we must empha­size) for street action. “We’re fight­ing noise with noise,” one sax­o­phon­ist and self-described “old man turned activist” says. “I’m of the opin­ion that rhetoric like his should not be ignored. You have to protest against it, but in a way that is not destruc­tive and vio­lent.” Except that it is destructive—to Paludan’s weaponized igno­rance. [Palu­dan was recent­ly sen­tenced to jail on racism and defama­tion.] The revolv­ing col­lec­tive of activist musi­cians makes this plain, stat­ing on their Face­book page, “Any­one can join, with the excep­tion of just him. He can­not.”

What gives them the right to exclude him! one might cry indig­nant­ly. That’s the game Palu­dan wants to play. “What he wants is to get beat­en up by some immi­grants, get some close-ups of a soap eye or a bro­ken arm—that’d be great for him,” says pro­tes­tor Jørn Tol­strup. “So this is great, because here we have an idiot who won’t shut up, and now we’ve found a way to take his foot off the ped­al.” It’s cre­ative de-esca­la­tion and redi­rec­tion. And, we might say, not so much a pub­lic “can­celling” as the free expres­sion of oppos­ing ideas.

via Vice

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Ornette Cole­man Freed Jazz with His The­o­ry of Har­molod­ics

How William S. Bur­roughs Used the Cut-Up Tech­nique to Shut Down London’s First Espres­so Bar (1972)

William S. Bur­roughs’ Man­i­festo for Over­throw­ing a Cor­rupt Gov­ern­ment with Fake News and Oth­er Prophet­ic Meth­ods: It’s Now Pub­lished for the First Time

How Music Unites Us All: Her­bie Han­cock & Kamasi Wash­ing­ton in Con­ver­sa­tion

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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Comments (6)
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  • Ray Colllins says:

    What a dif­fer­ent tack than *adults* would take. Rather than debunk­ing bad opin­ions, let’s lit­er­al­ly drown them out, like today’s SJWs. What a pathet­ic view of humanity–like every oth­er fas­cist organization/group/gov’t agency/gov’t. Real adults, like Ben­jamin Franklin, said we should allow and even print (he was a print­er) all opin­ions, then allow bad ones to be exposed. Typ­i­cal behav­ior from fas­cists like these jazz “artists.”

  • chris says:

    It’s a shame to see peo­ple give up on rea­son and per­sua­sion and revert to can­celling through cacoph­o­ny. And it’s a shame to see Open Cul­ture ampli­fy this approach — not very “open” if you ask me.

  • Harmon Dow says:

    So Free Jazz Against Palu­dan will decide what is allowed to be heard.

    Got it.

  • Des says:

    Fas­cists should receive no tol­er­ance or lim­it­less free speech. This is recog­nised as The Para­dox of Tol­er­ance. It is the para­dox that unlim­it­ed tol­er­ance can lead to the extinc­tion of tol­er­ance. When we extend tol­er­ance to those who are open­ly intol­er­ant, the tol­er­ant end up being destroyed, and tol­er­ance with them. Any move­ment that preach­es intol­er­ance and per­se­cu­tion must there­fore be out­side of the laws of tol­er­ance. Defend­ing tol­er­ance and free speech requires not tol­er­at­ing the intol­er­ant.

  • chris says:

    I’m very curi­ous on how let­ting a few kooks say kooky thing is going to lead to an extinc­tion of tol­er­ance. I’m also curi­ous on who gets to make this judge­ment on what might lead to an extinc­tion of tol­er­ance. What are the cri­te­ria? Also, is it not fas­cist to silence peo­ple you dis­agree with?

    Sounds like a pret­ty easy why to ratio­nal­ize silenc­ing peo­ple you dis­agree with.

  • Ray Collins says:

    Exact­ly, Chris. These peo­ple who claim they’re “not tol­er­at­ing the intol­er­ant” are cir­cle-arguers. AND they are the ones (nat­u­ral­ly!) who mag­i­cal­ly have the secret knowl­edge of what “intol­er­ant” per­sons are. Do we have proof of their genius? What test did they take to anoint them­selves as final arbiters of “intol­er­ance”? And fun­ny how the Venn Dia­grams of these peo­ple match so close­ly with those who are total­ly intol­er­ant of those who want to be left alone to pur­sue their own inter­ests with­out gov­’t inter­fer­ence. LOL

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