Saturday, July 28, 2007

Beyond Beyond: On High on Fire's "The Yeti" (a preview)

Beyond the mountains of ice
Exists a creature of frost

STORIES PRECEDE BEGINNING. This one does, first, by beginning with a Yeti howl (another story), and second, by beginning (and unending) with a riff that is already a story, an epic, elephantine line whose measure, architecture, and fearsome fugal quality make it already narrative, not a narrative of something, but a narrative itself, so that we feel the first words before hearing them, sense the sonic approach of a story, the musical aura of temporal being. “For just as contraries opposed to contraries give discourse its beauty, so the world’s beauty [saeculi pulchritudo] is constituted by a kind of eloquence of contraries in opposition, not of words but of things” (Augustine, City of God, 11.18). This is the story of a story we know, the boundary of a place we have been before. Here the Yeti walks, through a place we passed through, once, on our way here. BEYOND BEYOND. This place is beyond all others where there are spaces between contraries, spaces for dissonance and harmony. But it is not totally beyond them. The Yeti’s place is something else, a middle between our place and the beyond, a magic zone around the intersection of Augustine’s contrariorum oppositio and Cusa’s coincidentia oppositorum. This is a place of simultaneously infintesimal and maximal space, a somewhere between unity and duality where things are held together, not by identity or difference, but by pure proximity, by a nearness so perfect that it is both infinitely intimate and absolutely open. This is the elemental world, a beyond that is not beyond but within and therefore a beyond beyond. In the elemental world, everything happens through sublime closeness, without means or agents. Here there are battles without armies, myths without gods, faces without features, conversations without words. Here the possible and the impossible make and unmake each other in unending loving strife. And this is why the Yeti cannot normally be seen, because he is too close, right there. But in remote places, where the boundary between things and elements thins, where there are momentary breakdowns in Gestalt, the Yeti can be glimpsed. As Heidegger explains, “the achieving of phenomenological access to the entities which we encounter consists in thrusting aside our interpretive tendencies, which keep thrusting themselves upon us” chief of which is the very category of thing: “For in addressing these entities as ‘Things’(res), we have tacitly anticipated their ontological character” (Being and Time, 1.3.15). ELEMENTAL ENTERING. Being an ever-present boundary between within and without, the Yeti’s elemental world is neither and both. You cannot enter it. It cannot enter you. Yet it is possible to be entered into it. This can happen when the Yeti’s voice, at once humanoid scream and howling storm, enters from within as a without. The most wonderful thing about this elemental entering is that it seems, it sounds, like you are hearing it from afar when in fact it is only causing, as its outermost reverberation, the experience of physical hearing. In reality the sound is not coming from anywhere but is a vibration of the very boundary between inner and outer. Thus the fantastic irony that Yeti howl recordings, such as the one High on Fire here samples, are mostly “honest” attempts by people who really have heard a Yeti to demonstrate the reality of their experience by proving the truth of a lie they are deceived by, namely, that the Yeti is a biological rather than elemental animal. The Yeti, like other creatures of his world, can be seen, smelt, heard, but not photographed, bottled, recorded, unless there is a way to photograph seeing, bottle smelling, record hearing (a mircomicrophone somewhere in Corti’s organum spirale?).


J J Cohen said...

Wow, when last I had tracked him the Yeti was lurking here. Like all creatures of the primal imagination, he gets around!

Nicola Masciandaro said...

Plenty of interpretive fun to be had there. Jogs my fond memories of the Matterhorn.

But what shall we call the element he get around in?

See also