Next came Max Horkheimer. I recently got through a series of essays by Horkeimer and Theodor Adorno called The Culture Industry. Mainstream culture, as they and the rest of the Frankfurt School described it, is the ultimate weapon of mass distraction - a raw form of capitalism which requests a psychic investment in the parent culture. Their criticisms still apply in a world where cultural events have become branded, sponsored, front-of-mind marketing opps and where advertising is reconceived as 'knowledge share' and 'community-building'.
And yet Horkheimer and Adorno were writing before the arrival of rock 'n' roll and the counter-culture, which would serve the same role - for some people, sometimes - as Adorno's rather rigid notion of high art. Adorno's aesthetic, I think, was forged in the Holocaust; how, he asked of art and culture, are you going to make sense of that? Only writers like Beckett had the answer: "I cannot go on. I go on."
(Tangentially - and Adorno was a musicologist as well as a philosopher, so I'd be intrigued to know what he might have made of this - I am fond of Noel Coward's observation, "Strange how potent cheap music is." But that's probably a slightly different point about our subjective experience of art and the extent to which we submit to sentimentality. We probably need Milan Kundera to help us make sense of this.)
Anyway, today in the Guardian's series comes Willhelm Reich, a thinker who's had more influence - sort of - on music than any other: primal screaming, cloud-busting, orgone accumulating, iluminati-inspiring, free-love proposing; Mailer, Bellow and Burroughs were keen advocates. Here's Reich's six point plan for 'creative sanity':
To stay sane in an insane world as a creative man or woman he or she must:
- Keep one’s life financially independent.
- Continue unabated to exercise one’s power of creativity in concrete, strenuous tasks, always seeking perfection as near as possible.
- Carefully cherish love of a partner with full gratification, of the total emotional being if possible, of the body in a clean way if necessary.
- Keep out of the trap of confusion by the average man and woman, helping others to keep out of the trap too as best they can.
- Keep one’s structure clean like brook water through knowing and correcting every mistake, making the corrected mistake the guiding lines to new truth.
- Never yield to the expediencies of life except where it is basically harmless or where the main line of development is not impeded for the duration of one’s life.
Below comes Hawkwind's tribute to Reich's concept of orgone energy - the life-force he hoped to catch in a wooden box. "It's a back brain stimulator," explains resident poet Bob Calvert, helpfully. "It's a cerebral vibrator. Those energy stimulators - just turn your eyeballs into craters. I'm all gone."