Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"The Bugle Sounds, The Charge Begins..."

In William Golding's, The Lord Of The Flies, a handful of boys make their first move toward self governance. They blow a conch shell on the beach to gather the other survivors of the WWII evacuee's plane crash. Surely as this first note is blown with proper intention, the lives of William's boys are rocketed straight to Hell. There is a golden haze encompassing this group of pig-killing choir boys. Man vs. Man. Boy vs. Boy... vs Nature etc., etc. It totally fascinates me.

The bugle and trumpet have often been used interchangeably and each of their histories is long and varied. Most horn players could tell you some really interesting shit about history. Something like this... maybe:

"Ancient trumpets were used at religious ceremonies and associated with magical rites. Burials, circumcisions, and sunset rites (to ensure the sun would return) were a few of the early ceremonies in which the trumpet was used. It was a male-dominated practice and among certain tribes of the Amazon any woman who looked at a trumpet was killed. The tradition of playing at sunrise (Reveille), sunset (Retreat), and at burials (Taps) may have evolved from these ancient rituals." Read more here. The trumpet has been around longer, but the Bugle rose to prominence quickly for use in military campaigns. It originated from German hunting horns.

During the American Civil War, the Bugle could be heard from a distance of three miles over the sounds of artillery. Responsibility for sounding out commands and movement, interpreting the music of the Enemy bugle, playing at funerals and "lifting spirits" all fell under the Bugler's job description. How do you get that job? Volunteer? Were any of these Buglers (or drummers for that matter) musicians before the war? Do you think they were ever targeted because of their important role - like medics in wars of the past?

There is a story that the Union army officer, Colonel James H. Wilson, employed 250 buglers during the battle of Front Royal, in Virginia on September 21st., 1864. The Union buglers charged the Confederate lines with each of them screaming through their instruments at the same time. The Confederates broke and ran in full flight.
This story is not confirmed, but it wouldn't be the first time such a tactic was used. Roman Legion... Zulu Nation.... I always imagined that buglers were solitary individuals and that's probably from product advertising and not from being a genius, but I'm pretty sure (without really investigating) there were many buglers in every conflict. The utilization of horn players in battle goes back for centuries. As long as you could hear your Trumpeter or Bugle Boy or bagpipe player, you knew you were still okay in some way. How do military units fair when communication is lost? Take out the Bugler. No more direction. No more wake up call. Lose the Last Rites... It wouldn't take long after that for things to fall apart without exceptional leadership. Seems like a smart enemy would train their sights on the horns before anything else!

Though there is this:

One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful. Seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skillful.~ The Art of War

My propensity for lateral thinking takes me away from the Bugler for a second, so that we can talk about television actors who play the criminals in re-enactments on shows like America's Most Wanted. I can't help but think that there are scads of people who believe they are watching the actual crime itself unfold before them. Years ago, a slew of mid-westerners wouldn't eat chicken because of an X-Files episode they saw. KFC, Lazy Boys, fruited plains, John Walsh. I wager that acting in a Cold Case Files type of show, would have you soon after suffering the scrutiny of security at grocery stores and airports. I think these actors aren't safe from having their identity mistaken, unless all crime show actors live in Los Angeles. Because If you live there long enough, you just accept look-a-likes and criminals because everyone is a bastard. I once told a Houston traffic cop, that I had just seen a guy who was on the FBI's most wanted list 2 blocks away. He didn't take me seriously. It was probably my delivery. I'm not saying that crime scene re-enactors are stupid for having their trade and trying to make rent. I'm not saying anything. This is an aside. This whole thing is an aside.

The most famous Bugle music I know is TAPS. Taps replaced a song called "Lights Out" which was a military tattoo. The tattoo was predominantly used to tell Bartenders to "Turn off their taps" at 9:30pm sharp as soldiers were meant to return to their barracks. So, when you hear Taps playing at the next military funeral look at it like a last call for alcohol. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. Bugles were eventually outmoded with the invention of radio, but up until the Vietnam War soldiers were trained in bugle calls, although today they are mostly used in ceremonies. Popular modern tunes include: "Come to Breakfast", "Haven't You Had Enough Alcohol" and "You're Dead".

One story about how Taps came to be, talks about a Union soldier who happens upon a dying Confederate soldier in a thicket. Though he risked punishment, the Union soldier brought the dying man to his camp and asked that he be spared. The guy died, but in his pocket was a piece of music. It was discovered that the young man was actually the runaway son of the Union soldier who found him, and the piece of music in his pocket was Taps... Sounds like a tidy and romantic little moral lesson doesn't it? That's why it's not true. Most scholars agree that Union Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield wrote TAPS, and handed it to his Bugler, Oliver Norton, in 1862. It was played softly because the usual 3 volley tribute played for the dead would give away their location and get them killed. Ever see footage of soldiers smoking Opium and blasting "Purple Haze" and then they've been blown to Hell in the next frame? Back to the music. Sort of.

I'm sure that I am not the only one who considers battle cries musical. Along with wolves howling, pencils sharpening, elevator shafts dropping, glass breaking, fan lights clinking, radio static hissing and sea lions fucking on icebergs... all music to me. A single word can be poetry. A spark can be fire. A drop of water can be a tidal wave. Canyons don't jut out of deserts because of mystical reasoning or solely because of scientific arguments. The big picture has nothing to do with our logic or our desire. All music to me! Which brings me to the Rebel Yell!

“Then arose that do-or-die expression, that maniacal maelstrom of sound; that penetrating, rasping, shrieking, blood-curdling noise that could be heard for miles and whose volume reached the heavens--such an expression as never yet came from the throats of sane men, but from men whom the seething blast of an imaginary hell would not check while the sound lasted.” -Colonel Keller Anderson of Kentucky's Orphan Brigade.

"At last it grew too dark to fight. Then away to our left and rear some of Bragg's people set up 'the rebel yell'. It was taken up successively and passed around to our front, along our right and in behind us again, until it seemed almost to have got to the point whence it started. It was the ugliest sound that any mortal ever heard -- even a mortal exhausted and unnerved by two days of hard fighting, without sleep, without rest, without food and without hope..." - Narrative of then-Lieutenant Ambrose Bierce, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, XXI Corps, Army of the Cumberland, at the Battle of Chickamauga (Last Union defenses on Horseshoe Ridge, September 20, 1863)

So, what did we learn? The Rebel Yell wasn't just a song by Billy-Leather-Dick-Idol, kids. It was the battle cry of Confederate soldiers used during the American Civil War. It was said to sound like a rabbit screaming, or an "Indian" whoop, or a wolf howl. There is a million stunning sounds out there in the Universe trying to vie for being on our individual life's soundtrack. I can't think of any sound more terrifying than being surrounded by thousands of armed men screaming and closing in to kill me. Actually, I can think of a more chilling sound. Hunters surrounding a dead stag and trumpeting a celebratory kill! Who would deny that this is also music?

My ancestors painted their faces blue and ran naked into skirmishes screaming their battle cry. It's a little different now. Armies are pounding Celine Dion and Muslim chants across militarized zones to drive their enemy's nuts and their morale down. Seems like it would just make the listener more determined and more hateful! Make them want to do anything to shut off the devil sound. Maybe the point is to drive men away from their Zen, and force them to act prematurely so they bungle their strategies. What other point is there to using music on front lines now-a-days? The Occasional artist travels overseas for publicity and the boosting of record sales - playing to rapidly aging boys and girls we kissed with death and big promises about "freedom". Does standing in the middle of a battlefield require meditation? How does all of this shit work? Why are we so vile? Maybe some soldiers would say they couldn't have made it through war without music. I'm sure that's true. Now let's see how they react in a department store or convenience store when confronted with their songs of war, 2 years later. If they had a particularly rough go at war, they would likely stop everything and leave the premises. And it wouldn't be with a smile on their face. Music itself could be the trigger to a bullet that you can never dodge. But you can clickhere, to see what kind of music this group is sending the soldiers in the Middle East to listen to.

One participant of a modern survival education camp a couple of years ago was mortified by the idea of shitting in the wilderness. She just couldn't do it. She had a real fear of crapping in public like an animal. She preferred instead to hold her bowels and be flown out by helicopter on the verge of death. I know that strange psychological things can overcome people at times, but what kind of music does a person like her need to get through the day? What songs does she need to make it on her battlefield of life? Dave Matthews? Cold Play? It's probably not Wagner. It's probably not anything I listen to, right? What kind of music would I take to War with me? In our own way, we are all on the front lines of our own bodies and souls, fighting the whole Universe to maintain our defensive lines. But who cares about what music people like when we all swell with group gluttony on a Death Star blowing conches and forming alliances with the same results? Music isn't going to save mankind. It's like graffiti in stereo. It is beautiful, but that doesn't really help us on a global front does it? Don't get me wrong, I like listening to, talking about, making and reading about music, but it's not much of an escape or a consolation - given how fucked up life is. While watching a documentary about Mahler, there was a quote about how Music is so important because it is about the here and now, and the here and now is all we really have. To be honest, I don't know what that means, because tell me if I'm wrong... Wasn't there a yesterday?

My favorite listing is "A"

Son of Ravyn, and myself have both been participating in The International Mixtape Project for some time. If you're into exchanging mix cd's, it's pretty cool. Yesterday I recieved a "Lips and Assholes" mix featuring music from artists with inflated egos. Plus they're cool, because Ryan Mixtape links to the NAP from their site.

Congratulations to the Cramer family. Here's to wishing you all the best . And finally, I hope your art show goes well Kilian.

Most of the NAP's readers have presumably seen this U.N.K.L.E./Radiohead/DJ Shadow "Rabbit in Your Headlights" video directed by Jonathan Glazer, but if you haven't ... it's worth seeing.