Drone and Apocalypse
An imagined retrospective of apocalyptic art
Drone and Apocalypse is an exhibit catalog for a retrospective of twenty-first-century art. Its narrator, Cynthia Wey, is a failed artist convinced that apocalypse is imminent. She writes critical essays delineating apocalyptic tendencies in drone music and contemporary art. Interspersed amid these essays are “speculative artworks”, Wey’s term for descriptions of artworks she never constructs that center around the extinction of humanity. Wey’s favorite musicians are drone artists like William Basinski, Celer, Thomas Köner, Les Rallizes Dénudés, and Éliane Radigue, and her essays relate their works to moments of ineffability in Herodotus, Aristotle, Plato, Pliny the Elder, Isidore of Seville, Robert Burton, Hegel, and Dostoyevsky.
Well after Wey’s demise, the apocalypse never arrives, but Wey’s journal is discovered. Curators fascinated with twenty-first-century culture use her writings as the basis for their exhibit “Commentaries on the Apocalypse”, which realizes Wey’s speculative artworks as photographs, collages, and sound/video installations.
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Demers’ Drone and Apocalypse is a sprawling and inventive meditation on the nature of apocalypse in contemporary art and music. It takes the form of an ‘exhibit catalogue’ pertaining to an exhibition staged in 2213 on the essays and artistic ideas of Cynthia Wey. The book variously focuses on drone music, film, philosophy, cynicism, list making and the apocalypse, which Wey, Demers’ invention and interlocutor, believed was imminent and foreshadowed in contemporary culture. While signs of the apocalypse have been seen throughout history, Demers identifies a new and emerging trend in contemporary culture. The book begins with a prologue by Demers. It discusses drone music, clearly of both academic and emotional significance to the author, before setting out the author’s experimental approach for the book itself. I say clearly as despite a fairly wide experience of contemporary music, including electronic and dirge, drone music has always left me cold. Demers seems to enjoy the deliberately obtuse and challenging nature of this music, finding depths and complexities that have eluded me. Through the character of Cynthia Wey and an exhibition staged two hundred years from now, Demers creates distance from herself and her subject. This artifice is effective—Demers writes with more clarity and verve as Wey than she does in her own, more academic, voice. The main part of the book is the exhibit catalogue. It includes a curator’s introduction which offers a pen portrait of Wey: a West Coast millennial, failed artist, diarist and administrator, convinced that in the early 2000s, the apocalypse was inevitable and fast approaching. For the curator of this fictional exhibition, Wey is a rediscovered visionary, valued for her insight into early 21st century culture. Her planned artworks have been recreated, both in the exhibition and here, through description, for the reader. These are possibly the weakest element of an otherwise interesting book. Even in exegesis, the works seem trite. “Photojournalism of the Fall” contains the only visual representation of Wey’s ideas: photocollages by Sean Griffin. These fairly derivative images add little to the text. To complicate matters, Griffin is a composer and artist currently working in California. Introducing a contemporary figure to recreate Wey’s works for the purposes of a future exhibition is both rather confusing and has the effect of breaking the book’s fourth wall briefly. The imagery combines various found elements, following the well-trodden path of Pop and more recent collage art. There is a noticeable difference between Demers writing on music and visual art: a different book where Wey was recast as a failed contemporary composer may have allowed for more original works to be imagined, described and used. Wey and the book are deeply concerned with the concept of apocalypse. Drone music, as created by Boards of Canada, Celer and others, is seen as one sign of this apocalyptic tendency. This music is comprised of slow building, wordless, repetitive, even discordant planes of sound. It defies conventional music, in the same way that apocalyptic art, with its deliberate focus on boredom and repetition, defies modernism. However, Demers and Wey avoid a specific definition of apocalyptic art. Instead, list making, classification, duplication, irony and cynicism are qualities which make up this apocalyptic tendency. Turning its back on even the reheated narratives of postmodernism, apocalyptic art represents a final taking-stock-of-things. Art is slowly, deliberately packing up and putting away, and then waiting patiently for the end. drone While Demers focuses on drone music as apocalyptic art, these same traits can be found in JG Ballard’s The Drought (1965), a book concerned with environmental apocalypse. Although not mentioned in Drone and Apocalypse, it was this far earlier work that came to mind while reading Demers. In The Drought, Ransom and a band of survivors cope with a cataclysmic drought by hoarding depleting water stocks and heading to the coast. Unlike apocalyptic novels which begin or end with the moment of collapse, The Drought takes us beyond that moment, and embraces the boredom, tawdry tensions, repetition and waiting of those who have reached the literal end of their world. The final third of the book takes place on a crowded, ruined beach where people desalinate hard-won puddles of water while dreaming of salvation. The deliberate anti-climatic quality of The Drought seems to capture Demers’ own sense of the apocalypse. Wey echoes the character of Ransom, with both waiting for a final apocalypse which has both already happened and never will. While Ransom had his marooned boat and beach, Wey exists in the more recognisable space of contemporary California. Demers provides some interesting historical background to the idea of the apocalypse—not an end, but an unveiling, a fundamental shift beyond human imagining. As such, and as with Ballard’s Drought, apocalypse has an after. We wait for the end but find ourselves with the post-end clean-up. The fiction of Demers’ book allows her to conceal what I feel is its core ambition—the mapping of a tendency in contemporary culture which is post-postmodernism. Demers mentioning contemporary culture as made up of “gore, fantasy and irony”, traits shared with postmodernism. However, she also sees repetition and dullness, coupled with a profound uncertainty. Through Wey, she posits a new form of culture which combines the weary stereotypes of the millennial with the apocalyptic fear of Millennialism. I would have liked to see more of this focused and original cultural criticism throughout the book. Demers uses Wey’s art as an example of apocalyptic art, rather than a route towards stronger examples. James Richards’ films would be one example of contemporary visual culture embodying Demers’ ideas of apocalypse. Nominated for the Turner Prize in 2014, Richards’ art combines installation, music and film. I saw Richards’ work in the Ars Viva show in Hamburg in 2015. For me, his work is as close to a visual representation of drone music as I have seen. Although I am more visual than musical, I found Richards’ films initially off-putting. They were discordant and repetitive and buried any narrative deep. I persisted, and the more I watched the more the nuances and texture were evident. The repetition became profound; the discordance moving. Like drone music, there is no tune or story to retell; rather, both create a powerful, immerse emotional impact. What is this book, then? It is at once an essay about apocalyptic culture, a reflection on the nature of apocalypse as the ‘great unveiling’, an experimental work of prose, a fictional portrayal of a failed artist and a work of futurism. In the spirit of apocalyptic culture, the book gives no answers but offers reflection and repetition. It also aims to be a gallery guide, a format which I feel, as a curator by trade, somewhat equipped to analyse. At its simplest, a gallery guide is a list of works and a memento of a show. Increasingly, catalogues combine essays by curators, academics and others to offer new perspectives on works of art. As such, they can act as a substitute for the exhibition itself. Here, this format allows Demers to approach the subject of apocalypse from multiple angles and voices. The great strength of this unusual work is its huge range of sources. It is a rich feast of ideas which provokes the reader long after being read. Despite a fairly traditional opening (on troubadour songs, of all things), it rapidly opens out its references and ideas. Demers is strongest on music, her academic discipline, but the reflections on literature and philosophy are engaging and interesting. It is hard to avoid wondering if Wey is a semi-autobiographical character. Wey calls herself a ‘failed artist’ more than once—is the academic who studies rather than creates art a failed artist in the same way? This experimental approach allows the academic to embrace fiction and innovation, which provides much-needed new ground for discussion. While the form is challenging or occasionally infuriating, it is hard not to enjoy a book that quotes Dostoyevsky and Morrissey, and finds such peacefulness and hope in the idea of apocalypse. ~ Zosia Silarska, Minor Literatures
Joanna Demers is an academic but Drone and Apocalypse is not quite your typical academic book. Though Demers frames the work as a furthering of her professional interest in experimental electronic music, it’s also clearly a personal record of listening to and being moved by that same music. The book is mostly made up of a series of short essays about particular musicians — William Basinski, Thomas Koner, Eliane Radigue and, most of all, Celer — operating in the ambient/drone area of electronic music, analyzed with the help of ancient Greek texts and examples of classic literature. The essays are essentially non-fictional but they come presented within a fictional context: an exhibition in the year 2213 featuring the writing and speculative artworks of an early 21st century artist-of-sorts, Cynthia Wey. Wey’s ‘speculative artworks’ are propositions for work never realized — photo collages, video installations, etc — that extend or express the ideas contained within the essays. The book opens with Demers’ preface, which explains her reasoning behind this structure and her interest in drone music, which is followed by an introductory essay by the curators of the exhibition, doubling up on Demers’ notes as a fictionalized, art-world version of the same set of justifications and explanations. Together they set out the questions at the heart of the book: What are the philosophical foundations of drone music? What do we mean when we say ‘the end of the world’? How do we speak about something that has no meaning? Cynthia Way is the figure Demers uses to think her way through these questions. Wey’s biography marks her as someone both inside and outside the traditional academy. As an MFA graduate working as an administrative assistant in the music department at UC San Diego, where “her job consisted of preparing payroll for faculty, staff and graduate students,” Wey has contact with and knowledge of the university structure. The work presented here — impassioned personal essays written at home, mostly at night — eludes these structures entirely. Wey is able to access the traditions, knowledge, and practices of the university without having to write into those same traditions, without being bound by their limited affordances. Through Wey, Demers gives herself the space to advance an academic pursuit in a more personal, more ambiguous way. The music Demers is writing about is, in her own words, “slippery, resistant to deciphering, and perhaps eternally unknowable,” but the somewhat loose nature of a private journal allows her to attach words to these ineffable sounds, without having to make those words stick fast. She can decorate, she can cut quickly between ideas and references, she can advance and retreat. In this form, the blissful ignorance of wallowing in the meaninglessness of sustained tones needn’t be sacrificed for the sake of concrete knowledge. Wey’s character allows the writing to retain the kind of negative capability that a more straightforward academic structure would likely disallow. Like with the music itself, which eschews narrative and conclusion, it’s being there that counts. Drone music is a niche subject. Those who dismiss it likely find it boring or uselessly pretty, and much of it is indeed just a beautiful, glistening waste of time. Wey’s essays hit on the substance of the form though, which is its relationship to time and how, at their strongest, such sounds can open a space where both the crushing melancholia of memory and the anxious projections of hope for the future can be indulged. Extended, repetitious, near-unchanging drone pieces seem to freeze the listener in time, to slow the world around them and allow a certain kind of internal observation to take place, an existential or meditative self-examination. At its deepest, and this is the pitch at which Wey most commonly operates, such an opportunity can result in thoughts of non-existence, of a time beyond one’s own life, or the life of one’s culture and society. As Deleuze wrote of Yasujiro Ozu’s lingering ‘still life’ shots, “Time is the full, that is, the unalterable form filled by change.” The static shot within a constantly moving medium serves as a reminder of time itself, a cosmological, capital-T Time, within which everything else changes and passes. As a genre that puts the static in ecstatic, drone music’s “moments of joy that halt time altogether” cannot but reassert Time, throw its passing into relief, and so make the end of one’s own time seem inevitable. These moments, “when one’s toes clench the precipice shortly before jumping,” are a through-line to an apocalyptic future. They “speak of the end of time, the end of the world, and all the unresolvable dilemmas that accompany such ends.” Wey repeatedly comes back to one such dilemma: What does it mean to feel moments of happiness, joy even, in the face of a sure and imminent apocalypse? She contrasts Celer’s music and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in search of an answer. In the latter, happiness is something to push towards over an entire lifetime, an endeavor which can only be judged successful at the end of that life. In Celer’s music, and Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Wey pin-points a different type of happiness in which a lifetime’s worth of the emotion can be felt within a single moment, even if such a moment comes at a great cost — not least the knowledge, after the moment has passed, of the continual absence of such great joy, such peace. In Celer’s Salvaged Violets, Wey imagines such a moment frozen and distended, looping forever as “an edifice of eternal happiness, eternal for however long it lasts,” implying always an afterward, a hollow encore. However long it lasts is another of Wey’s pressing concerns. She is a character who foresees an imminent end to human life on earth. One of the aspects of drone music which she finds most attractive is its ability to look at the end of the world without dramatizing it, without making the apocalyptic event a transcendent event. Drone is often an “anatomical art,” cataloging its ideas and sounds rather than expressing them through narrative or sullying them with a message or an imperative. This form of documentation — the manifest, the list — which is as evident in Wey’s own essays as in the music she writes about, is for her the only understandable reaction to the “bleakest knowledge” that all will pass, and pass soon. Such artworks are the “only fitting response after the heart has burned and bled and then stopped.” In listing what exists despite their assured destruction, they “prove that we were ever here.” That they cannot list everything and must remain incomplete is the source of their melancholy. It is in the work of William Basinski and Eliane Radigue that Wey most effectively elucidates these ideas. Wey uses Radigue’s music to circle around Blaise Pascal’s question: “With no more than eight days to live, who would not find that the best bet is to believe . . . ?” For Wey, Radigue shows that belief — in God, in a savior, in an afterlife — at such a juncture is cynical. It’s empty, selfish logic — a monstrous form of reason. Given the end of the world, Wey declares it best to face the end without change, without desire either for the end or for things to be different. After the three beautiful, meaningless, monumental hours of Radigue’s Adnos I-III, the sound simply stops. It doesn’t close, it doesn’t climax; it stops. First it was, now it isn’t. In the simple switch from on to off, there is no sentimentality, no emotional grease or stylistic play-acting. No teleology, nothing to be learned. “There is no explanation for it, no narrative or program or belief in some event that will justify what we hear; it is beautiful and incomprehensible because of its sounds alone.” Wey, and Demers too, must always return to this incomprehensible center, the void at the heart of the music and of the book. If the essays and artworks in the book are speculative, then so is the book itself. Drone and Apocalpyse speculates on what form knowledge might take in the face of the unknowable. What does knowledge look and feel like when it is uncertain, or beyond proof? The obvious answer is that it looks like faith, and the book is in part a delineation of a secular, nihilistic faith, a faith that can rely only on worldly beauty for its unifying force. Wey’s belief in beauty, her faith in the music which gives her a center with which to face an inevitable void, is matched by Demers belief in her structure; that this literary form might be a way of following and accompanying the meaningless and the inexpressible. Not unpacking or deconstructing it, not building it up to an ideology of its own, but simply being with it until a certain point, beyond which there is no being at all. ~ Ian Maleney, Full Stop
When I saw that this book existed, I had one of those moments that writers sometimes have. Someone had ticked one off, on the list of things I had hoped to do before I exit the world. I have long thought that someone needs to write a serious book on drone. That Joanna Demers has now done it, and in such an exemplificatory spirit, is delightful. This is so very far from a dry academic autopsy. There are roots to drone, but Demers doesn’t give us a tedious timeline or teleology. With music that never begins or ends, where time is irrelevant, why would you? Of course, drone has roots, and I have sketchily covered them as a music writer, over many years, hence my urge to collect my thoughts in a more systematic way. This book review had better do. You cannot approach this topic straight on. If writing about music is like dancing to architecture, writing about drone is like trying to recreate Malevich’s black square using only the discarded bits that collect under your hole punch. So I am not going to directly restate what you can read in Demers’ book here, though I am urging you to read it. When explaining drone to students – I am currently supervising a dissertation on noise in art – I usually look back to Yves Klein’s Monotone Symphony. Then to Tony Conrad, a member of La Monte Young’s Theater of Eternal Music in the 60’s, The Dream Syndicate, who was way ahead of the pack. So were Faust, with the ur-industrial drone, and they came together with Conrad, providing that metronomic pulse defined by a Neu! one-beat, now globally franchised as ‘Krautrock’, as Conrad relentlessly droned his violin over the top. Pure music, it makes the hairs on your arms stand up. So how does all this make meaning? That dangerous word, ‘pure’, means only that it is relatively untainted by genre. Here, in brief, is how I approach drone, particularly its flattened aesthetic. Its very particular temporality and duration. Drone often unfolds over time and does not, at the same time. It is one big moment. Movement and no movement in one. Listen to the last tracks on Eno’s Discreet Music for an example of this. Of course, some drone moves, some slightly, some drastically. But drone often invokes the constantly collapsing present moment of Heidegger, or buddhism. I could go into Bergson here, but this is a book review. Drone can be utopian, the blank space we need to move to, mirroring Attali’s concern that sound travels before other mediums. It is literally avant-garde in form, as it is unburdened with the demands of, say, sculpture making. That said, you can make a work with the equivalent impact of a large bronze, with the same presence, in a space, with sound, using drone. You can fill a vast aircraft hangar with something as brutalising and permanent as concrete and metal, using only noise. But still, how does it make meaning? There is a great deal to be gained here from writing about abstract painting. Drone often ‘hangs there’ like a painting. If you put a title on a very abstract, open piece, it tends to ground its meaning more, to narrow its range of possible significances. The same, for me, applies to drone. Adorno suggested that an effective modern piece will contain its own language. It will teach you how to read it as you take it in. They are monads, sealed units containing their own logic. But an effective modern piece will also contain a seed that can burst out and rupture itself, and all that lies around it. It is Revolutionary. Drone often teaches you how to read it. And drone can rupture. This is how I judge drone, qualitatively. It is how I read it. But Demers also presents us with a fiction to read. A science fiction. Her book is in that tradition, in the best examples of Ballard, and… well, Ballard. Just as Robinson’s film cans appear in a caravan, in Keiller’s Robinson In Ruins, and the fictional academic Gang Lion, in Vertical Features Remake, by Peter Greenaway, Demers’ book comes to us via fictional, rediscovered academic notes. For me, drone is both utopian and apocalyptic all at once. That requires you to look awry and take some deep breaths before writing. Demers does this and judges drone, through her fictional muse, on the apocalyptic side. She has written a dystopian sci-fi of noise. Again, I have personal touchstones here. Godspeed You Black Emperor’s 1997 debut ‘f#a#∞’ asked if the end of the world was coming. To me, at the time, it was. I listened to this record on my way to work. Couldn’t stop. My job in a bank was turning me to drink. The tech people there, at that point, didn’t know if the mythical ‘Millenium Bug’ would wipe everything away. I watched the Seattle protests and Genoa. 9/11 wasn’t far away, which I watched live, in the HBOS headquarters. I watched a massive financial institution destroyed from within one, on a screen used to show banking adverts to marketing staff. A delegation from the Twin Towers had been in that very room, only a month before. Godspeed were a scab I couldn’t stop picking, it hurt me. It bled more than it should, but it satisfied. The drone sections could go either way. They were blank spaces that flickered between the end of the world and the beginning of a new one. Between hope and its opposite. All that remains of them now is the Wagnerian apocalypse of Godspeed’s Yanqui U.X.O. The funeral drum and Orleans horns of ‘rocket falls on Rocket Falls’. Yanqui U.X.O is an elegy, a grand political wake. The cover artwork is typical of their approach, bombs fall on the front, we’re not sure who is dropping them or where, which gives the image great tension. These bombs are all bombs. On the back, the words ‘Yanqui U.X.O’ sit in the centre of a spider diagram. ‘Yanqui’, they say, is corporate imperialism, ‘U.X.O’ is unexploded ordnance, landmines. These words are then linked to Sony, British Aerospace and AOL Time Warner. This is how drone and noise is apocalyptic, it goes back to Hendrix and The Star Spangled Banner, a national anthem painted in napalm, with its roots in Chicago bar room amplification. Pure pragmatism, but those roots in turn reach further down, to slavery and Empire. So many records come on like easy listening versions of Klauz Schulze, Edgar Froese or Cluster. The ‘ambient compilation’, but there was little that was reassuringly cosy about the German pioneers. In this sense, I am wary of the zen comparisons to drone, although they can legitimately be made. ‘Bayreuth Return’ by Klauz Schulze signifies, it makes meaning. Think about it. Think about post-WW2 German culture. Think about how the word ‘Bayreuth’ inevitably resignifies after the holocaust. But that’s an old recording to bring up. So let’s examine the subject through a more recent one. Angel’s ‘Terra Null’, for Editions Mego. Get the CD. Examine it. The initial signs seemed to indicate a record about 17th and 18th century emerging imperialism, with track titles such as ‘Naked Land’ and ’Colonialists’. Put the CD on. ‘Naked Land’, betrays an almost spaghetti western sound, which seems to further underline the frontiersmanship. A guitar twangs, detuning and retuning, but the electronic side of the drones betray the time we’re in, and via this, Angel collapse ancient into modern, as Marx did when he talked about ‘primitive’ accumulation and the commodity as a kind of anthropological fetish. Somehow, this album by Angel puts us into that space, ‘Quake’ particularly, via slow drones, cello, oscillators, guitar and scree, it unfolds into what Dan Latimer called ‘a sublime appropriate for individual subjects fixed in some vast network of international business, blinking, clicking, whirring incessantly to transmit, like transistorized Jedi Knights, the power of the Force.’ The buzzing, low tones simultaneously describe this evil landscape, at the same time as they try to open a crack in it, and of course speed is important here, temporality is crucial to capitalism, and to drone. To slow it right down is to resist. To speed up is to acquiesce. The antique etchings on the CD sleeve may be of ‘the new world’ of colonialism, but they become, simultaneously, dialectically, about the ‘new world’ we may be forced into, the place, as Jameson once told us, that we have no alternative but to go to. The past as the future. The two cancelled out by each other. This is ‘utopia’, terra null, a no-place, at least not yet. The last cut though, ‘Quake’, gets bible-apocalyptic, roaring like Sunn O))), or Merzbow. This is utopia and apocalypse as one. Hegel’s dialectic as two opposites in one whole, never combining, but bursting, absolutely seething with historical tension. Oval, for me, are so important to this topic. Oval are drone as the End of History. They are the sound of vacuous mall music glitched out endlessly to swallow all of time. They are a formal translation of the flattening of our cultural landscapes into a substance so thin that it now covers everything. Their titles are also crucial to this, ‘Lens-Flared Capital’, for instance. Faust hinted at what was to come when opening their first album. The radio sweeps over the scree of interference, as All You Need Is Love flashes up, and is then smashed to pieces by noise. That, they say, is what happened to all of that, as Baader-Meinhof rose. Their spectre has just returned. Here is the logical extension of Revolution 9 by The Beatles, with its reference to Beethoven’s last symphony. Gesamtkustwerk as smashed fragments. Noise as historical symphony, that ensures another Historical Symphony can never be written. Beethoven was nearly deaf when the Ninth was premiered, and recording equipment did not exist. Since then, hundreds of recordings of it have been made. We have heard the Ninth more times, and better, than its writer. In this, Demers is absolutely correct to approach the topic through science fiction: Leif Inge’s Beet 9 Stretch slowed down Beethoven’s Ninth until it lasted for 24 hours, with no pitch distortions. This piece does many things, but one thing it has to do, before all the others, is flatten the Ninth into a millimetre thin surface, in order to squeeze the excess of signification out of it. This is one thing that drone can do well. Beethoven’s Ninth has become so overloaded with signification and connotation that it has imploded, in the way Faust made All You Need Is Love collapse. The Ode To Joy has a hundred meanings, the european anthem, film music, adverts. This is the same thing as Demers’ opening reflections on ancient music that has been transcribed in detail and left to us, yet we will never know for certain how it sounded. The first performance of the Ninth was perhaps the last time this would be the case. With drone, transcription is often pointless, the space, medium and document is the music. But once the Ninth has been flattened by Leif Inge, and the piece is being played on an endless loop, in a huge space, it becomes a new site of radical potential, which doesn’t completely erase its own suturing join with the historical, something the philosopher Catherine Malabou is very concerned about. Drone gives you the space where utopia and dystopia, the tabula rasa and apocalypse are one. Where they fold into each other. Demers gives us this, in the form of a musicology as dystopian sci-fi. She explores what I have outlined here through Tim Hecker and Celer, via Boethius. She has taken risks, and they pay off. She was the right person to open a serious debate about drone in book form, not me. Now it is up to us to carry on the conversation in the spirit of her annunciation. Here is my offering as an invocation. Snow, snow, snow come on snow, blast it all blind into a wiped, white VHS crackle. Lose the landscape and this sadness, in drifts no gritter can pass. Your instructions. Get this book, put Oval on repeat. Think, reflect, think, write. Repeat. ~ Steve Hanson, New Cross Review of Books
Demers' text is a wide, rooted journey through interpretation and imagination, a fine example of the importance of listening with an open mind. ~ Will Long, founder of drone group Celer
Some say that art is the postponement of the end of the world, and the curious effect of the obliquity of these intriguing critical-musical fictions is to slow down the onrush of the apocalypse they keep fantasizing, decelerating it to drone speed, to allow us to appreciate it. Drone is thingly music, and apocalypse speech fantasizes that you can rip the appearance away from things, to reach the reality. Joanna Demers's intricate, cycling filigrees of fiction and history and philosophy and music analysis prevent this rip from occurring, preserving the mysterious reality of things, a reality that science, STEM speak notwithstanding, is prevented from disclosing. ~ Timothy Morton, Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English, Rice University
This is an astonishingly rich book. The depth and range of Demers' fields of reference and the insights of her musical discussions make her account a marvelously productive true fiction. This is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary music. ~ Mitchell Morris, Professor of Musicology, UCLA
At the end of the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel, "Fight Club", the narrator watches a skyscraper's collapse set to the sounds by The Dust Brothers. This self-fulfilled cataclysm is echoed by the (fictional) protagonist of Joanna Demers' "Drone and Apocalypse", but unlike the breakbeat rhythms of this Hollywood depiction, Cynthia Wey's soundtrack is appropriately composed of the music by Celer, William Basinski and Éliane Radigue. The inevitable demise of humanity is explored through a series of essays that reflect on man-made catastrophes, spiritual holocaust, and ultimately, void. But unlike the negative connotation of the words marking the end of our own existence, Demers reveals the beauty of emptiness, expressed by the drones drenched in longing and time. This concept of eternal spaciousness has long been known in the Buddhist absolute. Demers' work invites the reader (and the listener) to enter the space of unending apocalypse, submerging oneself in a lasting nostalgia for our eminent fate. ~ HC, from Headphone Commute, an independent online magazine covering electronic, experimental and instrumental music
Joanna Demers' book is a creative and speculative mission into the lush hinterlands at the edges of academic writing. It is a fascinating exploration of drone, noise and the ends of the comprehensible. ~ Robert Willim, Lund University, Sweden