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Sounds of Apocalypse, Part One: Roar of Creation and Destruction

"Death on a Pale Horse" by Benjamin West [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Death on a Pale Horse” by Benjamin West [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

EDITOR’S NOTE: With this post we welcome a new contributing writer to the Teem. Dominik Irtenkauf is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction dealing with art, mythology, cultural philosophy, media theory, the occult, and avant-garde music. He also writes about the boundaries between art and science, and recently he has been combining his literary and documentary writing. He has published a number of books in German; for some of his writing in English, see the blog Bergmetal under the keyword “Stig Olsdal.” Dominik studied German philology, philosophy, and comparative literature in Münster. In 2007 he spent three months in Georgia on a Musa Fellowship for Literature from the country’s Ministry of Education and Science.

In this article — which is the first installment of a four-part piece — he combines all of these interests to present a reflection and meditation on an often overlooked aspect of cosmic creation and destruction.

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In mythic tales, the world often comes into being by noise. For example, in Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Genesis, the younger gods, begat by Apsû and his wife Tiâmat, engage in an incessant racket, and Apsû complains:

Their way has become painful to me,
By day I cannot rest, by night I cannot sleep;
I will destroy them and put an end to their way,
That silence be established, and then let us sleep!

The resulting war among the gods results in the creation of the world order that we know today, as the younger gods defeat their parents and use the dismembered corpse of Tiâmat to create the cosmos and the blood of Apsû to create the human race.

Other “noisy” creation stories include the Ancient Vedic traditions, where the world comes into being by the boom and quake of a “Great Breath,” and the apocryphal “Eighth Book of Moses” (also known as the “Holy Book of Moses” or “Hidden Sacred Book of Moses”), written by a Hellenistic Egyptian Jew and teaching that there have been seven “laughs” of God that created the forces in the universe. Obviously, the idea of noise at the world’s origin is one with a long, and in fact an ancient, pedigree.

If we think about the matter long enough, it gives rise to an obvious question: if the world as we know it came into being because of noise, then will it end with noise as well? And when that end arrives, what exactly will be the sound that accompanies the collapse? Will it be music? Will it merely be some tacky, meaningless noise in the background? Will it be a dramatic, crashing wall of inconceivable resonance?

Let me quote from Stuart Sim’s Manifesto for Silence:

Noise, noise everywhere indeed, as the headline had it: above the earth, below the sea. No doubt one day science will be able to determine if there are any significant effects on wildlife from such pollution, but whether anything can be done about it by that stage is another question entirely. There are such things as “tipping points,” as we are beginning to realize very belatedly with the phenomenon of global warming: damage cannot always be repaired, nor processes reversed. (pp. 28-29)

So the question becomes not just whether the world will end in noise but whether noise itself might bring about the end of the world. Have we already crossed the point of no return? Could the accumulation of noise become one of the causes of the downfall of our civilization? Read the rest of this entry