|Description||Garmonbozia: An Daimonic Commentary on Nuclear Fear |
Ever since atomic energy first came under human control, we have asked what the human use of atomic power brings into the world. The usual answer is “fear.” But the Trinity atomic bomb test sequence in Twin Peaks: The Return suggests a refinement on that answer — not simply fear, but garmonbozia. In the Twin Peaks mythos, garmonbozia is a compound of human pain, sorrow, and fear. It is the food of extradimensional daimons that invade the human world. TP:TR revives the notion of the Otherworld, a daimonic realm that lies somehow behind or underneath or alongside our own world. The Otherworld is a timeless figure of the occult imagination; so too is the idea that its inhabitants manipulate our affairs to their own ends.
David Lynch and his collaborators on TP:TR have found new devices for representing the Otherworld, not least of which is an underscore of large, static blocks of nondiegetic noise-music. Lynch's use of Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima for the detonation of the Trinity bomb (and for subsequent Otherworld strangeness) complements his general way of using film to create spatio-temporal zones modulated by density, intensity, volume, and mass.
Occult narratives are not like the ideas academic historians are used to handling; they are not rationally defensible in the same way. Their truth-claims are not those of science, but of myth, and there is a kind of mythic truth to the occult narrative in which the coming-into-the-world of atomic power tears a hole in the membrane separating the human world from the Otherworld. Daimonic interpretation can let us to think our way through the contemporary fears (of terrorism, or environmental collapse, of political or religious extremism) that have succeeded Cold War nuclear anxiety. Perhaps there are affordances, for contemporary intellectuals, of long-despised occult and magical modes of thought.
Phil Ford (Ph.D. University of Minnesota, 2003) is an associate professor of musicology at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He has also taught at Stanford University and the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Dig: Sound and Music in Hip Culture (Oxford University Press, 2013), a book on the soundscape of counterculture, and his work on postwar American popular music has appeared in Representations, Journal of Musicology, and other publications. He is the co-creator (with Jonathan Bellman) of the humanities blog Dial ‘M’ for Musicology and the podcast Weird Studies (with J. F. Martel). “Weird Studies” is a pretty good characterization of his current book project, which deals with magical styles of thought.