These notes concern an experimental piece of music which was done on the austral winter solstice of 2002. It was inspired by the film Judgment at Nuremberg, a 1964 courtroom drama re-enacting the trial of four Nazi judges, as well as by a dream I had in which a smiling Jimi Hendrix was showing me some stuff on guitar! The dialogue in this piece is from former Minister of Justice for the Third Reich Ernst Janning, played by Burt Lancaster. In the middle of his defense he had enough and decided to give the whole truth on why they fell for Hitler and why even men of honor, who weren’t depraved perverts, sat in silence or participated in the most heinous spree of brutality the world had ever witnessed. “If we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.” This is a psycho-therapeutic exorcism of denial…and a message to us all here and now: we ALL are responsible for what is going down in the world…because we all KNOW what is going down!
This piece consists of Hendrix’s “The Star-spangled Banner” running normally, along with a “stretched” or slowed-down version of itself; when it reaches the end of the song, it reverses and runs backward from end to beginning, also accompanied by a stretched version; the dialogue is taken directly from the video; in the background is my voice with effects, repeating the mantra “freedom and democracy…greedom and dumbocracy…” And towards the end is my voice sounding like it’s on a loudspeaker reciting the lyrics to “The Scar-Strangled Banter”, a trans-national anathema!
“There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear…fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, fear of ourselves…only when you understand that can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us, ‘Lift your heads. Be proud to be German. There are devils among us…jews, liberals, gypsies, communists…once these devils will be destroyed your misery will be destroyed.’ It was the old, old story of the sacrificial lamb. What about those of us who knew better, who knew the words were lies, worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country. What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later. Hitler himself will be discarded…sooner or later. The country is in danger. We will march out of the shadows. We will go forward. Forward is the great password. History tells how well we succeeded. We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that mesmerized Germany mesmerized the world. We found ourselves with some powerful allies. Things that had been denied to us as a democracy were open to us now. The world said “Go ahead, take it…take it. Take Sudanland, take the Rhineland, rematerize it, take all of Austria, TAKE IT!” And then one day we looked around and found that we were in an even more terrible danger. The ritual began here in this courtroom swept over the land like a raging, roaring disease. What was going to be a passing phase had become the way of life. Your honor, I was content to sit silent during this trial. I was content to tend my roses. I was even content to let counsel try to save my name. Until I realized that in order to save it he would have to raise the spectre again. You have seen him do it. He has done it here in this courtroom. He has suggested that the Third Reich worked for the benefit of people; he has suggested that we sterilized men for the welfare of the country; he has suggested that the old Jew did sleep with the sixteen year old girl after all. Once more it is being done for the love of country….
I AM AWARE!!!!!!!!!
My counsel would have you believe that we were not aware of the concentration camps. Not aware. Where were we? Where were we when Hitler began shrieking his hate and Reichstag? Where were we when our neighbors were being dragged out in the middle of the night to Dachau? Where were we when every village in Germany had a railroad terminal where children were being carried off to their extermination? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind? My counsel says we were not aware of the extermination of the millions. He would give you the excuse we were only aware of the extermination of the hundreds. Does this make us any the less guilty? Maybe we didn’t know the details. But if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”
THE SCAR-STRANGLED BANTER