LAIBACH: ALAMUT - Historic symphony
“I KNOW NEITHER CRUELTY NOR MERCY, I MERELY FOLLOW MY PLAN.”
a/political and the Slovenian Book Agency present Alamut, an original symphonic work by the engineers of human souls - the retro-avant-garde group Laibach, composed in collaboration with Iranian composers and performers. Before its forthcoming presentation in Tehran, for which the diplomatic negotiations are underway, Alamut will be showcased within the context of Slovenia Guest of Honour programme at Frankfurt Book Fair on 19th October 2023 in the Jahrhunderthalle Frankfurt.
Alamut is an original symphonic and multimedia spectacle by Laibach based on a famous story from eleventh-century Persia, as told by the Slovene writer Vladimir Bartol (1903 – 1967) in his 1938 novel of the same title. The central character is Hassan-i Sabbāh, the charismatic religious and political leader of the Nizari Ismailis and the founder of a mysterious military formation known as the Assassins, whose name is still feared and respected today. Hassan-i Sabbāh is a self-proclaimed prophet who leads a holy war against the Seljuk Empire from his eyrie – the castle of Alamut. Alamut examined the mechanisms of propaganda at the time when Bartol, a member of Slovenian minority in Trieste, where he lived, was witnessing the rise of Fascism in Italy.
The motto "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" as the supreme principle of the Ismailis and the central idea of the novel, which, in the spirit of European Machiavellianism and the rise of fascism (the novel was published in 1938 and sarcastically dedicated to Benito Mussolini, is based on the denial of all doctrines and traditions, and expresses the most radical philosophical scepticism, nihilism, and cynicism. The motto is explicitly repeated several times in the novel, and is also used by Bartol as the maxim of the book. In the light of the chaotic values, the flood of contradictory information that rules the world and the destructive wars of aggression that are strangling our time, this motto has perhaps never been more relevant than today.
In Laibach’s Alamut, the ideas of radical nihilism interweave with the classical Persian poetry of Omar Khayyam, the sensual verses of Mahsati Ganjavi blend with minimalist orchestral colours derived from Iranian tradition. Hassan-i Sabbāh’s propaganda mechanism are echoed in the industrial principle of the workings of the orchestra and Laibach’s unique sound.
The music was composed by Luka Jamnik, Idin Samimi Mofakham, and Nima A. Rowshan. For the Frankfurt iteration, The RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by the Iranian conductor Navid Gohari. Also appearing are the Human-Voice Ensemble vocal group from Tehran, Gallina Women’s choir (SLO), and Disharmonic Cohort – guests performers from Germanic tribe.
Laibach is amongst the most notorious and misunderstood music and artistic groups that have ever existed. A founding member of NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst, 1984-1992), Laibach was established in a coal mining town of Trbovlje, Yugoslavia in 1980, today on the territory of Slovenia. The band was founded shortly after the death of Josip Broz Tito, an event that triggered a wave of separatist and nationalist tensions that led to the bloody Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001). The name of the band references the historical German toponym for the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, used also during the occupation of Slovenia by Nazi Germany in the Second World War. The place and time of Laibach’s origin defined their characteristic industrial sound. In 2015, Laibach became the first-ever rock band to play in North Korea, a country seen as one of the worst contemporary dictatorships, in a venture captured in the documentary Liberation Day. In practice, the group does not ally with any political faction, focusing instead on the mechanisms of propaganda that apply to all.
During their career, Laibach have performed over a thousand concerts and sold more than two million copies of their albums, the majority of which were released with the British independent label Mute (home to Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Goldfrapp, Kraftwerk, New Order). In 2021, their album Opus Dei was recognised by the British magazine Rock as one of the top five industrial albums of all time. Their songs infiltrated the pop culture and featured in several film productions, including Blair Witch Project (1999), Spiderman (2002), and a controversial science-fiction comedies Iron Sky 1 and 2, telling the story of Nazis escaping to the moon after their defeat, only to return and conquer the Earth seventy years later.