Osama and the flute of the devil

[ by Charles Cameron — curiosity and classical music leads me on a merry chase from Bach and bin Laden via LastFM and Chorus Angelus to the heraldry of the Afridi, a Forsane Alizza video and the death of Superman ]


I’m grateful to JM Berger (@intelwire) and Chris Anzalone (@ibnsiqilli) for their encouragement and help with this post. JM provided the screengrab above, which shows a title card from a recent al-Zawahiri video — I suspect it may have been the one he mentioned here [text now mildly updated]:

Back in the day, when Adam Gadahn was just getting started as guru to Al Qaeda’s media operations, he released a couple of fairly slick videos designed to appeal to Western audiences by mimicking Western documentaries — up to and including the presence of a musical soundtrack.

It is therefore interesting to note that the latest release from As-Sahab (which Gadahn basically runs at this point) opens with a short disclaimer. “ATTENTION: We do not permit musical accompaniment with our productions.” One second later, a nasheed (religious song) fired up, but I guess that doesn’t count.

I’m guessing this is due to input from one of Gadahn’s Al Qaeda overseers. It’s interesting that these guys can rationalize away visits to strip clubs but they can’t handle a light orchestral score.

Chris tells me that Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan has included similar notes in some of its videos. Indeed as JM put it in a tweet yesterday, “The odd thing is most of these guys would not be cool with music” — while as Chris noted, “Opposition to music with instruments, it should be said, isn’t unique to jihadis.”

So that’s the context: here’s the thing that interests me.


I can appreciate using the Old Master’s portrait of Christ that’s on the album cover to accompany a YouTube video of Bach’s B Minor Mass performed by Philippe Herreweghe (left), I can understand using a series of “nature scenes” for the Diego Fasolis performance (middle), I can even bite my lip and remain silent when someone lays a cute graphic of a wide-eyed young thing with a white rabbit (right) on top of Ton Koopman‘s version —

But my eyes simply bug out when I find someone has posted not one but four versions of Bach’s great Mass on YouTube, on not four but 42 separate videos, with bin Laden talking — silently, his lips moving — on each one.

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