Noam Chomsky is arguably one of the most important dissident intellectuals of the past 60 years. His role as an academic and an anti-war, anti-imperialism critic has kept him in the public eye since the 1960s. His insights into the complex power dynamics that inform US foreign policy, modern media, class politics, and war are rivaled only by the innovations he has given to the world in the field of linguistics and cognitive theory. His views on syntax and semantics, coupled with his groundbreaking theory of generative grammar, have changed the way that we look at how children develop language.
But his gift to politics is equally as profound: a measured, fair-minded, but uniquely independent perspective has made him a goto pundit for broadcast news from FOX to CNN and beyond. His depth of historical knowledge and an enduring ability to remain both cogent and soft-spoken no matter the circumstances has allowed him to be ubiquitously on record for every important issue with an impact on the new cycle. His thoughts and analysis are often prescient, always well presented, and deeply objective. He is a national treasure.
The Noam Chomsky Music Project was born from the idea to not only preserve Chomsky’s wisdom, but to celebrate and share it across the globe. The project will deliver the words of Chomsky to the ears of a global audience through one of the most universally powerful art forms: Music.
The team at Synesthesia Media has listened to hundreds of hours of lectures delivered by Chomsky throughout his life—from his criticisms of US foreign policy to his sage on the intimate relationship between capitalism and climate change—curating an archive of his most salient soundbites.
More than 50 artists from around the world have partnered with Synesthesia Media to bring this project to life. Drawing from the archive, musicians who specialize in genres across the musical spectrum, including EDM, jazz, and classical, will produce EPs inspired by and composed with Chomsky’s insights.
Ian Urbina is a veteran investigative journalist, having reported for The New York Times for 17 years until he launched The Outlaw Ocean Project in 2019. Urbina and Chomsky have known each other for several decades. Chomsky has been a valuable source for Ian's journalism. This enduring relationship of mutual admiration and respect facilitated Synesthesia Media’s access to the vast collection of Chomsky's lectures.
Like many others of my generation, I grew up in the shadow of Noam Chomsky's teachings. I consider myself to have an independent and informed worldview based in no small part on the insights I've gained from reading Chomsky's books and listening to his speeches. To this day I often think of the 1996 Chomsky interview with Andrew Marr, and the way that he augured the continuing phenomenon of mainstream media personalities that seem to speak with the same centrist voice.
I’m not saying you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you say. But what I’m saying is if you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting. — Noam Chomsky explains his infamous “Propaganda Model”
It has been pioneers like Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Howard Zinn, and Urbina himself that have opened our eyes to the counter narrative in plain view—climate destruction, media censorship, the "manufacturing of consent"—this is happening on our collective watch. Without these important voices we might be forgiven for not understanding the gravity of the current moment. The video below, narrated by Goodman, explains the 5 filters of the mass media machine. Ignore this information at your own peril.
The Noam Chomsky Music Project
In the spirit of Chomsky’s endeavor to make a difference in the world, any revenue that
Synesthesia receives from this project will go directly to The Outlaw Ocean Project—a 501(3)c
nonprofit organization. Synesthesia Media has collaborated with a diverse group of musicians from all corners of the globe to help Chomsky’s work reach new, younger audiences and to encourage them to learn more about how his outlook will resonate with many of the issues young people are fighting for and standing up against today.
Jordan Agro's Evil and God offers a mix of ambient tones and electronic groove, washed out with synth pads and layers of percussion. This ethereal soundscape serves as a fitting backdrop for the sobering phrase uttered by Chomsky years ago: this has nothing to do with evil and God, this has to do with rich and powerful people trying to justify the fact that they are pursuing social policies which are forcing children to die...
Taken out of context, this soundbite could easily apply to a number of situation around the world—from Palestine, to the US-Mexico border crisis, to foreign policy decisions around the world. It's an open secret that public welfare routinely falls behind in priority against the twin pillars of corporatism and military hawkishness. Noam speaks the quiet part out loud.
We've written about Slumberville before — a consistent contributor to Synesthesia Media projects, their single "Trust Yourself" features a Chomsky quote about the importance of healthy skepticism. Slumberville is electronic music composer from Sweden who has collaborated with some of my favorite contemporary musicians — like SYML, Donovan Woods, Radical Face, and many others. His music explores the intersection between hip hop and electronica, and often incorporates vocal samples into a melange of ambient textures and gritty beats.
drkmnd is the alter ego of Callum Ward, a British producer whose music is best described as bipolar—shifting between spacious instrumental pieces and dark, mettlesome beats laced with dusty drum tones and buttery basslines. This collab with Urbina, titled "Patterns," showcases the formidable power of Chomsky's influence by encouraging us all to put the pieces together in a world of interconnected power dynamics. A laid-back groove, a heartbeat kick drum, and a sparse melodic hook on the acoustic piano provide the mental space for some much-needed personal reflection. To some—like Andrew Marr—Chomsky's contribution has been simply that of a 'brilliant conspiracist.' For many others he has provided the conceptual keys to an understanding of how the world truly functions. These maddening day-to-day contradictions between what the world needs and what is politically feasible all find plausible explanations in Chomsky's body of work.
Every place has its own specific problems; but we misunderstand what's going on in the world unless we see the patterns. — Noam Chomsky
It is hard to overstate the influence that Noam Chomsky's analysis has had on the modern political narrative. His steady and eye-opening contributions have stood the test of time and will continue to shed light on the inner workings of government and corporate power for future generations. With The Noam Chomsky Music Project, Ian Urbina and his Synesthesia Media are preserving Chomsky’s lectures as a historical touchstone that reflect many ways in which the world has evolved over the last half-century.
Thank you, Noam Chomsky, for your invaluable gifts of clarity and objective truth to the opaque landscape of political discourse.
Ian Urbina on Spotify
drkmnd on Spotify
Slumberville on Spotify
Jordan Agro on Spotify
The Noam Chomsky Music Project playlist on Spotify