This month my partner and I both tested positive for COVID-19 and were quite ill with it for the first time. We managed to avoid COVID-19 for much longer than most other people we know. (It’s possible I had it one year ago exactly, but I was asymptomatic and had a single, faintly positive test the result of which subsequent tests could not reproduce.) Testing positive and being ill felt like a moral failing on my part. I was certainly infected first and passed it on to my partner without knowing, also putting at risk a close friend of ours who is as careful as we are about wearing masks everywhere. Everyone is fine now.

These are some things I desperately wish for: That there were no COVID-19, nor any illness at all for that matter; that our respective governments and leaders took health crises seriously and acted decisively and quickly; that there weren’t so much ambient pressure in our daily lives to “get back to normal”; that we all wore masks so long as the virus were still circulating; that I weren’t, again, the only person in the room/on the bus/in the shop/at the gathering/at the rehearsal who was wearing a mask. While I’m at it, I wish for an end to the ongoing genocide in Palestine and the invasion of Ukraine.

What is coming in March

I have some things coming up in March, including some travel.

What I read

  • This essay, titled “Kirk Drift”, published in 2017 by Erin Horáková, is a long and insightful analysis of the collective memory and image of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk as a reckless womanizer compared to his actual depiction in the original Star Trek series as a thoughtful, sensitive leader whose true love was his ship. It’s worth reading not because it’s about Star Trek, but because what this essay is really doing is trying to understand why and how such a toxic and violently heteronormative image of Kirk would be developed and accepted in the first place. What is at work in contemporary anglo culture that makes us not only accept the idea that Kirk is a jocky womanizing dudebro, but, more strangely, continue to affirm this idea even when we go back and watch the original series whose text clearly says otherwise?

  • Grace Byron’s review of Anna Kornbluh’s Immediacy in the LA Review of Books. I haven’t read Kornbluh’s book and, in all likelihood, won’t. What I loved about this review, though, was how it gave me a topography by which I could begin to make sense of an ongoing conversation about “thisness”, “self-evidence”, and “immediacy” in art and how that interacts with desire, depression, and pessimism. As someone with a background in phenomenology, my own understanding of what is meant with words like “thisness” and “self-evidence” is informed by my reading of Husserl and Mohanty, to name a couple, where these have a critical part to play in any larger project of finding truth or figuring things out. So I don’t yet have my bearings in the current debate about autofiction, autotheory, and the like. This review helped me get some bearings.

    • This review also helped me begin to figure out how I can begin to articulate how I encounter and make sense of some contemporary sound art and experimental music which, I think now having read this review, could be classed as a kind of autofiction-but-music. I’m thinking of the work of someone like claire rousay which at times I find to be quite beautiful and arresting and, at other times (such as in the example I linked to just now), I just don’t know what to do with it. I feel almost as if the music expects me to be someone else, and I find myself chafing at that expectation. This is all to be thought about further.
  • is fast car a concrete universal? by Nate Holdren. Moving and beautiful essay about: the particular/universal, the part/whole, Tracy Chapman, Spectacle, ordinary/extraordinary, class, joy, not joy, and others. A good time to revisit Chapman’s beautiful song in privacy as well as Jim O’Rourke’s beautiful 30 minute fantasia.

  • Another one from Holdren, Nonmasking derives from context not beliefs. From Holdren’s essay:

    This is all to say, to a significant degree people are creatures of their circumstances and the government’s managed to shape those circumstances to elicit behaviors it prefers to some degree more than behaviors it doesn’t. Again, not as fully and not in the manner it would prefer - it’s had to obfuscate the pandemic more than build consent to it. This is a different explanation than one I sometimes here, which goes more like this: people who don’t mask and so on act as they do because they approve of the deaths of and other harms to disabled people and the otherwise especially hard done by. I think that’s just empirically not accurate for the most part. I don’t mean to minimize the real social presence of those awful bigoted attitudes, they do exist, I just think they aren’t especially significant drivers of what’s happening. If anything I think it’s the other way around - our current reality that marginalizes and harms so many is not primarily an effect of conscious attitudes to those many but rather is fundamentally a matter of other pressures and systemic imperatives, and that reality in turn generates those attitudes, which then serve as feedback loops worsening things further.

  • Gene Wolfe’s Nightside the Long Sun, the first in his Book of the Long Sun. How this relates to his Book of the New Sun (maybe the finest work of weird-ass genre fiction I’ve ever read) remains to be seen.

What I watched

  • The Zone of Interest. Excellent. One of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. The soundtrack is perfect, and being able to see and hear this film in a theatre was a tremendous experience. I do not think a small screen and tiny speakers (such as a laptop) could do it justice.
  • Somehow this article came across my radar and I’m glad, because I had never before seen so much footage of Loren Connors doing his thing. This home video, recently posted to YouTube, is worth watching. He’s just incredible.

What I listened to

  • From last December, this excellent record Turas by Ordnance Survey. Lovely compositions working with instruments and field recordings.

  • This immaculate collection of the “airs” of Loren Connors, titled As Roses Bow. There is no guitarist like Connors. Imagine if we taught 12 year olds some of these tunes instead of AC/DC licks when they’re starting out?

  • Lots of Loren Connors this month. Revisited Hell’s Kitchen Park.

  • From January, this beautiful music by Jonathan Deasy & Àlex Reviriego, Postcards.

  • From last October, Eve Aboulkheir’s Hypnagogic Walks. Lovely lovely lovely!

  • Go Outside, an extremely interesting work by Robert Curgenven. I love the approach to working with field recordings here. And I can relate to the unsettled thinking that accompanied this work–I mean the way Curgenven writes about feeling that this task was in some ways impossible or nonsensical:

    All this made it obvious how ridiculous it was to sit inside and labour over a computer to produce a piece about a river from these 4+GB of recordings from a river. How could I really make sense of the nearly 5hours of recordings of the Taurion River? What kind of connection is there that could be established in a 20minute piece without succumbing to the ontological overload of billions of droplets of water colliding and condensing to create a river which at times is a coursing torrent, then at times a trickle? And how to neutralise the anthropomorphic tendency of listeners to project feelings and personalities on to the sounds of water, like “angry waterfalls” and “playful burbling”, when the truth of these encounters is really only apparent by visiting part of the totality of the river’s length and experiencing its movement in person rather than through easy remove of a hi-fi simulation.

    • As always, perhaps, zu den Sachen selbst!
      • (But also as always, make new things as well)
    • Listen on bandcamp

New releases this past month

  • The great guitarist Rafael Toral has released a perfect recording titled Spectral Evolution. The album proper is a single 47 minute track. I cried listening to this.

  • Treize Vents et autres lieux by François Dumeaux, a beautiful longform album working with field-recordings and synthesizers.

  • My friend Patrick Carey released Collapse Etiquette, a set of excellent computer music pieces.

  • This month marked the first in a planned 18 volume set of the complete works of the wonderful composer and sound artist Bernard Parmegiani. Be prepared for me to be posting links to these as they come out for the next 1.5 years. On this release are some of his earliest pieces. Truly remarkable stuff here. I am particularly fond of “L’œil écoute”.

  • Fendoap’s Plain Music: Exploring Methods and Concepts. Massive and inspiring collection of pieces exploring an idea the artist calls “Plain Music”. From the artist:

    Plain Music is a general term for music characterized by simplicity and minimalism in a positive sense. It includes features like ease of reproduction, straightforwardness, modesty, unpretentiousness, and accessibility.

  • peeq’s oblique fold. This was a good month for abstract computer music huh?

  • Sometimes I feel the strongest urge to live in sounds. I mean that quite literally. I want to dwell within some sounds. These are some of them–Pé’s ædæm: representations of nonexistence.

What I did

  • I tested positive for COVID-19 and fell ill, lost all my energy and spent many days in bed.

What I made

  • I wrote a draft proposal for a PhD project I plan to pursue.

  • I spent much of my convalescence designing and developing an instrument for real-time recording, playing, and processing of short clips of audio. The engine behind it all is Pure Data, while the interface is using a monome grid. Here’s a screenshot of part of the internals:

    A screenshot of a part of a Pure Data patch. Lots of little box shaped objects conected via criss-crossing wires, which indicate the flow of data within the patch.

    Figure 1: Part of the patch I developed, a nest of objects and criss-crossing wires showing the flow of data within the patch.