What is coming in April

  • April 11-12, at 7pm at the Trapdoor Theatre at UCD here in Dublin, I’ll be performing music to accompany An Archaeology, a play/poem/performance by Éireann Lorsung and directed by Jeanne Tiehen. It’s free! Reservations and event info here.
  • April 26, at 7pm at Mary’s Church on Haddington Road in Dublin, I’ll be performing with the UCD Gamelan Ensemble.

What I read

  • Ursula Le Guin’s City of Illusions, her third novel. Definitely my favourite of her first three (Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile, and this one). The influence of the Dao on this novel is deep and complex, and while Le Guin is obviously interested in contradictions and puzzles and aporia even in her first novel, this one seemed to me to be the most comfortable with non-resolution. That I love. Reading Le Guin’s early novels has been a real pleasure. She gets so much better at novelling, and seeing that growth is rewarding not just for how it gives me glimpses into the development of someone who would go on to write some of my favourite novels, but it also reminds me that good artists don’t really emerge ex nihilo. When I read a later novel of hers like The Other Wind I have this mistaken feeling that something like that is utterly perfect and I could never hope to approach its greatness in my own work. But then I read her terrific early novels and I remember that, like me, she was a normal mortal and she, like me, had to practice.

  • Gene Wolfe’s Lake of the Long Sun, the second in his Book of the Long Sun. I love this. Where the first novel was sort of a heist story, this one is more like a spy thriller. As always the characterizations and settings and writing and the ideas are so good. But what keeps me hooked on Wolfe’s work are the complex and unsolvable questions at the heart. What is it to be good? What can being a good person look like? What is the divine? What is the mundane? What can the divine look like? What can the mundane look like?

    You’ll always find a Le Guin blurb on a Wolfe novel (not the reverse so much!) and the two were, as far as I understand it, friends who greatly respected each other’s work. I can understand why. They have in common what, I think, is the only thing that matters: they love good rich and complex questions and they do everything in their power not to deal with them but to live with them. Rather than try to solve, they try to make even more vibrant.

What I watched

  • 珈琲時光, aka Café Lumière (2003, dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien). A more or less perfect movie. In terms of plot almost nothing happens. But it is so rich and sweet and interesting. This is something I’m really concerned with right now: what is interest, and how can I be (that)? It occurs to me that this film might be so interesting because it has so little plot. It just happens. It’s like a field recording in that sense. I imagine it is no accident that one of the characters in this film is a himself a field recordist.
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus (2023, dir. Neo Sora). Intense and frankly a bit exhausting, but in a good way. A long solo performance, recorded beautifully and shot very intentionally. Almost can’t believe a film like this was made and then shown in theatres, which I suppose says something both about how special Sakamoto was as a musician (he worked widely, a brilliant collaborator as well as soloist), how special this performance is (it is something else), and how special this film is as a concert film. Unlike many concert films there is no audience. There is no implied narrative, nor are their interviews or cutaways to b-roll or archival footage to keep things “interesting”. We’re just there, in or around or above or below or behind the piano and Sakamoto.
  • Perfect Days (2023, dir. Wim Wenders). I loved this. I immediately wanted to go back and watch it again. I love this. Like Café Lumière above, almost nothing big happens. But it is so rich and so much actually does happen. Or rather, so much is happening. Always. Always and always.

What I listened to

  • Sans Chemin, by l’ocelle mare. Gorgeous music blending acoustic and electronic sounds. Reminded me of múm at times. The composer, Thomas Bonvalet, describes his work thus: “Je n’écris pas la musique, c’est un assemblage de mémoires de gestes”.
  • The new release from Ōtomo Yoshihide mentioned below moved me to spend some time with the fantastic Salon de Sachiko by the great 松原 幸子 / Sachiko M. What I love about this hour-long piece is the amount of space she leaves between events. All that space means that when a sound event does occur the pops and cracks that you hear from the sudden discontinuities in the audio stream create this explosion of sound. And by having such sharp pops and cracks at the start and end of each sound, it means that despite what is often said about Sachiko M–that she composes only with sine waves (which are, mathematically, the “simplest” sound consisting of a single periodic waveform with no additional harmonics added to it)–she is in fact also composing with bursts of high-energy sound. Those pops and cracks are in some ways the opposite of sine waves as their harmonic content is rich, theoretically comprising an infinity of increasingly attenuated periodic waveforms whose frequencies span the entire spectrum. And so you could say that inasmuch as she is composing with only simple sine waves, she is composing with highly complex bursts of noise. In her work here the two are always co-present, ineinander. I love that.
  • On the recommendation of Sarah Davachi on this episode of the Crucial Listening podcast, I checked out Alastair Galbraith’s Cry. This is tremendous. Such a beautiful and playful and inspiring record. I had recently been recommended some great music associated with New Zealand’s Flying Nun record label, and this album has me very keen to start digging deep into all that good stuff from NZ.
  • I’ve long enjoyed Peter Adamson’s podcast The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, along with its spin-offs that looked at Africana and Indian philosophy. This month he began a side-series, co-written with Karyn Lai, focusing specifically on Classical Chinese Philosophy. Only two very brief and breakneck introductory episodes so far, but looking forward to hearing more.
  • Ahora by Melenas. Excellent hooks and some quite complex arrangements. Really fun record!

New releases this past month

  • The latest from 大友 良英 / Ōtomo Yoshihide, Hummingbird and Four Flowers: Turntable and Harmonium Solo Live, is a strange and beautiful album comprising two live sets performed on turntable and harmonium. I mostly know his work as a guitarist (and a fantastic one at that). This music is so patient.
  • As mentioned last month, there is an 18 volume set of Bernard Parmegiani’s complete works being released digitally one volume per month. This month was Complete Works 02, spanning the late 60s to the early 70s. Really excellent tape pieces here, cutting up and combining all sorts of synthetic sounds with recordings of pop and rock music, symphonies, and other found sounds. “Du pop à l’âne”, a collage from 1969, is an amazing easter egg hunt of mid-century recorded music. I spotted some Messiaen, some Stravinsky, and something from The Doors.
  • Pyl by Onokio. Brilliant!
  • Pagans 50 from the Pagans record label (one of my favourites). 50 tracks taken from all of their releases thus far. Incredible array of music here. I’ve mentioned a lot of this before–Cocanha, Sourdure, La Baracande–but some stuff was new to me and I really loved it: Artús and Pèire Boissièra to mention a couple. The whole thing is excellent.

What I did

  • Traveled to Maine, where I saw friends and family.
  • Continued to plan and prepare for submitting an application to do a PhD project.
  • I saw Sunn o))) in concert at the National Concert Hall. The loudest and most sustained loud experience of my life. Sublime.
  • My recording titled “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future” was released on a massive compilation from Hard Return. What an honour to have a track alongside 8 hours (?!) of amazing work from others.

What I made

  • While in Maine, with my partner Éireann Lorsung and our dear friend Nina MacLaughlin we made a very special performance. Will we do it again, I wonder? I did make a recording of it.