music for 18 minds

with each day that passes i can feel perceptual shifts inside of me, inside of this world. while they are indebted largely to the presences of new musical and artistic ideas in my mental sphere, i am noticing that thought as a process of discovery is becoming clearer and clearer, more purposeful, even more optimistic. i wish i could say it is through some personal strength found on my own but no, it is from willful immersion, soaking in ideas fresh out of oblivion. how else do i open myself up to possibility?

i can't keep up with the changes of the mind, but life gets its infinity from such things, does it not?

i like to think that it does.

still ruminating on the thought of what it means to be an artist and how to even reconcile one's self as one when you are perpetually unconvinced.

Cy Twombly
"Scenes from an Ideal Marriage" 1986 *

the beginning of this, dare i say it, romantic (though not in any way related to the Western art movement) phase began with a work. a masterpiece. something that, were i to claim it as my own (an idea that actually seems grossly unholy), would be sufficient to define my whole life as transcending a typical existence.

the piece is Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. Reich was an American composer who dedicated his life to things that truly inspired him. the definition of a composer. he didn't really teach, as he felt it would take away from his creative energies. he took odd jobs that had nothing to do with composition, really, until he was able to sustain himself purely on composing and performing his own music (an artist's dream in this society).

the work was completed during 1974-1976 and lacked a traditional score for 22 years due to it being primarily a collaborative creation between ensemble and composer, in turn preserving the work largely as a sort of oral tradition. i followed the admittedly challenging score throughout the piece's entire duration one day and could hear the audible cues that Reich often talked about, the ones that link him to his main influences - West African drumming and Balinese gamelan, where the head drummer/rhythm-keeper in a collective is in charge of cuing sections. Reich was incredibly interested in the idea of music-making as a gradual process (he wrote a manifesto of sorts on the idea in 1968, Music as a Gradual Process, which served to distinctly voice his chosen ideals and laws regarding composition), one that didn't attempt to conceal factors of the music's structure and mystery from its listener.

to me, it seems like he arrived at these ideological conclusions of his purely by accident, or by a chain of events that did not intend to result in his becoming a revolutionary musical thinker. he began experimenting with tape loops, first, realizing that by allowing two electromechanical elements to play a small fragment of original music simultaneously, naturally-occurring intervals will begin to form between the two, something that he would call phasing. this concept followed him throughout his entire compositional career and i would say shaped a large amount of his artistic thought, but he left the tape loops far behind once he began experimenting with how to reproduce this "natural" process in a live setting. this, he found, could be achieved in two ways: by instructing performers to play a compositional fragment simultaneously at first but then slightly faster in one voice, thus naturally changing by varying degrees the space in between them; or, as i believe was most directly influenced by the Eastern music traditions mentioned above, objectively syncopating the musical lines by placing and displacing beats. tapes were still used in some of his other compositions but i believe he really liked the process of constant metaphormosizing, and the span of his life's work underwent changes due in part to his environment and to his own maturation.

Music for 8 Musicians is separated into 14 or so sections all based around 11 chords. these chords are then elaborated upon by various groups of instruments including pianos (4 of them!), voices, clarinets, strings, vibraphones, marimbas, and xylophones, throughout the entire duration of the piece - around 55 minutes. each group of instruments that is dependent on human breath is instructed to time their phrases exactly as long as it takes to draw a breath, with a natural crescendo to the middle providing those alluring "waves" of sound you hear. there is a rhythmic spine to the piece in the low notes but also in the constantly-pulsing percussive instruments, but with all of the changing sections which highlight varying instrument groups i feel a sense of controlled timelessness (Reich made a point to say in an interview that there is no chance in his music, none).

it is structural music, as a friend pointed out, but i find it meditative in a really intellectual way. you aren't hypnotized into a state hazy confusion, you are witnessing pure rhythmelodical (what a wonderful word) expression that, i believe, truly exemplifies Reich's desire to create a sound that is at once process and sounding music. i can't stop listening.


* i know nothing about this artist but i love visual art that does not attempt to construct our known reality, but rather portrays something completely indifferent to us, something almost unrecognizable. it shows that the mind can create worlds untouched by learning and evolution using something as simple as color, something as mechanical as physical motion. mindless creation that is entirely mindful. rejecting what the brain wants to see, what it wants to construct. at least that's what i believe is happening here.


lit from behind

there are certain moments of life that shock the mind back into life, give it something on which it can really thrive.

as someone once pointed out, it can happen that these moments amount to only five minutes of time within an entire lifespan. five minutes of feeling alive. i refuse to think this way.

it is customary among the allie's of this blog to ritualistically go through everything that has been saving her from the edge - all of those glimpses of life, musical or visceral, that meet or nearly meet her desired ferocity. through this process some things become clearer; feelings more pronounced, judgments organized, thoughts categorized, eras of life put in place.

living might be a condition of the mind that leaves one perpetually suspended in the seconds directly leading up to the present.

that sounds needlessly complicated and philosophical but it's what i'm here for.

Katsushika Hokusai, Floating Logs Down a Torrent, from Hokusai Manga, volume II, c. 1834.

i confess that i am extremely ill-equipped to face life head on. whether this statement further secludes myself and solidifies some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy or frees me from a false idea of destined failure, allowing acceptance and self-awareness, i am not to judge.

the biggest challenge i am faced with is a combination of:

1. fighting against societal norms/political propaganda for the sake of perceived "freedom" (which would hopefully allow me to act on desires born out of a self that intentionally avoids the collective consciousness, if such a thing is possible ((it is)))
2. balancing inner voices and outer voices that want authority over my course of action (the voices are a natural result of having been raised in this society, right?) and
3. attempting to mentally retain "important" concepts behind what i see, read, and hear (important in the sense that i would like to recycle fragments of someone else's creative energy for personal endeavors in the mind or in art).

all of these invisible entities which exist in so many dimensions and as so many variables constantly try to absorb themselves into my brain. actually, they do absorb themselves but it is up to something beyond me what gets through and what is filtered out. it's a constant blizzard of activity here in the depth of my summer, although technically summer has not quite started yet, out there.


this giant world is no bigger to me than the outermost layer of my body or aura is to my core. the deepest part of me extends infinitely inward and i must navigate counterintuitively cosmic/ microscopic layers of self utilizing feelings, senses, and abilities learned and integrated. every day. is it all just a mental game? it's incredibly difficult, whatever it is.


the funnest thing i find myself doing nowadays is sitting in a relaxing place, somewhere warm, and filling my head with new ideas, the goal being constant mind expansion - sonic vibrations that produce waves of q y p, written symbols signifying x y z, whatever... all these ideas and concepts and imaginations, expressed through some medium, resultant of suffering or of living arbitrarily at some time or in some space. sometimes, as was pointed out to me by someone, it is beneficial to cease consumption, for a time, in order to increase mental production.

self / world

speaking of flying (were we speaking of flying?), i am absolutely obsessed with watching birds, and bugs. they fill me with wonder and amazement like not much else. i think i might actually worship nature, the natural world, without my realizing it or formally acknowledging it as such. even more than sound, nature is an eternal "other"ness that fills the mind with something the body cannot react to in any learned, conditioned way. it's easy to say that nature fills one with inspiration, or peace, or something humanistic... but to me, when surrounded by parts of the world that are set apart from constructions, architecture, gestures of mortal purpose, i can feel myself losing touch with the modern, conditioned style of living. this inevitably reverts one to some notion of anti-purpose that has been divorced from whatever  definition humans have given "purpose," and i find it incredibly liberating, iconoclastic, somehow approaching a thing human have called "destiny."

maybe it is therapeutic, maybe it is an absolute necessity for my being, but to be surrounded by the absence of meaning, even the absence of human expression, makes me feel like i don't have to explain to myself or to anyone anything. it just is. nothing else has to be said, spoken, uttered, explained, described, etc. you just look, with eyes open, if one is so fortunate. you feel, you breathe. am i demeaning the powers of the mind by suggesting that they have little to no purpose in the world? why must we derive our meaning as a species simply from inherent abilities? our minds can cause terrible things, purposefully, with clear knowledge of consequences.

i don't believe that humans are above any other living thing in this universe. not one bit.


this world could very well be as complex only as i see fit for it to be, or only as simple as i allow it to be. with the more research i do, the more complex it will become, to me.

is not perception all? who can argue on the contrary?

just you
and i



quiet monuments are erected and destroyed like so many empires gone past. what are these sounds? are they even human? i am so impressed with this band, 2 Litre Dolby, an Australian collective whose only album, El Caballo Rojo (1999), has been surprisingly giving in its wonders. i suppose i have overstayed my welcome with the band by now, but i thought it necessary to include them, as this song in particular, "Dead Letter Office" somehow made its way deep down into me for a while.

and if the album seems to be hard to find i actually have a handy little link right here. to quote a friend:

"It's epic, intense long forgotten post-rock from the 90's! How is that not irresistible to you?!"


this band, Josef K, has been an interesting discovery. i am always fascinated by music released at the very end of the 70s and at the beginning of the 80s, which is sometimes referred to as "new wave." there is a special sound i hear when listening to bands of this era, and as hard as it is for me to write concretely about music, an audial experience, let's just say this music is intense, cerebral, sometimes fun, sometimes brooding. i don't know, man. what good are opinions if you can't listen for your SELF.

here is one of my favorite tracks, "It's Kinda Funny" (version from the 2006 compilation Entymology) ~

and if you like that, here is their original 1981 album The Only Fun in Town ~


this next song wasn't supposed to become my new favorite thing ever, but somehow, it happened. i didn't even know it was queued up to come up next, but there it went.

Eluvium's 2007 album Copia, and it's second track, "Indoor Swimming at the Space Station" ~

it is simple, sugary sweet, cinematic, almost as if out of Hollywood, almost too succulent, but that is alright with me. its structures are delicate, like they might give way at any moment to each other, and while listening it feels almost as if my own imagination is building this world along with these sounds, as if they are working together... my mind feels like it has found another energy with which it can symbiotically create, and the end result is a lucid dream, a waking experience of free-flowing creativity.

i'm reminded of when i was in those awkward teenage years where school was hell for me because of the other people there (or just myself), and as a result found avenues of life and art that allowed me to feel happiness. among those were really cheesy young adult fiction books from the library. fantasy fiction, science fiction, historical fiction. romance. i'd get lost in the library stacks going through books, trying to find the perfect one (i often would pick books based on their cover designs - how could you not, being a visual predator on the lookout for a "world" to enter?). the cover of this album reminds me of so many color schemes of the covers of those books that i would end up reading. a lot of the time i'd get a stack of books and read them in one sitting and become utterly gone, utterly lost in a world of someone else's imagining, and it would feel like fun. maybe that's a sad thing to remember.


M Y     D I S C O

i found out about another band that sounds Shellac-y and got really interested there for a while. their sound makes people tell me to turn it off, quickly, and i'm okay with that. they are Australian, not extremely well-known, energetic, frenetic, kinetic, and fucking cool. that's how i'd describe this trio. they have evolved from just sounding "like" Shellac (and that's not all that they ever were, either, it's just how i approached them in the beginning) to something new and wholly themselves (i.e. their 2015 album Severe).

but here is their 2006 album Cancer, one of the first i heard of them, and probably my favorite (especially the opening track, "Perfect Protection"). the bass is heavy as fuck. it's jarring music. it makes sense in a really satisfying way, it's heavy-handed in parts and then mellow in others (duh). a maze of cacophony.


this next group, Idaho, was always something special to me, but i just randomly heard this following song one day and played it over and over again for many subsequent days. the thing about this band is that as beautiful as they are i don't know if they even really are aware of it, of their own power. it kind of sounds like naturally-, imperfectly-unfolding sound; as though almost unintentional... i could be wrong, but i get the feeling that they don't masterfully orchestrate their beauty, rather it falls into place, in some arrangement, sorta how like life does (how about that for awkward syntax). anyway, moving on - here they are!

"Live Today Again" off of The Lone Gunman (2005) ~

my old favorite song of theirs was this one, "Hearts of Palm" off of Hearts of Palm (2000) ~

what the hell is he even saying?



and last, but not least, we have Claude Debussy making his appearance, neither for the first time nor the last, in my hall of fame. i love old recordings of his preludes by Walter Gieseking.

i have a particular affinity towards Book 1 No. 1, "Danseuses de Delphes" (Dancers of Delphi), Book 1 No. 5, "Les Collines d'Anacapri" (The Hills of Anacapri), Book 1 No. 10, "La Cath├ędrale engloutie" (The Sunken Cathedral), and Book 2 No. 10, "Canope."

they're all lovely/beautiful to listen to, either way.

dark lady, as yet unravished / i desire you almost nude / on a black sofa / in a yellow boudoir, / as if in 1830. / almost nude yet not nude / through a cloud / of lace revealing / your flesh where / my delirious mouth runs free.

pictures of the floating world


i don't know how to swim

are you supposed to get upset if the person you make a playlist for doesn't like any of the tracks you put on there?