the distant cry of deer

can you imagine working on a piece of art, a work of music, for 5 years? for decades? for a lifetime?

it always astounds me, stops me in my tracks, when i hear of something like that. how can an artist ever consider his or her or itself "finished"?

in 20th-century composer Morton Feldman's writings, Give My Regards to Eighth Street, it is related that his friend, the painter Philip Guston, "tells us he does not finish a painting but 'abandons it.' at what point does he abandon it? is it perhaps at the moment when it might become a 'painting'?"

that book is incredible, by the way. incredible in a different way than i have found Feldman's music to be. so many thoughtful remarks on the construction of music, the nature of the process of creation, and plenty of lengthy expositions on the multitude of similarities between painting/painters and music/composers that command study and contemplation.

estampe japonaise papier riz
paysage bambous oiseaux rivière 

xix-ème siècle

i stand before you today as a new human, completely reborn. my cells are still in the process of regenerating themselves but my mind can regenerate much more rapidly, as it is located outside of an observable place. my whole body is my mind, the entire universe is my mind.


I Am I, And So Are You

helpful in the fight to resist the belligerence and vulgarity of parts of this human world is an act which has taken on new meaning for me: meditative stillness.

as thoughts and desires swirl around and inside of me i liken myself to a leaf that has fallen from a tree onto the surface of a pond. currents come and go, push and pull me in every direction, but i strive to be like the leaf.

calm, stable, still.
this, like a mountain does,
endures -
watching passing winds.

nothing makes feel so peaceful, so ready to fill my life with love and admiration for the natural world, for music, for my own capacities to learn and grow. it might sound too good to be true, but it is nothing of the sort. it is truth found through practice. the truth of the universe is revealed to the mind that is open, receptive, grateful. everything passes in phases - from unbearable pain to unbearable beauty, and all moments in between.

as i grow older and gain wisdom, impulses to fret, anticipate, even to analyze, are losing all meaning, all urgency.

breathing and being alive does not require anything more than to be.

bruce goff, architect
(1904 - 1982)


it is now time to dive into that world where sound rules the oceans and skies. here, a moonlit landscape of field and rock is juxtaposed against crashing waves lit by a constant sun.

mapping musical sources and their contributions creates a topography of that which lies inside all living beings, translated from thought into sound and word, conceived by a singularly-exiting brain. on the receiving end is me, Allison, who is affected and transformed so strongly by the process itself; birth to death to rebirth.



i have decided that the greatest place to start is with the music of claude debussy. his piano music accompanied me for a large part of the past several months almost incessantly.

after discovering the book Images: The Piano Music of Claude Debussy at my school's music library, i realized things about Debussy's music that had completely escaped me beforehand. the influence that ukiyo-e, "pictures of the floating world," and colored woodblock prints of the Japanese had on Western European artists during the late 19th-century is monumental. the artists and painters surrounding Debussy during this period of Impressionism and then post-Impressionism were concerning themselves not so much with the redundant ornamentation and elaboration of a subject but with the minimalistic structure of portraying a subject - visual art as "arrangements of lines and color," as put by painter Gauguin, or in the case of Debussy's compositional language, a certain “glue-less”-ness that bears "striking similarities to the traditional Japanese arts" (source).

when listening to Gieseking play Debussy's Préludes i can visualize a painting with all its brushstrokes and colors placed beside each other brusquely, clearly, and unashamedly. the music is "angular without any harsh bends," as my friend observed. in the following piece, Debussy's Prélude No. 11, Book 1, "La danse de Puck," i hear brief, texturally-unrelated fragments placed beside each other with no explicit threading tying them together - blocks, bare structures of color and mood, just as in (post-)Impressionist visual arts.

to further exemplify this quality of Debussy's music (which isn't always apparent on the first listen, or even the hundredth), here is an excerpt from the aforelinked blog post which compares traditional Japanese flute music to Debussy's compositional style:

"The shakuhachi honkyoku tradition, for example, is carefully attuned to the aesthetics of 'the single tone.' Rather than focusing on the relational 'glue' binding phrases and sections within each honkyoku piece, players focus on sound itself as the most important single parameter of the music. This attitude is best summed up by the adage ichion joubutsu (一音成仏), 'with one sound, one attains Buddha-consciousness.' In other words, the sound’s the thing, not the syntax. This idea probably would have resonated with Debussy, who once remarked that he loved development sections during symphony concerts because they gave him an opportunity to go out and enjoy a cigarette.

[To give you a sense of the timbral richness and variety of the shakuhachi, I’ll close with a video of one of my favorite honkyoku pieces, shika no tone ('The distant cry of deer'), performed by the masters Aoki Reibo and Yamaguchi Goro.]" videos below~

yamaguchi goro & aoki reibo: "shika no tone" part 1
"shika no tone" part 2


the following album, Persian Surgery Dervishes, is a recording of two live solo electric organ concerts, the first held in Los Angeles on 18 April 1971 and the second in Paris on 24 May 1972. the performances were done by American minimalist/avant-garde composer terry riley.

in a continuously flowing display of improvisatory magic, daydreaming is induced by a naturally-unfolding current of soundwaves that appear to be almost nearly identical in color. almost nearly.


following in a similar meditative mood, here is a brand new artistic figure in my sphere of influence - giacinto scelsi.

he was: a self-taught and composer from Italy who kept to himself, active in the early to mid 20th-century, and a frequent traveler to India and Eastern Asia who therefore became interested in Buddhism, meditation, and Eastern philosophy.

"Scelsi’s artistic ideas and compositional procedures thwarted Western concepts of composition, improvisation, interpretation, and performance. He did not consider himself a composer, but rather a medium or vessel who transcendentally received musical messages while meditating and improvising at the piano or on the guitar and percussion instruments" (source).

the following piece in particular off of a mode record of Scelsi's complete works for double bass is completely meditative in nature. a single note is explored in a dimension beyond time; time appears to stretch and break free from human-made musical laws, such as barlines and measures. through indeterminancy (durations of sound being solely the choice of the performer), time becomes a purely variable element.

Dharana (1975) for cello and double bass
Robert Black, double bass
Felix Fan, cello
first recording


last but not least, in our journey of transcendence, i have placed jürg frey's string quartet no. 3.

a small excerpt of the piece can be listened to here.

i really want to hear the rest of his string quartets. i have obtained this, the third, released on the edition wandelweiser record label and listen to it for days on end, it seems. i feel like i am purposely wanting to never leave the dreamlike world where it takes me.

from the liner notes:

"The string quartet sounds sometimes like the silence of a square, a room, a wall or a landscape. The music is silent, but not absent. It is not speechless, and it also does not move with virtuosity bordering on silence. The music gets its vitality and its radiance, not from gesture and figuration, but in quiet presence – everything is there: colours, sensations, shadows, durations. The music is silent architecture."



everything is good
don't say anything
close your eyes
think of nothing
believe me
everything is good
everything is good

please, turn your volume up as far as you can possibly bear and click play.

that is an order.

DAF - Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft.

Alles Ist Gut, released in 1981.

two beautiful men. one beautiful album of exremely danceable tracks. this is another example of music that i hypnotically listen to on repeat and subconsciously internalize, like a sonic mantra. i begin to breathe it and speak a language that requires no words at all.

it is bodily, sexual, the way those synths hit you. experience this album.


this is a short album and i have been meaning to mention it for a while because i listened to it non-stop during the month of July and have since moved on to other things but it's been difficult to come up with some kind of summation of my impression of this album.

simultaneously sweet as candy, innocent, reminiscent of 50s rock-and-roll and sinister, trance-like dark-as-black house from the slimy backstreets of New York, suicide made sounds that none other had ever dreamed of before.

between alan vega's moans and martin rev's surprisingly decadent organ harmonies which so frequently overlay such intrinsically sick beats i find this album also sexual and bodily to the extreme - a fucking magnificent trip through some kinda delicious hell.

my personal favorite song is "Girl" (see: moans) which can be found around the 12:45 mark.

here is an electrifying live performance of the duo performing the first track, "Ghost Rider," off their 1977 (can you fucking believe it?!) self-titled album in 1980:


and if those two weren't enough, there is even more goodness to be found in late 70s/early 80s industrial/techno new-wave music~

liasons dangereuses

"Kess Kill Fé Show" from their 1981 self-titled album
live from The Hacienda 7th July 1982

the album is full of highly addictive and danceable tracks sung and spoken and squealed in french, german, spanish. would mucho recommend.

- some italicized quotes and analogies shared here were shared first with me by frrrndds -

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