The musician is responsible. It is the musician who invented the sublime art of ruining poetry. -Satie
Repetition is a form of change. –Eno
There is no such thing as an empty space or empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make silence, we cannot. –Cage
Musical evolution is paralleled by the multiplication of machines. One might suggest that pure sound, in its monotony, no longer arouses any feeling. -Russolo
Through this project I meant to explore the sociological effects of repetition on the human brain— how it simultaneously “actualizes” us, as well as “desensitizes” us to the world. I also meant to explore the ways that repetition gets used in cultural contexts (to construct identity, to resurrect memory, to preserve systems of power, etc.).
I also thought a lot about the absence of sound— or better— the myth of silence.
I have reached no final resolution, and have strayed a bit far from my initial interests. I have, however, built some tactics into my daily life that allow for temporary actualization, and an ability to exist in the present whenever it makes sense to.
In short: I started compiling audio clips of the sounds I hear every day— sounds that I tend to subconsciously phase-out, or not take notice of because they are so omnipresent. This took more work than one might think necessary…
Outdoor sound-rituals from Telegraph Ave:
Sitting outside on the corner of a busy intersection near my home with a recording device, I became hyper-aware of automobile sirens: the differing pitches and octave changes that, for instance, ambulances make compared to fire engines or police cars. I recorded motorcycle engines revving at stop-lights, the chirping noises at crosswalks that indicate when it’s ok to cross the street, shoe traction shuffling against concrete, and the low, moaning frequencies emitted from the telephone lines strung in complicated tangles above my head.
Domestic sound-rituals from Telegraph Ave:
Then I went indoors. I sat in the common-space of my house when no one else was home, and recorded the low buzz:hum of electronic devices that were left plugged in, the shifting and popping of food packages in the freezer as they reached their freezing points, the wind whistling through the tiny mesh holes of the screen-door. The heating vent above my head spit out a stream of hot air that resonated through the grate in the key of C (I had my tuner in hand). I think I also picked up some faint radio-wave vibrations and feedback signals from the wireless communication devices around me: modems, satellites, etc.
Anatomical sound-rituals from [a body] on Telegraph Ave:
Finally I went into my bedroom, unplugged every electronic device I own, closed my door and windows tight in order to block out all sound from the outside, and listened to the woosh:whirl:pound of my internal organs. I recorded my heart beat, my breath, my intestines gurgling/stomach growling.
After doing this every day for a couple weeks, I realized that I was creating a type of symphony; when I dubbed all the tracks on top of each other, a complex harmony/melody progression emerged from the clamor. The sounds became symbiotic, interacting and intermingling with each other like different sections of an orchestra.
The act of combining the daily rhythms of unmetered (and sometimes accidental) sound, with the rhythms of my internal body, allowed me to appreciate repetition in a more complex way than I ever have before. It allowed me to tap into the fact that through this act of defying desensitization at chosen moments, I could use repetition to generate a feeling of synchronistic affinity with the world around me.
I’m not suggesting there was anything supernatural about this experience— only that there seems to be a rhythmic correlation between the noises that happen inside and outside of my body. Maybe my body has adapted to the rhythms of its surroundings? Maybe my ears picked up and honed in on common rhythms that were only there by coincidence? Who knows, but it’s interesting to think about the ways that the collapse of industrial-capitalism may change the tempo of our heart beats, the cadence of our breath.
Often, I found myself thinking about Sound and its relationship with Music— about the specific sets of repetition our ears have been trained to respond to positively. Song structures have morphed throughout history to mainly involve the components of consistent melodies, monotonous harmonies, and repetitive chorus breaks. Minus the bridge-section of a song, this structure of repeated sounds comprises most of the contemporary music we are exposed to. It has been said that this has come to be not only because such song patterns are easy to memorize, but also because performing them in combination with repeating rhythms, has intensely moving psychological effects (that are sometimes meditative or potentially trance-inducing).
With that said, it feels important to take note of the ways that globalization, imperialism, and Eurocentric influences have dominated the forms of media we have access too, and set strict limitations about what pleasing song structures “should” sound like.
I say this to denaturalize the statements often made by music-theorists about the universality of a collective human response to certain song structures. As a Westerner, I understand and relate to this repetitive style of audio-organization because of the socialization I’ve received…though I don’t always conform to it when making my own music.
Love & Revolt,
Album Notes: White Knuckle Sonnets
rut: a rendition of a song originally written by someone real special to me named K. Sugar Hill. she currently plays with The Skinny String Band:www.myspace.com/skinnystrings
*symbiotic grace: inspired by my friend Rachel Jay Dot’s zine (& her life in general), May Cause Dizziness. check it out at: www.strangerdangerdistro.com
*tattered screen doors: dedicated to alex fischer and Ayah Young (cuz you know why and I think yer real strong), and to my mama, Elisabeth Yomtob-Wilson, who passed away in the summer of 07.
*cuddling/container of sound: makes my body feel Inhabited…Lived In. Seeley Quest sings harmony on this track, and Berkley Carnine plays violin. Both of them are great cuddlers.
*esophagus microphones: a piece about change/ letting go. it morphed into a soundscape at a time when i was grieving and listening to way too much Sinead O’Conner (don’t ask).
*praxxxis: the cheeziest love song i’ve ever written. it’s about my friend Praxxxis, and all the different kindsa ways you can love someone.
*placerville blues: inspired by Bessie Smith’s, Black Mountain Blues. i wrote it about the town I grew up in. Berkley plays violin on this track too (so dreamy).
*folds & handles: about the process of growing to love our bodies in the face of daily contact with a culture built on sizeist, ableist, ageist, heterosexist, white-supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal standards of beauty. BTW: it’s important to deconstruct the ways in which the US Medical Industrial Complex turns our bodies into sites of struggle by legitimizing such a culture! Some good books: Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness & Transgression by, Jana Evans Braziel & Kathleen LeBesco, The Obesity Epidemic: Science, Morality and Ideology by, Jan Write & Michael Gard, & The Obesity Myth (includes a critical analyses of the BMI) by, Paul Campos.
*muscles, bones & calluses: about how hard my dad worked (and still works) to keep us alive when we were kids. don’t let the title mislead you: really, he’s a big softy. Berkley plays violin on this track too.
*troubled sound: a soundscape inspired by Samantha Dorset’s zine, Troubled Sleep. She’s a brilliant writer & I feel real lucky to have her in my life. you can get her zine through Planet X Zine Distro. K. Sugar Hill is on this track working magic on her accordion.
Recorded by Annah
Mastered by Mark Pistel
Album Notes: Collection of Crutches
Pollinate Me: Um, this song’s about crushes. And pollination. &, &, &…
As a name for experiences of socially situated political violence, Trauma forges overt connections between politics and emotion. And music as a medium, can help return the listener to the pleasures of sensory embodiment that trauma destroys.
This song is about several generations of women who’ve been incarcerated for murdering their abusive husbands. It was written after reading Cvetkovich’s, An Archive of Feeling.
The sentimentality of the London Bridges melody is linked to the tropes of my own childhood— and for many of us, childhood may be a period in our lives when we may’ve witnessed the most violence.
By archiving these women’s names in relation to each other, a single coherent narrative is created that works to connect people’s histories in order to develop perspective about a larger social phenomenon. Archiving trauma can create points of unity between people, allowing for larger inter/intra-cultural solidarities to form…
Emo Envy: This is a song about desensitization and apathy (both default coping mechanisms many of us have developed in order to function in this world, as well as manage/diffuse our own histories of trauma). Sometimes I feel jealous when I’m around people who aren’t as numb as me— but bearing witness to other people’s strong emotions can also be a source of inspiration that reminds me it can be safe and healthy to re-inhabit my skin and Feel sometimes.
Stairwell: This is a song about stairwells, anxiety attacks, and an ode to liminal spaces (the spaces in between two things). Stairwells (the in-between spaces between 2 floors) hold the bodies of buildings together, just like fascia (the fibrous tissue between our muscles and bones) work to holds our bodies together…
Do Not Resuscitate (RN SONG):
This is a song about how much I love my RN friend, and also about how much respect I have for the kinds of radical, subversive activism done under the radar by brave folx working inside of capitalist institutions (ie: Medical Industrial Complex, Academic Industrial Complex, etc).
Voyeuristix: This is a song that explores the politics of voyeurism and femme identity. As a female-assigned/femme presenting person, I am commonly the object of the heteronormative (cis-male) gaze. Spectatorship in this context is an explicit act of violence— it requires the stripping away of complexity and context from my body for the purpose of nonconsensual fetishization. The politics of being a femme presenting performance-artist then, become interesting. Inviting an entire room full of people to direct their gazes toward me, harbors both dangerous and liberating potential.
The performance of this song usually entails two people standing on stage behind me the whole time shooting photographs of the audience (with super obnoxious, bright flashes). Still by default, the reality is that I, the performer, am the one on display…but the process of queering the gaze through disidentification comes into action.
If this sounds like a buncha academi-dork blabber, check out Jose Munoz’s work on Disidentification. He flushes out the idea that spectacles can work to offer the subject a space to situate itself in history and thus seize social agency. Through the performance of this song, I am essentially asking the audience to witness the hijacking and queering of identity, by watching me work with/resist the conditions that dominant culture generates about femme-gendered people.
Mississippi Arms, Acetone Rain, & Archive of Memory: these three songs are pieces meant to pay homage to the art of resurrecting & performing memory. They document the conversations and stories of past partnerships, and through music, invoke historical connections in a form that will last long after we (our bodies) are gone. In the process of mourning the shifts and changes our relationships undergo, its been helpful to remember that the reason we engage in each other’s lives at all, is to inspire, challenge, and encourage each other to grow.
So, you both—
Thank you. You have moved me beyond measures,
beyond melodies, harmonies, and words.
Ribcage Squat: This is an old soundscape I wrote shortly after my mom passed away in July, 2007. It opens with her outgoing voicemail message. PS: I often send text messages to my mom’s old phone # when I miss her real bad, and whoever has that number now is super nice to me. They always seem a little confused, but somehow seem to get it.
Track #9: lyrics inspired by/in dialogue with a communiqué written by a Loved One
Cover Art by Molly McIntyre
Violin by Berkeley Carnine
Recorded by Annah
Mastered by Mark Pistel