difficult listening

I grew up in a safe environment. Everything was safe. The food was safe. Society was safe. School was safe. Home was safe. But as I got older I learned that it wasn’t safe it was just protected.

There are people who still want to live in their own comfortable “protected” worlds. But protection is a myth. A legend elders tell children. It does not exist. And insisting it does exist, does not make it so.

Further I suggest that propagating this delusion is more harmful than preparing for the facts. The truth. Example: Climate change deniers often use their arguments as an excuse to keep from preparing for the consequences of climate change and taking action to slow it’s impact. And now with the pandemic, humanities approach to disease belies their own unpreparedness. Death and sickness has become unacceptable (even though it is inevitable) So they wear masks, they fight over it, they try to shame those who are “awake” and not afraid.  They want a safe world where things don’t change. The climate doesn’t change. People don’t get sick and die. The world doesn’t change. Everything is safe.

What does this have to do with difficult music/difficult listening?
Like the quote from William S Burroughs in the Laurie Anderson video,

“language is a virus from outer space.”

Difficult music challenges a listeners perception of the norm. It suggests there is something else we need to consider. It suggests that we look into the dark corners. Difficult music is to sound what abstract expressionism was/is to art. And most people who have abstract art work treat if more as wallpaper than as something that has something to say/contribute to the conversation of our times. And in music, people typically do not choose to engage it because it requires them to think about what they are listening to. It is often difficult if not impossible to just hang it on a wall as pretty wallpaper for the soul. Difficult music is often derided as messy, juvenile, scary, ugly, inaccessible (not conforming to any known genre parameters) and ultimately ignored. It is the red-headed stepchild of the music world.

But we can learn much from difficult music. It is not something to be afraid of. The shadows are not scary if you enter with a flashlight. It can teach us about ourselves in ways we haven’t considered or dared think about. But to encounter and engage difficult music one must be prepared and perhaps that is the problem with our “protected”, “safe” elders they are not prepared and they do not know how to prepare the younger generation for the facts and truth of existence.

So, do you want to explore difficult music? Don’t know where to start?
Step One: Turn off the radio and TV – they are notorious “taste makers” that would rather keep you safe than expose you to truth. There are many artists that have helped me in preparing for the real world. I started learning about many “difficult” artists just from reading the underground music press (back in the 1980’s) when popular music was experiencing an explosion of variety. But difficult music existed long before I started reading about it.

Here are some artists you can start with (in no particular order):

Laurie Anderson                                                Public Enemy
Einsturzende Neubauten/Blixa Bargeld        The Last Poets
Alva Noto                                                             Lustmord
Laibach                                                                Rapoon/Zoviet*France
Robert Fripp/King Crimson et al                     Ornette Coleman
Diamanda Galas                                                 Lester Bowie
Sun Ra                                                                  Terry Riley
The Art Ensemble of Chicago                          Steve Reich
Philip Glass (early works)                                Markus Reuter
Robert Rich                                                          Scott Walker (after 1994)
Merzbow                                                              Cabaret Voltaire
Swans                                                                   Nurse With Wound
Matana Roberts                                                  Godspeed You! Black Emperor

The above artists all have work available on Youtube so enjoy your excursion into difficult music. Maybe in the future I’ll write about some of the specific recordings. Again this is just an introduction to difficult listening. Maybe not what you want to listen to in these difficult times but the music does speak to the truth of the times we are experiencing.

I’ll start you off with this Nurse With Wound video for the song BOTTOM FEEDER

I Still Believe!

I Still Believe

I been in a cave
For forty days
Only a spark
To light my way
I wanna give out
I wanna give in
This is our crime
This is our sin

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And through the grief
Through the lives
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars
Oh, I still believe

Flat on my back
Out at sea
Hopin’ these waves
Don’t cover me
I’m turned and tossed
Upon the waves
When the darkness comes
I feel the grave

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the cold
And through the heat
Through the rain
And through the tears
Through the crowds
And through the cheers
Oh, I still believe

I’ll march this road
I’ll climb this hill
Upon on my knees
If I have to
I’ll take my place
Up on this stage
I’ll wait ’til the end of time
For you like everybody else

I’m out on my own
Walkin’ the streets
Look at the faces
That I meet
I feel like I
Like I want to go home
What do I feel
What do I know

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the shame
And through the grief
Through the heartache
Through the tears
Through the waiting
Through the years

For people like us
In places like this
We need all the hope
That we can get
Oh, I still believe

… on… my disappearance….

Identity presence existence metaphysic existential reality:
these are the issues.

“Life is an illusion and we trick ourselves into thinking and believing it’s real.”           ~ mobius faith diaries

When I took this photo (below) I was fascinated by the door handles, lock and chain. But as is often the case – after I got home and started processing the image I realized something quite disturbing. I was standing directly in front of these doors but nowhere in the image. No reflection of the photographer. Where had I gone? Where was the photographer? I suddenly began to question my existence for some reason. I began to doubt all that I thought I knew was real. I just could not fathom…. logic told me that when someone is standing in front of an object that is casting a reflection that person should be part of the reflection. But here, the glass doors were reflecting the street behind me but showed no interest in reflecting me – the reflected image was not interested in my narcissistic obsession. Okay so this is the stuff of nightmares. I actually did have a nightmare about this the night I processed this image. There had to be some logical explanation. There was NO “photoshopping” of this image to remove my reflection. I had simply disappeared at some point in time between the time I pressed the button on the shutter and when the shutter closed again. This was during the day so there was no time-lapse – I was shooting at full speed.

Locked Between Two Worlds

I noticed the crack/space where the two door meet. Had I disappeared into the crack of dark space. And if so how come I have no recollection? If we cease to exist do we have no recollection of what came before? If we cease to exist on this plane do we just start some other existence with no remembrance of the existence we had when we were mortal corporeal beings? Had I crossed some astral plane to the other side of the doors and was looking out? At one point I did actually wonder if I was looking out or looking in thru these doors. One can see the windows in the vacant dark space which contrast with the reflection of the street. But again, I began to question – is this a reflection of the windows or reflections of the street?

Your music moment today is provided by Khôra featuring their track ONE IS THE OTHER from their album Silent Your Body Is Endless on my favorite Canadian Label (Constellation Records).

***The truth of the matter – destroy your illusions – reflections have a way of bending.  And that’s exactly what happened in this image.  As you can see in the photo there is a space between the doors which means they were not sealed tightly shut.  They were bowed out slightly reflecting the sides of the entrance and the street behind.  The doors were bowed out enough to allow me to stand in the crack or space between without being in the reflection.   You can figure out exactly how much if you measure the angle in the reflections which seem to close in behind me.  Also logic tells me (and you hopefully) that there is no entranceway like this that narrows then gets wider as you get closer to the door.  Think of a theater – outside on the sidewalk the entrance is wide and then funnels you into the doors not the other way around.

Bottom line.  I no longer have nightmares about getting lost and disappearing.  I CAN understand, appreciate and enjoy when it does happen.  🙂