3 tagged with #music

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notes for 'on the horizon: 2018'

on the horizon: 2018, as heard by joshua

i'm writing this up in-flight, somewhere over the pacific ocean. as is my standard technique for jetlag mitigation, as soon as our wheels left the ground, i set my watch for the time zone of the current flight's destination. this gained me five hours today, bringing me from 'you're about to watch a heartbreakingly-beautiful sunset over the crater you ran up before dawn to watch the sunrise today' to 'you are about to increment to the next day'. this feeling no longer surprises me.

'what makes us human' played during that last paragraph. it was a song that i did not think i liked at first, but it clung to me while i was scraping out those words from my increasingly sleep-deprived fingers. i shouldn't be so sleepy because i should still be operating on pacific standard time and 24 hours ago i was barely finishing my last dinner with my parents. however, i'm sleepy because my mother and i were up until 2am having what i think was a good, albeit emotionally charged, conversation. then, we got up three and a half hours later so we could race the sun to the top of le'ahi.

'start again' is playing now, which i also didn't think i liked so much when it came on. but it's a feature of my ear that if someone somewhere likes it, i probably will like it soon enough.

if there's a commonality to all these tracks (so far) is that they are highly sonic, almost synesthesic (i occasionally get auditory/mouthfeel synesthesia; this is very apparent when i am tuning a piano because i experience those tones almost more as a taste than a sound), in a way that affects my sensory perception more than a more intellectual engagement. they are, in short, more about feeling than about thinking, to me.

i'm typing this with the lid of my laptop closed over my knuckles, my eyes also closed, because they are tired. several people around me are watching movies, so glints of light flick over my eyelids in a way that is almost like static meshing with the noise in my ears. when i use my laptop with my eyes closed like this, the space feels uncomprehendingly large, as the visual edges of the screen no longer contain what i'm entering. for brief periods of my life, i have trained myself on using a screenreader so i could have this experience more effectively. there is a very strange feeling that i can only get by sitting on a bench in the park, looking around at trees, runners, skies, insects, while slowly fumbling through my computer using only touch and sound.

i am not very good at this, but my clumsiness doesn't seem to detract from my enjoyment, especially knowing that it is a choice and not a necessity.

i try to do a lot of things without my sight. i tie knots by feel, sometimes, and can check them by feel as well (though not confidently enough that i won't also give it a visual check, for safety reasons). i shower with the lights out when i neeed that dark space. i enter my house at night with none of the lights on, crossing the stairs and the rooms with full trust that all objects are where i expect them to be and that i know the distance between the walls. maybe it's the years of having to load and occasionally process film in pitch blackness that gave me this appreciation for the seemingly infinite space i can reach just by closing my eyes, an apparent superpower that i frequently indulge in. maybe it's that there's a sense of exhaustion i get from the chaos of interpreting the visual world that just shutting it out, even if that removes many sources of information from reaching my brain, is a powerful gesture for me.

i cannot control the progress of this plane between these two locations. i take on faith that this process will work, because it has worked enough times in the past, and there's a general society-level understanding that this process is fine.

these songs are doing a job of opening a part of my brain because they shut out other parts of my brain. sonically complicated music makes my auditory center work in a way that drowns out other noise that my brain makes for itself. the noisier the music, the better it will do. i start each track skeptical of whether or not i'll like it, but by the end of the track, i can't get enough of it.

i didn't expect acid jazz to show up in this collection.

i should sleep through the rest of this flight so i can have a better day tomorrow.

11 January 2019 08:35


i tune my bicycle the way i've tuned pianos, violins, guitars. there's a physicality, a rhythm, a sonorance that i need to understand. this front wheel is old enough to vote; dented rims compromise my braking ability, and the spokes freeze in place even as i rotate the nipples. i pluck each spoke and listen to the sound it makes, knowing by feel what is too tight or too loose. they snap with a startling pop when the most recent set of adjustments settle in.

wheels can be assessed for trueness in three reasonable ways: lateral centering of the rim (if you roll the wheel, does the rim seem to drift from left to right?), radial consistency (is the distance between each point on the rim and the center of the hub the same?), and dishing (is the rim centered on the axle?). guides that describe how to check trueness refer to spinning the wheel in place and checking for uneven scraping; over time, i've learned that this is an auditory cue, rather than a visual one.

i spent weekends one summer riding over to the shop, locking up my bike, and going straight to the stack of trashed wheels in the corner that no one would touch. the truing stands were unfortunately located in the middle of the workshop, so i had to learn to tune out the chatter of other mechanics and visitors if i wanted to have a productive wheel truing session at all. sometimes, i wore headphones to tune them out, keeping a finger against the calipers so i could feel the vibration that the scrape would make. i worked with my eyes closed; the spoke wrench fit into my palm so well that it felt like turning the nipples with my bare fingers. the wheel hummed as it spun, and i hummed back. each click of the calipers rang out through the hollow rims, a steady rhythm that cued to me exactly which spokes needed adjustment.

but when i learned to tune my piano, it was by taste, not sound. upper notes had three strings per key, middle notes had two; when the strings were not aligned perfectly with each other, my mouth felt uncomfortable, like tasting a rotten pistachio i didn't expect. i'd bring each string up, down, far past the correct point to taste the worst it can get, then ease it slowly into harmony with my tongue pressed against the roof of my mouth, tasting a cool, creamy smoothness when the notes were corrected.

my mother cooked fish once while i was trying to tune my piano, and the briny smells distracted me so much that i needed a piece of chocolate in my mouth to counteract the fish, and then hoped to taste the strings by leaning my cheek against the wood and feeling the vibrations through my cheekbones, wiggling the roof of my mouth, settling in my sinuses.

this is touch, maybe. this is sound and smell and taste. sometimes, i wonder, if i ever use my eyes for anything at all.

15 April 2018 22:47


this house is empty, for a few hours. this house has hollow floors and high ceilings, so when i bellow into the space, my voice pushes the void away.

i'm surrounded by violins and violin parts; bow beetles have gnawed through the horsehair, but i can still stretch the dried filament over the strings and vibrate the walls of this temporarily empty house.

i know there's old injuries in my hands, my shoulders, my neck, and they are quick to remind me that they will never fully heal. but i steal the hundreds of notes that i can, today, stolen while no one can hear me.

i can rest my hands by singing, instead, wordless sound that presses into all the empty spaces of this temporarily empty house. i can still chase that space with sounds.

01 April 2018 21:03

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