noise: scourge of modernity?

"The twentieth century is, among other things, the Age of Noise. Physical noise, mental noise and noise of desire -- we hold history's record for all of them. And no wonder; for all the resources of our almost miraculous technology have been thrown into the current assault against silence. That most popular and influential of all recent inventions, the radio is nothing but a conduit through which pre-fabricated din can flow into our homes. And this din goes far deeper, of course, than the eardrums...."
(A cranky Aldous Huxley, 1944)


"Toward making a 'dead room' in the living room: patented acoustic building materials isolate the subject from city noise. Advertisement for Herringbone Rigid Metal Lath acoustic insulator, Architectural Forum, July 1923." (Caroline A. Jones, Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art)


hollowed-out galaxies inhabiting your eyes

I'd like to tell you about Swan Lake's new song, 'A Hand At Dusk'. It's metaphysical, it's mystical, it's going to save us all in slow movements from the very thing that kills us all in slow movements.

I first encountered this song when I played their new album, Enemy Mine, on my cd player. It's at the back of the album, so it was small time until I chanced upon it. The group always committed to at least one extra release post-Beast Moans, and what a good thing that is, because otherwise this song would not have been spawned from the dark, swampy millpond that is the transcendent creative triad of Dan Bejar, Carey Mercer and Spencer Krug. Beast Moans was so named, by the way, after Krug decided it sounded as if "a boar dying in a tar pit". What a slow and painful way to go.

So, anyway, back to the song. One of the most striking aspects of this song is that it doesn't feel as long as it 'actually' is (in terms of chronos) - go listen to it. Then come back and I'll reveal a secret.




It's over six minutes long! You'd never guess. That's because somehow the cosmos themselves turn slower as this song lapses (as in kairos). It's probably because they are listening to that haunting guitar (?) feedback in the background that sounds like angels colliding with doves high up in the grey clouds. Or that gradual, assured piano line that is as much about yawning gulfs between notes as it is about the chords actually struck. Pianos have these little thingscalled hammers and I like to imagine flecks of gold coming off the flint of the steel strings every time one of these notes hammer it, ever so softly, breaking it down until the floor is all covered with little glinting particles just like those you get in the bottle when you come back from Sovereign Hill.

"The Emperor Of Time Has Been Stationed
Where The Pavement Melts Into All Forms Of Light"

This line is this song's epigrammatic manifesto. 'A Hand At Dusk' chases this leviathan and lo and behold snatches him at the shore of the crashing sea. That means the ocean. Oceans are particularly interesting bodies of water because their magnitude is incomprehensible, the collected sound they make literally too great for human ears, but if we sit at the shore they can be at least apprehended.

If we gaze upon this ocean, we see that "There's A Hand At Dusk, In The Wake, In The Water, It's Mine (Mine?), Can You Take The Palm Of It?" This question is mostly rhetorical because you're not the one doing the action here, this song is the one working you over. But grab the hand, and travel along space and time, "Mountains And Peaks", "Books Of Maps",

"Can You Believe That We Will All Get Old?"

Think about that whilst the song builds to its middle section peak, before the sea comes crashing down with the realisation that, yes, we will, but at least we can still hold onto one another, and at least we still look good. And at least we can live and die over and over again all in the space of just six slow minutes.