How Electronic Music Healed My Soul
Within the oblivion of neoliberalism, there is a prominent inability to establish an identity which is contingent on a larger, deeper, and profound level. What, if not who, can represent a common identity which is impossibly hard to construct borders around? These, evidently, are the characteristics of the technological age; an age which is so comforted by constant technological presence that a real deficit can be felt in human connection – a notion which renders any passerby as an everyman; a notion that leaves many feeling quite alone and soulless.
This problem can be felt more generally with representation in art: considering that art differs from century to century in an expected and gradual fashion, how, then, is art reflecting the intense, hyper-saturated changes of globalization leading into the 21st century? In response to this, it is reasonable to posit that art itself is unable to adapt so quickly to such an impactful change in general culture. The weight of this stagnancy can be felt as we ask ourselves to change in order to understand art rather than engage in the former idea: the adaptation of art. It is my personal opinion that we should not have to change ourselves to understand art; rather, art should be consumed and, in effect, change us.
Here, we have a problem of cognitive dissonance in culture, specifically art (a field of expression which historically has not been credited with dissonance in such a fashion). To further contextualize the issue, we can turn to an example: the ethical decision of whether or not to represent technologically based household appliances in realism. Does the artist eliminate technology because it is not aesthetically pleasing (a dishwasher can certainly be unideal to focus on) and lacks development; but, then, what is realism representing? Of course realism will always be idealistic – there is no true realism; however, to what extent can these liberties be made?
Out of this dilemma comes art which chooses to turn a blind eye to certain things such as cellphones, credit cards, etc., yet is made to be contextualized in the 21st century. The reader is then presented with a decision: to decide whether this art is pastiche or providing a critique. Inherently, this sort of expression is conservative, so one could assert that by default this is critique (whether intended or not). If one were to interpret the art as pastiche, then we must focus the line of questioning onto the artist and ask how rhetorically effective and potent this sort of pastiche is within the epistemic context. All of which is no help in redeeming our incomplete soulless tech lives.
Evidently, we have a huge problem on our hands, one that deserves time and attention. Looking towards solutions to quench the thirst of our soullessness, we come across the extravagant landscapes, the billowing indexes, the intense diversity of sound which is electronic music; it is a music which references, assimilates, congregates, establishes, and develops sound; a music which clearly represents the humanity and inhumanity found in technology; music which seeks both inhumanity and humanity in every crevice imprinted upon the 21st century self. Most importantly, it is not confused by the duality of pastiche and critique.
What were once the previous generation’s commentators on postmodernism: Ornette Coleman, David Byrne, Lou Reed – now are artists like Death Grips, LCD Soundsystem, and Daft Punk. Where we once had Stephen Malkmus to say to the current generation: “I wouldn’t want to shake their hands / Because they’re in such high protein land”, we now have Jenny Hval to tell us that “statistics and newspapers tell [us] that [we’re] dying”.
The colorful nuances of the last 22 years are remarkably accented with precision by the blips and bleeps of synthesizers. This should not necessarily be confused with the acceptance of the technological age, but it should act as an expression of the familiar tendencies in everyday life that involve tech. In Wolf Alice’s “Don’t Delete the Kisses”, the narrator addresses this experience directly. The song holds the deeply reminiscent and human qualities of love – “When I see you, the whole world reduces” - yet frames these ideas with a contemporary perspective; “I’m electric, I’m a romantic cliché”. Within the soft inflections of “Don’t Delete the Kisses” lies the perfect dichotomy of the confused technological self.
When we are pressed with the overwhelming neoliberal feelings of receiving exorbitant amounts of information, we can turn to Grimes for comfort: “I wanna peer over the edge and see in death . . . welcome to realiti”; or we can look to LCD Soundsystem: “I feel all right when I come undone”. The further we go into electronic music we begin to see a vast catalogue of representation and comfort for our pseudomodernist selves. With our newfound perspective we can begin to see how natural these processes are; there is no need to feel rejected and filled with hatred:
Yeah, now we gotta let this go Drove the car off the road I gotta give you time to grow You're not a ghost, you're in my head.
-Forever, Charlie XCX
Yes, we are not ghosts, though at times it may seem that way. As we begin to recognize these ‘realiti’s’, as we tap into our intricate adaptabilities, our souls of the technological age which were so incomplete can begin to feel whole again; they are now a part of a larger contingency. As Yves Tumor states so convincingly, “I can be anything”, and if these processes are too much you can begin to Dnce Yourself Clean.
Electronic music is the sound of the future and the present. It is the characterization of the sublime, the globalized sublime. Don’t look towards the new rhythms, the strong 808’s, the odd timbres, in distress, but allow them to sweep over the wounds of the isolated technological age; soundscapes can fill the void, synthpop can brighten a day, and we can, overall, begin to heal; we can move beyond.
Dream / Beyond dreams
You will find / your
-Beyond, Daft Punk
A budding tree sits behind a decrepit building at the edge of a pond the color of the Hudson river. Its roots bulge out of the ground. Round and strong. Impossible to ignore its length and size as it stretches and dips into the pond. Always able to sip the grayish water whenever it pleases. The grass, long and seemingly uncut, is smooth to the touch. The sun is directly above the tree and sits in the clear, perfectly blue sky, with not a signal of rain ahead.
A man holding a pen to a notebook sits with his back against the tree's thick trunk. He sits with heavy thoughts and blissful eyes. Staring at a plastic bag poking its head out of the grayish pond like a turtle. He has short black hair and looks to be about 25 years old.
“Hey man, do you mind if I sit here?” A man about 22 years old with a mysterious tote bag and a mullet sits at an unstable bench beside the budding tree. The bench has splinters and chipped paint for skin.
“Yeah sure.” The man under the tree responds. A moment passes by and all that can be heard is the soft gusting of the wind blowing through the tree’s buds, like a hand combing through hair.
“What are you writing?” The man on the bench asks as he fidgets around with items in his bag.
“I’m not. Simply looking for inspiration.” He forces a smirk then looks at the grass as a droplet rolls off of a blade.
“Oh my bad.”
“You know you can do what you want here right? Like I don’t mind. It won’t bother me or anything.”
“I wasn’t asking for permission honestly.” He whips out a pipe and places it on the unsteady surface of the old bench. “You know, if you're hunting for inspiration, it probably won’t come to you, man.”
“What do you mean?” The man under the tree closes his notebook and looks at him.
“I mean like, I don’t know. When you search for something so hard will it ever come in the form you want it to? If you push too hard for something to come to you, it most likely never will. Or something like that, I don't know man.” He shrugs his shoulders and continues with a procedure he's done a thousand times before. The man under the tree scoffs and opens his notebook of empty pages. He shakes his head, then holds it up high as if he knows something this other man does not.
“Where’d you study?” He smiled
“Oh come on now.”
“What? It’s a simple question, and you seem to know a lot about writing. Way more than I do.”
“Hey now, I didn’t say that.”
“Oh, but you're telling me how to write.”
“I wasn’t. You’re just getting defensive.”
“Whatever, just do as you do.” The man under the tree turns away from the bench.
“Listen, I didn’t mean to offend you man. I know watching me do this isn’t easy for you.” The man from the bench blows into the air, giving the clear sky temporary clouds. He pulls out a brown bag and takes a swig from it. The man under the tree shakes his head.
“I have no problem with what you choose to do with your body.” He keeps his eyes on the blank page as he clicks his pen a few times over.
“I know who you are, man.”
“No you don’t. Not really.” Still keeping away from eye contact.
“I live in the same building as you, man. I know who you are.” Silence breathes around them, the chirping of a bird entering, almost to a beat. “I don’t feed into what everyone says by the way.”
“And what is that? What does everyone think?”
“I’m supposed to believe that you don’t hear the old women with lesser lives whispering continuously? I know that shit gets at you, man. It gets at me.”
“It gets to me. But that's when I escape to some nice fresh air under the shade of a beautiful tree at the edge of a pond. Alone. Surrounded by serene silence.”
“Damn, maybe they were right. Maybe you have lost more than half of your brain cells. You can look at this place and see gorgeous serenity? This place?” He laughed and filled his lungs once more. Then took a deep swig out of the brown bag. “There’s a dead squirrel in that pond, man. And it smells like Burger King more than anything.”
“Yeah here. That's all I got right now.” He looks at the man on the bench as he presses his lips against his pipe. Catching himself staring, he looks away while clicking his pen, then chews on the end.
“You can have some if you really want.” The man on the bench had seen the man under the tree staring at him. He reaches out his pipe towards him. The man under the tree looks at him and then the pipe for a moment, and then back at the man. He stays silent all while his eyes go back and forth between the man and his device. “Or you could have a sip of this. Like, only if you want to, man.”
“I can’t.” He decides.
“I mean you can.”
“No. I can’t” He snaps at the man on the bench. “I really can’t. I have a good thing going for me right now.”
“Do you?” The man on the bench laughs.
“Well as best as I deserve.”
“Man, I wasn’t saying that you have to do it a whole lot. You just keep staring at it. And you don’t seem to be inspired by anything out here, which I don’t blame you for. There’s nothing of inspiration here. Just a broken building, a tree that’s way too big and probably will be cut down, and a gray pond with shit all in it. I think that you can take a little indulgence, just this once.”
“I can’t. There's too many people I would disappoint.”
“Those people don’t understand what it’s like, man.”
“I know.” The man looks at his feet. Another moment of silence enters.
“I guess I’m just jealous of you.”
“No you’re not, and you’ll see that one day.” The man under the tree smiles. They both stare at the gray pond. The man under the tree takes a deep clear breath, a smile filling his face. They sit there in silence as one soothes his body with substances he cannot let go of, and the other stares at an empty water bottle swimming in the pond. A bird chirps, breaking the silence every once in a while. The wind flows through them, circling the tree, and then leaving. All while a flower unnoticeably starts to bloom from the top of the tree.
On a Longer Walk
On a longer walk one could come across a piece of lumber, a stake to be exact, about four and a half feet long, which was likely processed out of a larger two by four, for the purpose of marking up the proximity of a construction site. The stake is grey, the kind of grey that comes with age and shows hints of yellow – or yellowing – along its edges, cracks, and creases, where the stress of weather and dirt have eroded it into its present shape under the watch of the looming sun. Along the grey and the yellowing are small brown freckles, sunspots of a sort, which lay out in haphazard fashion, possibly showing strong points or weak joints along the wood.
To pick up the stake would be a real surprise, as one would find that the wood, which appeared completely solid around (so much so, that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think of it as useful; to think of it as something which could be driven in the ground once again), would fall apart in one’s hands. Indeed, it would fall apart, going limp as if it couldn’t hold in its own essence, as if it were the deciding material chosen to support a weakening dam, allowing the raging, hot water to come bursting out into the untamed landscape just on the other side; going limp like the brilliance of an indignant child who wishes to not be manhandled any further, as they were roughly sueded to go to bed. It is almost as if it were completely useless, laying out in the hot sun like that, simply waiting to be picked up, just to fall apart in the hands of the one who decided to give it the care and attention that should prevent such a cause.
It would fall apart like a hermit receiving a postcard on an eighty-degree day, standing in their kitchen on the cool reflecting tiles that made up the center of the home. For a second the birds are chirping, the grass is growing, and suddenly the earth is put to sleep, ushered by the stifled sobs erupting in the afternoon heat, centering the turning universe into position, almost as if it desired to receive the falling gemstones – to revive them of their lonely claims.
The wood laid on the ground like that, strewn to the side for the purpose of this day of breakage, of absolute failure. See, as the wood laid there, it was rotting, and, as we now know, rotting isn’t a process of death (although life may be leaving), but it is a process of fermentation, of a brewing perhaps where matter is conserved, translated, and delivered until it cannot hold any longer onto its rigid casing in the long ocean-like grass.
It explodes like lightning at the worst, most frightening and strange times, giving its all to the air around it which is forced to a standstill by the awakening of the large beast, giving its all to the coming footsteps on the soft earth, causing the dirt to shudder as the echoes of the soles make a path which will certainly come across the stake; giving its all to the hands which wrap around its structured frame, set just to fall apart, to give its all, to explode into oblivion all over the crystalized, diamond shattering moment; all over the two lovely notions of the walking unexpected passerby.
A Worldly Tonic
I’ve gone through the motions.
It’s entirely habitual.
They lift up their their spine to make me feel accomplished
As I tug and yank and pull and try
Over curves, under ankles
Peeling off a corneum – dead cells and fleeting fabric.
We dance to quench a certain thirst that I could not absorb –
That yearning had been stolen from me.
I never considered my past as impure
Until the day I met someone new,
A pillar of virtue.
Something I was scared to spoil, yet now I spoil rotten,
Something I was scared to hinder, yet now I’d move a mountain.
And when we first put out the fire is when my flame came back to life
Like the son of man, the Redeemer
(At least from sections I have read).
I stole something back before knowing it was ever taken.
There was no guilt,
In fact, more rapture than anything,
To show the underside of my pants
And feel not only enjoyed, but adored.
I’ve gone through the motions.
It’s entirely habitual.
Now a waltz of my own to lead and be led with certainty
That the song will end
And I will still feel whole.
I'm Not A Meteorologist (I Suck At Physics)
I want to be consumed, not consume
Vines of dandelions wrap around my arms
And pull me between the blades of grass
Into the soil that spills
Into my lungs
I might understand aerodynamics
If they were explained like us
Or my hand reaching out of the backseat window as you drove
Remember how we flew, directionless
Through city streets and days and weeks
My vision must have been knocked loose as an infant
I wouldn’t blame you, though
Hitting my head on a sharp corner
Maybe gravity just punched me in the eye
Since I stop at green lights
Confuse turn signals
Once again I’m 14
Sitting behind a wooden casket
In fourth period physics realizing
You’re the only storm I’ll ever chase
Unless you can explain inertia to me
I’ll blame Newton again for discovering gravity
The apple that hit him
Doesn’t far fall from the tree
Of Denying responsibility
I could’ve sworn I was the center of your universe
If even light can’t escape me
Why did you?
Elegy for Seven Thousand Days
This poem is dedicated to what
Sometimes feels like a fever dream;
It is dedicated to the dream that
We could all be rolling stones,
And if we are, we will all roll up
To the shore together,
The five of us.
It’s comforting to think that
Gravity is pulling us down
The same way we came,
And if in my old age I lose
A few inches, I wouldn't be mad;
I would have a goofy grin on my face
Because, to me, getting a little shorter
Is a wink.
If, then, I died in my sleep,
Curled up like a dog,
That wouldn't be so bad either,
Because it shows how much I love you
I’ve always been the kind of person
To hold onto the handle on the roof
As the car gets on and off the interstate;
(We all need something to hold onto)
And there are times I wished
Someone gave me a gift
That took on this purpose,
- A figurative handle I suppose -
Only to realize, I don’t need this,
All I have to do
Is to hold on to myself.
I hold on to myself
Because, somewhere in there,
There is a beautiful melody
That is being played for
Seven thousand days.
Some broken concerto
Made whole again
When its violin weeps
For every time you sketched
A picture of me on a notepad,
And when you told me I could visit anytime,
And, oh!, California! With the flowers
All in my hair.
We all laughed about how you
Showed up with the tiniest suitcase
And a week’s worth of clothes packed inside.
You told me that earthy colors
Looked good on me, so we bought corduroys.
Remember when you cried over that song
That reminded me of my ‘girlfriend
At the time’ and you, of your current fiance.
Made whole again
When its violin weeps
For the sound of crashing waves
Against the rocks
As the setting sun held us up.
For all those conversations
And phone calls, and every time
Someone at thanksgiving did something funny
And you just looked me in the eyes.
I could have laughed for days,
But there were only seven thousand
And I wouldn’t have wanted to waste anything.
As for the twin steeples,
On a warm day, out and around,
I can always look across town
And see above the trees
Those twin steeples
Looking out over the expanse.
When I pull onto mainstreet
On warm summer days
And see that white tower,
I know that I’m home.
Overtime I make my own compass,
With my own due North,
And I assume you will all
Make your own compass as well.
I’ll admit, it’s a little funny
When I go about my daily life
Always pointing North;
Not everyone gets it
But I don’t care much anymore
And when things get down
I can always look up at the night sky
And find a group of five stars,
It doesn’t matter where they are,
Or if they are in a different spot
I just look up and find five stars
And imagine them laughing together
As they roll on down to the edge of eternity,
Light years away or just a door down.
You never really lose someone.
Just point North
Look up and wait for the platonic year
Look up, see?
Just point north
Just point north
How to Write a Letter to Someone Who Has Long Since Gone
We come upon the question of Dear
And what beyond could now appear
Down on the page, you fear
For she has long since gone.
It is oddly funny how, now, you
Question these levels of separation,
You say, where is my shadow?
Ever revolving sun;
Being out in the heat all day
Sure makes you tired,
So you mark down Dear and you are done.
(I fall in love with strangers
Every day. If I fall in love
With one more stranger,
I may just become
A stranger myself.)
We come to the body, the familiar structure
That is lost in lasers of shooting words:
Harsh consonants to get the ball rolling.
And you think again how you lost the body,
How it is reduced to some cubist expression,
Fuzzy and decaying in the projector of your mind.
For years you have wanted to take a painting class
Because of how you admired the still life,
And you smile to yourself because you had always thought
That it would be done with a brush.
Beyond that, the next step is to catch up,
You ask if she ever listens to Willie Nelson
And Dolly Parton, singing Do you ever
Wake up lonely, in the middle of the night?
Or you ask her if just last week
She also sat down in the middle of the night
On a track, to look at the stars and notice
The grass growing up past the synthetic rubber,
Sloping over the red crumbling edges, marked
By white lines.
You tell her you have a wound on your elbow
That might be infected, so you wear long sleeve
Shirts every day, to cover your ass,
Hoping it will go away.
You tell her that your best friend
Talks in an English accent on the phone
Just to cheer you up.
(You see, life used to be
Waiting on the edge of the water
And we were positioned
On the beach and all,
And there’s life -
There’s life - simply
Glowing because it can;
And you know this.
Now let me ask
What in the
Hell is going
And you give to her the acorn
In your pocket.
You say some silly metaphor,
You say: I think I’ve been
Standing in a revolving door
And I'm getting really dizzy.
Tell her you never thought you’d
Be Pro-Palestine. (Whould’ve thought?)
Go on, tell her: “All I do when I’m sad
Is push people away and I’m so sorry,
I’m so sorry”.
Do you remember when you told me
That people's lives are like cassettes
And we’re living on a loop?
Well every night before I go to bed
I hope I die in my sleep
So I can start over again.
I'm ready to pay for another ticket
On this carousel.
And you ask yourself how to conclude,
If you even can. You know you wanted
To say so much more than you have
But you can’t because you're really
Just not that great of a writer.
But you had to write because
She knows your mom
And for that
You’ll always love her
Hopefully you laugh to yourself
That your shit out of luck.
On the subject, you probably
Put down Yours, and follow
With your name
. . .Wait!
It is raining outside right now.
The pavement smells -
I remember the sidewalks
I remember your
Thorough and astonishingly caring? fingers.
I remember stepping into an airconditioned room
Where the breeze through the opposite open window
Made a cross over my heart and I said:
“I hope to die”, for the moment
Was so overpowering, so golden in the sun,
It was as if you had taken a compass and drawn
A perfect circle into the muffled blankets.
I believe in you.
A hundred dying swans crawling the wet soil
Alchemicaly maintained at the last stage of life
Their voice curdles into the melody
Distilling the essence of their lives,
The whole sacred mixture of moral patterns,
Dream soaked actions coveting heaven,
Noumenal desires: enigmas from the id to the self,
A colorful haze shrowding a scent:
Another mystery within a mystery,
Eternity turning statements into incantations...
Writhing on the ground in extatic agony
Their minds reach into a world of sacred chords, clusters of tunes,
Which open up the landscape with total clarity.
In this brief melody,
Their souls travel back to their native dimension.
The Portable Meridiem
1 June 2022
Issue No. 3
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org