[NetBehaviour] On My Music

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sun Jul 12 06:55:31 CEST 2020

On My Music


When I was younger I tried to play musics that I felt rightly or
wrongly weren't my own, that were from the depths and roots of
communities I had little knowledge of. I had no music, no roots
that made any sense to me. My main influences were the Delta blues
and I couldn't play that myself. I could play some of the same
guitar licks and chords but I was uncomfortable with that. I
started to learn and feel the music was something else. I was
influenced by free jazz and listened everywhere but I felt again
this wasn't my own, and by "my own" I didn't mean any kind of
possession, but something that came out of the depths of me,
whatever they were. I skittered across landscapes of vision and
sound and grounded nowhere.*** And this continued as I moved from
instrument to instrument and from year to year without a break,
without any stopping to consider or knowing where I was going, I
didn't know where I was going and I still don't. But more recently
I've been thinking about Diaspora and dispersion, about pulling
roots around me where they might have been, ghost roots that came
and swirled, that carried me into a kind of music that seemed to me
original and senseless, that carried journeys without any of the
usual demarcations of what constituted good music or even music
itself. I felt I was playing awkwardly and perhaps even ugly and
without grace but with an energy or motivation that collapsed on
and through the instruments I was using. I never played and never
will play world music, I play my own music but what that is, it's
acoustics, it's got no reliance on electricity or programming, it's
a confrontation but a caress, a discipline but ranging, and it
comes from somewhere that the flight and energy comes from. I can't
claim it as my own nor can I claim it as a vessel, it's none of
those things. It's wood and some metal and sometimes some leather.
Sometimes some plastic. But something that is inert that speaks
also through me. Many of my instruments were orphans, discarded,
lost, things I play now, have revived now, or have had revived for
me, and I can only imagine what their history was, what was played
on them, very rarely are there clues, on the hegelung a scratched
in name, which is more than most of these have. The song goes from
one to another instrument, one to another sound, recently
shakuhachi which is helping me as a traveler through these times of
anxiety, a bamboo tube, five holes a mouthpiece with a thin wedge
of some material to work in common with the lips and breath. From
the earth, all of them, and speaking of the earth, not of
mechanism, not even the Albert system C clarinet. And the histories
these carry. But I wander. What I think about is diaspora or
Diaspora, those begging letters, the whinings, the cryings, the bad
behaviors, the corrections, the apologies, as if I'm placed within
a form of self restriction garnered by the world which I am
unplaced in.** My music is of my peoples my hordes, my communities,
my travelers, a music which is baseless and often keyless, which
wanders but always wanders in a thickening of notes and chords,
twisted ropes and skeins, underwater cables, packet transmissions
in parallel and confused journeys whose origins have disappeared
and whose destinations are nowhere to be heard or seen or imagined,
central regions of a bundle where every location is a central
region, a make-believe infinitude of wandering, secretly knowing
that every moment, every step taking in multiple directions, is
something I'm creating, that I could never have imagined before,
that I have never heard before, that comes out of a thickening of
affect and histories, out of stumbled words in inadequacies, but
something I can call my Cold Mountain perhaps, mountain on the
move, musics of mountains and seas, slopes and depths, disparities.
And to this I add music played in storms and hurricanes, against
waterfalls and industrial moanings, near basins and in deserts,
once the shear of an errant tornado I was lucky enough to be
beneath, once near bead lightning, sometimes near floods, sometimes
in deserts, always taking care, often drowned out by the world
emerging within and without the music drowning out and emerging
within and without the world. Perhaps you can see where this is
going; I couldn't and still cannot, just as my texts may be entered
and traveled so often from anywhere to anywhere, often borderless
texts whose beginnings and ends are just happenings. My music is a
migratory one, a music of travelers, of nomadic wanderings,
nomadicisms, not even as if wandering had or were an end in itself,
not for the joy or sorrow of the journey* or the meditation within
or without the journey, not a purity of movement, but a noise
through time of course, a producing sound, and very often in a
hurry. Because I want to play at my limits, of what I'm capable of
doing, musically and physically, sonically as well, what can be
heard, what can be time-reversed, what can be drowned out, what can
be heard within the limits of noise and silence perhaps
simultaneously. Secretly I think to myself I'm playing a music no
one else can, technically at the least, (un)conceptually perhaps as
well, thinking of Hokusai mad about painting, thinking about limits
that come from within, producing from without, and the amazement I
feel when I can move my fingers and all the rest of me so quickly
for example on guitar, so that I'm carried always already beyond my
capabilities to think through riff and chord and progression, as if
there were a centrifugal force driving me away from any center,
"my" body holding it all together as it moves forth in increasing
chaotic and fuzzy domains. And sometimes, not often but sometimes I
sense an incandescent beauty in what I do, and perhaps you sense
this on occasion as well, ah I've gone on too far, said too much,
given myself away, embarrassed myself, revealed myself for the
reviled traveler I might have been ...

*journey implying a wandering, a raveling or unraveling line, I
think of wandering planes, wandering n-dimensional spaces, no where
to go no where to come - no wandering

**to this day I know I was never placed in the world, in a world,
never placed at all

***I was lucky enough to be recorded, I can envelop myself in time,
in a past, myself in an other that extends at an acute angle in
whatever dimensions one imagines even the possibility of movement

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