[NetBehaviour] On Music

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sat Feb 27 19:22:43 CET 2021

On Music


I don't consider myself a musician, by which I mean I don't
identify as such. I took a few piano lessons when I was young and
was told I had no ability. I have a hard time discerning
intervals unless I'm playing them or playing with someone. Years
later I took a classical guitar lesson from a woman in Israel who
told me I was holding the guitar wrong (blues-style). I ended up
giving her a lesson. My parents hated the music. Before my father
died I asked him what was wrong with it, he said 'boom boom boom'
- that it was all one beat. I realized he had never listened to
it, just as he had never read the books I wrote or appreciated
the art I gave him and my mother (after he died, I found my art
in a corner on the basement floor, moldy and unsaveable). But I
began playing after hearing Lightning Hopkins and then found a
voice. Then I lost that voice and didn't play for years, after
recording for a couple of labels. Then I found my voice again
and have played since. Then I thought I should go in a direction
of potential ugliness, that I owed nothing to anyone. Now there
are maybe twenty albums (cds, online, records, even cassettes),
most out of print. I play with a few people or solo or with Azure
who sings. I listen and know a number of jazz players; they never
seem to listen or comment on my work. We get almost no reviews,
one only on Plaguesong (ESP), the last. I don't play classical or
jazz or folk or world music. As a result, there's almost no
audience either. I'm grateful for anyone who listens and even on
occasion supports what we do, what I do.

I'm not comfortable playing, but that's comfortable, that
discomfort. I'm used to it. I don't consider myself a "musician"
but I don't consider myself a theorist or writer or new media
theorist or performer or any other category. I seem to be an
outlier which is an interesting and frustrating position. I'm the
first to admit I'm the master of nothing.

Whatever else I do, I write, do research, practice daily. I'm
limited. I'm very very lucky to have a few people around me who
do understand what I'm doing.

I can always do music; it's just the matter of picking up an
instrument and playing it. Writing is very hard, especially if
I'm writing theory; I feel the academy breathing down my neck,
thinking I've got it all wrong. I assume I've got it all wrong,
which is why I've written about defuge (early on), and the
fundamental concept of failure (which seems somewhat absent from
theory, or rather theorists might theorize failure, but it's an
object, not the internal abject and problematic effluvia that I
think it really is). Much to my serious horror, I practice my
thought on myself; I never escape.

Here is an older piece that relates; I've isolated it for another
potential publication:

"(in the mountains, 4)


What does it mean to tend the net, to tend to it? What is tending
something, tending-to something, in general.

Tending-towards is a falling, tending a vigil.

What does it mean to be vulnerable, open, to dream oneself into
someone else?

Vulnerability is a failing, foreclosing, the drama of

What does it mean to transform objects, spaces, trajectories,

Transformation is the remnant of magic obliterated by the
counting and accountability of step-wise procedures; spaces are
their domains, trajectories the ensurance of repetition, and
textualities, their betrayal.

To hold a step accountable: to construct it by rules and
repetitions from the previous step, but also to find it whole,
intact, within the previous step. To find it whole, not by
parallelism, but by fragments of logic, micro-domains.

Tending-towards is the vigil of the parallel, tending falls
towards the object which has become the subject.

But vulnerability is also an opening towards tending, reversal of
foreclosing towards foreopened, replacement by the parallel,
empathy, the drama of the other, the subject, not transformation.

Even here, even within all of this."


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