Journal

EN
24/03/21 • Sound Art : Samuel Brzeski

Black Hole Melodic / Black Hole Melancholic

EN
24/03/21 • Sound Art : Samuel Brzeski

Black Hole Melodic / Black Hole Melancholic

In this text for CAS, artist and writer Samuel Brzeski reflects on conditions of limbo and collective ennui. Referencing drone music, literature, and natural sonic phenomena, the text acts as a poetic metaphor to discuss the ongoing conditions we are living in under the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

 

Every something is an echo of nothing

 

John Cage

 

 

Halfway through Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial,

the unlikely figure of the court painter

outlines to the protagonist Josef K

the potential positive outcomes

for the future of K’s ongoing court case

for an unspecified crime.

 

The painter describes to K

the three possible acquittals

that may be hoped for:

definite acquittal,

ostensible acquittal,

and indefinite postponement.

 

Definite acquittal is described as the stuff of legends –

a utopic ideal only to be imagined

which has never occurred in the painter’s experience,

and can therefore be absolutely discarded as a viable possibility.

 

This leaves K with two remaining realistic options:

ostensible acquittal

and indefinite postponement.

 

Ostensible acquittal is a non-binding acquittal granted by the lower judges,

which may be revoked at any time should another judge

or higher level of the Court demand action.

This acquittal requires a fatiguing flurry

of petitioning and lobbying,

but little effort thereafter –

that is until the case is potentially revisited,

at which point the efforts of postponement must begin anew.

In this state, the possibility of the case’s resumption –

of arrest at any moment and a return to square one –

hovers perpetually over the accused,

in the form of a continual tireless haunting

whose lurking background hum

could inevitably become deafening at times.

 

The alternative option of indefinite postponement

requires constant attention

and contact with the Court,

but keeps the case in its initial stages.

It avoids the perpetual anxiety of possible arrest,

but requires constant activity

to ensure that the case does not pass

from these initial stages into anything resembling a trial.

The process is exhausting and engaging,

a ceaseless balancing act.

 

The advantage to be gained from both

ostensible acquittal and indefinite postponement

is that they prevent the case from coming to sentencing

through ducking and diving,

through evasion and distraction.

The target result of both instances

(to varying different degrees)

is to keep the trial

in a condition of exhaustive limbo

for the duration of the accused’s life.

 

A holding off of death,

a tired presence of living,

head bobbing just above

the surface of the water,

gulping in just enough air

before the next wave

passes overhead.

 

 

To follow the Siren’s song is to disappear into the abyss. The abyss is at the same time silent and the source of all sound; deathtrap and delight; real yet utterly unattainable. It points to the beyond of music and sound, to that which is inaudible and unknowable and which exists as the hither side of the real.

 

Eleni Ikonaidou

 

 

 

 

And nothing, where I arrive now, is shining.

 

Dante Alighieri

 

 

 

 

If you think you are a ghost, you will become a ghost.

 

John Cage

 

 

 

 

on the sidelines

  on the bench

    on hold

         on standby

out-of-sync

   in a fix

                 in a funk

in oblivion

in the twilight

   in the upside down

       in the wasteland

         in the barren fields

in the badlands

   in the wings

      in the middle

          in purgatory

suspended

congested

  clogged

    confounded

choked

muddled

moribund

mudbound

jammed

stuck

stumped

stonewalled

stymied

set aside

stagnant

flummoxed

bamboozled

blocked

barren

arid

desolate

empty

impoverished

infertile

parched

sterile

dithering

timeless

listless

formless

floating

unanchored

out there

adrift

afar

afloat

at sea

unmoored

untethered

deserted

depleted

fruitless

to fallow

impotent

in the wind

on the breeze

in the ash

out to pasture

waiting

waiting

waiting

waiting

like a frog in the throat

like a bone in the gullet

between a rock and a hard place

in stasis

 

 

 

 

Tis a strange place, this Limbo!– not a Place,

Yet name it so;– where Time & weary Space

Fettered from flight, with night-mair sense of fleeing,

Strive for their last crepuscular half-being;–

Lank Space, and scytheless Time with branny hands

Barren and soundless as the measuring sands,

Not mark’d by flit of Shades

 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

 

 

 

Music is the last enunciation of the universe

 

E M Cioran

 

 

 

In drone music,

there is no secret message –

no code, no real thing to interpret.

A nothing sitting in the midst

of beautifully consistent sonic experience

that creates an alternate reality –

an attention to the passage of time –

the infinite in an instant.

 

Joanna Demers calls drone music

a music for the end of the world:

 

Drone music excels in creating and maintaining tension. It aestheticizes doom, opening a door onto once and future catastrophes, those that are imminent and those that, once believed to be imminent, are now detours in a past that turned out otherwise.

 

The music of artists such as Celer and Éliane Radigue

lead the listener into a sort of melancholy stasis

which progresses slowly

with the minute modulation and manipulation

of a constant flow of sound.

 

Listening to drone,

we slip into this limbo state,

a thick liminality,

a time within time,

a time out of time,

where the sheer breadth of sound

points in all directions at once  –

everything and nothing.

 

Within the comfortable gap of the drone,

the listener is exposed to the elasticity of temporality,

the void in-between events

where true time lurks.

 

Defining intervals and instances

blend seemlessly into one another

forming a slow progression

of rising severity.

 

The longer the track is

(and some of them are upwards of three hours)

the more the listener is divorced

from their cognitive state

at the beginning of the listening.

 

When I listen to drone

I fall into a sort of semi-meditative trance,

a time out of time

in which the thick fabric

of the weight of my day can fall off

and be replaced with an alternate

form of total oblivion,

an end in and of itself,

a vibratory state

that brings me out of my head

and into my body.

 

 

 

That’s the mystery of music: the creation of a temporal totality. Put differently, the past is contained by the present just as the future will contain the present. If we don’t cut them up into pieces, if we don’t interrupt them, these three times form a whole. The present is always a junction in the mind of past memories and future projections. Especially in difficult moments, these three can appear unified in a present that becomes singular, immense and eternal. It’s a frankly extraordinary state, which also occurs in advanced meditation. In some ways music is a filtered form of this experience.

 

Éliane Radigue

 

 

 

 

Celer’s music, as with so much ambient drone, speaks of the end of time, the end of the world, and all the unresolvable dilemmas that accompany such ends… Any Celer track sounds like it could go on forever, and perhaps is currently going on forever in some other space. This is the music of heaven, how we all might hope the afterlife to be, with no hint of kitsch. A few moments in this music might indeed be fair recompense for a lifetime’s worth of disappointment, aggravation, and boredom. But the threat of an abrupt end, of apocalypse, is latent in this music, too.

 

Joanna Demers

 

 

 

 

drono-sapien – noun – an andro-median quadrimanual demi-demo-deity, composed in equal parts of a drone and a human being, generally assigned to surveillance or remote control duties

 

Raqs Media Collective

 

 

There have been many instances

throughout this long past year

of enforced solitary confinement

that the limbo state that I have found

myself to be in has been rather unpleasant,

quite restrictive, and filled with collective feelings

of ennui and creative impotence.

 

There have been many instances

throughout this long past year

of warped elastic time

that the limbo state that I have found

myself to be in has been rather constant,

yet quite elusive, and filled with collective feelings

of confusion and unknown direction.

 

There have been many instances

throughout this long past year

of individual time, space and pace

that the limbo state that I have found

myself to be in has been rather pleasant

quite expansive, and filled with collective feelings

of self reflection and positive projection.

 

 

 

We do not destroy the past: it is gone; at any moment, it might reappear and seem to be and be the present. Would it be a repetition? Only if we thought we owned it, but since we don’t, it is free and so are we.

 

John Cage

 

 

 

You spend the first half of your life learning that you are something after all, now you have to spend the second half learning to see yourself as nothing.

 

Lydia Davis

 

 

 

 

and in fact relax

ghosts don’t kill people

because imagine how awkward it would be afterwards

 

Crispin Best

 

 

 

Specific weather conditions

cause a very slow rising and falling

of the entire surface of water of the sea.

These movements act like an enormous drum

producing infrasound in the form of microbaroms

that can propagate for thousands of kilometres

and penetrate the upper atmosphere.

 

These microbaroms create a sustained droning,

which we could call the humming voice of the sea,

whose arc stretches from the depths of the past

into the horizon of the distant future.

 

The mountains that surround the seas

act as acoustic amplifiers for this sound,

as it refracts and echoes off of their steep sides

and through their winding valleys.

 

As a bassline accompaniment

to the rhythm of the microbaroms,

a low frequency noise is emitted as the earth rotates.

This is caused by the friction that is created

between the topographic varieties

of the earth’s crust and the lower atmosphere.

 

These droning hums and bass rotations

are the sounds of the lifeless,

conducting a geologic musical score

on the scale of deep time.

 

Each slow note of this planetary drone score lasts a decade.

It takes a century to listen to a single refrain,

and a millenium for one verse to play out.

The Triassic period marked one musical score –

the last in the three seasons of the Earth’s Mesozoic composition.

 

This is a deathly slow music made by the sea and the rocks,

amplified by the mountains for the ears of the cosmos.

The sounds of the dead sluggishly

echoing around a world of the living.

 

 

 

 

Time is the condition for the existence of our ‘I’. It is like a kind of culture medium that is destroyed when it is no longer needed, once the links are severed between the individual personality and the conditions of existence. And the moment of death is also the death of individual time: the life of the human being becomes inaccessible to the feelings of those remaining alive, dead for those around him.

Time is necessary to man, so that, made flesh, he may be able to realise himself as a personality. But I am not thinking of linear time, meaning the possibility of getting something done, performing some action… Time is a state: the flame in which there lives the salamander of the human soul.

 

Andrei Tarkovsky

 

 

In 2019, I went to a performance of William Basinski’s

album project On Time Out of Time.

The concert was to take place

in a Cathedral, quite the location

for a sacrosanct listening experience

of an album based on sonic source material

from the sound of two black holes colliding.

 

In the artist talk before the performance,

Basinski was quick to point out

that the following show

was more of a presentation

than a performance,

as the only performing

that was necessary

had already been done

in the mastering of the album.

The subsequent sonic presentations

in a variety of locations required

just the slight slip of dials

to fine tune the sound

to the resonance of each space.

 

Performance or presentation,

it did not matter,

the inherent religiosity

in the act of listening

to an atmospheric

and transcendental

drone piece

that was composed

using the sonic imprint

of two black holes combining

1.4 billion years ago

placed the audience on a timescale

beyond our comprehension.

I felt as if located upon

the event horizon

of one such singularity,

body stretched

in a time without time

the infinite in an instant.

 

A wilful stasis

and quiet respect

was felt throughout

the collective consciousness

of the listening audience,

as we were taken in time,

taken out of time,

tuning into the melancholy melodic

background hum of the universe,

held in stasis,

taken out of the mindset

of our busy days

and into our vibrating bodies.

 

 

 

Distributed bodies—distributed apocalypse. Metaphysics everywhere. Your body is coupled with environments both immediate, distant, and microscopic; it is bound to the internal abyss, the eternal possibility of the annihilation of ‘you’ at any moment.

 

Olga Goriunova

 

 

 

 

No one desires the void. It is not a cheery place, and pretending otherwise would be another form of cynicism.

 

Joanna Demers

 

 

There are calm beaches in the midst of nightmares,

there are suicides waiting on sandy cliffs

in suits of armour before plunging into the sea.

 

There is a slow separation of myself from myself

and of myself from all others,

and of all others from themselves

and of all others from all others.

 

The soul does not live on the edge of time,

it is in a conference call hallway,

it is an airborne jellyfish.

 

 

 

Today I do not even dare to reproach myself. Shouted into this empty day, it would have a disgusting echo.

 

Franz Kafka

 

 


References

Alighieri, Dante, ‘Purgatorio’ from The Divine Comedy (Oxford University Press, reprint, 2008)

 

Best, Crispin, Hello (Partus Press, 2019)

 

Cage, John, ‘Lecture on Nothing’ from Silence: Lectures and Writings 50th Anniversary Edition, (Wesleyan University Press; second edition, 2011)

 

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, ‘Limbo’ from The Complete Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Penguin Classics, 1997)

 

Davis, Lydia, The Complete Short Stories (Penguin, 2014)

 

Demers, Joanna, Drone and Apocalypse: An Exhibit Catalog for the End of the World (Zero books, 2015)

 

Eckhart, Julia & Radigue, Éliane, Intermediary Spaces (Umland Editions, 2019)

 

Goriunova, Olga, ‘The Bodily Sounds of the Abyss’ from AUDINT—Unsound:Undead, edited by Steve Goodman, Toby Heys and Eleni Ikoniadou (Urbanomic, 2019)

 

Ikoniadou, Eleni, ‘Falling’ from AUDINT—Unsound:Undead, edited by Steve Goodman, Toby Heys and Eleni Ikoniadou (Urbanomic, 2019)

 

Kafka, Franz, The Diaries of Franz Kafka: Volume One 1910-1913 (Schocken, reprint, 1988)

 

Kafka, Franz, The Trial (Penguin Classics, reprint, 2015)

 

Raqs Media Collective, We Are Here, But Is It Now? (The Submarine Horizons of Contemporaneity) (Sternberg Press, 2017)

 

Tarkovsky, Andrei, Sculpting in Time (University of Texas Press, 1989)

 


Samuel Brzeski (UK/NO) is an artist, writer and researcher currently reading, writing, walking and living in Bergen. He studied English Literature at University of Sheffield, took an MA at The Art Academy, University of Bergen and participated in the Mountain School of Art programme in Los Angeles. Samuel’s visual works and performances have been shown in various galleries and theatres across Europe, and he has published several artist books. Additionally, he co-runs the art collective and publishing platform TEXST, and currently teaches at The Art Academy, UiB, and Bergen School of Architecture.