Saturday, October 26, 2013

Not That Anyone Will Care, but as I Was Sitting There on the 8:07 to New Haven, I Was Struck by Lightning


Bryce played parts three and four of Chris Watson's El Tren Fanstama yesterday. Here are all ten parts of the work (though they are not labeled so on youtube screenshot). It's... love. 

Over the past year I've gone back and listened to Bryce's show archives and and Jeff Mullan's show archives not only for the composed music but for the field recordings they play, it's a new obsession, field recordings, I've spared this blog, until now.


Here: In his book Civilizations, historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto focuses on man’s overriding impulse timpose its will on the world, "a relationship to the natural environment, recrafted, by the civilising impulse, to meet human demands". This process lies at the very heart of El Tren Fantasma, a composite document of a train ride across Mexico, describing a passage "from Los Mochis to Veracruz, [from] coast to coast, Pacific to Atlantic". While Chris Watson’s previous sets – such as 2003’s critically acclaimed Weather Report – have generally concerned themselves with this planet’s myriad beasts and habitats, this narrative inevitably bears an anthropological mark. Indeed, the first voice we hear doesn’t belong to a cuckoo or coyote, but station announcer Ana Gonzalez Bello putting out one "last call for the ghost train". It’s an unusually contrived opening gambit, from which point the listener is jettisoned into a collision of screeching brakes, rolling stock rattle and hot hydraulic huff. Over half of El Tren Fantasma’s tracks (pun definitely intended) are given over to locomotive sound – gears shifting, hoots, bells and whistles – climaxing with El Divisadero, where Watson manipulates the monolithic machinations into a surging, phantasmal bellow, like a choir of angels struggling to be heard over the rumbling thrum of running gear. Imagine if Phill Niblock had scored Different Trains instead of Steve Reich and you’d be somewhere close.


I knew of Watson as a member of Cabaret Voltaire, a band I don't play here enough, and I'd already owned Weather Report, which is - and this is high praise from me though it may not sound like it - always listened to when I have a high fever (but not listened to only then, why, it's being listened to right now as I type) and will be posted here next weekend and all weekends hence will have at least one field recording.


I'll start with the weekends, I said this past Thursday at Thursday Night Pints when I was asked about the blog and blogging and then was allowed to answer at length. K asked, why do you feel compelled to post every day and I said I'm an attention-slut, duh, though it's getting harder finding content now that I don't feel like documenting the daily instances of my political disillusionments, pointing and repeatedly screaming See! See! We're So Fucked! L said, you told me that's what drives new readers to the blog. And keeps most of the regular readers, I said. I just posted a song that mentions Jack Spicer (twenty minutes before we met) and some Spicer poems, not a single link to aargh, those posts aren't why most people visit. K said, but you still do it anyway, the aargh every day. I'm trying to stop, I said, I'll start with the weekends.


So, weekends. One post only barring major birthdays and Egoslavian Holy Days or exceptionally kaboomy clusterfuck kabooms. Conlow Nancarrow and Sylvia Plath have birthdays tomorrow, I'll see if I can wait until Monday to post Nancarrow pieces and Plath poems. Field recordings. No links to topical instances of clusterfuckery though there can be links to good reads. Bleggalgazing, or not, depending on weekend, confronting and embracing the self-indulgence.


David Orr

Not that anyone will care,
But as I was sitting there

On the 8:07
To New Haven,

I was struck by lightning.
The strangest thing

Wasn't the flash of my hair
Catching on fire,

But the way people pretended
Nothing had happened.

For me, it was real enough.
But it seemed as if

The others saw this as nothing
But a way of happening,

A way to get from one place
To another place,

But not a place itself.
So, ignored, I burned to death.

Later, someone sat in my seat
And my ashes ruined his suit.



Bob Hicok

I heard from people after the shootings. People
I knew well or barely or not at all. Largely
the same message: how horrible it was, how little
there was to say about how horrible it was.
People wrote, called, mostly e-mailed
because they know I teach at Virginia Tech,
to say, there’s nothing to say. Eventually
I answered these messages: there’s nothing
to say back except of course there’s nothing
to say, thank you for your willingness
to say it. Because this was about nothing.
A boy who felt that he was nothing,
who erased and entered that erasure, and guns
that are good for nothing, and talk of guns
that is good for nothing, and spring
that is good for flowers, and Jesus for some,
and scotch for others, and “and” for me
in this poem, “and” that is good
for sewing the minutes together, which otherwise
go about going away, bereft of us and us
of them. Like a scarf left on a train and nothing
like a scarf left on a train. As if the train,
empty of everything but a scarf, still opens
its doors at every stop, because this
is what a train does, this is what a man does
with his hand on a lever, because otherwise,
why the lever, why the hand, and then it was over,
and then it had just begun.


On the below piece: Penultimate track 'El Tajin' begins with a cacophony of animal and insect sounds, oppressive and seemingly recorded at night. Without the certainty of the train, all this undefinable noise leads our minds into fear of the unknown. Watson is recording the landscape before it was tamed by the demystifying, 'civilising' influence of our technology. 



Jack Spicer

When the trains come into strange cities
The citizens come out to meet the strangers.
                                        I love you, Jack, he said
                                        I love you, Jack, he said
                                        At another station.
When passengers come in from strange cities
The citizens come out to help the strangers.
                                        I love you too, I said
                                        I love you too, I said
                                        From another station.
The citizens are kind to passing strangers
And nourish them and kiss their lips in kindness.
                                        I walk the unbelieving streets
                                        I walk the unbelieving streets
                                        In a strange city.
At night in cold new beds the welcomed strangers
Achieve in memory the city's promise.
                                        I wake in love with you
                                        I wake in love with you
                                        At last year's station.
Then say goodbye to citizens and city
Admit this much—that they were kind to strangers.
                                        I leave my love with you
                                        I leave my love with you
                                        In this strange city.


  1. Very enjoyable part of a morning spent here, BDR. The sounds of locomotion combined with the potent poetry was rather bracing and invigorating. Our Saturday morning Farmers Market is down by the Santa Fe railyard, and that's where I'm heading next, the richer for having stopped by here first.

  2. speaking of being struck by lightening, a chain of associations brought me to tony cicoria's wikipedia article -

    Anthony Cicoria, MD(born 1952) is a doctor specializing in orthopedic medicine, orthopedic surgery, orthotics, prosthetic supplies, and sports medicine. He is best known for acquiring an unusual affinity for music after being struck by lightning. He was profiled in neurologist Oliver Sacks' book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007).

    sacks' new yorker article "A Neurologist's Notebook: A Bolt from the Blue" is available on its own if you look for it

    in an interview cicoria interprets his near-death experience as indicating that the "real me" is separable from the body - apparently taking a reincarnationist view - i don't know what to think about that myself

    1. Apologies, Charley, for delay in posting your comment - I've been off-line since posting this completely immersed in first outside in woods then inside with Ann Carson's Red. Shame I need to moderate comments but I do need to moderate comments, and these delays are an unfortunate side-effect.

  3. Yea, "Red!" It RAWKS!