Thinking Out Loud: Sigur Rós & the Listening Experience

Sometimes you listen to music to have a good time, to sing along, to move to.

Sometimes it’s just plain catchy.

Maybe nostalgic.

Or maybe it’s more about the people.

The vibes.

Sometimes you listen to something sad because you need to be reminded how sadness can echo back. That you aren’t alone. And that the cavity in your chest can be more than a loss, can be an acoustic space, full.

Or maybe you’re on a train and feel incomplete without it.

I love Sigur Rós differently. I love them for the same reasons I love the orchestra. It is music not to reaffirm myself, but music as art. Individual compositions are explorations of what it means to be human, and their library of existence, an affirmation of humanity. I am not listening as me, but as a person who happens to be me. A person who is living in an atmosphere enriched by the musical talents of others. Musical artistry that adopts within its expansive form, new translations for the things in life we know to be true but cannot voice.

This is not to say it isn’t beautiful to listen to music simply because it makes you feel good, but to appreciate that the varied, and sometimes complex ways in which we listen to music can be as beautiful as the music itself. It’s not clear cut. How I feel about Sigur Rós today is different to how I did, and different yet again to how you feel.

Not going to lie, the concept behind their latest album, route one, is pretty quirky.

routeone_header

According to their Facebook page:

“on the longest day of summer 2016 sigur rós drove the whole way round iceland’s ring road, broadcasting the entire 1332km journey live on youtube. the soundtrack to this “slow tv” adventure was created using generative music software taking the multi-track stems of the sigur rós song ‘óveður’ and endlessly reinventing them to create new and unpredictable musical directions in real time.”

It is a strange concept. Highly experimental. Non-traditional. But I like it.

Life necessitates the creation of new and unpredictable musical directions in real time.

At least the kind of life I want to live does.

And admittedly, sometimes Sigur Rós’ music makes me feel unpleasant emotions like discomfort or fear. Sometimes I feel tense. An unexpected sound will emerge and dissolve, flash into existence in discordance that resists so obviously to the rest of the score and yet somehow still belongs. Sometimes I feel ecstatic with happiness. But mostly I feel soothed, at peace, limitless. I also realise they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, or perhaps I should say, that not everyone likes tea (another strange concept).

The point of it all is that you are listening to abstract themes, told through sound. You are not listening to yourself through song. And in removing whatever you are feeling, to immerse yourself in the kind of music that is grander than you, anything you currently are, you are completely free to explore the depth and spread of your emotional capacity. Limitless across a landscape completely unknown. In an atmosphere removed and yet still belonging.

It is otherworldly.

But really, it is this world.

 

Featured Image: tree at Heide

Advertisements

Distilled: March 2018

On account of being human, there exists for us all, a state of solitude often accompanied by the solemnity of grand, immovable things that loom and hold.

Built forms, relics, of our establishment as a society.

Things that are immeasurably dependable, normal, seem far too fixed, inconquerable.

The physical spaces between pockets of air are full of everything other than air. They are pillows of concrete, tombstones of dignity, absence of light.

They are as dense as a single heart is, when it closes in on itself only to find that in the vacation of blood, there is, just more bloodied tissue.

Frightened, it twitches in outward spasms, continually closing and pulsing.

The pulse of the one echoes those of the many in acoustic discordance, swallowing the city, broadcasting through the limited bandwidth of air.

Footsteps are reverberations, scrambled.

Pavements the immovable concrete water through which our irregular pebbled dreams skip.

Everything already exists.

Even you.

IMG20180221092057 (2)
Bank of China, Corner of Swanston & Little Bourke Streets

I remember the neoprene glory of Aussie surf shop this columned corner used to be, and is now not. The safe deposit box to the side of the building is bronzed and brushed by fingerprints. The Bank of China’s presence in Melbourne is telling of the current economic shift.

IMG20180221184455 (3)
Russell Place, Melbourne

Like so many laneways in Melbourne, this one too, was hip. There are wine bars, there is graffiti, there is a boutique shoe store, this all from memory. There were a few other little finds here too, but just the right amount.

This laneway, like most laneways, was shrouded by the loom of parallel walls, vertical. It’s shadowy existence a pocket of air brightened by graffiti and hipster aesthetics.

It actually took a while for me to pinpoint exactly which unique laneway this was. It is steeped in the same alternativeness that characterises every other laneway in Melbourne, albeit this one seemed less shabby chic and more sophisticated underground.

In essence, they are all different and the same, which is neither half full nor half empty. The single thing differentiating any particular laneway from all the rest is your presence in it. It doesn’t matter that it could have been any laneway, it matters that this is the one you’re in.

IMG20180227173559 (2)
Railway Place, West Melbourne

This street is slant.

Air filled with noise of trains; metro, VLine, freight.

Nightly buzz of Festival Hall nearby.

IMG20180227173611 (3)
Mural by Fintan Magee, Railway Place, West Melbourne
IMG20180304152126 (2)
Kiehl’s, Little Lonsdale Street

The unexpected discovery of vectors in mainstream shopping window displays.

A smile.

IMG20180304155153 (2)
Off Rose Street, Fitzroy
IMG20180304164737 (2)
Poké King, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
IMG20180304165153 (2)
Scharp, Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy
IMG20180304165210 (3)
Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy

Stumbling through our quirky streets.

IMG20180304171129 (2)
Aesop, QV Melbourne

This pocket; the fragrant smell of mandarins.

IMG20180304171145 (2)
Aesop, QV Melbourne
IMG20180320121858 (2)
Corridor above Lonsdale Street, Connecting Melbourne Central & the Emporium

Once places start to homogenise, it’s easy for people to all look and feel the same too.

Concept people in concept places, just like you.

Every one a part of some larger cohort of singular, lonely human beings. An individual dot in a monumental Pollock. That we can all exist together and still feel singular.

Anomie.

Everyone different and also the same.

As you stand in your own body, in an arbitrary laneway, it’s hard not to dwell on the blinding quality or your norm, how ordinarily unspectacular and insignificantly inconsequential you are. Or how ordinary everyone else is, indeed, how ordinary existence can sometimes feel.

All this despite what you know to be true: the universe is remarkable. Your tiny insignificance also.

These seem like flippant consolations when all things considering, you will likely never step beyond this atmosphere. You are shackled to your own body. This is concrete.

You are supposed to adopt macro perspectives, appreciate the grandness of the world, and for the most part, that’s fine, that’s inspiring, but not always possible when you’re feeling human. Is that to say that when you are alone and withdrawn, you cannot find source for appreciation?

Is solace purely defined by the observation of your belonging to grander phenomena?

Like laneways, can your existence not be affirmed simply in knowing that it is yours?

Your navigation through the undeniable vastness stemming from the confirmation of you, simply as you.

Yours to begin and to live.

IMG20180325152501 (3)
Manus & Nauru Protestors, Bourke Street Mall

Yours to give, should you wish, to purposes larger than you, to those whose dignity is silenced.

IMG20180325152646 (2)
Vegan Protestors beside Manus & Nauru Protestors, Bourke Street Mall

To whatever cause you see fit.

I was struck by the juxtaposition of this. A small group of vegan protestors stand beside the powerful parade of Manus & Nauru protestors.

It was physically and then emotionally confronting, the sheer number of people protesting Australia’s treatment of asyum seekers. We can’t pretend we are removed from this. We can’t pretend we’re not responsible for the masses of individuals who are more or less incarcerated for their simple desire to live as human beings. We need to do better.

We are constantly surrounded by so many voices shouting in earnest, it sometimes feels like the air is too heavy on us, but to exist is to acknowledge the pressures of juxtaposition without forgetting how connected you are.

You are a whole and single dot in a larger Jackson Pollock, a person in a larger world.

And though you are the same as every other person, you are also defined by virtue of being just that very one particular person.

You are something small, and something grand, all at once.

IMG20180325153705 (2)
Balcombe Place, Melbourne
IMG20180325154036 (2)
Dame Edna Place, Melbourne
IMG20180325160819 (2)
Zomp Shoez, Little Collins Street, Melbourne

 

 

I’m Going With My Gut

Originally published in Lot’s Wife, print ed. 1 2018

 

I have a good feeling about my gut,

So I’m going to follow my instincts,

Which is to say, I’m going to commit a logical fallacy

on the basis of a perceived metaphorical condition of my abdomen

I don’t mind, I have no qualms in overlooking this minor detail

It seems good to me

It seems good

It seems you could ignore the before

based on this empowering self assuredness

To diffuse that explosive dead weight

If good is a condition, it’s firm and becoming, warm and dependable

Like a handshake that segues into a satisfying clap on the shoulder

Sometimes you’ve got to trust in your gut

And nevermind the rest

Just nevermind

Just never you mind about the culture already developed

The details of the stomach stew

It is bacteria breeding digestive insurance

Distilled: February 2018

This edition of distilled is unofficially brought to you by cheap flights, an Oppo phone camera, and planet Earth. Which is not entirely different from previous editions.

IMG20180201101322 (2)
Turnball Alley, Melbourne

Although we do kick off at home, sweet home.

IMG20180201102203
Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens

With a fine, summer day.

IMG20180201124555 (4)
Parliament Gardens, Melbourne

In the garden, existing in space made of the outward sighs of happiness.

IMG20180201135018 (2)
Kings Domain Barbershop, Collins Street
IMG20180204152520 (2)
Somewhere over Western Australia
IMG20180205201728 (2)
The Standard Chartered Bank, Corner Phang Nga and Phuket Roads, Old Town, Phuket

Sino-Portuguese (Chinese and Portuguese influenced) architecture on Phang Nga road in Phuket’s Old Town.

IMG20180205201813 (3)
Sino-Portuguese Architecture, Phang Nga Road, Old Town, Phuket

I am profoundly moved by the depth of history that has marked this island. The architecture in particular bears witness to the changing contours of Phuket. Most of the buildings in this (above) style are refurbished as guesthouses and restaurants along Thalang and Phang Nga roads. Otherwise they stand in poor condition amongst the post apocalyptic concrete and shanty tin and bamboo scenes of a Thailand still recovering from the 2004 tsunami. Originally built during the tin mining boom under King Rama V, these structures were one of the first signs of European influence in this area. They originally stood as homes for the wealthy, banks, and other government institutions. You’ll even find some Sino-Portuguese mansions, although these vary in condition.

Along the streets, these buildings bear the physical hallmarks of a once traditionally mining fuelled economy that has repurposed as one for tourism. You’ll find fresh coats of paint and neon signage adorning these buildings now housing and feeding tourists. Sometimes it is necessary to repurpose what is old so that it remains functional in society, but I also think antiquity’s charm stems from respecting and listening to the time and space between old and new. It lends gravity to the places we keep building and building upon, and it anchors our achievements within the rich and lush landscapes of where and how we choose to exist.

IMG20180207225904
Phang Nga Road, Phuket
IMG20180208185822 (2)
Takuapa Road, Old Town, Phuket
IMG20180208190224 (2)
Baba Lady with Desserts, Ratsada Road, Old Town, Phuket

Old Town is full of stunning street art. This is just one of my favourites; evidently, a food coma.

IMG20180208190956 (2)
Delivery Crates, Old Town, Phuket

There is a lot more to be said of the charms of Old Town, but let’s leave this at that, for now.

IMG20180209185756 (3)
Waters of an Island Whose Name Escapes Me, Phuket
IMG20180209193837 (3)
Koh Phi Phi Lee, Phuket, Thailand
IMG20180209194043 (2)
Koh Phi Phi Lee, Phuket, Thailand
IMG20180209195344 (2)
Koh Phi Phi Lee, Phuket, Thailand
IMG20180209195406 (2)
Koh Phi Phi Lee, Phuket, Thailand
IMG20180209195509 (2)
Koh Phi Phi Lee, Phuket, Thailand

I distinctly remember swimming in the sunset waters of Koh Phi Phi Lee and Maya Bay, certified Gorgeous Places. You can see the floor of the ocean through the clearest water, despite its depth. Just be mindful, that the coral here is still recovering from the effects of the 2004 tsunami.

IMG20180210183059 (2)
Vintage Cars, off Phuket Road, Old Town, Phuket
IMG20180210210034 (2)
a.dessert.moments, Thaland Road, Old Town, Phuket
IMG20180212205629 (2)
Kade Kwan Road, Karon, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket
IMG20180213164410 (2)
Sail Rock, The 8th Island of the Similan Islands

Unquestionably the best body of water I have ever swum in.

IMG20180213174129 (2)
View from Sail Rock, The 8th Island of the Similan Islands

Look at it.

This group of islands has been listed as one of the world’s top ten diving destinations.

Despite being hit particularly badly by the tsunami, the Similan Islands are recovering. It is a collection of nine islands, although I believe the revised or updated number is now eleven, within the Similan Islands Archipalego, in the Andaman Sea. Of these islands, the southern three are closed to the public in green sea turtle conservation efforts. You can also see the growth of new coral amongst the remains of the dead, dusty grey and brittle. New life grows in place of old, if we let it.

IMG20180213174326 (2)
View from Sail Rock, The 8th Island of the Similan Islands

Between the two photos here, you can also see the number of tourists arriving. These were taken relatively early on, before the hoards came, but it gives you an idea for the impact of tourism. The beach is not big enough to accommodate all the tour boats that journey out to see it. And the island is not big enough for the number of people who visit it. I am sad to report the presence of litter, although not yet atrocious, on this island. To me, this highlights the importance of eco-tourism.

IMG20180213175042 (2)
View Amongst the Rocks of Sail Rock, The 8th Island of the Similan Islands

Here is my attempt at some more creative photography.

IMG20180216192627 (2)
Buildings off Ruamchai Road, Pa Tong, Kathu District, Phuket

I think that when you travel, in exchange for your experiences, you are responsible for understanding them. That is to say, you actively engage with where you are. You did some research, at least a little, and you asked questions, of the locals, of fellow travelers, of yourself. There is no way to experience everything in any given place, of course, but you should think about why it is the way it is, wherever you are. On whatever level that suits you best, be it acknowledging the things that pique your interest, or if you’d rather, philosophically meander avenues both built and metaphorical. These places are not just other places in other countries, they are part of your world too.

 

The £1000 Bend

 

The following poem was originally published in September earlier this year in Verge 2017: Chimera and is available at Readings and online.

 

The £1000 Bend

is scraping thin

between two things

that will not ever meet.

it’s holding onto handrails just out of reach;

the brightly painted bars

running overhead but not ahead

to hold you steady

as the faint electric whistle

cultivates a home

against the rhythm of your dreams.

 

Sometimes it lives in scared strewn things

screaming Shakespeare in reverse

too afraid to sit amongst the people

gambling on their £1000 bends.

It breaks the bones

of suburban homes

struggling to find a foothold in a crowd

as the tunnel closes in

at six o’clock

and the rails are beaten to a bend.

 

It’s warping iron tracks

and making glitter from graffiti,

pretending to be Michelangelo

praying in ¾ time

along a soundscape uninvented

and unparalleled.

You break facades

and paint them fresh,

tattoo the underground with compositions

and listen to the echoes

that beat like broken metronomes

skipping inside bars untimed

to the direction leading home.

 

You breathe the £1000 bend

like it’s the thing with feathers

and dare to waltz into skies of grey

as the weather stains in untimed droplets

to cries of engines and of people

who all start to look and feel the same.

 

Route maps and itineraries line your pockets

wearing along well folded lines,

as they leave unappreciated

little scabs of secondhand existence

in a notebook of apologies.

 

But before the steamrolled tracks

grind to a stop

you cannot drop

your fearless gaze.

Having lived, and breathed, and gambled,

and lost

you continue to bend

a thousand pounds to search your soul.

To My Sister and My Brother (in-law), On Your Happiest Day (yet)

Preface:

The privilege of witnessing a love like this has been my heartfelt honour. I post this speech, the one I gave on their day, with their full consent.

I hope that when you find your own love, you will know.

I trust you will.


I am feeling so many emotions right now, but within this immense happiness, I am also feeling very lucky to be the youngest of so many loving sisters.

In particular, I have been blessed to have shared a wealth of experiences with Thuy. Together we’ve climbed the most reverent mountains and jumped into limitless skies. Imagine stretching as far as you possibly can and realising that the sky was not the limit. And never was. Skydiving with Thuy was like holding the impossible. Such moments in life, are truly, exceptional.

Those of us who are privileged with loving Thuy and being loved by Thuy, know that there exists a kind of love that is more than an absence of something like fear or doubt, and more than simply the addition of something, like warmth or safety. Instead it is the kind of love that forces you to redefine your limits of expression. It is expansive. Much like the universe.

So if you imagine the planets and stars as happiness, joy, support, and so on, and the vacuum between as space cleared to highlight those things that make life beautiful, you get fairly close.

But exceptional love, isn’t adding up the planets and the stars and subtracting the dust. It is the very fabric on which the universe exists. It is the landscape to the architecture we build. By default, everything we are becomes a narrative told within this fabric, this space. And exceptional love is the kind of space that is always expanding, equipping you and inspiring you to design your stars, together.

Since I was little, Thuy has always inspired my understanding of the world to expand into new dimensions. From the strength of your reach, the depth of your person, the heights you can climb and the volume of your voice, my navigation through life has been underscored by a sisterly love so encompassing and so generous, it is always larger than yesterday.

Thuy is my biggest cheerleader. There for me in the worst of times, and the inspiration behind the best of times.

So when Thuy met David, I felt like I kind of met David too. In the way that sisters talk about what happens on dates.

And then, I actually met David. I remember thinking how quiet he was. But in retrospect it was probably because I was nervous and talking an absurd amount. But David will do that. Listen to you with the most generous ear, even when you’re not saying much at all. And the more I get to know David, the more I know he is the kind of person who does not simply possess qualities. He isn’t a vessel in which kindness is carried and from which it is expressed, rather kindness forms and is cultivated from somewhere within. And that is much rarer.

Thuy says David gives the best compliments. You might be tempted to say it’s easy when it’s Thuy he’s complimenting after all. I think the best compliments are genuine and precise. And I think David is meticulous and thoughtful in such an admirable way that can only manifest itself as the pervasive support integral to love.

I know, however, that Thuy and David’s love for each other can only be defined by their own dimensions. It seems that everything they do stems from an internal, conscientious choice that is then expressed. And they do so, consistently, and generously.

Everyone, these are two, exceptional people, and as is often the case with exceptional people, their love is just so.

Thuy, David, I wish for you always, a beautiful, limitless sky. I know your story will be exceptional.

Skype

It is not the lapse of time

But the intensity of feeling that defines

You and I

Nor is the proximity

At which we exchange

Our accented vowels a measure

For I need not taste your breath

To know your closeness.

Rather

It is the way your image illuminates my screen –

Your pixelated person

Lit

By the familiar light of far away

Inducing high contrast brightness

That insists:

Darkness is the absence of

You.

As published in Monash Creative Writers’ biannual anthology, Incisors & Grinders, the little book of love and recovery 2016 edition

Annalise

I dream of far flung places –

the recesses of my memories –

old cornered crooks of dusty hardback books

cataloguing misspelled spaces and smells of Annalise.

 

In January she smelled of February,

was swatches of the sunshine

and paint chips of witty quips

I’d use to brush my cheeks

though I’d rather stain my lips

and paint forever in my dreams

than stubbornly memorise

subpar sentences for sunshine

and the fading scents of Annalise.

 

In Autumn I would fall

between the cracks

between the leaves

and she would have already been

somewhere she’d rather be

someplace else she would be sight seeing

I hope she doesn’t mind being

the subject of my dreaming

come winter and the raining

damp and itchy Spring.

 

I’d rather keep believing

this Summer belongs to –

but the way the sun is scorching

I’m left with only traces

mismatching other faces

and I cannot keep up spending

furtively pretending

I haven’t fallen through the spaces

between those far flung places