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

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Distilled: December 2017

Another month, another collection of photos to share, this time with a few thoughts of mine. These are frames/compositions/things/images/moments that compelled my deviation from the norm.

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Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

You might recognise this familiar grey as the omen of December storms past. It was something the state emergency services warned you about. Maybe you were waiting for a text reply from a friend but got a storm instead. Maybe they are the same?

Thought Capsule: What kind of bombshell will be left?

I was standing on the platform at Flinders Street Station, and was also, standing by the Huangpu River, looking up at the Shanghai Tower.

It marvels me that people can build such structures that pierce through the fog. Admittedly, the Eureka Tower is significantly smaller than the Shanghai Tower, but, in essence they are the same. Both structures were engineered as new platforms for viewing what is increasingly the same storm.

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Isabella Williams Memorial Park, Deer Park

I am running, too slowly, but my feet continue to hit the concrete. It is my will and gravity’s will. My heart feels small, but persistent. I look up at the sky and look back down at the pavement. It tells me to pick it up.

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Tandoori Times, Anderson Street, Yarraville

She laughs, brightly, piercing through whatever fog or stew you’re sitting in.

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Burger Bollard, Flinders Street, Melbourne
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Faraday Street, Carlton
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Corner of Little Bourke Street and Swanston Street, Melbourne
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The Somber Sombrero, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

This is a point of creative departure unto itself. What shenanigans had befallen the formely hatted person involved on this Saturday night? More to the point, what else for this singular sombrero?

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Housing Development on Bourke Street

I’m not sure what the artist meant, if anything by it, but it was painted on corporate construction on Bourke Street, which is, to some, a home. A piece of cardboard, a hat, a something that gets you through it.

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Balaclava Ice Cream Sandwich, Cuppa Turca Dondurma & Desserts

Delectable.

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View of the Carlton Hotel, Bourke Street
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Bird, Sydney Road, Brunswick
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Little Mule Café, Somerset Place, Melbourne
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Scorpion, Somerset Place, Melbourne
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Live Music at the Naked Egg, Ballarat Street, Yarraville
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Save the Campbell Arcade, Sticky Institute, Campbell Arcade, Melbourne

If you didn’t already know, Campbell Arcade is that underground space connecting Flinders Street Station to Degraves Street. It starts in the middle of the big old station, burrowing under Flinders Street. Sometimes access is closed, sometimes it is open. It widens, provides homes for the newsagency, the handmade clothes shops, the record shop, the coffee shop, the zines stop and keeps running until it becomes a Belgian waffle stop. Occasionally the art in the displays change. Once, I overheard a class of school kids on a walking tour react in outrage, confusion, surprise on discovering that there existed, once, a bowling alley further along. Their hopes lingered as they subsequently discovered that it was still mainly there, just boarded up and severely disused.

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The Village Larder, Woodend

Here you will find the world’s best coconut and cherry meringue slice.

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Woodend
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Woodend

This was the weather on the morning of the bushfire.

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Grassfire at Turpins Falls

This is the beginning of the bushfire.

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Little Mule Unicycle, Somerset Place

I stopped to take a photo and looked up to see a purple haired girl stop too. Monday she leaves for someplace else, she doesn’t know, backpack packed on her back, she is as far as she can be away from Denmark before she starts turning back. Neither of us rides a unicycle.

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The Pillars, Mount Martha

Sometimes the shape of the earth is perfect, just perfect for diving off.

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The Pillars, Mount Martha

Sometimes the ocean is an invitation.

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The Unconventional Route, The Pillars, Mount Martha

& sometimes you take the, let’s be honest, dumbest way to get to where you want to be, but it’s alright. Two trees that stand a little further apart from each other than usual can be construed as a pathway and technically you can crash through the bush and call it walking. Your accidental blunder contributes to the poetry of the moment. Seize it.

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Plump Organic Grocery, Ballarat Street, Yarraville
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De-Frosty, South Melbourne Market
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Freshly Ground, Swanston Street

 

 

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.

My Hopes for You, my Love

I hope that life,

like a grand circus finale,

catches you,

at the moment you waver off kilter, teetering on the edge of

certainty

as the wind picks up momentum

and the distance to the

ground

grows brave.

I hope you find a foothold.

I hope your limbs are sure and strong and lively enough to stopper falls too deep.

I hope your soul accommodates caverns

vast enough for thoughts like these.

I hope you adopt a stomach for the edges

and learn that digestion of adrenaline is an artful skill to have,

but I hope that nonetheless,

the wind does less

than force imperviousness,

and more to free

the looser ends of yours,

your hair,

your eyelashes,

and your smile.

And I hope,

that I will be there,

awaiting with applause.

Pause

My life is smeared around me in books unshelved, clothes unfolded, bed unmade,

My life is etherised.

I float in atemporal headspace

and daren’t pierce through the filmy layer of rarefied air enclosing me.

I am enveloped, messily

Imperfectly sealed and threatening to spread, out

Amongst my possessions.

I make myself smaller.

I am not equipped to touch those things.