Whomever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whomever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Manchester Collective, Quanta (featuring Lyra Pramuk), NEON (Bedroom Community Records)
On a recent sunny afternoon, I took a walk to the local café that I sometimes go to for a cup of tea. Coffee gives me heart palpitations as if I were high on methamphetamines, so I stick to tea. The Western world thrives upon caffeine and anxiety — and alcohol, and regret. I truly believe that most murders are likely resultant from some combination of those. You’ll never regret murdering a good cup of Earl Grey tea, though.
I had on this occasion a handful of cherries from the fridge that I’d brought in a bowl to share with the baristas with whom I’d become friendly. So there I was, walking down the street with a bowlful of cherries on a sunny summer afternoon. And why not? Part of me simply wanted to see what would happen if I took a bowlful of cherries on my walk down a busy city street.
I approached the façade of an empty storefront where a homeless man had made his makeshift camp for the day. He sat on an overturned milk crate with his hand outstretched and asked me for change, which I didn’t have. But I offered him the cherries instead and his eyes lightened.
I expected him to take the whole bunch — there might have been a dozen or so — but he picked two cherries by their conjoined stems and said thank you and I proceeded onward to the café to share the remaining cherries with the baristas.
In that moment, that man had nothing. And he could have had it all — he could have taken the whole bowlful of cherries. I intended him to do so. Yet he chose to pick only the cherries he needed.
Choice is what elevates us as spiritual beings. We have no natural inclinations to accumulation and conspicuous consumption. That is how animals live. It’s a choice to be a human or a beast.
Tent Music, Fade Away, Tent Music (Whited Sepulchre Records)
I am not a happy camper.
My earliest memories of being on holiday are of camping with my mom and dad, the three of us crammed into a six-man army tent of heavy olive canvas. This was dad’s idea of fun. It’s all he ever wanted to do on vacation — go camping. He would drag me and mom and we’d sit in lawn chairs with his buddies in a circle around a campfire. They would spit sunflower seeds into the flames and talk about nothing, warming cans of beer wedged between their legs.
Whenever it rained, which was often, there was nowhere to go but back in the tent. Passing hours playing Monopoly on a warped board, or staring into space. You could easily lose your balance in the tent, too, accidentally palming a perfect print on the inside wall that would immediately begin leaking rainwater in the shape of your hand, a wet slap in the face.
To me as a kid, there was something morbid about the notion of six actual soldiers in an army sleeping in that tent. Maybe somewhere in Vietnam in the ‘60s, or Korea a decade earlier, a canvas tent their only shelter from monsoon season and never-ending artillery fire, nights spent much like their days, in constant discomfort, in constant fear for their lives.
I could imagine nothing worse than that — except of course for us piled together in the pouring rain in the tent that the six of them eventually died in.
Taylor Swift’s “misprints”
Word spread in mid-July about a rare “misprint” of a Taylor Swift record that one fan had purchased through Amazon. Much to the fan’s surprise, her copy of the album Speak Now contained not one note of Swift’s music, but rather a compilation, entitled Happy Land, of British electronic music circa the early rave era. The New York Times picked up on the fan’s story, dubbing the blundered pressing Taylor’s “scary version” and noting that the mix-up produced something of a crossover between two unlikely camps: pop music and experimental electronica.
This has happened before, though — and with Taylor Swift, too. In 2014, back when people still largely consumed music by paying to download digital files, Swift briefly peaked on the Canadian iTunes chart with eight seconds of noise, prompting a flurry of sarcastic tweets suggesting that the country-pop artist may have made a secret crossover collaboration album with the likes of Merzbow or Prurient. Suddenly, the whole — albeit niche — Canadian glitch music community was talking about Taylor Swift like she was the newest Super Friend.
Experimental music enthusiasts possess omnivorous cultural consumption habits and will listen to Taylor Swift out of guilty pleasure. Whereas it’s doubtful that diehard Swifties will take to buying AIDS Wolf or Cabaret Voltaire records because they accidentally encountered their works whilst trying to spin Swift’s latest hit. The pop music industry’s insistent cynicism at mining every marginal musical community undoubtedly knows no bounds.
Joni Void, La Sotterenea, 7 July 2023
The construction holiday, another quirky feature of Quebec culture, is one of my favourite times of the year. It’s a period during which an estimated third of the province’s population hangs up the high-viz vests and makes for their cabins, or drives their motorhomes somewhere out of the city. During this heavenly time in Montreal, there is a literal void of activity, and most importantly, noise. No jackhammering, no beeping heavy machinery, walkie talkies both stationary and silent.
A recent scholarly study from the pnas’s at PNAS suggests that silence is its own form of sound. If you would like to experience the sound of partial silence, there is a hemi-anechoic chamber in the EV building at Concordia. Or you can book the Orfield Laboratory in Minneapolis, a completely anechoic chamber, for just $400 US per hour-and-a-half tour. Although nobody has been able to stand it for more than 45 minutes.
The OM Alfresco with Naomi Woo, Parc Marie-Claire-Kirkland-Casgrain, 12 July 2023
I used to think that doing improbable things sheerly for the delight of it was decadent in the face of immeasurable suffering. Staging an entire orchestra in a public park, for example, whilst there was a real war going on on the other side of the world seemed, maybe, a little showy.
My mind has changed, however. Improbable things for delight’s sake are precisely what we should be doing to reaffirm our collective values, our hopes, and how we imagine the future. In the public company of music is one of the most resplendent modes we have of being together.◼︎