Using an app designed to replicate the stroboscopic “flicker” effect of Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville’s Dream Machine, I begin my journey. I pass a semi-translucent energy field shaped like a dog. Trails lead to experimental grammars and readings in phenomenology. Friends and I over drinks speculate about socialist strategy in light of the strike in West Virginia. During brief lulls in the conversation, or while friends and I renew our drinks, I wonder about non-player characters and the representational challenges posed by collective subjects. Tools, remember, enable a prosthesis or “doubling” of the self. While Cluster & Eno’s “One” keeps me awake and hopeful, Jack DeJohnette’s “Aho” is what finally takes me beyond my skin.
Aggressive, utilitarian: the commodities that populate today’s indoor capitalist shopping malls no longer possess an erotics. Fonts and signage aim for instant legibility, leave nothing to the imagination, all artifacts and all actors of this world turned exclusively toward securing of utilities. Yet hypnotic props remain essential to the mall’s magic. Mirrored surfaces, confusions of scale, multiple conflicting pop songs played simultaneously: these and other methods induce a trancelike readiness to consume. Thankfully, “I AM THAT I AM” can escape these self-made confines. We can teach ourselves to race at lightning-quick speed up the inner canal of the optic nerve, thus allowing consciousness to awaken in the space behind the eyes a new era of sensitivity and interior vision, somewhere between heaven and earth.
“Just so long as the universe doesn’t fill me with a bad infinity of sense data,” says he who persists in conceiving action as a thing one chooses. Lights, textures, synthesized rhythms. Modular sets of classifiers readjusting against an inky black background. “By luck one may do as one will,” asserts a high-pitched, as yet unnamed being. I convince myself to grow into a bigger, stronger, better version of myself. Head above headrest, carried forth by wind. Richard Horowitz soundtracks a stretch of my quest with his track “Eros Never Stops Dreaming.”
Frequencies flutter through a field. I’m also taken with the work of Horowitz’s fellow composer and sometime collaborator, Jon Hassell. Let us seek lives fit for Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics, Hassell’s collaboration with Brian Eno.
An unobserved observer observes duplicate faces seeing eye to eye across a mirror. Cat-people march with banners. Selves enter and exit cells by way of windows. Vast stretches of universe await entry into consciousness. A head pokes through an opening, and wakes to another world.
A colleague and I headed out into the woods for a brief weekend retreat, our shelter a cross between a tiny house and a cabin, loaned to us by a friend of a friend. But when I woke early yesterday morning, I learned that my dog — my companion of nearly 15 years — had fallen ill. Receiving a text from my wife about Daphne’s condition, I packed my things and rushed home, the world on the horizon reduced to a pure gray ambiguity as I stared intently at the road ahead. Eberhard Schoener’s Trance-Formation soundtracked my grief.
When the fog cleared, I witnessed a wake of turkey vultures picking at the remains of a young deer, the latter’s removal from the world of the living no doubt a consequence of some passing motorist. The destruction of alternative lifeways and nonhuman modes of being is an ineradicable component of capitalist reality. Look around: this system is cancerous. Unable to tolerate and coexist with radical difference. As I approached home, some algorithmic power operating through Spotify tried to console me by churning out 801’s cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
“It is not dying,” Eno assures us, “it is not dying.” By mid-afternoon, Daphne’s condition had stabilized — but even now, as I write this, she lacks her usual appetite and seems confused and lethargic. It breaks my heart to see her this way, lying on her side, her face white, her tube-shaped dachshund body covered in lipomas and skin tags. She has a meeting with her vet scheduled for later today. My fear, though, is that he’ll say she’s in pain — in which case, we’ll have to put her down. All I can do in the meantime, I suppose, is kiss her neck, rub her belly, calm her, comfort her as best I can. I try to comfort myself by imagining episodes of We Bare Bears as conversations between the dog equivalent of Superego, Ego, and Id taking place within Daphne’s psyche. She and other wildlife dream the animal equivalent of proletarian revolution. Humor is the only way we can save ourselves from Seasonal Affective Disorder’s black pit of despair. So sayeth Broad City. It, too, spits up phrases suited to the tinfoil light of my condition. “Seratonin rising, dopamine flowing.” Ilana turns to Abbi and, making light of her proneness to depression, snarls, “So I get sick sometimes and need medicine — who cares?” The trouble is, I think of Daphne as being somehow a part of me — a link between me and my past — and I don’t want that part of me to die. Death is for me the destruction of all sense and meaning. How will I bear this loss?