Two Part Review: SoundQuest Fest (Part Two)

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Continued from previous post.

Erik Wollo, a Norwegian guitarist, played after the break. His music made me think of when you are shown videos in health class that begin with sun-spotted footage of people rock climbing. The camera pans around them to show the canyon and to remind you that the canyon is dangerous. The music was very robust. I didn’t like it much. It did not make me think; it made me nervous. More importantly, it felt like it had a predictable dramatic structure—I’d come for the loose, meandering version of existence; if I had wanted one that built to expansive climaxes followed by long gazes into a cold and unsympathetic void, I would have driven to El Con and seen a movie. I can understand, I suppose, why this would have been appealing though: It seemed built to inspire.

The funny thing is that I didn’t stay for all of Steve Roach, whose set featured the eventual accompaniment of two digeridoo players and the “shamanic trance percussionist” Byron Metcalf. I got tired. Eight hours is a long time to listen to new-age music in a room with other people, especially when it lapses into the heavily tribal stuff. So I went home and continued to listen to Steve Roach while petting my cat and staring out the window.

As a writer I sometimes try and figure out if there is a way to step outside time. Of course, the word (generally) moves forward, left to right, across the page. Stories are also about time, to a certain extent: One thing happens, then another. “Once upon a time.” (Though this is a sore spot for me, and a convention I’m willing to try and fight: While I’m actually living, I feel like everything happens at once. Moments are vertical, not horizontal.) I like that Steve Roach protests the way time works. I also like dreams and drugs and memories and other things that are structurally opposed to the poisonous and all-powerful notion of capitalist progress.

Or, sometimes I do—I like the thought of them, at least. I like the thought of the song that never ends, that just goes on and on my friends. Now I’m rambling, but that pointlessness is part of the point, if I can still call it that for the sake of articulating my thought: We—storytellers—are over here vainly trying to contain life, and there’s Steve Roach, who of course still has to make decisions about what to include or not include on his records, but makes so many records and holds such long concerts that there’s this impression that he’s asymptotically approaching some kind of infinity—the state I think he means when he talks about “living inside the sound current.” Roach actually believes we were born to live in that state. Of course, whether we bother to measure time or not, we will still die; still, I admire the effort.

This might sound new-agey to you. It probably is. I’ve been told we’re human beings and not human doings, which is great rhetoric but it also reminds me of this Katt Williams skit where he talks about how one difference between being high and being not-high is that if you’re high and the electrical company cuts off your power, you might just think, “So what, I’ve got all these candles I’ve been waiting to burn,” by which I mean being a human being can sometimes get in the way of cleaning up and paying bills, and I don’t want to talk myself into a state where I am questioning the spiritual validity of paying bills. But it’s important to me to ask these questions now and then: When’s the last time I made my best effort to do nothing? Can I imagine a story that would be as ignorable as it would be interesting? Am I even willing to think about it, or am I too busy?