Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: March 2008

31 March 2008

The Transhuman Music of Akhentek


A moment of speculation, rooted in a study of universal trends: Human history can be defined as development along any of numerous axes, but my preferred story-for-our-species is of an advance in mind control technologies. For good and ill, the development of our consciousness flies tandem with our expanding capacity to access and explore various states of mind at will. Our command of navigating mind with sensory and electrochemical stimulation has matured to include everything from early entheogenic experiments with drumming and chanting, to contemporary techniques of magnetic temporal lobe stimulation and virtual reality immersion…and with the impending advent of biotech and nanotech that will profoundly deepen the intimacy between brain and machine (and erase such primitive distinctions), we can be sure that mind control is one of the best markers we have for measuring our humanity (and our trans-humanity).

With this in mind, I spend much of my time looking at contemporary art and music as touchstones, clues to our place as a self-transcending species in the cosmos. Every time I see intention meet technology in a deliberate manipulation of mindstates, I rejoice that we are on the right track. And nowhere is this confluence more apparent than in the careful structuring of electronic musicians like Akhentek, a self-described “crystalline array technician” from Elphinstone, BC, whose psy-trance productions are “precision engineered sonic textures intentionally designed to induce higher frequency mindstates.”

Akhentek’s nuanced tracks, like the burbling glitch of “Spectrality” or the free-floating guitar and synthesizers on his “White Girls In Saris” remix, definitely induce a strange, buzzing feeling – and unlike many other buzz-inducing artists, I know that he’s doing it on purpose.

Deep beneath the art of this music coils the esoteric science of neuroentrainment: getting the brain to vibrate at specific frequencies. It's an easy enough trick. Our brains expect to hear more or less the same thing in each ear, so they split the difference between tones that don't quite line up, creating the auditory illusion of a single note. This activity requires special collaboration between the right and left hemispheres, which syncs brain activity at that agreed-upon mean. If the left ear hears 104 Hz and the right ear hears 108 Hz, the entire brain will pulse at 4 Hz - with the brainwaves producing a corresponding state of mind. It's one of the cheapest ways to engineer consciousness. No drugs, no surgery, no nanobots - all you need is a pair of headphones and a "crystalline array technician" to prepare the sounds for you.

These binaural beats coast inaudibly across each other underneath warm and deep mastering, giving this music the strange quality of feeling at once transparent and mysterious. It’s little wonder that he has a background in biology and “Brazilian Genetics” (which I assume is a euphemism for ayahuasca initiation) – this guy’s eye and ear are definitely trained on human evolution and accelerating its numerous permutations. Cascades of twittering clicks and swells of buzzing oscillations sweep through me as I listen, reformatting my consciousness on a subliminal level. I start feeling the effects of his “rare sensitivity to frequencies” as the café around me starts to ripple with gauzy transparency.

We may be a long way from having total agency over individual awareness. In the meantime, however, I’m relieved to know that we have innovators like Akhentek out there fighting the good fight, sculpting sound with to elevate consciousness directly and for the greater good, those secret agent techno-shamans enlightening unwitting ravers and inspiring the next generation of state-engineers to plunge even deeper into our limitless potential to explore – and create – novel states of mind.

Akhentek’s music, as well as information about Entheogenetic (his electronic music label) and the Entheos Gathering (his festival) can be found online at CBC Radio 3.

(Written for iggli.com)

29 March 2008

Soundtrack To Your Funeral, Part VII: Switching Off

(Temple Burn, Burning Man 2008, image from


Compared to Life (if the familiar dyad even makes sense), Death is famously dispassionate. Death doesn't care when, or why, or how, or who. Death can not care, because caring is the job of the living. And so choice has precious little to do with death, which is why we clutch at whatever choices we do have about our final moments. We usually don't have the luxury of the death we would prefer, and so we do insignificant and desperate things like making living wills and funeral playlists, pre-emptive strikes at the infinite unyielding unconcern of nonexistence.

Some cultures don't consider suicide to be as tasteless as ours does (thanatophobic and euphemistic, we have a long history of plucking out our own offending eyes without mourning our lost sight). Here and now, we can do little to decide the terms of our passage without distressing the ones we love.

We can, however, write declarations of love that stamp a seal of determination on our last breath. Tenderly capturing his request to die in the presence of his beloved, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey penned an exemplar of such quietly raging hopeful confessions: the organ ballad, "Switching Off." Painting precious, half-iambic metaphors of his last night's fading lights from the perch of candid youth, Garvey imagines a distant and peaceful shutdown - and his partner's place beside him, amidst the creeping noise and the crumbling synchrony.

Elbow - "Switching Off"

Last of the men in hats hops off the coil
And a final scene unfolds inside
Deep in the rain of sparks behind his brow
Is a part replayed from a perfect day
Teaching her how to whistle like a boy
In love's first blush

Is this making sense?
What am I trying to say?
Early evening June, this room and a radio play
This I need to save
I choose my final thoughts today
Switching off with you

All the clocks give in, and the traffic fades
And the insects like...like a neon choir
The instant fizz, connection made
And the curtains sigh in time with you

You're the only sense the world has ever made
Early evening June, this room and radio play
This I need to save
I choose my final scene today
Switching off...

Ran to ground, ran to ground for a while there
But I came off pretty well, I came off pretty well...

You're the only sense the world has ever made
This I need to save
A simple trinket locked away
I choose my final scene today
Switching off with you


This song is one of the truest love letters I've ever heard, daisies growing from a double grave, holding hands to die of old age, because "You're the only sense the world has ever made." Whatever happens between now and then, God save this feeling, this certainty and adoration, togetherness and memory, this "simple trinket locked away," until I can look back and smile at its accurate prediction.

We may not get to choose how we die, but we can hope against hope that we die in someone's arms. We can't carry anything across that threshold, but we can carry our cares right up to its silver edge. We can adorn our lives with these solemn vows, giving worth to each living moment. We can prove that death is in fact meaningful, because it is by death that we determine what is valuable. Romance as I know it is a skull with rose window eyes, burgeoning even as it breaks. And so there is nothing more romantic than telling someone you want them there when you die.

"Switching Off" is a perfect portrait of recognizing what matters. It is the beauty of yearning listening as it strains against fadeout. It'd be a strange song to play at my funeral - bringing the particulars of my death into sharp focus, where wishes may not hold against facts - but I would put it on my funeral playlist anyway, because it so gracefully captures for me the timeless splendor of love. Because we may not get to choose, but we can always hope to choose. And after years of arguing for the concrete value of choice, I am only now beginning to understand the diaphonous, glistening value of hope.

28 March 2008

Painting While Dancing, Part 3: Stray Dog In The Temple

Sometimes I feel like grabbing someone and pleading with them to please remind me what I'm doing, pretending to be a painter. It's a term I can only offer with the following (usually unuttered) disclaimer:

I don't know how to use a paint brush. I am intimidated by the notion of mixing my own colors. In fact, I have no formal education in art of any kind - and so I use paint markers on foam board. I borrowed an easel to do my first show.

It's one of the enduring ironies of my existence, that I define myself by my work but the best descriptor for what I do is something I don't consider myself to be. There's more than a little imposter's guilt in me when I carry my easel into the Trilogy Wine Bar every Wednesday night to be a painter, like I accidentally received an invitation to the party and I don't have the guts to admit I don't belong there. Like I'm a wild bird that snuck into the aviary to live off the free food. Like I'm a fox pretending to be a lapdog.

But I might make up for my lack of disciplined training with twenty years' experience of doodling in class, at parties, on planes, and in my sleep (although those images rarely survive the morning). A childhood of dinosaurs and aliens carried me into a scientific illustration course in college, from which I was hired directly to draw plates of frogs, snakes, and lizards for species descriptions at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum.
Frogs, University of Kansas Natural History Museum

I reconstructed the fossil armor of bizarre pig-crocodiles, two hundred million years dead...
Aetosaurs, July 2005

...and pieced together the awkward gait of extinct flying reptiles from trackways preserved in the mud of an ancient lake.
Pteraichnus, Tate Museum of Casper College

I brought to life numerous prehistoric invertebrates in ink - alternate-reality lobsters with rows of flippers and compound eyes.
Nettapedoura, University of Kansas Department of Geology

Over the three years that I was working daily hours at the museum, I must have drawn at least a hundred thousand scales.
Gekko, University of Kansas Natural History Museum

How I stumbled into live painting is easy to see, in retrospect: those were three years I spent drawing with headphones on, learning to make the cleanest possible lines with the smoothest possible strokes, making immersive and meticulous detail my natural habitat. Training and straining my attention. Doing my best to hold the pen as lightly as possible and push the rate at which a person can stipple in a relaxed and even rhythm. Dot after dot, slowly sculpting the contours, ridges, recesses, tubercles of creatures as long as my thumb, working under a microscope, moving through my whole arm in slow sweeps and hypnotic pointillist pecking.

The living pulse of this work is trance-inducing, tunneling through boredom into exultation. Hunched and squinting, I felt connected to the ocean of nameless monks whose gilded script illuminates our ancient sacred manuscripts. And there was never any doubt for me that I was working in a church - a temple to the natural world, complete with byzantine catacombs of holy relics, shelf after shelf of preserved creatures from all over the world, soaking in alcohol jars.

But then, I was probably the only one having such thoughts. I was the contract artist in a hall of scholars and their graduate disciples, a hundred others who would probably have balked at the notion of science as a religious institution. (Kansas is, after all, the epicenter of a fierce debate between Evolutionary Biology and the so-called science of Intelligent Design. It's a tender topic.) Not a grad student, not a field researcher, not an official employee, I worked as someone whose dreams of paleontology had evaporated and left me in the alkaline and existential expanse of accidental mercenary illustration.

And so, long before I had ever entertained the notion of live painting, the whole foundation had already been poured. A degree-carrying biologist pretending to be an artist, or an artist pretending to be a biologist? Whether inking frogs in a corner of the herpetology library or staking out easel space to the side of the stage, I can't shake the feelings of being a peripheral animal, living on the fringes. The meditative and monastic quality of my experience as an artist, ritually ornamenting some precious text, has flown from the stone cloisters of the halls of science and landed in the whirling ecstasies of more embodied worship.

While illustrating descriptive papers and field guides in the museum, I used the creative faculties of my right brain to present ideas with fidelity and frugal care. While tracing psychedelic lattices and floral blooms in vivid color at concerts, my left brain remains engaged in executing emergent rules and patterns, the visual genome and evolving geometry of pieces I consider living and breathing artifacts of the evening's energies. The organic metaphors that pervade my identity and work, my doing and being, point to the deep structures of my ecological education - while the creative yearning and the commitment to exact visions are the signature of a poetry that runs through my life in settings hushed or boisterous, scholarly or celebratory.

With all of this in mind, my inability to paint (according to my definition) makes little difference to my identity as a naturalist-artist-monk, exploring the strange fauna of the subtle energy worlds conducted by heaving bass and dancing throngs. Plate by plate, I'm assembling a new field guide: a field guide to living jewelry, the bizarre beauties of a mind just on the other side of this one.

2007 12 14, Trilogy Lounge

2007 12 19, Trilogy Lounge

2008 01 29, Avalon Ballroom

Whenever I set up my easel and pull out my bundle of paint markers, I remember one passage in particular: Aldous Huxley's introduction to his essay, "Heaven and Hell." Before my work in the museum, before I recognized the sacred responsibility of the artist, this passage fell through my eyes and down into my deepest reaches - rippling outward until now, finally, I hear it and know who I am:

"Like the earth of a hundred years ago, our mind still has its darkest Africas, its unmapped Borneos and Amazonian basins. In relation to the fauna of these regions we are not yet zoologists, we are mere naturalists and collectors of specimens. The fact is unfortunate; but we have to accept it, we have to maket he best of it. However lowly, the work of the collector must be done, before we can proceed to the higher scientific tasks of classification, analysis, experiment, and theory making.

Like the giraffe and the duck-billed platypus, the creatures inhabiting these remoter regions of the mind are exceedingly improbable. Nevertheless they exist, they are facts of observation; and as such, they cannot be ignored by anyone who is honestly trying to understand the world in which he lives.

It is difficult, it is all but impossible, to speak of mental events except in similes drawn from the more familiar universe of material things. If I have made use of geographical and zoological metaphors, it is not wantonly, out of a mere addiction to picturesque language. It is because such metaphors express very forcibly the essential otherness of the mind's far continents, the complete autonomy and self-sufficiency of their inhabitants. A man consists of what I may call an Old Wold of personal consciousness and, beyond a dividing sea, a series of New Worlds - the not too distant Virginias and Carolinas of the personal subconscious and the vegetative soul; the Far West of the collective unconscious, with its flora of symbols, its tribes of aboriginal archetypes; and, across another, vaster ocean, at the antipodes of everyday consciousness, the world of Visionary Experience.

If you go to New South Wales, you will see marsupials hopping about the countryside. And if you go to the antipodes of the conscious mind, you will encounter all sorts of creatures at least as odd as kangaroos. You do not invent these creatures any more than you invent marsupials. They live their own lives in complete independence. A man cannot control them. All he can do is go to the mental equivalent of Australia and look around him."


So that's what I do.

(Written for iggli.com.)

25 March 2008

Painting While Dancing, Part 2: How I Got Into This

Live painting was a curiosity to me, bizarre and insignificant, until last summer, when I finally got to see it actually happen. I had just moved to Boulder from Lawrence, Kansas, where I had been working as a scientific illustrator. Colorado seemed fertile with opportunity, but I was crazy from coasting on my last few hundred dollars while finishing an online degree program and recovering from what may or may not have been the flaming crash of a three-year relationship. I was teetering like a drunken meadowlark on the fencepost between manic exuberance and a panic attack, when my buddies from Lawrence drove up and took me out to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre to catch Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) in concert.

STS9 is the flagship of a recent musical movement called "livetronica," an integration of traditional band instruments with electronic music elements, manipulated as it is happening, on stage. Although artists had been playing around with "live PA" set-ups for years, a full marriage of traditional and emerging technologies only happened a few years ago, when laptop music production software like Ableton Live suddenly made it possible for artists to do all of their soundsculpting in realtime, while recording, under the heat of stage lights. Live turned the laptop computer into a legitimate instrument, and one of the first bands to capitalize on this was Sound Tribe, for which computers perfectly complimented their already-quasi-electronic breakbeat drumming and trance-inducing guitar patterns. (You can find features on their use of computers in concert here and here.)

But that's all pretext for me to explain how the band's reputation for innovative syntheses led them into partnerships with other performance artists, to augment their already-dazzling concerts. The most famous of these is Kris Davidson, a painter whose works have morphed over time from pretty but somewhat prosaic geometrical diagrams:


...into vivid, layered, and organic dripping scapes reminiscent of natural history illustrations and mycelial microscopy:


The point is that Kris D was painting with STS9 when I saw them at Red Rocks last September. And for the first time in my memory, I got to watch someone paint and dance at the same time. I showed up for the second night of a two-night run, so the evening began with what looked to me like a finished painting on stage...and then Kris spent the next three hours burying it in washes and strokes that systematically and repeatedly redefined it. What started out looking like a wall of cubes became a sprawling cityscape, then the face of a mechanical goat, then a spray of tribal warpaint. The painting was breathing and dripping, shifting and blooming, while Kris dashed in for a few quick brushstrokes before retreating a few feet to gain some perspective. He bounced back and forth in a wide stance, perched on the stage with the ready tension of a bowhunter and the easy, casual hips and shoulders of a track runner.

There was something playful, almost flippant in his back and forth: the springy rave dancer with eagle discernment swooping in to exact some measured micro motion and then yaw back out into loose-limbed and watchful bouncing. And back and forth in those oscillations all night. It was an exaggeration of the double-moded painter stereotype, juiced into a higher octave by the uptempo beats and epileptic light show. Ah: this is the difference between painting alone at home, and painting on the receiving end of ten thousand intoxicated dancers. The incredible intensity of Red Rocks - literally, built over the bones of indians and dinosaurs, and channeling thousands of watts of sound between two ruddy monoliths that thrust up from the mountainside like heaving whales - that energy was rushing down onto the stage and through that brush into the painting.

While my own ass-shaking had merely bled heat energy into the mountain air, Kris D funneled that same vibe into a haunting and mysterious work of art:


Here was someone who wasn't merely doodling in class, or cooped up at home with his canvases and cats. Here was someone who had managed to shine, to really shine, in front of thousands of people, without being a member of the band - a rockstar painter who musicians request to goof off with them on stage. Here was someone who got to play pro at some of the best parties in the country and had found an audience for his work that studio artists can scarcely imagine. Here was someone who made his living by painting while dancing.

And that's when I started taking live painting seriously.

(Written for iggli.com)

The Soundtrack To Your Funeral, Part VI: Takin' Life So Serious

(Image from roadkilltshirts.com.)

As I've said before, the soundtrack to your funeral is as personal a playlist as you'll ever make. Assuming you have the luxury of deciding what to play to your mourning crowd (and assuming that you have the luxury of a mourning crowd), the funeral playlist is your final opportunity to give a life-affirming message that helps people deal with their grief and conveys the sum of your wisdom in a personal voice.

If it's not clear already, I take this responsibility very seriously. But then, I take everything very seriously. I was born under a Capricorn Sun (on 8 January, same day as Elvis Presley, David Bowie, and Stephen Hawking), and have recently come to appreciate the full significance of this: Capricorn is ruled by Saturn (aka Kronos), the god-devouring Lord of Time and the home planet for intense gravity of both metaphorical and literal varieties. Capricorns are saturnine, heavy, pragmatic, associated with bones and the skeleton, earthiness and history.

And so it comes as only a little surprise that I became a paleontologist, only to shift my attentions to the study of time itself. Little surprise that I was so deeply drawn to Boulder, Colorado, where I now live in the shade at the foothills of the Flatirons and play in a band called Ethereal Underground. Little surprise that I paint bones and eruptions, that I've abandoned the notion of delusion in favor of "practical versus unpractical realities," and spend so much time thinking about the unconscious as if it were geological strata.

Little surprise that many people can't tell when I'm joking, and that I can't tell when they are joking, either. I experience my own feminine compassion as an expanse of drought-cracked and fire-tempered clay, stoic and willing to soak up the spilt blood of human suffering in an ancient, patient embrace. Even my jubilance comes wrapped in rough gauze, a romantic appreciation of the grinning skull, a stealing of each moment's blooming flesh from the bare jaws of transience. Historically, astrological Saturn presides over the 1st House (incarnation) and the 8th House (death): gravity and graves, you know.

And therein lies the incentive for me to make sure that one song in particular is not left out of my funeral playlist, Ash Grunwald's "Serious."

Ash Grunwald - "Serious"

Now, sometimes I act like a fool
With those dark clouds and worries inside
When we live small lives that are way too short
And don't need no reason why

We've gotta stop takin' life so serious
Stop takin' life so serious
Stop takin' life so serious
You don't even know what you have

Sometimes I worry about the future
Are we ever going to find our way?
I don't even realize that we're living in the Good Old Days

I told you, stop takin' life so serious
You don't even know what you have

And your mind can get stuck just like Ararat*
Dangled carrot of desire in your head
Now your heart feels just like a bowling ball
Have you listened to a word I said?

I told you, stop takin' life so serious
Stop takin' life so serious
Stop takin' life so serious
You don't even know what you have


(*I'm not entirely sure that this is what he says, but it makes sense.)

I refuse to accept the assertion that we can only appreciate what we have when it's gone. I have in vivid memory a thousand moments of lightness that pull me out of my well again and again, reminding me that this is just as much "it" as anything else.

If I really do have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who survive me, I hope it's by lightening their hearts. I hope it's by shaking them with the urgency and intensity of my good humor, shaking them out of their time-wasting sad sack nonsense into a larger perspective that floats in the vastness of our world and cannot help but respond to it with play.

And what better way than with a riotous uptempo slide guitar song growled out by a man named Ash? There's something in this about fighting fire with fire, the irony of such a bouyant message coming in the form of such a stern declaration. It appeals to my saturnine self, striving for something sillier. It speaks to my inner fool. It jumps on the bed until I bolt upright laughing, half indignant and half hilarious with surprise.

And it rocks. Which pleases me, of course, being an Earth sign and all.

(Written for iggli.com.)

15 March 2008

Painting While Dancing, Part 1: Hello Wednesdays

Every Wednesday night around 9 pm, I drive out to the Trilogy Wine Bar here in Boulder, Colorado, where my friends Jantsen and Alala have a weekly DJing residency. Together, and with a rotating crew of talented guests, they pack the evening with a variety of electronic subgenres.

As little as a year ago, what they do would have sounded like some kind of alien language to me: dubstep, breakbeat, crunk, glitch, technofunk, whomptronica... And this is music that somehow I've discovered I enjoy - a lot - even though unrelenting doubletime drum breaks over inarticulate gangsta rap and shotgunned with the squealing of deconstructed sound clips is something from which I once would have run screaming.

But no longer. I really enjoy this stuff, now. And I'm sure that a big part of it is that I spend each Wednesday night communing with this music as deeply as possible. I'm not just there to dance; I'm there to paint. It makes a difference, to be part of the show.

Trilogy is split into back and front rooms. The front is a classy, somewhat upscale wine bar and restaurant (a giant triangular wine rack fills the wall behind the bar, in honor of the triplet sisters who own and run the place). Tasteful techno-buddhist paintings on wooden panels accentuate the subtle intensity. Their happy hour is a $5 bottomless glass of wine between 5 pm and 7 pm - an incomparable deal, in this town, and a major boost to their favored reputation. Evenings usually feature some DJ tucked away into one of the corners on a mobile PA system, playing the music that wine-drunk club girls in shiny heels invariably grind to - good for dancing, but typically unremarkable.

A tight squeeze past the couples lining the bar along the North wall and down a narrow hallway brings guests to the back room, which is a totally different creature altogether. Exposed black rafter beams strung with a dozen different brands of Christmas lights hang high over the grimy concrete floor. Soft wall lighting casts long low shadows on the navy walls. A liquor bar, the mirror image of its sister on the other side of the kitchen, sprawls dozens of bottles in front of a smudged mirror. Giant red drapes hang between two fake potted trees on the stage, which is normally a mess of unused stage monitors and snaking cables.

This is unequivocally the best small venue in Boulder. Any band that draws more than fifty and less than three hundred people calls Trilogy its home away from home (and it's popular with some acts that draw far more, on nights when the party spills out into the front room and a video feed is projected on the wall for a second-class audience). The sisters are well-regarded and the notoriously feisty security staff is actually pretty nice, once they get to know you. Bartenders are smiling and loose with the drinks, and the water cooler by the door only occasionally runs dry.

But Trilogy's real claim to fame is its sound system: A moat of subwoofers arranged beneath two massive, monolithic speakers that hang from the ceiling like landing spacecraft frozen in flight. Halfway down the South wall is a mixing board with more knobs than could ever be employed by any band capable of fitting on stage, operated by soundmen made half deaf and half drunk from the power of the equipment. It's a rig capable of unleashing a tsunami of sound and lighting up venues ten times the size of Trilogy. (Thankfully they never run it at full volume, but some of the engineers are obviously more deaf than others. Conversations don't come easily at Trilogy.)

And so. Every Wednesday night, I trundle out into the evening, park along the painted brick walls next to the alley side door, and tote my easel and materials inside to render the night and its noises in paint. This is my job. I work here. Painting while dancing.

---
For upcoming entries in this series, I'll share some of the impressions and the inner process of live painting, as well as recount specific experiences and offer photographic play-by-plays of select paintings as they unfolded over the course of an evening. Stay tuned!

(Written for iggli.com)

06 March 2008

R. Luke Dubois' "Timelapse Phonography"


Add one to the list of Things We Somehow Never Realized We Were Missing:

Everyone in my generation, and most of the people in the generation before it, grew up in a spacetime remix. When we weren't busy telescoping through every perceptible level of order in films like Powers of Ten, we were flickering past the growth-blossoming-and-death of a dandelion, or the decomposition of a fox, with time lapse photography. (Here's a link to an excellent gallery of time lapse movies.)

Unimaginable fifty years ago, this kind of zippy rollercoastering is the water in which all of us interneters now swim. Hell, even my cheap digital camera takes time lapse movies.

But innovations that focus on one sensory modality don't always cross to other senses (to my knowledge, we still don't have any taste samples in magazines). One restrospectively obvious omission from our history-compression fad has finally been pioneered by R. Luke Dubois, an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University's Computer Music Centre. His 2006 album, "Timelapse," squeezes all 857 Billboard #1 Hits from 1958 to 2000 into 37 minutes.

That's right, 37 minutes. Pressing each song into one second for each week it topped the charts, Dubois' "time lapse phonography" offers a totally unique view of musical history, a kind of Earth-from-space pass over pop music that bears no resemblance to the world we know. Gone are the uptempo headbobbers and tender ballads, and in their place stretches a panoramic wash of anonymous tone (although listening along with the enhanced-CD allows you to attach a song title to each grain of sound). Here's Dubois' explanation:

"I thought it might be interesting to try to find a way to compress sonic time, not simply by speeding it up, but by using statistical averaging of the sonic information in the sound in a way that preserves what I feel to be many of the cues we need to appreciate sonic detail... This process generates an overall impression of the sound fed into it, blurring and fusing its features into singular, sustained, and very rich tones."

It's the difference between walking with dinosaurs and gazing across present-day badlands at a cliff of eroding strata, millions of years of life and death laid bare and abbreviated in a single gesture. This is musical archeology.

And no music is safe. The soundtrack to Casablanca and Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier are both rendered in the same way on this album (the former is cleverly titled "Time Goes By"). Dubois also time-lapsed Handel's Messiah on a separate compilation.

You can listen to excerpts from the album at Cantaloupe Music's website, which I highly recommend if you have a taste for the strange or enjoy cultivating a deeper temporality.

Ian Mathers wrote a florid review of the album for Stylus Magazine, in which he summed up Dubois' work pretty perfectly:

"Some of the tones sound vaguely choral, some like ghosts trying to harmonize; others like far off ringing rotary phones, dental drills — but nothing too unpleasant or harsh, as you'd expect from the hit parade.

As Mathers continues, time lapse phonography is "more interesting as a thought experiment or teaching tool than as music." But wow. Wow. As thought experiments go, it's pretty magnificent, a humbling work of sound that pulls listeners out of our unreflexive immersion and lifts us to a grand vista where cultural realities ebb and flow in tidal time.

(Written for iggli.com)