The theme behind this album was inspired by Erik Davis’ essay “Roots & Wires remix: Polyrhythmic Tricks and the Black Electronic” published in DJ Spooky’s book Sound Unbound . The essay opens by introducing and contrasting Marshall McLuhan’s concepts of “visual space” and “acoustic space.” There’s room to criticize McLuhan’s specific terminology and his arguments about how these relate to history, culture and media, but it put me in mind of two ways of understanding and mapping space.
One can think in terms of architecture, of positive and negative space: solidity vs. openness, obstacles and possible paths, navigation maps for computer game pathing systems, lines of sight, confinement or openness as a function of topography. Any given point in Cartesian space is either solid or not, empty or filled, black ink or none, and no two objects can occupy the same space. We tend to simplify this space into two dimensions, taking the third as given. Tally marks, written language, and many diagrams all use this sort of representation.
Or one can think in terms of energy fields, mixed colors, permeable and permeating gasses and liquids, and even ideas and trends. The sound of car traffic in a given space does not prevent hearing birdsong (and traffic itself is not really one “field” of sound, but very many layers). Solidity is irrelevant and there are no distinct “objects”, but reflection, refraction, absorption, diffusion, and emission all have parts to play, as do perceptual phenomena such as masking and habituation.
I recognized that the mental imagery I have of my music is, by default, in terms of caverns, tunnels, chambers, ruins, and so on — or somewhat less explicitly but still in a space-vs-walls way. With this album I set out to remind myself there are other ways.
I chose “Passing Through” as the title because it can refer both to traversing a corridor-like space, and to permeation.
In a practical sense, sometimes the album’s theme was simply in the back of my mind as a guide to the subconscious. At other times I intentionally chose particular synthesis techniques or compositional elements to fit. Examples include feedback loops with shifting allpass filters as a metaphor for reflection and refraction within a space, and the use of harmonic oscillators to represent overlapping fields of compatible energy.