The spirit, meaning making, and aesthetic applications of the self to sound

I have been lurking on lines for the past few weeks and I’ve learned a lot from all of your discussion and insight. So first off - I am very grateful for the space you all have created - it is exciting to me. Many recent discussions have inspired me to try and externalize the role of meaning making in my life. This is a topic I largely keep hidden from my verbal thought process but instead use music to articulate and explore. The discussions I am referring to that have inspired include modular occultism, the recent discussions on lowercase and the wonderful thoughts in human/music interface.

For me the discussion around meaning making in music (or art or for that matter the experience of living) is my spiritual discussion/journey. A huge aspect of this is centered around choice: what choices am I going to make about how I use or position myself to generate sound. On the other side of the process is what is that sound created referring to? I have read discussions on lines that reference ideas and aesthetics that have played huge roles in growing an understanding of my relationship with myself through sound. For example, a question I cherish is what is the space between “classic” drone and wall noise, on the one hand, and lowercase and especially the erstwhile catalog with players like Jason Lescalleet and Bhob Rainey but also the more spacious sides of non-modal jazz such as Supersilent, John Butcher, Arve Henrieksen, and Heather Leigh. My connection to this conversation reflects my relationship to understanding a hypothetical axis between void/silence/self-annihilation (wall noise/drone) and presence/awareness/will (lowercase/ecm-styles).

When I sit at my sound machines what am I doing? These days I am interacting with some scaffold of perceived presence between my bodies actions, my breath, and the sound created. Does present action create sounds that convey presence? Is there an aesthetic that reflects efficient transfer of the self through musical mediums or is that simply my projection based on associations with certain kinds of reverb and asymmetric rhythms?

What I am curious about from all of you is what is your relationship to performance, practice, and sound technology in the context of exploring meaning making and the self? When you sit at your sound machines what are you trying to do and are your actions connected with your personal journeys of discovery? I’d be curious to hear what some of you experience - what have you learned?


thanks for sharing and cheers to un-lurking! i just gave a talk this sunday about this very thing. you can see the video here:


Thanks! I am looking forward to listening to you on a walk later


I think if you’re asking does the creation of electronic music evoke a feeling of spiritual catharsis? I would say yes, yes it does! The elaboration of a koan, I believe designing a modular system is a process of developing a network. System grows from a thought, the product of work and labour, and results in the creation of beauty.

I’ve felt closer to God in improvisational performance. Thinking about what kind of music, modular systems I want to make imbues my time with a kind of meaning that satisfies me. It’s not an incompatible venture to my political beliefs. Learning how to build synths has taught me programming, electronics, persistence. I now teach those skills to the public hoping it will light their minds on fire like it has mine.

I think electronic music is emancipatory, spiritual, revolutionary it’s therefore worth my time, and spirit and pursuit.


very interesting, i have been inspired by the relationship between the ocult and music since i heard Astral Disaster by Coil. I find the relationship between electronic/digital elements and raw organic material very fascinating. Especially in instruments like the Cocoquantus or Tetrax (although i cant afford them). Im not spiritual myself, nor do i feel a “etheral connection” between me and the music. I find it interesting purely from a scientific aspect. But there is definietly something too it, i would consider this to be the closest what i have experienced to what you have describerd.


You write some inspirational thoughts here. Thinking about a koan is a beautiful approach to the musical practice I am referring to. I think I am searching for words for what I do on the day-2-day-practice of music and yours resonant a lot with me - I would love to share more of what I am trying to do as well as what I am doing.

One example, that koan reminds me of, is thinking about mudras - the shape the body and especially the hands take up when interacting with the musical interface. Recently with Gary Peacock’s passing I read his wikipedia and found this wonderful articulation of the physical shape you take when relating to the musical interface,

"I go through an actual daily practice of greeting the instrument, positioning myself with the instrument, 
paying attention to my posture, my breathing, the texture, the feeling of the instrument... Sometimes 
that takes seconds, sometimes it takes five minutes. Just getting a physical-sensory connection. The
next thing is when I actually start playing, I dont lose that physical connection."

I believe that much of the music making experience makes no sense outside of the experience of making the sounds so how can this be translated? I would like to share this with others in an effort to build community around what I have a guess is more common than the bespoke language I am using to describe it.

That Ize song is fire. Within that I am reminded of the role my voice has played in connecting myself to the musical experience. Hearing myself has in the past caused me a lot of anxiety - this is tied up in a fear of being watched - I think - but I’ve learned to rest into that tension and have found that my voice detached from expectation can draw me into connection with just about any musical expression.


this is like an animating property of my investigations/ propositions, i came to the realization that my next 3 releases make my total for 2020 11 (a rebirth number) and they are a documentation of phenomena: work I didn’t realize I was doing until it was mostly done. transition in every sense of the word. 4 years I sleep walked. 1 year I am awake.


I am struck by your, apparent, lazer focus on praxis. Part of what you are saying that aligns with my present is how praxis inverts the question of “what do you want to create” into “how are you going to create”. This shift from ends to means has been fundamental in me making art that I experience as beautiful. In my opinion this shift also connects to what @dianus is possibly referring to in the intractable mesh of the spiritual/political components of music making.

My take on ends/means is the comparison of creating something to create something, and the material accumulation of art versus the active co-creation of the lived experience with music as the medium of experience. I think I see a desire to share this co-living-co-musicing-experiment-experience. Gosh I miss humans.


recently when the pandemic began, i was more prolific in making music and vids(i put out 6 vids and 3 extra tracks beyond the music in those vids, within the span of the past 7 months), and I realized the pandemic made me feel isolated, fragile, vulnerable, in a way that begged me to open my heart.

now, i’m struggling again because i have to keep looking for work(most of that doesn’t resonate well with me, so i end up having to think more and feel less). i’m starting to realize, my music making comes about more these days by unlearning what i used to know/think about music, and listening more to my heart, in order to let feeling bleed out openly into music/art which resonates with me.

“I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them” -Daniel Hamm(in a recording processed by Steve Reich)


So speaking of that bruise blood. Wise blood. A thing I’ve been on lately is that last concept I wrote in the title - aesthetic applications of the self to sound. I started here thinking about the different selves I identify with having inside of me. I know a few - I put distinctions on them - and I largely know them aesthetically. They have a flavor. Then there is also the perspective of allowing all of them be me - that I am all of them.

One of these selves is what I hear people call the “chattering mind”. I think this mind is really fun - its kind of neurotic - its more about technical proficiency than anything else (say silence/grace). The chatterer is really good at sound design - can twiddle on those knobs each one a universe and all of them together - perhaps some tending towards what I might perceive as aesthetic perfection in that moment.

Another is the self-voice-energy I use to quiet the chatterer sometimes I equate this with my breath - other times perhaps when stoned - this mind has the same quality as the chatterer - it just reacts to the chatter with silence but a silent chatter. When not stoned this mind feels holy and thus deeper. From this place I find that my fingers understand the relationship of time and feeling much more closely. My actions slow down.

There are others. Perhaps infinite. Maybe I am interested in learning relationships between self-state and music-state. Is this interesting at all? I can also convince myself I am just being obscurantist about feelings.


this is so beautiful


tell me more about the blood?


When making music, I often ask myself about what I want to ultimately express in the work. Lately I’ve been making pieces sonifying data [i.e. COVID-19 infection rates, coastal erosion] and aside from the whole, ‘it would be intriguing to hear how this data set might sound’, I also think about why exactly I’m using this data set in the first place. The reasons are because I want to express that sense of anxiety and uncertainty these data sets represent.

It’s the same when I do soundscape work based on field recordings. When I’m out in the field I often ask myself, ‘What is drawing me to this place? What aspects about the history and/or the topography resonates the most, and why?’ Then I write down a list of keywords.

I find in my practice, without the ‘why’, there isn’t a ‘how’.


there’s a meditational quality, almost a kind’ve humbuzz that occurs, I find, when focusing on music making. the interaction between the sound, and the intuitive process forward, very much an interactive process. perhaps vibrational is a better word, because the frequency is so microscopic. It’s oscillation between the excitement created by falling and finding, very quickly. blood moves, the heart races, communicates with the brains, focus and theta waves endure, fingers, hands, feet or breath, the throat in conversation in concert, with the air, with inner intentions. perhaps a bliss that maybe is attained via meditation, appreciating that interlocked oscillation between all the players, but definitely an insight on the path forward. positive affirmation. music is, as far as I know it, not a negative process. unfolding as it may a beacon toward a more deliberate and evolving self, the process of music, at least in its involvement with the body, certainly a method and practice of self development with every communion. that might sound vaguely religious in response, but somewhat trying to verbalise intimated experiences of that reciprocal process.


yeah. art fuels life. it is play. humans (and animals) play because it is fun, not for an outcome.

sidenote: we’re getting into sapir-whorf territory but i’ve challenged myself lately to change my inner dialog from “i’m going to work on music” to “i’m going to x on music.”


For me, music performance is a way to let something express itself. I have no idea what it is but I’m compelled to keep doing it. I’m always performing even when “composing”.


Do people here find that sometimes making music can come from the subconcious ? Then later after an ‘aha’ moment the reason for the music becomes known to the concious mind. A bit like writing down a problem and then throwing the paper away or burning it but reverse engineered…

Once the reason is known it seems listening to the piece helps one let go of or interpret the past event in a more wholesome way ?


I definitely made music for 10 years that was about being trans before I realized I was trans. Super into the tricks we play on ourselves; doing things because we must, but not realizing the full implications. I’ve been steadily releasing music all year and with these next three releases, I realized wow I started the practice of releasing regularly with a tryptich. I released 5 more things. Now here I am with a tryptich again. And all 11 incorporate one another and look outward.

Product of many many many many subconscious movements.


do you find that these kinds of practices draw you into the moment even when you are not in those moments? It sounds like a way of establishing a sense of self in place irrespective of time. I struggle with that when it comes to sampling - I find that once I sample - and especially once I apply effects or any kind of transformation the sound is immediately “objectified” and loses the sense of place. I am curious if you think there is some way to channel that place to sound energy in a more effective and transparent (?) way.

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This is so cool to read - thanks for sharing - could you say any more about what you are doing in all of this? I feel like you spoke in an abstract way. And I agree with your abstractions but what about you - are you doing these things you write about?

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