Discussing Autechre’s new album, SIGN, Andy Beta makes comparisons with outer space:

the Manchester duo’s sound remains singular in the canon—not just of cutting-edge electronic music, but in a section of outer space that few other artists ever venture towards, much less wholly inhabit.

While Philip Sherburne talks about how the album catches the ‘light’:

Even the softest material on SIGN isn’t all that different from the most austere or amelodic material on NTS Sessions; it’s just been smoothed into a form that catches the light differently,

It is interesting to compare this with the idea of music and space. When I listen to Autechre’s abstract music there is nothing that says ‘Manchester’ to me, let alone out of space. It is a reminder of the idea of space as metaphor.

According to Wikipedia,

A simulacrum is not a copy of the real, but becomes truth in its own right: the hyperreal. According to Baudrillard, what the simulacrum copies either had no original or no longer has an original, since a simulacrum signifies something it is not, and therefore leaves the original unable to be located.

When it comes to fiction, space is a simulacrum. For example, Ian McEwan’s novel is set during the Second World War. This conception of space is an imagined one that comes to stand in the place of any sense of reality.

In an episode of the Strong Songs podcast unpacking Björk’s track Hyperballad, Kirk Hamilton discusses the association between space and song. He argues that the song is intrinsically linked to Iceland. He suggests viewing images of Iceland alongside the music to make more sense of it.

This reminds me discussions such as Jack Antonoff’s association with New Jersey.

Left unadorned, Mr. Antonoff’s songs would join the hearty broad-stroke school of songwriting of his New Jersey predecessors Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, with their four-chord choruses and whoa-oh invitations to join in.

The question I wonder though is whether all music is associated with space. For example, is Trent Reznor’s work the product of being bored Pennsylvania:

You grew up in Mercer, Pa. Was that a part of the state with the “weirdo culture” the Midwest is famous for? One could make an argument. There weren’t a lot of things to distract you, so you’d end up turning inward. I can’t help but think about that lack of access. The side effect was that when you could get something, whether it be an album or a magazine that looked like a portal into a new world, you pored over it, because it wasn’t one Google search away all the time. I think I turned out the way I did because I was so bored.

Sometimes such spaces are nostalgic and slightly concocted, as with Antonoff’s re-creation of his childhood bedroom.

For “Gone Now,” that meant executing his most quixotic idea to date: removing his teenage bedroom — where he lived until he was 27 — from his parents’ home, replicating it exactly in a trailer and taking it on tour.

Kevin Parker pushes back on the idea of place and music.

At the end of the day, geography shouldn’t have anything to do with it. I have never consciously been aware of it. You know like so much of the music I started making I made in like my bedroom in a really dirty share house.

What is interesting though is that although Parker’s music may not necessarily be influenced by space, it is still a product of place.

In Perth there was a bunch of us, but there weren’t that many people. We made tons of bands out of it, so like 10 people when there’d be like six bands with different combinations.

As a side note, I still think that nothing captures Iceland like Sigor Ros:

Discussing John Baville’s Quirke series, Charles McGrath touches on the way in which space can act like a character in itself.

Banville, who is 74, grew up in County Wexford, which he thought boring and provincial. As a boy, he loved visiting an aunt in Dublin, which seemed much more vivid and exciting, and some of that romance lingers on in the Quirke books, in which the city itself — its sights and smells, its atmosphere of secrecy and repression, especially where matters of sex are concerned — is practically a character.

This is something that Leigh Sales’ also touches upon on the Chat 10, Looks 3 podcast in regards to the representation of the Northern Territory in Trent Dalton’s novel All Our Shimmering Skies. It is interesting to contrast this with the ‘best books set in each country‘.

Talking about St. Matthew Island in Alaska, Sarah Gilman reflects on what it means for a space to be designated as a ‘wilderness’.

Many people think of wilderness as a place mostly untouched by humans; the United States defines it this way in law. This idea is a construct of the recent colonial past. Before European invasion, Indigenous peoples lived in, hunted in, and managed most of the continent’s wild lands. St. Matthew’s archipelago, designated as official wilderness in 1970, and as part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in 1980, would have had much to offer them, too: freshwater lakes teeming with fish, many of the same plants that mainland cultures ate, ample seabirds and marine mammals to hunt. And yet, because St. Matthew is so far-flung, the solitary pit house suggests that even Alaska’s expert seafaring Indigenous peoples may never have been more than accidental visitors here. Others who’ve followed have arrived with the help of significant infrastructure or institutions. None remained long.

It is interesting to think of this alongside the discussion of the city and rather than being ‘untouched’, maybe it is ‘uncontrolled’?

Comedy and humour often serves as a safe space for addressing.

I thought using the Mr Men characters provided a lovely safe space to discuss their characteristics, traits and wellbeing. The characters were a proxy for some of the feelings they might have. You can imagine developing this further with other characters from other stories or films.

The problem is when this cuts too close to the bone, when the medium serves up a mirror too close to the truth. Such a safe space then becomes uncanny.

It recently occurred to me that I had somehow become unsubscribed to Laura Hilliger’s newsletter. Maybe I did it, not sure. Whatever the reason, I subscribed again. It has been great to have her voice coming back into my inbox again. Thinking about the many dots that extend my serendipity surface, I was left wondering what it is about Laura’s ‘moldy trash of a newsletter’ (her words, not mine) that means it is often the first one I open. Maybe it is the humour in her voice? Or the honesty and insight of her reflections? Maybe it is her ability to spark my thinking. This week, it was her discussion of ‘meditation rage’. Whatever it is, I am grateful. Maybe it takes a village to create learning space and such a space includes many voices.
Some things are best learnt when given space over time. However, like a sourdough starter, such learning needs to be fed. Of late, I have come to fill this need from various places, including feeds, newsletters and courses. For example, I was reading Ben Collins’ newsletter recently, described as ‘your Monday morning espresso, in spreadsheet form.’ In it, Collins’ discusses the different notation forms.

In the QUERY function, use “select A, B, C” type notation with direct range references and “select Col1, Col2, Col3” type notation with generated ranges.

In itself this information does not mean a lot. However, in regards to my wider knowledge of the QUERY formula, it addressed something I had been wondering about for a while. It seems obvious now and I am sure I could find an elaboration easily, but it only seems that way because of all the other dots that are a part of my serendipity surface.

I remember being on after-school homework/detention duty a few years ago. It was on the second story of a building to separate it from the rest of the school. The time had started and the students had spread themselves around and were getting on with their work, when out of the lift came three students, one of whom was riding a scooter. Can I just say, the seriousness and control that was in that space quickly dissipated, turning into chaos. It was interesting to see other students initially laugh, until it stopped being funny.
Ed Droste suggests that it takes five listens to form a judgement about an album. I have been diving into DIANA’s Familiar Touch. As the song structures become more known, new sounds are revealed, subtly hidden within. The album creates a certain fragile space held together by the rhythm and bass.