Don’t Smoke / Get Off the Internet

Is it because there’s a little part of you that wants to be dead?
Or is it because your life feels empty without some ritual?
Or is it because the rebellion against the adults hasn’t ended yet?

The adults sell cigarettes.
And you are young and rich for now.
You have the ritual of waking up each day and it will fill you.

I just finished a whole post on how repetition is horrifying but repetition’s cousin, ritual, still feels beautiful to me.

I woke up at 5:45am this morning. The alarm went off at 6:00 and I was at the gym by 6:40, work by 8:00. Work feels grinding, repetitive, sad, most of the time, but what is it about the process of getting up earlier than I need to get up and going somewhere to put a finer point on a the dust-bound flesh I’ve got for an hour that feels calming and fulfilling? Why is there a part of me that can let go of my clattering self-awareness when I sing a song’s chorus until the words are sopping?

Phil Elverum is usually hesitant to make direct statements like he did in the above song and its B-side “Get off the Internet.” That irregularity has a tendency to make the eruption seem more poignant and overarching than it was meant to probably be, but some geysers you can set your watch by and there are volcanoes that we know must bust up sooner or later, so I wouldn’t say songs like these are anything more than just something that happens.

Needing the ritual.

Here I want to say that the difference between a habit and a ritual is mindfulness but it feels too pat to do so without wrapping it in self-consciousness; sometimes a ritual is just something that happens.

At what level of detail does repetition become indistinguishable from stillness?  From outer space, the Great Barrier Reef looks tremendous and still, but it might be teeming? (The secondary sources seem confused.)

I’m working on a piece of music where I set up a stereo pair of microphones in the corner of a room and attach them to a stereo looper. Then I sing one line of a song over and over into that looper until the loop becomes so huge and messy that the starting point gets lost. This piece is somehow supposed to be about ritual, repetitive motion, and stillness. In it, I’m singing a chorus I learned in church; the line I sing is, “Your praise will ever be on my lips.”

I sing the line over and over that I start off mindful, absolutely attentive to the harmony and the layering and the space of the room, and then eventually I drift off, I become an automaton, dancing around a room, singing tunelessly over and over, letting the song sing me instead. I am buoyed by this.

Somehow the recordings never carry over the feeling quite correctly after the fact. I’ve done countless takes and I’m worried now that what I want to record can’t actually be recorded. I’m worried that it’s not different enough from the spreadsheet I’ve been keeping of how much weight I’ve been lifting in the mornings.

The last line in “Don’t Smoke” is: “Go, improve yourself right now.”


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