This post is in the The Music Room category

 

“My Brain is on Loop”
2010
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My Brain is on Loop is constructed from multiple readings of the same text, given below. It seeks to explain and demonstrate the rather annoying and pervasive nature of the “earworm” as it applies to me. Earworms are not uncommon – most people are aware of the musical phrase that becomes stuck in the head, and I get these too – but usually they disappear when the mind is active with something else. This piece looks at a different phenomena that is usually centred on a phrase of mental speech or idea. Fortunately these are (usually) if fairly innocuous meaning, they are not voices telling me to rob banks or mutilate animals, and the meaning tends to disappear into the sonic qualities of the phrase quite quickly, as artists such as Steve Reich (Come out) and Alvin Lucier “I am Sitting in a Room”

In this instance, the real event began as I awoke with a phrase I can not now recall beginning it’s interminable repetition. As I rode my bicycle to the station I thought “My brain is loop today” – and that was it. The idea took over my brain for nearly two days.

The piece clearly can not go on that long, and the intention was to demonstrate in a reasonable timeframe the various ways with which I interact with the phrase. I used ambisonic and binaural techniques to aid in the spacial placement of the sounds within the headphone space and various techniques of granularisation to imitate the temporal distortions that sometimes occur. In this sense the piece bears resemblance to “Make Firm our Steps”  although when I wrote that piece, I was not conscious that these phenomena were unusual. The narration is something of an artificial construction, but the ideas are real – the meaning lost, the visual (and sometimes tactile) form the phrase (now just a sound) takes, the placement in my head that I can push to the side if I concentrate, the sudden re-connection to meaning and memory, the interruption of ordinary function, the ambient clouding, the stutters, the temporal re-arrangement.

As a composition, it is not one of which I am particularly proud, but it does make the point. Listen to it ten times in a row and it’s even more telling!

My brain is on loop today

sometimes a word or a fragment of phrase

sometimes an idea fully formed

my mind is asserting itself, demanding attention, ignoring my situation, how I feel about it

its just not appropriate!

My brain is on loop today

the thought goes around.

Its sonic but not heard, my ears not involved

The meaning is lost after 4000 times, give or take a few,

I don’t know the number,

but sound has achieved a visual form

a sonic object, taking shape and texture

A virtual sonic object.

heard but not listened, seen but not looked

perceived within, whole and tangible, assuming a shape and form

a solid reality turned and examined and assessed and reshaped.

my brain is on loop today

pushing the bounds of disciplined decency

I can’t hear myself think its so loud

it sits in the centre, takes up the space while I wait on the sidelines for silence

If I speak fast enough I can push it away

pretend that it’s ambience, not allow time for the tide to return and swamp me again

I can teach a whole lecture like this if I don’t stop, don’t think,

connect the mouth to the parts that hold the information the questions the responses the slides the examples.

I pity the students and that’s when I lose it.

I stammer and stop.

My brain is on loop today, an old fashioned tape loop, somehow more real,

but not so insistent

the meaning returns to the phrase and goes wandering

in my memory,

linking itself to thoughts thought before

collecting a web of related ideas and snatches of music and colours and things that I can never name.

I think that they’re feelings.

my brain is on loop but its starting to fail now, hours having passed,

losing its grip on my mind

The vision is somewhat more clouded, less real, its shape inconsistent

time in decay, and turns on itself

my brain is in loop but it can’t last forever

I’m tired

I’ll sleep once its silent

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