spiral of silence — ‘across’

Belgian coldwave band Spiral of Silence.

self-medication with music

More evidence of the mysterious power of music…

Maybe most notably, patients listening to music used significantly less pain medication. Meads says, on average, music helped the patients drop two notches on the 10-point pain scale. That’s the same relief typically reported with a dose of pain-killing medicine.

personality and musical preferences

Do you love folk music? It may be due to your empathetic nature. A new study in PLOS One shows there is a relationship between musical preferences and personality, as well as how we think.

(That is clearly the most journalistic lead I’ve ever written on this blog. Absurd! Who do I think I am.)

Recent reports on the study have appeared in The Atlantic, the BBC, and on NPR.

Says The Atlantic:

[Study author] Greenberg found that people who scored high on empathy tended to prefer music that was mellow (like soft rock and R&B), unpretentious (country and folk), and contemporary (Euro pop and electronica.) What they didn’t like, meanwhile, was “intense” music, which he classified as things like punk and heavy metal. People who scored high on systemizing, meanwhile, had just the opposite preferences—they kick back to Slayer and could do without Courtney Barnett.

To get even more specific, the music empathizers liked tended to be softer, more depressing, and have more emotional depth. Systemizers, meanwhile, grooved to things that were high-energy, animated, and complex. Empathizers liked strings; systemizers liked distorted, loud, and “percussive.”

Loving both mellow and intense music apparently indicates my empathetic systemizing nature. I straddle the line, which I already knew. But what I’m curious to know is if at any given moment musical preference can indicate current capacity for empathy. For example, if I’m listening to Skinny Puppy would I be less inclined to listen to someone’s troubles than if I were listening to Nick Drake?

from ‘the air we breathe’ (gabriel josipovici)

Then she was quiet and they were walking together, crossing the Luxembourg Gardens the sun was disappearing behind a thin film of grey the air was cold she started to shiver but he didn’t seem to notice it was as if he had come out with the express purpose of finding her and now he was taking her back and perhaps it was like that he had always had that sort of taciturnity, as if speaking was painful and silence too she wanted to take his shoulders stop him turn him round look into his eyes and ask him what he was doing what they were doing where they were why he was so sure she would go with him that she had nothing else to do the day to give up to him no other friends to see or work to do that she too had just come out for the same express purpose of seeing him finding him returning with him she wanted to look into his eyes ask him to explain but what was there to explain that was always what happened always how it was there was the need to explain to understand and then nothing to explain nothing to understand but still the need persisted and it was as if this nothing was what had to be understood how it could be nothing and something both together and at the same time so that it was as if a hand had taken your heart and squeezed it and it slipped up and out of your hand like a fish you had to hold it you had to press it you caught it again and again it jumped you would never catch it and

–Gabriel Josipovici, The Air We Breathe

the scientist

The scientist dropped the microscope and it broke. It broke and thus ended the experiment. The experiment, though, had gone on long enough. Long enough, however, the scientist mused, is a relative term with no place in science. In science everything should make sense. Make sense in what way, asked his assistant. His assistant had dutifully served him over the course of many experiments. Many experiments, conducted with great intensity over a span of years, had led to a point where his assistant could read his thoughts. His thoughts now led his assistant to check for a spare microscope in the closet. The closet indeed contained several microscopes. Several microscopes of lesser quality and therefore inappropriate for use in continuing the experiment. The experiment required equipment of the finest workmanship, allowing for the most precise calibration. Precise calibration thrilled the scientist and yet it was never enough. Never enough to replace the warm sun on his face, the sweetness of chocolate on his tongue, the scent of lavender carried on the breeze. The breeze now blowing in the laboratory was generated by artificial means, and thus provided him with no relief. No relief from the headaches and the emptiness inside. Emptiness inside which he tries to fill with continuous experiments, the outcomes of which never make the grade. The grade is and always will of course be too high. Too high for him to reach, purposefully, for he does not ever want to reach a pinnacle. A pinnacle, after all, only precedes a decline. A decline leads to an end. An end to experimentation–an end to the chance of discovery–and that he cannot yet face. Yet face it one day he must, for he is the scientist.

ravine trail

The new trail opens up the wildest area in this urban forest oasis. Clusters of mushroom sprout from the center of the path. Few have walked here yet. It is high summer and the wood thrush yet sings. Cicadas offer up a constant backing drone. Point of fact: dogs don’t process the switchback concept. It conflicts with their innate knowledge of the shortest distance rule. As the trail climbs from the deepest shaded low point, the morning heat barges uninvited into the cool air space. Sounds of the nearby freeway intrude. As I struggle to adapt, a certain chorus tears through my head in response. This walk is soon over.

the cure – the forest [live on french tv, 1979]

a man of riverbanks

I am a man of riverbanks—excavation and inflammation—since it isn’t always possible to be a man of torrents.

René Char, Leaves of Hypnos

failed search party

There is nothing out there. They checked and they found nothing. That is why they are now huddled here in this concrete chapel, lighting matches and burning their fingers on candle stubs too short to hold fire. And so in the dark they sit meditating on what has transpired between then and now—the before and after. The search was long and arduous because as everyone knows nothing worth anything can be found without a long and arduous journey. But sometimes what is found turns out to be nothing, as in this case. Well, that’s not entirely true. A few things were indeed found. Things tangential to what was being sought (which itself remains elusive—all that is known is that it was not found). These few relatively inconsequential things found along the way were pocketed in such a distant mindless way as to almost suggest they were acts of the unconscious mind. Upon reaching the chapel the pockets of their loose-fitting black garments were turned inside out and the contents subsequently arranged on the altar, now, here, among the nettles and vines. As they stare hard at the altar, covered as it now is by their random and unimpressive offerings, somewhere in the distance comes the sound of drumming—although it’s possible they imagine it. Hallucinations are, after all, not uncommon following these types of expeditions. A return to so-called normality is never certain, and in fact often impossible. Hence now the chapel and later the inevitable retreat to the grottoes and much later still the descent to the catacombs, where a final resting place of sorts awaits deposit of their faded hollow bones.

always red and black

i returned
to the rocks
where i picked
one up to find
a snake coiled
in red and black

(sleeping it was
as i am now)

up above i flew
circled around
where from the air
i saw the snake
wake and slither off

the next night
i found tiny snakes
wrapped around my wrist
and as i pulled them off
they inserted fangs
beneath the skin

the pain was great
but i kept at it
as did they
until i’m not sure
if i blacked out

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