What to do with twenty minutes

I recently realized I’ve wasted 23 years. Way back in 1990 a good friend gave me a CD of MCMXC A.D. by Enigma. It was mind bending, and remains so; to this day, I use it when I really need to zone out and not quite sleep, but rest. It’s an album which I have never once listened to a single track separately. I’ve only ever started at the front and gone straight through.

The other day, I thought: I should see what else Enigma (the brain child of Michael Cretu) may have done since 1990. Followed by my ordering all of the other seven albums. I buy the CDs used, and that means they tend to trickle to my doorstop over a few weeks. Oh. I’ve turned into a lunatic, listening to music far too loud in the house. I’ve recently done this with other artists and suddenly I’m up to my eyeballs in great (in my opinion) music.

So, why 23 years wasted? The Screen Behind the Mirror was released in 2000. I’ve therefore wasted 23 years worth of opportunities to play it.

Basically I had just aged myself by twenty minutes. Two virtual cigarettes, and not even a fading buzz to show for it. I learned nothing, gained nothing, made no friends, impacted the world not at all, did not improve my mood or my capacity to do anything useful. It was marginally enjoyable on some reptile-brain level, sure, but its ultimate result was only to bring me nearer to death. Using my phone like that was pure loss of life — like smoking, except without the benefits.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2023/02/most-phone-use-is-a-tragic-loss-of-life/

I’ve no idea if you like Enigma. (You can thank me later if you just discovered Enigma and do like it.) But there simply must be some music that you do like! …find which music it is, buy a copy of it in whatever medium you prefer, and spend that twenty minutes—and the next 23 years, if you’re lucky—leaning into that stuff.


By any measure, indeed

By any measure, David Bowie was a superstar. He first rose to fame in the nineteen-seventies, a process galvanized by his creation and assumption of the rocker-from-Mars persona Ziggy Stardust. In the following decade came Let’s Dance, on the back of which he sold out stadiums and dominated the still-new MTV. Yet through it all, and indeed up until his death in 2016, he kept at least one foot outside the mainstream. It was in the nineties, after his aesthetically cleansing stint with guitar-rock outfit Tin Machine, that Bowie made use of his stardom to explore his full spectrum of interests, which ranged from the basic to the bizarre, the mundane to the macabre.

~ Colin Marshall from, https://www.openculture.com/2022/06/when-david-bowie-brian-eno-made-a-twin-peaks-inspired-album-outside-1995.html

Somehow I just missed being really into David Bowie when I was in high school. He was definitely big, and popular, and part of the music I heard. To my detriment, it wasn’t until after he died that I started listening to more of his music from his wider catalog, and then watching a documentary, etc. It’s always inspiring to discover a creator who gets more interesting the more you learn.


Looping and decay

In contrast to dramatically slowing a recording down and extending its length, artists have also explored the possibilities of repeating short recordings over and over. The history of looping in modern composing is a story of the accidental beauty of technological imperfection and decay.

~ Ahmed Kabil from, https://longnow.org/ideas/02019/03/26/transmissions-from-the-ambient-frontier/

It’s worth the click just for the first photo, which has nothing directly to do with sounds nor music. And then further down you get a photo of a tape loop—the physical device that can play a section of tape forever without interruption. Along the way is a mention of sound art created as very-old [magnetic] audio tape sheds it’s coating. Plus 5 other sound-related shifts in perspective. I read this piece over and over, as if it were itself a tape loop. I see—hear?—several magnificent halls of exploration… which I’m running away from because I do not. need. another. hobby. New genres of music to explore, a full 24hrs [uninterrupted] that I could spend on Beethoven’s 9th, …

I’m a sucker for things which gift me with any shift of perspective. That’s a big part of why I love conversation: Every encounter with another mind is ripe with opportunity for my own growth.


Black Friday at my house

Not only do I not shop, but I very specifically try to not spend one cent. NOT because I hate shopping—I do hate shopping. And NOT because I hate sales, mobs, false-scaricity, commercialism, consumerism—I do hate those too. No, I do it because I like people; And no people should have to work any sort of holiday chaos insanity. I digress.

But I do have a Black Friday tradition! I have a rather enormous collection of sappy holiday music. I shuffle that play list and turn it up. If you’ve never heard Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of Sleigh Ride… uh… I don’t know what to say. (Other than, go find a copy and play it.) Giddy up! Giddy up! Let’s go!!



I’m a child of the vinyl album era. We had a collection—about 5 feet of shelf space—of classic rock, some jazz, the usual suspects collected during the 60s, 70s and into the 80s. There was sublime magic in that vinyl. My dad wasn’t an audiophile per se, but he had a few nice things that comprised the stereo system, and the crown jewel was a Marantz turn-table. We had special soft-cloth cylinders for gently lifting dust off the surfaces. We even had a little space-ray-gun-looking thing that [as far as I recall] neutralized static charge on the vinyl, (which apparently can accumulate when you pull them out of their sleeves.) A classic Pioneer amp… at one point he found someone who rebuilt his speakers for him—repair rather than replace was, at one time, the norm in America. There was a dedicated cabinet for the gear, with a built-in power strip, and lighting…

And the CD was invented while I was a kid. We—society at large—had endless arguments about sound. I even did a high-school presentation about how CDs actually work to encode the sound digitally, and how that encoding uses compression, and how quality is lost… and I bought more and more CDs. I skipped right over collecting cassette tapes; I made countless of my own from albums and CDs, but I don’t believe I ever bought a single one. The Sony Walkman was the driver for my recording cassettes. Then the portable CD players arrived and all hell broke loose. I only purchased a handful of vinyl albums and I never ever set up the Marantz after my dad died. (I passed it to my cousin who did get into collecting vinyl as a kid. I made him promise to spin the helll out of it, and play music loud— damn loud.) And my CD collection grew to thousands. Then I mixed in my dad’s extensive CD collection which had almost zero overlap with mine. My stereo? I keep a scary-old little AirPort Express plugged in, with a cheap-ass set of “computer” speakers, with a woofer, plugged into the AirPort’s 3.5mm headphone jack.

This morning… “I think some Mozart would be nice.” Click, click… and click… and Symphony no. 39, recorded in 1977 by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra streams from the little stereo. Rather loudly I might add.


Like waves crashing on the beach

It isn’t clear why you’ve been sent back. Maybe it was a cosmic accounting error, or a boon from a playful God. All you know is that you’re here again, walking the earth, having been inexplicably returned to the temporary and mysterious state of Being Alive.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2021/06/how-to-remember-youre-alive/

But first, pardon me while I get a song stuck in your head… like, all-day stuck.

She could hear the cars roll by
Out on 441
Like waves crashin’ on the beach
And for one desperate moment there
He crept back in her memory
God it’s so painful
Something that’s so close
And still so far out of reach

~ Tom Petty, but you knew that

Tom Petty died in 2017—I hope that wasn’t a spoiler. It seems, based on my quick search, that his last public performance included this as the last song he performed. omg the feels. Stop, go watch that entire 7-minute video. If that doesn’t move you…

There’s a moment late in the video where the jumbo-screen behind them says, “without YOU, there’d be no US” — or something close to that second part, it’s obscured. I think that points to something exceptional about TPatHB. Forty years, and grateful for the experience of that specific night.

Now, reread the pull-quote and then read Cain’s suggested practice.


Music or no?

Music and exercise were inseparable for me. That is, until this past year. I can’t remember the last time I had music playing in the background while I exercised. And, strangely enough, I’m digging the silence. Here’s why you might hit the off button on your audio player too.

~ Brett McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/the-case-for-not-listening-to-music-when-you-work-out/

Two years ago I nearly became a runner. I was starting to run short distances pretty often. And I was always running with a specific music playlist.

But that’s the only activity I do with music— hiking, biking, rock-climbing… no music. Parkour? Absolutely not, because I need to hear the noises I’m making as part of the feedback. (Am I landing softly? What rhythms am I generating? How’s my breathing? AM I breathing?)

These days I’m doing everything—including driving long distances—in silence.


The guilty, crazy secret

The bullshit— …well, it disappears for a fleeting second.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/the-guilty-crazy-secret-that-helps-me-write/

I have playlists for this exact thing. Hundreds of individual songs selected and shuffled, for very specific purposes.

Sometimes I go “hunting” to find new tracks for these lists; My Mac says my music library has 9,121 items, 26.5 days, 77.96 GB, and I have a “smart” playlist which grabs 250 least-recently played. It avoids some genres (like “Spoken Word” so it doesn’t pick out French lessons, etc) and it avoids any track I’ve one-starred (my way of saying omg no)… It’s basically an endless series of, “I forgot about that!” I often flip over to the original album, start from the front, and sometimes I add a track to one of my play lists.

What? Why? …best of both worlds. I have playlists that do what I need—hide the world, hide everything. And I’m continuously startled with delight by my tiny music collection.


As slow as possible

St Burchardi church, in the eastern German city of Halberstadt, has played host to the performance since 5 September 02001 (the late composer’s 89th birthday), when it kicked off with 17 months of silence. Cage originally wrote ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible) in 01985. Its maiden performance by organist Gerd Zacher lasted 29 minutes, but Cage didn’t specify a maximum, so in accordance with the piece’s title, musical scholars and scholarly musicians since decided to stage a multi-century version, approximating the lifespan of an organ.

~ Stuart Candy from, blog.longnow.org/02008/10/02/as-slow-as-possible/

Ok, but exactly how slow are they playing it? …the halfway mark is in 02319.


Partly I’m sharing this because it’s just really cool. But also because I like the mission of the Long Now Foundation; I agree [with them] that one of the key ingredients to solving mankind’s challenges is for individuals to be good at thinking long-term. Evolution has given us brains that are crazy-good at short-term—particularly acute, fight/flight type threats real or perceived—problem solving. But to figure out a good course of action day to day that leads to own’s own flourishing over your life is really hard. To begin to mix in what’s good for humanity is whatever-is-larger-than-really level of hard.


Seven profound insights from the Beatles

While “let it be” is profoundly wise in its own right, the passage above contains an idea even more powerful: we all suffer, and that brings us closer. No matter what differences people have, the one guaranteed common thread among us all is that we know what it means to lose and to grieve.

~ David Cain from, http://www.raptitude.com/2009/04/7-profound-insights-from-the-beatles/

Over the years, as my hearing has faded, I’ve still always had music. I think–but am not certain–that I appreciate music all the more now that I understand how poor my hearing really is. Sometimes I simply stop and take time to sit and listen. It’s not-at-all amazing that music is closely connected to emotion. It’s not-at-all amazing that emotion is a common ground we all share.


Violins are meant to sing. Literally sing.

Another finding suggests that Geminiani was onto something. All of the violins included in the study displayed some sonic overlap with the sung vowels. But in the 1570 Amati and the 1560 da Salo, “every violin note appears to carry some degree of human vowel character,” Tai et. al. write in the paper. “This may have been one of the … goals implemented by Amati” when he was inventing and perfecting his design: to make the violin literally sing.

~ Cara Giaimo from, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/violin-human-voice-study

I don’t know why this struck me as amazing. I mean, sure, violins sound amazing, and playing them is subtly difficult. But the idea that someone sat down — in the 1500 — and said, “How do I make an instrument that sounds like a human voice singing.” Mind blown.


Music in human evolution? Aposematism?!

… the goal of aposematism is to advertise that, as a piece of prey, you are decidedly unprofitable for the predator. If a predator can easily recognize you (and other members of your species), and remembers getting burned during past encounters, it will quickly learn to stop attacking you in the first place.

~ Kevin Simler from, http://www.meltingasphalt.com/music-in-human-evolution/

Long [long!] ago humans stood up (makes us easy to see),
moved into the open grasslands (makes us really easy to see),
lost our claws/protective-thick-skin/fangs (makes us soft and easy to kill),
did NOT have tools other than rocks we could pick up (makes us unable to defend ourselves),
started singing ON THE GROUND (makes us easy to hear and find, NO OTHER ANIMAL DOES THIS),

… and then we took over the planet.

AND we are the only animal that uses RHYTHM,
ALSO, all humans dance (ever have the urge to tap your foot or more your head to music?)…
Wait, also, why do we always — every society, every religion, every military — ALWAYS retrieve/prepare/handle/bury our dead?


Intrigued? Click that link… I’m a simple person, with a small brain, and I’m easily amused. This article. BLEW. MY. MIND.