Every morning I wake up and pad downstairs to let Bruno out into the garden so he can get rid of any poo that he hasn’t already deposited on the kitchen floor. He is nearly 14 years old which is nearly 100 if every dog year is worth seven human years. I suppose that unwanted excrement is a fate that awaits me in later life so I shouldn’t really get cross with the poor little wretch. Once Bruno is sniffing every blade of grass to see if there has been any extra smell added since he spent half an hour outside the previous evening, I pour his dog food into a bowl, put the kettle on for a cup of tea and get my breakfast ready. It’s a very familiar routine and every time I do it, I think to myself that it only seems like yesterday that I was doing the same thing. Oh! Hang on! It was yesterday. What I mean is that every day seems to merge into the next day in such a way as to make it seem like that’s all I ever do. Time is rushing past me with death approaching like an oncoming express train.
Research suggests that our perception of passing time changes as we get older. It is a common experience to feel that time is rushing by, which may have something to do with the amount of new information we absorb. As a child, we experience many new situations which takes time for our brains to absorb and so the passage of time feels longer. This would help to explain the “slow motion perception” often reported in the moments before an accident. The unfamiliar circumstances mean there is much new information to take in. When I was ten years old, the passing of one year of life was 10% of my existence. Now I am nearly 70 years old, one year is only about 1.5% of my life. It’s not surprising that time appears to accelerate as we grow older. Paul Janet, a 19th century French philosopher first postulated the idea that we perceive time by comparing it with our life span. The apparent length of a period of time is proportional to our life span itself. Thus, every morning when I inspect the house for unwanted poo, the experiences of the previous day determine how long it feels since the last time I did the same thing. If it’s been a busy day, it doesn’t seem quite so familiar as a day when I’ve been Busy Doin’ Nothin’.
This concept could be applied to my memory of 2020. Looking back on the long period of enforced isolation, it now seems a bit like a memory lapse, a stolen moment of time that maybe never really happened. “Does Spring Hide Its Joy” was conceived and recorded during 2020 and, as the American musician Kali Malone says, “Playing this music for hours on end was a profound way to digest the countless life transitions and hold time together.” Certainly, I have found today that listening to this album, time passes very slowly. One review I read said that the experience of letting these sounds wash over you is a bit like watching the weather. That’s not to say that the music is tedious but it’s certainly different and needs a meditative state to appreciate it. She says “I want to create an immersive environment so that when it’s over, you don’t know how much time has passed.”
This certainly seems to apply to the three musicians who perform these three pieces. Kali Malone says “If circumstances allow, I usually meditate before playing a concert because it is essential to be in a meditative state to achieve the intense level of focus required for the counting system I use. While playing these pieces I need to be observant but not emotionally affected or swept away in a deep listening state. I try to regulate my breathing with the rhythmical structures of the pieces. This helps to keep calm and oxygenated while playing, and it also helps me stay connected to the pattern. When I notice outside thoughts sneaking in, I know it’s time to wrap up the piece before making a mistake.“
Is this music? I guess it is because there are instruments used to make sounds. Stephen O’Malley plays guitar, Lucy Railton plays cello and Kali Malone plays sine wave generators. The CD consists of three discs, each containing a version of the same drone piece which is one hour long. The sounds mutate slowly and use harmonic interference by “holding down two notes, the beating patterns that then occur reminded me of what I was searching for in my electronic music,” she says.
The reviews of this album are fascinating. I haven’t read one which is less than effusive. As I’ve written before, writing about music is a bit like dancing about food and it’s either very instructive or hilarious to read how the music is described. Here are some examples:
“The reverberations of Malone’s sine waves and O’Malley’s e-bowed guitar are almost indistinguishable from one another as they forge layers of humming sound, then let them drift like blue whales in the gelid waters of the Antarctic. Meanwhile, Railton’s cello circles above them akin to a dancing spider, leaving behind trails of glistening gossamer.” (The Quietus)
“The music breathes in slow motion, with massive exhalations of bass ceding to stretches of quiet consonance before the next yawning gasp. Change is omnipresent and can be dramatic, but there’s a veneer of stillness that makes listening feel like observing the swirl of a nebula.” (Pitchfork)
“‘Does Spring Hide Its Joy’ meanders like a mesmerizing but rugged river, ebbing and flowing down a tall mountain. Its waters run colder as the terrain shifts, as sounds vanish then resurface like old friends farther down the line. Sweeps of cello curve and linger like oxbow lakes in the mind, before fading into a deep blue oceanic abyss. Though Malone’s music can often feel still, one thing’s for certain about ‘Does Spring Hide Its Joy’: it’ll move you.” (RA)
“From ever-changing harmonics, all tracks navigate wistful, sombre valleys and tense, turbulent passages. Ascending from uneasy silver strands and its predecessor’s DNA, “v3″ charts new routes through similar territory – vital, fluidly brooding, surging, swelling and subsiding sonic strata, suspending time before descending into black.” (Exclaim)
My own take on this is that the intersection between the natural world and the Tir Na Nog of our minds cannot be ignored as we gravitate towards the endless blue horizons that shine a path for unborn children who march to the incessant beat of a beach in a hailstorm.
Or, as Kali Malone put it, more prosaically, “There’s a leaf-blower that wakes me up every morning. I remember once sprinting outside with my recorder because five guys were leaf-blowing together – it was one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard. There’s so much beautiful sound out there – it’s all just your perception whether you experience it as music.”