Archive for the thoughts Category

In memory of Ian C Stewart

Monday, 06 June 2023

yesterday i learned that my friend Ian C. Stewart died.

Ian was a music enthusiast with a massive appetite for listening to new music. He was an obsessive fan of two bands, XTC and KISS, and participated in forums and bootleg trading networks for both.

He was also a heavily active musician during the time i knew him, recording solo music as Samarkand, and under his own name, and playing in groups, most notably Devilcake – the Satanic metal band whose lyrics were all about food, which had some notoriety and reknown in the Columbus Ohio area – and the drone collective Drone Forest, which included me among its members.

He wanted to do music and think about music and write about music and boost music to others all the time. He began a zine called AutoReverse for reviewing music by hometapers. this became a very valuable resource for the community, even if it didn’t have the higher profile and readership of Gajoob Magazine which was the only other publication that bothered to treat hometapers as though they were real musicians worth paying attention to. a few years after AutoReverse stopped publishing, he began a music magazine called Mouthy, for which he had higher aspirations for it to be a more professional endeavor, with greater reach. this proved a bigger challenge than he was able to manage, but he did admirably well professionally editing, printing and distributing it himself.

Ian was an enthusiastic and encouraging presence, always pushing people to do, to create – however much of his encouragement tended to push people into projects he was working on. i don’t say that with any regret or anything, i always loved working on Ian’s projects with him and his various teams. he was an energetic force and really brought diverse people together to do things.

we never met in person or actually spoke on the phone or anything, our whole relationship was by mail or over the internet, but it was still a pretty deep connection.

we met by mail in the early 1990s, maybe 91? 92? i had recorded some music on tape, and had discovered the hometaping underground, and was trading tapes with anyone who sent me something. Ian was one of the earliest people who sent me a tape out of the blue, i don’t know how he got my address. he was definitely the first to be very enthusiastic about my tape, he wrote a very flattering response to it, and it was authentic on his part, because he would bring up how much that tape meant to him many years later.

we began a correspondence and wrote each other frequent, long letters until around 2000 when i finally got a computer and could start doing email, then we emailed each other maybe even more frequently than we exchanged letters. in early years of the internet and the filesharing boom, Ian was deep into it. because we lived in the mountains well out of town, the best internet connection we could get was 128 kbps over a very, very noisy, rough phone line, so filesharing was something i couldn’t really do. when Ian found this out, about every two weeks he’d mail me 5 or 6 CDrs with mp3s he had downloaded, i’d listen and we’d write back and forth about whatever weird shit he found online.

i wrote reviews and did a few interviews for both AutoReverse and Mouthy. i also spent four years recording with Drone Forest, that was Ian, Dave Stafford, Mike Bowman and i. we had a shared FTP where we’d upload sound sources and each of us would mangle them and make music with them. it was an inspiring and fruitful collaboration for a while.

Ian would give really amazing, deep feedback on any of my music i sent him, it was so supportive, i always appreciated that and relied on him for that.

if we had one key disagreement (aside from his love of the very shitty band KISS) it was about the effort i would put in to the details of music. i would work very hard to make things sound the way i wanted them to sound, maybe spending hours on a tiny little sound that was mixed low. that was incomprehensible to him, and an utter waste of time in his opinion. Ian’s approach was fast, easy, have fun and it’s done. that was never my way.

it was sometime in the 00s that he started talking about his mother’s failing health. she had a degenerative disease called Huntingtons. if you know what this is, you know it is a horror. if you don’t know, imagine what Parkinsons disease does to the body and then add to that what Alzheimers disease does to the brain. the disease eats away at the person’s body and their personality to the point where they’re almost unrecognizable as the same person. Ian had almost no extended family, and so he ended up as the sole caregiver for his mother as she withered away and finally died. it was really rough on him.

Huntingtons is passed down genetically, when he finally got tested, and was positive it really destroyed him emotionally. he had seen firsthand what it does to a person, and knew in his thirties that basically he had no hope for a fully developed life, no real hope for a future. i tried to be as supportive as i could, but damn, how can you help with something that heavy?

after his diagnosis, if i remember right, he had about five or six years before he started to really show signs of cognitive decline.

we had some disagreements about Drone Forest in the late 00s which i think made us both feel a little burned. it was nothing major, but we wrote less and less often. eventually he had some housing problems and he lost his computer i think, and we fell entirely out of touch after about 2019. he was moved into a care facility in late 2020 after a hospital stay. i only heard news of him in these final years because my partner FaceBook-followed one of the few people who still visited and cared for him in his last years. as i mentioned earlier, he had no extended family and was basically alone for those years. he lived half the country away, so i couldn’t visit.

every person’s end is sad, but Ian really got the absolute shittiest hand dealt to him. no one deserves Huntingtons, it’s a monumentally cruel disease.

i am thankful to have known my friend Ian, aka Icy Stew, i am grateful for my strengths that i owe to his influence.

Ian has two bandcamps of his solo work, I don’t know where payment goes now, but here they are:

I have always been specifically fond of Pitch Wheel on the SamarkandOhio page.

Drone Forest has a bandcamp where you can hear our work together, several albums were made by him using sound sources from the rest of the group, notably the first one (Drone Forest I) the 10 hour dronefest Meta:Drone and the 28 hour Pieces of MEGA (which all i was able to recover of his 100 hour drone project). Honey is also one of his i think came out beautifully.

The Satanic / food themed metal band Devilcake has a bandcamp as well:

the following WordPress site contains later reviews and interviews as a continuation of AutoReverse, done from 2011 to 2016. I am saving it at the Wayback Machine, because I don’t know what the details are of it being online, or how long it will last there:

Wayback Machine saved version of the AutoReverse wordpress site:

Some of the contents of the original AutoReverse zines were archived on this old Tripod site, similarly i am saving to Wayback Machine, despite this being patchy

Wayback Machine saved version of the Autoreverse archive:

hearing without sound

Sunday, 03 March 2018

I remember being astounded when I heard as a young person that Beethoven was able to continue composing after he’d lost his hearing. That he was described to be acting as though he could “hear” the music. That doesn’t astound me anymore.
When I am dreaming there is music. It is loud, and everywhere at once, and unlike any music I’ve ever heard, it is an essential part of the dream. When I’m dreaming, my ears are “turned off”, the sounds that occur in physical space – as sound is mostly thought to operate – are not listened to, are not heard.
When I wake up, my ears “turn on” and I can suddenly hear the ambient sounds in my bedroom again. I splash into hearing, I feel like I’ve dropped into a pool filled with sound. I feel the sound similar to suddenly being wet all over.
There are different kinds of hearing. That kind that comes through your ears and is interpreted by your brain. That part of the brain is connected to parts that store memory, and therefore sound can be recalled without actually hearing it with your ears. That’s a different kind of hearing. I can hear the voices of people I know in my head.
Why didn’t I ever record my Grandparents speaking? They had such unique voices.
There’s a place in my mind where music is. I can imagine it, disc-like, branching outward, capable of vastly changing its size and shape.
Do you ever try to make a map of your mind? How do you find your way around in there?
The place where sound and memory connect in my brain, it delivers non-stop earworms. I used to be plagued with them. I accept it now, it’s necessary. I used to hear music that I did not want to hear, some pop song I recognize but do not like: my brain would play back a loop of it for days. Now it plays its own music. I guess it’s my music. It’s music I don’t recognize, there it is… I can hear it now. It’s just there, twisting and squirming and changing all the time. It’s not as loud when I am awake as it is when I am asleep and dreaming, but I can hear it.
I can understand people claiming that music comes from some other place, or is given to us by some spiritual being. I don’t believe that, not even a little bit. But I can understand people interpreting it that way.
Sometimes when I hear a piece of music – like Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, or Autechre’s Oversteps – I think to myself that this composer has gotten very close, very “close to it”. I don’t know what “it” is, but I know that certain pieces of music are closer to “it” than others.
Sometimes I listen to my own music from long ago and realize that I was close to “it” back then. I sometimes I doubt myself, and think that music before I had certain epiphanies was lesser than the music I make now. It turns out that maybe my understanding of what I do doesn’t track directly with the work. That’s a disconcerting thought.
If there’s a way to develop this musical part of my brain that constantly sprays out music that I’ve never heard before, music that only I can hear now, that no one will ever hear unless I do the work and make it into music that others can hear… then I must devote myself to building up that part of my brain. Building it up like a bodybuilder working a muscle group.

Eclipse Sound

Tuesday, 08 August 2017

The total solar eclipse was easily the most spectacular, astounding thing I have ever seen.

Totality was so searingly beautiful it seems like it should have made a sound. A chirping, sizzling, Earth-shaking blast-buzz. A massed chorus of uncountable drifting frequencies, the most exhilarating avant-garde shit you’ve never heard.

… so anyways, here’s what the eclipse actually sounded like for us:

A few minutes before, during and after the total solar eclipse, recorded at Camp Wyoba on Casper Mountain, outside of Casper, Wyoming.
We had an entire mountain meadow almost entirely to ourselves, most of the people in camp were gathered together in a larger meadow about a quarter mile away, but it’s mostly their sound you can hear. I don’t need to point out when totality begins and ends in the recording, because it’s really obvious.

Present in our group were Carrie Hodges, her brother Alec, and myself (C. Reider).

The photo was taken by Carrie Hodges.

“I’m just imagining this wave of screams passing across the entire United States”



Sunday, 01 January 2017

I will oppose the flagged regiments of order
I will be the embodiment of entropy
Where there is harmony, I will be a sour note
Where there is regularity, I will gleefully pulse offtime
Where there is smoothness, I will be rough
Where it is rough, I will be smooth

Interview on Process

Monday, 02 February 2016

In this interview just published by Perfect Sound Forever, Daniel Barbiero and I converse about the “Tape Loops” and “Not Subliminal” releases and some of the process and other attendant issues that come with a contemplative sound practice.

A Conversation about Process, Being with Sound, and the Pleasure of Surprise

On artistic supercession

Thursday, 07 July 2015

On Tuesday, July 28, I gave a lecture on Aesthetics and Cultural Bias to a Cultural Anthropology class being taught by a friend of mine at the local community college. I decided against publishing the full lecture, as it is kind of an amateurish work on the whole. To give a synopsis: it calls out cultural pre-conceptions about art as having a white male bias, discusses aesthetics from a perspective hostile to dualism (Kant / Hegel), criticizes Capitalism as a dominant force in culture, discusses objecthood and fuzziness in terms of framing & the White Cube, discusses aesthetic arrest & the illusion of separation… all in the course of an hour. Yeesh. TOO MANIC. You shouldn’t wonder why I don’t want to share it.

At any rate, I finished the talk with a discussion of the Restoration of Ecce Homo by Cecilia Gimenez. In case you don’t recall, it looks a little something like this:

The talk pointed out the ethnocentrism inherent in the wide, public response to the work, seen in news reports and funny internet memes. One of the questions in the discussion led to some further thoughts, which I do think might be worth consideration (maybe because this is less scatterbrained than the whole lecture??)

This was sent as an email to the professors in charge of this class on the evening of July 30.

I’ve had some further thoughts on the discussion in class that followed my lecture on aesthetics and cultural bias. I was impressed that the discussion brought out a good deal of the complexity of the issues surrounding the restoration of Ecce Homo by Cecilia Gimenez. My prepared remarks covered primarily the implications of the judgments of whether the piece was “good” (a moral judgment) or not from a standpoint of whether or not it met cultural ideals of beauty, and also the fascinating phenomenon of the public shaming of Gimenez for not meeting those ideals (ideals which, I pointed out, are arbitrary and are used by the elite to exert influence over culture.)

The discussion, however, raised another very important aspect, and that is the act of superceding the previously existing artwork, and how one is to view that act from an ethical or even moral stance. Supercession, in art, results in a complete or near complete erasing of the previously existing work, as opposed to an appropriation wherein a previously existing work is incorporated into a new one and, in the process, given a new context, (an artistic tactic that is made easier and therefore more common in the recent age of mechanical reproduction.)

Supercession is another form of transformation in art, albeit a very severe one. Art has a long history of this, taking many guises. These supercessions can be interpreted as benevolent such as the friendly erasing of a De Kooning drawing by Robert Rauschenberg,
or malevolent, as in the case of the Taliban or Isis destroying historically significant artworks and monuments,
or ambiguous as in the non-consensual (usually due to the original artist’s death) erasing of previously existing frescos and murals (a practice which is most certainly not isolated to the case of Ms. Gimenez’ restoration – in fact much has been learned, both artistically and anthropologically, by X-Ray analyses of previously existing frescos that changed radically in form over the centuries, like peeling back layers of previously laid wallpaper in an old house.) I might even describe street art / graffiti as a kind of supercession: a safely ambiguous space, free of meaning, is superceded by filling the space with imagery that often aggressively demands a response. These street murals are quickly superceded again and again by new works. This is certainly rebellious, and a “loss of control” as I pointed out in my lecture, but is it “bad”?

How one may interpret artistic supercession as “good” or “bad” on a moral or ethical scale depends a great deal on one’s views about ownership (to possess an object) and legacy (the perceived ability to have one’s memory endure in perpetuity, to gain “eternal life”). As a budding Marxist who has been enculturated into and currently operates in this hyper-Capitalist society, I can say my opinion is, at best, mixed. Intellectually, I understand that one can never truly own something, and that every remark and action is ultimately forgotten, and every object returns to dust… but emotionally I do still feel a stir at imagining my own work destroyed by someone.

On the other hand, (intellectually again) I think that the pursuit of legacy is ultimately ego driven, and may even be an expression of territorialism. In my view, any moral or ethical consideration must heavily weigh the context. The context in Gimenez’ case is complex and muddled by the fact that much of what we know about the case comes from reactions after the fact of public shaming, when one can assume that people’s attitudes have been reformed in the flames of ridicule. I would certainly like to know what the church community thought about the work before the internet-empowered public found out about it, that seems to be one key missing piece of information in making any kind of moral or ethical determination. At this time all we really know about it is that her intentions were not malicious, they were in keeping with the values of that community. Given that and the history of remaking religious artworks to update them when old symbology no longer is appropriate, I would be inclined to issue a judgment of “good”, while still acknowledging that I am not really a member of that community and so it is not for me to make that judgment.

Conversation about 4’33”

Saturday, 07 July 2015

Who comes up with these sounds, I wonder?

Saturday, 02 February 2015

The second feature was a fairly normal sex flick, which meant it was even more boring than the first. It had lots of oral sex scenes, and every time they started doing fellatio or cunnilingus or sixty-nine the soundtrack would fill the theater with loud sucking or slurping sound effects. Listening to them, I felt strangely moved to think that I was living out my life on this odd planet of ours. “Who comes up with these sounds, I wonder,” I said to Midori. “I think they’re great!” she said. There was also a sound for a penis moving back and forth in a vagina. I had never realized that such sounds even existed. The man was into a lot of heavy breathing.

– Haruki Murakami – “Norwegian Wood”

Encouraging Feedback on Audio Works

Sunday, 08 August 2014

Last week, I participated in a really interesting conversation with a number of friends & strangers on Twitter. The topics include feedback, the idea of value in free work, and the participatory role of the audience in the act of listening. A few very good suggestions came up that warrant thought by anyone interested in artist feedback.
This conversation is particularly notable because it is a positive exchange between the netlabel and the podfic communities. I’ve long felt that these two communities have a lot of similar goals and concerns, and have potential for creatively productive crossover.

Big thanks to @parakapodfic for getting this conversation up on Storify!


Sunday, 09 September 2013

There’s a small, disconcerting shock that I experience when when I suddenly remember to be present and listen. It’s as though there is an unfolding, and opening of the world surrounding me and I step into it. It’s something like stepping out and the sun is too bright for my eyes, there’s a shock to my senses. Starting to listen is like stepping outside.

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