Brett’s Sound Picks: Huerco S.’s “The Sacred Dance”

I know little about how Huerco S. makes his electronic music, except that it seems loop-based, it has many layers, and creates a serene sensation of pulsation–circling, echoing, flanging, and chugging along, around and around, almost the same but always somehow changing just enough. My favored track on his For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) (2016) is the last one, “The Sacred Dance”:

Chasing Creativity



Creativity is a wolf that you’re chasing in a mountain forest in the middle of winter. You run after this stealth silent and fleet-footed animal that sprints ahead of you, flying over rocks and branches, leaping over iced streams, always vanishing just around the next bend in the trail. You’re patient in your pursuit, keeping him in your sights from a distance while maintaining an even pace you’ve learned from your training. The advantage you have over Creativity is that he occasionally gets lost (he never has a plan of action) and likes to stop once in a while to ponder, pursue scents, take in the sights. These are the moments when you make headway on him, closing in—but not too close to scare him away or provoke an attack—to spy the animal up close.

At one point he turns around and notices you as you both stand motionless, taking in one another from ten feet, your breaths turning to steam in the cold air. It’s scary. Creativity is elegantly wild: a strong build, smooth white fur, unafraid of frigid temperatures, effortlessly going for long stretches without food or water, and of course, he has those eyes. Those penetrating, blue-grey eyes that decipher your weaknesses in a second, while at the same time looking at you uncomprehendingly because clearly you’re of an alien species. Creativity can easily outrun you, but for the moment he stares you eye to eye in the alpine stillness and the fading light of a late afternoon sun. What are you to do? You’re in his environment now—way off the grid, feeling your feet, nose, and fingers freezing by the second, and your GPS watch has lost its signal. You can’t stay out here as long as Creativity can—he lives here, after all—but you can give chase for a while and maybe learn some things from him. Then Creativity speaks.

Let’s keep running he says in confident, perfectly unaccented English, and then disappears deeper into the forest pine.

As you chase after Creativity you think about what it felt like to look into his wolf eyes up close. You realize that Creativity doesn’t care about you. He only sized you up as a less efficient animal intruding upon his habitat, leaving much unspoken.

You’re welcome to follow me, but I won’t wait for you.

I may change direction at any time and I won’t help you if you fall.

On the upside, follow my footstep patterns and learn from my maneuvering.

Maybe later you can analyze why I moved as I moved.

And remember, unlike you I’m a wild animal: my appetites are my survival.

(Do you like wolf analogies? Here is a bird analogy.)

Curating The Week: Silent How To Videos, Imagery From Sound, The Psychology of Time Perception


An article about the Primitive Technology videos on YouTube.

“For all the virtuosic craftsmanship on display in these YouTube videos, the real draw may be the absorbing peace of watching a man go about his work…The videos are virtually silent, for one thing—no talking, no explaining—so the only sound is ambient: the rustle of leaves being gathered; the muffled sound of a sharp stone biting into green wood; the occasional clear piping of bird song.”

An article about creating imagery from sound vibrations.

“Every object has a characteristic frequency, or frequencies, at which it vibrates most, with the least input of energy. Those vibrations are associated with standing wave patterns called modes. When the Chladni plate, for instance, vibrates in one of its modes, a pattern appears in the sand on the plate.”

An article about the psychology of time perception. (Prelude to a forthcoming book.)

“Time seems to flow in discrete units—it seems somehow independent and self-contained—not because we perceive units of empty time but because each of our acts of perception (or, more likely, our memories of those perceptions) is discrete. ‘Now’ arises again and again only because we say ‘now’ again and again. The present moment, [William] James contended, is ‘a synthetic datum,’ not experienced as much as manufactured. The present isn’t something we stumble through; it’s something we create for ourselves over and over, moment by moment.”

A Conversation Among Composers

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Johann Bach:

I think that the aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God 
and the refreshment of the soul.

John Cage:

I think that music is everywhere.

Arvo Pärt:

I have a need to concentrate on each sound, so that every blade of grass would be as important as a flower.

Steve Reich:

I’m interested in a compositional process and a sounding music that are one in the same thing.


I don’t think of a sound in my head and try and find it on the keyboard.
I just find the sound on the keyboard.

(Head nodding, awkward silence, stirring of drinks.)

Curating The Week: Questioning Mindfulness, Autechre, Tanya Tagaq


An article questioning mindfulness.

“Despite many grand claims, the scientific evidence in favor of the Moment’s being the key to contentment is surprisingly weak. When the United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality conducted an enormous meta-analysis of over 18,000 separate studies on meditation and mindfulness techniques, the results were underwhelming at best.”

An article on Autechre.

“Autechre have been demonstrating, for almost twenty-five years, that using paradigms modeled on the behavior of physically manipulated instruments is just unproductive. Any signal leaving a speaker is an analog, living thing, no matter how it is made.”

An article and video on Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq.

“The sounds she cultivates from her disciplined practice are often described as wild and primal, sometimes frightening or ugly. These sometimes seem like euphemisms for something more overtly sexist or racist, like what critics really want to say is that Tagaq sounds ‘savage’ or ‘unladylike’ because she subverts expectations of how the female voice or just music in general should sound.”