Curating The Week: How To Read A Poem, Music Software Skeuomorphism, Kelly Moran


An article on how to read a poem (or: how to listen to music?).

“When we release ourselves from the need to boil the poem down to a single meaning or theme, the mind can move in a dreamlike, associative way. This associative movement in poetry can at first feel disorienting, but it is actually quite close to the way parts of our minds, unbeknownst to our conscious selves, constantly function, simultaneously attentive to the outside world, but also thinking, processing, half dreaming.”

An article on the skeuomorphic interfaces of music software.

“Alone, each plugin is hideous in its own unique way. A panel of 3D knobs here, a pixellated oscilloscope there.”

An article on the prepared piano music of Kelly Moran.

“She developed a very unique process of melding the worlds of electroacoustic deconstruction and classical, harmonious minimalism. Drawing from the techniques of personal heroes like John Cage and Henry Cowell (such as brushing the strings of the piano with her own hands, or inserting various objects into the body of the instrument), Moran took her unconventional timbres and extended techniques and recorded them onto MIDI software programs like Kontakt one piano note at a time, allowing her to perform her complex tonalities as she would on a normal synthesizer. In this way, Moran essentially built new instruments from scratch, filtering the acoustic recordings through a digital interface so that she could apply her dexterous playing style to sounds that would normally be impossible to play on a standard keyboard.”



It sounds new age (it’s not)
instead of an exceptional technique,
gifts of novice:

that first time when
you don’t know what
you’re doing so
head first you dive
into its rhythm

(a bypassing move)

swift and sure
trusting form is sound
context becomes clear
means generate ends

because this first time
practice beats theory
and what you don’t know
is already enough.

Resonant Thoughts: Michael Robbins’ “Equipment For Living”


“I used to try to listen my way under my skin, but it turned out that listening was my skin. Listening to records was not just something I did, it was who I was. Not a day passed, for years, that I didn’t spend hours sitting in front of my stereo or burrowing into my Walkman, learning my way around a sound–Coltrane’s, Steely Dan’s, the Carter Family’s, Duke Ellington’s, Rakim’s.”
– Michael Robbins, Equipment For Living, p. 10.

Resonant Thoughts: “Tympanum of the Other Frog” In John Corbett’s “Microgroove”


In the preface to his excellent book Microgrooves (2015), critic and musician John Corbett recounts listening to the sounds of frogs by a pond with his father when he was eight years old. Corbett’s dad told him to focus on the sound of one particular frog among the full chorus. “Now, he said, keeping that one in mind, try to hear another one at the same time.” Once Corbett could do this, another task: “Listen to the new voice in relation to the first one…OK, now see if you can switch them.” Corbett expands on the lessons he was learning:

“My dad was teaching me about polyrhythms. Setting me up for Steve Reich and jazz. That’s already pretty mind-blowing for an eight-year-old, but there was more. I couldn’t put a name on it, but I also understood that he was showing me something deeper, a principle. If I was able, by shifting my focus, to change the rhythm I was hearing, then listening must be a relative activity. A listener has to make decisions about how to listen. It’s not just a passive thing. And in order to do that, to put yourself into the right space to be able to make informed listening decisions, you have to pay attention.”

Working Knowledge: The Quieting Process


The perceptual key to effective writing—words or music, it doesn’t matter—is getting into a space of concentration. I call this the Quieting process: a narrowing of attention where the present is felt as a fully enveloping perpetual now. Yesterday’s work is gone—you can barely recall it!—and tomorrow remains a question mark. You’re left with only this sentence-in-progress in whose tensioned midst you’re ensconced, wondering how it will resolve, or this melody’s trajectory, singing just like so at this micro-moment as you listen to it dissipate, and only then, once it has faded, do you consider your next move. The Quieting process’s narrowing of attention also effortlessly silences naysaying’s resistance. Which brings up an ironic fact about it: Quieting is less something you try to do and more a by-product of doing the work itself. As the words or sounds draw you into their spaces, the “right” direction seems so beside the point. You can proofread or proof-listen for sense later, but right now it’s an adventure. When you’re Quiet, the sound of meaning is clear.

Curating The Week: Ways of Hearing Podcast, Magic And Perception, Playing Chopin


A six-part podcast, Ways of Hearing.

“Digital time is not lived time–it’s machine time.”

An article on how magic exploits the quirks of perception.

“My team’s work reveals that the art of magic also relies on an analogous, but opposite grand illusion, in which we are blind to the prodigious clairvoyance of our visual system – which makes us see hidden things. Exploiting either of these grand illusions not only requires skill and knowledge on the part of the magician, but also chutzpah, because he or she must place absolute faith in the counterintuitive quirks of the spectators’ visual systems, and allow them to produce the real magic.”

An article on playing the piano music of Chopin.

“Chopin forces you to think of time sensually, forces the pianist to acknowledge the connection between the body and duration.”