Jul. 02

The sound - A sound, The drone

Sustain, repetition!

Often the slowest, the most repetitive, and the most monotonic works we subject ourselves to, this sound in all its manifestations tests our patience and alters our perception of time.

All the activity to make and listen to these sounds challenges our bodies to outlast it. In the most perfect examples the body blends into the sound, vibrated to its own dissolution.

The drone is both destructive and transcendent. Examples of the style range from the pristine to the harsh, forcing the listener into any number of extreme states. Its monolithic timelessness stretches beyond the tonal and metric rationality we associate with music, an attempt to harness the geologic or cosmic power of raw sound. Rather than a song, it is a vibration.

Other sounds can be of such brutal mass they bring to mind being slowly mulled to powder by a glacier over thousands of years. Many of these sounds are generated by arranging a system and letting it work out its own complex behaviour - however long that may take. It follows that this kind of sound-making is much more concerned about process than others, and these processes often come to defy even the musician's understanding.

Drone is geologic because it speaks of those great forces which affect us but are difficult to grasp. The geologic is irrational. We can rarely come to terms with the sheer weight and scale of these events in which we are nevertheless a part of and subjected to, like a sinkhole ripping open the earth beneath our feet. The non-sensical drone of noise and its apathy to our will is a way of accepting these forces.

The sound penetrates our skin, a reverberating membrane where our body does not end but merely continues.

Everything wears out, some things just wear out slower than others. Some quasars wore out eight billion light years ago but we can still see the force of their ancient furnaces. Galaxies collide with invisible neighbours over similar time scales. It is only at these scales, at these lengths, where we realize distance and time are so obviously the same thing. We are part of this same unbroken chain of movement from the early universe until now, and we can still see this moment if we look far enough. We occupy the same space as the people who came before us, even though we forget about them more and more as time goes on and our records fade away. We are still directly affected by their actions and share the same continuum of culture just as much as we are connected to each other now.

Drone is like the soundtrack to the universe's expansion and contraction - the slowest reverberation of all. So slow we won't ever have to care about it ending and so insistent that we won't ever forget our place in the movement. So powerful it humbles our petty worries.

There will always be the sound. We will wear out long before the sound.

And your body disappears, burning backwards through the years
And in your hands time was made
And through breathing you'll erase it
But we can see forever before love and hate
And we will fall right through the wall of the place where we were made
Right into the open mouth of the great annihilator
Come on in, come inside

Additional listening:
Eliane Radigue - Trilogie de Mort
Swans - The Sound
Jon Gibson - Cycles
Laurie Spiegel - The Expanding Universe
Monster Magnet - Tab...
John Duncan - Phantom Broadcast
Rosetta - Monument
BJ Nilsen - Viking North
La Monte Young/Marian Zazeela
Acre - Isolationist
Nicholas Szczepanik - We Make Life Sad
Velvet Underground - Sister Ray
Lawrence English - Organs Lost at Sea

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