When I was a child, I always wanted clothes twice my size. I wanted clothes that were big enough for my parents, my heroes, for that person I was going to become in ten years. I never felt at home with peers. Me tugging on the shoulder of my XL shirt trying to pull the sleeve back up my arm was an expression of how hard it was to fit in with people my size. It wasn’t about wearing a blanket but about wearing the future, being part of a group that I understood. Now that I’ve grown into those shirts and grown taller and stronger than my parents, I stop and ask myself if I still want clothes twice my size. Yes, I do. Time has taught me that parents are much bigger than their clothes make them out to be, that heroes live in the smallest spaces, and that the future is more accessible today than it ever will be.
I live on the first floor of a giant apartment. But if I go stand outside the gate and look at it, I feel like I live at the very top. I like that. I like that my apartment does not end where I live. I like that the idea of where I live is full of rooms and spaces that I have never been in. I’ve never felt that way about the city I live in. I see it spread out like a soggy blanket from the terrace of my giant apartment and I know I hate it with a passion. Maybe it’s because I hate this city that I like my apartment so much. It looks like a hoe that a farmer stuck into a piece of stubborn land that he’s fucking done trying to till. It’s a giant block of concrete that’s trying to reach for the sky and get as far away as it can from this lukewarm city. Just like me. So, I sit in my room on the first floor of my giant apartment, press my face against the window grill, and look out. WE LOOK OUT, DAMMIT. We feel it, the fire burning our atriums to a crisp. We feel the wind swirling around in our basements, pushing against our doors and making our bodies shake. It’s like the lightning that hits before the thunder, the crack in our walls. We are together in this.
If I ever make a lot of money I plan to make a beautiful house that doesn’t exist outside of me but exists with me. This will be so because it will be a reflection of who I am. Given above is one of the rooms in the house. It’s got a giant opening facing the east. The room will have virtually no corners, making it look like the inside of a sphere. It will very like be a light beige, white or cement-like colour. There will be very little furniture except for a few ingenious mounds of clay or cement rising from the floor which can be used for sitting, lying down, storing things etc. There won’t be a piano like in the drawing. I just put it there to create a balance between subjects in the drawing. I plan to sit here in the morning, contemplating and reflecting on all that intrigues me.
If you’re not a musician or familiar with music production, you probably won’t know what I mean when I say ‘reverb’ or ‘delay’. But if I ask you if you’ve walked into a church or a giant cathedral and felt like the sounds were bigger, lusher or “spacey”, you probably know what I’m talking about.
Reverb and delay are effects that are used in music production to simulate and manipulate the reflection of sound (links at the end of this post if you want a short history). You don’t sound the same in all the rooms of your house. Even if you might not notice it, you do. Certain instruments and vocals sound right or fit into a mix well when they are recorded in certain rooms. This is why the studios that bands like the Beatles used to record their music are often talked about as having the potential for the creation of a certain kind of sound.
But as technology has developed over the years, people have tried to make it possible for you to infuse the songs that you make in your bedroom with the magic of spaces far far away.
I can put a certain reverb/delay effect on my song and make it sound like it’s being played in a cathedral on a Sunday morning. But that’s not the only mind-blowing thing here. You can listen to my song as if it was being performed in a certain space without actually being in that space. This was not possible a little more than a century ago.
I can sit in my small bedroom and listen to the latest Contemporary Christian Music release, which is usually full of lush reverbs and delays, and I can hear what I’d only hear in a much bigger space naturally.
What does that mean for the experience of music?
Well, there’s a reason why Cathedrals are the way they are. You walk into one hosting a choir or a morning service and you feel like you’re walking right into God’s chest. You feel small and insignificant but you also feel like you’re part of something larger than life. Concrete branches arch and meet above you as if you were walking in a forest encrusted in cement. Like the sun breaks into a thousand lines at the tip of leaves covered in morning dew and seems to displace itself to your arm’s length, light breaks in through the coloured glass and brings God right to you. And as you stand within reach of what seems like the great intersection of life and light, the sound of angels wash over you like a wave. The air feels wet and the ground grabs hold of your feet.
Part of me feels like reverb and delay belong where I can not only hear them but also see them. But sitting here at home, isolated from the rest of the world with walls that seem to close in, I feel like my favorite shoegaze albums are the only way to push back against them.
I think the difference, for me at least, is that when I can see the sound I am aware of where my skin ends but when I can’t see it, it feels like it comes from within. In the latter case, it is a force to be reckoned with; one that can push back the walls of my room.
On that note, here’s a song from one of my favorite bands that does some pretty cool stuff with reverb and delay:
Today was yet another miserable day. However, there was a bit of comfort in the evening. I had run out of things to distract myself with so I picked up my guitar for the second time today and tried to come up with a few ideas. I did come up with a few but they were nothing special, nothing that could captivate me and keep me distracted long enough. So, they broke through, all those horrible thoughts. Then, out of nowhere, I found myself playing an old hymn that I’d listened to so many times at church. It’s a hymn written in my mother tongue so you probably wouldn’t know it. I was playing the tune on the D string of my guitar, just the D string. My fingers moved very slow, adding a delicate vibrato as if they lay heavy on the string. A peace washed over me, something I had not felt in such a long time. I kept going for another 30 minutes or so, playing this effortless tune again and again on my guitar. Somewhere along the way, my fingers had taken a life of their own. I was no longer thinking about what I was playing. There was no commanding. The rest of the world opened before me; time split and dispersed into a million moments of rain-like seeds that hung in the air and grazed against me. I could hear the low incessant hum of my amplifier, the gloss of my guitar straining against the cotton of my shorts. The cars on the street were parked on the windows of my room and all the light that was left in twilight sneaked in just for me. I felt it all.
For the past few years, a significant portion of my depression and anxiety can be attributed to my crisis of faith. I’d grown up loving all that was spiritual. I did more than the average kid to find God. Having all of that taken right from under me left me falling into a bright abyss. I don’t know if what I felt today was God in my room or the glimpse of a simpler time. Whatever it was, I’m grateful.
I know this is a very depressing blog. Very few people even read it these days. But right now, in this moment, I am able to comfort you too, even though I know that this moment will not last long.
About the artwork:
I drew this listening to the hymn and thinking about what that moment was like. By the time I was drawing it, the feeling had sort of watered down to a memory of perspective. So the colours ended up being the usual ones which I use. Something cool about it is how if you look just the lines, you can make out an eye, a nose, and ear of a face. But if you look at the colours also, you start to see how they divide the lines into two faces.
At the mouth
At the eyes
Will it mingle with the sweat?
Or will they flow as two?
Meet at the legs and wrinkle my toes?
I’m sure most people like to read poetry and derive their own meaning from it. However, since this blog is a way for me to record my journey, I will add the inspiration behind these lines.
Today was extremely hard. I felt such hate for myself that I hit myself pretty hard quite a few times. Somewhere in the middle of it all, there was a pause when my eyes and mouth were open in a similar fashion. I was crying and tears were welling up and making their way down. My mouth was also filled with saliva because when you’re crying with your mouth as well, you don’t really get time to swallow. The sudden realization that my eyes and mouth were associated in the way they were open and filled with bodily fluid amused me. I paused and for a moment it felt like my entire body and the world itself was open and filled with bodily fluid. In feeling this overwhelming sense of oneness, the pause became a photograph of sorts. Anyway, in that pause, I felt a beautiful calm. For a moment, I was not myself but some other person who was able to see all 21 years of my life on this planet. It was okay. Everything was going to be alright. I went back to beating myself up after the pause but it was powerful enough for me to sit down and draw what I felt out on paper between sobs.
I’ve noticed that for a few months now, the future doesn’t exist and the past keeps blurring into the background. They are unable to provide me with a reason to hope or to try. The present is all there is and it is filled with self-hate and gloom. These moments where the artist in me breaks out and draws over my body and soul are the only moments where this anomaly in the perception of the temporal isn’t pronounced.
In the poem, I’m asking myself if my work as an artist and a student of life (sweat) will ever flow along with the pain I’m going through. I’m asking this because I’m afraid that if I don’t learn to do that well enough, it will destroy me (wrinkles) physically and mentally.
Hi again. I drew something today and I thought it’d be interesting to spend some time and gather my thoughts on a couple of things.
I won’t waste your time or mine by telling you how shitty my perspective on life is right now. There’s not much you can say that is going to help me or anything I can say that will do this post any good. Let’s just say it’s pretty bad at the moment.
If you’re one of the few people who read my posts, you’ve probably come across me using words like “the void” or phrases like “lonely barren land” in a lot of posts to talk about the space in which I create or think about creation. These spaces radiate an uncertainty of sorts. Words like uncharted, preserved, dangerous, etc. come to mind. But the artwork above is an abstract representation of the contrary. It is a representation of the known, which is made so through the consumption and creation of art.
I’ve often talked about how art, for me, is a way to dig deep into myself and find parts that would not surface on their own. While I don’t quite like phrases like “you are the universe”, especially since they’re used by people for the most ridiculous of reasons, I do believe that it is possible through deep reflection to use all sensation as a way to develop a powerful sense of self and to address that which often eludes basic observation.
I started creating artwork like the one above because their creation was driven by impulse more than anything else. I’d go in with the least amount of preparation possible. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want to say. I give in to every impulse. Contrary to what should result from something like that, which is something that would make absolutely no sense, I found that I was able to find the reason why I chose a certain colour or made a brushstroke after the fact. It was a very exciting discovery. Not only was I able to do this for individual pieces of artwork but I also found that there were consistencies across different pieces. I felt like I was very much in tune with myself to have tapped into something like this. I thought I was the first person in the world to have done it but then I found out about Abstract Expressionism and lots of other cool traditions that have theorized artistic creation as a similar exercise.
After creating every piece, I find more and more about this other person inside me, one who will only reveal himself to me in these brief moments of creation. Bit by bit, I am piecing together a reflection of myself in the quiet hours of the night when I’m alone and there is no need for conversation. I cast my net into the void and retrieve pieces of the broken mirror. It is quite a stimulating experience.
While creation of art is fulfilling in a way, it has not had any particular effect on how happy I am. As the days go by, I find myself stitching together a beautiful blanket from all that I consider human, things that I have found within myself, perspectives on the human condition that I have used to create a map of meaning and life. All I want to do is wrap it around me when the storms pass me by. But I can’t.
Why isn’t this beautiful journey enough for me? Can only people comfort me, keep me warm, and lend an ear?
I have come to hate people. They are cruel and I have found none who truly understand me. I am utterly alone here. Why isn’t art enough for me? It’s all I have. Maybe I still have God. But I don’t have the words to make that bring forth any sense. Maybe I will one day but right now I don’t.
Meaningful art has made my life beautiful. It has been the strongest force in the dark, in the bitter moments of loneliness when people have failed me without fail. It has given me context when people confused me. You see, art can take two things that are virtually unrelated, put them together in a certain way, and help you find safe haven in what might otherwise seem like a corrupt blend. This is why art can uncover the most elusive parts of human nature. That’s what makes it meaningful. It turns artists into cartographers of the human soul. And for this very reason, it hurts that I am not comfortable in my isolation. I need people who understand me and this need, I think, is not fitting for what I want to do in life. My struggle to get to a place where I don’t need people anymore, where I can be at peace in isolation, is slowly killing me. It has become so to the extent where I quite dislike waking up.
I will stop now. Abruptly. But I think this is enough for now.
You’re in a room with your family at Christmas. Everybody’s home. There’s lots of food and laughter to go around and joy is in the air. Your daughter brings the family photo album and places it on your lap. She crawls under your right arm and tells you she wants to hear stories about everyone in the room. You smile and skim through the photos. Some of the people in the photos are in the room with you, by the fireplace, under the mistletoe, giggling in the kitchen. Some are not.
Looking at the photo of a person who is in the room with you is very different from looking at the photo of a person who’s no more. Nostalgia and memory have a way of being distinct in such moments.
I’ve always been freaked out by the idea that photographs exist, moments captured in time. The best photographs, however, are not ones that capture but ones that host memories. It’s graceful. It’s like the memory walked into the photograph of its own volition. There’s no hint of forced retention. It is but a moment that floods. It reminds me of Impressionist paintings. Their subjects were not mythical in nature but local; captured as a moment of the fleeting. This is the very thing we find cameras do well.
This brings me to Ravel, one of the greatest composers of all time. Here’s a video by Nahre Sol if you want to have some idea about who Ravel is:
This is the first piece from Ravel that I listened to. It was performed by Martha Argerich and it absolutely blew me away. I’m not classically trained and I have no idea what the technical difficulties are when it comes to composing or performing a piece like this but the passion that I felt as I listened to it was so powerful and pure. It was almost like somebody had taken a perfect photo of me and I was falling into it, experiencing all the intricacies of movement made still.
Many people don’t consider Ravel to be an Impressionist even though he is from that period. But if you ask me if I think Ravel is an Impressionist, I wouldn’t know how to say he isn’t.
This post is about Le Tombeau de Couperin, which l was listening to the other day.
I, being the philistine I am, had no clue what it was about. I was just another musician enjoying music. But as I listened to it, an image started forming in front of me. Unlike the usual visions I have, this was a still image. There was no movement. It was almost like a painting. Bright colours were set against dull and the brushstrokes were conspicuous but not messy.
What I saw first was a girl in a bright red dress. She was picking flowers in a garden and she seemed very happy, blissful at least. There were houses in a light beige in the background. She wasn’t looking at anything. Her eyes were set on something above the horizon. After lingering on her for a few moments, I was taken to another still image. This was of an old man. His clothes were not in focus but his face was; extremely so. He had a very thin beard and for some reason that seemed important. He had a worn hat on his head and he was holding a shovel. He was not using it but had stuck it into the ground. His right hand was still on the shovel but he was looking at something. The moment I asked myself what he was looking at, I was shown another image. This time, a baby in swaddling cloth was lying on the bank of a very shallow stream of water. Then, for a moment all these images came together. The old man was working in the garden where the girl in red was. He would stop working now and then and smile at the girl. Then he would look at the baby. The baby was far away from him; over a broken fence and across a shallow stream, on the the other bank. There was a certain pain in his eyes when he looked at the girl and the baby, the kind of pain that doesn’t hurt but rather presents itself as an opportunity for you to be aware of how deeply you can feel. I didn’t know why he felt this.
This vision was so powerful that I decided to look up what the piece of music was about. Le Tombeau de Couperin was composed between 1914 and 1917, during the First World War. The word ‘tombeau’ in the title is a musical term popular from the 17th century, meaning “a piece written as a memorial”. I found that you’re supposed to use the word ‘suite’ and not ‘piece’ although the latter still makes sense in a way. Each movement is dedicated to the memory of a friend of the composer who had died fighting in World War 1. The music, however, doesn’t feel like it’s about death per se. This was intentional according to Ravel. He said, “The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence”. His aim, which he made clear, was to pay homage to the Baroque French suite sensibilities. At least according to Wikipedia it was.
When I found this out, suddenly the pain in the eyes of the old man seemed to make sense. So did the baby, the broken fence, and the thin beard.
Nahre Sol, in the video I linked above, talks about how Ravel’s music has a certain melancholy to it. I would take this further in the case of Le Tombeau de Couperin and associate it with the fusion of the pain of lost childhood/innocence with the perception of childhood from a place far removed temporally. Imagine a veteran of a horrific war looking at a girl in a red dress picking flowers unaware of how dark the world really is. The thin beard also made sense in this context. Thin beard is more abrasive/rough while a full beard is soft. I also associated the broken fence with the destruction of the war. It seemed right to do so. The baby is even farther removed from the old man, born beyond the fence into a broken world, one that has no explanation for the destruction.
When I learned that it was dedicated to a soldier who had died in war, I felt that this was such a perfect way of keeping him alive. It’s like Ravel took a photo of him dying on the battlefield and a photo of him as a veteran who survived the war and then fused the two together.
Let me take you back to the scene I constructed for you at the beginning of this post. Looking at the photo of a person who is in the room with you is very different from looking at a photo of a person who’s no more. If a photograph is a memory, then does the photo become truer in some way if the person is no more? I don’t think so. However, if the person is no longer in the world, then they are only in your memories. They are only in the photograph. When you look at it, you not only feel nostalgic but you also attach a value to it that can only be given after the death of someone you love.
The joy of the past, when it is lost, will turn into care for the people you shared it with. But when they are no more, it turns into care for their photographs.
The photograph becomes important.
In presenting the death of a friend as a memory that has little to do with the very death of the person and everything to do with looking at loss like the old man looks at the girl in the red dress (the girl is like the photograph in this case) or the way one looks at the photograph of a loved one who has passed away, Ravel makes the music a focal point. When listening to his music, I don’t think of the people I’ve lost but I feel for the music what I would feel if I looked at a photograph of my grandfather who died a few years ago.
To me, the music is not saying “Couperin is dead” or “how sad is it that Couperin is dead?”. What I hear is “Music is a memory! Celebrate it!”.
If Le Tombeau de Couperin was a photograph, I would place it back in my photo album the way I would put back a photo of my grandfather. With care.
It’s not easy to do that.
Le Tombeau de Couperin is not about the dead, it’s about how important the photographs of them are. This makes Ravel an Impressionist if you ask me. He celebrates the moment, and more importantly, the medium that captures it. He might only be using loss and death to inspire value but they are presented with all the more depth for it.
Ravel’s intention was the celebration of music. But he didn’t have to tell me about Couperin to make me understand that. That’s how good he is.
This is why I love Ravel.
About the artwork:
In the artwork, you’ll see the girl in the red dress on the left and the baby, who becomes a boy in the artwork, on the right. The broken fence and a flower also make an appearance. I wanted to show the thin beard but didn’t know how to. My skills are limited. This is not at all what I saw but this is the best I could do with my skills.
You guys have seen those creepy mirrors in interrogation rooms, right? The ones in movies where on side of the glass there are people sitting in the dark looking at people on the other side who can’t see them? Well, yeah, did you know that one side of the mirror being dark and the other being well-lit is a requirement for the mirror to work in this way?
Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? You’ll be able to see yourself in your windows at night when the light is on in your room, but you won’t be able to during the day when the sun is shining through.
Why do I bring up this interesting-yet-too-specific-and-takes-a-long-time-to-explain-so-it-really-doesn’t-belong-in-a-blog-post piece of information?
Well, the other day I had this vision of me standing in a room without roofing. The sun was beating down on me and it was around mid-day. The sky was beautiful, with colours swirling and dissolving into each other like clouds. I wanted to reach out and touch them. So I did.
Well, I tried.
There was a ceiling made of glass in my way.
Since the sun was really bright, it didn’t look like there was a glass ceiling. I pushed first, tapped second, and then I just stood there. I looked out at all the beautiful stuff above me and felt like there was nothing I could do to truly experience them.
Then, as time passed, the sun slowly slipped out of view. It was evening. There was a light in my room, one brighter than the light outside. And now, when I looked up, I could see the glass. I could see myself in the glass. But I could also see the sky and the colours above because the sun hadn’t gone down yet. My reflection and the evening sky were two faint images superimposed on each other, still on the glass. I stared at it without blinking.
And then night came and I was alone. With myself. The glass was now a pure reflection of me and my room.
I know what the vision was about. It was about many things things that have present significance.
You see, I’m about to spend a year at home because I didn’t get into the postgraduate programmes I wanted to get into, which is partly something I didn’t want anyway but anxiety doesn’t care about what I want. I want so many things. During the day, when the rest of the world is alive, I’m constantly reminded of what I cannot have, be it because of my interests, where I come from, who I know etc. It’s just like the sun beating down on me through the glass. And I jump all day, hoping to catch one of those colourful clouds but I bang my head against the glass. This is all I can do during the day.
Then evening comes and I realise that there is a thick sheet of glass between me and the world, that the curse the 21st century casts on youth is the ability to see all that they cannot be or have. In the twilight hours, as I see myself and the world in the glass of fate and destiny, I am inspired by how it grounds me in reality by placing the good and the bad into context. This prepares me for the hours to come, when loneliness will take hold of me.
In the deep hours of the night, I am all I see. I look at my reflection on the glass and I write, speak, and draw. I reinvent, nay find myself in the void. This act does have the power to heal and restore but it does so only if I stare at the glass in the evening. To see myself and the world at the same time, to stop fighting and observe my existence in all its beauty, glory, and tragedy is the only thing that can bring healing in the night.
Well, now you know why I create everything in the night when everyone else is sound asleep.
About the artworks:
The first artwork contains a lot of ideas that I’ve already explored in previous posts with mountains, gyres, allusions to authorship, etc. The ice from the Hemingway post makes a reappearance as this post has a lot to do with fear of losing potential (https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/07/10/obsessed-with-loss-of-potential-jpg/). Lions, as you know, mean a lot to me. They keep appearing in my dreams. I’ve been a lion in some and I’ve also been protected and attacked by them in some. There are other reasons but I won’t go into them now. If you have a good eye, you probably noticed how the speech bubble kinda looks like a human being, with the lion and its mane making up the mouth. Not exactly planned but I believe these things happen for a reason. Makes sense in context anyway.
The second artwork is more minimalistic. You can see the colours yellow and red making an appearance. And you probably know what they mean if you’ve been keeping up with the posts. If not check this post (https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/08/04/why-i-even-try/)
Today, around noon, I found myself spending a few moments alone with my imagination. Listening to Santana’s Samba Pa Ti, my mind filled with all kinds of colours and images. I was alone on a beach, my hand buried in the sand. A green beverage of some kind was pouring over me, covering me in translucent green. The green pouring over me almost felt like a hand, like I was caressing myself. It was passionate. For a moment, I tried to take control of the scene and bring a woman into the picture. It seemed fitting that a feminine presence be the reason for such passion. But when I did so, the picture almost burst into a million pieces. So I decided to let it go. I was to be alone in this.
While I’m not sure what this means, I thought it would be helpful to mention a few interesting thoughts that have occupied my mind for the past few days. I had a passing thought a few days ago of a chameleon in front of a mirror. It struck me that if the chameleon only identified itself by its colour and not its form, then the world would become its mirror. Imagine that- the conflation of perception of the outside world with that of self. For a moment, I wondered if that was what happened inside the void that I keep mentioning, that nothingness where I flail around and retrieve pieces of the broken mirror; the place where I create art out of necessity and learn more and more about myself. Was this exercise of existence a conflation of the kind mentioned above?
I believe I will be able to answer that better in time. For now, a record of thoughts will suffice.
About the artwork:
It is possible that the green in the painting and in my vision had to do with me reaching into the ground, into myself, and thus into nature itself. I had mentioned in a few other posts how I create art to “ground myself” and that no art except mine has the ability to make that happen. I have drawn from an earlier painting of mine that represents me burning in the void (from post ‘Why I Even Try’ which is linked below). This time, I chose to make the head red because recently I have found my thoughts taking a much darker turn, favoring the confusing and the self-destructive during introspection. However, my limbs continue to help me create art impulsively from the fascination I have for my pain and depression. So they remain yellow. The reason why the head is facing the sky and not the ground, which would have been more natural, can be found in my post ‘On Sublimity’ which I will link below.
Reading the following posts and looking at the artwork in them might be helpful if you are interested in dissecting this post further: