Hi - I have a record coming out at the end of this month called CICADA WAVES. It’ll be out on April 30th. Until then I’m using this space to share the video for each song and different written takes on aspects of the album ~ hope you enjoy.
This video was created by the artist Bahareh Khoshooee almost entirely in the Sims - it’s an eerily accurate simulacrum of what recording these pianos/bugs was like:
I think it was the longest period of time I've been offline since at least 2006, but possibly long before that, too. I, almost certainly like you reading this, have been online most of my life. Except those two weeks.
In actual truth yes, there was a small amount of Internet available on the screened-in porch where we had dinner. I could have checked in on my bank account or whatever other needless preoccupation if I really wanted to. But there was no cell service at all, and no WiFi at my studio, and no connection at all to the outside world, really, besides the cordless telephone. And that phone could only get calls in, it couldn't even make calls out. And the Internet service that was available was extremely slow. So I stayed offline. Everything I learned about the wider world for those two weeks I had to hear through someone else. Hey, did you hear about this? No, in fact I did not. Didn't see the headline, didn't see the tweet, didn't read the article.
I was without Internet for a few days for two subsequent summers in Alaska, and I could focus all of my attention and energy on using the camp stove to boil water for coffee. I could hear the music in it.
I was also without Internet whenever I was traveling on my first tour of Italy because that summer my international SIM card only allowed me to make calls and send five texts a day - I'd rely on whatever free WiFi was available wherever I was each morning, frantically downloading maps and addresses and phone numbers and praying that whatever inevitable hurdles arose could be bested with a local phone call.
And once for some whimsical reason once in New York City years ago I left my phone at home when heading out to meet my friends at the Brooklyn Academy of Music movie theater. I allowed myself to be without headphones or reading material on the subway. We were meeting up to watch "Nostalghia" by Andrei Tarkovsky and I remember feeling so charged up by the power of the film that it felt like my brain was physically electrified, like I had laid my head on the third rail. I wound up crashing at their house that night and we just kept hanging out, so I went a full 24-hours without once looking at my phone. There was nothing drawing me back into my life, no pending plan or developing disaster that I had to check in on, no social media stats to fret over. Yokeless. And I swear all the colors got brighter. When I finally did pick up my phone after another idle subway ride home I was delighted and horrified all at once to see that there wasn't a single missed notification - I'd been far, far away, totally severed, traveling in an unfamiliar neurological country. And nobody noticed.
But those two weeks in August were the most offline I've been in forever. And I felt the shape of the world around me changing as I took it in.
This period of synaptic rest was preceded by, of course, the time in my life I decidedly the most online. I was deeply online already but the glacial unfolding of COVID ensured that I was jacked-in nearly every second of the day for weeks, freaking. I worked remotely for the first time ever, making sure to send at least a couple emails in the 9am hour and the 5pm hour to indicate that I was in fact connected to the day job, however tenuously, and in hindsight there was no real difference between my life when I was paid to be online and after I clocked out when I remained decidedly online. I socialized on video calls, attended a digital seder, threw a surprise birthday party over zoom which involved a projector, a piece of plywood covered in a sheet, and a cake left on the doorstep. I played video games for the first time in years and hit pause to check my text messages. I ordered takeout from the Internet. I played music online, directing my voice or lingering piano chords into the absolute black hole of the live stream software, watched the lukewarm chat messages or the clapping hand emojis pop up two minutes too late to be relevant. And I constantly, in a steady torrent, worried online. I checked the COVID death stats and analyzed the glowing cartographic hot spots and wondered whether or not I could attend a Black Lives Matter protest in rural Ohio without being shot and tried to keep tabs on which friends were protesting where and who had been arrested. If there was not something to be upset about immediately I scrolled until I got upset, dozens of times per day. I started assuming that all my friends and family members were mad at me. My emotions and my beliefs themselves were dictated by the whims of the flood of overwhelming information, they shaped the silo. It was all swallowed up.
And then I was delivered. Out of range, out of service, out of office auto-reply, out from under the deafening chug. For two blissful weeks I did not gauge my value by any quantifiable metrics. I did one thing at a time. I did not fly into a less-than-useful panic because NPR abused its push notification system. I did not hold that deeply-seated fear that if I did not digitally perform my worth I would effectively disappear. There was no rupture, there was no fragmentation. I played the piano and I listened. I shaped the silo, like throwing a clay vase from the inside, and the silo opened up.
I wasn't without a computer, though. In fact I had just bought a new one, my first in almost ten years. And though I was unable to actually stream any media I did have some bootlegged movies downloaded to my laptop - Altman's "Popeye" and "Breaking Away," amazingly. They felt like the greatest movies I had ever seen. And I had my music library, I'd settle on something I ripped mp3s of in college and listen while I cooked myself lunch. Recorded music felt like a small miracle and really it kind of is. And I had my photos, however many years of photos, ten years of pics and show flyers and screenshots and train schedules and duplicates. I had been carrying all of them around with me, only ever half noticed, so I took to going through them. 20,000 photos or something preposterous like that. I barely made a dent, but how deeply satisfying to weed out the bad ones, to delete the unneeded ones, to effectively remove the sinister faces looming in the past I'd prefer to never see again. To remember briefly and then forget, goodbye.
I was untethered in those two weeks from the external forces, the rolling waves. I wrote the code, I compiled the information, I paid attention. I shaped the silo.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
good morning ~
Using the Internet to talk about how once I wasn’t on the Internet.
I extremely hope you check out the video up above - Bahareh did something really amazing with it.
We sold out of the first run of CICADA WAVES cassette tapes! So we went ahead and cooked up some more - the 2nd run of tapes is now available, an edition of 100 in a shimmery glitter green shell. Should be very nice. Grab one here.
But what about you? Who is shaping your silo? What photos are you deleting? When was the last time you were offline?