Tag Archives: Music

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24 HOURS OF OBLIVION XVI

Did y’all forget that this happened last time the boys were on a yacht?

I remember forgetting to write 2005 on my math book in school. Where did the years go?

2043: five great sci-fi novels to make you forget Star Wars.

We can’t forget about the senior pets who need a lifeline more than ever at shelters.

Forget nice dinner reservations, let’s go on an adventure.

Don’t forget that a new year doesn’t guarantee a new you. Growth won’t be any easier this year. We still need grace and grind!

Gen Sharif reportedly said in DC that normalizing relations with India would mean forgetting Kashmir, which he won’t do.

Our polite maknae, not forgetting to bow after the end of the performance.

Data scientists keep forgetting the one rule every researcher should know by heart.

I became middle-class without forgetting that once I’d been poor. Shameful, I know.

Finding oneself nostalgic for Badiou?

It’s like I’m starting YouTube for the first time, OMG so nostalgic and weird.

Elliott Smith Pandora is making me all kinds of nostalgic heading into the New Year.

Pure nostalgic beauty wrapped around the modern power of a high output twin cam 103B engine.

How did nostalgic literature become an agent in American racism?

Why do these snooty, homogeneous, class-obsessed white dudes nostalgic for a dead empire have British accents?

What kind of nostalgic moment is this!

Feeling nostalgic today. Wondering about the “what ifs.”

Does anyone ever listen to music and feel nostalgic? Not because you’ve heard it before, more like your blood remembers?

Been missing that nostalgic feeling that ’90s fashion had? It’s back!

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KICHIJOJI WARSZAWA (DRUM HALF-MEMORIES)

Tear out of school and take the solid orange Chuo line to Kichijōji. Shin, Emi, Chris, Shungo, Andrew, Brett, they nickname you “New Kid” and say you look like the bassist from Green Day. Skate down to the studio, just a few minutes from the station exit. Before heading up to hang out and take a turn behind the kit for 20 minutes, stop by a record store to browse the newest Fat Wreck Chords and Caustic Resin CDs in between Japanese grindcore 7”s. Was this the record store called Warszawa? Or was Warszawa in Shimokitazawa? Wherever it was, of one thing your memory is sure: you all pronounce the name “Wor-ti-zow-wa.” Then on to the teenage pop-punk jam with Dan and Adam moshing in the corner. The studio practice rooms all have huge racked drums with tons of cymbals and toms, you are just learning to play and don’t even know how to keep the kick in time. When you tell Shungo maybe you’ll just not use the kick at all, he says calmly, “you should try to learn, cause it’d sound better.” Amps crunch and squeal, covers of Propagandhi, NOFX, and Lagwagon for a couple hours. The drumming continues round your head well after you sit down to a quick pork tonkatsu and then go skating in Shinjuku.

One recording of recent drums + resonators + delay = extension of drum memory to recent Ohio past.

One drum rack constructed out of snippets from recording above + random MIDI pattern generator = memory of learning to play the basic teenage punk beat.

One additional drum kit + random MIDI pattern generator = half-memories of all those years learning to play drums.

Another additional drum kit + random MIDI pattern generator + resonator = half-memories of Tokyo.

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IN THE SWAMPS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER

West down the Lincoln Highway, then hit 71 South: no Ohio State football home game this weekend, so a smooth ride and quick. Haven’t taken this route since 2002: when Bean’s grandfather landed his single-engine prop in Wooster to pick him up and took you, Marco, and Mark Outlaw along to fly slow and steady down to Columbus. After some doughnuts and coffee, Bean drove you all back in his 1986 Dodge station-wagon with wood paneling and an America sticker on the back window.

From Wooster to Columbus is a straight route of memory: back and forth to see shows at the Legion of Doom and the Fire Escape (Hot Water Music, Golden, Inept, Mid Carson July); to open up for Puritan and some other band (was it Franklin, out of Philly?) at the Legion when you and J were in Rockefeller; to practice with the Anchor Baby and go record shopping at Used Kids; to watch everything at More than Music Fest (Charles Bronson, Four Hundred Years, the Locust); to visit Damien, Jimmy, and Jerome. A route best soundtracked by Modest Mouse: “Ohio” going south, “Dramamine” coming back north.

This time it’s the Startup podcast for most of the way down: then a quick nap underneath a few pages of Unamerica. Welcome to Delaware – but Ohio, Ohio. Park in the driveway till J pulls in with suit and briefcase: load the gear in and set up, Fritz barking and a good presence. Jam a few riffs for 20 minutes to gauge the levels and the neighborhood shake: good, good, but you shouldn’t start before 10 AM Saturday.

Take off for a “Macedonian Burger,” onion rings, and a Hoppin’ Frog at Son of Thurman: after a Trappistes Rochefort right next door. Catching up: Poland, Ohio, Kraków, North Canton, Barbertucky, Akron rowdiness, jobs, the crew. Back to J’s to watch the Cavs beat the Celtics: 122-121.

Next morning coffee, eggs, bacon, jalapeno cream cheese on a bagel: adjust the drum levels, plug everything in. A quick convo after a set of guesses: set the mics up and hope for the best. Put on your Zildjian drumming gloves: first time to feel that need, but your hands are uncalloused after a year of virtual no-playing, the blisters imminent. Start jamming the riffs, adjust your parts and fills, keep it big: your cymbals up high, visions of Mario Rubalcaba playing in Earthless. Plenty of back and forth on song structure, take down the notes: let’s switch part C with A, and B should go for eight not just four, and what about doing the “Fugazi part” again at the end? You think about starting the song with some noise/free-jazz drumming at the beginning, as you had in a never-recorded Hobo Codes song (“Guns and Caviar”): then launching into the heavy. Cast that idea aside to pare the drumming down and get it done: written and recorded in about three hours.

Break for a snack: dates and water, cheese and crackers. You rest in that non-verbal mode that comes on like a bright cloud after drumming: exhausted and full of adrenaline. All will, commentary, theorizing: subsumed to the percussive. All discursive potential: drowned by focus behind the kit. Palms already getting torn up, blisters on the rise: gloves getting shredded. So you keep washing your hands with the pumpkin spice soap J’s wife has in the downstairs bathroom: smells like America, like Ohio, a sweet rural peace. You will go for two more in the remaining hours: a cover of Sebadoh and a Midwestern-gothic slow one. It’s Saturday afternoon by now and the suburbs of Delaware are full of sun: you and your friend of twenty years are bashing out the doom jams in his basement.

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LETHATECHNE, OR, FORGET THE ROCK & ROLL

For a few months forget the writing: pause from the aims of oblivion and the couched recollections. Let the suspect devices interpolate the mnemonic devices and do each other in: a forgottenness worth your salt will surround you. Different zones of recall then sought, work dedicated solely to music: that form of non-committal joy enraptured of both memory and forgetting, and able to turn against either on a dime.

Motivation to work on writing and on music, alternating day in day out: forgotten. As a result, and a desired one, at that, few moments from August and September are remembered: her surgery and the lead-up to it, the clean cavernous hallways and sanatorium staircases of the Szpital Uniwersytecki, the marks of a year-long absence from your family’s land. Forget the muzzled dogs and busted fingers: leave the trappings of summer behind.

Writing itself becomes recollection, no longer act: not “remember to write” but “remember writing?” Music pulling down text to a dusty corner, burying it underneath clap decay, grain spray, resonators: encouraging it to be recalled and no more than that. This is a lethatechnique in action: outlined as potential in text, then turned on text itself. A need to narrate, to set yourself against certain worlds and slide off their reflections: forgotten. The externalization of memory as text and the pursuit of some bastardized written legacy: forgotten.

Confrontations defused, representations unactualized, provocations skirted around: a certain emptiness attained, a viable forgetting through musical work? What other practices empty you so: which are the most valuable forms to dial in on, to envelop and become enveloped in? The work of writing versus that of music: the more ineffable, the less substantive? Do texts only allude to the abyss: which music makes moves to fill?

As you forget the writing: recall the unscripted daily modes. What it is like to just read and not (at least attempt to) write: more relaxation, or more fright? That certain emptiness makes itself felt if not seen, seen if (surely) not heard: a lack of will to search for hidden meanings, make connections, narrate the everyday, or find better ways of describing such pursuits. The work of the ears provides a daily dose of forgetting: a different view on positivity and dread, a subtle grey pulse dividing time devoted to music and all other time. Such severance is more diffused with writing: shaded as it is over note-taking, memory markings, reading infusions, daydream contributions, hypnagogic images stored, and the actual business of sitting down to whatever work. With music there is a consistent spectrum, jumping here and there: 0-40 HZ a range of unheard fear, 200-500 HZ a vicious play of competing frequencies, and 900-1800 HZ a wealth of intolerable effort.

When there is no written production, no decentering of the bile around which you orbit: filter anxiety unspoken through choices of tone and decay. Wherefore despair as more than buzzword and empty talisman: evaporated, dismantled, sublimated? What matter, on come the headphones: adjust the feedback on that delay, EQ that synth better. And if you gave up writing altogether and worked only on music: why not make the forgetting complete?

The more forgetting afforded in the music then and there: the less here and now in the everyday. Attention to the mundane heightened through narration, (un)necessary fictions, and the registering of intrigue for future use: weakened, dissolved. Little overcomes your preoccupation: the inadvertent recall of the sonic tasks at hand. You are not manifested in language: you are awash in sounds to be processed and distorted.

The writing can be done anywhere and can record any one thing: but the musical work is spatially reined in and far less explicitly accommodating. Each sound is to be pored over: far more repeatedly than the focus spent on language somehow deemed texturally comparable. The more concentration the music requires, the more fortuitous the forgetting it engenders: music advances the ars oblivionis.

So you come back daily to the instrument, tools, and software: you sit at the drums, then you sit at the computer. The portability of your kit exists not yet as need or desire: this is a stationary, solitary, nicely lit turn to copper alloy and wood, headphone and screen. Noise and silence reveal themselves as flashes of intrigue: they are then concealed beneath your aural fatigue once more.

The days are monitored not for time to revise a tiring lexicon after your workaday technical doldrums or during your weekend aging fizzle: but for how quickly you can settle into manipulating sound. The music is never as portable as the daily demands of text: the days are thus accounted by an aural localization. Once there, can you squeeze in 20 minutes to work out those dotted quarter-note delay parameters before cooking dinner: what about 10 minutes for messing with the hats?

Time measured in music and not in text: a new assessment of technê. Let the synth drone: read this passage from Krasznahorkai’s “The Acropolis in Sunglasses” again:

One can only arrive at the experience of the transcendental – if it is reached at all – when one is oneself in a position of un-knowing, that is, of humility; namely, while remaining in the world of technê he or she begins to venerate a certain kind of experience, acquires it, makes it one’s own, realize it, sustains it, repeats it – without burdening its sense, its essence with its own great questions.

When the written word becomes a mnemonic curse: can music as technê deliver the forgottenness you crave? Can you forget the time outside the signature and loop: as the drum pushes beyond heartbeat, piano vamps toward infinite dexterity, and the low-end throttles your ears to sleep? The interminable mutation of peace through language: pushed to the side of your floor-tom and gigantic ride cymbal angled just right. The puzzling need to read and write only fiction: drowned in a battery of 909 rim shots. The farce of self-narration: brought up mindfully on yet another screen. But this interface promises a musical versatility you had never before fully comprehended: sounds pushed towards love and death.

The musical work satiates: though there are certain elements, non-verbalized and non-textualized, that it can neither illuminate nor touch. Itches that cannot be sonically scratched: does writing leave you less joyous or able to identify an endpoint, though more capable of appreciating a long-term vision? Is writing not still the continual project, the real work that brings you closer to a goal, even if that goal has not yet been identified: but does your writing towards that goal not eventually write you away from it?

Work upon the music could be considered a dalliance: a diversion from that ongoing project of written instability. The finite details of songs are recognizable: and you have always been grateful to partake. You have sensed the futurism: and you look to squash the nostalgic play of signs under a bed of noise. But the musical goals may have felt too short-term: mile-markers in the longer journey dictated by the writing.

Until now: when you can finally work on music by yourself, dependent upon no one. Being behind the drums necessitated almost always collaboration up front: guitarists, singers, those imperative to the frameworks of collective memory which a drum kit anchors. Now you can accelerate beyond such dependencies: and forget the rock & roll.

Forget the margins of your past in music: self-taught on the drums, early bashing on pillows to learn, a teenage search for a used kit in the newspaper classifieds. The Tama Royalstar kit bought for you by your father from a middle-aged rocker with a mullet: the drums you still have. All the punk, hardcore, noise, various strains of rock sweated out in numerous bands: the music that shaped your approach to the instrument, and more than that, some kind of ethos of energy. Thus you maintained a negative stance towards electronic/dance/machine music from the get-go: memories targeting such genres enforced by conformism, a conceptual closing off, a lack of comprehension…the old deliberations of a young rockist. Someone tells you 15 years ago you would be regularly listening to tech-house and experimenting with making it: you would have never stopped laughing (and/or throwing up).

The physical memory of playing drums extends deep: you can read these recollections as totalities of chops, energy, collaboration, process. But the apparent totals were only fractions: you know of the dancing, common BPM ranges, vintage synth fetishes, and knob-twiddling as much as you know of jumping into your drum kit, standing with arms folded in the back, putting dents in your snare head, and playing with a nicked knuckle bleeding all over your hi-hats. The physical memory is shaky, and closer to forgetting than any solid mnemonic substance you can put your hands on: so ingrained in your visceral attack on the kit, so imperative to your musical approach overall, it can barely be identified. But you have not played drums in a working band for close to a year now: you do not foresee a new collaborative formation starting anytime soon.

And now, a Tony Conrad drone on repeat sounds more appealing than listening to the Arcade Fire’s new album: such earnestness, so much demand still for guitars and vocals in music, such exhaustion. You have listened to enough of those songs, been in enough of those bands, been to enough of those shows: how many times did you see Thoughts of Ionesco, Braid, and Hot Water Music back in the day, at least 10 times each? This is no “rock is dead” angle: it is just time for you to forget it for a while.

Becoming a drummer who forgets: what you can and cannot play, your lack of training then and now (insert drummer joke here). Forget the genre delineations, but do not forgo remembering your bands: The Anchor Baby, Last Chance for a Slow Dance, Missing Dog Head, Rockefeller, Jaunx Remover, Motel Blonde, Shuffle Drive, The Aborted, Martin/Luther, Tushie Studies, Bumpy Knuckas, Sharks & Scissors, Hobo Codes, Laughter/Forgetting, all the other constructions never named. Especially that band in Pittsburgh whose name has long escaped you, practicing with them 3.5 times to open up for Mike Watt at some burly bar in Morgantown, West Virginia: driving down in your station wagon with B and the Squirrel Hill Café waitress you had nicknamed Hot Cup of Soup, B loaded on Colt 45 picking a fight with some hessian over his girlfriend’s horrible art on the wall, getting kicked out of the bar after playing without even getting gas money.

Substantial recollection now housed in cassette tapes: your Zaraz Zaraz dictaphone project. Field recordings begun in Dębica: old men crushing beer cans on ul. Targowa, pedestrian traffic in Sędziszów Małopolski, Pavement playing in the background as you run through some journal notes, accordion at Dózsa György út. Source material, new mnemonic metals to be manipulated: the tapes date from 2005 but they remain new, unprecedented in your experience, still becoming.

Lethatechne: the start of this new practice of forgetting. The work on the music is a lethatechnique in and of itself: a purging of personal history, and an entrance to new zones of recollection.

While developing this lethatechnique through music, you have been considering one question these past few months (while forgetting to address several others): is music the higher form, the highest, in fact? The mystery of its production and reception: is this truly a realm beyond language that can only be touched upon clumsily? But this theme of ineffability has been addressed ad nauseum: so why spend time trying to describe music if you can just play it? It does seem that you should still read Doctor Faustus: not to mention The Rest Is Noise, Everybody Loves Our Town (An Oral History of Grunge), Jean-Luc Nancy’s Listening, Sonic Warfare (Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear), more John Cage, Noise Music. Why none of these yet: and what else must you read on listening?

“Without music, life would be a mistake,” yes: and you think of your friend J who recently declared he had basically stopped listening to music altogether. And then you come across this passage by Walter Pater:

All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music. For while in all other kinds of art it is possible to distinguish the matter from the form, and the understanding can always make this distinction, yet it is the constant effort of art to obliterate it. That the mere matter of a poem, for instance, its subject, namely, its given incidents or situation — that the mere matter of a picture, the actual circumstances of an event, the actual topography of a landscape — should be nothing without the form, the spirit, of the handling, that this form, this mode of handling, should become an end in itself, should penetrate every part of the matter: this is what all art constantly strives after, and achieves in different degrees.

Is this true: or are you forced to recall too much to even begin to answer? Addressing representation and abstraction, form and content, illusion and truth: the curse begins again its lexical loop. Why remember, when you can just turn back to the music itself, the technê, your Lethatechne: the sense and essence of which does not beg to be burdened with its own great questions?

Forget it: back to the kit.

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ON THE DISINTEGRATION LOOPS, REAL REPEATERS, AND PLAYING DRUMS

William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops contains the most striking intersections of memory and forgetting that I have ever come across in music. The story of this collection is well-known by now, and begins with Basinski making these loops in the early 1980s from snippets of classical and easy-listening. In 2001, while he was transferring the loops to a digital format, the magnetized metal was eaten up from the tape as it passed through the reader head. Basinski let the tapes run to record this tension between preservation and destruction, resulting in engrossing music born of a process of inadvertent subtraction and the devouring of mnestic traces.

The context of this process was 9/11, and stills from the video that Basinski made from his rooftop that day comprise the covers of the records. The skies went dark, the day ended, but the music remained with the ruins and trauma.

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I heard the first two loops (there are nine in total) for the first time in the spring of 2004, after purchasing the cd at the Bent Crayon in Cleveland, Ohio during a visit there with my friend “Medina” Jim, who also bought the record. This immediate sharing with a friend was beneficial, as it took me awhile to come to grips with all that was entailed in the backstory, process, context, and imagery. Making it through the first loop, “d|p 1.1,” which is a little over an hour long, took a few attempts, unused as I was to listening to gauzy drone and long-form experimental music. But that first full listen was a powerful experience which clued me into the enterprise of deep listening, and discussions with Jim helped to flesh out what we had both found in the music.

This was around the time, too, that I started to become interested in memory and to see opportunities of discussing art from that angle. In addition to getting into Basinski’s music, seeing Chris Marker’s film Sans Soleil and Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour for the first time played a major role in the development of this interest, all of which helped me to make a little sense of the few years after 9/11. But I still cannot listen to “d|p 1.1” that often. Simply put it is just too heavy, and in an hour-straight sitting the horn sounds move far, far beyond melancholy.

Recent mornings spent with the 40-minute “d|p 6,” however, have reignited my interest in The Disintegration Loops, particularly how the listening experience utilizes an active forgetting. I have found this particular loop endlessly repeatable.

What are the mechanisms of forgetting at work here? There is a mechanically-forced oblitus in the degradation of the tape, first of all. This destructive element is an expansion of absence through subtraction from the loop rather than addition (an alternative recording could be imagined based around, for instance, an amplification of the scraping of the metal from the tape, which would lend itself to a more noise-oriented result). If the loop can be considered a mnestic trace to be repeated endlessly, with a requisite balance of integrity and minor variation, then what we are left with is the sound of a progressive forgetting of that trace as the loop subtracts from and degrades itself.

It is no stretch to say that this sonic experience of forgetting operates beyond a concentrated, metaphorical parallel to mortality. Because the destruction focuses your attention on an instant by instant basis, deep listening encourages you to try and remember what has fallen away, notice the subtle changes, and monitor the absence. This data – lost and retrieved and lost and retrieved again, both instant by mnemonic instant and long after the piece has finished – has no place to go, hanging as it is from a loop that is skeletal and spectral from the beginning.

The flipside of this mechanical process is the forgetting of the human touch in the actual composition. Basinski did not play this music; he recorded, sliced, and manipulated it to create the loops, and the source music and original musicians have long been forgotten. This is one step removed from a traditionally “authentic” musical creation (an issue comprising a different discussion).  Additionally, what matters are not the original loops, made by Basinski with a different intention (whatever that was). What matters now is how the loops were once again given over to a machine, which led to the devouring process, and thus the forgetting of the human touch is doubled. But at the end of each loop, should we assume that the tape completely ate itself up, resulting in a silence that would semi-neatly mark an endpoint, or should we assume instead that this was Basinski’s choice, to finish at 52:21 or 20:07, to cut the loops that could go on for longer? We forget these questions of the process – in part as a result of the hypnotic effects of listening to such music – and thus the forgetting of the human touch is tripled. So while memory resides in the narrative and the historical context of the music, forgetting dominated the process and the end result, and forgetting continues to dominate the listener’s response.

The loop form itself is an ouroboros of memory and forgetting. The loop remembers and/or forgets only itself, and it can add to and/or subtract from only itself. It is self-sufficient and fully integrated, and it maintains its integrity despite external manipulation. Furthermore, the loop induces the listener to forget – a structured song seems passé except as a brief respite from the power of the loop; other loops are unnecessary (at least for today); and why remember what is outside the window, which has already been folded into the loop anyway?

Have you ever repeated a song for hours, do you have what I would call real repeaters? Such songs function similarly to loops but operate on a more limited scale. Their extension is not necessarily infinite, closely measured as it is via the repeat button or the repeated pressing of the “previous” button on a device (the difference of these gestures, of course, marks the desire for repetition – there is planned repetition and there is more spontaneous repetition, respectively). Such repetitive engagement may cause you to forget where you are, untethering you from any one place in favor of an internal navigation, or it may fully root you in place, especially if the song’s repetition is guiding recollection and nostalgic reverie.

But as responses to “traditional” songs, these acts of repetition are all on the listener-end. The loop, on the other hand, is composed on the creator-end to submit the listener to repetition without question. The loop becomes the location of the listening experience, and that’s why music such as The Disintegration Loops can apply as well to images of space (with a kosmische approach), cities (with cycles of frenetic social energy), and nature (with a slower sense of wonder that the music attempts to “culturize”). Loops can put you to sleep (i.e., invite you to drink from the river Lethe), or keep you going for hours in a trance state with their utilization of longer finite measures as impetuses to forget everything else. For example, “d|p 6” has a length of 40:37, which for the melodiousness and length of its base loop seems even too short. This in turn qualifies it as a real repeater and encourages the foresight of planned repetition, i.e., the pressing of the repeat button on my player, which loops the loop infinitely.

I have read about live performances of The Disintegration Loops here, which sound captivating and bring up a different set of mnemonic issues. In “d|p 6” there is a definite rhythm at work with the percussive echoes, which makes it all the more intriguing, and as a drummer, I can picture playing a pattern that would work sufficiently. Subtraction from such a rhythm that was never fully there in the first place, diffusing the pattern gradually throughout 40 or so minutes, this would help to signify the role of forgetting in the live setting. Keeping time while inserting longer rests and more silence as well as decreasing volume and minimizing form would surely be an exciting challenge. A mechanical stiffness would be needed, too, paralleling the mnemonic interplay of machine and human that is at the heart of the piece, and further reflecting the emulation of the metronome that a drummer interminably struggles for and against with degrees of musicality, sweat, and imperfection.

There is no better example in music I know of interactions between memory and forgetting than in The Disintegration Loops. Perhaps extended free-jazz or noise jams would offer other possibilities, but those types of music operate with a different set of dynamics revolving more around improvisation, addition, stamina, and collaboration. While playing drums and utilizing such dynamics, memory functions as technicality (i.e., “chops”) and as the driver of both improvisation and collaboration, while forgetting works towards the potential of playing in a kind of trance state, wherein conscious and formal effort is subtracted (or at least replaced by physical/muscle memory). Basinski’s loops operate on another level entirely, and you do not need the backstory, the historical context, or any of the underpinning ideas to be moved by these pieces and to observe how your forgetting may operate in response to them.

I have only thoroughly listened to “d|p 1.1,” “d|p 1.2,” and “d|p 6” – I forget that there are six other loops to investigate. I do not feel the need for additional stimuli while listening to this music, nor do I feel that greed for immediate accumulation that is part and parcel of our cultural consumption nowadays. “d|p 6” is especially calming and giving, and in the end I like the idea of only investigating another piece every few years. It is as if I do not want to forget the forgetting involved in each loop, which is just another way of saying I would like them to fully occupy my memory.

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