ID Musics: Autumnal Melancholy I + II
The 2022 edition of our series placing seasonal affective disorder in the context of deep time
stream Autumnal Melancholy I here, or scroll down for downloads, mixcloud links, and setlists
This year’s Autumnal Melancholy could maybe be better described as Atomic Melancholy. Though to be honest anxiety over the possibility of regional nuclear war actually helped me shake off the “what is the point even” malaise that descends fairly often when it comes time to record this understandably unpopular yet surprisingly long-running and widely-distributed community radio art project informed by spiritual anarchism and apostate Zen.
Specifically, it was a post from a “security consultant”-type of person who I was previously unfamiliar with prior to this low-level viral transmission. In a long thread that begins by suggesting that the vibes during the first week of October 2022 were similar to the vibes during March 2020 except the source of the vibes was not an encroaching global pandemic, but the possibility of a regional nuclear war between Russia and Ukraine. The doom-spiral eventually led to their plan for surviving which was “get together with a few friends, drive somewhere out of the way of fallout paths, and rent a hotel.”
The accompanying map suggests that our best bet as residents of the East Central Indiana Rust Belt is to head to … Cincinnati? There are also high hopes that Oregon’s orbital weather dominator platforms will be functioning properly. As a former resident of Far West Texas, I have some bad news for anyone showing up at one of the region’s half-dozen hotels without a reservation. Heads up that Marfa’s El Cosmico is a bunch of
drafty breezy trailers in a former cow pasture that may flood pretty heavily depending on the freeze/thaw cycle of the ensuing nuclear winter. The security consultant’s practical experience with survival skills are further called into question later in the thread where they suggest that “Digging a fallout shelter is feasible with a day or two of work.”
While I would very much like to live out the rest of my days despite being born into such troubled times, I don’t have much interest in going out of my way to avoid the fallout from a regional nuclear war. If you’ve consumed much post-apocalyptic fiction or contemporary insulin crowdfunding campaigns, you may have noticed that Type-1 diabetics such as myself serve mostly as devices for particularly depressing plotlines. Even the homegrown insulin still that appears briefly in one of The Walking Dead Saviors-era story arcs does not end well. Neither does the security consultant’s timeline, which soon turns to such heartening and insightful polls as “Could you actually pull the trigger of a gun and kill someone? Are you a man / woman?”
All of this very real anxiety – combined with some of those famous Michigan gummy bears – was enough to rouse me from my wallow of self-destructive thinking and initiate the ID Music series where we play the gothic doom metal that’s too melodramatic for our usual broadcasts, and the rotted-out deep forest ambient music that’s too spooky for everyday consumption.
stream Autumnal Melancholy II here, or scroll down for downloads, mixcloud links, and setlists
As regular listeners to our airwaves and readers of our newsletters will know by now, I happily fall back on tried and true language for these broadcasts. The Autumnal Melancholy series once again features “They Are Listening,” a long-time favorite poem from ecologist, essayist, and Zen anarchist Gary Snyder:
As the crickets' soft autumn hum is to us,
so are we to the trees.
As are they to the rocks and the hills.
Snyder talks about the poem in detail in a 2011 interview with Modern American Poetry:
So the poet who disappeared and committed suicide, I mean probably disappeared, Lou Welch, and I were sitting by a campfire one night in summer up in my place in the mountains, back in the early '70s. And taking our time, chatting with each other and not saying much. And then he said to me, "Gary do you think the trees pay any attention to the human beings?" And I said gee, Lou, I'm not sure. What are you driving at? And he said "us human beings we're just passing through." So I took that little thing which I loved and made a little poem of three stages ... of time scale.
The interviewer responds: “we so often think that we are somehow the central story of this world, and maybe we're just a blip.”
This sentiment fits in well with the atomic melancholy I was experiencing, and is also a welcome counterpoint to a lot of the “longtermism” that has been surfacing on my timeline. As with NFTs, the abusive ideology inherent to cop culture, or the best metal of 2021, this idea has been written about extensively and with far more expertise elsewhere, such as in Sigal Samuel’s 6,000 word article on “Effective altruism’s most controversial idea.”
There are good and bad and lots of in-between ways to think about longtermism, as summed up in Samuel's article as “the idea that we should prioritize positively influencing the long-term future of humanity — hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years from now.” [Edit: after doing more reading and listening, it's apparent to me that there are few good things about longtermism, and that it's mostly very very bad.] As with most anything that self-appointed Silicon Valley intellectualsare excited about, it is not always what it seems. When venture capitalists, tech-optimists, libertarians, and their hangers-on start saying confusing things about life extension projects, "better elites," or “immortal societies” it helps to think carefully about who is doing the talking, who's paying them to talk, and how closely do their ideas line up with white supremacist talking points. If you’re more interested in finding ways for wealthy elites to live longer, or colonizing Mars, than in increasing access to insulin or other basic, lifesaving healthcare, we have different priorities. We know how to solve a lot of big problems already, it’s just that the solutions aren’t always profitable.
My discomfort with this ideology is summed up by Douglas Rushkoff in his appearance on the TrueAnon podcast – around the 40m mark – to discuss Survival of The Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires.
“It’s the ends justify the means journey to the thing. How are we gonna get to it. If you’re gonna sacrifice something ‘now’ for it, ‘then,’ chances are you’re doing the wrong thing.” He goes on to echo so many of the Zen aphorisms I’ve cut and pasted into my “meditation quotations” notebook:
“If you’re not doing it in the moment, you’re not doing it.”
Snyder is among the people who contributed to the “deep ecology” thinking that – in some of its forms – serves as a foundation for the cynical, anti-egalitarian iterations of longtermism favored by people like Elon Musk or Peter Thiel. But – like fellow deep ecology poet Wendell Berry – as far as I know he never went fully eco-fascist or slipped in any cryptical references to mystical environmentalist nazis like Julius Evola.
“They Are Listening” is an even simpler counterpoint to this school of thought. What if we aren’t the main characters? What if this isn’t a story, and there are no characters? What if “we” is us, the crickets, the trees, the rocks and the hills, everything?
And what if “now” is neither long nor short, but only “… now …”?
Much too think about, perhaps while we listen together to these first two installments of the 2022 Autumnal Melancholy series. These shows are super fun for many reasons but mostly because I can indulge in some of the more melodramatic goth-tinged metal and ambient that doesn’t always gel with our usual vibe. We went deep into our bootleg archive too, which works surprisingly well with the very quiet and hissy ritualistic backcountry ambient music of Common Eider, King Eider.
blessing up and blessing down,
If you know anyone who might find value or otherwise enjoy some aspect of Void Contemplation Tactics, please pass it along. Thank you for lurking, sharing, subscribing for free, and/or subscribing for money. It means a lot to me!
My reach is limited on social media, which I’m increasingly convinced is a good thing. As Dōgen's teacher told him, “You don't have to collect many people like clouds. Having many fake practitioners is inferior to having a few genuine practitioners. Choose a small number of true persons of the way and become friends with them.” Or as we used to say at Arthur, “smiles and whispers between those who know.”
ID Music 20221007 – Autumnal Melancholy I
North America's Gnarliest Mix for considering seasonal affective disorder in the context of deep time
For the the first installment in the 2022 Autumnal Melancholy series, we'll make our way from Common Eider, King Eider's field recordings of arcane ambient rituals, through crust-sludge medical anthropology, and more Live Cure recordings and into a zone of seasonally-appropriate shoegazey black metal.
Zen anarchist and poet Gary Snyder puts seasonal affective disorder into the context of deep time with his short poem "They Are Listening"
📹 Untitled (Crown Hill Cemetery Canopy) (2016)
🔊 Common Eider, King Eider x My Dying Bride
☸️ Gary Snyder - "They Are Listening"
artist – work
Common Eider, King Eider - AS THE SOIL RISES UP PAST OUR BODIES
Graves at Sea - History of Sickness
The Cure - From The Edge of the Deep Green Sea (Kilburn National Ballroom, London 19920503)
Caïna - Oceans of Time (Hail to Robert Smith)
A Sunny Day in Glasgow - How does somebody say when they like you?
Woods of Desolation - This Autumn Light
Panopticon - The Wind's Farewell
My Dying Bride - The Cry of Mankind
Common Eider, King Eider - Tombs - Earth's Sacred Womb
ID Music 20221014 – Autumnal Melancholy II
North America's Gnarliest Mix of soft autumn humming
Part II of our annual Autumnal Melancholy series takes an unexpected turn into the exquisitely sorrowful zone where hippies, goths, and glam metal sickos overlap. We'll hear Sisters of Mercy from 1985, the demos from a Robert Smith side project inspired by a batch of violence-inducing LSD, arcane polyrhthmic dub techno, and a goth-sludge Tears for Fears cover. I’m particularly delighted to showcase a 1991 live “Estranged” performed 30 miles east from wherever I was celebrating my 16th birthday. Our session begins, and comes to an end, with more backcountry ambient music from Common Eider, King Eider.
As is our Autumnal Melancholy tradition, a slopped not chopped Gary Snyder reads a poem inspired by his friend wondering aloud if trees pay attention to humans.
📹 untitled (slow motion saturated video of a tree I saw walking back from the post office where I mailed more of our Convenience West BBQ bandanas yesterday) (2022) - Cosmic Chambo
🔊 Common Eider, King Eider - Hands of Soot
☸️ Gary Snyder - They Are Listening
artist - work
Common Eider, King Eider – Black Bough
The Sisters of Mercy - Some Kind of Stranger (King George's Hall, Blackburn 19850321)
The Glove - Mouth to Mouth [RS Vocal Demo]
Love and Rockets - If There's a Heaven Above (12" UK Mix)
Tribe of Colin - Paradise Lost
The Cure - A Strange Day (À L'Olympia 19820706)
The World is a Vampire - Mad World
G N' F'N' R - Estranged (Deer Creek Music Center 19910528)
Graves at Sea - Betting on Black
Common Eider, King Eider - Hands of Soot
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At some point soon – now? – these genres will become indistinguishable from each other.
Specifically, the Tech Won’t Save us episodes with Émile Torres, followed by his essay “Against Longtermism” in Aeon.
As Aaron Timms explains at length in The Baffler, “ … there is no absolute moral evil that cannot be playfully reframed on irrelevant grounds as a net historical good. Take, for instance, poverty: what looks to most people like a recipe for social inequality, resentment, division, and violence will be, in your spritely retelling, the most powerful mechanism for income mobility in the history of human civilization. Or consider, say, Pol Pot’s killing fields: bad for the people who got stuck in them, but good for Cambodia’s startup ecosystem? Nazis did bad things to the world in the middle of the twentieth century, but there’s no reason to think they won’t do wonders for agency culture at the Food and Drug Administration in the early 2020s. Your success as a Silicon Valley intellectual will depend on your ability to insert difficult but necessary conversations like these into the public domain. A couple of half-decent ratioed tweets about the beauty of population control or the necessity of transphobia, and you’ll be well on your way to securing your status among the Silicon Valley elite.”
See also literally everything on the Tech Won’t Save Us podcast or start off with their useful reconsideration of Stewart “Whole Earth Catalog” Brand’s legacy.