Either in the latter part of 1994 or early in 1995, while listening to a collection of audio tracks that I’d recently made, I heard a voice in my head that told me, authoritatively, “These are solid objects.” I remember I was living in a studio apartment on the bank of Seattle’s ship canal, almost directly beneath the I-5 freeway bridge at the time. The bridge made a steady, if variable, resonant hum with the passing of each vehicle over its surface (once I even saw a shower of sparks erupt mysteriously from its lower deck) and the traffic, day or night, was constant. It might be heavy, it might be lighter, but it was never entirely not there. That is almost beside the point. What the voice in my head was referring to was the music I’d been making – if it could be called that – using the, to me, new digital technology at hand: a MacIntosh computer and some primitive sound editing software. It was far from a world-class setup, but it was a revelation to me, and by re-recording old tapes of earlier music and other samples I’d since found, or made, and cutting these samples into fragments, I’d found an entirely different approach to making “music” that was less about the manual manipulation of instrumentation and more about the abstraction of conceptual arrangements. This is hardly an original story. I am far from an original – or even a “real” – musician. It feels hubristic to the point of fraud almost to use that word in my connection. Music is something I know almost nothing about and I DO NOT KNOW WHAT MUSIC IS. I should probably repeat that, lest by some change the point I’m making is misunderstood: I DO NOT KNOW WHAT MUSIC IS. Yet since that time, in fact since long before that time, I’ve dabbled as a dilettante – that is, I’ve entirely lost myself – in the making of auditory narratives, for the sheer pleasure of it, because doing so is really exciting to me. What happened in that process of 1994/95 was that, by gaining access to the medium of the recording technology itself and burrowing, however innocently, however ignorantly, into its waveform substrata, a division took place inside of me, something of a Cartesian split between my head and my body, between my head and the ghost inside my head, and the reach of “music” became altogether a new and different thing. Or not really: I’d heard lots of stuff at least a little bit like this before. I’d spent years kneeling in front of a broken synthesizer, making tapes, and dabbled, while at university, in a modern (for 1989) electronic music studio, arranging waveforms. But for me, suddenly, the process took off; it took flight; it changed into a bird. The voice, though it spoke with such authority, like a Voice of God or some schizoid skull-command voice (“Hold the gun to that cashier’s head and tell him to give you all the money in the drawer…”), was making a joke. It was a joke, but it was not a funny joke. These things were anything but solid. What I’d been producing were ghost objects – I knew that much – abstractions of sounds, disruptions of sounds even, far more than any sounds themselves – an idea of sound, as if from some Platonic realm of ideals – and very far from a solid object at all.
They were not very good. Well, I don’t know, but I don’t think they were much good.
If people heard them, it made them nervous. Or sick. Mostly, nobody heard them.
But the name solid objects stuck, and it seems relevant to this day. Because one thing I’ve learned is an unfunny joke can accumulate a greater relevance, with time.
The skull-voice has been mostly silent ever since, and offered no further advice on the subject. But I still record with the name solid objects because, though so much has changed in my approach to making sound objects since then, and I am hopefully rather more sophisticated in how I do it, and maybe better at it now, and even find joy in the idea of making music that other people might like, there is still this core of obduracy, working from an idealized, chilly state of spiritual remove – these solid objects music objects, and their artifacts and strange manners, and their alien, icy remoteness, and their unlikeable ways, they hover in etheric states, still so naive, in a certain way, and so primitive – because doing so feeds a need for certain depth, and this is a very personal thing. There is a daimon in me, in this work, and in music in general, as such, and I can let the daimon out, let it play, and there is no need for it to play nice, for it is playing by itself in the furthest, coldest Arctic North.