#025: icons with words • disaster relief • Alvin Lucier

Welcome to the twenty-fifth ceremony of Ephemerata: reflections, observations, and life at the edge.


I’m doing this to stimulate discussion around what I find interesting, and also to share things before they disappear into the void of my journal.


  1. Icons with words
  2. Capoeira
  3. Asides
  4. Music


Adding visible text to https://rosano.ca after years of being purely iconic and visually wordless was kind of dramatic for me, but I’m happy with the result and think it will be more helpful for other people. Felt like a significant enough change that I (of course) wrote about it:

Imagining what it’s like for someone arriving there, I feel it would be overwhelming to click on anything: a giant list of icons, each one descending into a rabbit hole of who knows what, not one seeming to offer a sense of the landscape or horizon—how does one decide where to start?


I started taking capoeira classes this week. My body is aching from never having moved so much in my life, but the movements feel great and make the apparatus of this meat more visible. I’ve enjoyed the music for a while now so I’m looking forward to seeing what sounds I discover from going deeper into this practice (stay tuned for some relevant albums). If any of you have had experience with it, I’d love to hear about it.


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Let’s talk about disaster relief being transformative…. Beau of The Fifth Column unpacks a peculiar sentiment of ‘hoping that a hurricane happens while friends are visiting him in Florida’ so that they’d have the opportunity to do disaster relief. This transformative experience exposes you to foes who normally don’t work together but set aside differences to achieve a common mission; ceaseless moving from one thing to another for days on end; an environment without most of what we take for granted (like internet, electricity, fuel, water, etc…) despite being in the ‘developed world’; learning to become more resourceful or see (notice) what’s around you. I never thought I’d be curious to try this some day, but it does seem highly formative. The more open we are, the more we can learn from anyone (even people we don’t like). We could all benefit from being more prepared to help one another and resourceful in times of scarcity.

[Nothing phases you after doing disaster relief because you helped others and made the world better under the worst possible conditions.]

Overheard at a gathering of travelling people:

God drugs those who drug themselves.

Noguchi filing system. Frequently used documents automatically end up together so that one can safely archive what hasn’t come up after a long period, similar to that ‘touching moves it to the top of the list’ paradigm common in messaging and note-taking apps. I love learning about simple systems that are built with the right incentives to encourage what’s natural, without impeding flow. Organization can bring peace of mind and increase cognitive bandwidth, so it’s powerful to achieve this automatically. (via Gordon Brander)


All the following items can be accessed as a one-click playlist via Joybox without accounts or sign up—just open and play.


Alvin Lucier

Grateful to have heard some work from this modern experimental music composer who passed away in 2021.

Alvin Lucier: The Duke of York from Bird and Person Dyning (1972–1973). I skipped the Latin recitation in the beginning, but feel free to hear from the start—either way, try to stick with it for the whole experience. Simple processes and simple inputs over time transform your perception; instead of proposing ‘what’ to listen, the composer guides us ‘how’ to listen. The use of stereo is for guiding your attention (if you allow it). As it develops, it feels like being inside of someone else’s trip: notice how provocations create a chain of effects in sound, how it still feels ‘organic’ despite being heavily electronic; observe the unfolding of a process, someone playing with their own perception and yours, often leading to surprise without shock. (via Meara O’Reilly)

Alvin Lucier: I Am Sitting In A Room (1981). Speaking seamlessly morphs into ‘room’, sounding ethereal like a vortex has opened, alive and shimmering. Simple production technique on a simple text to create something profound. It takes a magician to create something out of nothing, or maybe just perception… We can always listen more.

I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice, and I am going to play it back into the room again and again, until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves, so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room, articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.


Asmaa Hamzaoui, Bnat Timbouktou: Oulad Lghaba (2019). I love Gnawa music. Powerful sound from this all female group (the backup singers translate to “Timbuktu girls”). A smattering of polyrhythms everywhere makes it feel like there are usually multiple meters happening simultaneously. Listen to the intricate yet free-flowing ornamentation in the lead singer’s voice and to the bluesy notes of the guembri (like a bass). Hope I will have the privilege to hear them live some day; if you want to get some idea for how the music is performed, see this live concert from Poland.


Ondatrópica: 3 Reyes de la Terapia from Ondatrópica (2012). Intense combination of beatboxing and breathing (or perhaps hyperventilating) with a repetitive pattern that seems like it’s performed live and not a copy/paste of the same audio. This backdrop makes a strange fusion with the Cumbia-style improvising accordion. Dark and interesting like chocolate 80% noir. (via Laura Sinisterra)


Check out Fleeting Arrivals for more music.

(I heart music)

I always love receiving music. Send me recommendations anytime, anywhere!

That’s all folks!

Feel free to reply and share any reflections you might have, or just say hello. Have a great week 🙂.

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