Burnt out, still glowing

After my India trip I had the idea that what the world needs is more quiet places, like Ramanasramam, and that I could turn the farm into a big contemplative garden. I had a fanciful idea of some kind of meditation or temple complex at the heart of it, which could also be at the centre of my ideas about .. and then I sort of trail off because I don’t really have any coherent ideas about anything these days.  I would want the temple to be an acid bath for ideas, where ideas went to be dissolved or dismembered.  I used to think that if I ever built temples to things they would be values rather than gods, because it seems harder to dismember values. But now I sit and light candles at a local Buddha every Friday, and I am thinking of making a Durga shrine just for fun (she is one of the Shakti goddesses) and making sacrifices to her.

But ultimately my mind seems to resist being rooted down to a single spot, even my favourite places in the world, and I want to lose myself in travel again. Today I’m thinking of boats – this interest seems to have been sparked by the adventures of CC O’Hanlon who has recently been tooting about his new life aboard a neat Rival 32 sailboat where he lives with his wife. And also discovering Nick Skeates, courtesy this fab little film by Bryony Stokes:

Isn’t it beautiful? My mind has been captured by the whole aesthetic of sailing around like a gypsy and reusing materials. One other story that captured my mind for a few days, a sadder one, is that of Thor Tangveld who followed this aesthetic but dissappeared at sea while sailing alone in a Puerto Rican sailboat leaving behind his wife and small children. I hope they are ok.

I don’t live near the sea or know anything about sailing and the last time I went on any kind of small boat I started feeling quite seasick so this is all just a wild fantasy to me. Although maybe I could try to sail on a lake nearby if I can do it without getting wet.

So back to the idea of staying still in the centre of things, a kind of object of stability for my family and the world to revolve around.

Finished my degree last year, the final project was using the ANU’s SHRIMP and laser ablation to analyse a sample (see this post’s feature image) from the gold deposits of the Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa, trying to figure out something about their mode of deposit. I wasn’t able to find out anything new in fact it just seemed to open up a whole lot of new questions about how those funny pyrite grains got to be where they are.  Now I’m thinking of postgrad work and Sanskrit poetry from medieval India.  That time around 800 CE when India was still I think mostly Buddhist but it was ending and there was a transfer of ideas into and out of Shaktism and Shaivism and other traditions, and the Cholas were in power in the south.. I’m interested in all this so I will dig into the Menzies library collection and see what I can find.

Trying to draw all these threads together is impossible.. i mean there is a coherency there it’s just hard for the human mind to grasp at it.. maybe an ai brain could do it. We are lighting fire to things as it’s that time of year now at Burra. That’s what we have to do with our thoughts sometimes when we can’t make sense of them.. “we rake them all into piles and then we burn them.. we burn to forget..” that’s a line from my song “This is what we chose”. I’m trying to get a good recording done of it then i’ll put it out onto spotify or wherever. Here’s a recent demo:

I like the guitar sound i got on this.. it’s an old Yamaha guitar like Elliott Smith used to play. Getting all my songs recorded nicely is my goal when I manage to make enough time.. when work demands peel away.. I also have a new (old) Korg Phoenix synthesiser which has these amazing wind instrument sounds in it. I think I can use it to fill in some gaps between the guitar in my songs. Nothing recorded properly yet though. I’m still learning how to record.. i try to get a nice warm acoustic sound like Rob Schnapf managed to do for Either/Or and more recently for Kurt Vile’s albums. I have a BeesNeez microphone with a tube in it, that and a UA 610 preamp and I feel like I’m finally in the ballpark of that golden tube sound.

I like tubes. I was going to write a whole blog about how much I like tubes, especially obscure tubes like the 6AQ5 that’s in the 610. The whole idea of electrons floating over a warm vacuum in a glowing bit of glass and that becoming part of the sound, it’s so visceral. I like old tungsten lightbulbs too, I bought stacks before they stopped being sold here just so i can keep using them. They don’t last very long though. Maybe that’s another part of the appeal and the aesthetic, the way they are constructed to such precision but then they burn out and that’s the end. They become a useless bit of junk. Reminds me of that Elliott Smith song ‘Burnt out still glowing‘.. maybe we are all like little valves, amplifying our mind for a while while we are warm, trying to amplify ourselves into a bit of immortality.. but failing eventually.

Elliott Elliott.. playing lots of his songs on guitar right now.. No Confidence Man, Son of Sam, Stickman. I feel like a lot of things are burning out right now, in me, in the world, but that might be just the feeling of the winter solstice approaching. The burn off and then the cold and the inevitable retrieval of what can be reused, reborn warm in some other place and time.

Update: the recording is coming along well .. here is a secret link to my EP demos (good for Aug 2023)


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