Flash Syntax

Flash Syntax

Just past midnight, it started to rain. In my living room/office I have two large windows with a second floor vantage. The rain seems to blow straight against the windows, and I’m wondering what winter will be like. For now, I think the view is amazing. Right after I first arrived here, I watched the moon rise in one corner of these windows and pass its arc to the second, just before dawn.

One of the primary adjustments I need to make up here is that not everyone transacts business during the hours after midnight. I try to convince myself to go to bed earlier, but the night has always been so inspiring to me. That’s why I ended up being a photographer that worked primarily with flash lighting. During the day, it’s always hard for me to think.

During the day, everything always seems so fragmented and broken into small chunks. It’s hard to discern any syntax. Under the cover of darkness, things coalesce in more striking ways; you just see the part that interests you without getting lost in the endless procession of things begging to be attended to in the light of day. I think it is the blinding flashes of information arriving in small pieces, the staccato barrage, that makes it hard to create any meaningful syntax.

Thinking about all the old LPs I’ve been transferring, it seems that it is difficult to construct meaningful “units” to talk about these days. In the LP days, it was simpler—twenty minutes, and then you had to get up and turn it over. CDs tripled the duration, but the majority of musicians really didn’t do much with the chance at even longer listener attention. I get sick of re-releases padded with “bonus tracks” that usually just disrupt the elegant short stories that LPs used to create. In music, and in most things, syntax is the most difficult thing. It seems retrograde to revert to the same sort of “singles culture” which existed in the 50s and 60s, but that is precisely what is happening. Just buy the songs you like, and forget about any sort of larger message that a well connected cycle of songs can provide.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but for the most part digital music culture seems to go to two extremes—either they want to sell the single, or a multi-disc opus that wanders and falls apart because there just isn’t enough time to take it in at one setting. Retrospective releases fall prey to this. Just what is a meaningful unit these days? Single songs or the entire catalogue of an artist crammed on one disk of mp3s?

I don’t know. But it seems to me that the LP was an interesting middle ground, where you could spend twenty to forty minutes thinking about one thing. It’s hard to think about it too much right now, because the horizon keeps lighting up with brief flashes of lightning.

1 thought on “Flash Syntax”

  1. I love the idea of discerning a syntax…true for all forms of art, from painting to photography to film, but also true of poetry/literature in general (you can’t capture ALL life as it is, too distracting, too much, just the underlying syntax that spells out a coherent, meaningful sentence about the world).

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