this is the disease of sound

Last Monday night, at the Verdi Club on Mariposa street, a neat rectangle of people in chairs gathered, looking like a tiny plot of land amidst dark empty space. A small blue-lit stage was tucked into a wall, like a cubby you could reach your hand into. Without a proscenium, the stage was ordinary, a diorama on view. Before the show, people moved around in their chairs quietly, restlessly, without the energy of a crowd. This wasn't a crowd, this was a gathering.

From a distance, the quartet players looked like marionettes come to life, thrusting their bodies into their bows. A man with slicked-back hair tied into a neat ponytail played the viola. A woman with curly dark hair and fingerless gloves sat with a cello between her legs. Ryan Lott, a.k.a Son Lux, sat off to the side, on the piano bench, listening to the group play his composition, which, from the point of view of someone who has never composed any music, is an extravagant thing--being able to watch the live enactment of some thing that was gestated in you, birthed, now brought to life by these four surrogates. There was scraping and shuffling and long-drawn out noises, an elaborate sequence of off-kilter , dissonant sounds coming together as an evocative gestalt.

The four players introduced Lott's opus, and then Minna asked him questions, and Lott joked and paused when he didn't know how to answer.  Lott is not a lover of people--it shows--but he is sickly obsessed with music, and making it. As geniuses are.

Unraveled mystery. Revealed humanness. This is a comfort and a despair.

Finally, the night ends with Son Lux piano sounds and Ryan's most beautiful, strained voice, at once delicate and reckless, like ice splintering and cracking, and inside us arises what feels like the fatal pulse of pressurized blood against venal walls. Inside us, particles are colliding inside a closed container, the ventricles are contracting, contracting. Crystal is beside me, and I do not want to touch her--she is about to break. I can feel it. Without looking at her, I can sense that her entire body has suddenly become brittle: the power of this music is not that it melts but that it calcifies the broken bones in us so that they can be torn apart. I am thinking about how our body receives music like this, how it enacts in us the symptoms of a physical ailment, like a hypotensive crisis or an anaphylactic reaction. Like the bite of a snake, this music brings to the forefront of our minds "unwarranted thoughts of imminent death." It's a miracle we're not suffering from coagulopathy, spontaneously bleeding from the mouth and the nose. But our wounds are surfacing, they are being touched. Ecchymosis is the bruising of the skin. Wretched sadness, anger, lament distilled in words and these twinkling sounds burning our mouths as we swallow every note. Formication is the feeling of small insects crawling under our skin.

We're breathing fast, faster, deeper. Tachypnea. Hypverventilation. Acroparesthesia. Whiplash. Carpopedal spasms.

I search for the condition of suffering that is akin to the reception of music.


How does it all end? Suddenly, and we sink back into our normal selves, both elated and relieved. This episode is over. Our lives have been touched, and we slink out of the club in awe, quietly.


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