A Stable Means of Degradation
Limited edition cassette, digital download
Deep time describes processes in the Earth (and the universe at large) at geologic timescales — not tens or hundreds of years, but thousands, millions, billions. I started reading about deep time with a heightened sense of the precariousness and smallness of human life as a backdrop — unsurprising for the year 2020.
I began taking long walks in nature that summer, in part to escape the monotony of lockdowns and isolation, but mainly because walking helps me think, and concepts like geologic timescales left me with a lot of thinking to do. During these walks, I began to examine my surroundings — trees, rocks, the incursions and detritus of human industry — with a newfound sense of awe and temporal scale. I also started recording the sounds they made.
These field recordings, made with a small recorder (a Zoom H1N with stereo mics), a contact microphone, and an electromagnetic receiver, form the bulk of the source material on this album. Many of these recordings are presented essentially raw; others, I processed live on my Octatrack, sometimes as subtle variations, sometimes as substantial mutations. By working with these recordings in different ways, I hoped to echo how their subjects — once familiar and seemingly ‘known’ — had come to feel altogether different.
To contrast and reinforce the field recordings, I worked with an Analog 4 to produce a shifting, foundational layer of bass and sub bass across the album. With this, I attempted to sonify the impression left on me by Robert Macfarlane’s writing on geologic processes: ‘When viewed in deep time, things come alive that seem inert. Ice breathes. Rock has tides. Mountains ebb and flow. Stone pulses.’
For the opening of the album’s first track, ‘Remnant’, I borrowed a minute of sound from an excellent documentary on glaciers, processing it with EQ and reverb for consistency with the rest of the album. I hope the filmmakers will forgive this bit of sampling in the name of artistic expression, should they encounter it.
The phrase ‘a stable means of degradation’ is derived from Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan’s ‘Into the Cool’, where it is used to describe their hypothesis on the thermodynamic function of life within the universe. Their hypothesis as a whole is fascinating and poetic — a recognition of life as distinct in deep time, yet consistent with and emergent from the processes which give rise to it.