Consider This

Dispatches From the Fringe


I was reading an old book review back from 2010 about a biography of Ken Kesey called Acid Christ and was struck by Kesey’s apparent realization late in life that perhaps he had made a mistake by not writing more, by not insisting on a daily writing regimen.

No doubt there is artistry to be had in life generally and we can pursue mastery of the craft of living as much as in a medium such as literature, music, painting, and the like. He must have had good reason for thinking this about his own pursuit, and as I am still a young man not yet burned out (although perhaps cynical beyond my years) I should pay attention when an elder of his stature makes comments of such poignancy.

My typical excuse is that there is nothing worth writing about. How could this possibly be so? There are a miliion things, a billion, trillion or more things to be discussed if I were to set my mind to it.

Last year I made a dubious maneuver to leave Alaska and return to college at Evergreen in Olympia, WA. I found the transition to be incredibly difficult and not the least because I was suddenly expected to write and share my writing again. There had been no coercion for many years, not that this word — coercion — is entirely appropriate, but there was a kind of threat behind the task: to fail to submit proof of learning is to court failure and indeed I found myself last summer having flunked my course and having submitted not a single assignment.

This curiosity is itself grounds for many words and indeed I hope to unpack some of the reasoning for my actions in the days to come. Perhaps by telling my story to myself (and you, apparently) I will have a better idea of what happened and why.

I have barely scratched the surface but typing in this browser box is laggy and annoying and I think maybe I’m going to see what live music is playing downtown tonight. Happy Friday, I guess.


Written by Ryan Corvidae

April 29, 2016 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Summer of Samizdat

Somehow I was roped into giving away my secrets. Hard to say who I was protecting exactly. What I knew for certain was that I had better take care with my expressions.

It’s not my core nature to be so removed from the society surrounding me. Recently I have been forced to conclude that there is nothing so sacred as the truth. If the only way to honor this is by being honest about my own experiences, expecting nothing, that is how I will respond.

I have walked a thin line between worlds. The truth of my blood is an uncertain reality, and I have been thoroughly conditioned by a number of systems beyond my normal comprehension. I have few confidences anymore.

This is a troubling way to be. There must be more, my mind postulates. It is no pure hypothetical; my senses have shown me the door. And each attempt at finding objects of focus within the strange landscape leaves me less certain than before.

What hope I have I cannot explain. Perhaps I am unwilling to give them, whoever ‘they’ are, the satisfaction of control. Perhaps there is a need for an occasional wrench in the gears.

You know what?

Written by Ryan Corvidae

March 31, 2015 at 4:16 pm

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“Blind Art Collector” EP!

“Blind Art Collector” EP!

Put so much energy into this, I feel like I need to get it out there!

Written by Ryan Corvidae

January 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Quote, Unquote

You ever wonder whether “Barack Obama” really exists? I mean, sure there’s a guy with those facial features, that voice, who is occupying that particular office. But who really is Barry? He’s no doubt one guy to his family, another to his cabinet, and something wholly different to the broadest demographic, “the people.”

The fabricated persona that “defeated” McCain at the polls nearly four years ago is not the guy that’s been running the show, not the hardballer and crusader that we skeptically voted for. There’s little motivation to vote this November, everything Occupy aside.

Written by Ryan Corvidae

May 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


Papa — 1/15/2012


Papa always said:
“if you work hard,
and keep your word,
trusting fully in the Lord,
He’ll take you there,
you’ll not be sad.”
So say a prayer
for my Papa.

Papa knew
way down deep
that what we do
only for ourselves
can’t be enough
to feed the Self.
He knew it once,
but Jesus left him
some time ago.

Papa was a man
he told me:
“It doesn’t matter
what you say,
nor how you say it,
to be a man
means honest labor,
there’s no way around it.”
I wish I knew
what he meant.

That’s mostly true
until you’re eighty-six
and your mind begins to go
and nobody visits you anymore.

Written by Ryan Corvidae

April 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Composing As Gardening

Composers as Gardeners (Edge)

This struck me immediately as a confirmation and realization of my own creative processes in my career thus far as an artist. Certainly this process was not created in a vacuum, and therefore I can attribute key influences rather specifically — Tokyo Police Club, David Byrne’s blog I read months ago about how he puts syllables to music and then tries to fashion lyrics from the chaos, and of course innumerable others. It also affirms my understanding of chaos theories and complexity which he ever so briefly touches upon.

Most importantly, he explores the territories of metaphysics and what it means to create in general. I wish I had been able to study this kind of thing in my Aesthetics course my sophomore year of college. I would have been far more engaged (can’t get less engaged, since I dropped that class in a hot minute). Not surprisingly the adjunct who was teaching it was, you guessed it, an Architect!

The analogy of the gardener, explored into the realm of being a member of the audience to the final product, resonates so deeply.

The systems of control we know are inferior to the mystery of the chaotic creations we are capable of. It requires a letting go, a sitting back, and allowing the dynamics of the system to work out the details. It can be optimized by knowing the dynamics of the system ahead of time and exploiting characteristics of what is known in order to better propagate the unknown results (choosing seed and conditions affects the outcome of the eventual garden).

Written by Ryan Corvidae

April 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

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This Is Your Brain

A stunning review of a book that probably changed my life a little bit (This Is Your Brain On Music):

Half-whispered in the background, it’s hard to get too far away from suspicion. The question remains: Does analyzing music scientifically take away from the aesthetic appreciation?

I had once thought of music as the ultimate proof of the glorious irrelevancy of science. But it’s really no different than any other pleasure. Does learning cosmology detract from the beauty of a star filled night? Can a couple of physics lessons dull the gaping excitement of seeing a massive rainbow absorb the sky? I conquered this ambivalence personally, while lying in the sun, on a hot day, at altitude, following a final in a physics class. Everything clicked together in my head, the nuclear reaction I watch sizzling eight minutes and eighteen seconds ago, the light as waves, the heat as energy, the energy as mass, the waves as particles. It all clicked, and it was fine. We were all vibrating together in the same rich meaninglessness, and a good feeling felt good whether I purposefully conquered every little detail or it blindsided me and left my head spinning.

That’s the day I got it. That science is not a static pool of knowledge. It is not a religion. It is not a method. It is a process, and a spiritual one at that. That was the day, lying there, absorbing photons and resonating passively in the hum, the Ohmmmmm. Science is as much a quest as any other system of belief. And nothing is off limits. Nothing is reduced by knowing that another layer of explanation can be sought out.

And what better subject to tackle scientifically than the beauty of music. Like consciousness, like science, music too is an arbitrary punctuation around organically transmitted, unconsciously determined, preferred patterns of influenced interactions.

So, how’s the book?

Not bad. He does a nice job of illustrating the importance of music in our lives and the emotional impact music can convey. He has a nice introductory section where he defines the basic terms of music such as pitch, rhythm, tempo. It’s the kind of stuff you get the first week in a music appreciation class, and Levitin does a nice job with it. He never takes his eye off the bigger questions though, for example, he opens his definition of pitch with the disclaimer: “Pitch is a purely psychological construct.” He then needs an introduction to neuroscience before he can connect the two streams, discussing the hotter than ever topics of mind, brain, and consciousness. Of course, he has to throw in a little introduction to evolutionary theory as well.

The mistake armchair Anthropologists frequently fall into is taking a complicated concept, music in this case, or intelligence in other infamous cases, and reify it as if it were a single discrete thing. So let’s come up with theories of selection for musicality as if it were the scientific equivalent of Mendel’s wrinkled garden peas. But Levitin does a nice job of showing how different parts of the brain process different aspects of music. He gives a nice sense of the complexity involved and the parallel processing necessary between different realms of music. If you think about it, this should come as no surprise to anyone who has listened to a one-year old discover language. They can babble with the rhythms, intonations, and prosody of fluent speech well before they have the actual words. It should come as no surprise to any musician, anyone who has experienced that moment when the execution shifts from working memory to procedural memory. My favorite part of playing the piano is reaching the point where my cerebellum and basal ganglia are doing the heavy lifting. Then I can sit back and enjoy the music, like some kind of twisted grandiose self-sycophantic fan, without thinking about what I’m doing.

So formulating the question as “What evolutionary advantages were conferred on individuals who exhibit musical behaviors?” is a mental exercise. A fun and pleasantly meaningless one. Musical sensibility is much more likely an offshoot of multiple smaller functions of the brain, such as language processing, mother-infant interactions, the novelty seeking and cognitive flexibility behind creativity, or empathy, all of which individually may respond over time to certain selective forces. This does not mean, as Steven Pinker and the Blank Slaters would assert, that music is a meaningless accident. It is a part of all the systems that contribute to it, an echo of numerous other functions that comprise our humanity.

When a music lover hypothesizes that musical instincts may have been the prime factor in promoting the cognitive development of the species, it is no more a sophisticated argument than when a drug enthusiast, such as Terrance McKenna, proposes that psychedelics were the primary force behind the expansion of the human cranium. Isn’t it funny? No matter how far we come, we’re still story tellers creating creation myths in our own image. So my personal hypothesis: The primary force behind the evolution of human intelligence is the drive to drink Tanqueray and play backgammon while listening to Gabby La La. You heard it hear first. Evidence pending.

It is an ambitious book in its scope, especially when the conversation also needs to be liberally peppered with references to Philip Glass and John Cage, Bernstein and Bach, Sinatra and Parker. Well, you know musicians love showing off their chops. Anyway, thumbs up for a solid, thought-provoking read. You’ve just got to appreciate anyone who uses “mirror neurons” and “iPods” in the same sentence.

Damn. Well played.

Written by Ryan Corvidae

April 2, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized