Music for Walking

It’s strange, prescribing a soundtrack for a walk. The purpose is to find in the act of walking the total flattening of the curves of thought into an open plane of presence. One seeks to be entirely here. Music playing in headphones is the antithesis of being perfectly present to the situation at hand, so why then is it so useful.

Of all the senses sound strikes quickest to the mind. The conversations of others so quickly burrow into one’s brain that a noisy cafe proves an impossible place to write. This nearness to what could be called the soul — the exposed places where a mind churns — means that music can, in certain doses, flatten the geometry of thought.

Walk, listen, add your own.

Les Là-Bas- Bonobo Remix, Henri Texier

The playful emptiness of the vocals carries the feet. The motion of the guitar buries the steady rhythm — the drums take the neck, bobbing it without the head being the wiser. In the remix Bonobo converses with the listener, pointing out to them moments and movements to attach to, to respond to.

Movement (Chapter III), Leon Vynehall

The soundscape is full, dreamy, coming to the ears from all sides. The back is pushed by the horns and the bass, moving the body along a moving sidewalk. The shadows of the trees on a rich man’s yard are full of the haunting brass. A car’s slow turn is in time with the soft hit of the high hat. Traffic lights change from red to green, halos vibrating in mist as the keys build, and suddenly it’s over.

Dance Ritual II, Auntie Flo

Language churns the mind. Each word moves thoughts to fill the void left by its passing through consciousness. Music in another language moves like a bullet through the brain, but words cannot coalesce in their wake, no free association follows. Instead the whole mind is mixed, wet dirt prepared for a season of planting. Images, emotions, ideas churn. Legs moved by rhythm shake calcified thought. Images, smells, the feeling of wind on the face cannot follow the usual path from the senses into the mind. Impressions are novel.

San Fransisco, Emile Mosseri, Daniel Herksdal

Haunting, just… haunting.

O Ovo, Fabian Do Nascimento

Play is possible in every action, even for players unaware they’re part of the game. Life is full of joy, even in terror. The asphalt is a jungle gym, the step is a toy. One could die, crushed by the wheels of a pick up, skull cracked after tripping over broken pavement, and the game goes on. The individual is not the focus. What is?

Journey In Satchidananda, Alice Coltrane

Repetition. The wheels turn. The lights turn. The lungs turn out the breath and turn it back. Sin, cosin. To flow is to return. What is the beauty of the fractal but the return; The shape of the branch returns in the twig, returns in the veins, returns in the street down which one walks. The street thinks the walker. The walker thinks the street.

Ruby, Ali Farka Touré

The here is elsewhere. With each step the pedestrian might, if the head is turned just this way, focus lost for just a moment, step from the common. Like falling, the steps are carried through the novel landscape of ones own block. Only as the music fades does the commonplace sneak back in to dust every surface in normality. But one can always remember, and remember better each time they visit.

Saint Thomas, Bibio

To follow and to be led are as different as two actions can be. One is a choice, the other is an agreement. To let oneself be lead is brave thing. To agree to let something else; a person, a lover, a song, dictate how you move, there’s an abandonment in the process, but some things must be abandoned, at least for a moment.

Oak, Soul Food Horns

A steady rhythm is all you really need sometimes, all the work around it needs to be there to hide the simplicity. Just the drums? That’s it? That’s all I need? The horns and bass are there to help you think of yourself as intelligent, a conisure of music, when really all you are is a pair of ears connected to a pair of feat. A good rhythm teaches you new ways to walk; what if I put my weight down here? What if I stepped faster?

Tezeta, Mulatu Astatke

Walking and dreams are not so different. The world on the walk is a rush of sensation. They sometimes leap out as symbols, fingers pointing to deeper meanings that can’t be read like words. A dream passes by to be reflected on later, so does a good walk. What jumps jumps and all you can do is notice. The harder you try to hold on the less you grasp and the less jumps out later. Walking dreams only jump into a placid poll.

Carry, Martyn Heyne

Have you ever seen a city from above? It’s a thing of movement; physical, and sometime not quite physical. Money flows through hands and through wires, through minds most of all, but to call it thought only is wishful. Maybe it was once but now. Money is as real a thing as pavement. The flow of the city is money moving. Can one avoid being money? Walking the city you, too, are a part of that flow. Each piece of the flow of the city is a full thing; thinking, doing, trying. It’s own little city. Could each piece escape the flow if they wanted, or is escape only a movement in that framework, a piece of that dance? One is never alone when seen from above, only a piece of the moving carpet.

Drømmer, Bremer/Mccoy

Even on the best walks I’m never not sad. To live is a sad thing. The street is forlorn. The woods may be deadly, the desert brutal, but the streets are only lonely, even in violence. Harsh light on hard lines, faces whose inner lives may only rarely crack the surface. Walking the street I’m always missing something. Even in my fullest, the fact that it’s even possible to exist as I do here means I’m lacking something, some part of humanity that the city excludes by necessity.

Confessions Pt. III, Bad Bad Not Good

The city is a place, not a passage. An object in all dimensions, time included. Either you stop and observe or the city ceases. When the city becomes a frozen view, a pulsing movement, paintings make sense. The red light on the tree, underscored by halogen yellow, is an idea in itself, implying nothing. The meditator supposedly views the whole world as a full flowing object. The city is this world in miniature.

*A piece from ‘On Foot In The Unwalkable City’*

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