I was sitting with my grandmother this afternoon; she was telling me about her childhood, i forget how we got onto the subject. When she was a girl, living the town of Bedford just over the border in rural Quebec, she remembers that all the boys and all the men had gone off to war, and that in their absence she and her friends had to do some of the jobs that the boys in town more often did. She recalled spending many hours tending gardens, filled with Cabbage. She also remembered that they hung blackout curtains in all of their windows.

There was a POW camp of sorts setup on the edge of their town, the german soldiers were required to help with the labor, and as my grandmother recalled, they would also feed these men, in their own homes. She recalled some of them were not very nice, and once as a young girl she walked into the kitchen where 4 or maybe 5 prisoners of war, were standing waiting to eat breakfast, and "They just stared - burned right through me it seemed like."

But the men were mostly kind - and my Grandmother remembers one man inparticular, vaguely, at least, - who worked on the cabbage, who spoke excellent english, and was rather funny. He was a lawyer she recalled, and well spoken. It seemed fairly obvious for her disjointed story and the far away look in her eyes that my grandmother developed quite a crush on this particular German soldier.

She told us about how, after the war - he went back to Europe, but that he wrote to her, such lovely letters - so lovely infact that she was embarrassed to write back to him. Years later, she told me, he died in an avalanche. She thought it was tragic, that he had gone through, "all of that" to have died in such a way.

"There is a spectre haunting Europe..." - Karl Marx

On the drive back home i thought about that story alot... and of concept i'd been hearing lately. Hauntology, and while i hadn't gotten a formal explanation of this concept, i felt on an instinctual level that i knew what this was; at least as it pertained to music and sound.

Often when i'm driving back from my home town, or walking alone in the wintertime I'm approached by what seems like a ghost, it flitters around behind my minds eye, in my periphery and fills my brain with sensations of not quite there memories layered like a chopped onion; these emotional fragments who's sources in time i can't quite locate but feel so achingly familiar all the same; yet i'm sometime convinced that they've never existed at all.

The music I'm drawn towards and what seems to intensify, or at least - compliment these feelings, is of a newly developing genre in music described as "Hauntilogical" based on a term coined by Jacques Derrida.

All of this is no surprise to me actually, as it seems like I've always been inextricably drawn to this thread, so to speak. My literary obsession for the last 4 years has been almost exclusively the work of W.G. Sebald, who's almost entire literary body consists of dream like sojourns into his past, the past of others, and through history in general.

Anymore attempts to describe this feeling, at least for myself, leave me without the right words. And i gather the more i read, that this is in essence the nature of the concept. That of vague sensation - at it's root for me, it's more of a gut feeling, an indescribable pull when i hear, feel, or see something in a certain light, on a certain day.

K-Punk wrote on his blog, "Why hauntology now? Well, has there ever been a time when finding gaps in the seamless surfaces of 'reality' has ever felt more pressing? Excessive presence leaves no traces. Hauntology's absent present, meanwhile, is nothing but traces...."

W.G. Sebald wrote in The Emigrants: "I was just laying aside a lausanne paper I'd bought in Zurich when my eye was caught by a report that said the remains of the Bernese alpine guide Johannes Naegeli, missing since summer of 1914, had been released by the Oberaar glacier, seventy-two years later. And So they are ever returning to us, the dead. At times they come back from the ice more than seven decades later and are found at the edge of the moraine, a few polished bones and a pair of hobnailed boots."

Listen: Conet project, Ariel Pink, Philip Jeck, Burial, Tim Hecker, Biosphere.
Read: W.G. Sebald, Karl Marx, Jacques Derrida, K-Punk (1,2,3), blissblog, jahsonic, dissensus.
Watch: any suggestions?


josh said...

You put into words the exact sensation that I experience in those situations. Sometimes I find that the best music is that which summons a memory of something that never took place, or nostalgic pangs that aren't warranted. Or something.

Casey said...

Great post.