Only a week after reviewing Nicholas Bernier’s Music for a Book and musing that more music should be written to accompany literature, we received Robin Parmar‘s Avoidance Strategies, composed as a companion to his own 80-page Tragedy of the Sun and Stars. These works, along with Wist Records’ Book Report Series, Simon Scott’s Below Sea Level and Richard Skelton’s Landings, are the sign of a welcome new trend.
Listening to Avoidance Strategies while reading the book is an effective combination. The book is a ragged patchwork oddity, a recombination of sentences and phrases surrounding the Trinity bomb test. The prose is purposely fragmented. On the surface, it looks as if it should read in linear fashion, but it does not. Instead, it reminds one of the internal shuffling that takes place in a body exposed to radiation. At first, a body looks as it always has; internally, the change has already begun. At the end, horror may occur, or sadness. There is no map for this sort of alteration.
It is true when we have since totally collapsed. The ranch house and an initiator. And the possibility of the reader. Sense or non-sense? The reader is left to calibrate the jumble. Just as the Trinity test re-organized the atmosphere and the arms race, the human mind still wrestles with the implications.
The music follows the same template, which is to say, little template at all. Feedback loops were played as live improvisations, creating open fields in which sounds might wander unabated. Sines and sonic pings abound. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the calm after the detonation, the null left in the wake of sonic abundance. The more active the tracks get, the more effective they become. As static and sunbursts echo and pop, one pictures Geiger counters and hospital machines. These stubborn loops mimic the phrases of the book, refusing to be pinned down, like thrashing patients battling their restraints.
Had I been responsible for determining the track order, I would have switched the first and final tracks, establishing a hum to drone chronology; but imposed order is not Parmar’s intention. Suffice it to say that this desire to reorganize proves the artist’s point. Even this release has seen various incarnations; it began as a multi-media project, and twenty years later is still being developed. Due to Trinity and other tests, every human being is now irradiated. If mutation is the byproduct of the irradiated mind, Avoidance Strategies makes a convincing burned shadow. (Richard Allen)