The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

Proceedings of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living
David J. Keffer
(link to main page of novel)


July 1, 2018
Hong Samud accepted that he needed to remain vigilant. Although she was yet a month shy of her sixth birthday, Sulin possessed a cunning mind. She had recently become somewhat obsessed with the idea of discovering the kind of house in which Hong Samud lived. Despite her parents' objections, who feared for his privacy and pride, the topic remained a high priority of the girl's attention.

Her mother said to her, "Many patrons come to visit our library. Do you need to see where each of them lives too?" She teased her daughter with a smile.

Sulin responded. "Old Hong is different. He comes to the library every day."

Having arrived at the conclusion that she could not solve the riddle with brute force, she outwardly had let the matter drop. She tested her patience and waited two entire weeks before she brought the old librarian up with her parents again. This time Sulin asked her parents if they could invite him over for dinner. Her parents thought this an innocuous request and much preferable to her earlier line of inquiry. They allowed her to extend the invitation. Hong Samud had been forced to accept. We have intimated that the old scholar was sustained by a nourishment exclusively of the mind, but that is merely an artefact of our penchant for ambiguity if not multiplicity. Hong possessed a functionally digestive track capable of fulfilling its role in the metabolic process with which we are all intimately familiar.

written while listening to:  John Coltrane - Both Directions at Once, sides C & D (Impulse!, B0028317-01, 2018 (originally recorded 1963), United States, lpx2,

July 2, 2018
Hong Samud viewed the dinner at the home of the library director in much the same way that any employee views an invitation to a party by their boss or supervisor. Of course, a subordinate is, ostensibly, not obligated to accept but one is wary of the potential repercussions should one fail to attend. If the turnout is poor, it can be embarrassing for the supervisor, who may prove unable to leave the dissatisfaction with the lackluster event outside the domain of workplace environment. In this case, Hong Samud was the only person invited; his absence would surely be noted.

Six of them arranged themselves on the floor around the central cloth, upon which the food was spread. Hong Samud knew them all: the director, his wife, his mother, and the two children. They offered the seat of honor to Hong Samud, who could not refuse. The grandmother appeared to be of a similar age to Hong Samud, although, as we have noted earlier, it is difficult to assign a precise number to the librarian. Both her sight and her mental faculties, however, had suffered some ordinary deterioration in recent years. She dominated the conversation, largely along lines that were pleasant to those assembled. The grandmother connected the particular spices used in the meal to the local history of the town, of which she more than any other present was knowledgeable.

Hong Samud enjoyed the evening far more than he had anticipated. He understood that he was the unintended recipient of an oral tradition, the passing on of local culture, which bordered on the sacred. A connoisseur of information of all kinds, Hong Samud ate little but left the feast sated. To cap off the perfection of the evening, Sulin was well-behaved, not once pestering him regarding the whereabouts of his domicile.

written while listening to:  Colin Stetson - Hereditary, sides A & B (Milan, MLN1-36952, 2018, United States, lpx2,

July 3, 2018
On the following morning, Sulin sprung her carefully laid, if in retrospect obvious, trap. She discovered Hong Samud sweeping the front porch. The sun had risen more than an hour earlier and the view of the calm ocean from the northern shore was effortlessly invigorating.

Sulin used what bulk she had to slide a small table to the side so that Hong Samud could sweep behind it. One leg snagged on an uneven plank in the porch. Leaning the broom against the wall, Hong Samud helped her shift the table. While they were thus engaged, Sulin asked without any attempt at pretense, "Now that I've had you over to my house for dinner, when are you going to invite me over to your house?"

Hong Samud retrieved the broom and leaned gently against it. He allowed a faint smile to steal across his face. "Is that the way of kindness?" he asked her. "May a person of noble intent act with charity only to expect equal in return?"

Sulin frowned. She knew the answer to his questions but she did not want to admit them.

"It would be most ungrateful of me to spoil the good intentions of your hospitality by assuming that you had offered it only because you expected me to do the same." He straightened himself. "I would not dream of impugning the reputation of an upright person such as yourself by assigning to you mean motives of this sort." He resumed sweeping. "No, indeed. I have no choice but to remain in your debt and remember with gratefulness your magnanimity."

"My what?" said Sulin. The old librarian took the opportunity to change the subject and resume his familiar of tutor.

written while listening to:  Colin Stetson - Hereditary, sides C & D (Milan, MLN1-36952, 2018, United States, lpx2,

July 4, 2018
Sulin found no other alternative than to resort to espionage in order to satisfy her curiosity regarding the hidden home of Old Hong. She contemplated ways that she could be forgotten at the library at the end of the workday, in order to secretly trail her tutor to his house. While the prospect of being left by her parents contained an element of fear, it was overwhelmed by the sensation of impossibility. Sulin was well tended to by her parents. The chance that they would absently forget her at the library was vanishingly small. Try as she might, the girl could not concoct the logistics of a scheme in which each parent thought the other had taken her home. Faced with these insurmountable obstacles, Sulin conceded that, if her goal was to be realized, she would have to enlist an outside agent. She knew exactly to which library patron she must turn.

Tjilik was a member of the Dayak peoples, indigenous to Borneo, predating the arrival of both Islam and Christianity. Avoiding cities, they lived now largely as farmers in small communities isolated by vast tracts of lowland jungle far to the south. They were said to be skilled trackers. Tjilik, still a young man, had been sent by his people to the city in order to be educated in the ways of their urban neighbors, so that he might grow to become a governmental liaison and a channel through which they could convincingly express their principal desire, which was to be left alone. He was a regular visitor at the library.

Although Tjilik wore the trappings of city folk, there remained an unmistakable air of foreign wilds to his mannerisms. Sulin imagined the Dayak, creeping as stealthily as a civet, following Old Hong in the darkness to his home.

written while listening to:  David Sylvian & Holger Czukay - Plight & Premonition, Flux & Mutability, sides A & B (Grönland Records, LPGRON193, 2018 (originally recorded 1988 & 1989), Germany, lpx2,

July 5, 2018
Once Sulin had furtively described her request to him, Tjilik, a short, muscular man with a piercing gaze, lay down the geography book that he had been reading on the wooden table. "Did you ask him where he lived?"

Sulin controlled her exasperation well, replying in a cordial voice, "I already tried that. He won't tell me."

Tjilik hailed from a culture in which ancestors and the elderly were held in high regard. He was not of a mind to deceive Old Hong. At the same time, Tjilik's people accepted the inevitability of time and the fact that children would eventually accede to positions of leadership in the community. For this reason, if no other, their needs could not be ignored out of hand.

With Sulin still waiting for a response, Tjilik picked up his book and resumed reading. Only a few seconds passed before he was interrupted by the girl, "Are you going to help me?"

"For you, Sulin," he said, "who will inherit this library, I will do it."

"That's great," she exclaimed a little too loudly. She looked around to make sure that no one had overheard their conversation. She said nothing of the fact that the idea of inheriting a library had never occurred to her. "Thank you," she whispered.

"Would you like me to cut a lock of hair from Old Hong's head while he is sleeping in his bed? I could bring it back to you as proof that I have done as you requested."

Sulin's eyes widened in dismay. "What? His hair?" It took her a moment to gather herself before she could properly respond. "No, no, don't do that. That's not necessary. I don't need proof. I trust you."

written while listening to:  David Sylvian & Holger Czukay - Plight & Premonition, Flux & Mutability, sides C & D (Grönland Records, LPGRON193, 2018 (originally recorded 1988 & 1989), Germany, lpx2,

July 6, 2018
The library had been closed for three quarters of an hour by the time Hong Samud finished replacing all the books and restoring the chairs to their appointed places at the reading table. The garbage had been taken out but he had noticed earlier in the day that leaves had accumulated on the front porch. The idea of sweeping in the cool night breeze appealed to him, so he stepped out onto the porch with a broom. There he found Tjilik seated in a rattan chair, apparently waiting for him. The librarian greeted the patron uncertainly; both knew the library was closed at this hour.

Hong Samud felt a rapport with all library patrons, but perhaps shared an additional affinity for the young Dayak, who, like himself, would ever be regarded as something of a foreigner in this city. They exchanged pleasantries regarding the timeless characteristics of the night sky, the ocean murmur and the nocturnal cries of the jungle in which they were ensconced. Finally, Hong Samud asked, "Can I help you?"

"I have been asked by a certain party to follow you home tonight," said Tjilik, almost apologetically.

There was no need to ask for the identity of the one who had made the request or her reason. All the same, Hong Samud said, "To what end?"

Tjilik remained still in the darkness. "I am to give a report of the appearance and location of your home."

Hong Samud allowed a gentle grimace to settle on his shadowed face. "I'm afraid, now that you have alerted me to your plan, that you will find me not especially amenable to it."

"She hinted it would be this way," said Tjilik. "Nevertheless, I opted not to engage in subterfuge. I have always regarded you as a reasonable man. I am sure that we can come to some mutually satisfactory arrangement that prevents me from returning to our friend empty-handed."

written while listening to:  William Parker - Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics (Gotta Let It Out, GLIO19CD, 2018, Denmark, cd,

July 7, 2018
The librarian made an offer of a compromise to Tjilik, saying that he would provide a verbal description of an edifice. "It will prove sufficiently thorough that Sulin will not have any trouble believing that you have visited it." When Tjilik asked if this edifice was actually his home, Hong Samud replied ambiguously. "For men such as us, who wander far from the people of our birth, we must make do with what homes we can find."

To this sentiment Tjilik agreed, but still one concern nagged at him. Although he was being trained for a governmental position where discretion was required, the young man decided that he could set it aside for a moment in his dealings with Hong Samud. He had not liked Sulin's request that he deceive the librarian by secretly following him. Nor did he appreciate Hong's suggestion that he deceive the girl in turn. He said as much. "What I don't understand is why you respond to one pretense with another." There was an unavoidable element of accusation in his statement.

Far from annoying the librarian, this declaration endeared Tjilik all the more to Hong Samud. "I expect you to implement my request for subterfuge with the same finesse as you did for that of our dear friend, Sulin."

Hailing from a stoic and threatened people, Tjilik did not often smile. Even now, as he felt a swell of affection for the old man, his expression remained inscrutable. Some people are simply made like this.

Hong Samud excused himself. He asked to be allowed to go inside the library and reclaim a book, so that he might have the details of the architecture of the building fresh in his mind, as he related them to Tjilik. The young man obliged, remaining seated on the porch as the various cycles of the night, stellar and terrestrial, wheeled by.

written while listening to:  Il Sogno - Birthday (Gotta Let It Out, GLIO16LP, 2017, Denmark, cd,

July 8, 2018
Hong Samud understood that the flow of time could, to some extent, be manipulated. Not all seconds were equal. Some disappeared in a flash while others stretched interminably. Within the portable library, the passage of time proved exceptionally accommodating. Much could be accomplished while a mere hour transpired in the outside world. With this knowledge did Hong Samud intend to enter the portable library and return with a passage that would satisfy both Tjilik and Sulin. He presumed that he would be able to return victoriously while the young man yet enjoyed the cool night from the comfort of the front porch.

At the same time, Hong Samud had largely defined his life through labor. Presently, he had committed to generating his portion of the fractured portrait and, so long as he lived, he had every intention of honoring that commitment. He therefore conjured in his mind thoughts of a book of architecture. This book he sought, though he did not yet know its title, would provide simultaneously a description of Iris as the edifice in which Poppy sheltered and a credible account of a structure in which he too might be expected to routinely dwell.

As he strode through the spiraling central corridor of the portable library, these two apparently independent purposes struck him as not in the least incompatible. In truth, we find it likely that others--perhaps you too, Gentle Reader--feel hard pressed to predict the manner in which both tasks shall be achieved in a single stroke.

Entering a room, Hong Samud approached the far shelf and simply ran his eyes over the spines of the books until he found one that seemed most willing to aid him. This book was titled Unexpected Synergies in the Architectural Defects of Love. It appeared to be an unpublished manuscript by an author of dissimilar works, a few of which had received, at the time of publication, some modest acclaim.

written while listening to:  Tomeka Reid - Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists (Corbett vs. Dempsey, CvsD | CD017, 2014, United States, cd,

July 9, 2018
It is not uncommon for buildings to possess an antechamber, accessed through exterior doors, which serves as a space of transition from the outside to the inside. In churches, this room is called a vestibule. Its presence allows the faithful to compose themselves as they move from the secular environment into the sacred. Hotels and theaters have foyers, which lead respectively to a business lobby or to a performance area. In homes, an entryway may be nothing more than a short hallway, leading to the other rooms in the house and perhaps a coat closet.

As the point of entry and exit, this space is visited more than any other room in the edifice. It cannot be avoided. It should therefore be designed to make both the resident and infrequent visitor feel welcome. Seen on a daily basis, the entryway becomes a familiar sight.

One school of architects sought to design entryways, which contravened familiarity. By the interplay of odd-shaped windows, obtusely and acutely angled corners, no two of which were the same, the opening room was perceived differently at each exposure due to minute changes in umbra and penumbra that could never be precisely reproduced at two instances in time. Unevenly reflective flooring, unexpected niches holding prisms out of sight, molding with a chaotic pattern were other features with which the architects experimented in this regard.

It is said, and we find no reason to disbelieve the claim, that the inspiration for this architecture was a well-loved woman. Although you encounter her every day of your life, she never seems exactly the same as she appeared the day before or even earlier in the morning when last you parted. It is the appeal of a woman of ever-shifting nuance that the architects sought to emulate in the design of an entry to a building, which, with each visit, one unfailingly discovered some new angle to admire.

written while listening to:  Mats Gustafsson - Torturing the Saxophone (Corbett vs. Dempsey, CvsD | CD012, 2014, United States, cd,

July 10, 2018
In Roman times, an atrium described an inner courtyard, open to the sky. In the centuries since then, variations on the theme have been incorporated into buildings of a variety of styles and purposes. Common elements of atria include spanning all the stories of the building, providing an unobstructed view of the sky, glass-paned or open, and channeling light to spaces within the edifice that would otherwise be considered windowless, interior rooms.

A recurring embellishment of atria arises from the coupled desires to make full use of the natural light that enters the court as well as to place oneself in the presence of other healthy, living creatures. Thus are plants positioned through an atrium. When enclosed in glass and protected from the elements, an atrium provides a habitat for species that may deem the local climate inhospitable. This introduction of exotic species imbues the space with an attractive quality, drawing visitors of many temperaments to it.

At the risk of relying too strongly upon a single thesis, we again suggest that the idea of such a place likely sprang from an architectural desire to imitate a woman, for is a woman not like an atrium, in that exposure to her allows light to filter where it otherwise might not reach? Does she not allow within herself that light to nurture others? By the manner in which she accommodates family, friends and strangers, does she not inspire thoughts of belonging while one is present in her midst, a sentiment which quickly transforms into a longing to return when one has left her side?

written while listening to:  Isabelle Duthoit, Franz Hautzinger, Matija Schellander & Petr Vrba - Esox Lucius (corvo records, core 009, 2015, Germany, lp,

July 11, 2018
Buildings erected on solid earth and far above the waterline often possess a basement or a cellar. Rarely identified as the most appealing space within the structure, a cellar is likely absent of direct sunlight and prone to humidity, which if unchecked leads all too often to mildew and mold. Still, such places, if modestly maintained, possess the utility of undesirable spaces, meaning that the competition for them is light, access easy and the resulting opportunities great.

No few edifices possess subterranean levels beneath levels. Some sub-basements are considered essential at the time of construction, while others are excavated after the fact. These later additions are often crude in form, mere tunnels, possessing walls of unhewn stone. They do, however, have the advantage of being unknown, even to those involved in the original construction of the building. In catacombs such as these, secrets may be kept for an interminably long time without temptation. Solitude, too, may be found here.

We were warned against comparing a woman to a catacomb, but we prove unable to resist. The parallels are too obvious to refute, for who would argue that a woman maintains within her much that is buried and unsaid? In this private space, she keeps thoughts most dear to herself. She ruminates over the heritage of her ancestors, which she bears within herself, held in one urn marked 'genetics' and another marked 'culture'. Basements are often a place of storage. When she requires wisdom that has gone before, she may retreat to this place briefly, to consult that material which has been bequeathed to her, before returning to matter-of-factly settle affairs, to the astonishment of those who thought the matter intractable.

written while listening to:  Susan Alcorn, Alex Heitlinger, Bob Hoffnar & Steve Parker - 2.14.15 (Liminal Sound Series, no catalog number, 2016, United States, digital files,

July 12, 2018
In a clearing behind the building, one finds a phiale, a kind of small octagonal gazebo. Stone arches form each of the eight faces of the structure and collectively support a tiled dome. In the center of the phiale, there is an artificial fountain. Cool water emerges from an abstract shaped spout, which evokes thoughts of a languorous woman, and is collected in the shallow bowl beneath her.

The Romans called such a structure a nymphaeum. The secluded building was intended to imitate a natural grotto, in which a spring emerged from the ground. Intimately and inextricably connected to her life-source, the nymph that dwelt therein embodied the essence of the spring and was willing to dispense blessings to worthy petitioners.

Later, churches adopted the phiale as a sacred space in which the baptismal font was found. The benedictions of the local water-spirit were replaced by those of an ostensibly greater power.

This particular architectural element is so closely derived from the feminine purpose that further explication is unnecessary. Attracted by the geometry of the structure, children who come to play in the water are no less blessed than those who, without the exercise of conscious choice, are carried as infants to this place to be sanctified. At dusk, solitary men too can be found in its shadows, seeking consolation from earthly woes. We note in closing that the relative rarity of phiales in modern life has forced imaginative mothers and children to pursue similar effects from garden sprinklers and other more prosaic sources.

written while listening to:  Martine Altenburger & Lê Quan Ninh - Love Stream (Insubordinations, insub11, 2006 (originally recorded 1999), Switzerland, digital files,

July 13, 2018
Reentering the main structure, we ascend the steps to the upper floor, which is composed of an L-shaped hall, lined by bedrooms. At the rear of the master bedroom, a pair of glass doors opens up to a small balcony, overlooking the clearing behind the house. The balcony is scarcely wider than the doorway leading to it and is partially enclosed with the same material from which the rest of the house is constructed. Two columns rise from the railing, joined by an arch, suggesting the form of a private loggia.

Because the building faces south, the northern loggia is cloaked in shadow for most of the day through-out the year. Moss has been encouraged by the shade to grow on the exterior. It would likely creep over the balustrade but for the movements of those who dwell within. Neither the rising nor the setting of the sun is visible from this vantage point. The grandest spectacle one can hope to witness is the gradual sliding of the shadow of the building across the clearing behind it, the peak pointing westward in the morning then disappearing eastward in the evening. The frogs, who have made their homes in the damp window wells at the base of the structure, also prefer this cool shadow, as do a variety of birds, the brown thrasher, the rufous-sided towhee. Their avian and amphibious songs mingle without conflict.

This space too reminds us of the woman from whom we have traveled far. In its quiet invitation to contemplate shadow, we find our thoughts drawn to its size, appropriate for two occupants. The recognition that we are alone wells up within us and this environment, presumably by meticulous design, reassures us that our solitude is only a passing phase and not the state of being for which we are ultimately destined.

written while listening to:  Matthew Shipp - Symbol Systems (hatOLOGY, hatOLOGY 749, 2018 (originally recorded 1995), Switzerland, cd,

July 14, 2018
Accessible only with the aid of a ladder, a tower ascends from one corner of the structure. Square in cross-section, the tower narrows as it rises, then is abruptly truncated, leaving a room at the top no more than six feet to a side. When the panel in the wooden floor is closed, a visitor to this high place perceives no other means of egress. Arched openings span the width of each wall, providing grand views of the surrounding landscape. These arches have no glass and the wind blows as it pleases through them.

There are as many reasons to seek separation from the earth as there are towers. In a lighthouse, the height serves to allow the warning signal to extend its range. To quite a different end, a prison tower is designed to sequester someone held dear by the jailer. If such was not the case, the inmate would be held in a common dungeon underground. Looking up, this tower reveals a bell hanging from a rafter. The peal of a bell also travels greater distances when sounded from a lofty height.

The architects included the belfry at the explicit request of their client, though they were not told its specific purpose. One can, of course, entertain oneself by imagining why someone who dwells in this house would sound the bronze bell which tops it: summoning friends, keeping time, spreading an alarm or something as capricious as warding off threatening weather as was done in the old days and may yet still be practiced today in some corners of the world. We prefer to allow the particular purpose of this bell to remain undefined, as befits a house we have likened to a woman, who even when engaged in an action as conspicuous as ringing a bell may yet remain difficult to decipher.

written while listening to:  Derek Bailey & Franz Hautzinger - untitled (GROB, GROB 425, 2002, Germany, cd,

July 15, 2018
Hong Samud committed these passages to memory before departing the portable library. He did not write them down immediately at a reading desk in the beachside library because he knew that Tjilik still waited for him out on the front porch.

When he appeared, the moon had risen in the sky, far from where he had left it. However, Hong Samud found the young man in precisely the same spot. His own joints ached when he thought of Tjilik sitting in the same position for so long. "I apologize for the delay," the librarian said.

Although, in truth, Tjilik had begun to wonder whether the old librarian would return this night, he said nothing of his doubts. Observing that Hong had emerged empty-handed he asked, "Did you find the book?"

"Indeed," Hong Samud assured him. He lightly tapped his temple. "It's here now." He proceeded to relate passages that described six parts of the house he had studied.

Of course, Tjilik's purpose was to satisfy Sulin's curiosity regarding the manner of the librarian's home. He therefore interpreted the words in this light. It seemed strange to Tjilik that the librarian should repeatedly describe his home in the attributes of a woman. The old man lived, after all, as a hermit outside the company of the fairer sex.

When Hong Samud had finished his description. He offered, by way of a further apology, the following disclaimer. "I know that you may have your hands full convincing our friend of the reality of the building I have described, but let me assure you that it exists."

Tjilik nodded, as if unconcerned. "I know something that will help persuade her." He then made a simple request of Old Hong, who readily agreed.

written while listening to:  Evan Parker & Matthew Shipp - Rex, Wrecks & XXX, disc 1 (RogueArt, ROG-0050, 2013, France, cdx2,

July 16, 2018
To be sure, Sulin found it hard to believe that the domicile of Hong Samud possessed such dramatic rooms as an antechamber, atrium, catacombs, phiale, loggia or belfry, despite the fact that Tjilik maintained the sternest of expressions as he described these features to her. In the relative privacy of a reading carrel, she conveyed her disbelief in no uncertain terms. "You're just making this all up. You never went to his house," she accused him. "Do you think I'm an idiot?"

"How could I have made it up?" Tjilik countered truthfully. "I didn't even know what a phiale or a loggia looked like until last night."

The young girl did not have a ready rebuttal to this argument but she remained dissatisfied. Throughout his morning studies, she kept an eye on Tjilik, composing in her mind another argument to present before his departure.

When it was clear that he intended to leave, she followed him out onto the porch. Tjilik cordially held the door open for a mother leading several children inside. Once they were alone, Sulin drew a deep breath in anticipation of restating her demands. However, all her objections were silenced when the Dayak, who hailed from a people long viewed with suspicion for their historical traditions of head-hunting, placed irrefutable proof in her hands. Tjilik gently closed her fingers over his gift. When Sulin opened them, it was still there, a lock of Hong Samud's black hair, streaked with strands of silver.

written while listening to:  Evan Parker & Matthew Shipp - Rex, Wrecks & XXX, disc 2 (RogueArt, ROG-0050, 2013, France, cdx2,

July 17, 2018
The passages retrieved by Hong Samud received a warmer welcome from the members of the executive governing committee of the ICEML. In fact, following his reading of the latest contribution to the fractured portrait, there took place considerable speculation regarding the other rooms in the amazing house.

"I for one," said Stuart, "would have liked to have heard the description of the shrine. Many such houses have a small room devoted to prayer and sacred reflection. I wonder what fantastic form a shrine would have taken in this house."

"I bet that the house has a magnificent study," Hebeloma suggested, "with mahogany shelves filled with books from floor to ceiling."

"That may very well be the case," Hong Samud admitted, "I'm afraid I didn't read the entirety of the text."

Hebeloma smiled at the librarian's continued pretext that he was not responsible for the words he shared.

"I'm less interested in a shrine or a study, than I am in the boudoir," said the tanager. "I want to know what kind of private room the mistress of the house enjoyed."

Hong Samud pursed his lips in what we must interpret as an apologetic expression. "That too," he said, "lies beyond my limited knowledge."

As for Poppy, he needed no further description, so accurate was the conceit by which this house was made to describe Iris. He lived in that house. He recognized all the rooms, both those described by Hong Samud and those whose presence had been omitted.

written while listening to:  Evan Parker, Barry Guy & Paul Lytton - Music For David Mossman: Live At Vortex London (Intakt Records, Intakt CD 296, 2018, Switzerland, cd,

July 18, 2018
As was the case with the rest of the executive governing committee, the late Ms. Aun Wee Park also heard the reading of the description of Hong Samud's fantastic house. The images lingered with her for she had recently descended into a new demesne of death, in which darkness had been perfected. As such, she encountered no alternate forms to dislodge the images from her memory.

She tried to recall her own home, the one in which she had lived for the entirety of her adult life. She accepted that it had been modest, possessing none of the ostentatious features described by the librarian. Still, she had trouble visualizing particular details. She experienced both surprise and distress at her inability to remember the every-day elements of her life.

She attributed her forgetfulness to the surrounding, impenetrable darkness. It was an empty darkness. Like any void, it sucked that which had substance into itself. It was an infinite darkness; no matter how much it took in, it could not be filled. Its endless, insentient appetite could not be sated.

How could one lone woman stand against the eternal immensity of death?

The late Ms. Aun Wee Park put off that dour thought, for she still struggled to recollect the pattern of the wallpaper in the kitchen, in which she had spent so many years of her life.

written while listening to:  Evan Parker, Barry Guy & Paul Lytton - Atlăn'tă (Impetus Records, IMP LP 18617, 1990 (originally recorded 1986), United Kingdom, lp,

July 19, 2018
Darkness all by itself is not especially formidable. It has to be coupled with some other danger in order to be feared. In its absolute state, it is only a variety of nothingness, a concept for which many thinkers through-out time have expressed an affinity. Aun Wee had no special fondness for absolutes, having always nestled herself in situations combined of contributions from many people, which together, gave rise to the comforts of life. That it should be any different in death had not yet occurred to her.

In any case, Aun Wee had conquered the previous darkness in which she had been trapped through stubborn persistence if nothing else. This precedent provided some small hope that she would not succumb to the dissipation of the void. It was possible that the vacuum had dispersed others who had come before, distributing their atoms into the far reaches of this unlit nether world. Collecting a person distributed atom by atom seemed a lengthy if not arduous task. Aun Wee was not daunted by the prospect. As a seamstress, she understood that no matter how complicated the pattern, one had to begin with the first stich.

She would go looking for the atoms which had once constituted her husband. Once she had them all in hand, she would have to give further thought about reassembling them into the whole; she was not, after all, entirely oblivious to the serenity of this place.

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor - Poschiavo (Black Sun, 15046-2, 2018 (originally recorded 1999), United States, cd,

July 20, 2018
Almost surely, manipulation of the void would require the influence of magic. She sought a spell to locate someone dear when they were lost in a vast expanse. She required a spell that would not be undermined by doubt, for there was ever the uncertainty that the object of her search existed at all. The spell should also be very broad for the precise state of the individual remained unknown. Lastly, the spell should be both powerful and adaptable. It should be able to take advantage of any other magic that it encountered, overwhelming the counter-spell if it proved at cross purposes, while drawing strength from the spell if it was cast in a sympathetic cause.

The late Ms. Aun Wee Park parsed through her memories, searching for the inspiration for such a spell. Each time she encountered a gap in her memory, it took a renewed effort to resist the impulse to abandon her task as doomed.

When living, Aun Wee had been married exactly once. The manner in which she had met her husband was hardly the subject of romance novels, but it did satisfy the basic premise of the spell. She had desired to find a man who would claim her as his wife for the remainder of his days and who would allow himself to be likewise claimed by her. She had accomplished this task; there was no denying it.

She had only to do it again, to reproduce the greatest stroke of good fortune in her life, here in the world of the dead. So, based on this precedent, the late Ms. Aun Wee Park composed a spell, which we shall call, "A Spell to Recognize a Soul Mate". That it is unlike love spells from the world of the living is entirely due to the nature of the plane in which it was first wrought.

written while listening to:  Wadada Leo Smith - Red Chrysanthemums (Corbett vs. Dempsey, CvsD | CD025, 2015 (originally recorded 1977), United States, cd,

July 21, 2018
Some suggest that this spell is heavily associated with, if not predicated upon, an embrace of nihilism, for adherents to that branch of philosophy suggest that life is meaningless and that the choices made during such a life have no importance. The selection of the individual with whom one intends to spend the rest of one's life is, of course, rightly regarded by many as a choice of utmost importance. However, this spell does insist that the caster recognize the limits of their knowledge, the vastness of the physical world and the impenetrability of the future. Within this context, the caster must acknowledge that there are, perhaps, multiple acceptable candidates, differentiated by variations in secondary traits, which do not eliminate them from consideration. Thus an element of chance is crucial to the success of the spell. There are among long-married couples many anecdotes in which one spouse might say of the other, "If my plane hadn't been delayed, or if I hadn't stopped on in a whim in that shop, or if I hadn't backed into her automobile, we would never have met."

Thus comes the opening for the nihilist to take credit for the efficacy of the spell. "It was all due to chance. The sequence of events which led to your joining is tenuous, fragile and irreproducible. You can claim no credit for grabbing hold of someone as you were both swept along in a current too powerful to resist."

Here we choose to refute neither the argument that finding the love of one's life is based on chance nor that life is meaningless. It is within an atmosphere of ambiguity that the spell gathers power.

written while listening to:  Isabelle Berteletti, Florent Haladjian, Jean-Christophe Feldhandler & Lê Quan Ninh - Quatuor Hêlios (Vand'Oeuvre, 0018, 2000, France, cd,

July 22, 2018
To call the process one of selection is actually a misnomer. When an individual wanders through a maze, we don't describe the method of solution as selection. The exploration of dead ends, the arbitrary choices made at junctions, the backtracking and the occasional error, resulting in the reinvestigation of pathways previously determined to be fruitless, combine to form a process that may eventually lead out of the labyrinth but hardly merit description as purposeful, discriminatory acts.

The spells admits the helplessness of the caster. It is true that one exercises some judgment in acting. One could, as an act of defiance, refuse to engage the process. One could choose a spot on the ground and sit there, disavowing all movement, until overtaken by starvation or at least apprehended by the authorities for causing a disturbance and taken to an out-of-the-way location where the spectacle can unfold in the presence of far fewer observers. To argue that participation is, in fact, an affirmation or conscious approval of the terms of the system is absurd.

The spell thrives on absurdity.

written while listening to:  Derek Bailey & Evan Parker - The London Concert (Incus Records, 16, 1975, United Kingdom, lp,

July 23, 2018
Many spells require a material component. Sometimes, the material serves merely as a catalyst for the invocation of the magic and can be used again in subsequent casting. One need think no further than the crystal ball, employed in the divinatory spell, clairvoyance. Other spells require materials that are consumed in the casting, as is the case with this spell. The first material required by this spell is a portion of the life essence of the caster. For this reason, it is often categorized as a vampiric spell. The caster must sacrifice some portion of their being, never to be reclaimed, never to be bent to some other purpose. Because the success of the spell remains in doubt, there is risk in committing one's essence to the spell. Should the casting end in failure, that portion of oneself is irretrievable. As a result, this spell attracts individuals with one of two types of traits. Either they embrace a philosophy encouraging participation in activities, which serve as their own reward irrespective of the outcome, or, alternatively, they are desperate.

The second material consumed in the casting of this spell is time, for the actual invocation of the spell is lengthy. One must be prepared to devote a non-negligible fraction of one's allotted span to the spell. Again, this time cannot be reclaimed regardless of the success or failure of the spell.

For those readers who observe that all worthwhile activities in a mortal life, magical or otherwise, require these same two material components, we can only suggest that the discrepancy in the two interpretations is largely based on arbitrary distinctions in where the boundaries between the arcane and the mundane are drawn.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy & Joëlle Léandre - One More Time (Leo Records, CD LR 425, 2005 (originally recorded 2002), United Kingdom, cd,

July 24, 2018
When discussing the verbal components of this spell, it is useful to consider that many phrases, with a specific, primary intent, are often used for other reasons. For example, a phrase with the obvious purpose of expressing affection, such as "Baby, I love you!", can be used instead to bid someone farewell. So too, in the case of this spell, can one phrase be substituted for another, though the original wording convey a more explicit intent. Contrary to many other spells, it is not necessary in this instance to recite the incantation verbatim. This spell invites liberal improvisation.

Should one detect some faint indication that a potential soul mate has recently passed this way or is soon to appear, the caster may, at her discretion, express herself in the most indirect of ways. Rather than simply stating the obvious, "I am searching for a soul mate and I would like to evaluate your merits based on the criteria, which I have established," she might rather say, "Watch where you're going! You almost knocked me over."

Music helps, especially tender music, which is a kind of music capable of being easily bruised if not handled with care.

written while listening to:  Joëlle Léandre & Elisabeth Harnik - Tender Music (Trost Records, CD TR172, 2018, Austria, cd,

July 25, 2018
When the spell is successful, the effect can be explosive, as if the caster has created something out of nothing. The parties involved are often caught unaware, for there had been no premonition of imminent success. Stunned into speechlessness, each gawks awkwardly at the other. Some preliminary exchanges follow, in which the couple establishes beyond a doubt that the impossible has materialized in their midst.

Some proceed with trepidation, fearful either that their good fortune shall, upon waking, prove to be a dream, or that, through some misstep, they shall torpedo the spell, as of yet unaware that one of the effects of a successful casting is an uncommonly resilient bond between the pair. Eventually, however, both come to fully embrace the transformation.

In bygone times, this spell was labeled the 'Courtship of Absence', because for much of the casting the object of the pursuit remains unknown. Among the living, the spell is regarded with suspicion, as is the case with most poorly reconciled processes. In truth, the spell is held in much higher esteem among the dead, though it is far more difficult to achieve there. The dead, lacking one of the material components, largely ape the words and gestures in a hopeless parody of the blind dance, whose steps they had once nearly perfected.

written while listening to:  Joëlle Léandre & George Lewis - Transatlantic Visions (RogueArt, ROG-0020, 2009, France, cd,

July 26, 2018
The late Ms. Aun Wee Park discovered before her an amorphous thing. It was precisely the same color as the darkness about her, so she was unable to perceive it clearly. It also possessed a consistency identical to the surrounding darkness, so no tactile means of investigation would prove able to unravel its texture or form.

Because she had become aware of this thing during the ten thousand years in which she had been casting "A Spell to Recognize A Soul Mate", it was altogether natural for her to assume that this thing, unidentifiable though it was, constituted some portion of her quarry. Of course, it was only a fragment. Dwelling as she did in a vacuum, prone to disassembling objects atom by atom, she considered herself lucky to have discovered something of any perceptible scale at all.

Perhaps, it was a leg? Certainly, the thing was no less incorporeal than her current state. Perhaps, it was a pea-sized pituitary gland, upon which Hong Samud had recently expounded in great depth. Perhaps, it was merely a portion of a soul.

Alternatively, it might be a figment of Aun Wee's imagination. Indistinguishable from the darkness, she supposed that the only way such a thing could have come to her attention was through mental, rather than sensory, faculties. She had invented it, pulling something out of nothing, just as the spell intended. She decided to think of it as an embryo. She tucked it into a space analogous to her womb, which once upon a time, if her memory could be relied upon, had incubated living children.

written while listening to:  Sylvie Courvoisier, Joëlle Léandre & Susie Ibarra - Passaggio (Intakt Records, Intakt CD 075, 2002, Switzerland, cd,

July 27, 2018
The late Ms. Aun Wee Park relayed the spell to the other members of the executive governing committee of the ICEML, saying nothing of the result, which she had generated through her own casting of it. The machine faithfully relayed her every word.

Poppy, apparently wasn't listening all that carefully, or perhaps had listened too carefully, dwelling on particular details to the detriment of those that followed. To be sure, he was delighted, for he hung all his hopes on the completion of the fractured portrait in the calendar year of 2018. However, he worried that this latest piece, "A Spell to Recognize a Soul Mate" bore too much resemblance to Aun Wee's first contribution, "A Spell to Find People You Love, After You Both Have Died." He resolved to compare them line for line after the meeting.

Ever observant, Hebeloma sensed that something was bothering Poppy. When the committee adjourned, she discreetly asked Poppy to remain behind. Between the two of them she asked, "What's wrong?"

Although he initially demurred, after brief encouragement Poppy confessed his concern, appending it by saying, "It's really nothing."

Hebeloma perceived a great difference between the two spells and she was prepared to provide an enumeration of their salient distinctions, should Poppy request it. However, he remained silent and Hebeloma followed suit. At this point, she began to suspect that Poppy had forgotten the true intent of the fractured portrait. This doubt soured Hebeloma's dreams that night, for she had aligned the cause of the committee to this purpose and she feared, despite her leadership, they might be losing their way.

written while listening to:  Derek Bailey & Joëlle Léandre - No Waiting (Potlatch, P 198, 1998, France, cd,

July 28, 2018
Stuart had no opportunity to soothe Hebeloma's concerns, if he were aware of them at all. An illustrious visitor from the fifth century had approached his remote homestead. Unable to identify him by sight, Stuart greeted the stranger cordially on the front porch. He had arrived in the heat of the day, the two dogs observed languidly from the shade of the veranda, entertaining the notion, should suitable provocation present itself, to leap into a frenzy of greeting.

As for Equinox, she wandered out from the barn to stand amidst the scattered shade of a copse of closely spaced aspens, white-barked, tall and narrow. Had she been of a mind to draw closer, the mare would have to have summoned Stuart to open the gate for her, as a barbwire fence enclosed the pasture.

Once familiar with the life of a hermit, Saint Andronicus viewed the scene with pleasure. He introduced himself to Stuart as "Andronicus of Antioch."

Stuart surveyed the man. Saint Andronicus dressed in monk's robes, which revealed only his empty hands, sandaled feet and the wrinkled face from which an extensive white beard descended. Ransacking his memory, Stuart asked, "Are you one and the same as Saint Andronicus of Egypt?"

"Indeed," replied the pilgrim. "I am one who has had the happy circumstance of being claimed both by the land in which I was raised and the city in which I lived much of my adult life."

written while listening to:  Irène Schweizer, Maggie Nicols & Joëlle Léandre - Les Diaboliques (Intakt Records, Intakt CD 033, 1994, Switzerland, cd,

July 29, 2018
"I was born in Alexandria," said Andronicus to Stuart, "with both good hands and a keen mind. With the blessing of my parents, I married a local girl, Athanasia. We found each other's temperaments agreeable and ours was a happy marriage. My father, a successful silversmith, encouraged me to follow his trade. However, my elder brother stood to inherit the shop in Alexandria, so my wife and I chose to emigrate to Antioch. Greek silver from the mines of Siphanos in the western Cyclades was carried along coastal trade routes to Antioch. My father yearned to visit the city and observe the fashions of the jewelry with which the wealthy were adorned first hand, thinking to bring such designs back to Alexandria. He traveled with us and provided me with a small loan to set up my own shop. Christianity flourished in Antioch in my day; Athanasia and I were both of a devout spirit and quickly became comfortable in our new home.

"It was almost too easy for a silversmith and husband to prosper in Antioch. Athanasia bore me first a son and then a daughter. Ours was a house of joy! We made sure to share our good fortune with alms for the poor and tithing to the church. Invariably though, it is suffering from which virtue grows. We lost both our children in quick succession to a traveling plague. With that, the joy of silver left my hands." Andronicus raised them for Stuart's inspection.

"Athanasia desired not to remain in the city of our children's deaths. We returned to Alexandria. When he was alive, she had always said that our son was the very image of his father. Now that he was dead, she told me that she no longer wished to look at my face for it haunted her with the reflection of her lost son. For my own part, I no longer recognized her haggard face. In sorrow, we parted."

written while listening to:  Joëlle Léandre & William Parker - Live at Dunois (Leo Records, CD LR 535, 2009, United Kingdom, cd,

July 30, 2018
Andronicus continued his tale, saying, "Consumed by grief, I no longer experienced the lure of the workshop. I desired only to avoid the wealthy who had purchased the labor of my hands. I retired from life and sought shelter in a skete monastery in the desert, practicing austerities with like-minded men." The saint paused from this story and fixed Stuart with a steady gaze. "Ascetic living changes a body both inside and out. Had my own brother encountered me, he would not have known my face.

"After twelve years, I felt the urge to visit the Holy Land before my death. I embarked on the difficult journey with a small party. On the way to Jerusalem, our number grew as we absorbed other pilgrims. We were joined by a man, dressed as a monk and called Theophilus, though he claimed to be associated with no monastery. His face bore the unmistakable signs of hardship and desert deprivation. We discovered in each other a fellowship and completed our pilgrimage together."

"Do you know how this story ends?" Andronicus asked.

Stuart had a suspicion, but he wanted to hear the conclusion in the saint's own words, so he gestured for the man to continue.

"When we returned to Egypt, Theophilus accompanied me back to the monastery. Once I related his character and devotion demonstrated during the pilgrimage, he was welcomed into our number. He shared my cell for many years. We found a communion in our faith that offered solace to two who had all but left the world. Early one morning, ere the sun had risen, I woke to find that life had left him."

"The story is not over," Andronicus said to Stuart, "because I also found a note folded in the sleeve of Theophilus' robe."

written while listening to:  Barre Phillips, Joëlle Léandre, William Parker & Tetsu Saitoh - After You Gone (Les Disques Victo, VICTO cd 091, 2004, Canada, cd,

July 31, 2018
Of course, the note contained the final confession of Theophilus, revealing his true identity. When Andronicus had sought refuge in the skeet monastery, Athanasia had retreated to the women's Tabennisiota monastery outside Alexandria. There she too had practiced austerities until the compulsion to visit the Holy Land had overcome her. The roads were dangerous, especially for a solitary woman, a fact which had convinced her to don the garb of a male monk. Strict living and outdoor labor had rendered her face and hands rough and genderless.

Encountering Andronicus on the road to Jerusalem, she immediately recognized him. At first she thought he pretended not to recognize her, in order to maintain her disguise, but soon it became evident that her husband's eyes were failing him. As brothers, they shared a divine joy in their pilgrimage. At Golgotha, they prayed fervently together that they be found worthy to share in the redemption of Christ's sacrifice.

For the rest of her life, Athanasia, in the guise of Theophilus, never left the side of her husband.

Having told his tale, Andronicus said to Stuart, "As I read the note, I fell to my knees. My tears wet the dry and cracked skin of her face. I searched that visage for the image of my wife, but even then I could not find her, so changed was she by her deprivations from the still, ageless portrait held in my memory."

Andronicus fixed Stuart with a wan smile. "And that, my friend, is my experience with marriage. That is why I have come to help you write your prayer."

written while listening to:  Joëlle Léandre & Fred Frith - Duet, A Woman's Work, disc 5 (Not Two Records, MW 950-2, 2016, Poland, cdx8,

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