In the desert with Tiny Music and perhaps spirits

From sometime in mid September …
I stayed with 2 members of the wonderful acoustic-junk/drone/folk/experimental group Tiny Music, who used to be based in Chicago. My cassette label, Notice Recordings, released a beautiful recording by them (which is still available … I think perhaps 10 copies). When they gave us the material, approximately 4 years ago, they were in the midst of moving to New Mexico, “to build a house in the desert”. Over the next few years, I followed, sporadically, their awesome blog and saw the construction of their environmentally-friendly house, now completely functioning on solar power. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to visit the house, and this experience was unexpected and memorable. Everyone should go read their blog and see their progress, and, if you can, support them financially. They have a Paypal donate button on their blog. They’re such amazing artists and warm and welcoming people !

Anyway, I waited for Amanda at a ranch entrance on Rt 554. (The “ranch” entrance is really just a gate which leads to a few houses scattered throughout that area of the desert.) She decided it would be best to meet me, since getting to the house from the main road involves driving through a network of dirt roads, dried up old arroyos, washes, and so on. As I followed her, 6 horses galloped in front of my car, their variegated shiny brown coats reflecting in the hot white sun of the desert. They were completely free range, and walked right up to their owner, standing, waiting, with horse-feed. It was endearing and amazing to witness.

Amanda and Daine’s house is a special place. They’ve put so much love and work into it. So far they’ve constructed a living room/kitchen, an attic (under construction), an adobe room (also under construction … I helped them for a day digging and sifting and mixing the adobe), and a cabin about 100 yards away in which I stayed. They’ve accumulated a variety of found items, antiques, beautiful junk and artwork. Every surface and corner provided a resting space for some piece of mysterious miscellany. Most of the functioning items used were gleaned or found from a variety of sources.

My non-phone iPhone stopped working while there, for whatever reason, so the only photographs I took was while it worked in my cabin. I have an affinity for the arrangement of beautiful and/or old things, so I was pleased with the opportunity to document the room.


Something else worth mentioning is the sounds I heard while sleeping in this cabin. All night long, I could hear the hoo-hooing of an owl, the yelping of coyotes, the scurrying of mice, the slow, glassy hum of crickets, and the faint wisping of wind through the small, dried shrubbery scattered about the property. The stillness of the place provided room for these sounds to occupy more of my mind. The vast array of the stars seen through my window were an endless reception to the small orchestra of noises :  emanating from the earth, swirling in their curly-cue soundy ways, up into the cosmos. In addition to these sounds, I also heard footsteps on the wooden porch. Indeed, both nights, around 3AM, I woke to the very clear sound of footsteps. I also heard a large thudding sound, like a pack of heavy books being dropped on the desert floor. This is a sound I’ve heard before, both in Colorado and in the dead of cold cold winter at my family home in Vermont. When I heard it in Vermont, I was alone, and it was very regular ;  about every 15 minutes or so. It was 5 degrees outside. It happened most of the night, and my fragmented sleep produced dreams of nighttime activities in the forest, with colored lights and fires, spotlights shining brightly through the trees, and vehicles driving over stone walls, through my house and on the fields. I suppose I should not wonder what the sound is, and just let it be. But anyway, back to the desert :  I just lay there, still as still can be, listening to these sounds. Each time, I eventually just went back to sleep. The next morning I spoke with Amanda about the sounds, and she assured me that no one would be walking around in the middle of the night, which isn’t something I suspected anyway. But she did tell me that most people who stay in the cabin hear footsteps outside at night …
I do believe in the presence of spirits, and the desert is certainly a place that spirits occupy.
Anyway, that’s that.

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The Tea Merchant and His Atmospheres


Adrian Dziewanski over at Scrapyard Forecast has posted a very nice and insightful review of my tape, The Tea Merchant and His Atmospheres. Some of the things he wrote perfectly coincide with how I feel about this collection of sound works, and how they came to fruition. Needless to say, there are many things left unsaid. Of course, they will never be said, and can only be found hidden in the sounds, or in the trails left behind …

– See the review here (with two others about tapes by Ben Owen and Tiny Music)
– Buy the tape here or contact me directly for purchase or other ways to acquire this release