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Capturing Loss in Sound

A track by Scanner on the tragic death of his brother

In an extended liner note, Scanner describes what has happened. But first there are the sounds themselves, the piercing, aimed-high, bristling and disconsolate arches and tremors that force their way, like stilettos, like lasers, through the elegiac haze of “Sad Atlantis (For Nick).” The Nick of the title is Scanner’s brother, who passed away recently in terrible circumstances. Somehow, while managing his own grief and the attendant fraternal duties, Scanner managed to make some music. Perhaps “somehow” is the wrong word. Perhaps the opposite is the case. Perhaps it isn’t “somehow” but, instead, “of course.” Of course a musician faced with such personal turmoil would, in turn, express himself in sound, process his experience in sound, take solace in sound. Is it a stretch to note in this track a pain that is not often as apparent in Scanner’s work? Are not the sharp instances at, say, 1:55 and 2:45 and 4:06, windows into the specificity of his state of mind. And are they not lent additional meaning by the wavering, mournful clouds out of which they appear?

Here, for context, is the note that accompanies the piece:

A year ago my mum died of cancer, just a week after being diagnosed. If that wasn’t a struggle enough in itself, my only brother Nick, and last remaining family member, was diagnosed with cancer in late August. Just three months later he too is now dead, slipping away on 1st December, but tragically not because of the cancer itself (even though he was gravely ill already at this point) but via a meddling and careless nurse who force-fed him pills and yoghurt despite there being strict instructions for no oral administration of medicine.

Tragically my wife and I stood there powerless as we watched my brother choke to death in front of us in the most painful, distressing and vile manner imaginable. His exit was not graceful and moving, but a punishing and cruel end to the gentlest soul imaginable.

I recorded his breathing shortly before he passed away earlier that day when he was at peace. What you hear opening and closing the track are those recordings. The music was recorded and composed live on my Eurorack Modular system and no editing has been made on this lonely, haunting piece.

I hope it some way it captures the mood of where I am right now, lost in memories, whilst administrating the life of a loved one and awaiting the results of a formal investigation into his early death and failure of the hospice to provide proper and attentive care.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/scanner. More from Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, at scannerdot.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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