Ian William Craig Cradle for the Wanting

[Recital; 2015]

Styles: solo voice, sound collage
Others: Sean McCann, Scott Walker, William Basinski, Morton Feldman

Want ascends from the labyrinthine cavern of the body to the diaphragm, larynx, and mouth, a system that rectifies it in the production of something else. Cradle for the Wanting mercilessly situates “Each All in Another All,” e.g. the apparatus of vocalization, which must be resilient and inert from the point of view of meaning, violently absorbed into the background of the body and its depth. In processing, Craig’s words are basically howls, cries, and moans. It buries speech into a larger All and exhumes a greater expression of the body. First, we recoil in doubt. Persistent in his cutting and flaying, Craig follows us into the dark. In fact, the space of withdrawal is where Cradle for the Wanting begins its journey from “Doubtshapes” to “Grace in Expectation,” from the denial of truth to the donation of possibility. Cradle-like, however, in its lowering and mixing of slippery and caustic contents, it produces no narrative. It is rather a mixture without direction. The cradle is itself grave, carrying, in its own weightlessness, the incredible load of the flesh and its want.

Cradle for the Wanting holds a delicately ordered court of sense and nonsense, in which both take turns playing the accuser and the accused. Is it at all clear what sort of justice is sought in such a tribunal? If there is justice of the body — for, as a document of speech and its descent into burning carnality, the Cradle certainly gives an account of the body — it is an order dragged about by desires, agitated in denial, and perverse in madness. There is no justice here, in part because there is “No Cradle for the Whole of it.”

The directionless mixture that overflows from this disappointing cradle is comprised of individual causes with direction, if not effects. Each song on this album is novelistic and universal in its own alien consciousness. Voice and processing enter a sort of cooperative diptych, representing (in the arbitrary manner of the surface) phantasmic order and the eruption of obscure depth. Song titles, references, and whatever lyrics you can discern work as alien touchstones, creating depth by feigning consciousness “of” some referent: doubt, habit, want, particular bodies and events, abstract spatial and visual qualities. “Doubtshapes,” for example, begins in great religiosity (for this particular listener, who grew up sheepishly mumbling the hymns of Charles Wesley) and ends in a properly Basinskian fall whereby the vocal exaltations are cut short, looped, and torn to shreds. “Habit Worn & Wandering” begins, on the other hand, with the already-contained madness of habit, eventually drowned out by the voice, which is, in this merciless logic, subsumed into yet another All.

The awkward faltering of the surface in representing the deep is the simplest condition of possibility for humor. Chrysippus the Stoic taught a joke: if you say something, it passes through your lips; so, if you say “chariot,” a chariot passes through your lips. It is humorous to think about “Glassblower” as expressing the moving, creating body of a person blowing glass, or “Empty, Circle, Tremble” as giving a void and a shape and an act of a body. This discussion is no more digressive than the above discussions of want, doubt, and habit, which leap in the same fashion. This is funny. If there is a serious meaning beneath this humor, it is the radical equality of examples in expressing the profound drama of surfaces.

If “Doubtshapes” leaps and dives from the surface of hymn, “Glassblower” gives the voice faintly and in a gentle storm of noise, singing as if the body is working, immersed within a productive state of affairs. Again, the transcendent resonance of the voice makes a meaningful point about the dissolution of states of affairs in nonsense, about the lightness of sense. The forms produced in this excess of passion correspond with the inevitable imperfection of mimesis, to the glowing orbs pulled out by a glassblower from the depth of transmutative heat into the world of bodies and their relations. Their destiny is to harden. They will be judged for their usefulness. They are liable to be shattered.

The heat that forms is transmutative, but so is the shattering. The surface is a vessel, and obsolete vessels must be deconstructed and put to work somewhere else. This breaking is the creative and traumatic task of the body. “Shipbreaking” is tense, but mournful, and in its solemnity, it expresses the sort of incomplete proposition that may only be amended with the ellipsis drawn by “Grace in Expectation.” This is one of the many directions contained within the transcendent mixture. It stages a final divergence, a rattling nonsense in which destiny is suspended and the power of the body takes over. Which is to say: I am no longer listening to Cradle for the Wanting, and I am free to enter into other relations.

I am like a cartoon character who has not yet noticed it has stepped off a cliff. Cradle for the Wanting threatens to tempt my eyes downward in madness, condemning me to the deep — the ugly face of destiny. It is still beautiful and human, though, like the levitation of not-yet-noticing. Here is another kind of destiny and a cradle that holds all things in its balance.

Links: Ian William Craig - Recital

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