Matthew Revert / Vanessa Rossetto Everyone Needs A Plan

[Erstwhile; 2018]

Styles: musique concrète, insecurity, emergence
Others: Kye Records, you, me

‘Tis not, what once it was, the World;
But a rude heap together hurl’d;
All negligently overthrown,
Gulfes, Deserts, Precipices, Stone.

– Andrew Marvell, Upon Appleton House

Things are not going so well, my friend. Yes, you could even say things are bad. I dropped my cellphone in a sewer grate when a cyclist hit me. I got fired from my job after some abstract budgeteer, embedded deep within abyssal bureaucracies, determined I was a luxury that my department could no longer afford. A tooth fell out of my head. I thought it was a dream, but that conspicuous void in my mirror image only confirmed what was so sinisterly suggested by the dusky greenish molar on my bedroom floor.

Though, it’s not really all that bad. I’ve got all my fingers, and they even work well enough. Enough cash sits in my pocket for a few weeks of rice and beans. Free time piles up by the ton. Even more, there’s my brother’s old Discman, complete with patented anti-skip technology, a pair of batteries freshly pilfered from a friend’s remote control, and CD-R smeared over in Sharpie, the words “everyone needs a plan” scarcely legible. It’s such a beautiful day, and no one could take it away from me (a hurricane is set to pass through here).

Groan out the door, lick lips, click start, click, hum, buzz. Wrong order.

Uncertainties for uncertainty, as steadfast as the Pillars of Hercules, Everyone Needs a Plan glides and crackles. As canny and crafty as ever, Matthew Revert and Vanessa Rossetto move through — move through what? No, they push through, emerge from, insinuate into contingencies. Contingencies link hands with compositions, with foundling sounds, static, and babble. The skin of atmosphere is stretched taut and made permeable to all species of sound: a moan, a pluck, a bowed string, a refrigerator drone, words spoken softly and words spoken gruffly. I have a hard time discriminating what belongs to them and what leaks in through the worn padding of my headphones. I slam the button at the crosswalk and hear its metal click in my head; the little man trapped in the button says, Wait.

“How busy and perplexed a cobweb is the happiness of man here, that must be made up with a watchfulness to lay hold upon occasion, which is but a little piece of that which is nothing, time?”
– John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

Excuse me, in antipodean tone, an interpolation floats into the music. Seated on a park bench, an old man and a freshly shorn St. Bernard pant in the September dregs of summertime heat. I drop my headphones to my collar, shuffling and sizzling and whining close to the necklace. He waves me over, Know anything about American novels? He points to the newspaper in his hand, folded over to the crossword puzzle. “Best-seller by Dale Brown.” I scan the clues, probe the sites of collusion, mentally trying to solve the downs.

What are you listening to? I attempt to explain and hand him my headphones, Discman still tirelessly twirling.

Minutes, many of them, pass. Letters in monkish isolation reach out to one another, make suggestions for new members of the fraternity. Minutes, many of them, pass. Expressions at tectonic pace shift into one another, write new features on the landscape.

“damon, abode, yards, soto, offers, delete, hatch, ethos, duc, thigh, eero, sealed, teddy, pisa, adolph.” I look up, and he removes the headphones, handing them back to me. What instruments are they playing? I don’t know. Could be dozens. Could be none at all. He unzips the plastic skin of a granola bar, breaks it in half, and hands me a piece. The dog turns her ponderous skull just enough to shoot me an envious glance, knowing that bit would be hers were I not there.

We chew for a few moments. I pencil in, “dayofthecheetah.” Never heard of it. Neither have I. I get up. We thank each other, bid each a good day, and share a wish for security from the coming storm. What’s her name? as I deliver a parting pat on her heavy head. Lucy. Like the song. He begins to whistle an unfamiliar tune.

It’s weird. You’re right, I’m sure you could understand. It’s a saturation point.

I’m at a new part of the composition, but I’m not entirely sure I can tell. I acknowledge my failures here and resolve to correct them. Finding a perch on the stone wall that separates our small park from the rest of the town, I begin to take notes. The graphite scratch and grind, my pencil pulverizes itself into grit as I cross the page. Wait, I’m writing with a pen.

“This is music of and-another-thing. Each scrap of sound gives way to something new, heterogeneous yet linked. At 75 minutes, it has the feel of a shaggy dog story, a discourse on futility written in futility. But how? How do you do this, how do you compose this? Linear time makes it confusing. Perhaps it would be better laid out like a map or a sky chart, connecting into the constellations the stars that stud the album cover. Strings pull and loosen like a chamber trio warmup sliced and scattered, like slivered almonds sprinkled over a salad.” My stomach rumbles.

A long, loud tone reminds me of my condition. The granola bar was good, but not so filling. I read once that some tech billionaire was buying up the blood of the young, so he could drip it into his own arm. How much of myself could I scavenge and sell to a vampire? How much blood do you need? We’re all walking goldmines.

I’ve had things happen to me.

The chirps and scrapes and hums and mumblings all float through my head, intermingling with the calculus of rent payments, utility bills, food expenditures, healthcare. The sounds adhere to my piling debts, inverted pits in mimicry of Babel. Absorb and absorbed. Another universe, inside our own, though no lesser, spins inside my brother’s Discman.

I’m hoping tomorrow I’ll have some time.

A dizzying, growing, building, cresting crag, the contents of a life assembling in a funeral pyre that begs to be set ablaze. Napoleon supposedly claimed “Geography is destiny” before beginning his campaign into Russia. Freud, in his On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love, offered his revision: “Anatomy is destiny.” Looking down from the heap, vertigo twisting my guts about, I advance that precarity is destiny. Amidst the frozen choruses, bourgeois mutterings, and radio fizz ringing in my skull, I want to vomit.

“Thus thin and lean without a fence or friend,
I was blown through with ev’ry storm and wind.”

– George Herbert, The Affliction (I)

Everyone needs a plan. That much is clear. I had one. And a backup, and a backup to the backup, and a backup to so on. The chain uncoupled at every link, and I fell. The trapeze artist is only daring if there is no net. In my free descent — how jealously I watch those paired pilots — I blame the state. Custodian of the short shrift, so eager to deny promised security with assurances that privation guards against even grander, even more unforeseen catastrophe. What a crock. Individualism is atomization, it is comminution, and all we can pray for is clinamen. The swerve of an atom charging through space, the swerve of a body falling through air, the swerve of a bow pulled deftly across strings.

They’re playing your ears.

Everyone needs a plan. They’re right, you know. There’s a reason Revert and Rossetto ally here and elsewhere. Our only certainty is our insecurity, a shared value and vulnerability among every shred of matter, regardless of how much we have been conditioned to deny that fact. In the common ground of contingency, we are linked. Who is to say that my plan should not be complement to your plan, and your plan should not supplement her plan, and her plan should not dovetail with their plan, and their plan not be keystone to our plan? To vanish Rigel would be to vanish Orion.

It is upon emergent occasions that devotion — devotion to one another — is so necessary. Our responsibility to learn forms of trust that we have been taught to reject appears in the urgencies and exigencies of crisis, of insecurity, of collapsing ground. We are citizens of the world risk society. Entrammeling nets perpetually descend upon us. I see precarity looped around every neck, precarity haunting every fragment and every whole. Always in danger of dehiscence.

I am this process. Giving is difficult.

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language,” but no one can read this language. Its illegibility threatens the volume, makes meaningless the text, destabilizes and robs it of robustness. Each entry exists in reference to each other, each chapter draws meaning from each other chapter. There is no just-me, and there is no just-you. It is always and processually me-and, you-and, Revert-and-Rossetto-and. Our world proceeds by polysyndeton, but it seems to me that some force always seeks to amputate our ands. Respect and care not to any universal Other, but to those particulars that greet us in our contingencies.

I’ve been talking for a really long time now.

Everyone Needs a Plan is an akousma, a thing heard. It is the milieu and the objects that populate it, and those unseen ethers that crowd the interstices. With a finessed sort of freebooting, it is the arrangement that communicates, that references itself and that outside of it. It constitutes a space and occupies it. It reticulates.

It would be impossible to catalog each sound. It does not so much matter whether that sound is a bolt bouncing in a bedpan or a marble dropped into a bucket, an accordion shuddering along or a synth wheezing its breathy best. I think I heard my own voice in there, flaking against some guitar strings.

“Thou best of men and friends! we will create
A genuine summer in each other’s breast,
And spite of this cold time and frozen fate,
Thaw us a warm seat to our rest.”

– Richard Lovelace, The Grasshopper

Revert and Rossetto have a sort of narrative here. At first sparse and underdetermined, they begin taking turns telling stories. Fragments, strange rememberings of strange events, intimations of insecurities, mutterings mount upon mutterings. By the close of the first hour, Revert and Rossetto are speaking over each other, speaking over themselves, starting new thoughts before the old close. Each scrap of language reaches out to others, some present and some implied. Unseen actors, merely suggested, enter into the scene. They, along with the words that summoned them, become part of, inseparable from, the texture of squeaking, clinking, slurping. Backwards noises rush by and suggest alternate methods of reading the text.

It should come as no surprise that this piece ends with both Revert and Rossetto expressing their gratitude. Gratitude owed to those who helped and supported, who gave them time and resources, who respected their work and that they were working. Mentions of positive reactions supplied by emails, feelings of personal empowerment and satisfaction, appreciation for those others that silently occupy the psychic space of the record, swirl about each other in the closing moments of Everyone Needs a Plan. A pas de deux gesturing toward a wider network, a complete community.

The record closes on a recognition of the circumstances that created it, a reference to the material world that constitutes and that will be the only medium by which it can be heard. Arbitrary yet complete. Complete yet embedded. It might just be my own position, he of grumbling stomach and missing tooth, but I hear in the work of Revert and Rossetto an acknowledgement of how common vulnerability is and how much we can do for each other to combat it.

What is weird is that I don’t feel anxiety about it. I feel a sense of power and liberation because we didn’t hold back. You have allowed us to be exactly what we wanted to be. And I just want to thank you so much for making this happen, for putting me in a position where I can be so liberated. Just thank you for everything.

The stolen batteries in my brother’s Discman died during the storm. Two days before, my neighbor, an old woman of protruding bone and shuffling step, carried four gallons of water to my door. She told me that she had heard of entire families dying of thirst in the aftermath of hurricanes. Such ironies are only possible in the wake of catastrophe. Now as I listen back to this record on the computer at my local library, I hear her voice mingling with all the others.


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