“Palenque Log” is an essay by James Clifford that’s a mashup of anthropology, perception psychology and travel journal, where he relates the various ways in which an archeological pyramid site in Mexico has been presented to visitors over the years: An early version accommodated car parking, easy pedestrian access and an immediate and open visual overview of the site, but the authorities later decided to obscure the pyramids from the tourists´ first impression, planting dense forest between the site and disembarking tour bus passengers. This redesign seems to have resulted in a heightened, gradual-reveal sense of anticipation for the visitors as they moved through the forest towards the buildings and excavations.


I once saw a documentary about Frank Lloyd-Wright’s architecture where they show how you enter the main room of worship in his Unity Temple by walking the length of the church wall alongside the pews – but one level down from them, your view up towards the room occasionally blocked by pillars, the sense of anticipation intensifying as you near the back row, turn, walk up a few steps, and finally take in the whole sight. Your gaze is adding up the bits and pieces you’ve already seen, and lets new pieces of visual information through, in a space that opens up and suddenly makes sense.


Hilary Mantel occasionally seems to tell her stories from between the eyebrows of her characters and outwards. Physical surroundings are omitted for a long time, or maybe they´re never described. You read page after page in her novels without clarification until something drops – blink and you’ll miss it – that connects the pieces in her tableaus. 


Gradual exposition. Corner-of-your-eye impressions that mutually blur each other’s lines and create a whole. These ideas of deliberate obscurity have influenced the methods and the music I’m about to discuss here. And since I’ll be discussing these influences of abstraction, I may betray them.



Introduction: Glimpses and shadows

(Screenshot from cell phone video: Arild Juul)