The last thing I do every night, before I sleep, is check my phone. Have I set my alarms? Is my phone plugged in and charging? Is the phone volume all the way up, so that my alarms will wrench me out of sleep in the morning?
First, I look for the clock icon in the upper-right-hand corner of the phone’s home screen: my alarms are set. Next, I look for the lightning bolt that appears over the battery icon: my phone is charging. I press down the volume button. A white bar appears on the left side of the screen: my phone is at its maximum volume. Last, I look at the photo on my home-screen, a picture of my partner.
I stare at each image intently— the clock, the lightning bolt, the volume bar, then my partner—and I recite the corresponding words: clock, lightning bolt, volume, I love you so much. I repeat this litany many times with many variations. Clock, lightning bolt, volume, I love you so much, so much, so much. Clock, lightning bolt, volume, volume, volume, I love you so, so, so, so, so, much. I continue until I feel that I’ve performed the ritual correctly. Then, finally, I fall asleep.
I am glad to report that this routine is just a vestige of an obsessive-compulsive disorder that cropped up in my teens. I’ve gotten a handle on my compulsions and I can now shrug off many triggers that used to send me into spirals. I have gained a distance from these compulsions, and even though they lurk just off-stage, I’ve begun to appreciate their absurdity. As much as they can be agonizing, they are also weirdly compelling.
Clock, Lightning Bolt, Volume, I Love You So Much is a performance of my nighttime ritual. After the opening section, in which I manipulate a recording of myself speaking the titular phrase, the piece ceases to be strictly programmatic. Instead, it is an abstract representation of my dual experience of how these rituals can hold me in their grip. It’s ironic to experience something while, at the same time, standing outside of that experience—of being in something, but not of it. It is painful, strange, quirky, and even funny, to say the least.
1/21/2021 (Livestreamed Premier)
- Selected for the 2021 National Student Electronic Music Event (NSEME)