Aug 24, 2016, 10:18AM

Down in a Hole, Feeling So Small

52 Weeks of Elizabeth Veldon, Week 34: “Soil” (04/10/13).

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While I never really took to gardening, the dirt’s always been a minor fascination of mine. It’s a world just out of reach, teeming with lost treasures and unseen life, a world that awaited us all upon the moment of death. Cross-sections of the underground—you can find them in zoos, books, and films—are fine, but wouldn’t it be fun to briefly transcend the corporeal state, to exceed gravity’s limits, to plummet down through layers of sediment accrued over millennia and get a good look at and listen to what lurks below the ground beneath our feet?

Some fantastical, Disneyfied tour of ant colonies, decaying dog toys, and buried powerlines, “Soil” isn’t. Rather it’s a low, rippling drone in the style of Michael Morley’s early Gate recordings, a quaking hum that’s intermittently undergoing chord shifts that suggest alternated burrowing tactics. To hear it is to truly grasp, to undying disappointment, that there’s no real romance or magic to the billions of tons of dirt and rock clamped tight to our planet’s bedrock skull: the terra firma is cold, brutal, efficient, and hungry. It has zero sense of itself and even less of us: long after we’re dead, it’ll continue to digest and excrete everything the universe has to throw at it. Not the most reassuring notion to consider, or reconsider, especially once bedtime arrives.


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