This page contains graphic and potentially triggering content relating to CSA, mental illness, violence, and sexuality. Please do not read further if you do not feel you can handle it. Take care of yourself <3Close
ever since an early age i have been deeply fascinated by recording. i got a cheap voice recorder when i was about 8 or so and i used it to record things that i might be able to splice together into sound collages—i was always interested in experimental music, and once i found out what musique concrete was, i wanted to make it. (my interests have shifted to other kinds of experimental music but i cannot deny the lasting influence of discovering "Revolution 9" and subsequently listening to John Cage pieces and various sound collages on YouTube as a child.)
i wanted to make my own movies too, and when i was about 9 or 10 years old i attempted to create an "interactive tokusatsu" using my low-end Canon digital camera and the then-new YouTube annotations system. i was highly impacted by the interaction between recording and the human mind, whether via interactivity or other means. William S. Burroughs once used tape recordings of civil unrest overlaid over recordings of nearby bustle in order to curse a café which had treated him rudely. in case you doubt the power of recording, just know that he was successful—on 30 October 1972, soon after his experiment and after 19 years of operation as London's very first espresso joint, the Moka Bar shut down.
i myself was cursed by a recording, but not in the fun and creative way that Burroughs carried out his curse. recently my brain dug up an old recording that i had only experienced in fragments before and played it for me in full, vividly. the contents of this recording were simple: a woman showed me a tape of me being raped, threatened me if i were to say anything about it, and then proceeded to push me down to a table and grab my genitals as a man performed irrumatio on me and someone (either the woman or another man) inserted something into my anus. i was 6 or 7 years old at the time.
i find it probable that that tape is still circulating somewhere. it's hard to think about. i took some old heart medication just to be able to write this page. it's difficult, but it doesn't really leave me with an identifiable reaction. when i confront myself with the phrase "i am a victim of child pornography", i feel horrible, but in some undefinable way. as if my body doesn't know how to react, and my brain doesn't either. as if there's no reaction in the preprogrammed recordings of my brain that is suitable for playback when i think, say, or read that sentence. it's a jumble. it's noise. it's emptiness.
the brain is an incredible recording device. it can be influenced in strange and subtle ways by all manner of sensory input. sometimes, it will record something that fucking breaks it. this is what we call trauma. and if this is repeated over time, and if it does not record enough connection, enough people trying to put it back together, it will break even harder. this is how PTSD and C-PTSD form. sometimes it will record something that never happened due to the suggestion of someone like a therapist. and sometimes it will hide away a recording of something that did happen until something triggers playback for it. there is a study of these kinds of things happening, called "repressed memories", and the cases in which the subject spontaneously recovers a memory are approx. as accurate as the cases in which the subject never forgot a thing. meanwhile the cases in which a therapist was involved in attempting to bring a possible repressed memory to light are very rarely accurate at all. the brain is a very strange recording device.
in my case, i don't think that "repression" is accurate. repression is an automatic process, in which the unconscious mind keeps disturbing things from erupting into consciousness. suppression is an active process, in which one tries very hard to forget. i remember trying to forget, because if i didn't forget then the nice lady would show the tape to everyone i loved, and then they wouldn't love me anymore. and for a while i did forget for the most part. i don't trust my recollection of faces; i'm terrified of trying to identify who raped me and accusing an innocent person. and yet i never forgot the aftereffects: self-harming at an incredibly young age, screaming suicide threats on the school floor surrounded by concerned teachers and my parents with no clear understanding of how i got there, threatening myself and family with knives, not being able to use public bathrooms, stripping naked every time i had to use the toilet, becoming hypersexual even before i began puberty, having weird triggers around random subjects that reminded me of what happened, secretly wishing i'd be sexually harassed or assaulted, intense guilt over moral and sexual subjects.
there are three times i've listened to recordings of arranged sound and felt like the experiences recorded in my brain were understood, like i was not alone in having them and feeling the need to express them. the first time is when i listened to this song by the music producer Kikuo:
it's utterly brutal, horrifying, and depressing precisely because it's real. the lyrics are things i thought. the attitude expressed is the attitude i had while it was going on. i felt guilty. i felt like a bad, horrible child. i felt cowardly. i wanted to say sorry to everyone. and it's cathartic as shit to hear that really expressed in an accessible format.
the second time is when i listened to the album All the Pretty Little Horses by Current 93, probably my favourite musical project:
it's beautiful and haunting and cryptic and open to interpretation. and i interpret it as one of the most incredible works on childhood trauma i've encountered. the lines that stick out to me really are the conclusion of "The Carnival Is Dead and Gone", which goes "and i wished to die inside of you, and push up into your heart so violently that face-to-face with Matrix Creatrix am the Inmost Light—the Inmost Night." which immediately precedes one of the saddest songs in existence, "The Bloodbells Chime", about losing childhood innocence growing up. and then after that one from "Calling for Vanished Faces II", the concluding line, "bad, bad, bad, bad Inmost Light." which occurs right before "The Frolic", a song based on a Thomas Ligotti story about a child murderer, which is filled with amazing lines but ends with "i have become that i hate, i have become that i shall say no" then "and all fall down. All fall down. All fall down. I all fall down. All fall down. I all fall down. We all fall down. We all fall down." and those lines are to me (1) the perfect way of capturing the insane drive to use sexuality unhealthily to escape what and who you are (2) an amazing expression of the fucking incomprehensible sense of badness that a child feels when they've been hurt and especially when they internalise guilt about it and (3) the utter terror and guilt that come with being a hurt child, even as an adult, feeling like your very essence is bad and dirty and you're just as bad as the people who hurt you.
and the third time is when i listened to the final version of my own song, "Bloody Red Roses (Sirkha)", which deals directly with my own experiences:
i remember after a dear friend told me that she likes music that expresses honestly what the artist feels, where they're vulnerable, i tried to sit down and write a song about my own trauma. and i sat down for an hour trying to find a way to begin it, and then i typed out the line "i dreamt about a young December" and went into a trance and when i looked at the screen i got a bit choked up after realising what i'd written. i quickly recorded it a couple times with some difficulty due to the subject matter, selected the best versions, applied some effects, and that was it. i didn't really cry when singing it but i recorded myself listening to it and i cried then.
recording killed me, and then it brought me back.