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Ball of Wax 51 Songs: Doug Haire – “Ilwaco”

When I was in college there were two compact discs that I particularly enjoyed going to bed to because of the way the songs fell in sequence and engaged with my drifting into sleep. Disc Two of the Lou Reed anthology Between Thought and Expression was one of these. As the songs played, they would interact with and become an indistinguishable part of the environment around me. As I fell into sleep, the songs would draw the dormitory sounds into my dreams. During the transition I often wasn’t certain from where the sounds that I was hearing were coming. From the room? From the recording? Or from my imagination?

Doug Haire’s “Ilwaco” similarly becomes a part of the soundscape of its listener, rather than a lone, independent track. Its sweeping winds and dripping waters quietly fill the room, chilling and moistening the space it occupies. One hears the tide pull in, or is it a car on the road outside? Could it be both? Does it need to be either? As the track progresses, the natural sounds fade and a modulating tone moves to the fore. As the tone builds in prominence it first surrounds the listener, it becomes tactile, then it transcends the senses. It is present. Here it becomes difficult to determine the source of the sounds one is hearing.

My cat and I had similar, but different experiences listening to “Ilwaco.” I became disoriented and concerned that my roof was leaking. Paul the Cat stared at and readied himself to attack the computer from which the track emanated. For both of us, the experience of listening to Doug Haire’s piece transcended reality. For both of us, our senses were heightened, alerted, and engaged.

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