I’ve been running after—chasing—a song recently and my roommates must think I’m crazy. I play it once again as soon as it slips away, the speakers in my living room surely growing frustrated. It’s like I’ve become a kid playing with a wind-up car, taking just as much pleasure on the first time as on the 45th, the feeling of expectation never getting old.

It’s “Irene” by Beach House—or perhaps the whole record, or perhaps the whole band. The 16-minute dream pop album-ender is itself incredibly repetitive (which makes it all the better for my roommates, of course). From the very beginning, one note slowly makes itself known, constantly repeating as if the band left a cup of water on their sound machine’s spacebar. It never quite goes away, and even and even when it does, the mental imprint it has left on the mind is indistinguishable from the real note. In the song’s music video, the guitarist Alex Scally is seen plucking the same string over and over as if he is demonstrating how to strum a note.

The song sounds something like a process of reanimation; Victoria LeGrand’s voice begins ghost-like, only the single note framing it, then is steadily dressed in more layers, a process of coming back to life. This repeating note pushes the song forward like a hydraulic press building pressure. Appearing to arrive at some climactic destination, the song instead refutes the desire for satisfaction and remains suspended in an ongoing not-yet;  Irene completely disrobes leaving nothing more than the repeating note for an entire 60 seconds, an entire 32 measures, an entire 148 numbing strikes.

There is in these notes—a singular tone—a state wholly opposite to arrival; rather I am fully suspended in postponement. The beginning of the song and the expectation for it to restart become mere peripheral vision. In this space, in this state, the song freezes me, demands—no forces!—my body into a state of full absorption. It is as if the one note has become some sort of acoustic light resonating and reflecting off of the inward-facing mirrors of my mind—and what a wonderful state, despite it only lasting 60 seconds.

What is a song outside of its beginning and end? Perhaps nothing more than a ghost, a distant memory of time moving, but for a moment, in repeating patterns. What is the song then-played if not an incoherent assemblage of resulting conclusions and insights stripped of their referents; as close to the whole as a singular sun-faded butterfly wing found on the sidewalk is to the live magic dance of flapping color.

You do not own your songs. Your mp3 files, your bookmarked YouTube music videos, your concert tickets, your Spotify subscription, your vinyl. You lease songs. You lease them for as long as you listen to them; indeed at times, you try your best to offer a down payment, listening over, and over, and over again until at last, you hand back over the keys.

The full meaning of a song is only there for us to grasp during it, the emotion in all of its dimensions only unfolding from the notes resonating not remembered. That moment after a song’s last note it enters a sort of death in suspension, born again somehow familiar only in the next playing. A playlist is a bit like a filing cabinet: each file is stuffed with information but only able to be accessed with the file in hand, impossible to conjure otherwise, the rest of the other files at any moment practically invisible, save a title. 

When I listen to “Irene” I listen to get back. I listen to listen. I play the song to hear the song to get back in it. I attempt at the beginning again to get at the middle. The whole affair turns the logic of means and ends into nothing more than a tangled mess. The means, the being in the listening, are the ends themselves never collapsed, never crystalized, always alive and moving. It is a constant chase so much larger than “Irene,” then Beach House, as big as life itself.


The first time I saw blue was in Paris. It was in The Centre Pompidou, the Paris equivalent to MoMA. Famously inside-out, the escalator to the top wraps around the outside of the building, encased in glass like a gigantic transparent vein of an ivy. By the time I reached the top I had forgotten I was in a museum. My vision was disoriented; having just been flooded with the sea of landscape that in big cities is only perceivable from above the median height of buildings, the infinite rest rising from the back, my field of view was suddenly reduced to abstractly colored rectangles against clean white.

But I only saw one, and it was blue—only blue. In my state of confusion I thought for a second my vision was glitching. There, against the far wall of the hall was a canvas taller than I, apparently painted just blue. It stood out against its multicolored wall-mates, a blue gaping hole in the wall, a new blindingly blue dimension. 

In 1957, in the paint shop at 11 Boulevard Edgar Quinet, Edouard Adam, by that time a third generation de couleur, or color-man, got a strange request from a new customer. It was not a matter of color, not a matter of blue, but of application. Yves Klein knew the color he wanted—ultramarine blue—but could not find a way to “preserve its energy.” The pigment alone is so dense with blue that many have described it as hurting the eyes, and yet KIein, who had become rightly obsessed with the color, had not yet been able to find a way to replicate the effect in paint. Klein even attempted to get around the problem of paint by once exhibiting a horizontal canvas laid on the floor with pure pigment dusted on it, but looking only down and not ahead wasn’t enough— “the canvas should be a horizon before the onlooker, not a mat.”

Maggie Nelson wrote in her book on blue “try, if you can, not to talk as if colors emanated from a single physical phenomenon. Keep in mind the effects of all the various surfaces, volumes, light-sources, films, expanses, degrees of solidity, solubility, temperature, elasticity, on color. Think of an object’s capacity to emit, reflect, absorb, transmit, or scatter light; think of ‘the operation of light on a feather.’”

Perhaps there is no painting more cruelly represented by the museum-website-photo than a Yves Klein Blue. The LCD screen portrays colors in much the same way Seurat did; each pixel uses but three colors, their average combined brightness creates the illusion of any given tone. Walk up too close to a Seurat and the illusion becomes mear atoms of itself. When I sometimes look at the photo I took that day, I laugh a little; the absurdity of the widespread belief in photography’s “objective representation” instantly crumbles, then explodes in my face. 

As though my legs were possessed by the ghost of Yves Klein, I walked the length of the sixth floor without knowing why. It was as though my field of view turned titanic, the blue beginning at a distance slowly flooding every nook, every inch, until at last I was in the blue of it. It swallowed me whole, held me spellbound and fixed. In looking at it, there is no sense of self, no reflection to speak of, no museum glass. When polyvinyl acetate is mixed with ultramarine blue, the pigment does not dissolve, does not become one with the liquid but rather remains suspended in solution, a million swimming blue bits. As it dries, the pigment is pushed to the very front of the canvas, each microscopic fragment matting the surface of the paint. If glossy is reflection, self-awareness, and realization, then matte is absorption, submersion, and dissociation. 

I kept on looking, kept trying to find something in the blue, but it never arrived. Inside the blue is yet more blue—bluer still, so blue that there was nothing else but it. Other paintings have offered me a reason, an insight, a new perspective or understanding, an end somewhere on the other side, but Yves Klein’s monochrome blues are just…blue. Perhaps my experience is not at all dissimilar to the thousands of microbes that trek their way across the canvas, them not so much conceiving the blue as perceiving it, journeying through it. The point, if there is one, is to be in the blue of it for the sake of blue, to be, as Victoria LeGrand professes in Beach House’s “Lazuli,” “In the blue of this life.”


When I started photographing, photography was about the photo. By seven, the $50 point-and-shoot my dad bought me from Target was practically glued to my wrist. I’d shoot to show, shoving the camera’s back screen into my mother’s, brother’s, and grandmother’s faces. To have reality replicated by means of a button was nothing short of magic. The photo was my diamond—crystallized time.

Then it was documentation, the photo became a preservative for memory. Moments forgotten rose from the dead like zombies. It wasn’t so much the content of the photo as much as it was a reminder, a way back into the past.

By freshman year of high school, it was about money. Looking back, I’m still not exactly sure why anyone trusted a 15-year-old. Perhaps it was my $35 session price…

Applying to college, forced to construct some convincing idiosyncratic narrative of ourselves, mine was obvious: photography. It became my paper identity, the thing that would, I was told, suspend me above the sea of other convincing idiosyncratic narratives.

In college, it became art. My photos lost contextual significance in favor of an aesthetic one. Photos became color, composition, minimalism, maximalism, balance, feeling, meaning, worlds. 

But now it is so much more. Annie Dillard once wrote that when she walks around without a camera, “my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut.” Photographing for me now is a way of seeing, an excuse to perceive the world more closely. There is a phenomenon that those who live far away from cities and light pollution will know well. Looking up at a clear night sky, stars are clearly visible. Looking longer, eyes slowly begin to adjust to the darkness, and new stars begin to show themselves that were there all along. 

This is my photographing now: to become sensitive to the world’s details and be in awe of them. To photograph is to be in the photographing, to look at the world with wonder. The photo is no longer my diamond, photographing is. 


My partner is in love with another. Another city. We discovered it together, on a study abroad trip during our third year of college. Yes, Paris is visually beautiful—the dramatic sky, the beige facades, the wide boulevards, the art nouveau metro entrances. Even the infuriatingly confusing neighborhood layout, arranged to replicate the spiral of a snail’s shell, looks on a map as though the city planners valued form over function. But more than beauty it was pace. It was the two-hour lunch breaks, the “be back in an hour” signs on stores, the dinners so long it didn’t make sense to have a plan after. If New York were whitewater rapids, Paris would be a gently flowing stream.

They have not given me a date but rather a vague though nevertheless certain intention of moving someday. Long distance isn’t in the cards, but the relationship’s eventual end is. At this point, I’ve gotten the question a million times “What’s next? It’s been some time now! Do you think…they’re the one? But they want to move to Paris right? Then…why?” What’s next is tomorrow, it’s been an amazing time, they are my one, now, they will, yes, because I love them, am loving them, am in love. The timer doesn’t stop the clock moving.


They told us it was traffic, but lateness doesn’t always have a reason, muddling punctuality like an unexpected stain. My cousins and I were to go on a tour of Oxford—the university and the town. The tour guide, an alumnus himself, was in a rush from the beginning, first apologizing for the delay, then ushering us along at every stop. “There’s so much to see, we will only get a mere scrape.”

When we meandered a bit too long in any one place, let our eyes unfocus under the sun in the garden for more than a minute, he would hold his hands out to us palms up to give a visual, then repeated the metaphor: “time is slipping through our fingers like sand, we will have to get moving along.” And yet, what is the point of the sand if not to feel it through our fingers? To focus on the sand fallen is to have missed the sand fell—to miss the sand entirely.


The logic of the manic New York City driver is to me astoundingly confounding. I get around the city on an electric longboard—year round, no matter where. Though slower than a car, I end up getting to my destination within the same time, if not faster. The manic New York City driver perfectly exemplifies why: the moment the light turns green, he (and yes it is usually a he) floors the gas with a sense of purpose, speeds down the three blocks he has conquered, only to be stopped by another red light, for me to catch up not 30 seconds later.


One of my best friends, Kate, is a bartender. She loves the job, loves the combination of the slightly chaotic with mechanically precise, loves when she gets an order for a mezcal negroni, loves that she can be anyone she wants in the cover of dim lighting. Most of all though she loves the transient relationships. “I’ll never see these people ever again, and yet that makes the conversations some of the best I’ve had.”


I met a successful professional recently who works on Wall Street, at least successful in the Wall Street conception of the word. It’s the investment banking, 80 hours a week (on a good week), work calls on sundays, $400k/year, Wall Street. She was telling a friend and I about her house in the hamptons. “Damn! So you’ve made it, huh?” my friend asked her. She visits once a year.


Are we not often running over that which we are running towards? Are we not all too often so set on finding that we have missed the search? Have we forgotten submersion in favor of understanding, happening in favor of happened, means over ends, repetition over arrival—strangling the living out of life? 

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