It's Not a Loop, It's a Spiral: Fragments of Letters I Wrote this Year

Katie Porter

It’s been cold here. At every speck of sunshine we’ve been outside, riding bikes mostly, except the little one who is out there on the trampoline, in her swimsuit and snow boots, no matter what the weather is like. It’s quiet outside now. The world has stopped.

When I sent over my few audio files, I definitely felt like I was throwing three small stones at your glass house. How do I throw these, and make sure to hit it, but not break it, not break your tranquility in an annoying editing and file management project, strapped to your computer chair, trying to make music with everyone only halfway following the instructions, halfway around the world, in a pandemic? And then I thought, ah well, you must have wanted these rocks I’m throwing, here they are. 

I like your slow music idea very much. It’s close to my heart, for many reasons. 

I think for me, I want to stop time—share the experience of time stopping—and that is really now at the core of what I want to do and play, especially out in the desert.

It’s nearly 10am and my whole house is still asleep, even the dog. I don’t know how I’ll ever get them up in the mornings again whenever school and real life resume. I’m half a pot of coffee in. And reading.

I spent several hours making very quiet bass clarinet duets with Lucio over Zoom these last few weeks, and now we have almost an hour of material. And I feel better about everything.

Do you ever feel like you’ve run out of music?

This year, for the first time, it feels like that, like we’ve played all the music we want to play, and we made recordings of pieces that we’ve played forever and love, and now what? What is next? It seems I should make some things for myself. I put a few projects in motion these last couple weeks, and now they are all happening at once. My clarinets are out and it’s felt good.

A long time ago now, I realized my role in music was making things happen. So, when we moved from Brooklyn to the mountains, a decade ago now, and there were no more people, no important concerts, no audience, we truly only had each other to collaborate with. It felt strange and empty, but then it became about Devin’s work, and my work, and our work together. 

And then I felt like, wait, we can share this, we can make music here. We can bring people out. 

So, I started some projects, and they continue in several ways: commissions, recordings, the symposium. Bringing people to Utah. Let’s be together. Let’s make music. I need this, do you need this? Even though we are all apart, where are we collectively headed? And maybe what I need is exactly what others need too. Being together. I guess I’m responsible for hundreds of concerts at Listen/Space, tons of new works at our cabin and for our duo, Red Desert. I love all of that music, but what do I remember? Late nights talking to Steph under the stars while Dev and Andrew recorded Travis’ crazy backwards drum set parts in the garage; Jonathan and Kristin bringing their new baby; Eric summoning a moose; André sharing chocolate while giving Maya an impromptu composition lesson at the kitchen table. Times. 

Can I re-create that in this strange time too? We are all isolated.

Morning. We are low on coffee and eggs, and I had that moment of panic that it’s time to brave the grocery store again. My son, Roscoe, and I are always the first ones up, and we are playing a board game. He’s telling me, with a full mouth of cereal, to get off my phone. Going to oblige. He’s growing up crazy fast at nine years old, and each one of these true love moments I try to pull out of the air and fold up and put in my heart for safekeeping for later.

Just before everything and everyone closed down, I went and played clarinet quintets with the Koan quartet in LA. Dream pieces for me. More of that kind of thing is probably what I should try to make happen. But then, in the end, maybe I’m just making work for myself and putting pressure on my family, so again, as we keep saying, I’m appreciative for this time. It’s a good time to think and get priorities straight. My family is really happy right now. Even the dog.

This week Lucio and I worked on our bass clarinet duet. A floating game of tennis, full of soft multiphonics and low, low blocks of sound. He lives in Berlin, which is truly a world away from here. He’s locked down. We are now good friends, talking about our kids and politics, but mostly it’s been surreal to find the person that wants to play the bass clarinet just like I do. Wherever we are at with it, we seem to just want to sit and bask in it. When the world opens up, this duo might be the thing that brings me over there; Lucio wants to play it everywhere. Maybe we’ll have eight hours of duets he says! Maybe! Today he called my high repeating long tones an “obligato,” and I laughed and laughed. 

Life Katie Porter 01

We need to go fishing, which for us means plucking Jettie out of the lake over and over and over again and constantly untangling the lines. Zero fish.

How do you create space for music now? How do you connect with people? How do I make art important when everything has been reprioritized, when we may or may not be ok?

Last night, I fell asleep instead of writing to you about music or finishing the laundry, and that’s alright, both are still here for me the next day. Dev stayed up late working on his opera; he is always incredibly happy when he is working on music. So many of my friends are composers. It’s only been natural for me to work with composers all these years, make projects together, play their music. But now that I’ve run out of music, it’s different. I’m trying these collaborations and playing for myself. This is new. I like it a lot. It’s keeping me sane, and I’m excited about what we’re making. Maybe what we’re making is beautiful. I can’t tell yet.

Well, I’m back at the baseball field. A loop. Very often I’m thinking about loops. Either being stuck in them or how weird life can be looping us around, back again where we were, sometimes a true repeat, sometimes a spiral. Loops. They all grew out of their shoes this week, for instance. 

It’s true, the works I play are deeply personal and deeply utilitarian. I really need a personal relationship with a piece. So many pieces I just wouldn’t have given the time had someone important to me not said: “Katie, you should play this,” or had a friend not written it for me. Lucie’s five: all I need is a cell phone. I don’t even need music, the sounds are about me. And I’ve played it probably more than anything I’ve ever performed. Utilitarian. Personal. Speaking of, this morning—in an hour—I am meeting with Daniel over the internet. He is the one that said, “Katie you should play Johanna Beyer,” and so I have been working on them for him. He doesn’t know that. It will be a surprise. Every time I have been in NYC over the last six years or so, I have tried to meet up with Daniel and slowly learn his Clarinet Songs. They are beautiful, but you have to learn them by rote; he has nothing written down and the most obscure fingering system. It’s a puzzle, is the truth. So that will be the rest of my morning, a gift to myself. 

I’m sitting here watching Roscoe skateboard, as I have for several summers now. Back and forth. Trick after trick. Skateboarding is about failure. I really like it. It’s a lot like practicing music. But the sport itself is a process rather than a final result. I prefer that. Show me the process. Show it to me unencumbered by fear of failure. Watching them ski jump is the same. Jump after jump. 

Mostly, I’m inspired by how you are looking forward, almost with no expectations, no plans. Me, I’m very good at sculpting the future. Well, sometimes. These last few years have certainly taught me that I’m not in control of everything, and that was probably a lesson I could have used many, many moons ago. And now this.

Dev has been in the studio for the last few days, at the college, recording opera singers while they run in place. In their masks. And also sing all sorts of different vibratos. Hector running from Achilles at the end of the Iliad. Over and over again. Athena coming and telling them to stop. At some point, I will add some bass clarinet vibratos. My friend Teodora sent me a piece yesterday for Casio synthesizer and clarinet. It is very similar to whatever Dev is thinking about, super beating sine waves. Intense, but still. It’s funny how sometimes music collides like that, it happens often, people from totally different places sort of discovering the same thing at the same time, or being in the same place with music, letting it sit. A collective breathing out. 

Do you listen to music? I know, I know, it’s a loaded question.

Most mornings I sit at the base of the ski jumps and watch June go up and come back down. It’s safe here, ski jumping is pretty much naturally socially distanced, and yes they jump in the summer. She is getting incrementally better. A huge smile on her face each time. I used to drop her off to train, but now there isn’t anywhere for me to go, and maybe there never was. This is better anyhow, just watching. Being. Here. In this moment. This sport is so extreme, and so virtuosic, and full of so much down time. It’s like all of my favorite music: tons of silence, space, and then something truly magical. If you weren’t watching you missed it.

Life Katie Porter 02

Just sit and watch, Katie. In an hour, Lucio and I will add a few more notes onto our very slow-rolling duet. Just a few every week. Long, long notes. I haven’t told you something. You will laugh. I’ve been learning to circular breathe. I never learned. It seemed like a stupid human trick. But Lucio said, “I can teach you.” And then Daniel said, “I can teach you.” And so I finally decided OK, I will learn. Because all it is, really, is being ok with playing the clarinet badly, with puffed out cheeks and a huge sniffy inhale and practicing by making farting sounds over and over, squeaking. Maybe this is why I never learned. No way. I make beautiful sounds!! Only. But I don’t care anymore and now, after over a month of the kids making fun of me—farting around the house—I can do it!! 

I’ve started to slow my mind down, and stop worrying. Finally. Maybe the kids won’t go back to school in the fall, well, that’s fine too. Really, it’s all fine. 

When we first moved to Utah, I was reading Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, all about his time on the coast and the characters he met there, time spent trying to write (or do anything really) with young children and life on the edge of the world. It’s a beautiful book. It helped me breathe into my new life on a mountaintop post-NYC. My copy has stickers on the cover and some pages are colored on. All of my books do, for the most part. I’ve been pulling books off the shelves here and re-reading them because the library is closed. They are all time capsules. Plane tickets as bookmarks, or subway cards, to-do lists, phone numbers, I find all sorts of stuff in them and remember where I was and who I was with when I was reading them. On these shelves are dried rose petals, too, from bouquets of the past, all the rocks my kids collected from our time at the cabin, their special rocks, a lot for quartz was up there, and salt crystals from the Spiral Jetty, I couldn’t return them to the earth. Nope, I put them in all our planters, with my succulents and fig trees and there they are: special things, things. I guess these emails we are writing to each other are things too. Collections. Digital ephemera. Well. A life lived.

I’ve talked about the cabin. You said it sounded idyllic. And it was, in many ways. We cooked all the time. We made fires. Every night after the kids went to sleep, we made sure to go out on the front porch and look at the stars, in every weather except maybe a blizzard. But also, I was so isolated. Just stuck. The idea was to focus on us, work on music, really be able to spend time with the kids, make life simpler. But it occurred to me very quickly that I needed people. Cabin on a mountain or wherever, I need people. I need to make music with people. I need the people that get me! I need to look towards the future! This is an endless loop of cleaning up watercolors and making grilled cheese sandwiches and pulling snow off the roof! So, that time at the cabin was super hard for me. 

And this time feels, well, similar. I’m isolated again, just when I was digging out. There is truly nothing else to do other than live through these hours. Everyone that needs me is in this house already. Are we safe? It’s a fucking pandemic. I think we are safe? And the whole world is going through it, I guess. 

But, let’s talk about music. They’re not unrelated. Do you know how I solved my isolation then? 

Music is about friendship for me. Who can come to Utah? What should we play? Who will write us pieces? It’s better when there are coffee breaks and late nights and everyone genuinely wanting to make something together, freely giving time and space. We could do that on the mountain, bizarrely. For ourselves, for our neighbors, for our kids even; not for the scene, not for the city. What do I remember? Kevin practicing the bass on the deck at all hours; Cat doing yoga with my daughter June; Nate waking up in the middle of the night to finish slow-cooking the pulled pork; Quentin on the piano in the morning; Jessica walking for miles on these dirt roads—Christine playing a 90 minute amplified loop for just the trees, the birds, and me. Times. 

Anyhow, my point about the cabin and the resulting music projects is this: It was a reaction. A personal reaction to my own isolation. A NYC scene reaction. Our performance space, Listen/Space, left me with more questions about music than I ever had answers for. I think I’ve talked about that. 

Reaction music?

I keep bringing people out here. We’ve hosted a symposium for a few summers and that has been wonderful—VU—named after Vladimir Ussachevsky. He moonlighted out here in Utah, teaching and living here while running those famous electronic music studios. I love this story, and that no one knows he was here, I feel some synergy with it. Hiding out. So, I keep making reasons to fill my world with people and music, and it means organizing and championing other people’s music, and sometimes I’m ok with that, and sometimes I just want to sit back and see what might happen without me.

Maybe I’m being too simple. 

What I don’t think: I don’t think the future is playing concerts on the internet. I very much don’t think this is the future. Maybe it’s a part of it. Or maybe if you missed it, you missed it. Getting together and playing music, moving the air around together, I hope that’s still the future. Even if no one is there to listen.

Life Katie Porter 03

June and I took a long road trip and found the ocean, the cold beach I was dreaming about. Of course, she’s in it up to her neck, back and forth screaming into the waves. She’s happy. The two of us needed some time and we have it. Our own Odyssey. We met one of my childhood friends here, Marty, and her family, a bit of a covid bubble together in the smallest town on an unknown coast. This drive was a little scary—the gas station stops, the basics—I don’t want to feel this fear anymore. This is a terrible way to live, checking to make sure my kid has a mask over her nose like a broken record. 

It’s sunny and gorgeous today, but there are wildfires everywhere, one just a few miles away turning the air pink and making everything smell like a campfire. I have to close the windows and I really don’t want to. I need to look out the windows and breathe the air. 

We play. Back and forth. Until I memorize what he’s doing. Patterns. With small variations. Crazy keywork. And we laugh a lot. I really love him. Today Daniel said, “Katie, I still think about you telling me that you didn’t feel like you could raise kids in NYC, and that made me so sad because it was such a loss to lose you.” Aw. He has one of those old New York accents. 

On Fridays, I meet with Christine from her home in LA, where it’s always cats and the sounds of ice cream trucks and wind chimes. A bass flute and bass clarinet duet. I feel like I’m right there with her, and I can feel the heat. What we’ve been making is so slow-moving: a few notes every week at the pace of our breaths and intervals we love—pure sounds—a sort of nod to all of these limitations of time and space. What can we do in this time? How can we make something together? 

But also, what’s new? Are you ok?

Sometimes things just appear in my house. A constant ebb and flow. Tonight the kids got out all of their Pokémon cards from deep in their closets and decided, for the first time in three years, that tonight, right at bedtime, was the perfect time to organize all 500+ of them. I can’t see the kitchen table. But anyhow, this concert program surfaced too. Just sitting there right on a shelf, from a few years ago when I played in a Jim Tenney concert for a Carolee Schneemann retrospective. Did I tell you about that already? She was there. In the front row. Yelling excitedly about all the music. 

I am her. 

Always hooting and hollering at concerts, even the quiet ones. Always. 

Life Katie Porter 04

Dev went over the handlebars of his bike on a family bike ride yesterday. Knocked out completely. Seven staples to the head and a broken collarbone. Roscoe stopped the bleeding, and June ran for help. They took him away in an ambulance, and we couldn’t go with him because of Covid. Just stood on the side of the road with a broken bike, two kids and a four-year-old in my bike seat. What now? We are a little traumatized. We need him. I asked Roscoe how he knew what to do, and he said he “read it in a book.”

I can do this. I can help them all. Also, Grandpa is here for a bit, thank God.

I stayed up late the last few nights, recording. I felt like I had to get it done before the upcoming wave of life; Dev has surgery tomorrow. So, after I put the kids to bed I turned on Teo­dora’s tracks and recorded over them. It’s a lengthy piece, 25 minutes, and to record five versions, I guess, took me five times that long. She’s made us a duet with all of these Casio clarinets just beating and beating, intonation slightly changing over time, so I’m listening and playing long tones, and it’s a little bit like sitting in a helicopter. A lot of the choices in the piece are mine, what notes even, and how to play with the tuning/detuning and some multiphonics and singing. It’s nice. I’m tired. 

Do you want to play music yet?

I’m in a hospital room. Waiting for this surgery. Life’s little twists and turns. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, it changes?

My kids are really amazing right now. Helping me. Helping Dev. They are making me feel like such a proud mom. I won’t forget.

Healing. I’ve done a lot of laundry and walked from one side of the house to the other a thousand times and taught Jettie a couple of new games, and there’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the kids going back to school. What to do, what to do, and I’ve watched Roscoe slowly learn a kick flip on his skateboard over and over again in the front driveway.

I gave up on music too for a minute. It just doesn’t fit into this moment, life came up like a wave and took over and there is no room. I have to sleep sometime. 

Tomorrow, I have a livestream-within-a-livestream while on Zoom. For real. 

I think I would rather do anything else. But I will play a few notes within a matrix type framework, and we’ll let the universe decide if they matter or not. 

Oh, I also found some inspiration. I think I told you they asked us to play a show in the community garden? And then Dev got hurt and I didn’t know what to do? But then it all came to me, and I asked if I could install some text scores, a soundwalk, sonic meditations, listening spaces? For maybe a month before the show? Yes!! So, the kids helped me, and I wrote out some Pauline Oliveros and Fluxus scores I love, and Christian Wolff’s Stones, and some other pieces on wood and placed them all around the garden. We also set up listening stations: two orange feet that I spray painted on plywood. An ode to Max Neuhaus.

Life Katie Porter 05

Roscoe made me eggs while I wrote this. They are good eggs. Lots of butter.

It’s really snowing now. I’m not sure I’m ready for winter. The numbers are very bad here, a completely red map. The kids want to celebrate Halloween, and it seems like it will just be another thing that disappoints them. They are sad sometimes, but also their friendship with each other is really flourishing, and I think I will always be grateful for all this time with June.

I have a feeling a lot has changed for you. I’ve certainly been thinking a lot about our conversations, our ongoing lovely spiral, our rumination on change. Change.

For the last couple of days, for me, worlds have been piling on top of each other. I’m here, it’s snowing, reading dinosaur books, making breakfast for dinner, seeing if ski boots fit from last season. And all the while, we have this music project coming to fruition: our Red Desert album. It’s important to me, and it also feels entirely meaningless. These are duos that Dev and I have played for almost eighteen years, our favorite music, but why now? But also, why wait? There is only now. It wasn’t complete until last year when Dev made me this solo with electronics for the end of our artist residency. A huge piece, a wall of sound. And it was like a light switch. This is the piece. The final piece on the album. Everything makes sense now.

Today, we recorded a set of music in our living room. Two takes. That’s all the quiet time we get. I think it was nice. We let the speakers play one of Dev’s electronic pieces and walked away and left an empty room just blasting this music. It’s pretty striking. Who knows? It’s weird to put this stuff on the internet. It’s just something else entirely. But still, I think the music speaks for itself. Last night, it was all streamed, and it was a bit of a virtual gathering and also a bit of a tech meltdown, but what we did have was a very patient audience and a chat in the sidebar, and it was almost like being together.

June is learning Jimi Hendrix bass lines, and Dev is shouting the chords at her over the clatter of the dishes at the kitchen sink. Jennie sent her special origami paper in the mail. For real. It’s so important to have friends that love your kids. I wish you all were closer.

I feel very much the same way you do about making recordings. We haven’t talked about that. But I’ve nodded my head the few times you’ve written your thoughts. I absolutely don’t know what to make of setting in concrete this thing we do that—at it’s very best—is ephemeral, an idea that floated by. Did you catch it? Maybe? So when we make “a thing”—and yes, dear God, a plastic thing—what is it we are doing and why? It is something different. 

This is also the crux of this time on the internet. These live streams are different than concerts. And different, even, than capturing a concert. We are in a crisis of permanence vs. ephemerality. We are taking something that was meant to be experienced and then relegated to our beautiful faulty memory/collective memory and letting it live on forever and have this ridiculous perpetual digital lifetime, not just a lifetime but a digital infinity. It’s a lot. 

I don’t know what to make of it.

Speaking of, I sent you my songs. I haven’t shared them with many people, but they are on the internet. I’ll tell you how I feel about them. I feel like they exist now. They didn’t exist until I recorded them, and then once I recorded them I didn’t even want to sing them again. I had no idea I would feel that way, but I did (do), and it felt great. Some terrific finality. I birthed them and, like giraffes, they just got up on their feet. 

I don’t feel that about most of the music we play otherwise: pieces I want to revisit, play again, people I want to play music with, hear them live, sit in a room together. Be together. Maybe that’s all that music has ever been for me, a way of being together.

Life Katie Porter 06

Baby girl just woke up and sauntered out here and said, “I peed in your bed.” Ah, the day.

School is back in session tomorrow. Somewhere in there, Dev taught all his classes, and Lucio and I spent an entire morning recording our duo—which has proven elusive—and so it just goes on and on.1 That part of this project I really love. It’s almost become about failure. Not on us, but the space between us, the distance, the tech problems, the world. Always something keeping us from making it through an hour.

I’m happy for these few little music projects over the internet, across the world, collaborations I’ve carved out time for, with people I love. I like to do them, feel connected, feel like I’m making something.

I haven’t had any childcare for a full ten months. It’s fine now, a new normal. We haven’t seen my Mom or my Dad this whole time. We haven’t seen anyone. I don’t remember how to have a conversation.

It’s later now. I just put Jettie to bed. She said “I love you so much, I love you 30 degrees to the Earth!! No, 39 degrees!!” I have no idea what she meant but, yes, I love you that much too, my love. She’s still so little. She pretends she’s a cheetah and I’m her cheetah mommy, or a rainbow unicorn, or a wolf. Her imagination is wild and beautiful. When I put her to sleep, sometimes it’s five minutes, sometimes it’s an hour. It’s alright, I have nowhere
to go. 

Should I make more tea? It’s past midnight. Or finish writing to you in the morning? The dog is confused why I’m still up. I probably won’t be able to write in the morning because the kids will need my every minute. I haven’t even started to talk to you about what I wanted to talk about.

So it goes.

I miss people.

I really want to just get on a bus or a train and talk to random people. But no one does that anymore anyway, pandemic or no pandemic. We’ll all just go to a concert and look at our phones rather than sit on our couches looking at our phones.

I don’t know why we’re writing, but why not? It’s lovely. So, thanks again, for the simple act of writing back. I too am searching for freedom, and I like the way you’ve described it, a way of living, prioritizing, loving. So true. Here is a picture of me and the laundry. Not so romantic as yours.

I wonder what you wrote about ethics. One of my favorite things about experimental music is that it absolutely exposes everyone for who they are. A good and a bad thing for sure. But I always feel like we are on that precipice of not knowing what might happen and experiencing it together, the unknown together, the sounds together, in real time.

I asked Dev to make us these delicious looking ribs out of an old cookbook. We have all the spices. Now, I’ll just be some terrible influence, drinking wine and eating red meat, and saying there is not just one way to play this music, and the more punk it is, the better. And suddenly I miss my friend Yorgos, the most wild of all of us. But he is gone now.

Lucio and I have been back and forth so much on what we made. He is adjusting and tweaking and more, and sending new files. And I am listening and saying it is very good. It is very good. I love it. I think I will never be able to tell him that when we were recording over Zoom, I couldn’t hear a single note he played. Not one. I saw him, I read his breath, and I played knowing what should have been there but wasn’t. It was surreal, it continues to be surreal.

Will this ever be over enough for me to travel your way? And maybe to Berlin to play with Lucio? 

I really can’t tell.

Miss writing. Sorry for the radio silence. 

Life Katie Porter 07

No, I don’t listen to recordings either. And so, if we’re not listening, who are they for? Lucio and I are working this way. Christine and I are working this way. But now we know, for certain, that all we want to do is sit together in a room and play.

On Sunday mornings, I joined in a Deep Listening group Zoom led by a friend. I’ve performed some of those texts as music but never actually worked on them in a group setting. Figured, why not? It’s a door I always peeked in but never went through. We did one where we vocalized our dreams and then either changed the dream with our vocalizations or embraced the dream with sounds. I couldn’t believe how powerful it was. Feels silly, but having six other people, without using words, make sound about dreams was haunting, and great, and like a cocoon of openness. 

As soon as we got vaccinated, the kids had to quarantine from an exposure at school again, so I won’t feel safe until they are safe. But things are much more in control here finally. Then they went back to school in their masks and immediately got sick with colds and have been home again. Endless. 

I tried something new last night, in between putting all the lids back on the magic markers, I’ve been learning and improvising some things on bass clarinet with electronics. I just set it all up in the living room and have been going back to it in between moments of the days. 

Anyway, the new thing I tried was in performance. I played a whole solo set at the first art opening at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. For people. I’m not sure if I conjured it or what, but they asked me to play and look, I have PA speakers and two mic’d bass clarinets in my living room right now and am thinking deeply about openness to sound and my relationship with my instrument and I’m ready! I really am in some wonderful place where I give zero fucks, and I think I played high, high harmonics on the bass clarinet for a full fifteen minutes. And more. Wild things. And a whole 25 min Phill Niblock drone Sweet Potato on the contra alto, just finding the right notes. I wrote to him, and he sent me the audio file that very day. And more, some were actual pieces: a new favorite of mine, Telegrams, and a collaboration between Devin and I, his electronics and me improvising. I’ve never done that before. I feel free. It felt great. People were LISTENING. Listening in a way I don’t always feel, listening without judgement. Enjoying being. A huge energy. Happiness to be making things, part of things.

There was a feeling of hope.

I think this is something I was trying to say to you, but I felt a little misunderstood. What I was trying to say was not that I enjoy destruction, especially not in music. But that what we are making has a kind of fragility. Because it is so dependent on people? On interpretation? On openness? On an understanding? Not sure. Maybe a fragility of being because people make the work happen.

I guess I’m just incredibly appreciative of people that make things happen, just the very happening of things. I think that’s what this time has me realizing: how much I miss making things, how much synergy I have with people making things, doing and being. It’s wonderful that you are loosening control but still making it happen. That is a fine line and an important one. I’ve always believed that there is a magnetism when you bring energy and inspiration to a project; it will attract your people. It’s different than being “in charge,” or telling people how to do it. It’s allowing it to happen, giving it space, the leader that draws a big circle in the sand and says “this is our space, I’ve carved it out for us, let’s do this.” Not, “here’s how we do it.” But I think you know what I mean.

I did listen to your radio show. I think I started smiling from ear to ear when you started talking. Isn’t that funny. It was so nice to hear your voice. 

I feel more exhausted today than I have in a long time. It feels good. Exhausted from a night of concentration. Playing. I’ve had my clarinets out all day for weeks. 

Good morning. Roscoe just woke up. I was hoping to write to you for bit.

Now we are talking about black holes and worm holes. “I’m afraid of black holes,” he says. 

“Well, I read that scientists say they are inevitable, and that made me feel better.”

“What’s inevitable?” he asked me.

“In any other universe, it would happen, unavoidable. Black holes are inevitable.”

“Well I’m still afraid of them. They could send you back in time. Just a giant ball of gravity.”

“Seems reasonable.”*

Life Katie Porter 08

Jettie is in the bath now while I try to write this. I’m sitting with her. With my tea. Most likely this moment won’t last, and my thoughts won’t last, and then I’ll be too tired when they’re all finally to bed. And then it will be tomorrow, and I’ll try to steal a minute to write to you, but I’ll want to tell you something new. And I won’t be able to talk about impermanence because ultimately it’s very hard for me to grapple with. I had no idea. I thought I was fine with change, embraced change but, my God, I’ve been so sidelined.

One of our oldest friends, Kevin, came out and took us to Southern Utah: Moab, Arches, Canyonlands. I say “took us” because we weren’t ready to go anywhere yet. But he called and, in his big, infectious, optimistic voice, said “Katie, we’re vaccinated, we’re escaping NYC and we’re coming out!” OK! Let’s go. So we packed up the kids and got in the car and drove south, and laughed and laughed and laughed with Kevin. Like the first horseman of the post-apocalypse, he appeared seemingly out of nowhere and told us everything was going to be alright: we’re alright; the kids are alright; we made it. Let’s go be together and eat ice cream and walk in nature and talk about music. Yes, let’s. And maybe, let’s hug each other too. Real hugs. 

Thank you Juho Laitinen for the inspiration to write this year and for always writing me back so beautifully. Thank you my friends and collaborators I mentioned above: Lucio Capece, Daniel Goode, Christine Tavolacci, Kevin Farrell, Teodora Stepančić, Lucie Vítková, Jennie Gottschalk, Marty McMillan, Steph Richards, Jessica Gaynor, Quentin Tolimieri, André Cormier, Travis Just, Andrew Munsey, Jonathan Marmor, Kristin Olson, Eric KM Clark, Catherine Lamb, Maya Miro Johnson, Nate Herrera, and the memory of Yorgos Adamis. Thanks also to: Liz Rogers, Laura Cetilia, Michelle Lou, Brian Harnetty, Andy Greydon, Phill Niblock, James Ilgenfritz, Ben Richter, Assaf Gidron, Patricia Alessandrini, Miki Tomaru, the ELMS group, Grandpa Hal, my kids: June, Roscoe, and Jettie and for all of the late nights always, Devin Maxwell.

*Update: As I was reading this to Roscoe for his approval, he said, “After watching a bunch of videos, it’s actually good that nothing gets out of black holes because it would only create a bunch of time paradoxes and stuff.”

1 “Phase to Phase”, the duo recordings made with Lucio Capece during 2020–21 for two bass clarinets and bass clarinet/contra alto clarinet will be released on the Japanese label FTARRI in December 2021. 

It's Not a Loop, It's a Spiral: Fragments of Letters I Wrote this Year