[Playlist] The Inward Eye: Dark Ambient for Solitude, Vol. 1
Chthonic Cathedral Project by Danica Swanson
1. Konau - Contemplation
2. New Risen Throne - Loneliness
3. Kammarheit - Sung In Secret
4. Desiderii Marginis - Stolen Silence
5. FoetusDreams - Reclusion
6. Wolfskin - Throne of Stillness
7. Northaunt - Night Alone
8. Taphephobia - Waiting for the Silence
9. Aseptic Void - Alone
10. Kammarheit - For The Innermost
11. Alphaxone - Into the Silence
12. Keosz - Be Left To Oneself
13. Lull - Lonely Shelter
14. Dead Factory - Solitude
15. Psychomanteum - Inward Eyes
Listen to the full uninterrupted playlist HERE. (Total time: 1 hr 56 min)
"It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree — not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself — and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed."
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
As I write this, I'm sipping a piping hot cup of full-bodied smoky lapsang souchong tea (my favorite!), enjoying contemplative time alone with the music of raindrops hitting my windowpanes, and reflecting on the importance of "…that solitude which is not loneliness." 'Tis a perfect time to start up this playlist and share a few thoughts on it with my fellow hermits and dark ambient aficionados.
The opening track from Konau matches the weather conditions outside my window, drawing me inward with thundershowers and rainfall of its own, stirring sepia-tinted memories.
In my first piece on underrated dark ambient albums for I Die: You Die - published in 2013 - I described dark ambient music as a "soundtrack for the inward eyes," and recommended Konau's 2006 album Speech From the Shadows. Five years later, I still consider it among the most underrated albums in the genre. "If you like your dark ambient mournful, contemplative, and slightly chilling," I wrote, "Konau will make your black heart rejoice."
Every year, around the winter solstice, I go into retreat and spend extended time in solitude, minimizing my contact with the outside world as much as possible. I experience this solitude - and my ability to enjoy it - as a gift, and I do in fact rejoice in it. I put together this playlist in that frame of mind, in order to celebrate the joys of fulfilling solitude.
Dark ambient music and solitude are gifts for many reasons, one of which is that they help put some distance between the person I actually am and the various filters imposed upon me by social expectations and enculturation. Brings to mind this insight from Craig Childs' essay "On Being Alone":
"…when another person enters the room, people’s behavior and ways of thinking change. 'We become conscious not only of the object we are viewing, but also of ourselves as viewers. Solitude can minimize such intrusive self-consciousness by reducing the immediate demands of experiencing ourselves as the object of another person’s thoughts and actions,' wrote Christopher Long and James Averill, from the University of Massachusetts. In this way, when we’re alone, we cease to be a concept of ourselves. Instead, we are ourselves."
In some circles it's taboo to admit to such a deep appreciation for solitude. Not so in dark ambient music circles, which is one reason I love being among my fellow dark ambient nerds. The Wolfskin track "Throne of Stillness" I selected for this playlist is emblematic of this ever-present acceptance for me. The atmosphere and the title evoke a sense of honor, and even reverence.
In the dominant culture, my appreciation of solitude is sometimes perceived as a personal rejection, although most often it's nothing of the sort. It's often considered an eccentricity at best. Sometimes there's even an implication that only someone who is "selfish," antisocial, or burdened with worrisome "issues" would retreat from public life to the extent that I have. For women especially, choosing solitude doesn't carry the same kind of intriguing social cachet that it does for men of literary renown such as, say, H.D. Thoreau. Women are supposed to be naturally inclined toward family and "community."
Paradoxically, embracing my solitude more wholeheartedly - and staunchly defending it from intrusions - has strengthened my bonds with others, and has brought me a sense of belonging that once eluded me. When I do host visitors at my Hermitage, I'm able to bring my fullest self and my deepest attention to our interactions, because my own cup has been filled to the brim by my nourishing time in solitude. Without the distractions of a "normal" busy social life, I have more time to prepare the space in advance in ways to suit my visitors' needs. I've also deliberately designed my space to support the contemplative practice of deep listening: to dark ambient music and to my guests. And that deep listening practice, in turn, fills my cup to overflowing.
In this way, claiming my solitude enables me to give more to my community than I could in any other way I've tried. It creates more space to offer myself and my gifts into service of others. Contemplative solitude is what enabled me to compile this playlist and write the words you're reading right now, in fact.
In order to say yes to that form of service, I must firmly say no to many other things, including a culture that would usurp my solitude in the name of a shallow understanding of what it means to be "in community."
Dark ambient music helps me affirm that commitment to solitude and an enriched inner life.
Fellow introverts, I hope this playlist helps deepen your appreciation for times of introspection, solitude, stillness, and silence. Enjoy this collection of marvelous tracks to accompany nights alone in darkened, remote places, and to honor and celebrate the pleasures of solitude and retreat.
And if you are so inclined, feel free to comment on this issue to share your favorite dark ambient tracks and/or appreciative quotes that affirm the value of solitude. I may select them for Vol. 2 of this playlist!
Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.
- Edgar Allan Poe, Spirits of the Dead
Notes about my playlists:
1) Whenever possible, I link the tracks I recommend directly to the artist’s Bandcamp or website to save my readers some search time and make it easy for listeners to support the artists by buying their music directly from them.
2) I accept theme requests! You can reply to any of the playlist emails or comment on the Substack website to suggest themes for a future playlist. I read and consider all suggestions.
3) As part of my Chthonic Cathedral Project to promote music-based contemplative practices, I offer a dark ambient music consultation service through which I put together custom playlists for events, gatherings, meditation groups, and so on. I direct half of any donations from this service to support the musicians whose tracks I recommend. Contact me for details.
4) I gratefully receive feedback on my playlists, whether it’s praise or constructive critique. What did you like? Which tracks were your favorites? Where could I improve? Feel free to let me know.
More playlists HERE.
Want to read more of the Endarkenment newsletters? Check out the archives of all previously published pieces HERE.
[Image credit: art by William Leighton Fisher. Text added by Danica.]
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