Written by: Ryaan Shaikh
My friends once told me of a six-hour- long YouTube album that slowly drives the listener insane. They said that if you listen to it while sleeping, you’ll get sleep paralysis. Naturally, I had to do more research on the 2019 masterpiece Everywhere at the End of Time. At first I thought the rumors about this apparently mind-numbing and creepy piece were just blown up by my friends and the internet. However, I quickly realized there was much more to this release than first met the eye.
By recovering wax cylinders and vinyl recordings of ballroom music from the early 1900s, as well as sampling sounds from nursing homes, James Kirby (also known as The Caretaker) crafted the six- hour epic. The release is divided into six stages, with each one representing a different stage of an alzheimer’s patient’s dementia.
In stage one, the ballroom music is sweet and clear to hear. In the second stage, it starts to get a little fuzzy and scratchy. This corruption of sound is amplified in subsequent stages until eventually the music degenerates to unrecognizable grinding noise. This gradual decline into disorder parallels dementia’s slow but unstoppable eating away at the brain. The condition affects patients’ memories and cognitive ability, impairing both until they cannot recall anything or remember who they are.
Although the underlying message of the piece is grim, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the beginning music is. The songs are sweet and wistful. The vinyl sounding scratches add to the gramophone-like sound which compliments the older style of ballroom music. The names of each song within the stages give snippets of context and information about what they are trying to represent. Titles like “A losing battle is raging”, “Drifting time misplaced”, and “Mournful camaraderie” tell the story of Alzheimer’s patients entangled with “A confusion so thick you forget forgetting”.
Although the piece is six hours long, I do recommend at least listening to one or two songs from each stage. It truly is eye-opening in its ability to use soundscapes to evoke dementia’s life-altering effects on those afflicted by the condition. Words cannot describe the lulling repetitive melodies that make your brain wander and slowly fog.