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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

God’s Music

Season 4 of Westworld: “Humans are so bound by what they can hear."

The current season of Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan’s Westworld, the fourth, is probably the best since the first. There’s a major sonic component that I can’t really describe without spoiling things, so take that as the warning for people who worry about SPOILERS (in all caps because people who don’t like spoilers can get loud about it).

I’m not concerned with spoilers at all, myself, but so be it. Let the following vertical, manga-style ellipsis protect you from what you do not know:

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OK. If you’ve elected to read on, you already know or won’t be disappointed to learn that Charlotte Hale, the character played by the always formidable Tessa Thompson, has turned the tables on humans, and it only took about a quarter of a century.

As of episode five, “Zhuangzi,” which aired on July 24, not only have we sorted out that nasty little flies can enter the bodies of humans and turn them into programmable meat puppets — in addition, the world we see in the show is a reverse Westworld, where the (semi?) sentient code creatures (robots? androids?) visit to have their way with their former, red-blooded masters.

Hale, having created this haven, is a god among gods. We find her midway through the episode as we so often find gods in epic stories. She is bored out of her skull.

We meet her on a cobblestone street, where she has forced a busker pianist to play for so long that his finger tips are bloody. Such is the control the robots have over humans that mere mortals stop in the street and, at Hale’s command, dance. (The moment serves as a dark callback to the mechanical piano and robot pianists from the very first episodes. If this guy plays any longer, his fingers will be as bony as the ones we’ve see in the show’s credits.)

There’s a connection between the pianist’s music and the larger plot of this season. The humans are controlled by sound. There is a deep thrumming that humans can’t hear, and that is produced by massive antennae that look like they were designed to trigger people who adhere to 5G conspiracies.

Hale is encountered on the street by William, played by an increasingly ascetic Ed Harris, to whom she moans with a self-pity on the order of the speech given by Dean Stockwell, as Cavil, in the “No Exit” episode of Battletar Galactica.

Here’s what Hale says:

“Humans are so bound by what they can hear. They’ll never understand what they don’t. What else exists below the threshold. They call this God’s music. You should hear it on an organ. It’s mesmerizing at that volume. The resonance. Vibration. There was a frequency at which the world vibrated. It caused joy. Harmony. Dip below that frequency… chaos. In chaos, the tone resonated in such a way humans couldn’t process. Their bodies shut down. Their organs stopped. They thought they were experiencing God. They are experiencing God. The problem is God is bored.”

In fact, humans are bound not just by what they hear but by what they can see — and what they can’t see in the episode is the largest of these antennae right off the coast. The thing looks like if Zaha Hadid took a commission from Verizon. I imagine that the season will climax with that broadcast structure being destroyed, but who knows? Many more episodes to go.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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