Ninth Step Station and the intersection of sound design and everyday life
I was taking long walks at night until I began to find them unnerving. I’ll start again at some point. The last time I took one coincided with the first episode of season two of Ninth Step Station (created by Malka Older, serialized by Serial Box). That must have been five weeks ago tonight. I stepped out onto the sidewalk after dark and thought, “Yeah, this is what I need. To visit future-Tokyo – you know, even if it’s one plagued by violence and broken into pieces following a devastating war.” I wondered how the sound design would contrast with my walk.
Within a few minutes, I heard something drop behind me. Fully knowing I was listening to a show (it opens in a bar), I looked around. Then, even though all the more aware of the overlap of everyday sound (I was wearing headphones but not noise-canceling ones) and the serial’s sound, I became conscious of a fight in the distance. I got anxious immediately. And again, it was merely sound design experienced on an otherwise empty street. Actually, not “merely.” The opposite of merely. Viscerally.
As the show proceeded, and my experience of the episodes moved from outdoors to indoors, I came to focus on other elements. Indoors, things like bar fights don’t alert me. Indoors, it’s the ambient electronic noises of devices that make me look up, check my phone, tap my earbud.
Note: This is a slight variation (changed to “tonight” from “tomorrow”) of something I published last night in the This Week in Sound email newsletter, and adapted from something looser I’d posted to Twitter awhile back. Twitter being my public notebook.
Some fiction-in-progress I contrinuted to HiLoBrow
“Slowly, a brace of air coalesced around the wand. That’s the only way I can describe it. I know more, today, about what was happening, but I’m trying to describe what it felt like at the time, which isn’t terribly difficult because the mix of shock and elation I experienced is still with me to this day. This was magic, plain old simple magic, something I historically couldn’t have cared less about, any more than I did about symphony orchestras or French cuisine, and yet I was entranced, fixated, engrossed.”
Last week I plumbed the then-in-progress modern Decameron at hilobrow.com for its sonic content, from field recordings to overheard conversation to the sound proximate to the shore. I had a vested interest in that trajectory because I was, myself, slotted to have something appear in the Covid-era series a few days later. Edited by Peggy Nelson, the Ten Days sequence at HiLoBrow introduced, once per day, a piece by a different individual (and in one case creative team), not just tales and poetry, like the original Decameron back circa 1353, but sound, and image, and memoir, and more. The contributors included Vince Keenan, Scotto Moore, Puzzlepurse, Vijay Balakrishnan, Jimmy Kipple, the duo of Russell Bennetts and Colin Raff, Joshua Glenn, Andrew Sempere, and Tom Nealon. My piece (excerpted above briefly in italics) doesn’t have a lot of sound or music in it, though music was very much on my mind in its development. The material I published last Thursday at HiLoBrow is the opening roughly 5,000 or so words of a novel I’ve been working on. It’s a story that occurs in a world where most people, especially young people, consider magic to be old-fashioned and utterly boring, and about a teenager’s chance apprenticeship and cultural awakening. Read it at hilobrow.com.
An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt
A friendly reminder from the New York City subway system that infrastructure collapse can be beautiful:
[ Also tagged IFTTTgram
By novelist (and musician) Rita Indiana
Finally, this afternoon, finished reaching the short but dense and complex novel Tentacle by Rita Indiana (originally La mucama de Omicunlé), in a translation by Achy Obejas. I started it just over a month ago, and it’s the sort of book you read two chapters at a time, let them sink in, and then read some more.
Indiana is also a musician, and it shows on the page. There isn’t a heap of music in the book — there’s more contemporary art in this dystopian future — but when Indiana employs music in her story, as she does toward the novel’s end for a climactic party sequence, she locates a vibrant kinship between hybridized popular culture and the book’s more trenchant themes: Santeria, gender fluidity, and ecological collapse.
Red pill alert
During the filming of the series’ fourth film, we San Franciscans find ourselves living in The Matrix more literally than even is usually the case: