Inertia and Voodoo

At 6:59 a.m. sharp, Thule Gunther stepped from the Beacon, NY platform and into the quiet car. The absence of chatter brought quiet, but not silence. This one-hour train ride along the Hudson offered its own audible commotions. Thule took a window seat.

 

The unwritten rules were plain enough. Worker bees stayed narrowly busy ahead of their densely packed days. Daydreamers silently wandered through the varying light fragments glowing with odd and spectacular unity from the morning sun and this aged river’s uniquely colored topography. It was lab day at Columbia University’s physics department. Thule was ready to help his sophomores wrap up their Uncertainty and Error Part 1 fall session. There would be time to set up next semester’s Torque and Rotational Inertia lab, so it was a good morning to drift.

 

At the Cold Spring stop, Fr. Patrick Senan entered the car and took the aisle seat next to Thule, gesturing softly with a nervous smile. He clutched the hard bits of the green stone rosary wrapped around his right hand. Connemara marble. His mother had given them to him 20 years ago, just after he’d received his Holy Orders at Dunwoodie Seminary and prior to his ordination in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Today he’d be lying down in front of the United Nations building, interlocked by chain link to his activist brethren. No more war. He was prepared for jail, but was not without fear and he could feel his heart rate quickening.

 

After a few moments they stared into the riverside wetlands of Garrison, at solitary cattails and then, the mass of them standing in uniformity. Thule tried to imagine what others did in their own mental space during the voiceless and scenic passage to his Harlem stop. Patrick silently recited his first decade. They moved through the golden early light as it illuminated the biodiversity of the up-river climes.

 

At the Peekskill stop, Fotis Gorgias stepped into the nearly full car from the rear door. His command of American Sign Language would be useless when seeking a seat next to some heads-down commuter, so he tapped a young person on the shoulder facing him with a silent, plaintive expression. The slumping but alert college student, knees anchored against the forward seat back, quickly popped up to offer Fotis the window seat and he slid across. He sat and began to take in the last of the lightly wooded riverside. Then in what seemed like a sudden camera shutter change, he was gazing at the Edward Hopper-like urban landscape of the Bronx and upper Manhattan as it transformed morning light. For Thule and Patrick, the repeated clacking sound of steel wheels added rhythm to the dreamy thoughts and focused meditation of this early morning hour beside moving water. A single northbound brush-by pushing air at 70 mph caused shoulders to sway back and forth in unison.

 

Fotis felt discrete vibrations and experienced the rhythm in his body. He was not a regular Hudson Line rider, but had spent the weekend upstate with his parents and was now headed to the Danny Kaye Theater at Hunter College to help his deaf drama students from the Lexington School rehearse Hamlet. Performing Shakespeare in sign language was still considered a novelty and he was feeling good about his students’ expressive skills and timing. He pondered their dedication and hard work and wondered how a hearing audience, mixed in with the deaf community, might experience a wordless presentation of the great tragedy. He believed it was possible to bring the Great Bard’s medium to life in silence and his students were the ones to do it.

 

The left turn just after Spuyten Duyvil generated enough centrifugal force to press his right shoulder against the window frame and caused him to look closely at the immediate riverside where only a few feet of track ballast separated him from the deepening waters.

 

Sunlight glistened across the lower Hudson and made mirrors out of the distant skyscrapers of Manhattan. The buildings of Midtown stood in vertical aspect against blue sky while the George Washington Bridge with its sloping geometry presented a narrow welcome mat to the car-bound crush. Earlier, when passing Indian Point, Thule contemplated the recent newspaper reports of Strontium 90 leakage and now considered half-life, volume and rate of change while trying to make up his mind about a real or simply perceived danger. Patrick, head bowed, slowed his pace to recite the Glory Be. Of the Glorious Mysteries, he had chosen The Ascension while placing the faces of war refugees in his mind’s eye. His breathing slowed and he could feel the tension moving out of his body.

 

Thule decided to put his headphones on. Today it would be Bitches Brew. "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" was the last track showing so he let it fly. Within the first 30 seconds, the sound of bending strings and delayed signal electronics gave him a sense of warped space-time. He conjured in his head some equations to express the sine wave variations that placed odd melodies over a funk rhythm. Fotis rose from his seat and walked forward to the rest room in the rear of the first car. Thule looked up, unconsciously bobbing his head to the beat and watched Fotis passing by. As their eyes met, Fotis smiled, appreciating the other passenger’s enjoyment and holding the gaze long enough to observe what the listener knew was four beats per measure. Thule turned up the volume.

 

At Marble Hill, the train swayed along the first bend of the East River. Fotis used the toilet and then pressed the electronic flush button before turning to wash his hands. He could not have known that his utterly trivial bathroom visit on a train he’d never ridden before would serve to initiate a 30-second detonation timer. The fuse’s ignition switch was connected to four pounds of Baratol. The explosive compound was crudely wrapped in yesterday’s copy of the New York Times and rested innocuously behind the collapsing door of the waste bin. Fotis stuffed his damp piece of paper towel into the bin, silently unlatched the bathroom door and entered the main compartment. He turned back toward his seat. Re-entering his car he could see Father Patrick staring straight ahead as he continued his now evenly metered recitation. Thule was slowly rocking his head from side to side as Miles ripped through a rapidly descending melody line with Joe Zawinul playing syncopated counterpoint. The college kid had dropped his knees and was now sitting up and staring out the window watching the Fordham University girls’ crew team as they maintained their cadence upstream to the shouts of the coxswain. When Fotis reached for his shoulder, the youth quickly rose and moved to the aisle where they stood together for a long moment. Fotis’s expression was one of gratitude and the student returned this with a smile of happy satisfaction, suggesting friendship.

 

Thule heard the first beat of Joe Zawinul’s augmented G Major chord on the electric piano. At 392 Hertz and traveling at 1,126 feet per second, it was the last sound he would hear. He had an odd sense that Patrick’s lipped murmurings were falling into the time signature of Voodoo. As Zaw held the chord for an additional two beats, the fuse ignited, setting in motion a detonation velocity of 22,300 feet per second, faster than the rate at which Miles and Zaw could deliver their harmonic utterances. In the first one hundredth of one second, each passenger was separated from the surfaces upon which specific gravity had placed them. While two ounces of Baratol in a hand grenade will destroy an army tank’s metal track, reckoning the destruction of 64 ounces placed inside a commuter train car would require Thule’s best graduate students’ efforts. Perhaps they would try.

 

In the next tenth of a second, heat dissipation had begun and coincided with the increase in combustion velocity as primary gasses made their sudden escape, bringing a flash of white light and beginning the separation of the walls and ceiling of the train car from its chassis. Patrick had just recited “...and ever shall be.”

 

Fotis and the college kid held brotherly gazes now framed in eternity as their corporal substances united in space. For Thule and Patrick all was unimaginable White. The crew team was lifted off of the momentarily calm East River as its surface began to boil and they felt the percussive quake before entering the rushing curtain of white. Thule’s trip from Beacon had ended here, along this estuary. His car and the two cars connected to it would incinerate, leaving bare chassis, wheels and blackened debris along the tracks and at the bottom of the river. There would be no Uncertainty and Error lab today, nor would there be a war protest in front of the UN. Hamlet would be performed another day.

 

Memories and sensations carried on in relatedness and Zaw and Miles, themselves long gone, continued to inhabit space and time at set frequencies. Those seeking peace decided to work harder and today a vigil replaced an angry protest. A few students trying to understand Uncertainty and Rotational Inertia would, in time, study together in earnest. A group of silent communicators would attempt to carry on with newly inspired skill and knowing how their teacher wanted them to deepen their art. Thule and Patrick both reckoned inertia in all its glory and Fotis silently expressed it to the world through a young man, with a smile.

 

And Zaw held G major for an extra beat.

 

© Kevin Swanwick 2016

Inertia and Voodoo

At 6:59 a.m. sharp, Thule Gunther stepped from the Beacon, NY platform and into the quiet car. The absence of chatter brought quiet, but not silence. This one-hour train ride along the Hudson offered its own audible commotions. Thule took a window seat.

 

The unwritten rules were plain enough. Worker bees stayed narrowly busy ahead of their densely packed days. Daydreamers silently wandered through the varying light fragments glowing with odd and spectacular unity from the morning sun and this aged river’s uniquely colored topography. It was lab day at Columbia University’s physics department. Thule was ready to help his sophomores wrap up their Uncertainty and Error Part 1 fall session. There would be time to set up next semester’s Torque and Rotational Inertia lab, so it was a good morning to drift.

 

At the Cold Spring stop, Fr. Patrick Senan entered the car and took the aisle seat next to Thule, gesturing softly with a nervous smile. He clutched the hard bits of the green stone rosary wrapped around his right hand. Connemara marble. His mother had given them to him 20 years ago, just after he’d received his Holy Orders at Dunwoodie Seminary and prior to his ordination in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Today he’d be lying down in front of the United Nations building, interlocked by chain link to his activist brethren. No more war. He was prepared for jail, but was not without fear and he could feel his heart rate quickening.

 

After a few moments they stared into the riverside wetlands of Garrison, at solitary cattails and then, the mass of them standing in uniformity. Thule tried to imagine what others did in their own mental space during the voiceless and scenic passage to his Harlem stop. Patrick silently recited his first decade. They moved through the golden early light as it illuminated the biodiversity of the up-river climes.

 

At the Peekskill stop, Fotis Gorgias stepped into the nearly full car from the rear door. His command of American Sign Language would be useless when seeking a seat next to some heads-down commuter, so he tapped a young person on the shoulder facing him with a silent, plaintive expression. The slumping but alert college student, knees anchored against the forward seat back, quickly popped up to offer Fotis the window seat and he slid across. He sat and began to take in the last of the lightly wooded riverside. Then in what seemed like a sudden camera shutter change, he was gazing at the Edward Hopper-like urban landscape of the Bronx and upper Manhattan as it transformed morning light. For Thule and Patrick, the repeated clacking sound of steel wheels added rhythm to the dreamy thoughts and focused meditation of this early morning hour beside moving water. A single northbound brush-by pushing air at 70 mph caused shoulders to sway back and forth in unison.

 

Fotis felt discrete vibrations and experienced the rhythm in his body. He was not a regular Hudson Line rider, but had spent the weekend upstate with his parents and was now headed to the Danny Kaye Theater at Hunter College to help his deaf drama students from the Lexington School rehearse Hamlet. Performing Shakespeare in sign language was still considered a novelty and he was feeling good about his students’ expressive skills and timing. He pondered their dedication and hard work and wondered how a hearing audience, mixed in with the deaf community, might experience a wordless presentation of the great tragedy. He believed it was possible to bring the Great Bard’s medium to life in silence and his students were the ones to do it.

 

The left turn just after Spuyten Duyvil generated enough centrifugal force to press his right shoulder against the window frame and caused him to look closely at the immediate riverside where only a few feet of track ballast separated him from the deepening waters.

 

Sunlight glistened across the lower Hudson and made mirrors out of the distant skyscrapers of Manhattan. The buildings of Midtown stood in vertical aspect against blue sky while the George Washington Bridge with its sloping geometry presented a narrow welcome mat to the car-bound crush. Earlier, when passing Indian Point, Thule contemplated the recent newspaper reports of Strontium 90 leakage and now considered half-life, volume and rate of change while trying to make up his mind about a real or simply perceived danger. Patrick, head bowed, slowed his pace to recite the Glory Be. Of the Glorious Mysteries, he had chosen The Ascension while placing the faces of war refugees in his mind’s eye. His breathing slowed and he could feel the tension moving out of his body.

 

Thule decided to put his headphones on. Today it would be Bitches Brew. "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" was the last track showing so he let it fly. Within the first 30 seconds, the sound of bending strings and delayed signal electronics gave him a sense of warped space-time. He conjured in his head some equations to express the sine wave variations that placed odd melodies over a funk rhythm. Fotis rose from his seat and walked forward to the rest room in the rear of the first car. Thule looked up, unconsciously bobbing his head to the beat and watched Fotis passing by. As their eyes met, Fotis smiled, appreciating the other passenger’s enjoyment and holding the gaze long enough to observe what the listener knew was four beats per measure. Thule turned up the volume.

 

At Marble Hill, the train swayed along the first bend of the East River. Fotis used the toilet and then pressed the electronic flush button before turning to wash his hands. He could not have known that his utterly trivial bathroom visit on a train he’d never ridden before would serve to initiate a 30-second detonation timer. The fuse’s ignition switch was connected to four pounds of Baratol. The explosive compound was crudely wrapped in yesterday’s copy of the New York Times and rested innocuously behind the collapsing door of the waste bin. Fotis stuffed his damp piece of paper towel into the bin, silently unlatched the bathroom door and entered the main compartment. He turned back toward his seat. Re-entering his car he could see Father Patrick staring straight ahead as he continued his now evenly metered recitation. Thule was slowly rocking his head from side to side as Miles ripped through a rapidly descending melody line with Joe Zawinul playing syncopated counterpoint. The college kid had dropped his knees and was now sitting up and staring out the window watching the Fordham University girls’ crew team as they maintained their cadence upstream to the shouts of the coxswain. When Fotis reached for his shoulder, the youth quickly rose and moved to the aisle where they stood together for a long moment. Fotis’s expression was one of gratitude and the student returned this with a smile of happy satisfaction, suggesting friendship.

 

Thule heard the first beat of Joe Zawinul’s augmented G Major chord on the electric piano. At 392 Hertz and traveling at 1,126 feet per second, it was the last sound he would hear. He had an odd sense that Patrick’s lipped murmurings were falling into the time signature of Voodoo. As Zaw held the chord for an additional two beats, the fuse ignited, setting in motion a detonation velocity of 22,300 feet per second, faster than the rate at which Miles and Zaw could deliver their harmonic utterances. In the first one hundredth of one second, each passenger was separated from the surfaces upon which specific gravity had placed them. While two ounces of Baratol in a hand grenade will destroy an army tank’s metal track, reckoning the destruction of 64 ounces placed inside a commuter train car would require Thule’s best graduate students’ efforts. Perhaps they would try.

 

In the next tenth of a second, heat dissipation had begun and coincided with the increase in combustion velocity as primary gasses made their sudden escape, bringing a flash of white light and beginning the separation of the walls and ceiling of the train car from its chassis. Patrick had just recited “...and ever shall be.”

 

Fotis and the college kid held brotherly gazes now framed in eternity as their corporal substances united in space. For Thule and Patrick all was unimaginable White. The crew team was lifted off of the momentarily calm East River as its surface began to boil and they felt the percussive quake before entering the rushing curtain of white. Thule’s trip from Beacon had ended here, along this estuary. His car and the two cars connected to it would incinerate, leaving bare chassis, wheels and blackened debris along the tracks and at the bottom of the river. There would be no Uncertainty and Error lab today, nor would there be a war protest in front of the UN. Hamlet would be performed another day.

 

Memories and sensations carried on in relatedness and Zaw and Miles, themselves long gone, continued to inhabit space and time at set frequencies. Those seeking peace decided to work harder and today a vigil replaced an angry protest. A few students trying to understand Uncertainty and Rotational Inertia would, in time, study together in earnest. A group of silent communicators would attempt to carry on with newly inspired skill and knowing how their teacher wanted them to deepen their art. Thule and Patrick both reckoned inertia in all its glory and Fotis silently expressed it to the world through a young man, with a smile.

 

And Zaw held G major for an extra beat.

 

© Kevin Swanwick 2016

POST RECITAL

Talk Icon

TALK

BR: We're riding the Metro North train with Kevin Swanwick today, down the east bank of The Hudson River, a perfect setting to discuss his story Inertia and Voodoo. Kevin you have quite a few threads interweaving in this story - physics, religion, activism, jazz, Shakespeare for the deaf, terrorism. How does this tapestry undercut standard notions of reality?
 
KS: Well I think what we might see in the story is a few folks traveling together but having very different interactions with their environment. Some of this is going to be sensory, and some of this is going to have something to do with their background and the way they think.
 
BR: Does the name of your character Thule have any hidden significance, such as a reference to Greenland, or an Eskimo tribe, or even to a mythical land six days sail from the north of England?
 
KS: Yeah, well it's interesting that you ask about that. Thule is the first person to get on the train. This would be the northernmost station on our ride, so we have to start the story somewhere and I think this makes us wonder about what's influenced the thinking of the character and how he sees the world. And we know Thule was a mythical place somewhere north, we don't know a lot about it, so I thought it would be a good place for us to start the story and wonder about the origins.
 
BR: What about the other characters' names?
 
KS: Well as we move south, if we picture Thule in our minds, maybe it's Greenland, maybe it's Iceland, we're not sure but certainly the myths from that era predated Christianity and influenced the thinking of northern Europe. Later we have the introduction of Christianity, so Patrick's last name is Senan. And  there was an early monk in Ireland who was an evangelist and one of the first monks of Ireland, who spent a lot of time evangelizing and trying to spread the Word throughout Ireland. If we go a little further south we have Gorgias, who was an early Greek philosopher, some called him a Sophist, who had ideas that weren't exactly in alignment with Plato. Some called him a nihilist. It's still debated whether or not that's the case. So we have a little bit of influence from all of these areas. Part of it is geographical, part of it is historical, and these things are entering our consciousness. And I think the story suggests that maybe we are not aware of these things in our backgrounds but they are influencing how we perceive reality.
 
BR: Wow. So here we are with several strangers traveling together. If you were to plot the trajectories of their lives, they would run along different routes but then they would all intersect and suddenly end. Would you say this has some sort of deeper meaning or not?
 
KS: Well I'm not sure about that. I think what we find is that there are some things that are common to all of the characters and certainly the ending makes that clear. Life comes to an end and that's inescapable for all of us. So despite things that are different about these characters, there are a number of things that bring them together and make them common in the way they perceive their environment and the way they, in some cases, interact with each other.
 
BR: What would you say is the difference between chance and fate?
 
KS: Well frankly I don't know the answer to that question. But I think the story attempts to play with the idea that something is only chance before the event occurs and we always experience these things in retrospect when we look back at them, so what might have been a chance before it occurred, might appear as fate afterwards, and we can't be sure about these things, can we?
 
BR: We definitely cannot. Let's talk about your description of the explosion that interrupts the usual  perception of time, reminiscent of the famous scene in the film Zabriskie Point. It's tightly detailed. Have you ever personally witnessed anything like this?
 
KS: No, fortunately I have not. I'm a New Yorker, so I saw the aftermath of what happened on September 11th 2001. I've spent some time in the north of Ireland during the Troubles and saw the aftermath of explosions and gunfire but was not present when they occurred and I'm grateful for that. So I had to make these things up.
 
BR: I'm drawn to the fact in your story that the detonator is triggered by someone who is unable to hear, who's been sitting next to someone who is listening to music on headphones. So I sense something in this connection but can't quite place it. Was this consciously created, or did it just slip to the surface?
 
KS: Perhaps it slipped to the surface. What I was attempting there, was to show us how sensory experience plays into how we attend to reality, what we focus on, and how we interpret it. So one of our characters cannot hear but he can observe another of the characters hearing, and in fact enjoying what he's hearing, and he can appreciate that person's experiencing some joy. He's focused on other things and hearing is not one of the senses that he understands, or can really grapple with. But he also experiences tragedy, and in the case of his students, they're going to perform Shakespeare, and they are going to do it in silence, and they are going to use sign language to do that. So these are common to both characters. They both understand art, they understand tragedy. They're involved in a tragedy, though they are not aware that it is going to happen to them, but they can both also appreciate tragedy as an aesthetic.
 
BR: As an aside about your choice of plays -  Hamlet, I think of as a play about a man stuck in inertia. Was that a conscious choice?
 
KS: It was. I thought this story is going to have some tragedy in it but I didn't want to make the story necessarily tragic. And what I wanted to try to draw us to, was the idea that we all experience tragedy and we all understand it in different ways. When we look at it in literature, we can find beauty in that. And there are many different ways to understand it and to express it in our lives. And I think our characters give us an indication of how this might happen in different ways.
 
BR: Why did you choose that particular piece of music?
 
KS: Well mostly because I like it but I thought of a piece of music that would have an interesting time signature, because I think there's a lot of rhythm and motion in this story. But I also was caught by the title of the song and I liked the juxtaposition of a reductionist idea like inertia, which we talk about in mechanics and physics, and an idea like Voodoo which has a more spiritual and mystical aspect to it. So we have a priest who is practicing Catholicism, praying the rosary, and we've got another guy sitting next to him who feels like the rhythm of his rosary is falling into this time signature of Voodoo, which in the Louisiana version is syncretist Voodoo, which was melded with Catholicism. So I think that's another intersection of commonality between these people here. And the song helped me with that a little.
 
BR: So, can stories predict reality? Here we are on the same train. Do you think there might be a bomb in the bathroom?
 
KS: Well maybe you can go check first but I think I'll stay here in my seat.
 
BR: Well I think we're probably safe because actually this train ride is totally a fiction just like your story. We're sitting in the recording studio. I just hope there's no bomb under the console. You never know.
 
Brent. Thanks.
 
BR: Thanks Kevin.
 
 
BOOM!

BR: We're riding the Metro North train with Kevin Swanwick today, down the east bank of The Hudson River, a perfect setting to discuss his story Inertia and Voodoo. Kevin you have quite a few threads interweaving in this story - physics, religion, activism, jazz, Shakespeare for the deaf, terrorism. How does this tapestry undercut standard notions of reality?
 
KS: Well I think what we might see in the story is a few folks traveling together but having very different interactions with their environment. Some of this is going to be sensory, and some of this is going to have something to do with their background and the way they think.
 
BR: Does the name of your character Thule have any hidden significance, such as a reference to Greenland, or an Eskimo tribe, or even to a mythical land six days sail from the north of England?
 
KS: Yeah, well it's interesting that you ask about that. Thule is the first person to get on the train. This would be the northernmost station on our ride, so we have to start the story somewhere and I think this makes us wonder about what's influenced the thinking of the character and how he sees the world. And we know Thule was a mythical place somewhere north, we don't know a lot about it, so I thought it would be a good place for us to start the story and wonder about the origins.
 
BR: What about the other characters' names?
 
KS: Well as we move south, if we picture Thule in our minds, maybe it's Greenland, maybe it's Iceland, we're not sure but certainly the myths from that era predated Christianity and influenced the thinking of northern Europe. Later we have the introduction of Christianity, so Patrick's last name is Senan. And  there was an early monk in Ireland who was an evangelist and one of the first monks of Ireland, who spent a lot of time evangelizing and trying to spread the Word throughout Ireland. If we go a little further south we have Gorgias, who was an early Greek philosopher, some called him a Sophist, who had ideas that weren't exactly in alignment with Plato. Some called him a nihilist. It's still debated whether or not that's the case. So we have a little bit of influence from all of these areas. Part of it is geographical, part of it is historical, and these things are entering our consciousness. And I think the story suggests that maybe we are not aware of these things in our backgrounds but they are influencing how we perceive reality.
 
BR: Wow. So here we are with several strangers traveling together. If you were to plot the trajectories of their lives, they would run along different routes but then they would all intersect and suddenly end. Would you say this has some sort of deeper meaning or not?
 
KS: Well I'm not sure about that. I think what we find is that there are some things that are common to all of the characters and certainly the ending makes that clear. Life comes to an end and that's inescapable for all of us. So despite things that are different about these characters, there are a number of things that bring them together and make them common in the way they perceive their environment and the way they, in some cases, interact with each other.
 
BR: What would you say is the difference between chance and fate?
 
KS: Well frankly I don't know the answer to that question. But I think the story attempts to play with the idea that something is only chance before the event occurs and we always experience these things in retrospect when we look back at them, so what might have been a chance before it occurred, might appear as fate afterwards, and we can't be sure about these things, can we?
 
BR: We definitely cannot. Let's talk about your description of the explosion that interrupts the usual  perception of time, reminiscent of the famous scene in the film Zabriskie Point. It's tightly detailed. Have you ever personally witnessed anything like this?
 
KS: No, fortunately I have not. I'm a New Yorker, so I saw the aftermath of what happened on September 11th 2001. I've spent some time in the north of Ireland during the Troubles and saw the aftermath of explosions and gunfire but was not present when they occurred and I'm grateful for that. So I had to make these things up.
 
BR: I'm drawn to the fact in your story that the detonator is triggered by someone who is unable to hear, who's been sitting next to someone who is listening to music on headphones. So I sense something in this connection but can't quite place it. Was this consciously created, or did it just slip to the surface?
 
KS: Perhaps it slipped to the surface. What I was attempting there, was to show us how sensory experience plays into how we attend to reality, what we focus on, and how we interpret it. So one of our characters cannot hear but he can observe another of the characters hearing, and in fact enjoying what he's hearing, and he can appreciate that person's experiencing some joy. He's focused on other things and hearing is not one of the senses that he understands, or can really grapple with. But he also experiences tragedy, and in the case of his students, they're going to perform Shakespeare, and they are going to do it in silence, and they are going to use sign language to do that. So these are common to both characters. They both understand art, they understand tragedy. They're involved in a tragedy, though they are not aware that it is going to happen to them, but they can both also appreciate tragedy as an aesthetic.
 
BR: As an aside about your choice of plays -  Hamlet, I think of as a play about a man stuck in inertia. Was that a conscious choice?
 
KS: It was. I thought this story is going to have some tragedy in it but I didn't want to make the story necessarily tragic. And what I wanted to try to draw us to, was the idea that we all experience tragedy and we all understand it in different ways. When we look at it in literature, we can find beauty in that. And there are many different ways to understand it and to express it in our lives. And I think our characters give us an indication of how this might happen in different ways.
 
BR: Why did you choose that particular piece of music?
 
KS: Well mostly because I like it but I thought of a piece of music that would have an interesting time signature, because I think there's a lot of rhythm and motion in this story. But I also was caught by the title of the song and I liked the juxtaposition of a reductionist idea like inertia, which we talk about in mechanics and physics, and an idea like Voodoo which has a more spiritual and mystical aspect to it. So we have a priest who is practicing Catholicism, praying the rosary, and we've got another guy sitting next to him who feels like the rhythm of his rosary is falling into this time signature of Voodoo, which in the Louisiana version is syncretist Voodoo, which was melded with Catholicism. So I think that's another intersection of commonality between these people here. And the song helped me with that a little.
 
BR: So, can stories predict reality? Here we are on the same train. Do you think there might be a bomb in the bathroom?
 
KS: Well maybe you can go check first but I think I'll stay here in my seat.
 
BR: Well I think we're probably safe because actually this train ride is totally a fiction just like your story. We're sitting in the recording studio. I just hope there's no bomb under the console. You never know.
 
Brent. Thanks.
 
BR: Thanks Kevin.
 
 
BOOM!

 

The music on this episode is by xj5000 - Future Light Cone off their album Levels of Imperfection, and guitar music by Nick Burt

THE STRANGE RECITAL

episode 160902

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