Seven Cries of Delight

Three horses cantered across the plain - a grey Arabian, a Palomino and a Roan. The dust from their hooves rose up from the ground and dispersed around them. Their riders wore spacesuits, the kind used in the Apollo missions of the 1960's. But this was not the moon.
 
The horses and their riders were headed toward the old farmstead that had been repurposed. Twenty-four sensors, mounted on poles, looked out towards the plain. No agricultural labour had happened here for generations.
 
Inside the building, in a quiet room with southern exposure, a few people sat in chairs that had been arranged to face away from each other - a design of communal privacy. Each one of them was immersed in a book. The wires from the electrodes on their temples were neatly twisted and disappeared through a hole in the floor. Enough slack was provided to permit movement. A small dog ran around the room, largely ignored by the other occupants.
 
Outside on the verandah a woman held binoculars to her eyes. They were powerful ornithological binoculars. She trained them on the approaching riders, seeing the sky reflected in their visors, beautifully distorted in the curved surfaces. The reflections looked so vivid. Stratocumulus clouds filled her vision.
 
As the riders approached she was able to see them with her naked eye, taking in reflection and subject simultaneously, as if looking at a painting of a painting. With their spacesuits glaring white in the sun, they passed her by at a gallop and quickly receded into the distance.
 
The woman sighed and picked up the binoculars again from the railing where she had left them. She scanned the horizon, wistfully hoping she would see a thylacine and knowing it would be very unlikely. She had not yet managed to climb out from under the destructive weight of an early morning argument. The clouds had helped and a thylacine would put her completely at ease. But there were no thylacines, not even one. There had been reports of sightings, as of yet unsubstantiated, but this was the wrong continent.
 
Accepting that her disappointment was inevitable, she set down the binoculars again and went inside, through the kitchen to the South Room where the readers, two men and one woman, were engrossed in novels. She knew what they were reading. There was no telegnosis involved. She had made the selections herself: A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys, The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington, and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutola.
 
Enough time had now lapsed for her to check on the effect of this reading. To allow time to pass was the reason she had stepped out on the verandah in the first place. She made her way quietly through the room so as not to disturb the readers, fondled the little dog's ears, and opened the door at the far end with the demure confidence of a professional.
 
The opened door revealed a staircase that led down to the basement. She closed it with barely a click. The basement was not part of the original structure. It was an addition. She passed through the section where the vintage electronic instruments were stored. They were all in impeccable condition.
 
There was a display cabinet containing Moog synthesizers. There was a Minimoog, a Moog Satellite, a Sonic Six, a Micromoog, a Polymoog and a Moog Taurus.
 
Another cabinet contained Arps - ARP Little Brother, ARP Odyssey, ARP 2600 and an ARP Explorer. There was also an RCA MkII and three Theremins.
 
The instrument collection had a gravitas. It felt like walking through a chapel. There was a nobility in the latent possibilities of yesterday's analog technologies and her respect was genuine. She paused among the cabinets, feeling an affinity for these instruments that were never played and rarely looked at. They caused her to wonder about the meaning of collections. That meaning must lie in numbers greater than zero or one, because a collection of one thing seemed extremely unlikely, and a collection of nothing could not be considered a collection. This led her to consider numbers less than zero. They would imply a negative collection, such as an art collector with no paintings. There might be a catalogue of all the pictures he did not own, some of them yet to be painted.
 
It occurred to her that these instruments in their dusty cabinets mirrored the negative collection that was not upstairs. In so doing, they were a perfect representation of meaninglessness.
 
She suddenly made an effort to cease this speculation. It was a direction, that was all. A direction that might lead anywhere, and not necessarily where she wanted to go. These were not the questions she should answer, even if she could.
 
She moved away from the synthesizers to yet another door. Winter was officially over and Pater would probably be awake. This meant that things were going to get difficult.
 
When she opened the door, Pater was standing in the frame, blocking her way. He was old and obdurate.
 
"Women are generally not admitted into this area."
 
"Oh come on. Don't be ridiculous."
 
"Well, you'll have to prove you have clearance. I must ask you the questions if you don't mind."
 
"Go ahead."
 
"What is the correct time?"
 
"Time upon a once."
 
"What happened to the coiled rope?"
 
"It was forgotten by a sailor."
 
"From whence came the news?"
 
"It was delivered by a fly."
 
"How many totems are necessary?"
 
"Four and twenty."
 
"What is to be done with the sum of all things?"
 
"It is to be divided by seven cries of delight."
 
The old man begrudgingly stood back.
 
"Okay. You can come in."
 
 
© Tom Newton 2017

Three horses cantered across the plain - a grey Arabian, a Palomino and a Roan. The dust from their hooves rose up from the ground and dispersed around them. Their riders wore spacesuits, the kind used in the Apollo missions of the 1960's. But this was not the moon.
 
The horses and their riders were headed toward the old farmstead that had been repurposed. Twenty-four sensors, mounted on poles, looked out towards the plain. No agricultural labour had happened here for generations.
 
Inside the building, in a quiet room with southern exposure, a few people sat in chairs that had been arranged to face away from each other - a design of communal privacy. Each one of them was immersed in a book. The wires from the electrodes on their temples were neatly twisted and disappeared through a hole in the floor. Enough slack was provided to permit movement. A small dog ran around the room, largely ignored by the other occupants.
 
Outside on the verandah a woman held binoculars to her eyes. They were powerful ornithological binoculars. She trained them on the approaching riders, seeing the sky reflected in their visors, beautifully distorted in the curved surfaces. The reflections looked so vivid. Stratocumulus clouds filled her vision.
 
As the riders approached she was able to see them with her naked eye, taking in reflection and subject simultaneously, as if looking at a painting of a painting. With their spacesuits glaring white in the sun, they passed her by at a gallop and quickly receded into the distance.
 
The woman sighed and picked up the binoculars again from the railing where she had left them. She scanned the horizon, wistfully hoping she would see a thylacine and knowing it would be very unlikely. She had not yet managed to climb out from under the destructive weight of an early morning argument. The clouds had helped and a thylacine would put her completely at ease. But there were no thylacines, not even one. There had been reports of sightings, as of yet unsubstantiated, but this was the wrong continent.
 
Accepting that her disappointment was inevitable, she set down the binoculars again and went inside, through the kitchen to the South Room where the readers, two men and one woman, were engrossed in novels. She knew what they were reading. There was no telegnosis involved. She had made the selections herself: A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys, The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington, and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutola.
 
Enough time had now lapsed for her to check on the effect of this reading. To allow time to pass was the reason she had stepped out on the verandah in the first place. She made her way quietly through the room so as not to disturb the readers, fondled the little dog's ears, and opened the door at the far end with the demure confidence of a professional.
 
The opened door revealed a staircase that led down to the basement. She closed it with barely a click. The basement was not part of the original structure. It was an addition. She passed through the section where the vintage electronic instruments were stored. They were all in impeccable condition.
 
There was a display cabinet containing Moog synthesizers. There was a Minimoog, a Moog Satellite, a Sonic Six, a Micromoog, a Polymoog and a Moog Taurus.
 
Another cabinet contained Arps - ARP Little Brother, ARP Odyssey, ARP 2600 and an ARP Explorer. There was also an RCA MkII and three Theremins.
 
The instrument collection had a gravitas. It felt like walking through a chapel. There was a nobility in the latent possibilities of yesterday's analog technologies and her respect was genuine. She paused among the cabinets, feeling an affinity for these instruments that were never played and rarely looked at. They caused her to wonder about the meaning of collections. That meaning must lie in numbers greater than zero or one, because a collection of one thing seemed extremely unlikely, and a collection of nothing could not be considered a collection. This led her to consider numbers less than zero. They would imply a negative collection, such as an art collector with no paintings. There might be a catalogue of all the pictures he did not own, some of them yet to be painted.
 
It occurred to her that these instruments in their dusty cabinets mirrored the negative collection that was not upstairs. In so doing, they were a perfect representation of meaninglessness.
 
She suddenly made an effort to cease this speculation. It was a direction, that was all. A direction that might lead anywhere, and not necessarily where she wanted to go. These were not the questions she should answer, even if she could.
 
She moved away from the synthesizers to yet another door. Winter was officially over and Pater would probably be awake. This meant that things were going to get difficult.
 
When she opened the door, Pater was standing in the frame, blocking her way. He was old and obdurate.
 
"Women are generally not admitted into this area."
 
"Oh come on. Don't be ridiculous."
 
"Well, you'll have to prove you have clearance. I must ask you the questions if you don't mind."
 
"Go ahead."
 
"What is the correct time?"
 
"Time upon a once."
 
"What happened to the coiled rope?"
 
"It was forgotten by a sailor."
 
"From whence came the news?"
 
"It was delivered by a fly."
 
"How many totems are necessary?"
 
"Four and twenty."
 
"What is to be done with the sum of all things?"
 
"It is to be divided by seven cries of delight."
 
The old man begrudgingly stood back.
 
"Okay. You can come in."
 
 
© Tom Newton 2017

POST RECITAL

Talk Icon

TALK

BR: What was that about?
 
TN: The music?
 
BR: No. The story. What was it about?
 
TN: Oh... it's not really about anything.
 
BR: So you've written a story about nothing.
 
TN: I'm not sure that "about nothing" and "not about anything" are quite the same thing. But this was a deliberate attempt to write a meaningless story.
 
BR: What led to that?
 
TN: Curiosity maybe. Meaning seems to be very important to people. I suppose I'm caught up in it too, though I like to search the negative space - the lack of meaning.
 
BR: Yes, like the idea of negative collections in the story... You know, I think I may be a negative philatelist. I have a major collection of no stamps, zero.
 
TN: You do address the envelope when you send a letter, right?
 
BR: Envelope? Letter? I forgot those things existed. Strangely enough, philately has never been concerned with actual communication. But enough about that.
 
TN: Tell me. Do you like thylacines as much as I do?
 
BR: Ah yes, thylacines. I love those guys. Like the woman in the story, seeing one would make my day a lot better. One doesn't often encounter a cryptid. I've never seen Sasquatch or Nessie either, have you? And if you had, what would it mean?
 
TN: What exactly is a cryptid?
 
BR: A cryptid is an animal that can't be determined to be real. Cryptozoology is a whole field. Pseudoscience, you might say.
 
TN: Hmm... I like pseudoscience.
 
BR: Well, what if extinct species like thylacines started reappearing? Would it reverse the hopelessness?
 
TN: I'm not really sure about the hopelessness but there have been quite a few reports of thylacine sightings. Enough to warrant placing cameras in the bush, or outback, or whatever it's called. But let's stick to the story.
 
BR: I did want to say that the opening of the story gives me pleasant echoes of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower....
 
TN: That's nice.
 
BR: And I also liked the fact that those three books that were named in the group-reading are books that I have never read. So maybe I'll put them on my list.
 
TN: Yeah you should. I think they're all good, all good. Especially My Life in the Bush of  Ghosts.
 
BR: Well I also loved that final exchange with Pater. It reminded me of trying to get into my online banking... but so much more rich. Brilliant nonsense. It made me give an inner cry of delight. Seven of them, actually.
 
TN: Wow. Maybe you could squeeze out eight. But humour me for a minute. What exactly do you think is going on with Pater?
 
BR: Well I know Pater means father, but it left me with the question of whether this man was the female character's actual father, or if it was a title he held, as official keeper of the special room. I liked thinking he was her father and they played this silly game every day, just so she could get into the kitchen and make a sandwich.
 
TN: Well he could be either, or both of those things but...... he hibernates. The thing is, if you're going to write a meaningless story, you have to have at least some idea what meaning is.
 
BR: So do you? I'm not sure you can prove it.
 
TN: Well, I'm not really trying to prove anything. I'm just experimenting. I mentioned two books before. One of them was Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer....
 
BR: What's the other one?
 
TN: I can't say.
 
BR: Ah....
 
TN: Not right now.
 
BR: The nameless book. I always liked that one.
 
TN: In that book he talks about the large amount of time and brain-power people spend thinking about other people, you know – who knows what about who, who's doing what. He calls that Strategic Information. It's by no means the only premise in the book, but the one that's relevant to what we're talking about. When you just said you thought Pater might be the woman's father, that was a good example of that. I think his idea of Strategic Information might be what constitutes meaning, in a story at least and I decided not to provide it in Seven Cries of Delight.
 
BR: Okay.
 
TN: I didn't provide any psychological depth in character, no relationships between characters. All those things that, I think.... readers want when they read a story.
 
BR: Hmm, so that's the experiment. And you've decided it's a success of course. Have you heard of confirmation bias?
 
TN: Well I'm not claiming it was successful. It might have fallen completely flat but even that could be considered a success in some kind of way. Now here's a list. Does anything grab you?
 
Twenty-four statues

Bishops

Kings

Astrolabe

Small dog

The weight of another

Bald necromancer in a hat raised himself from the dead

Weekend in Reims

Pale mustard colour

Slicing
 
BR: Hmm.... The weight of another. That's it.
 
TN: I'm partial to 'astrolabe' myself. We could try another experiment.
 
BR: What's that?
 
TN: We could do the old Dadaist cut-up job. Rearrange the words at random and then play the whole thing backwards. What do you think?
 
BR: Sure.
 
TN: Okay, If I take that list I'll chop it up and move it around. Let's see.....Okay. Command E. Command E, Command E, Command E, Command E. Move that one. Command E. All right. Save it, all right now I'll reverse it. Okay, let's hear it.
 
The sound of backward speech. Then the sound of a thumb piano.
 
TN: Er... What's going on?
 
BR: I'm playing a thumb piano.
 
TN: Why are you doing that?
 
BR: I do not know....

BR: What was that about?
 
TN: The music?
 
BR: No. The story. What was it about?
 
TN: Oh... it's not really about anything.
 
BR: So you've written a story about nothing.
 
TN: I'm not sure that "about nothing" and "not about anything" are quite the same thing. But this was a deliberate attempt to write a meaningless story.
 
BR: What led to that?
 
TN: Curiosity maybe. Meaning seems to be very important to people. I suppose I'm caught up in it too, though I like to search the negative space - the lack of meaning.
 
BR: Yes, like the idea of negative collections in the story... You know, I think I may be a negative philatelist. I have a major collection of no stamps, zero.
 
TN: You do address the envelope when you send a letter, right?
 
BR: Envelope? Letter? I forgot those things existed. Strangely enough, philately has never been concerned with actual communication. But enough about that.
 
TN: Tell me. Do you like thylacines as much as I do?
 
BR: Ah yes, thylacines. I love those guys. Like the woman in the story, seeing one would make my day a lot better. One doesn't often encounter a cryptid. I've never seen Sasquatch or Nessie either, have you? And if you had, what would it mean?
 
TN: What exactly is a cryptid?
 
BR: A cryptid is an animal that can't be determined to be real. Cryptozoology is a whole field. Pseudoscience, you might say.
 
TN: Hmm... I like pseudoscience.
 
BR: Well, what if extinct species like thylacines started reappearing? Would it reverse the hopelessness?
 
TN: I'm not really sure about the hopelessness but there have been quite a few reports of thylacine sightings. Enough to warrant placing cameras in the bush, or outback, or whatever it's called. But let's stick to the story.
 
BR: I did want to say that the opening of the story gives me pleasant echoes of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower....
 
TN: That's nice.
 
BR: And I also liked the fact that those three books that were named in the group-reading are books that I have never read. So maybe I'll put them on my list.
 
TN: Yeah you should. I think they're all good, all good. Especially My Life in the Bush of  Ghosts.
 
BR: Well I also loved that final exchange with Pater. It reminded me of trying to get into my online banking... but so much more rich. Brilliant nonsense. It made me give an inner cry of delight. Seven of them, actually.
 
TN: Wow. Maybe you could squeeze out eight. But humour me for a minute. What exactly do you think is going on with Pater?
 
BR: Well I know Pater means father, but it left me with the question of whether this man was the female character's actual father, or if it was a title he held, as official keeper of the special room. I liked thinking he was her father and they played this silly game every day, just so she could get into the kitchen and make a sandwich.
 
TN: Well he could be either, or both of those things but...... he hibernates. The thing is, if you're going to write a meaningless story, you have to have at least some idea what meaning is.
 
BR: So do you? I'm not sure you can prove it.
 
TN: Well, I'm not really trying to prove anything. I'm just experimenting. I mentioned two books before. One of them was Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer....
 
BR: What's the other one?
 
TN: I can't say.
 
BR: Ah....
 
TN: Not right now.
 
BR: The nameless book. I always liked that one.
 
TN: In that book he talks about the large amount of time and brain-power people spend thinking about other people, you know – who knows what about who, who's doing what. He calls that Strategic Information. It's by no means the only premise in the book, but the one that's relevant to what we're talking about. When you just said you thought Pater might be the woman's father, that was a good example of that. I think his idea of Strategic Information might be what constitutes meaning, in a story at least and I decided not to provide it in Seven Cries of Delight.
 
BR: Okay.
 
TN: I didn't provide any psychological depth in character, no relationships between characters. All those things that, I think.... readers want when they read a story.
 
BR: Hmm, so that's the experiment. And you've decided it's a success of course. Have you heard of confirmation bias?
 
TN: Well I'm not claiming it was successful. It might have fallen completely flat but even that could be considered a success in some kind of way. Now here's a list. Does anything grab you?
 
Twenty-four statues

Bishops

Kings

Astrolabe

Small dog

The weight of another

Bald necromancer in a hat raised himself from the dead

Weekend in Reims

Pale mustard colour

Slicing
 
BR: Hmm.... The weight of another. That's it.
 
TN: I'm partial to 'astrolabe' myself. We could try another experiment.
 
BR: What's that?
 
TN: We could do the old Dadaist cut-up job. Rearrange the words at random and then play the whole thing backwards. What do you think?
 
BR: Sure.
 
TN: Okay, If I take that list I'll chop it up and move it around. Let's see.....Okay. Command E. Command E, Command E, Command E, Command E. Move that one. Command E. All right. Save it, all right now I'll reverse it. Okay, let's hear it.
 
The sound of backward speech. Then the sound of a thumb piano.
 
TN: Er... What's going on?
 
BR: I'm playing a thumb piano.
 
TN: Why are you doing that?
 
BR: I do not know....

Music on this episode:

Yum Num Na NA chant by Tex Axile performed by Tom Newton.

Hicazkar Yaclar Zeybek by Ehl-i Keyif.

License CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Thumb piano improvisation by Brent Robison.

THE STRANGE RECITAL

Episode 17102

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What is to be done with the sum of all things?