Archive for music

Head Half-Full

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2012 by javedbabar

Zadam had predicted Armageddon. The whole village was now scared and shunned him.

For a while he had been the most popular person in Lucerne. Citizens lauded his demolishing of politicians’ bullshit at the town hall meeting, and liked the way their pets frolicked around him, as if he were a forest god. But after his humming, spinning, sparking display in the park, and his prophecies of global doom, they avoided him.

This didn’t seem to bother Zadam. As a deformed man with upside-down head, he was used to social rejection. His only real friend in the village, Shama, still dropped by and encouraged him to go out.

“Why should I?” Zadam asked him.

“Because it is nice to go walking – you get fresh air and exercise. I know there are people who make you feel uncomfortable. Just ignore them. While I am with you, they won’t come close.”

For the first time since he had met him, Shama saw a tear appear in Zadam’s eye. Because his eyes were near his chin, the tear appeared, rolled down, and disappeared quickly. “What is wrong?” asked Shama.

“Nothing at all,” he said and turned away. Then he turned back. “I am nothing at all to most people. I am someone creepy and disgusting. That’s why I hide in this hood.” He stopped speaking and looked down.

Zadam was a grown man. Shama didn’t know what to do. Should he hug him? Would that be too invasive?

Shama did what came naturally. He wiped the next tear, and held Zadam in his arms. He kissed him on the forehead, like a kid brother. It seemed a little strange because his forehead was placed where you would expect his mouth to be.

Zadam began venturing out again “by his own,” but whenever Shama saw him he was not alone. People walked beside him, quizzing him about his apocalyptic prophecy that the world was unbalanced and about to break, or following him quietly, reverentially. They felt sorry for him, and scared, and wanted to show they supported him.

A local holy man, Ozwald Malchizedek, also known as OM, declared that Zadam was divinely inspired. He said, “There was the first man, Adam, and now the last man, Zadam. These are clear signs for believers.”

He tried to be seen walking ahead of Zadam, but Zadam was unpredictable and stopped and started without warning. Eventually OM began following a few paces behind, telling people that Zadam was the herald for a forthcoming Master, not saying, but implying, himself.

Shama saw Zadam across the railway tracks, like when they had first met. The red lights began flashing, bells ringing, and barriers falling. These stimuli were picked up by sensors, converted into signals, collated by receptors, and interpreted by cells. What to make of this sensory overload? It indicated there was a train approaching.

Similarly, how should Shama react to Zadam’s warnings of global disaster? He asked him after the train had passed, on the railway tracks.

He said, “It is up to you. It is all going to happen one day, today, Saturday, who knows? But I am a head half-full kind of guy. We can have lots of fun before then.”

Zadam pulled out a whistle from his coat pocket and blew it from the mouth at the centre of his forehead. He led the crowd following him along the railway tracks.

Radio Tomatoes

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby liked his job on the farm. It was great to be out in the fresh air all day, even when it was raining or snowing; much better than being snowed under with paperwork. He recalled a time at year-end when his entire desk was filled with files, a foot deep or more. Now there was only rhubarb and squash to wade through.

“I’ll take care of the tomatoes!” he shouted to his fellow worker, pointing towards the eastern polytunnels. “You can do the peppers.” These were the two main hot house crops here, with two hundred metres of each in tidy rows.

The tomatoes had started the season really well, shooting up and flowering early, but they had slowed with balmy weather. Aphids were a bother too. The new batch of ladybugs had helped.

Bobby wondered why tomatoes in the corner were doing so well. The plants were taller and the fruits were bigger and brighter than elsewhere in the hothouse. He went to the western polytunnel to ask his colleague. “Did you use a special fertilizer in the corner? No? Any extra inputs? No? What? They were just the same as the others last week? Okay.”

Why were they so strong and healthy? So picture perfect, like the image on a seed packet. Yes, there was more light in that corner in the mornings, but when the sun crossed over there was more shade, so there was no real advantage. Maybe being near the door provided extra ventilation, the airflow helping to regulate temperature, and deterring pests. Or did they benefit from heat flowing past them?

There could be something special in the soil here, like a small rotting animal providing a sustained supply of nutrients. A microclimate? Other beneficial bugs?

The tomatoes looked like large coloured party bulbs. They were sunset red and fist-sized, with flesh like ripe mangoes and juices like nectar. Over a few days Bobby checked everything, but could find no explanation for why they grew better. He wasn’t a proud person, but would be pleased to get some credit for this. These were the healthiest, tastiest tomatoes he’d ever seen. The best ever. They would soon be ready to harvest.

He thought about the tomatoes on his day off, and found himself licking his lips.

When he returned to the hothouse the tomatoes had wilted, and some of the plants had collapsed. The fruits were looking sick and pinched, as if somebody had strangled them in the desert. He checked the drip irrigation. It was still working.

Bach provided a tender soundtrack to this sorry state of affairs. The combination of dying fruit and sad music could be a still life by a renaissance painter. Or maybe the bright colours were more Van Gogh. Tomatoes fell as he stood there; the ground was covered with dead bloody bombs.

Then he recalled something. Last week the radio in the corner of the hothouse had been tuned to a commercial station. It was another worker’s choice. There was inane banter and non-stop ads. Had this affected the plants somehow?

Maybe they didn’t like classical music as everyone supposed. Maybe they felt it was plain and boring. He re-tuned the radio to LVR. A chorus of jingles began immediately.

“Good climes with Arctic Vodka!”

“Generali Cigars – Get Smoky!”

“Double-double burgers – only at Quenchers!”

“It’s party night at Dirty’s Bar!”

“Half-price cars this month at Valley Cars!”

Bobby started humming along. The words and music were designed to please. The wilting tomatoes raised their heads.

Your Story

Posted in Infinite City with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2012 by javedbabar

“What’s your story?” said Masta. “Go ahead girl, tell me.”

Nadia had prepared an answer but couldn’t say anything. A world famous music producer sat in a chair before her; this was her chance to make an impression but she was nervous and stuck for words.

“Come on girl, tell me your story. I haven’t got all day.”

She cleared her throat and spoke in laboured street slang. “I had a ragged childhood, Masta. I was born in the City, Blood, with state housing blocks circling my ass. There was no jobs, nor at least not legal ones, anywhere about that hood. There was one Indie store that ripped peoples off. Because my folks was brown, people said we was greedy peoples like they was. Our windows was smashed and we had mutt-shit pushed through our door. My dad sold drugs to survive and pimped my addict mom. It was ragged, Blood. I wish I could’a…”

“Hold it, girl!” said Masta. “Hold it! Now look here. You seem like a real nice girl.”

He looked at his Homies, gathered around him; they said, “True dat.”

He continued, “Man, you could present a show on the CBC. Is that your normal way of talking?”

His Homies said, “Be true!”

“Was your childhood really like that? Come on girl, be honest.”

“Erm…” Nadia wasn’t sure how to answer. Everybody was scared of Masta. He had been Canadia’s best known performer, went on to be a global club DJ, and then a music producer for top urban acts; gritty, rhymey stuff with harsh, broken beats. He was a musical genius, admired by everybody, but loved by few. He had a ferocious temper, which she’d witnessed on TV shows; he was so mean that people cried and ran away.

The media described him as a “prodigy” or “outlier”, also an “unhinged genius”. He was someone with great originality and exceptional ability, but poor mental discipline and interpersonal skills, which led to his inability to communicate ideas to others. When people didn’t know exactly what he wanted and asked for clarification, they were shouted and screamed at, and told they were “useless f***ing idiots who wouldn’t get a job washing shit at McDonalds.”

Because he was scary, people tried to please him. They bowed and scraped and trod on eggshells, and bit their lip when fearing they’d said something wrong, which was better than Masta biting it off. Yet they knew that his genius was infectious. In one day with him, they would learn more than in one year with an ordinary producer. That’s why those that were able to – bearing thick skins and tough minds – did their best to put up with him.

Contestants on his show Music Masta generally tried to emulate him. They wore funky hats, short dreads, and chunky jewellery, and used street talk – Yo’s and Ho’s – never proper grammatical sentences. Nadia had tried to impress him with her tale of childhood, with which she’d taken considerable artistic licence, but he wasn’t buying it; what to do now?

“Girl, you’ve got ten seconds. What do they say at church? Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

His Homies put their hands to their lips and said, “Shhhh…”

Scientists have proved that it’s always easier to tell the truth. Flux MRI scans, which monitor brain stimulation, show that lying requires about four times as much activity. So Nadia told the truth.

“I had a really lovely childhood, Mister Masta. My mother made nice dinners for me, and my father read me stories in bed. My brother is five years older than me, and always brought me little presents. I grew up being a happy girl, always optimistic, and because I’m happy, I make others happy too. Life treats me well and I have nothing to complain about.”

Masta threw his hands up in the air. “That’s what I’m talking about! That’s your story! You’re a happy girl! That’s fabulous, sister! I’m not looking for more people like me; there’s enough of us gangsters polluting the planet already. I’m looking for something different and authentic. So what are you singing for me today?”

Rather than saying, “I’m the Motherf***ing Queen of Babylon,” as she had planned to, Nadia said, “When a Child is Born.”

Funk Patrol

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2012 by javedbabar

The child has a computer! The child has a computer! The child has a COMPUTER! Hunza’s instinct was to run but that would draw too much attention. Instead she walked towards the child and sat down nearby. Maybe it wasn’t a real one, she thought, it could be a toy – but even toy computers were forbidden in the Black Zone. They were allowed in the Brown Zone, and of course real computers resided only in the White Zone. Hunza could walk away, pretend she’d never seen it, but it was too late. A camera was sure to have seen her. She had no choice.

She said, “What are you doing, child?”

The child was young – three or four – and not aware of his actions. That was good. It wasn’t his fault. It was faulty parents. No, not faulty – that was a Brown Zone term – more stupid. Yes, stupid parents. Oh My God! It was Brain Training! It was Brain Training! It was BRAIN TRAINING! Hunza couldn’t believe this was happening. She had found a child with the highest form of contraband! She snatched the child’s computer, and he burst into tears. When he’d stopped crying, she said, “Where did you get this?” and he burst into tears again. This wasn’t getting her anywhere, so she said, “Where do you live?” The child pointed towards a crazy mosaic tree house, 200 metres away. “Come on, let’s go.”

“You are this child’s parents?” Hunza said to the couple within.

“Yes we are,” they said, not seeming concerned. “What’s the problem Officer?”

“I must report a very serious offence to you. Here is the charge sheet. Your child had a computer.”

“He had a ‘puter?” said the mother.

“Yes, a ‘puter.” said Hunza.

“You are a puta!” shouted the mother. “A big fat puta!”

“A Cosi Fan Tutte!” shouted the father, his voice transforming into singing. A Cosi Fan Tutte! You are a big fat COSI FAN TUTTE!”

Hunza sang too, “Shut up or I’ll shoot ya! I will, I’ll shoot ya! Honest to God, I’LL SHOOT YA!”

The father grabbed a mandolin and began plucking its strings. The mother ran to another room, and returned banging bongos. The child was bemused at first, and then realized what was happening, and blew into a plastic trumpet, creating broken birdsong and a baby camel’s groan. Neighbours heard the commotion and ran to join in. A tall white man rapped about his “cracky homey hood”. An East Indian woman performed barely-perceptible, moving-nonmoving, Tai Chi moves, while her midget partner practised kendo. A black bodybuilder chanted the Kabbalistic names of God. A Chinese girl made yoga-bridges, almost becoming a hoop. A man in a wheelchair told racist jokes which everybody laughed at, while a woman on a drip and oxygen support mimed filthy porn. Hunza ripped up the charge sheet and threw it in the air, and as it fluttered down like snowflakes, began breakdancing. Everybody made a human pyramid, with the man in the wheelchair at the top, and the woman on drip and oxygen pretending to pleasure him. The pyramid soon collapsed with uproarious laughter.

What a fabulous community I live in, thought Hunza, so wonderfully eccentric, filled with every kind of art imaginable and the highest proportion of Crazies in the Valley. She was doing a good job, she felt, as a Senior Officer of the Funk Patrol.

She encouraged Crazies to join in with the Funk, but most stood on the sidelines. Every now and then a Wacky Wallflower would summon courage and share their inspiration with others – this was a big step in their returning to the fold. There was also a parallel movement of disillusioned Funksters drifting away to the sidelines, to remain there till their inspiration returned. Crazies were the most highly valued members of the Black Zone, and this crossing back and forth was precious. It enhanced their in/sanity.

“Funk Patroller!” shouted a man known to her, who had good form. “Have you considered changing your title to ‘Funk Petrol-er’? That’s what they called gas in Europe –

you know, petrol – before it ran out. Isn’t that your job really – to add fuel to the fire? To make it roar? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. The metaphor of fire. It’s an element that doesn’t exist of itself. It’s more a transformative state. A way of being free. If you…”

Hunza had to think quickly. This man was a poet, but was now becoming a philosopher. In the Black Zone, that was a truly crazy thing to do. Truly crazy! TRULY CRAZY! If he was thought to be logical, White Zone computers would see him as a threat. The cameras that watched them around-the-clock – as entertainment feed for the liquid brains in huge, cooled metal buildings – would pick up on it quickly. They would instruct slithering robots from the Brown Zone to come and deal with the matter. The robots would caution the local Funk Patroller and remove the Logical Aberration. Humans were retained for fun, not for thinking. The computers were much better at that.

Hunza snatched a bamboo pole from the midget kendo practitioner and bashed the philosopher on the head with it. He fell, clutching his temples, and shook on the floor, frothing and laughing. Cameras whirred nearby. Hunza wondered, “Did I deal that with that comically, not logically? I really hope so.”

Jazzy Friction

Posted in Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , on March 13, 2012 by javedbabar

“Is that his real name?” said Al. “Jazzy Friction? What kind of name is that?”

Jodi said, “He’s a music producer, love. I don’t know his real name.” She fiddled with the volume on her amp. “He may have the same initials. They sometimes do that. Jeffrey Foxtrot. John Fong. Jeremy Farah. Who knows?” The beats continued. It was IDM, she’d told him. Intelligent Dance Music.

A broken beathood; jarring and jumping; intelligent how? “Jazzy Friction. Is that meant to sound sexy?” He was being cynical. She ignored it. It had become tiresome.

“Soon my love. It will be soon. But I’m not ready yet. Can we just wait a little longer?”

“Of course we can,” he said quietly. “Of course we can. There’s no schedule.”

“Do you mean that? Can you wait?” Her eyes were bright. He’d said the right thing. “I want it to be perfect – our first time. My first time.” Her eyes brightened more.

Boy she was beautiful, thought Al. How was it possible that no one had been there yet? A ripe woman, unspoiled. Or maybe she’d left it too long, and developed silly hang-ups. Carrying around a sack of junk, clinging to it, never letting go. Silly thoughts. Let them go, man. She’s she, and me’s me. Enjoy what we have.

She turned up the volume. Her powerful system was so much better than his crappy laptop speaker, which she called “Tinman talking”. She had a two thousand dollar BCS amplifier and waist-high Rose speakers, probably the same cost again – and he was pushing sound out of his $400 laptop. That’s why she always wanted him to come to her place. Their replacement for sex was dancing – and talking Tinmen just didn’t cut it. So it was her place most nights for techno/house, jazz funk, IDM, and World Fusion – all under the guidance of the mighty Jazzy Friction.

Their dancing was fun and often fierce. He’d forgotten how heady beats and motion could be. The melody moved you, but the rhythm drove you, and the deeper – unknown, unheard even – harmonics vibrated your soul. Did she use a vibrator, he wondered? Or sex toys? Masturbate at all? She must do. Had she really not opened Pandora’s Box.

For a man used to regular sex, this was very frustrating. To meet a girl, date regularly, feel chemistry and the spark of powerful desire, but to hold back his natural urges, and keep them dampened down. In this day and age. Was he dating a nun? A prude? A neurotic? A she-male? This last thought made him smile.

Thank God for the great outdoors; for rolling Coastal forests, for his cabin surrounded by cedars, cottonwoods, alders, and poplars. All fuel for fire. Chopping wood relieved the tension. It felt potent, primal. Swinging a tool of Barbary, unthinking, smashing the whole, standing over your handiwork, mighty and gloating, then doing it again, and again, and again, and again. Sweating profusely, swinging, aching, grunting, and shouting, till the anger was spent, and the need fulfilled – for now.

He went to her one night expecting dancing. Jazzy Friction poured through the door. It was an ambient tune with quiet harmonics; a promise of deeper vibrations. He smelled her before he saw her. Her fierce perfumes. Rose assaulted his senses, and chilli overwhelmed them; the first inch of door opening allowing sensual passage. She was fully made up – ruby lipstick, cinnamon eye shadow, rich mascara extending her eyes, with a scattering of red glitter beneath them. She wore a raw silk, red kimono, its folds holding darkness, its belt creating tension. The lights were low, with scented candles burning cherry, plum, and blood orange.

“Hello darling,” she said, her voice deeper, larger than before. “I’m ready now. What about you?” She clasped his waist and kissed him, then stepped back and released her belt. Beneath her kimono was fiery flesh, but covered yet. Sheened silks, stitched and shaped for her body alone, covered her mounds and havens.

He saw them together, joined in every way possible. Like sticks on a burn pile yet to be consumed – finding their own arrangement. A relation of height, width, and depth. Adding to that the fourth dimension – time. Coming together, rubbing together, creating friction. Making a spark. Igniting their pyre. Burning like a bush, a moth, a phoenix, Helios, witches, Joan of Arc, Al-Hallaj. Sacrificing themselves like Prometheus. Having the choice to dampen down or add fuel to the fire. Self-consiousness creates friction. The trick is to lose yourself and become effortless. Become the light born of darkness. Bright fire from dark wood. Emanation. Adding fuel, they crackled and burned.

They lay beside each other after, but had to move away. Both bodies were sated, but overheated. A need to cool down. But as they lay a foot apart, it seemed that air was rushing between them, as if glowing logs, their passion creating a draw. Both of them were spent but their fuel was inexhaustible. Flames continued to roar. A fire tree between them remade. Al said, “You were right my love. We were worth waiting for.” He was breathless, unknown.

“I knew it when you first touched me,” she said. “You set my heart aflame.” Then she turned to him and smiled, and started laughing. “Are you Jazzy Friction.”

Dark Harp

Posted in Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , on January 8, 2012 by javedbabar

The crowd at the Great Hall funked and grooved. They shook their bootys and whirled round and around. They were more dervishes than dancers, their souls lost in sound.

The Harpees didn’t play here too often. Ever since they won the World Fusion Championships, they were always touring. But this was their home town, and they didn’t forget their own. They were a twelve piece band with two basses, two sitars, bongo drums, tablas, two trumpets, keyboardist, harmonium, violinist, and lead harpist. Each instrument played its part beautifully, but the harp was what made their band really special. The vibrations of its strings climbed high, touching people’s hearts and dreams. And it was a unique instrument. While other instruments gave feedback – muddying the music – the harp never did. It produced only pure sound.

Rufus gave a final flourish, and set all of its strings vibrating. He dropped his head sharply to end the number, and the rest of the band followed his lead. There was huge cheering and applause. The band thanked their loyal fans who had set them on the road to stardom, and called it a night.

Before Rufus had even stopped sweating, the manager of Resonance – the recently completed apartment block in the centre of town – came to bug him. He wanted The Harpees to endorse his building, continuing its musical advertising campaign. This had included taglines like “Sounds good!”, “In tune with you!”, and “Live in harmony!” Rufus said he didn’t have time right now.

No matter how many times you’ve done it before, teardown is always a messy business. There’s always mounds of boxes, jumbles of plugs, and a jungle of wires. The building’s steps made it even more work than usual humping the gear. Finally everything was loaded, and Rufus drove home. They had to hit the road tomorrow, so he left his gear in the truck. He didn’t sleep well that night, which was unusual. He usually soared heavenward.

The next morning was the worst of his life. He checked and rechecked but the harp was gone. Had he misplaced it, he wondered? Or had someone taken it in error? After all, instrument cases were all dark and bulky; they could easily be confused. Yet he recalled placing it into the truck carefully. He really didn’t want to consider it, but the only real possibility was that someone had stolen it!

Rufus held his head in his hands and snarled like a dog. He was so angry, he could not think. He could only feel colours.

When his Grandpa gave him the harp, he’d said, “It’s been in the family for centuries, and I have been its guardian for fifty years. It’s now your turn, Rufus. But don’t lock it away somewhere. It is alive I tell you! Play it! Play it! Play it for the world!”

At first it had been hard to know what to do. It wasn’t the coolest instrument, or the easiest to master. Dull black wood with a hundred strings. But Rufus persevered and became proficient. He started out as a street-musician, then joined a chamber orchestra, and later a local experimental band. He played so well that he displaced the lead guitarist, and became “lead harpist”. Eventually they changed their name from The Spudees to The Harpees, and the stage was set.

“All instruments have souls, and they respond to others,” his Grandpa had said. “But this harp has seen too much in its lifetime. It braved two wars. Now it makes its own music, that is all, and doesn’t echo the sounds of other instruments. It is like a great person, who is sure of himself but wary of the crowd. And because he stands apart bravely, he attracts others.”

Rufus hadn’t known what to make of that, but the musical benefits were clear. There was no feedback, and thus clarity and force in performance. Its sound would rise above all others.

But now the harp was gone. He had lost it! Rufus snarled again. His hearing was so keen that he could detect the quiver of a nearby string. But he knew that even if he drove around the Village, house by house, playing other instruments, the harp would never answer back. It gave no feedback. Its special quality was now its loss.

Of course they cancelled the rest of the tour. Rufus stayed at home. He was mainly quiet, but sometimes found himself snarling.

That night there were strange occurrences in the Village. Dogs barked non-stop, and the glass in shop windows kept trembling. Reflections distorted and shook.

The next night everyones’ car alarms went off everywhere, and many streetlights shattered. Everybody in the coffee shop was talking about these strange events. Had there been a series of small earthquakes? Or maybe some kind of electrical-field reversal?

Only Rufus knew. The harp had broken its long silence. It was responding to his call.

The third night, the Village fire-trucks’ lights and sirens came on. Also those of the ambulances, and the police cruisers. The centre of town was like a fairground. Emergency personnel all turned out in response to the sirens, and it’s a good job they did.

The Resonance building crumbled into dust. It wobbled initially, and then fell flat. Fortunately the manager had noticed some cracks that evening, and evacuated the buildings’ few occupants before he disappeared. No one was hurt.

Some days later, among the rubble of Resonance, was found a large black instrument case. Inside was a dark harp.