Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rough Draft: Interactive Essay

Almost done. If anyone has any suggestions please let me know.

Technology is a broad concept that deals with a species' usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species' ability to control and adapt to its environment. Basically, when used with proper intent, anything is technology. It has been around since the dawn of man and, depending on how you classify technology it has been around since the beginning of life.
If you think technology must be created with purpose: go to Narrative
If you think biological systems can function as technology: go to Biology

Biologically speaking, technology was created long before humans even dreamed of using broken hunks of flint to butcher a kill. It is, however, a huge part of our nature, even if we weren’t the first to use it.
The relationship between technology and human nature is best viewed as simply a biological relationship. It is only possible through biological systems. Matter will not simply coalesce into technology. It is rather created through some process, whether it be intentional or by accident. However, it is the use of this creation that dictates whether it is true technology. If in a swirling mass of chemicals, ATP (adenosine triphosphate... arguably the most important molecule in any living system next to DNA) is created, it is not truly “technology” until it is used to power the various metabolic functions the cell requires. It is through biological systems like this and through the process of evolution that new chemical “technologies” and, eventually, physical technologies are created.

Technology is usually defined as the precise or knowledgeable use of any “tool,” and, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether that precision is learned or instinctual. The tool doesn’t necessarily need to be created with particular intent, but it typically is. After all, acquired characteristics of species were produced and fine-tuned over millions of years, so in a way, you could say that they were created with intent... otherwise, where would new species come from? I think Lyotard said it best: “Any material system is technological if it filters information useful to its survival, if it memorizes and processes that information and makes inferences based on the regulating effect of behavior, that is, if it intervenes on and impacts its environment so as to assure its perpetuation at least (Lyotard 12).” Every species uses its own evolutionary novelties as an ability to control and adapt to its environment. Take, for instance, the Aye-Aye, a pro-simian (monkey-like primate) from the jungles of Madagascar. It has developed a long spindly finger with which it collects ants and various other insects from holes in trees (Fleagle). It uses this specialized finger as a “tool” to get what it wants (dinner). Similarly, the deep sea Anglerfish uses its rod-like appendage to lure prey toward it, which are attracted to the pulsing light at the tip. It does this by moving its “rod” in much the same way a fly-fisherman uses his (same motion, same effect, same means to the same end… dinner). These are just a couple of an infinite number of examples of technology in nature. They arose out of evolutionary novelty and stuck around because they allowed their owners to control and adapt to its environment. They use their tools the same way we use ours. The only difference is that our “tool” allows us to create new technology without waiting for evolution to help us. Our brain is the greatest tool of all. We use it the same way animals use their tools… to get food and, once we have it, seek comfort, reproduce, and so forth. That is animal nature and, since we are animals, it is human nature as well. We use our master tool, “the brain,” as a means to acquire our basic needs (food, shelter, offspring) and once we have those basic needs met, we use our brain to meet our higher needs (mental, spiritual, emotional) as well. Thus, human nature could not exist without technology.

go to: Life without technology if you think we can
otherwise, continue on

Technology is used as an extension of any being, regardless of its biological or mechanical makeup. The simplest use of technology of course, is the biological use. All life is equipped with certain tools to manipulate and control its environment. It is equipped with the knowhow to properly and precisely use it. And, if it lacks one of these, it cannot continue living.

We as humans cannot control what nature has given to us. Most animals can do things that humans would never even dream possible with our bodies. Because of this, we as humans are envious of those animal characteristics we don’t have. As humans we listen to these emotions and do what we can to satiate them. The big difference is that we can use our brain to simulate other animal capabilities. But, like Lyotard said about creating consciousness, this is only a simulation (Lyotard 17-18). We can never actually “have” the characteristics of that animal or thing we are observing. We can only simulate it and to simulate is to live vicariously through something else; to live as if something were really happening even if it isn’t. If we want to fly like a bird, we create the technology to do so. If we want vision like a hawk, we create the technology to do so. If we want to further either one of these and be better than the animal, we fly farther or look deeper into space than anything before us. But our technology is merely a simulation of these traits that we long to acquire, but never will. We never will be able to run like a cheetah or dive hundreds of kilometers below sea level like a sperm whale. We can simulate it and use our technology as a crude extension of ourselves, but it will never truly be “us” that do these things. Our technology is merely an extension of ourselves as we try to emulate some other animal; I will never have the teeth of a wolf, but I can use a knife to kill my prey the same way the wolf uses its teeth.

War and violence are a big part of human nature. It’s that simple. There has never been a culture of completely peace-loving humans and, if they don’t fight each other, they have to kill other animals for food and resources (sinews, fur, leather, etc.). Violence has and will always be a part of our nature and will gradually worsen as our technology grows in complexity (it provides an increasing ability to do harm on an increasing scale as our technology improves). Taking this into account, it is only natural for the humans in “Sheep” (who now have the technology) to blow up the world like they did. That was not their goal, but it is also human nature to use your most efficient technology to do what you have to in order to survive ... including nuclear warfare.
(It’s all about efficiency with humans, regardless of which field it is being applied to. Efficiency just seems like part of our nature as humans. We are busy creatures and don’t have the time or the patience to do things the hard way. It was Epicurus who said that we as humans like to maximize pleasure and minimize pain (Hedonism). Efficiency helps us achieve the most comfort with the least amount of toil. Rick Deckard, in “Sheep,” was able to efficiently “retire” errant technology only because of the technology available to him, including his organization. Fredrick Winslow Taylor also knew that efficiency was everything in organization. He designed an extremely efficient management system, known as “Scientific Management.” This “technology” allowed him to efficiently control labor and get what both he and his workers wanted. Both parties were able to thrive in many different situations [pig iron handling, shoveling, ball-bearing inspection, etc.] and, like I said before, this tool is used the same way animals use their tools. His scientific management is nothing more than the emulation of certain insects like ants and bees [all hymenoptera to be precise]. These insects are the most organized creatures on the planet and Taylor’s technology allowed us to simulate their natural organization.).
Yes, their technology was harmful to their race as a whole, but it was their human nature combined with the aid of technology that ultimately killed most of life on Earth. I would also like to reiterate the fact that they used this technology as an extension of themselves. The end of life on Earth was dependent upon their technology and, without it, they would have merely used whatever nature gave them to fight with the leaders of the other countries. They would most likely have walked over and strangled each other… the way nature intended it (judging by what it gave us).

Our society has come so far technologically that we are beginning to fuse with our own created tools into what Haraway refers to as “cyborgs.” She says that, “Modern medicine is... full of cyborgs, of couplings between organism and machine (Haraway 150),” but in my opinion, it seems only natural. Our technology is being used, in this sense, to keep our biological bodies functioning. We are using our tools, our technology, as an aspect of ourselves. When we integrate our biological bodies with machines, we are both asserting our reliance on machines and also our complete mastery over them. We assume complete dominance over our machines and assimilate them into ourselves. It is in this way that technology no longer functions as extensions of ourselves, but rather as ourselves. It, in theory, becomes us. What then is the difference between our technology and ourselves? Is it that we created this technology that we are now a part of? I don’t think so. After all, it is biology that creates the simplest forms of technology. Evolution combined with morphology and instinct usually makes new technologies, but as humans we can bypass the entire step of evolution. We may continue on this path until we become simply the detached consciousness that Lyotard was looking for the whole time. However, we are still human and it is our nature to create technology for our own gain, just like it is any other biological system’s nature to use its own pre-existing evolutionary technology to its own gain. Technology doesn’t threaten us any more than we threaten ourselves… we are technology.

Life without technology:
You're Wrong.

One of mankind's earliest technologies is the narrative, which dates back possibly as far as ___(use archaeology book). Narrative is defined as the telling of a story or event through any medium such as writing, speech, acting, etc... Cave paintings that date back as far as ___ suggest that man has been telling stories (and creating narratives) for millennia. Even if we could find the oldest possible cave painting we could never accurately determine when man created the first stories and narratives. Archaeologists and physical anthropologists have determined that man had the ability to speak (the proper hardware) around ___. One would imagine it would not take very long for an already intelligent and technologically accomplished race to invent language and, along with it, stories… the first narratives. There is of course no way to know for certain, however, but what we can know is when written narrative started popping up. Aside from cave paintings, we see the first evidence for writing (which uses arbitrary characters, not pictures, to tell a story) in ancient Mesopotamia, around four thousand BC. Back then, however, writing was reserved for the priest class and was used primarily as a means of tax-keeping. Narrative did not show up in writing until much later. Most stories were actually passed on orally through song until writing became somewhat accessible to the lower classes.
If you think true narrative was created orally and independent of writing: go to The Odyssey(epic)
Otherwise: go to House of Leaves story

House of Leaves Story:
After that, written stories were still scarce until the advent of the printing press. This new technology of the 1400’s allowed text to be mass produced, making it accessible to almost everyone. After that, text remained pretty static until the typewriter, followed shortly by the computer. The computer revolutionized the way our society used narrative. It opened a Pandora’s Box of opportunities. Even more recently, complex word processors have allowed the author even greater freedom designing his/her narrative. This technology has allowed the narrative to come quite a long way since the days of ancient Greece and Mesopotamia. The modern narrative utilizes all of these technologies and more to tell the author’s story exactly as he/she envision it. A great example of the modern narrative is the book “House of Leaves”(HoL for short sometimes). Most people know it as a single production, but it is actually a culmination of two separate stories told using two distinct styles, which use even more forms of technology. This greater story is reminiscent of the Male-Female split in Lyotard's essay “Can Thought go on without a Body?,” except in this story, both sections exist independently of one another. There is a male and female side and both contribute to the overall story.
If you want to hear the Male side of the story: go to House of Leaves
If you want to hear the Female side of the story: go to Poe: Haunted

House of Leaves:
The book House of Leaves is the Male counterpart to the greater House of Leaves story. It is told by using technology that has only recently become available. The use of computerized word processing is essential for the proper retelling of this novel. It utilizes multiple fonts, word colors (which could be easily located/manipulated by using the “find/replace” function), and paragraph structures which add further texture, depth, and meaning to the original text. Most importantly, the fonts are used as a distinction between which character is currently telling the story (i.e. different fonts for Johnny, Zampano, and the Editors). It allows for the separation of the many layers in the story, all of which are centered around a male. Women are rarely present and when they are, their only purpose seems to be serving their man. There are three layers to this story and each main character in each layer used women more like tools than human beings. For instance, Johnny used women as sex objects, Zampano used women as his eyes (because he was blind), and Navidson used his wife to take on all of his responsibilities at the drop of a hat while he was suddenly and without notice called to duty (as a photojournalist).
If you would like to hear about Johnny: go to Johnny
If you would like to hear about Zampano: go to Zampano
If you would like to hear about Navidson: go to Navidson
If you would like to hear the Female side: go to Poe: Haunted
If you would like to continue discussing “HoL”: go to HoL

Johnny Truant is on the outermost layer of this story. He was a tattoo artist who never quite made it to working on people, a drug abusing club-goer who used women as if they were just another drug to make him feel good, and, more importantly, a nobody who happened upon the tattered and damaged remains of an old mans manuscript. For as chauvinistic as he was, he was never quite as bad as his friend Lude (which, incidentally, is suspiciously similar to the word “lewd.” The author must have been running low on creativity when he named this character). The only thing that mattered to him was getting high and getting laid and he would often simply use his drugs just to get with women (who were usually so psychologically damaged that it was like taking candy from a baby). Until the manuscript engulfed his life, Johnny wasn't much different. It even got him into big trouble with Kyrie and her boyfriend Gdansk man. Women served only the purpose of informants and sex objects to him, so they rarely surfaced in his story. He would call them to meet up and talk about Zampano and his work, usually asking about one or more translations he needed, and somehow end up fucking every one of them. There are three possible interpretations of this. One being that this is how it actually happened. Two is that he used the manuscript as a means of getting into women's pants and just made up all the stuff about him going insane to make a better story. This one is actually pretty likely, especially given Johnny's history as a wild story teller. We know he makes up a great deal of his stories to entertain so who's to say this is any different? Lastly, Johnny could be using the “fucking” as a metaphor. We know (he said) he needed to yell “fuck” to himself every time he had to force himself to do something he didn't want to (like leaving his apartment). What if he gets so unnecessarily nervous when he calls up these women to talk about Zampano's manuscript that instead of just saying “fuck,” he writes it... as a story. The depth of his chauvinism is well known to us as readers and it seems odd that he would tack another story about sex onto the end of a perfectly reasonable story. It always happens at the end where you would expect someone to just say, ”fuck.”
If you would like to hear the Female argument: go to Poe: Haunted
If you would like to hear about Zampano: go to Zampano
If you would like to hear about Navidson: go to Navidson

While Zampano may not be a very big character in HoL, his influence is profound (at least on Johnny) and his treatment of women leaves something to be desired. Since he was blind, Zampano could not read and could barely write on his own so he hired people to help him with these things. Not only did he ask that his helpers be only women, but he asked that they were also attractive women. This is very chauvinistic of him. They all serve as his helpers, much like a man's wife would in “the old country.” Also, “The Navidson Record,” which Zampano wrote, is very male-centric. Most of the story/film is void of females. Karen is only seen in a select few shots (the only two of importance are when she and Wax kiss and when she talks into the camera about how her and Navidsons relationship used to be). Karen only becomes a slightly prominent figure when all of the males have “gone to battle and lost.” Her husband was out killing himself in the house, Tom was dead, Reston was back at his job, Holoway and Jed were dead, and Wax was hospitalized for a long time. Who else is left but the woman to tell the story?
If you would like to hear the Female argument: go to Poe: Haunted
If you would like to hear about Johnny: go to Johnny
If you would like to hear about Navidson: go to Navidson

Navidson is arguably the most important character in the book HoL. He is the protagonist and the only character in many parts of the book/film. Being a photojournalist, he always works alone and in dangerous situations, leaving his family behind at the drop of a hat. This leaves his wife Karen with tremendous responsibility. She must take care of the family in his absence and is left with the bitter thought that he may never return. Navidson does not seem the least bit remorseful about using Karen in this way (asserting his independence as a man and using the woman to take care of his needs). Also, it is worth noting that Navidson never actually uses Karen in any of his shots. The only shots she really appears in are the ones caught by the stationary Hi8s distributed throughout the house. These are the very same tapes that she toils over after her husband leaves her once again for the house. She spends hours editing them and for what? Nobody appreciates them anyways. They say that her ability as a film-editor is mediocre and lacking. Critics even accuse her of making careless mistakes on several of the clips she creates (use examples here).
If you would like to hear the Female argument: go to Poe: Haunted
If you would like to hear about Zampano: go to Zampano
If you would like to hear about Johnny: go to Johnny

Chauvinism is not the only theme to the book, however. Another recurrent theme in the novel is “the whale.” There are several biblical references not only to such tales as “Jakob and Enau,” but also to “Jonah and the Whale (or big fish depending on your bible),” which helps reinforce this theme. The house can be viewed as a whale that swallows intruders whole. Its yawning maw is the blackness that seems to stretch on forever. The house opens, closes, and even growls, giving the intruder a similar feeling to being in the belly of the whale. Navidson himself makes this comparison when he stumbles upon the seemingly endless shaft. Just as Jonah is swallowed by the fish/whale, Navidson is also swallowed by the house. While Navidson doesn’t apologize to god, is never allowed to leave the house until he is truly sorry to Karen (just like Jonah is to God), who, just like in Jonah's case, saves the repentant protagonist. This, coupled with the fact that Johnny's mother was sent to “The Whale” where she spent the remainder of her days (maybe she wouldn't repent?) provides a strong literary tie to the book Moby Dick (several bands actually used Moby Dick to create concept albums and provide interesting literary ties, much like Poe is tied to HoL). Overall, while this narrative is enervated with technology, it is these thematic aspects that make it stand out. The male-female split of the story is genius and both Danielewskys must have known that. It adds even more layers to an already layered story. The biblical references add even more to that and, in the end, the story is endlessly complicated and brilliantly simple. The title could not be more fitting; House of Leaves... House of Layers is more like it.

Poe: Haunted:
Poe is a female fronted 90's pop/rock band that never quite made “pop” status. As the front-woman for Poe, Annie Danielewsky naturally wrote all of the lyrics. The central theme of her album “Haunted” is based strongly in her brothers book “House of Leaves,” although hers seems to be the female take on the subject. In this particular concept album, Poe's lyrics serve two functions: one is to entertain the masses and the other is to tell the story of House of Leaves. However, Poe's version of the story is told through the eyes of a woman, instead of a man (as the book is told). It is a concept album in the sense that there is one unifying theme, but the story is not told from start to finish here. It is told through a woman's voice, but more importantly, most of it seems like it is told though the eyes of Navidson's wife, Karen. In fact, the only male voice in the album comes from abstract quotes of (in most cases) some unknown speaker and is only taken from the text (and/or accurately describes a character) once. What's more is that this male voice is heard only in the remix. Maybe Poe is trying to tell us that she didn't want any men directly linked to the book in her work and would allow it only in a remix (which suggests that it was not her idea, because remixes are almost always done by someone other than the original author). Regardless, the sexual bias of story is shifted almost exclusively to the female in Poe's album. Just as Navidson showed his independence in the book by running off to do his photojournalism at a moment’s notice, so too does Karen show her independence in Poe's retelling. She asserts herself in the album. We don't see this in the male version of the story. Karen tells us how she got the courage to save her husband and how it was tearing her apart to be without him. We hear about her struggles and her life in this story and we don't get that at all in the book. The song “Control,” for example, is narrated by Karen. The “person” she is talking to is not Navidson or any person for that matter, but the house itself. “You thought you could keep me from loving/You thought you could feed on my soul/But while you were busy destroying my life/What was half in me has become whole.” It kept her from loving, it feed on her soul, and destroyed her life all by taking her husband on whom she was so reliant. It tore her family apart and caused her children to react very strangely. It seems like the setting for this song is probably while she is saving Navidson. What was half in her did become whole when she found her husband (her other half), the one she loved so much. The house was caught “looking the other way,” taking care of destroying Navidson when she stumbled in. But, instead of finding her miserable and claustrophobic, in tears and “crawling the walls/Like a tiny mosquito and trembling in fear,” she “took control” and saved the one she loved. “At the end of it all lies of course the final phenomenon of deterioration... when the creative energy ceases.” This is when she has Navidson in her arms and the house just deteriorates or dissolves and they are out on the front lawn and there is nothing supernatural for the rest of the story. There are several songs where Karen talks about how the house is tearing her apart like in “Terrible thought,” but these are of little consequence. They only further illustrate the point that this story is being told through the eyes of a woman. Almost all of the songs on Poe's album can be 100% faithfully interpreted as the series of events that happens in HoL through Karen's eyes, but they are all pretty self explanatory so it is unnecessary to actually tear them apart here. There are quotes or at least fairly accurate reconstructions of text scattered throughout her album also. For example, there are several times where a child's voice can be heard during the calm “down-time” of some songs. Possibly the best of all is during the song “Walk the walk,” when a child can be heard saying, “There’s someone knocking in the wall.” This quote is infinitely useful to Poe's album. These quotes that are spaced out through the album is like the knocking and the sounds the children hear in the walls in the book. It is usually when the children and the song are resting and it is never 100% coherent. The quotes never really fit with the song and seem fairly random, just like the sounds the children hear in the novel. Furthermore, these quotes are pretty creepy and, while it can never be as creepy as hearing someone knocking inside the walls of your house, it achieves a fairly similar effect. She does the same thing with the echo and the growl. Poe mentions these two phenomena in a few songs and uses them with the same creepy tone.
go to Conclusion

The Odyssey (epic):
The Odyssey was one of the first narratives in recorded history, which started out as simply an oral story passed down over presumably hundreds of years. In fact, there is a four hundred or so year gap between the historical Trojan War (~12-11 thousand BC) and its transcription. It was most likely passed down orally and/or through song for a few hundred years before it was finally written down. Even so, it is one of mankind's oldest recorded stories and, more importantly, one of the oldest and most well known narratives we have. This narrative has changed with the technology available from being told as simple oral stories, to books, movies, music, and even online text. Many other narratives have evolved with time and technology like this one, especially in music. Music combines both written narrative and song, both of which are classical means of retelling narrative. Narrative is even still present in music today. In fact, the retelling of stories through song illustrates one of the strongest relationships narrative has with technology. Song lyrics are poetic and usually meaningful and heartfelt, the music is calculated and supports the words and general mood. There are several aspects of technology used within the narrative of song such as lyrics (vocals), music (instruments), composition and layout and the combination and meaning of all three. The overall organization of the musical narrative, however, is probably the most important to the overall meaning and intent. One of the best examples of this is the modern concept album. There are really only two examples of this in the music world: a) one where the songs are all based on a particular concept, and b) another where each individual song makes up a larger, lengthier narrative.
If you want to discuss a): go to a)
If you want to discuss b): go to b)
While, the idea of basing a concept album on a single story or event seems more logical, the idea of taking songs with similar themes and grouping them together is much older and more popular. This layout is not, however, to be confused with compilation albums like the ever so popular Christmas album. The concept album is produced exclusively by one artist and not several. The central theme can be strong or weak, but usually ties in very well and makes an important statement about an event or idea. It can offer several alternative sides and sometimes provide more relevant information than simply a single narrative. Jazz musicians of the 1930’s were some of the first artists to group songs together like this. Since then, this technology has changed little. It can be used to cleverly unite the themes into something more meaningful like Poe’s “Haunted” or create a central narrative with supplementing songs like Symphony X’s “The Odyssey.”
If you would like to hear about Poe’s “Haunted”: go to Poe:Haunted
Otherwise: go to SymphonyX:TheOdyssey
While the idea of using a central theme to unite an album is older and even more popular, the type of concept album wherein each song makes up part of a larger narrative is the best example of how narrative penetrates technology. It is only in this type of album that the narrative is most prevalent and, because every song contributes to the story, it also remains extremely interesting (something that some written stories can never achieve). Not only does the music keep you entertained, but the lyrics present a story. Sometimes this story is based on previous works of fiction, but most of the time the author/artist creates his own story and runs with it. Using a single narrative to unite an album like this is brilliant. Like a necklace, gems are added one by one to to the string (the narrative), to create something beautiful. Bands such as King Diamond use this structure all the time.
This heavy metal artist is known mostly for his broad vocal capacity, which ranges from deep growls to ear piercing falsettos. His real name is Kim Bendix Petersen, and he has been in two major bands: Mercyful Fate, and King Diamond (after his stage name). The band King Diamond is known (among other things) for the fact that every one of their albums is based on a concept or story that King has personally written. Most are dark (in the metal fashion) and would fall under the horror genre. One of his best known works is the album “Them” and the sequel “Conspiracy.” Both fit together as a single narrative.
go to king

King Diamond is a heavy metal artist known mostly for his broad vocal capacity, ranging from deep growls to ear piercing falsettos. His real name is Kim Bendix Petersen, and he has been in two major bands: Mercyful Fate, and King Diamond (after his stage name). The band King Diamond is also known for the fact that every one of their albums is based on a concept or story that King has written. Most are pretty dark (in the metal fashion) and would fall under the horror genre. One of his best known works is the album “Them” and the sequel “Conspiracy.” Both fit together as a single narrative.
If you would like to hear the plot summary: go to Them/Conspiracy
Otherwise: go to King(cont’d)

In this story, the narrator, a man named King, his sister Missy, and his mother are anxiously awaiting the return of the grandmother who has been in the asylum for many years. Upon her return to the ancestral “house of Amon,” King is confronted with strange occurrences sparked by his grandmother conversing with what he called “the invisible guests.” Soon he is under “Their” spell as he drinks the ecstasy inducing tea that his grandma made from his mother’s blood and starts listening to the entrancing tales of “Them.” Missy, however, never succumbs to the spell and breaks the teapot in anger, breaking “Their” hold on King. As the teapot is broken, King goes unconscious and his grandmother kills Missy. When he awakes, he finds his sister dead an knows he must take action. He tricks his grandma into going outside, where he promptly kills her. The police catch up to him sometime later and throw him into an asylum. He knows “they” are waiting for him at the house and he doesn’t return for many years. Years later, when he finally does, he confronts his sister’s ghost at the graveyard and strikes a deal with “Them.” “They” can retain control of the house and he must take care of the graves and they will allow him to see his sister once more. After a visit to his psychiatrist, King is visited by his sister, who warns him that something bad will happen to him. Afterwards, he dreams that his mother and the psychiatrist are getting married, which really upsets him. His mother is to return to the house the next day, but instead of being alone, she was with the doctor (his psychiatrist), who immediately injects King with something. The next thing King can remember, his mother and his doctor are at the church asking the priest to perform an exorcism on him. The priest refuses to allow King to live and is burned alive like his sister. It was all a conspiracy against King so that both his doctor and his mother could regain control of the house. While it wasn’t the most creative story, it was told very well (if you can stomach the music).
go to King(cont’d)

In these albums, everything sound that you hear is used to tell the story. King Diamond’s music is a great example of how technology reinforces and blends with the narrative. For example, the unique use of King Diamonds vocal ranges is reminiscent of the use of color and font in the book House of Leaves. Every character is assigned a unique “voice” based on their part in the story, just like the separate fonts for each narrator in House of Leaves. “They” have an almost whisper. It's a dark and scratchy tone you would only expect to hear from a corpse. The grandma's no more bearable. Really, they all sound as if the narrator was legitimately imitating other peoples voices. The narrator actually uses a much wider variety of vocal ranges than any of the other characters. His voice is the most prominent in the story and to use only one range would be boring. Just as any normal person tells a story, he twists and mangles his voice to represent other people and to convey emotions through more than just words. You get a much better feel for King’s sense of horror, surprise, and even anger than you ever would through simply text. It helps the narrative come alive. It is rare that an artist will use separate vocals to convey different characters, just as it is rare that authors use separate fonts for different narrators in House of Leaves. It creates multiple layers to the story so it becomes more than just “some narrative.” It gives it depth and meaning. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if Danielewsky was a fan of King Diamond. They both write dark stuff and they both use similar means to get their message across. King Diamond doesn't only use his voice as technology to help tell the story, however, but he also makes use of his usual instruments. They help to further illustrate the emotional depth of the story. He uses horror-like sound effects to surprise not only the narrator, but the listener as well. The stereotypical high pitched screeches and such are used in pretty much the same way that B-grade horror movies do. We as listener are confronted with the same twists and turns in the text as the narrator. The music gets slow with anticipation and fast and chaotic with action and confusion. The song “cremation” even starts with a guitar riff reminiscent of flames licking the coffin as King burns alive. The use of instrumental and non-music tracks is also pretty interesting. The album “Them” opens up with the sound of dissonant piano, then “They” start talking to each other about the grandma. It sets the perfect tone for the narrative. In fact, he uses the dissonant piano (or music box in some cases) and the whisperings of “Them” throughout both albums. Also, when King is drugged in the song “Victimized,” the music reflects what it would be like. It fills in the gap where the narrator cannot speak. The lyrics provide the structural chassis while the music brings it to life. What are bones without flesh and blood? Written stories are mere skeletons in comparison to this form.
go to: concept album conclusion
Or, if you would like to continue exploring this, go to: More King

Symphony X is a progressive rock/power metal band from New Jersey who often use stories from Greek mythology in their albums. Their album “The Odyssey” is no exception. Unlike Poe, however, most of the songs have little to do with the album title except for a single song in particular that stands out. There are a few other relevant songs that contribute to the overall theme like __ and __, but the real gem of the album is a 24 minute long leviathan. At first it doesn't sound like it quite fits the rest of the album, but after a few listens it'll be the only one that matters. This monster of a song recounts the story of Odysseus’s long and terrible journey home after the great Trojan War. To some, it would seem that this song is so unnecessarily long to give us a glimpse of what it might have been like for Odysseus. It is almost never ending… much like Odysseus’s way back home. There are several false endings that give the listener the impression reaching the end of the song, but usually it is only an illusion; a false hope, if you will. In the original story, this happens to Odysseus a few times over the course of his journey. One time he can even see the shores of his beloved Ithaca before he is swept away by his crews greed and foolishness. Of course, this interpretation is a bit silly, especially if you like the music, but it could easily be broken up into numerous smaller sections. If so many people find it hard to listen to because of its length then why not break it up? Because, like Lytoard, Symphony X knew that there was more to making a point than simply writing it. Lyotard used complex language to illustrate his point and Symphony X used length to illustrate theirs. They did not stop there though. The vocalist, Russell Allen, uses his voice to convey Odysseus’s (the narrator of both the book and this song) emotion on his journey home. You can feel the joy in his voice when he returns triumphantly to his wife and you can hear the anger and passion when he and his men stab out the great eye of the giant Cyclops. The lyrics flow like poetry and are as meaningful and powerful as the music behind the voice. This is where technology is used to the greatest extent in the song. The Odyssey utilizes symphony as well as the bands usual ensemble (guitar, bass, drums, vocals, keyboard) to help paint the picture of exactly what is happening. They use the guitar, symphony, and keyboard to not only create a feel for what’s happening, but to bring it to life. They use these instruments for more than just music. They use them to help tell the story. Because music is only sound, we cannot usually ‘see’ anything that’s going on. Sure the words paint a picture sometimes, but nothing is like The Odyssey. Symphony X uses their music to almost literally paint the picture of what is happening in your head. It starts off nice and slow because that’s what is happening in the beginning of the book. Whether there are waves smashing the ship or monsters attacking the men, the music reflects it all. Much like the Disney movie “Fantasia,” they use their knowledge and tools to paint a mental picture. The lyrics provide the structural chassis while the music brings it to life. What are bones without flesh and blood? Written stories are mere skeletons in comparison to this form.
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Concept Album Conclusion:
A lot of tools and knowledge went into the making of this album. So much technology was used for simply the purpose of entertaining an audience and thoroughly animating the narrative. By simply using different vocal ranges and intricate knowledge of music and effects, this band has painted the picture they wanted the audience to see. If it were not for this technology, narratives might still be simply written word. The technologies of music, and more specifically the concept album, help to bring the narrative alive, off the dusty bookshelves of ages ago, and into our minds. Whether the story is new or millennia old, it is important to continue to allow technology to influence the way we tell stories.

Poe Conclusion:
Overall, her use of clever lyrics and musical effects help to integrate narrative with technology. Her lyrics perfectly mirror her brother's book and the overlying narrative permeates every aspect of her music. Much of the music is fairly eery and creepy and adds another theme to the album. A lot of tools and knowledge went into the making of this album. So much technology was used for simply the purpose of entertaining an audience and thoroughly animating the narrative. The technologies of music, and more specifically the concept album, help to bring the narrative alive, off the dusty bookshelves of ages ago, and into our minds. Whether the story is new or millennia old, it is important to continue to allow technology to influence the way we tell stories.

More King:
You're dead. Probably got mauled by a baboon or eaten by a grue. Too bad. Make better decisions next time! Who wants to hear more about that anyways?


Adam Johns said...

I'd like to see the definition of technology fleshed out a little before the Biology/Narrative choice.

Incorporating your midterm is a clever move, and works well - you might want to revise it slightly in the process ultimately, but it shouldn't require a whole lot to fit in seamlessly.

The narrative section is great, but I think the term itself could be defined a little more clearly, in order to enable the reader to make the choice more thoughtfully.

Very clever compressed reading of the Haunted/HOL divide; smart use of Lyotard.

Your discussion of the way the various male narrators use various women is clever and insightful. There are ways in which this reading could be challenged/extended by referring to the chapters which are focused on Karen as filmmaker; the appearance of Anne Rice, etc., as minor characters is also relevant.

Your reading of "Haunted" is smart, but also rushed and a little scattered; a little more material simply to justify your understanding of the album as Karen's narrative would be extremely helpful.

Also, God is mentioned several times in important & prominent ways in the book - that's the biggest *mistake* you make.

Overall: This is working better than either one of us could have reasonably asked. I'm very happy. I do think there are various ways in which it needs to be tidied up, as detailed above, but mostly I'm just looking forward to seeing what you'll do with it next!

John Fabry said...

Hey Nick.

I really enjoyed your take on Haunted. I'll admit that I never really looked at the album as possibly coming from Karen's point of view... which is likely an effect from never truly considering the album as a whole like you mentioned yesterday. It will likely influence my outlook in any attempt I may make to incorporate the whole album as a connection to the whole book in my own paper. I also thought you had some good ideas of your own about the impact of the album representing Karen's perspective.

I have to agree with Adam, though, that while you seem to have some good insight with it I would have liked to see more examples from the album itself to back up your statements. It seemed to me that around 2/3 of the segment was composed of your suppositions and the other 1/3 was your support. I would aim for a 50/50 split or better. I understand that you have to temper your material on Haunted in the face of length since you don't want to write an entire paper for each of these entries, but I would recommend even sacrificing some of your contemplations for more hard evidence if you start to get concerned about having the segment run on too long.

John Fabry said...

One further caveat that I failed to include in my first comment:

I feel the fact that the "unknown male voice" in the song Hey Pretty is Mark Danielewski is more important to emphasize than saying that he's "unknown". He's only unknown for people who don't look at the track information. That's just my gut reaction, though... I honestly can't say why I think that or how it would necessarily impact the rest of your argument.