"Theory wrapped me in an entire climate of description. Theory was simply, shoulder-shruggingly, the only thing that helped me to see what I was and where,"Read More
On this our 12 year anniversary as a company (really, 12 years, that's it - I suppose we have been around longer, just under a different name we don't really reference) we could write some long winded piece about the longevity of a company and how all these pieces keep going. Instead, we will go with brevity and a wordsman who sums it up better than we can.
“It’s not a method so much as an act of faith.” —Paul Auster
Truly. We keep going. We keep putting out work. More people our appreciating the perspectives of audio and video. So, here we are. That's about all there is to say. Thanks for sticking with us, and please help keep it going.
by John R. Barner
My second story idea revolved around the amount of what I call spiritual investment in our online presence. I use the word “spiritual” in a very general sense, and not indicative of faith traditions as such but rather those emotions that seem to define who we are as people: our personalities, hopes, dreams, needs for attention or consolation, our ups and downs, what we value and what we hope is valued in us by others. Hence, the great amount of time spent on “investment” in tools like computers and social media, which, if all is well, we get a “return” on, be in the form of “likes” or “retweets” or “friends.” But often we seek that kind of return, that “connection” and sense of community at the expense of real human interaction. What if that was all that was left? Only those digital traces cast adrift in the void of cyberspace—incorporeal and disembodied—that are today’s technological ghosts in the machines that connect our world.
I remembered immediately the Kate Bush song, “Deeper Understanding” from her amazing 1989 album The Sensual World (and later revisited on 2011’s Director’s Cut). The song was so eerily prescient about today’s technologically-informed social life and laid the foundation, in many ways, to the story I wanted to tell.
Another burst of information and inspiration came again from Rutledge’s Kūhaku. The hikikomori are the socially isolated youth of Japan. Government figures from 2010 suggest there are more than 700,000 individuals, most under the age of thirty, who live completely isolated lives, rarely, if ever, venturing out in the world and completely cut off from many forms of social life like family, friends, school or work. Many hikikomori get family support or are able to earn a living or have a solitary social outlet through computers, be it gaming, e-commerce, or virtual living spaces such as Second Life, but their lives are often filled with debilitating depression and psychic pain and the phenomenon can last for years, decades, or potentially the rest of their lives. I felt a tremendous resonance between what I was developing as a story idea and the tales I heard of the hikikomori. I was particularly impacted by a story I heard from a young woman who was the older sister of a hikikomori. In an interview, she stated that she empathized with her brother, and even respected his isolation, even if it meant he would not attend the funeral of their grandmother, but admitted that she herself suffered from an acute anxiety that the world itself might go out of existence and her brother would never know. It was as if, she said, he was already gone, already a ghost.
By John R. Barner
Around the time I had set for myself to start recording music for the first story idea, I happened to be reading a book called Kūhaku & Other Accounts from Japan, edited by Bruce Rutledge. In the book, I was introduced to Aokigahara, a dense forest at the base of Mount Fuji that was a popular spot in Japan for suicides. Within a few days, I saw a link for a short film produced for Vice magazine in 2011 that followed Azusa Hayano, a geologist researching formations around Mount Fuji, who regularly ventured into the forest and often returned having either successfully counseled or recovered the bodies of any of the 50 to 100 persons who travel to Aokigahara each year to end their lives.
What I was reading and watching was both profoundly moving and disturbing, and I took my inspiration from it and the music came together in a short span of time. The final mixing sessions also corresponded to the birth of my son, which added to the already dizzying flurry of activity. As I continued, I was mindful that the topic of suicide is a tender one, for myself and countless others. In no way did I want to cheapen or glorify the subject matter. I read more, researched, and tried to compose the music in a thoughtful and respectful manner. In this I was and remain deeply indebted to the thought of Simon Critchley, the philosopher and ethicist who said that suicide “introduces the possibility of an encounter with some aspect of experience…not reducible to the self” (from his Very Little…Almost Nothing, Routledge: 1997, p. 74).
In a way, that remains my hope for not only my fictional character that “haunts” these five pieces of music, or, rather, goes from living to ghost in the space of them, but also for those actual troubled persons that inhabit the very real woods of Aokigahara.
Kūhaku & Other Accounts from Japan: http://www.amazon.com/Kuhaku-Other-Accounts-Japan-Rutledge/dp/0974199508
“Suicide Forest in Japan,” a Vice film: https://youtu.be/4FDSdg09df8
Simon Critchley’s “Suicide – A Defense” given as one of the Durham Castle Lecture Series, Durham University, in December of 2014: https://youtu.be/SO5bBtO26Cw
It's been a few weeks since we have written. We've been busy getting new content out in the world and it's limited the time to write a proper update.
The White Whale season 1 is in full swing as of yesterday with the first episode introducing John Barner properly and the ideas that have built his trilogy. Brimming with tales of ghosts and mechanical malfeasance - this should be a pretty great ride.
You'll recognize music from the catalog and certain approaches to sound unique to the games we play. The storytelling will keep evolving as the conversation evolves and grows richer so stay tuned for some impressive arrangements.
Any of the original material we bring into the mix will also get a certain mixtape remix - as we've done in the past, though this obviously being the first with music original introduced in a podcast. So, what you hear will come back around again. New shapes and forms to embrace the ideas we come upon through this journey.
We're always looking for a way to give you new work and new perspectives.
Release of the final album, Funayūrei,is also fast approaching. Album is ready, though release date has yet to be set. We are working tirelessly to finish up the films first so you will have the full experience from get go.
Other adventures are in the mix, but for now listen to The White Whale.
Greil Marcus' new book The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs is floating around the office as of late. Wonderful material. If you haven't found yourself a copy go get one. Say it's a Christmas present, or whatever you have to do.
In it, while discussing This Magic Moment, Marcus references Reed reading Pomus:
"The important thing is to be the poet. Not the famous poet. There's so many uncontrollable intangibles that make up recognition and success. It's the life we choose that sets us up, in the hierarchy of humans, that proves our courage and understanding, and sensitivity. I'd rather be the worst poet than the best agent."
It's possible to go on and on about the importance of these words and how they are the foundation of whatever is good at the moment. But, really, why try and follow-up Doc Pomus? Unless of course you're Lou Reed.
"Why won't you dance with me?"