Sketches of the Inchoate – Analysis

Ida is not a typical muse

Our relationship wouldn’t work without her professionalism.

During the flooding –

In a different set of facts, being able to quickly and calmly execute like we both did, could mean the difference between life and death.

During the shopping –

It’s stupid, but it would have spoiled the romance, if we argued over mundane decisions –

Loser stuff:

That which causes pointless unhappiness, with the idea that high-functioning people don’t care about stuff like that, and are happier because of it.

Instead, we plow through the scene, because we both want the same thing, so we operate as a team, suspending irrelevant preferences, in light of a shared goal.

Being a professional in a high-stress environment makes these behaviors automatic after a while, and that’s definitely an upside to dating someone with a high-stress job, provided they’re actually good at it, which I plainly suggest is the case with Ida –

She’s both brilliant and competent.

The downside is the borderline autism of Ove, where emotional considerations get processed incorrectly –

He buys his rat a racecar, because he incorrectly thinks that it cares.

Nonetheless, he’s successful, because his job is quantitative, scientific, and strategic, and he’s clearly really good at it.

He doesn’t have to make people happy at work, and I suggest he’s even printing porn at work, which is wildly inappropriate, and again an example of a guy that just doesn’t get it –

His job is to keep the lights on, which he does.

Ove is an absurd person meant to highlight a real personality defect, which is that some people simply cannot effectively predict or understand the emotional state of other people.

Ove is nonetheless a good guy, just strange, and I both legitimately and cynically enjoy my time with him.

Ida is generally highly, emotionally aware, though with a touch of narcissism –

“Your majesty.”,

Deliberately, because I treat her like a Queen in many ways, and it’s only natural for someone to adjust to that, which doesn’t bother me at all –

It’s how I actually see her, with that kind of regard, albeit in a healthier manner, less the ceremonious pretensions, still clearly willing to tease her.

My character is menacingly conscious of what other people think and feel, and highly manipulative, even with Ida, but strictly intended for her amusement and happiness –

E.g., “The Beast Sonata.”

This is an insane thing to do, that requires a lot of effort and forethought to achieve an unnecessary outcome, designed only to make her laugh, partially at herself, but laugh nonetheless.

It is a microcosm of why my character gets up in the morning –

To make her happy.

And the fact that we can both execute on plans dispassionately, leaves me more free to create, for her.

This is a longwinded way of saying that she is certainly a muse for me, but the relationship nonetheless defines a team –

We share equally in the practical management of our lives, making our life together more efficient.

Ultimately, all we want to do is hangout with each other, with healthy interest in the external world, but nowhere near as much as we have in each other.

The, “Awful boat” sequence is intended to convey this –

She doesn’t have to come, as she presumably knows it’s on a swamp, and though she is legitimately annoyed by the revolting condition of the boat, and its embarrassing noise, she now has a story, and that’s why she does it.

Ultimately, she trusts that I’m going to provide something to talk about, even if it’s just with me sometime later on –

She’s going to have an interesting life, and so she tolerates me.

So she is undoubtedly a muse for my character, as she fires up my ambitions –

Even though I’m with her, I still feel the need to compete, to create, for her.

But we are a team of equals.

Ida and I are old-fashioned

Ida and I are both old-fashioned, in that we have an education in both the arts and the sciences –

This is what people were like only seventy years ago.

It’s only recently that we associate the arts with weirdos and losers –

Was Brahms a weirdo?

Bach?

Handel?

Beethoven?

Fauré?

Chopin?

Were any of these people lazy?

Mozart is often unfairly portrayed as a weirdo, but he wasn’t –

He was just far more intelligent than everyone else, and less ashamed, perhaps because he was impossibly prolific and brilliant, having written his fifth symphony at just 9 years old –

Would you care what anyone else thinks?

I don’t.

He had ordinary flaws, and extraordinary, unprecedented gifts.

Most people have at best average flaws, and average gifts.

Who should be ashamed on balance?

Mozart was not a weirdo –

He was a person that made everyone else feel small, and so in response, lesser people portray him as a weirdo, to size him down a bit.

This is something my character does on purpose, with stupid t-shirts, and absurd conduct, because the reality is, most people don’t want to be friends with the nihilistic bar-fight super-genius, because it’s beyond intimidating.

This is something Ida struggles with in, “The Empire State” sequence, where what she thought was a simple folk song, turns into a work of DADA art, clearly specifically created for the moment, even the room and city she was in, ultimately leading her to not enjoy herself –

It’s too much.

She would like it at an exhibit –

She doesn’t like it in her bedroom, where she feels emotionally safe with me, and, “koselig”, which is a word built by association over time with intimate, and physically comfortable moments, in particular with family and close friends, that doesn’t really have a good translation in English, but rough justice says it’s, “cozy”.

The sequence is a conscious play on, “The Beast Sonata”, in that I over did it, even suggesting with the title, the notion of cultural empire, which she has no interest in –

She wants a normal life, plus.

However, because my character is typically highly professional in my outward interactions, this is a rare outcome.

Ida and I are conservative

Ida and I are also profoundly monogamist, with both of us being completely wrong about perceived indiscretions, in my case disastrously so.

The scene with Mø is designed to make a joke of the idea –

We’re both extremely conservative people, with absolutely no drug use, which I make a point of in the hospital scene.

Nonetheless, it’s pretty obvious that we wouldn’t judge people that don’t subscribe to our way of life –

I spend substantial free time with a guy that has a pet rat, that he feeds steak.

We are both outwardly, beyond open-minded, but personally conservative, which is an anathema to modern politics, and again, in my opinion, deliberate, to denigrate the people most likely to raise successful families and create a healthy liberal society –

Monogamist professionals that really love each other, and their kids, and don’t care what other people do, so long as you don’t break the law.

Though not stated, the implication is that we’re already married in Copenhagen, having been engaged in Oslo.

The inspiration for Ida

Ida is an amalgam of women that I’ve dated, mostly from Scandinavia, in all honesty, taking the aspects that I liked most about each of them, and combining them into one person, and the flaws that I found most charming, like her willingness to be essentially worshiped by me, generally without question –

I used to live on Jones Street in the village in New York, and our local deli guy would refer to my ex, jokingly, as, “The Princess of Jones Street”, presumably because he witnessed our interactions, and though I can’t say exactly what he saw, the text is generally consistent with how I really behave with women that I love:

Relentlessly celebrating the person, which is occasionally exhausting, and probably at times annoying.

The inspiration for Charles

It’s really me, and almost everything is real, or based in a real story, except, regrettably, I’ve yet to sell my algorithms, which are also real, which I should probably get back to work on, now that the Covid-virus has subsided.

That said, the character that emerges after Ida has a miscarriage is admittedly, thankfully, somewhat exaggerated:

Externally, he’s a baby, complete with a bottle, describing the external world with childish components:

Head + Bottle = Boom.

And I’m then pleased to discover this new law of nature, after the man collapses from his injury.

Internally, I’m a torrid, complex person, writing music, talking to dead, imaginary people, presumably not very happy.

I’ve resigned to living in my thoughts, so unless necessary, my interactions with the external world are incredibly simplistic, and indifferent.

I don’t even dislike the guys while getting beaten by them, and instead, I grin –

I just don’t care, at the time.

Internally, I’m a disaster, and the sky during the bridge scene is supposed to reflect this, with the coloring of our kitchen tiles appearing just above a slow moving inferno in the sky:

The colors of the kitchen tiles manifest in the sky at the far end of the bridge, as if we’re heading back into our own imagined reality that we loved, back into our home, when things were normal, across a perilous path, the bridge, where even the Sun, a symbol associated with our love and fertility, suddenly appears dangerous in context, revealing its awesome power, appearing to burn the sky, making us modest before Nature, before rewarding us with our eventual happiness –

The lines in the cloud appear deliberate, suggesting that perhaps this is all no accident.

The idea being that I made my life into a work of art for Ida, which included my personal, physical appearance, just like the frame of a painting –

That the energy of my love for her, and our unborn children, is so extreme, that when it derailed, it took out entire cities, all seemingly designed to bring us back together:

A cosmic version of the sequence where I assault Andreas, with both events arguably out of my control, due to my profound love for Ida, as I become an instrument of Nature –

Causing in the first case, the wind to blow behind me, through my rage, moving the trees behind me, to frighten Andreas, before I kick him, and in the second case, through my anguish on the couch, a bona fide geological event.

Despite all of this insanity, the closing scene is intended to convey that even this cosmic struggle was all an effort for us to simply be together, and be normal –

To be the family on the beach, with nothing to do.

Sketches of the Inchoate – Complete Work

I’ve completed three books that together comprise a short story I’ve written called, “Sketches of the Inchoate”. The story makes heavy use of music in the narrative, as part of conscious effort to use music in a new way in the text of a story.

The core insight to the device I’m trying to construct is the difference between a note, and a sound:

A note is an etching on a page that relies upon the reader’s associations;

A sound is a physically real event that directly triggers the senses of the listener.

As a result, a note relies upon associations, just like the descriptions in the text of a book, which require the reader to construct a mental image of the scene described.

In contrast, a sound does not, since it is already manifested as physically real.

What I did in the text, was to supplement it with references to pieces that in turn supplement the reader’s mental portrait of the scene in question, providing hyperlinks to specific performances.

This takes a hypothetical physical environment described in words, and supplements it with a specific and physically real sound that you listen to, either as you read, or afterwards.

However, I also added hypothetical, at times technical, musical descriptions –

For example, an arrangement of a piece by Dorothy Jean Thompson, that simply doesn’t exist, that I came up with just for the story.

As a result, the reader’s associations still matter, since the text creates another level of interpretation, arguably unique to musicians –

That is, people capable of constructing a musical thought experiment will go beyond the specific piece referenced, again returning the pen to the reader, allowing the reader to fully imagine the scene.

The work is effectively free verse poetry, though if you don’t consciously look for rhyme, you likely won’t find it.

Book 1: Sketches of the Inchoate

Book 2: Sketches of the Inchoate – Information and Belief

Book 3: Sketches of the Inchoate – Black Tree

Sketches of the Inchoate – The Studio

The Studio 

Emilie

We’re seated in the control room of the studio, that I’ve had built into the basement of our house, which spans the entire length of the house underground, giving me plenty of room to work with.

I’ve put on a song by Emilie Nicolas, “Sky”, to demo the space, and the clarity possible in the studio’s control room.

I’ve already set the volume to a level that is very loud, but not uncomfortable, to show that the control room allows music to be listened to at high volumes, certainly without any distortion, certainly without any rattling whatsoever, and moreover, no perceptible changes to the frequency distribution of the sounds.

As the opening percussive bells strike, Jeff says,

“The panning is so pronounced in an environment like this –

I forgot what it’s like to listen to music in a studio:

It’s just not the same.

I can hear every detail of the recording, it completely unfolds.”

He looks over to see the woofers of the NS-10 speakers above the console visibly oscillating to the strike of the bass drum at the drop of the chorus, reverberating after, pumping a fluid, creating the impression that something is alive, as Jeff thinks he hears Emilie say the word, “animal”.

The second chorus comes in, confident again he hears Emilie say, “animal”, as he feels a wave of chills wash over his skin, terribly excited by this tiny Norwegian woman, now in a location unknown to him, her mind nonetheless animated, in the room, with him, filling the air around him and in him, like a ghost.

No need for speculation

There’s something in the outside world that you want to remember later on –

How do you make that happen?

Your actual human memory can handle only so much, so you need something in the outside world to store it, which means you need a system that lets you represent the thing in question.

Language is probably the first generalized method human beings developed for doing exactly that.

Musicians developed their own language, to represent music, filled with the familiar dots and lines, and Italian annotations.

But both words and notes represent ideas.

What we’re looking for instead is something more concrete:

A representation of an actual thing in the outside world.

For example, a portrait lets you represent an image, and perhaps to better remember it, though perhaps it could instead eventually replace the actual memory.

A photograph notches up the quality of representation, since the process eliminates the role of a human interpreter of facts, that is instead automatically driven by machine –

This assures an accurate accounting of whatever’s there, though it could still of course be incomplete.

So as we transition from human language to photograph, we slip from idea and into physical reality, where your mental associations are no longer necessary to the core message of the representation.

The process that generates the representation also slips from the subjective, and into the mechanically objective –

Two people will probably use different words to describe the same thing, but they have almost no control over what happens inside a camera, once the conditions of the photo are fixed, making the representation deterministic after that point.

Now imagine looking at sheet music –

If you can’t read it, then you’re looking at a nonsense thing, and so your mental associations matter.

Now instead listen to a song you’ve stored on your phone –

It doesn’t matter what you think, at least in terms of listening, since the sound is physically real, compressing the air around you, directly triggering your senses.

In the latter case, your associations are important to a tertiary message, which is the meaning of the song, that you can’t understand unless you feel, and in some cases, unless you analyze its structure.

When you see a note, you have to imagine what it sounds like.

When you hear a note, you don’t have to do a thing.

What modern media did generally was to create a new, generalized method for representing the outside world –

You can take a picture, or record a sound, perhaps record the temperature, all allowing the conditions at the time to be recorded and recalled.

Digital technology took this idea right into the extreme, allowing absolutely anything to be represented in a single universal language –

Binary code.

This turned the giant tape machine I laboriously cleaned and loaded reels onto as a college student, into a program you can now buy for a few hundred bucks, allowing the type of signal processing that just a few decades ago required millions of dollars worth of equipment to be done on a laptop.

This is a longwinded way of saying that our studio is much more elaborate than it needs to be, both in size and in scope, and is instead a piece of memory, recreated –

A representation of my past, so that I can remember who I am, and where I come from;

It’s roughly two thousand square feet of New York City, buried in a basement, in Copenhagen –

The ghost is the real thing.

The control room

A quality recording will accurately represent the sounds it is intended to record.

A quality playback device will accurately unpack a representation of a sound.

A quality set of speakers will accurately amplify the signal generated by a playback device.

A quality control room won’t change the sounds coming out of the speakers, due to reflections and absorptions in the room.

And so the recording process begins with a sound, slips into representation, and then ends again with a sound.

The control room is where you listen to the sound of your recording, and change it to suit your imagination, or a client, if you’re me in college –

But now I have no clients, and no one else to please, other than my Ida, and my imagination, and so everything I do reflects this.

The live room

Through the sliding glass doors behind the console, is the live room, where you record live instruments, and vocals –

Rectangular, wider than deep, and wider than the control room –

The control room has additional insulation and wiring in the walls, and a deliberate structure shaped to create an acoustically neutral environment, that doesn’t change the sounds emitted by the speakers.

What you hear in the control room is as close as you can get to the undisturbed ghost that made the recording.

The live room is instead acoustically dead, so the moment you make a noise, the sound terminates, once it hits a surface in the live room, with no noticeable echo, creating a very strange environment, even for conversation, since your voice doesn’t carry at all.

This is achieved by padding the walls and the ceilings, with absorbent foams and fabrics, and covering the entire floor of the room with a thick, Persian-style rug that is specifically designed for the purpose of absorbing sound, but nonetheless gives the visual impression of an otherwise ordinary patterned rug, with an overall reddish hue, and white fringes.

The ceilings are lower in the control room, to model the original studio I grew up in, about 9 feet high, but the live room has towering, 20 foot ceilings.

The second stairwell down into the studio enters the live room, at the back left of the room –

It was built to accommodate the movement of equipment, and large instruments, and so it’s more than double the width of a normal staircase, causing the trap door above in the kitchen floor to be incredibly heavy.

To make this more manageable, we had a gearbox mounted to the kitchen wall, adjacent to the trap door, with a crank that lifts the chain, which is attached to the trap door, which when closed, leaves the chain slacked, and flush into a cutout in the surface of the trap door, so we don’t trip on the chain.

The live room is empty save for three items:

A single bass drum set, with three tom drums;

A Hughes & Kettner amplifier;

A black Steinway grand piano.

All other incidentals, like XLR cables, microphones, and mic stands, are kept in a closet in the live room.

The piano is on the center right of the room, with the keyboard visible upon entry.

I also bought the portrait of Clara Schumann by Lenbach, which hangs on the wall to the right of the piano.

The drums are on the left, roughly opposite the piano, with the drummer’s seat positioned just a few feet from the left wall.

The closet is a roughly double-wide, walk-in closet, built into the right wall of the live room, to the right of, and just behind the piano, opened by pulling on the right hand side of what appears to be another sound panel, that doubles as the door to the closet.

There’s a large and heavy sleeping bag in the closet, that we use to drape the drums when recording piano, and drape the piano when recording drums;

There are also fresh, white, hotel-style towels on a rack –

If you’re a real musician, you might sweat.

The original chandelier from the house is hanging from the center of the live room, having been replaced, with an assemblage made from twenty interleaving small gold metal chandeliers, each with bulbs atop gold metal branches, extending outward from a gold metal center, like a blasted atom, then assembled into a large collective whole, with the branches and bulbs interleaving within, shaped more or less exactly like its parts at its perimeter, with each component chandelier independently suspended, which I designed myself.

I understand that hanging a chandelier in a live room is a bad fact for acoustics, creating some reflections, maybe even sympathetic vibrations, but this is our home studio.

Moreover, even when pounding on the drum set, I’ve never heard a rattle, because the floors and walls of the room are so dead.

The only thing hitting the chandelier, as a practical matter, is the concussive force of the air from the cymbals moving, and the drum skins vibrating, which isn’t enough to move the needle, and actually make an unwanted, audible noise.

There are panels of XLR inputs mounted into the walls of the live room, just above the floors, connected to the patch bay in the control room, which in turn allows for connection to the A/D convertor, and the outboard compressors and effects modules –

This is how you take a sound picked up by a mic in the live room, and pump it to the control room, and ultimately record it.

Each panel of inputs is demarcated by a thin blue line above, which you can see from a distance.

Clara Schumann

Ida’s playing Estampes, looking out the windows of the kitchen, as I sit at a small iron cafe table with a marble top, having coffee, reading the weekend edition of the FT, and I see her staring out the window, off into the yard, watching the tree in our backyard move about the breeze, just like I did the day we found this place, but with both of us now closer to the window –

Small, leaded glass panels in a fairly large, iron-frame, painted white, only slightly distorting visibility, and only upon conscious effort to observe the uneven surface of the glass.

She’s in a white, floral printed cotton dress, with small and sparse, but bright coloring, echoing the colors from our yard.

The walls of the kitchen are pale red brick, but with tiling above the sink and stove, which are just below the window, with an arabesque pattern, blue and pale yellow color.

“I bought the Clara Schumann painting that I showed you a few months ago.”, I announce, which I suppose was rude to both of us, since we were otherwise both lost in introspection. 

“Wasn’t that in the Robert Schumann house?”, she asks.

“Yes.”

“How did you manage that?”, she asks.

“I have nothing else to do.”, to which she replies,

“You’re a moron.”

While I’m out with Ove, who’s visiting us, Ida goes into the studio –

Descending the smaller staircase, into the studio lounge, through the control room door, with the absurdist signage, walking past the console, sliding the door open to the live room, looking up into the chandelier above, then standing, her hands on her hips, staring at the portrait of Clara on the wall, she tries to understand why I’ve done this –

Looking closely at Clara’s eyes, she becomes reminded of me, without conscious effort, and so she understands, and I have no one to forgive.

Ida’s gift for me

Ida spends months studying the Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2, ultimately playing it for me on a Sunday afternoon, in our studio, as I sit not far from the piano, with the portrait of Clara not far from Ida.

I say afterwards,

“That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”