Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"The Story of Water Dancing in the Night Sky"

chapter 3
In a collection of autobiographical sketches, Curious Minds: how a child becomes a scientist, Lanier writes:

I was also fascinated by the diaphanous luminous images called Lissajous patterns, which can be made by fiddling with musical signals and an oscilloscope, and I made a crude Lissajous viewer out of an old television set.  At age eleven, as Halloween approached, a plan formed in my mind: I would build a fantastic haunted house out of my electronic contraptions and attract people worthy of being friends!  I hung sheets around our tiny front porch and set up an old enlarger lens to project the Lissajous patterns from the TV onto them. Once the sun went down and the images appeared bright, I felt deliciously surrounded by fantastic dancing forms.  The motions of visitors would alter the patterns, as if with the invisible strings of a puppeteer, courtesy of the magical theremin antennae.  I wondered whether any girls, those beings of utter mystery, might be delighted by it.  Who wouldn't be?
But it was not to be:
My haunted house pleased me immensely but attracted no visitors. Trick-or-treaters steered clear of it.  I watched from inside my palace of imagination and freedom as one child after another rejected it, and me.  It never occurred to me that they were probably frightened; at the time, they seemed sadistic.
But then, Lanier writes, a few months later:
One evening there was a remarkable breakdown of the local telephone system. Anyone who picked up the phone could hear everyone else at once. Hundreds of voices - some sounding distant, some close by - hovered in the first social virtual space I had ever experienced. An instant society of children formed, brilliantly superior to that of the schoolyard (which was straight out of Lord of the Flies). The floating children were curious about one another; they were friendly. . . . The next morning at school, though, no one spoke of what had happened. I looked around and wondered whom I might have talked to the previous night. Was it possible that these rude kids could suddenly become . . . knowable . . . if the medium that connected us was different?




"The Story of Water Dancing in the Night Sky" is played on the gu zchung (a Chinese classical harp):
. . . the Chinese classical tradition of harp playing brings us a deeper awareness of string articulations (types of plucks, vibratos, etc.)
And I've got a useful thread going now, a voice I can follow.  Not what I had thought I would be doing, but interesting in a labyrinthine sort of way. 

If you didn't get a chance, take a look at the YouTube link in Art Sparker's comment from yesterday - isn't that great?


2,811 words down |  47,189 words to go

3 comments:

ArtSparker said...

I wonder if they know each other? The first story is so funny and sad, that is the artist all over. Makes me think of Bullwinkle's line "This time for sure".

Clowncar said...

what a wonderful aural image - all the "floating children" discovering each other amid the hissing static.

the story does mention static, but I choose to believe there was.

I also like that he describes it as a "social virtual space."

Emma J said...

ArtSparker - in fact both stories are from the same childhood months apart. It is that sweet stubborn Bullwinkle-ness that I'm wanting to get down on the page.

Clown Car - "but I choose to believe there was" - it delights me that you do, that we do as readers and audience. How we finish the work.

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