I love when Viking (Lars Gottrich) publishes his year’s best lists on NPR. Between his Metal and his Outer Sound categories, there’s always something weird and cool to listen to that I would not have heard elsewhere. This year he may have outdone himself with one of the weirdest “songs” I’ve heard. In one sense there’s nothing weird about it–it’s very natural–but the fact that Holly recorded it, manipulated it, tinkered with it and released it on an album is fascinating.
It begins with Herndon (presumably) inhaling (a gasping, disturbing inhale) and then silence. A long silence. Which I believe is Herndon holding her breath. Then she exhales. And the process begins again. The ins-and exs-are manipulated a little bit, making them sound mechanical and somehow even more desperate. Nearing the end, the breath has been manipulated beyond all recognition as a human sound. And then it comes back, sounding more male than female. It’s staggering.
This should absolutely be used for some kind of soundtrack for something. It’s utterly unique and utterly fascinating. And, best of all, there’s a youtube clip for it–no video, just the album cover, which means you can just focus on the sound.
[READ: May 26, 2012] “The Lost Order”
I was delighted to see that Galchen had a new short story in the New Yorker.
The story concerns a woman who has lost a lot recently. She is standing in the kitchen not making spaghetti (an arresting opening if ever there was one). She is concerned that she needs to lose weight, so she is trying not to eat. She has also recently lost her job–she tendered her resignation (she likes that word, tender). Her husband has recently lost his wedding ring (it doesn’t “mean” anything–they don’t care for symbols). And she has just taken a phone call from a belligerent man who orders Chinese food from her. She listens to the entire order and even frets about making it. But of course, she doesn’t.
I loved the idea of the her taking the man’s order and promising 30 minutes. This actually happened to me once. I mis-dialed and the person on the other end took my order, but when I went to the (Chinese) restaurant to pick it up they had no idea what I was talking about. I did not, as this caller does, call back 50 minutes later and call the person a cunt. I just waited for my food with a new order. Because of my personal association with that part I would have liked more of that angle of the story, but it proves just to be one part of a disarming collection of happenings for the narrator.
Her husband, Boo, calls her to say he thinks he knows maybe where the ring is, could she check. She actually thought it was the Chinese food guy again and wasn’t expecting her husband. He thinks she’s acting weird especially when she says she won’t look for the ring. But later, she goes anyway, where she runs into UPS delivery women who speak of being hijacked because of the new shipments of iPhones. The narrator hates phones, as we know. But there is no ring.
When she returns home, Boo is waiting for her with several of her uncashed severance checks–why did she say she resigned if that’s not true? Why is she having such a hard time with reality?
The story poses more questions than it answers. It also take an interesting angle on gender issues–the belligerent caller, the delivery women, and the way the narrator dresses when she heads out all call attention to gender in different ways. That was very cool. Galchen is a provocative writer, and I rather like her for it.