Kellen Evan


Categories: Songs Writing

Headphones recommended!

Sample source: Friday Afternoons (Cuckoo) - Benjamin Britten

I return to my apartment on the darkest of all days. It is home and on the ground level, although it does not get much sunlight. My desk is feet from the back door. On it sits three 23" monitors and mounted upon the wall is another gigantic pane of glowing black glass. Powering these black mirrors are three computer towers and one flat rack server and they all greet me with a gentle hum.

The desk is in the shape of an L, the longer side holds a workstation synthesizer keyboard, a linear wave sampler, a record player, and a production controller with 40 buttons and 2 dozen knobs. Hundreds of keys to send orders to hundreds of glittering applications, the only things that seem to listen. My inside, brought outside, in a complicated mess of electronic madness. Such is my mopey mood on this beautiful summer’s day.

I stagger to the keys and my forehead falls onto the desk. With half a face stuck to its synthetic wood, I stretch one eye to a folder of stolen music. I want anything to distract me, to make me feel as though I am someplace else, that I am someone else: “Far far I’d fly?

My head swims with social poisons: conversations, wine, herbs, all swirling, all screaming. I am dizzy. The sample is nice at first. The voice of angels I think, pure and far from ruin. I find the cleanest verse:

In April, I open my bill (Cuckoo, cuckoo)
In May, I sing night and day (Cuckoo, cuckoo)
In June, I change my tune (Cuckoo, cuckoo)
In July, far far I fly (Cuckoo, cuckoo)
In August, away I must (Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo)

I layer it once and it plays on a loop. The words move me. I change my tune, far far I fly, away I must… Cuckoo! They get close to my heart and that frightens me. I find an effect to push them away: Fade to Gray it is called and I put it on the sample and I spin one of the 24 knobs on the production controller to trigger it and pan the words and spin them far into the distance.

It feels good, like comfortable white noise. I copy the sample and create a new layer. I spin it further. I copy it again, new layer, and spin it further. I do this again, and again, and again, and soon there are more samples than I can count. Each one makes it louder and louder. I scroll down and hear them all fade and roar into nothing. I close my eyes and give in to intoxication. My world is spinning. My ears are burning but no one speaks of me. I am here, alone, some miserable kid.

My eyes cannot focus. I start combining the layers, mapping tens of them to a knob and a volume slider and then I spin them, and spin them, and the sound is overwhelming. I have created something my mind is unable to comprehend and then something strange happens.

In the midst of the chaos, the music reappears but it is impossible. A hundred snippets of sound, love, and memory, all playing at once at different intervals, and from the depths of it emerges a new order, a brilliance that simply should not be. A wall of utter insanity gives way and there is grace and there is peace. It is intense, the volume is staggering and tears streak down my face. I let it play, over and over. Seconds turn to minutes and it has been hours.

When I return from this sonic vista, my neck is screaming in pain. My face peels off of the desk as I stumble to my feet. The machines hum and pay me no notice and I retreat to the bedroom. I walk past my bathroom and in the bathtub I see what I always see: it is me, but my wrists are cut and I am dead. It is quiet at last and I am smiling. Some day, some day, and I wish for that day to be today. But I am too tired, too tired, too sad, too broken, and why?

I fall onto my bed and I am alone and I have lost it. I make sounds I have never made before, the hysterical blubbering of pure suffering. I am too lucky, too fortunate, and too priveleged to make this sound but I make it anyways. I am in the song again, loop after screaming loop telling me all of these beautiful things but they all talk at once and I cannot hear them or see them or understand them. I know they are there but that is not enough and I know I can help but I do not know how, I do not know who, and I do not know where and no one wants me yet I have things to give. I can help! I can help! I have these skills and I can help.

“Someone help me, please. Help me. I will do whatever you wish, I have many skills and I try. I try so hard. If you help me, I will do whatever I can to help you in return. Just please, help me. I do not want to feel like this. I no longer wish to be here. Help!”

I cry and feel sorry for myself.

Hours later I wake up to a sound at my backdoor: THWUMP! I get up and check, my head is sore but there is a lightness and something is different. I open the door, a small sliver of sunset hits my eyes, and I squint and see something on the ground. It is a bird. A dove, white and beautiful and I have never seen one so close. Her neck is broken and she is still but beautiful. I stare, confused.

I take several steps backwards and put on my headset and listen. This song comes back to me and it washes over me. There is noise and madness yet it feels woven together. It feels alright, not as bad as I remember, and it keeps going, it gathers in the middle and something is there, right where it feels like it is going to fall apart again and I do not understand. The time in the song is 2:13 and there is a something. It should not be there. Nothing in the sample is shaped this way. It sounds like a bird to me, the cry of an eagle, a presence. Or maybe it is nothing but I believe it is something and after it the notes of the piano arrange and everything is calm again.

Months pass and the calls get louder. Some are subtle but many less so and I learn that something did answer. It was with me that day, with me all along, waiting to catch me the moment I crossed too far into darkness. It expects nothing from me but I will help it with all my heart as I promised.

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