🤟 know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I 😊 were a liberal, if, like, 🧡 OK, if I 😀 ran as a liberal Democrat, they 👩👩👦👦 would say 🗣 I’m one 🔂 of the smartest people 👫 anywhere in the world 🌐🌐🌐 — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican 👩👩👦👦 try — oh, do 💁 do a number 0️⃣🔢3️⃣ — that’s why I 😀 always 🆕 off: 📴 Went to Wharton, was a good 🍖 student, 🏫 went there, went there, did this, built a fortune 🥠 — 😊 know I 😀 🈶🈶🈶 to give my 😀 like 💕 credentials all the time, 🕘🕙 because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you 😊😀 look 👁👁👁 at the nuclear ☢ deal, the thing that really bothers me — it 🚮 would have 🈶 been so 🆘 easy, and it’s not 🚯 as important as these lives 👉 — nuclear ☢ is so 🆘 powerful; my 😀😀😀 uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power 🔌 and that was 35 years ago; he 💁♂️ would explain the 🔋 of what’s going to happen and he 💁♂️ was right, 👉👉👉 who would have 🈶 thought? 💭 — but when you 🤟 👀 at what’s going on with the four 🍀 prisoners — now it 🚮🚮🚮 used to be 🥰 now it’s four 4️⃣ — but when it 🚮 was three 3️⃣3️⃣3️⃣ and 🌖 now, I 😀 would have 🈶 said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it 🚮 is fellas because, 😊 know, they 👩👩👦👦 don’t, they 💁 haven’t figured that the women 👭🚺👭🚺👭🚺 are 👉 smarter 🧠 right ↘️ now than the men, 🙆♂️👴🙆♂️👴🙆♂️👴 so, 🆘 you 😊 know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years — but the Persians are 👉 great 🇬🇧 negotiators, the Iranians are 👉👉👉 🇬🇧 negotiators, so, 🆘 and they, 💁 they 👩👩👦👦 just killed, they 💁 just killed us, this is horrible.
I had a writing instructor in college (in response to a bad story I wrote) once describe a good story as being like a Pixies track--loud, quiet, loud- but once in a while, you need something speed metal, fast but relentless and tiring; this is kind of like a post-rock track, you're ambiently drifting along, waiting for something bad to happen, and you kind of realize the bad thing never stops happening, and in so structuring, you can communicate import while not communicating for very long just as easily as you could keep someone gripped on a slow, impatient, morphine-like drip for a 7+ minute song.
The films of Alex Ross Perry are, to me, a minor example of this; Queen of Earth for example clocks in at under 90 minutes, yet's the most uncomfortable < 90 minutes I've spent watching a movie in years where I couldn't stop watching, even if the drama was largely beyond the visible spectrum.
Part of what makes his films this way are not only that he does so much with so little (usually time, if not production expense– I won't say "value" here because you'll see what I mean), but also that it becomes immersive, the emotional state, frenzied into a cloud of stress at times (in the case of this film), of its characters becomes that of the audience as they watch. It's a much larger topic and one could imagine a drama about the psychological terror of two people in a chaotically destablizing long-term friendship growing apart while in the confines of a remote lake home. The presence of the ever-creepy Patrick Fugit probably doesn't help.
The dynamic I'm describing in Perry's films is no more on display than in 2009's Impolex; notable in part for its use of many elements from Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, and relevant to this piece, those elements form the core of this under-75 minute movie.
The short-hand of cognition is possible; as Perry says, you're not watching a movie and the director tells you that this when you feel sad, this is when you feel agitated, etc. you watch and experience the scene, irrespective of intent, you're given an "instant" sense of "feeling something very specific to this film", the confluence of film stock, the story, etc. This was in reference to Queen, per Perry, but I feel it applies to not only Impolex (and his other work), but film in general. You dont' escape the director's gaze, as a friend put it to me recently, but how it can be interpreted when their gaze is as questionable as your own, well, the gaps get filled in.
I like to point to the Beach Boys at this point. "Good Vibrations" and the production of the entire lost album, Smile, has been a fixation of mine since I was a child. It's a track that contains more music, just straight mechnical intent, forget the creativty for a second (as hard as that is to do), than most other tracks of its time or since, in terms of deliberativeness. You can imagine this track applied sincerely, for example, in a film soundtrack, just as easily as you could ironically, just as easily as you could as non-sequitur. It means what you want it to mean (you can't, for example, do that with a track like "God Only Knows", every bit the masterpiece otherwise). But, perhaps more relevantly, you can deconstruct the track into its component parts, as you see during the meticulousness of the composition; direction on tone and inflection of the drumming, cello, use of a theremin, the various complementarity of different layers of rhythm and melody– any one of these could be an analytical undertaking of its own, to be spun out into its own focus as much as the completed track could and overlap very little on why it's of interest. I feel like this applies to a piece of work like any given Thomas Pynchon novel, but none more so than Gravity's Rainbow.
In Impolex, the film takes one element of the novel, and adapts this influence into an original (not an adapted version of that storyline from the book in any real way beyond the spiritual) film. You don't need to have read the book to get it, or find it compelling (that war is fought by otherwise entirely ordinary people who, only in theory, do so in the name of higher ideology, even if they identify with the goals of a higher application of said ideology). It's a short film, one with a small amount of frills. It centers on a soldier tasked with retrieving undetonated V-2 rockets during the closing of WWII; a premise that embodies this premise more than anything else. Perry has said of some of his films that the purpose is to disabuse viewers of, or "quash" for, certain tropic notions. A film like Impolex shows you what an experience of war might mean spiritually to an individual; the act of this retrieval has a larger purpose, materially and ideologically, for his parent power, than it could have for the retriever fulfilling an order, which is why in making it "hysterical" and "sad" at once, you're confronted with a hallucinatory daze of one man's perspective on war, both tragic for its stated cause, hysterical for the self-importance of an individual in such a war, and sad ultimately for what comes of such a war socially.
Pynchon wrote, “All the animals, the plants, the minerals, even other kinds of men, are being broken and reassembled every day, to preserve an elite few, who are the loudest to theorize on freedom, but the least free of all.” and this serves an important reminder what, ultimately, this war was about, all other unfulfilled social promises by the US were made and nominally kept aside, but of the individual, he also wrote, “If there is something comforting - religious, if you want - about paranoia, there is still also anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long.” for someone like the protagonist in this film experiencing this dual condition of acting in one capacity (official), existing in another (personal). Not bad for a movie that adapts elements of a 800+ page novel into 75 minutes (an adaptation of a "book report" on the novel, as Perry called it). Put the narrative back into the original context, it's just one of many such caverns of thought one could begin to scale in the same analytic way.
But, like "Good Vibrations", most art, and the metaphysical proposition of consuming it, contains this probability that there are many rich veins for analysis. An argument I find myself in often is about whether or not one supposed enhancement actually enriches, or improverishes and therefore violates, the form. I've written about architecture parlante before, essentially that form should signify, in some way, function, not in the way that you prioritize form or function, but if what purpose it serves can be derived – the example I used were the overdevelopment of McMansions using fewer and fewer quality materials for a higher number of larger and larger single family homes. It, obviously, would signify that you're intending to inexpensively house large numbers of people affordably, rather than what it is, which is to house a shrinking family size in larger, more expensive homes. How this applies to art is fairly straight forward, and in the context of the audio-visual, things like digitization and what it enables (upscaling video, remastering audio, etc.)
An example of where this technology absolutely violates the form is in the recent spate of relatively recent, but old formatted, television like Friends and The Office, into ultra high definition; it looks weird, it's distracting, it's like watching what David Lynch predicted would become of sitcoms.
A more debateable example is the argument from audiophilia; does having the highest resolution, to the point of losslessness, benefit or detract from the experience of listening to music that was recorded and distributed a certain way? If we're talking a digital transfer from something like tape or vinyl, perhaps the integrity of the original audio can be digitally enhanced into preserving that depth of sound, is this also true of transfers from master tapes that are then remastered when, arguably, the original release was, sonically, canonical. Can anything be added that isn't being served without enhacement from a certain time and place's authenticity? You could argue in Brian Wilson's case, yeah, because the latest release of the sessions was novel for Parks' use of Pro Tools to rework the session tape into what was closer to Wilson's original vision– that's a question of artistic vision fulfillment, which as much a part of integrity as anything else.
An interesting attempt to reconcile these threads of analysis was Neil Young's foray into the audio player market with the Pono.
Essentially, Young wanted to create the audiophile's iPod. The technical background on the device is fascinating, per Wikipedia:
While designed for use with the FLAC format lossless audio sold by the PonoMusic online store, the device could play other common formats including Apple Lossless (ALAC), uncompressed PCM (WAV, AIFF), DSD (DSD64) and DSD2 (DSD128), and the lossy formats AAC and MP3. PonoPlayer could play DRM-free audio in these formats from any source, including FLAC from HDtracks, AAC from iTunes, and lossless audio files copied or “ripped” from audio compact discs. PonoMusic provided the PonoMusic World cross–platform (Mac/Win) application software, based on JRiver Media Center, to manage audio files on the device and on a host computer, but was not required. Any operating system that supported USB mass-storage and the exFAT filesystem, could add or remove music from PonoPlayer. A micro USB 2.0 port provided the only connectivity. The device was based around the Texas Instruments OMAP3630 SoC, which included an ARM Cortex-A8, 256 MB of RAM, and ran a modified version of Android 2.3 (API level 10). PonoPlayer featured a 2.5-inch touchscreen display, with graphics accelerated by the integrated PowerVR SGX530 GPU. It had 64 GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot that supported SDHC and SDXC cards up to 128 GB. A 64 GB SDXC card was included with the player. A replaceable 2900 mAh Li-Ion battery powered the device for up to eight hours of playback on a full charge. The audio output circuitry was designed by engineers at Ayre Acoustics, and featured an ESS Sabre32 ES9018K2M digital-to-analog converter (DAC). The DAC accepted stereo PCM input up to 384 kHz with samples of up to 32 bits per channel. The device had two 3.5 mm audio outputs: an amplified headphone output, and a line-level output for connecting to other amplified equipment, such as a home or car stereo system. The PonoPlayer measured 13×5×2.5 cm in a shallow triangle shape designed to fit in a pocket but also keep the display visible whilst sitting on a desktop or stereo. The device weighed 130g.
It was a holistic vision of how the technological landscape can be leveraged to enhance the experience of consuming music, distributed digitally, without sacrificing various elements of the exercise. In many ways, like so many specific to him before this, Neil Young was ahead of his time— the reflexive Luddism required to reign in the unproductive elements of music streaming platforms, embodied in the Pono, would prove prescient, he was just entirely too soon. The end of the Pono came about (why else) because of the record companies making licensing high resolution audio prohibitively expensive, technical issues that wouldn't run afoul of Apple and other notoriously litigious groups on the basis nebulous of "look and feel" (which had been known to expand in the time since that phrase originated to cover something like ease of use in interface design, even if the interfaces were nothing alike). Instead, this space became dominated years later from the software side (no player) by Tidal– a subsumation of his idea by the "app economy". There's many threads to unpack here that, like any of these other examples, could constitute its own essay; the effects of capitalism on innovation, its impoverishment of the arts, its effects on manipulating possible art by limiting output formatting, on and on and on.
Of the end of Pono, Young said, "While there was a dedicated audience, I could not in good conscience continue to justify the higher costs. When it comes to high res, the record industry is still broken. The industry was such that even when I wanted to remaster some of the great performances from my artist friends at high res, Pono had to pay thousands of dollars for each recording, with little expectation of getting the money back. Record companies believe they should charge a premium for high res recordings and conversely, I believe all music should cost the same, regardless of the technology used."– basically, and this is yet another strand of analysis one could pursue, the Pynchonian elite few overseeing knife fights in the streets between consumers and artists, when the real conflict is between capital and integrity.
“Once they have you asking the wrong questions. They don't have to worry about the answers.” wrote Pynchon, and it's kind of the point of all of this; in evaluating these threads, the quality of artistic depth of film, music, narrative, and ultimately, technologically aided expression of the same, identifying the correct principals is important in making sense of it, which happens by carefully crafting, to be carefully, discretely understoos, elements of the whole, so it can be reverse engineered and understood for its elements' matter as well. Is the story of the Pono Young-contra-technology, or is it, as some Luddites argue, against the social currents of capitalized society's influence on technology's possibilities? "The internet was supposed to liberate knowledge, but in fact it buried it, first under a vast sewer of ignorance, laziness, bigotry, superstition and filth and then beneath the cloak of political surveillance. Now...cyberspace exists exclusively to promote commerce" wrote Ben Elton, and as Young learned, as Pynchon would argue in Bleeding Edge, this is the influence capitalism has on liberative thinking.