Aloesian Mode

A short sf/fantasy/surreal story, set in the far far future, about making music when humanity has forgotten how to make it.

1 - Singular world

The world was becoming more singular. You could try to visit a place from a hundred years ago, but if it wasn't well-known, forget it. You'd get lost trying to get there, no matter what. Eventually no one strayed from most of the main roads, streets. But it was fine that way, you got to where you wanted.

And eventually, music almost ended. The number of genres of music shrank, as did the styles of its creation. Most of it, inexplicably, ended up not needed, forgotten.

We forgot how to make it, how to play it, but the desire to hear it still existed.

What a torture to live then! Desiring the breadth of the universe of music, but barely having anything to listen to. Its tropes repeating for generations, dragging down humanity's mood, until it had enough.

To dig ourselves out of the hole that should have never existed in the first place, we contrived the most difficult solution, slowly, generation by generation, the world will learn to make music, even when it barely escaped extinction.

2 - Lost magic of music

Every musician is blessed with their own style of Magic, in the 'magical arts' of Composition. To no extent does this mere storyteller insist that his description of Magic is the truthful one.

The Magic of Music Composition stems from the miasma that is the black box of the human mind. Much like deciding what to wear, or what to write - we can't pinpoint exactly why a decision is made.

Each musician draws sound out of their mind's deep depths. Their mind, a branch in an ever-growing tree of infinite sound, drawing upon music heard, experienced.

But humanity lost this Magic! Their link to their roots before them, severed. How did this happen?

Generally, a Song is created to fulfill a Purpose. The Purpose could range from a strummed guitar channeling one's sorrowful and blue mood, to humming to entertaining oneself during a hike, to a jingle used to sell caramel popcorn.

Every person has a "Musical-Emotional Memory" bank, containing a faint - or strong - recollection of each song and sound they'd heard, as well as their emotional contexts. A piano ballad during a first kiss, a tinny pop song on an overheated bus. Or how someone felt when finishing off one of their jazz solos. One's MEM-Bank is important for musicians, who draw upon it to help make a Song fulfill a Purpose.

Facing a Purpose, both the conscious and unconscious musician work together to create the song. The unconscious musician filters at lightspeed through the MEM-Bank, deciding what could be useful, presenting possible 'leads' to the conscious musician to sort through and experiment with. The conscious musician, imagining these sounds, crafts them into audible sounds. Reworks, reshapes, compares them against their experiences in the world - considering if it fits their ideal 'autumn day', or if it fits a sweaty night in the club, or the vast landscape of a videogame or film...

As performance died out, as music became less diverse - naturally, the times in which one heard music became less and less distinct.

Generation after generation, the MEM-banks of humanity continued to shrink. A single human's MEM-bank - linked to swathes and subcultures of music and sound, which could all fulfill different purposes. With the richness of MEM-banks shrinking, it became harder and harder for music to remain fresh, relevant. Instead, it was relegated to tolerable background noise.

And yet, humans could feel something was wrong, a dullness in the soul.

Until it was found - by diving into the past, by submerging into the historical river... one could recover the fuzzy ether of MEM-banks once thought forgotten.

3 - At the end of the long path

Thud, vinyl-white boots in the wet dirt. The light of the setting sun, feeling a bit rainbow.

Two adult women, not young yet not middle-aged, Hanei and Patora, trudged on.

Hanei, of a shorter, stockier frame, with her overgrown, rough-cut black hair, adjusted her offset-drop-shadow-shaped glasses before calling out to Patora.

"Patora, haven't we gone far enough for today? I can smell enough history here. Let's hurry up and submerge."

Pushing aside tufts of flowering melica grass, Hanei's feather-light shirt blended in to the grass's creamy-colored hairs.

"Patora! There's plenty of sound we can salvage here!"

Patora remained oblivious, her short, black bob cut (also in need of a trim) framing a look of impatience. She looked back at the glasses poking from the grass. The glasses showed concern.

"Hanei, the town is right there. Look." She gestured in front of her. Her shirt's cylindrically flared arms gave her a ceramic-esque impression, a floatiness that contrasted with the wild landscape.

How fitting was her style, as indeed, the village was right in front of her. Its homes, with smooth, pleasing, round-forms, multicolored decorative patterns.

"You're kidding, Patora! Look at the compass." Hanei pulled a circular device out of one of her six pants pockets, gesturing to its screen, with a glowing number, running up to Patora, panting. "Come on, that horizon's just a lie. Look how far we are from home."

"Yeah I know. Just pretending it's real. But I thought today, we could go further. Better sounds to be salvaged, far away."

Hanei sighed. "I know. But it's impractical. It'd take too long and we'll probably get lost like last time."

Noticing Patora's unpersuaded manner, Hanei squatted on the ground in protest, anchored to the spot, brushing her hand across some wildflowers.

"Come on, Patora, just quit it... you were complaining about the fines for weeks the last time we got lost."

"Well, as long as you're fine with making the same music again. I guess it doesn't matter. The Idols don't give a shit what we make. Gee, I wonder what sorts of new and exciting sounds we'll find by submerging into the same spots we always do! Makes me wish they'd hurry up and perfect that music-generating AI they've been working on forever."

Hanei looked up from the flowers. "We'll be out of a job if they do... plus you know it's impossible. Only humans can reasonably do our job. There's no way to make machines to submerge, and... oh, never mind..."

Hanei quickly unpacked her bag and began to lay on the ground. Fireflies shook free from surrounding trees, gleaming against the dimming sky.

"No break before work? All right..." Patora said, preparing herself to be lookout for Hanei's submersion.

"Yes. Well, I'm ready. I want to go home."

"I don't."

Patora grabbed a few small, rock-shaped storage devices from her bag. "This brown Songstone, right? Square angles."

"Yes. I'm looking for a good rhythm today."

"For a catchy beat... for a cheery Idol. Yes yes, one chuuu three!" Patora remarked, connecting a cable from the Songstone to Hanei's neck implant. Patora pulled some incense-infused paper money and paper food out of her bag, began to burn it. The scent of Aloeswood grew stronger.

"Pull me back up if I'm not back in an hour." Hanei said, closing her eyes, meditating, drifting away, consciousness submerging into the earth, to into the land of spirit, sound, softness.

The only sounds Patora heard were crickets, an approaching night breeze, the rustling of her clothes. She focused on her breathing to subdue a fiery frustration, then pulled out a device to play a game, passing the time until Hanei returned.

4 - States of mind

That night, I finally get back to Far-Aloesia, Patora lagging behind. Finally, the familiar slope, dotted with multicolored, catenary-arch-shaped homes come into view. I walk up a slope until I reach my street, my home, a single-person, stone hut, shaped perfectly for cooling in the endless summers. The facade's pleasing pattern of interlocked red and blue rings greets me. I glance over to the small graveyard across from me. It is empty, as usual.

It is so late, and I have to wake up at the same time tomorrow. Soon, it'll be Patora and I's one-year anniversary (unfortunately) as Recomposer partners. That also marks our ten year anniversary of being on the job. I suppose I was lucky to avoid her for nine years, but at least she's competent.

She's all ennui lately. And doesn't try to hide it. Which is why I think she keeps trying to get us to stray off the charted paths.

I think at its worst we were at least 20 km from town. On multiple occasions we've lost hours to the time dilation of going too far. And it's not like the music I made was even that much better! It's true, we found some novel timbres and tones for our Songstones that day, but you need a lot more than a few Songstones to make a good piece. Make too many this way and you'll run behind schedule.

I guess she has a point about better music. Going into my 30s, I'm getting pretty bored of making the same sounding music for the content industry's Idol division. I mean, when we went to school for this, it was something about 'salvaging the riches of humanity's musical history!' but it just feels like life support for the few applications of music, mostly corporate.

I wish they'd prioritize us more. Help us chart out new routes. Without our music they'd just be awkward people screaming into a camera mic about whatever trash they're playing. All Recomposers in Far-Aloesia must know it, but... we don't do anything. Maybe I'm to blame. I watch the stuff too. I need it. Everyone still needs it. So what am I, a drug scientist in disguise? Hiding reality with my sonic seductions and illusions. Or at best I'm just one of those cogs, keeping people alive day after day.

Without us Recomposers, a shopping market would become the hurried shuffling of carts, the humming of freezers, the mumbles of shopper. An unbecoming atmosphere for purchases.

Obviously the content industry has no interest in really improving music. It's happy in this local minima of mediocre-yet-good-enough. There really was so much more, I mean, I can feel all the old music when I submerge, it's just there's no way to bring it back. It's nothing like what we read in school or hear on documentaries about Recomposers.

If the content industry did care, we wouldn't be limited to this 100-square-mile 'safe' region around the village, fully navigable, safe from heavy time dilation.

If they cared, we'd probably be in Patora's dream, able to chart out new, safe and navigable paths, to unknown parts of the past connected world.

Maybe it's my dream, too. I hate to admit that. Maybe our only difference is our sense of what is realistic. I feel like I'm getting old. Like I'm retired. Ha ha. I'm not old.

Maybe Patora feels hypocrisy in her existence as a Recomposer in this day and age, which is why she wants to break free so much? It's true, the further you stray from charted paths, the more likely you are to find novel and unique sounds... I mean, it works so simply. It's much how music scenes used to vary by chat server, in ancient times, or even local regions, in ancient-er times. People in different places made different music. I'm sure we look ridiculous now, making all this music from such a relatively small slice of humanity's past, like painting only with the color red.

But that's just how the world is! Unsafe to travel outside of stipulated and charted paths! Go too far and you get lost and die. Maybe enjoy some new music by submerging in a far-off-place, but it'll be the last thing you hear before starving in a nameless ghost town. Even if you get home, maybe you time-dilated a year into the future and then what?

I'll just keep working I guess. I've given up on convincing her. Maybe she can tell that I agree with her on some points. So she won't drop it. But I don't think she's actually crazy enough to follow through on running away.

But maybe the danger doesn't scare her? Is it worth it to her to have a few weeks of freedom before dying, lost in the shuffled world that's outside of the charted paths?

At least our job pays well, the competition isn't too tough. It seems kind of cool as a kid, but once you get into it for a few years it feels as mundane as anything. I guess on a good day, a wild submersion can be the equivalent of an orgasm or two.

Still, Recomposing has the scent of death about it, like modern necromancy, mucking through history during our submersions. So it'll always pay well and be understaffed. Most people stay away, and would wince at knowing how their favorite content's music is made. People always want to pretend that they live in an eternal present, looking to the future, but really, we're all trudging around in this ancient mud.

But really, all that's keeping them sane, all this content, is really predicated on us digging through the melting, crumbling histories of generations past. Our mundane, routine appreciation, Recomposing the sounds of the past into something audible in the present... searching through history-rich areas, exploring the echoes and expressions of the dead, curate them, and slowly resuscitate them... yes, me, Hanei, the mad scientist...

5 - Circuitrous songstone

Hanei and Patora walked to the outskirts of their town, up the hill to the incense-makers' workshop, overlooking a grove of Aquilaria trees. The workshop's jet-black color, wide-eyed circular windows and steam-billowing chimneys made for a striking contrast against the lush scenery.

A man, worn by labor and age, carried sacks of the trees' infected, black cores, set to be processed into the Aloeswood incense. Funerary scents, ritual scents, drifted along, the end product of the mingling of beetles, fungi, plants... soon to be catalyzed for the process of music-making.

Patora sighed at the slowness of the incense shop's clerks. Another day, delayed, she figured. Hanei felt put off by the tension emitted from Patora's body. Another day. She wondered if the two of them would actually hit their first work anniversary.

Pondering these questions, the pair headed back down the slope, cutting through a well-worn path to the northern entrance of Far-Aloesia, an expansive, prairie-like landscape, sun-struck, but barren of the forests that the two would return to for work. Vehicles came and went, those large shells, purring along, plastic-y. Trucks from Near-Aloesia's mines carried a selection of newly-unearthed Songstone, a variety of colors and sizes, primitive shapes, surprising chaotic forms. Smaller officials from the nearby City came, carrying Idol executives bound to negotiate contracts. A line of trendy-feeling restaurants lined the parking area, making the town feel 'safe'.

From the Songstone trucks, Hanei picked out a few, the size of fists with the weight of feather. The color of deep winter afternoons, the color of the last ocean she visited. Songstones, carrying corrupted data of a long-gone human and thus, according their personality or emotions, a Songstone was compatible towards particular musical elements. Like an ancient composer's preferred sound samples, synthesizers and instruments, Recomposers gravitated towards particular types of Songstone.

A hunk of voyeuristic metal waste for most, a Recomposer could connect to and reconfigure the storage of a Songstone into a uniquely-timbred, wiggling melody. Or a roaring, guttural voice. Or a noisy texture. With enough Songstones, their contents could be streamed together, and music could be made.

Patora grabbed the first few crimson Songstones she could find, and then a dozen randomly more. The two left, heading for the forests on the southern end of Far-Aloesia.

6.1 - impulse, the wilds

Hours later, the stress of the morning still strung my neck tight. I was getting itchy and I could smell the oil of my unwashed hair in between whiffs of face sweat.

In an instant, it became evening. As usual, we still haven't agreed as to where we'd submerge, our daily battle at a standstill, my fighting spirit gone, even with the deadline for my next song is soon, and I've barely revised my rough drafts, and...

We're at an Actual-Distance of 30 km, so with the time dilation, at least two days have passed at home. A search party will come soon. We'll be penalized, maybe put on remedial education, or at worst, implanted with trackers to make sure we aren't messing around. Patora seems oblivious, but it must be calculated. It dawns on me that I'm as guilty as she is, letting myself be guided this far from town. I know the consequences but feel no terror, as if my mind is being led along.

Beyond a nearby stream I can see the southern entrance to Far-Aloesia: it's an illusion, of course, a trick of the mind - I must want to return home, at least part of me. Staying in a pair is a way to overcome these illusions.

If I walk towards the illusion, I'll find myself deeper, perhaps in a prairie, a canyon, far from the charted outskirts of Far-Aloesia. Naturally, the farther you stray, the possible paths to take grow exponentially. But once you find yourself in that infinity of experience, you are proportionally as lost, swept away.

I wonder if I'd like to be swept away. Heading out for work and returning home is always jarring. Being in nature, and then... being submerged. Doubly distanced compared to an average job.

The scent of Aloeswood is strong here, I feel it with my head. An intense air emanates from beyond the stream, from the illusory town.

I do want to make better music, more human music. The images I see in my head, the emotions I feel, the concepts I want to explore, every time they just get sanded down to a fine, little orb, a dozen or so Songstones. Resulting in the same, polished, nearly-identical-yet-not songs.

But this is all I can expect. It's not our generation's time to restore music back to whatever golden age it used to have. It's our generation's time to work, slowly, without revolutionary aims or delusions. Sometimes I try to explain this to Patora but the argument comes out muddled.


I hear a rustle, footsteps splashing across the stream, but by the time I turn to get a better look, shining my flashlight, I see only the faintest ripples. I listen close. Insects and plants and wind and water. The usual, but with the click of adjusting my glasses. As I try to get a better look, I see nothing but the same stillness.

my heart beats, guiltily calm,

stars hum coldly, static and guidanceless

the sound of absence

the unsound of Patora

6.2 - Set adrift, in aloeswood

Aloeswood-like scent hangs in the air. It takes me back to my morning, to my graduation, to my childhood. When I can feel it, with all my senses, I know the time is right to submerge, to leave this world. Tonight, I'll begin my submersion alone. Ill-advised, but I numbly laugh. I feel like I've made a mistake so maybe this is my punishment, or my escape, or my work, I don't know.

I light my incense and plug in my Songstone. Scents mingle, greet one another. I lay down, the uneven ground is rough on my back.

To get comfortable, I make note of the physical sounds around me. It's the typical mix.

scrtch-scrtch. Bird feet on branches. The lilting wooden arms, brushing their tufts of circular leaves against another.

shf-shf-shf. I get comfy. The crisp dry grass digs into my scalp.

Fshxxx...fshhxx... A group of weeds, their feathered ends in a quiet dance, a suggestion of pillowy texture.

I try to imagine sounds that aren't there - that could be there - like if Patora was walking beside me, or if someone was stripping bark - but these thoughts short-circuit, like a forgotten visage, a forgotten first embrace. So I make do with what the waking world gives me.

Hear closely enough, and every combination of leaf on leaf, species of insects' beating wings - is a separate sound, a potential material in a palette of sounds for a song. Birdsongs, insect chirps, slowed down, become intricate melodies, the potential to be woven into tapestries. You can jump into a sound and imagine where else you might hear it. Birdsong in the forest, in the pet shop, in the owner's cage.

All knitted together, forming the blanket of a plain, forest clearing. I tuck myself in deeper.

Those raw, musical materials, ever present, ever influential on our moods. Yet, as any Recomposer would agree, these sounds, for humanity's current needs, are insufficient on their own. Ancient music was said to be born from culture - humans making music with, and for, other humans. Evoking emotions through sound, to reach an alternate state of perception, to color their surroundings.

The sounds of the forest are as good as any. We learned that in school. But without this community of music-making, it's like a blacksmith without her fire.

Naturalist Recomposers would argue this view is reactionary: "we only need to travel deeper outside of the charted paths! The world has various lost sounds of nature, which we need only experience first-hand." It's admirable, and perhaps valid in a long-lost time, but it's missing humans. You need submersion to make any music of worth nowadays. Theirs is a failed approach. I cycle through the usual talking points in my head to lose my way.

This submersion, this pseudo-time-travel - is needed to make the music WE need. To hear the ancestries of the atoms making up the fabric of this forest, to follow their movements backwards, to see what past sound waves engraved into the physical space, imperceptibly.

The farther I stray, the deeper I submerge, the more vivid and enriching the music I can make.

(So she was right...)

Forget the clients and their bland tastes, their bone-bare requirements. I admit this now but I'll lose the courage once my work is over.

(And she is braver...)

The hundreds of scent chemicals making up burning Aloeswood saturate my synapses, extinguishing my senses, one by one. That scent of latent death, the past, the funerary rites, necromancing others' lived experience once lost to the temporal ether.

I see darkness. I hear muteness. I taste air, I feel a void. I try to think of nothing, except that she was right.

Then, nothing.

6.3 - Thousand years under the earth


At this first level without senses, I'm trying to perceive the past, trying to catch the trails of sounds once audible. My motion feels like glacial free fall. An astronaut without gravity, trying to make their way to a distant star.

I'm at a confluence, where the waters of the past and my mind flow into one, the riversmeet. I know I have a proclivity for joy, for pleasure. Navigating here means accepting your base personality.

Towards the direction of rising ecstasy, I feel the faintest temperature flux. Like an actor, I need to match the feeling to go further.

As usual, I recall my acceptance into the School for Recomposers. The joy bursts from within me, propelling me through the nothingness. Upstream, yet away from the surface. To the fountainhead, swimming, returning home. The feeling of cosmic color, a roof of purple stars illuminating a featureless surface. I see nothing, but my imaginings pull the ecstasy closer.

Soon enough, the darkness becomes perceptible as ink. My motion slows. The darkness, like a cavernous lake, growing from it, thin ribbons of red light, refracting as if distorted by an intense summer heat. The ribbons connect, like cables. Forming wavy rings, stacked, one by one, the contours of a deep-sea mountain range.

Like a comet, I pierce through the mountain ranges. The red contours are blown to pieces, enveloping me in some long-gone soul's moment of bliss, happiness, blurred like melted ice cream.

I step in. My senses come back to me. The ecstasy-like experiences that occurred where I've submerged are too many to count. To make sense of the noise, like a dream, logic is applied where the loosest patterns are found. But I'm not dreaming. I am here, I am far from the surface.

I find myself at a cliff face, a raging sunset. What musical heights I could reach if I fell off this cliff, into the colors below, sunburst, magnetic storm. Pure anticipation, I can feel it from below, the sprawling forested plains. Easy does it now, so I take the gentle, winding path down, expecting to reach that forest.

But I lose sight of it. I've left the cliff entirely. Finally, I've stepped in somewhere. A small cavern in the side of the road. But it is a party. An ancient one. It's what I'm looking for: a "node", or a "place", full of concrete senses. It was a marriage reception.

Gowns, toasts, meals, songs, dance. Nothing I haven't seen before, my submerged self knows.

My submerged self also knows when I surface, the surface self won't know the first thing about an ancient wedding, except for what sound is brought back. The poor thing.

If I give up here, if I accept this as the material to work with, I won't make much interesting work, right? Another samey song, the same musical elements. Patora's amazing music hangs over me. Submerging deeper without a spotter is my only choice.

I am far from the surface now, but I can still reason how I might return to it. Mazes of the submersion within mazes of the forests, that's the life of a Recomposer. I want to find gold, to feel more worthy, valid that I'm able to make something worth living for.

That's right. I need to look deeper! A wedding gathering is not just one feeling. Yes, the music drowning everything out, the party's typical playlist screams tradition and happiness. But there are ways to leave this crossroads, to exit into a small, barely detectable feeling.

My exit points: the anxiety of a man standing in a corner. The poor friend, longing for the one who is getting married. A weak-stomached person who's drank too much, fearing the worst. A frustrated girl, scolded by her abusive mother. A bored child, playing their videogames. And dozens more.

I have not just a few choices, but exponentially many. I can enter fractions of doors at the same time. I pick a mix of these feelings. I create a door, a way to a new "node". I enter it. My eyes ring with purples and pleasures, the energy of experience, blasting my ears. I dip into many of these partygoers, their emotions, what other music they've heard.

Mixed together, I channel it to my Songstone. I could follow their lives deeper, but I might never make it back. It is a temptation to learn more than you should.

Recomposers have been found dead, quiet, mid-submersion. It's a peaceful way to go. An addicting way.

When you're deep, you feel excitement. Where I'm at is a place of possibility, sonic emotions and sensualities. If words could only describe what I hear here. Unimaginable genres of electronic sounds, natural recordings morphed into twisting melodies, the grooves and textures of another dimensions existences. Pure raw sound power. Music transforms so much, the office, the commuter train, the day at the park, each of these combinations, yet another lead! "Nodes" linking to nodes linking to nodes, rhizome, fungus, tree on tree, network, subways.

But in this moment where everything feels possible, only so much can be pocketed and returned to the surface.

If I try to surface, this infinity will shrink, the sounds sloughing off, layers of flesh, one by one, leaving only a single beating heart, a tiny cell, fitting into one Songstone.

Every submersion is equally tragic, painful, in how the conscious self always forgets it, how the possibility slips away. As soon as I submerge, it'll be like I never felt that pain. I think it's better to not remember. To taste heaven and have to come down to earth. Yes, forgetting is better...

Every Recomposer approaches their submersion differently. But we all agree, somehow, that what we feel, what we undergo, feels something analogous to how ancient composers must have created music. But they could do it without submersion, without danger, without Songstones. Imagining sound, realizing it through instrument. It feels so fantastical, magical... maybe submersion is a taste of that forgotten magic. Me, the half-magician.

I look up to the surface, the tiniest of lights. I am still safe. Maybe I could have gone deeper. I have what I came for. I forget, I forget the places I've seen, what I've heard. Every loss propels me higher. Soon whatever I was hearing, sensing, becomes nothing. The light grows bigger. I see my physical body.

Closer, closer. Until I am back and alone, with the inscribed Soundstone next to me. Wirey, wispy melodies. Light timbres. Impossible to truly describe or try to hear, like explaining the taste of fruit, which is why it must eventually be Recomposed into an actual sound, an actual song.

I fall asleep from exhaustion, and even with my efforts, Patora is still gone.

7 - Like freezing muck

The seasons shifted towards a cooler mood. The peaks of mountains spreading their chilly climate over Far-Aloesia. I just keep working, I just keep making music, wading in the same muck of history.

After that day, I was fined for overdue work, right on time. But I made the song anyways, reducing the penalty, and plus, with Patora's disappearance, the delays were chalked up to her actions. By a few, I'm blamed for her disappearance, but to others, the days I lost to time dilation were seen as a heroic sacrifice. When in fact, it was more some dangerous gamble, a foolish solo submersion, that ate up my time.

I'm surprised when within a few weeks, her absence is forgotten outside of a few of our closer colleagues and friends. At work we're told to watch out for each other, that the loss of one Recomposer is a vital blow to the town economy, reputation, Idols' work, music, and thus the world, but in Patora's absence not much seemed to have changed. I feel pressure to politicize her reasons for leaving, but I don't want to start any more problems.

My work is the same as ever. I'm expecting a new work partner sometime next month. The entrance ceremony for new Recomposer graduates is soon, so I've got to put on an excited face and prep, to view the woods we work in with fresh eyes.

The fields have their same near-winter color. The melica grass color is fading, but the scent of Aloeswood still there, hanging above the soil. The familiar luster of a new Songstone shipment arrives daily.

Each step on the way to my home on the hill, I've memorized. The same patterns adorn my home, the graveyard silent with its mysteries.

The speckled red and green birds that jump about. Chirping, shitting.

The whiny chirping of my distance compass's alarm when I stray too far.

My little mental map of the outskirts of Far-Aloesia, with the places I shouldn't go and should go, the music pouring out of me like always, dive after dive, year after year, thinking about what it would be like to get away, if that would be right, or okay, or allowable...

8.1 - forgetting home

out of breath, i stumble down a hill, checking behind me. she is not still there. so i've escaped

i want. to run far away. no - not run away, like a child. but as a natural response. a vine seeking light. growth, away from toxic soil...

the world is a toybox of unnavigable pieces. only reason Far-Aloesia is connected to the City is because so many people want to remember how to get between the two places. if the demand for our music were to falter, then our town, too, would fade from the maps, lost to the maelstrom of society's geographical dementia. trips between the towns would grow longer, more fraught with danger, until no one wanted to do business with Far-Aloesia. people would leave, move away. it would become a ghost town, like all the others. maybe an explorer would rediscover its ruins one day, but putting it back on the map would be out of the question.

of the survivors (if you could call them that) of running away, the ones who make it back to society, they almost always mention seeing their hometown, just ahead of them. but they take a step in that direction. and it gets further.

desire conjures the street leading to your local store, but you walk a step closer and end up in front of the retail floor of a ghost town's luxury condominium.

no matter how much you say 'i want to leave home', the world knows best, and you'll neither return home nor make it to your far, unknown destination. a lonely death.

the worst is when you see the search party in front of you, scream to be saved. depending on the illusion, maybe they'll see you. reach out for you. but nothing. you are hundreds of miles apart, your hope merely conjured a temporary communication link.

i need to forget a lot of things, i need to forget Far-Aloesia. hanei. the other Recomposers. to forget, i will submerge in a dangerous and extreme way, one that'll induce amnesia.

only by forgetting each element of home, one by one, can I manage to make my way away from Far-Aloesia for good. to create true music amongst these ghosts of the past.

nothing in Far-Aloesia would guarantee a better future. we'll make the Idols' music until we're tossed away for another Recomposer town, until Far-Aloesia gets written off the map.

i keep going.

with every submersion, farther away, my compass's measurement off the charts, uselessly large, i find newer and stranger sounds.

communities and modes of socialization i can only gaze in awe at. to forget, I make the sound the core of my being, I create from that core. giving up any past comfort for this newness, by making these sounds my new home base, i won't return home, i won't fail...

what else is out there. the forests. river where we shouldn't cross. electronic wastelands. ghost cities. barren farmland. geyser fields. animal ruins. tall forests. churches, malls. endless content, the dream of many, saturating me.

i smell the aloeswood. that aloesian smell. oh, it's threatening to remind me, remind me of something. i need to forget!

dive, submerge, go.

8.2 - sea of senses

thrust down. deep inside, letting it all out. pulling out the black emotion, festers like a wound i must pick. i have a sense for lust and the motions of body, these ideas glittering out like gold. in the sea of idleness and null sexuality, i establish a baseline of no feeling. i let my body do the searching, for what senses once made their home here.

a shock down my left arm. a trembling joy. it points out to a direction. yes - the carnal motions of a group of three, playing at lovers, expanding beyond their bodies. a shadow of the next morning hangs over them, a race against time.

from the endless white sea of idleness, their motions are like a lighthouse, i flap my wings across the waves to reach the top, their lust towering over me, growing until it is nearly unbearable. i can already feel the rhythms - of their movements, the music they have chosen to score their night.

i observe each person slowly. the apex of each movement reaches its peak, cycle after cycle, slightly shifted by the thumping bass drum and interlocking melodies. it is a hypnotic scene. i ride the scene to another time, a time without music, to measure a 'control' scenario. the gap between the everyday and the sexual, a way to better understand what makes the sexual tick, how it functions.

i take my musical prize. i am victorious, of course i am. i emerge from this golden lighthouse, leave this history behind, lay out on my back on this white sea, looking up at the empty air and the nothing-colored sky. i think of nothing but the sounds i've heard. i fall into them and travel far beneath the sea, far from the surface. if i let the sound consume me, so that i understand how and where it works and how it makes the body tick. if i return to the surface, then i will be able to truly push my music.

my body is electrified. it splits towards vectors of all directions, seeking out latent energy in this space, testing these new sounds against an array of previously unseen situations. the freshness of the spot i've dived in is palpable. when you think you know all of reality, a dangerous submersion is all you need to wake you up to how much more there is.

but it must end, or my consciousness will evaporate here. so i end the balancing act, letting the surface bring me back. leaving the sea, my body unites into one. and i am back, patora, on solid earth, lost, but still, far from home..

8.3 - and my body says...

my musical specialty has always been the grooves, the sexiness, the stuff that gets the body moving. it doesn't take much, but to do it well takes an active interest in the body and its expressions. there is joy in the simple movements we're given. opening myself to how i feel during certain movements - routine exercise, expressive dance, erotic moments - is how i submerge and get the sounds i need.

in my work i'm limited to using these sounds as the dulled-down rhythms or melodies of songs for idols. but i know it can be pushed further: the dregs i manage to remember from submersions - they prove to me the ways in which music has been accentuating the movement of bodies, accentuating sexualities, how so much has been lost, eradicated, standardized.

it takes a landslide of events to unstick a late-career Recomposer from the same compositional patterns of their past. while i don't speak for others, i know some have regretted their choice to compose music in one style their entire career. i feel the pressure mounting in me, so i made my move.

i always suspected hanei was regretful in this way, as efficient as she was. hanei may be more attuned to the music in-demand by the Idols, so maybe she was okay with it.

i can only pretend to be so. finding that true music, MY music, the sounds that define me, pasted together, memory by memory, is what I wish to do. i can't do this leading a normal life. the musical elements i love were strewn and buried deep into the earth in a variety of places.

and i am infinitely thankful. and in this moment of thankfulness, somehow,

i remember hanei. her long hair, her glasses. her music, her complexity.

for a moment, i think i see her, sitting at a window. i look past the sand dunes and see my village. laughing at my moment of nostalgic weakness, i take my newest Songstone - no, a bag of them - and i sling it as hard as i can at the village, screaming, ensuring it disappears from sight, break the damn window,

and then i turn around and run, forgetting as hard and fast as i can.

9 - patora

Across a desert,

Strewn with ruined aspirations

Funerary statues mid-ritual

Under a sky you can't describe

So many many colors

And you don't want just one.

Walk far, Patora


Occasionally I'll think about the weird presence music-making has in my life: I don't do it all the time - sometimes taking months-long breaks - only to dive in to write an OST for a game. Actually, as of publishing, I haven't worked on music for three months. This makes me think about that weird ability to 'shift back into' being a composer, but also, thinking about ways to compose that don't involve sitting at a computer and working. Experiencing music and sound has always been a big part of it. You can't write great music without listening to a lot of other great music.

On top of that, I also always have a few essay ideas, or tutorial ideas, related to writing music. But I feel like there's a lot to writing about music-making that's really hard to express as an essay. A lot of the music-making process is unconscious, unknowable, personalized to the composer. You could write about these concepts - spiritual, abstract sounding - in an essay, and I'm sure it would kind of work (In some essays I've talked about my method of 'reference-gathering' for making music), but I feel like there's something to the structure and looseness of fiction that lets me get at, or try to understand, the unconscious aspect of music-making.

Another motivation is that my very cursory research also showed that there's not much fiction about making music in the sense I'm trying to think about it, probably because the number of people who like to write stories and make music is relatively small (definitely not nonexistent though!). So I wanted to help fill in that 'story gap', to try and map out one possible visualization of how the subconscious layer of music-making works, and how it's inextricable from other humans.

Further, there's been a lot of ideas about this "Shuffled World" that I've tried to imagine in the context of games a bunch over the past year, but not had time to work on. I found it was actually super easy and fun to play around with these ideas purely through writing. In any case, Aloesian Mode was my first attempt at trying to write about music-making through fiction, I hope it was enjoyable!

Melos Han-Tani (2022/02/28)