Chris Peters had her testicles removed in a Brooklyn apartment, 1956. She traveled to the city with some of her closest musical friends to seek out a professional private surgeon to perform this procedure called an orchiectomy. Many years later, it is absorbed into her identity and she portrays the cutting as a private and musical ritual. Barney only knows her when she has grey hair.
She visited him in Ohio today, and at night they went to the diner by the side of the lake. Who would have any relationship other than ambiguous with perch as a food? Yet, the dish was advertised on the metal motel sign. Their tires crunched on the gravel as they pulled into the parking lot, joining a couple other night trucks.
"You want to get a twelve-pack of deep-fried perch here?"
Chris Peters (her last name is Vander Essence) had a mystical presence in her student Barney's work, seducing his deepest cortex with secret sounds that were enabled by her use of technology. When he was around her, he thought about every sound in a playful and deep way.
"Of course in the 50s all we had was shortwave radios, and yes, we did have one oscillator. It was provided by the science department of the Pastoral College. Because it was scientific, it went to radio frequencies."
Chris Peters was seeking the null pubis moment, as expressed in the computer language, lisp.
"My friend, Barney, he's dead now, had a huge beard, so he wasn't like you. We worked on programming some sounds in lisp... The interface is philosophical. I still use those sounds–they are like telecommunication."
The word telecommunication, whispered by Chris Peters' lips, in the context of experimental and radical music, had more than one meaning. Barney crunched on a perch tail. The sound was delightfully whistling high, almost crystalline, and particulate like sand. Chris Peters' eyes became dreamy, yearning for something beyond the future:
"I have an idea for a perfect instrument. It has one note, which it builds into chords... but it is this one note, like my oscillator in the 50s, that I can play from Tuba-Town to ultrasound. I call the organ my 'Mona see.'"
The perch meat was sweet and you had to pick through bones, but the greasy breading did its trick and it became a delightful midnight snack with Coke and white wine. Perfect to fortify one's self against the buffeting cold wind from the lake. When they stepped out of the diner, crossing the empty road, to stroll lakeward for a look. The melting ice floated around like asteroids in space.
The white blobs receded into the oily night. Out there in the darkness, all you could hear was the random crunching when one ice intersected another, and this sound receded too. The lake is mystical, and it's been cleaned enough to eat its perch again.
They drove up the lake road, through quiet houses and an empty town with its bright wastewater meth-flame.
"Let's drive by my friend Blanc's house. It might be trash night in his neighborhood; we could find some lighting fixtures or a couch."
It wasn't trash night. When they pulled up to Blanc's house by the lake, the womb-colored light was on and hovering over the kitchen table. They could see it through the bay windows.
Chris Peters whispered, "did you hear a rustling of leaves inside the house?"
Barney glanced at his friend, who could hear through the walls of a house. He believed her, and scanned the darkness in the house beyond the sole light: the shelves of painted shells, a burlap couch. There, behind the burlap couch stood a pile of tattered paper crepe, with a male form inside it, still but alive. The two friends sitting in a parked car felt a thrill at spying on this unknown activity.
Suddenly what was a camouflaged blob sped up and materialized in swat gear, dancing tactically towards the kitchen table.
"That's Blanc! He's up this late? I thought he was a morning person. I guess you can pick up shells and beach trash at any time of day and paint them."
Chris Peters snorted: "I wonder what kind of music he's listening to in there."
Through the bay window, they saw Blanc's face approach the cone of light at the kitchen table. He unstrapped a device from his pants' loin and grinned at it...
Somehow the two friends decided they would not walk up and knock on Blanc's door. They would instead wind their way back down the lake road. Chris Peters had a bottle of white wine in the car and she was cheerful in the night. She spoke more about her antique computer music samples, playing a game of singing them, and adding crunchy sounds where the digital code spoke.
Back at Barney's residency in the fields, he lied down on the couch, tired from driving but content with the company. Chris Peters explored the space inside the main lounge: "Is the station broadcasting right now?"
"No, but you can go in there and play. If you turn the light switch on, everything goes on and you can plug into the mixer which is the radio transmitter. Broadcast anything; it's late enough for free speech!"
She did for a while. Barney listened on one of the many testing radios: little bits of consumer receivers from the ages. His favorite was evidently a beach radio. It was soft and held batteries, and sounded warm like one's vacation expectations. Through this warmly compressed voice box, he heard her extreme sounds as new animals, and wondered what the corncob men thought as they received her transmission over early morning coffee:
"I think if I were a farmer, I'd think these sounds are from a satellite. Wonder what Blanc was doing, late night with no one in the house, hiding in that paper camouflage. I won't ever ask him, because then he will know that I spied on him in swat gear."
Chris Peters came back into the lounge and sat on a firmly upholstered chair. While Barney drifted to sleep, she plotted more about her Monassi, quietly sipping on white wine. Her cheeks were rosy; this was truly when and where she was most excited, late night with access to a radio station and her sounds:
"It's the ideal organ of the future... one sensor... well really as many sensors as there are in a chord. Those are like all the nerves of the music, but it's all part of the One Touch. There's a knob for escalating and descending, that's it! It's like the one eye in the sky, one big socialist internet. Everyone is surveilled, including the president. You watch what he eats on Instagram, and read tweets of public policy. The Mona see..."
Barney, drifting off, tried to focus on his friends rant: "Do you mean the panopticon as a metaphor for your One Touch organ? How do you spell Monassi? M-O-N-A-S-S-I?"
"M-O-N-A S-E-E!" They both laughed.
"That clothing your friend was wearing... I liked his sudden change from
amorphous to present. But what does it mean, alone at home, spied upon
through bay windows? Wonder what he had in his pants? I thought you said he was a painter?"
"A painter of trash." Barney trailed out and snored sincerely.
I'd like to thank Daniel Fishkin for asking me to write this episode.
He was deeply affected by his teacher Maryanne Amacher, who was radical and perceptive. She also seemed to have secrets, like bass drums hidden in the walls of an old house. Also I was thinking about when someone gets older and how the tides of their creativity turn. It seems there is a certain age when you become playful again with everything, so I included the dorky imaginary organ, originally a "Vander Essence" theme, as an example of failing, but fun adventure.