Procol Harum

the Pale

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home

AWSoP in a transAtlantic novel

From Chapter 6 of Idoru by William Gibson

Peter Christian kindly draws our attention toWashed Ashore's useful elaboration of the DESH idea that Gibson puts forward in Idoru (excerpted below)

She'd fed him into Venice on her second visit, to keep her company and provide musical variety, and keying his appearances to moments when she crossed bridges had seemed like a good idea. There were lots of bridges in Venice, some of them no more than a little arc of stone steps spanning the narrowest of waterways. There was the Bridge of Sighs, which Chia avoided because she found it sad and creepy, and the Bridge of Fists, which she liked mainly for its name, and so many others. And there was the Rialto, big and humped and fantastically old, where her father said men had invented banking, or a particular kind of banking. (Her father worked for a bank, which was why he had to live in Singapore.)

She'd slowed her rush through the city now, and was cruising at a walking pace up the stepped incline of the Rialto, the Music Master striding elegantly beside her, his putty-colored trenchcoat flapping in the breeze.

"DESH," he said, triggered by her glance, "the Diatonic Elaboration of Static Harmony. Also known as the Major Chord with Descending Bassline. Bach's 'Air on a G String,' 1730. Procol Harum's 'A Whiter Shade of Pale,' 1967." If she made eye contact now, she'd hear his samples, directionless and at just the right volume. Then more about DESH, and more samples. She had him here for company, though, and not for a lecture. But lectures were all there was to him, aside from his iconics, which were about being blond and fine-boned and wearing clothes more beautifully than any human ever could. He knew everything there was to know about music, and nothing else at all.

She didn't know how long she'd been in Venice, this visit. It was still that minute-before-dawn that she liked best, because she kept it that way.

"Do you know anything about Japanese music?" she asked.

"What sort, exactly7"

"What people listen to."

"Popular music?"

"I guess so."

He paused, turning, hands in his trouser pockets and the trench-coat swinging to reveal its lining.

"We could begin with a music called enka," he said, "although I doubt you'd like it." Software agents did that, learned what you liked. "The roots of contemporary Japanese pop came later, with the wholesale creation of something called 'group sounds.' That was a copy-cat phenomenon, flagrantly commercial. Extremely watered down Western pop influences. Very bland and monotonous."

"But do they really have singers who don't exist?"

"The idol-singers," he said, starting up the hump-backed incline of the bridge. "The idoru. Some of them are enormously popular."

"Do people kill themselves over them?"

"I don't know. They could do, I suppose."

"Do people marry them?"

"Not that I know of."

"How about Rei loei?” Wondering if that was how you pronounced it.

"I'm afraid I don't know her," he said, with the slight wince that came when you asked him about music that had come out since his own release. This always made Chia feel sorry for him, which she knew was ridiculous.

"Never mind," she said, and closed her eyes.

She removed her glasses.

After Venice, the plane felt even more low-ceilinged and narrow, a claustrophobic tube packed with seats and people.

The blond was awake, watching her, looking a lot less like Ashleigh Modine Carter now that she'd removed most of her makeup. Her face only inches away.

Then she smiled. It was a slow smile, modular, as though there were stages to it, each one governed by a separate shyness or hesitation.

"I like your computer," she said. "It looks like it was made by Indians or something."

Chia looked down at her Sandbenders. Turned off the red switch. "Coral," she said. "These are turquoise. The ones that look like ivory are the inside of a kind of nut. Renewable."

"The rest is silver?"

"Aluminum," Chia said. "They melt old cans they dig up on the beach, cast it in sand molds. These panels are micarta. That's linen with this resin in it."

"I didn't know Indians could make computers," the woman said, reaching out to touch the curved edge of the Sandbenders. Her voice was hesitant, light, like a child's. The nail on the finger that rested on her Sandbenders was bright red, the lacquer chipped through and ragged. A tremble, then the hand withdrew.

"I drank too much. And with tequila in them, too. 'Vitamin T,'
Eddie calls it. I wasn't bad, was I?"

Chia shook her head.

"I can't always remember, if I’m bad."

"Do you know how much long it is to Tokyo?" Chia asked, all she could think of to say.

"Nine hours easy," the blond said, and sighed. "Subsonics just suck, don't they? Eddie had me booked on a super, in full business, but then he said something went wrong with the ticket. Eddie gets all the tickets from this place in Osaka. We went on Air France once, first class, and your seat turns into a bed and they tuck you in with a little quilt. And they have an open bar right there and they just leave the bottles out, and champagne and just the best food." The memory didn't seem to cheer her up. "And they give you perfume and makeup in its own case, from Hermes. Real leather, too. Why are you going to Tokyo?"

"Oh," Chia said. "Oh. Well. My friend. To see my friend."

"It's so strange. You know? Since the quake."

"But they've built it all back now. Haven't they?"

"Sure, but they did it all so fast, mostly with that nanotech, that just grows? Eddie got in there before the dust had settled. Told me you could see those towers growing at night. Rooms up top like a honeycomb, and walls just sealing themselves over, one after another. Said it was like watching a candle melt, but in reverse. That's too scary. Doesn't make a sound. Machines too small to see. They can get into your body, you know?"

Chia sensed an underlying edge of panic there. "Eddie?" she asked, hoping to change the subject.

"Eddie's like a businessman. He went to Japan to make money after the earthquake. He says the infa, infa, the structure was wide open, then. He says it took the spine out of it, sort of, so you could come in and root around, quick, before it healed over and hardened up again. And it healed over around Eddie, like he's an implant or something, so now he's part of the ma, the infa-"


"The structure. Yeah. So now he’s plugged in, to all that juice.

He's a landlord, and he owns these clubs, and has deals in music and vids and things."

Chia leaned over, dragging her bag from beneath the seat in front, putting away the Sandbenders. "Do you live there, in Tokyo?"

"Part of the time."

"Do you like it?"

"It's . . . I . . . well . . . Weird, right? It's not like anyplace. This huge thing happened there, then they fixed it with what was maybe even a huger thing, a bigger change, and everybody goes around pretending it never happened, that nothing happened. But you know what?"


"Look at a map. A map from before? A lot of it's not even where it used to be. Nowhere near. Well, a few things are, the Palace, that expressway, and that big city hall thing in Shinjuku, but a lot of the rest of it's like they just made it up. They pushed all the quake-junk into the water, like landfill, and now they're building that up, too. New islands."

"You know," Chia said, "I'm really sleepy. I think I'll try to go to sleep now."

"My name's Maryalice. Like it's one word."

"Mine's Chia."

Chia closed her eyes and tried to put her seat back a little more, but that was as far as it could go.

"Pretty name," Maryalice said.

Chia thought she could hear the Music Master's DESH behind the sound of the engines, not so much a sound now as a part of her. That whiter shade of something, but she could never quite make it out.


More about AWSoP More literary links here and here and here and here

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home