"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Monday, February 28, 2011

Chips for Brains

"Without a soundtrack, human interaction is meaningless." --Chuck Klosterman

I have been known to say that if I could I would implant a chip into my head that would broadcast music directly into my brain. If science fiction knows anything, it knows that in real life we're building the nanotechnology right now that will enable us to use our brainpower alone to log onto the internet or tell our appliances we want a toasted bagel at precisely 6:35 in the morning. All I want is the music chip. An iPod for my noggin. None of this Star Trek TNG speech interface claptrap: "Computer? How about some jazz?" If I think of it, I want to be able to hear it.
From an unscientific webscan of info about brain implants, most of us are paranoid delusional against it.
With this technology, I will have a steady soundtrack to what's happening in my life. I pretty much do already, I know. Music plays in the living room, in the car, in my classroom, when I go to bed. Silence is dull, even distracting. Music helps me focus on the task at hand, no matter what it is. The problem is, as with so many things, other people. When I'm alone, the music doesn't stop. But when the wife's home and the baby's sleeping and my teenage daughters are lurking about, I can't play Skinny Puppy even at low decibels without creating social awkwardness in my own house.

My wife doesn't like much of the music I listen to. She was brought up on musical theater. I was nurtured by new wave and punk rock. Her favorite musical was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Mine was Sid and Nancy. But when we met, and she learned that I own hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of music, she acquiesced, or perhaps just conceded without campaigning, and recognized that I would be the one in charge of the soundtrack of our lives. That doesn't mean that I force feed her music she doesn't like. She's allowed to tell me she doesn't like dark ambient music and request that I play something more cheery. She's even allowed to appeal for silence every once in a while. The worst part though, because I can't help it, is that I feel personally slighted when my wife or daughters don't fall in line and robotically love the music I love.(My son doesn't yet have an opinion, but he also can't yet roll his eyes when I listen to Men Without Hats without any irony.)

My daughters claim I like weird music, but I have had modest success with my oldest. She's 15 and mostly likes popular alternative music like Flobots and Hellogoodbye, but sometimes she'll listen to me when I talk about a good song. Last week in the car I introduced her to a fun electropop band called All Caps. I played  for her "Lumos Flies," a song about how Ron Weasley loves Hermione Granger to the tune of Owl City's "Fireflies." (I totally know that sounds totally, even awfully, nerdy, but that's totally the point of All Caps' music. Another song is called "World of Warcraft Ruined My Life." They have some totally great, just plain fun, if geeky, music.) By the time we got home, she had asked for a copy of the album. And my work was done.

That happens so seldom, the music chip surgically embedded behind my ear will be a welcome addition to my existence. I will be able to choose my own background music for the major events in life. Some soaring Keane or Hooverphonic for graduations and weddings. A devastating Iron and Wine or The Smiths track for funerals and breakups. Or inspiring Queen or U2 for those tough jobs and athletic events. And Harold Budd or Brian Eno just to help me sleep. Nobody else ever has to be bothered again.

In related news:

I like music. My plan is to start Music Monday (I like alliteration, too) (and credit goes to Vicki at Notes from an Aspiring Writer for the idea), wherein I will write about how music is widely incorporated into my life and how it might benefit yours if only you would listen to what I do.

For those readers who don't want to hear about the music that I obsess over, don't just skip posts on Monday. I promise to keep the idol worship to a minimum. Still, I will try to add links and embed videos so that if you're interested you can hear some of the music I mention with my meager words. Today is the first time I've embedded video, so let me know if that's distracting and I'll settle for creating links.

That is, until we all have chips in our heads.


  1. You've converted another one, I love "Lumos Flies" and will be looking for more by All Caps. Thanks for sharing, I will be tuning in on Mondays to hear your soundtrack.

  2. This reminds me of Otherland and This Alien Shore. If you have not read these...the imbedded music and chips end badly. Serial killers who keep a recording of their inner soundtrack. Creepy. And computer viruses that attack your mind when you just look at them. Not good at all.

    Of course my novel has brain nanochips. I should add music. That might be fun.

  3. Neil Stephenson is another futuristic writer who has messed around with the idea of music chips, most prominently in Snow Crash.

  4. LeAnne: Don't get too excited. All Caps is fun and all, but not really substantive. But thanks for tuning in.

    Charlie and May: I loved Otherland, but can't get into anything else Tad Williams has written.
    And if they want, I'll be the guinea pig to try the music chip to make sure they don't turn people into axe-wielding homicidal maniacs. I'll show em.
    And Neal Stephenson rocks.

  5. You know how you hear a crappy tune and it gets stuck in your head for the rest of the day? Imagine that if you actually had music playing whenever you thought about it. It's not the technology that's the problem, i think, more our lack of control over our own thoughts. Pink elephant and all that.

  6. This is an excellent point, and one that I will bring up at the first meeting when they finally ask me to test the prototype. I don't know, I think it'd be worth it even if I were stuck hearing "Electric Avenue" over and over again.