Soundwalk – Passing Stranger

Video and Sound / Week 1 / Soundwalk – Passing Stranger

I’ll be honest. My expectations from a soundwalk weren’t very high. “Coupling a walk in the street with an audio file, what’s so new about that? People do that all the time.” is what I had in my mind.


The soundwalk turned out to be a revelation, a new experience. I opted for Passing Stranger, due to my affinity towards the Beat Generation ( incidentally, I had presented the book cover for Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums in the visual language class earlier in the day ). Kerouac, Ginsberg, Whitman, Hara, Mayer and so many others; to listen to their voices, to listen to their words, to be acquainted with where they spent most of their lives, it was beautiful. Listening to unashamed, charismatic, cracking, prophetic voices of artists and finding my way through the concrete structures, through their tombs (in a metaphoric sense) I felt transported back in time.

“PASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you”
– To A Stranger, Walt Whitman

The first verse from Whitman’s poem ‘To a Stranger‘ talks about how the poet longingly looks at the passing stranger and gets nostalgic. The difference this time round was that it was not the poet looking at the stranger, but the stranger looking at remnants of the poet, a place that has established itself as a reminder of the poets and authors who had prospered in this very setting. The place has changed, of course. But there are still clues, hints, memorabilia, remnants that can be found here and there, trying to retain themselves in the ever-changing city of New York.

The audio was what made it all come together. The incoherence with which Passing Stranger switched from monologues to jazz music to the commentaries, it was historical reverie. My favorite bit was the story where Jim Jarmusch talks about Ginsberg’s apartment, of how poets would come there to collaborate, to drink, to celebrate, of how Ginsberg would throw down his key from the fourth floor apartment in a sock, of how Kerouac used to write in that very place. And to look at the structure, while Kerouac recited his spontaneous lines, I could visualize it all playing out in front of me.

Underneath, are some photographs taken while I was walking through the East Village:

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A Response to Bloodchild

Video and Sound / Week 1 / Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild

Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild is a short story about the human species settling on an extraterrestrial planet, and the symbiotic relationship between human and alien. The story presents a relationship where human is alien. Most notably, the story offers a different perspective on maternity which includes men impregnated with alien children ( which is a means to maintain harmony and find accommodation in the host world ).

Creative Process:

As indicated in the afterword, Octavia Butler tried to highlight three themes when she was writing Bloodchild:
1. Fear of parasites through her study of botflies.
2. Switching of maternal perspective between woman and man.
3. “Paying the rent”.

As part of the Art Strategies class last week, we tried to look at the execution of a certain form of art and their historic relevance. Using the same line of thought, stylistically, I found the story to be highly unapologetic in terms of the explicit gore used to describe the scene of alien birth. More importantly, the story explicitly switches the gender roles through the depiction of feelings that Gan ( a coming of age boy ) experiences, feelings that are generally associated with maternity, feelings such as protectiveness, warmth and a desire to be loved, and taken care of. These are feelings that are welcomed and accepted in the alien world. Historically speaking, the story was written after the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps, the movement might have introduced the author to ideas associated with gender equality and redefinition of gender roles. Interestingly, the story very blatantly projects the humans as a feminine entity, while the alien female as the masculine entity ( in terms of how the society stereotyped these two entities at the time ). The humans are protective, caring, housebound, bear children, and ask for love and attention from the Tlic. The female Tlic on the other hand, lead the house, feed the humans, run governments and impregnate humans.

Dissection and Analysis:

The story can be bifurcated into three segments:
1. Buildup or Exposition- The introduction of the family, and an evening of reverie.
2. Conflict and Climax – Bram Lomas birthing Tlic children.
3. Resolution – Gan’s intimidation and eventual submission to T’Gatoi.

Each segment inspires a different aural image in the mind. The first segment inspires a mellow music, which is pleasant but includes distortion, sort of an eerie otherworldly happiness. The second segment includes the killing of an animal, a violent operation, viscera and worms feeding on the dead. It insinuates chaotic feelings. The associated sound would probably be a mixture of noise and arbitrary high pitches. The third segment starts with an alerted Gan, but resolves to his admitted love for T’Gatoi and the eventual embrace. This can be translated to disturbing, yet romantic music ( maybe psychedelic ).


Through the analysis, I’m presently thinking about creating a musical composition, that can be translated into a narrative listening experience. I’m presently looking at The Velvet Underground’s The Gift or Belle and Sebastian’s Space Boy Dream for stylistic reference. The style that I will go for, has to be alien, distorted, random and unexpected.

Below are some bad images of the sketches I came up with while reading the story ( note: better illustrations to be posted soon ).

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