In 1994, artist Martin Kersels built a kinetic sculpture out of an 18-inch speaker, an amplifier, an equalizer and an oscillator, capable of sustaining infrasonic vibrations. The piece was called Brown Sound Kit, mostly because if it was cranked up enough, it would literally shake the shit out of its admirers. In 1968, French police had experimented with similar infrasounds — frequencies below the range of human hearing (less than 20 Hz) — as a method of disrupting student demonstrations with the terror of synchronized incontinence. That year, hundreds of French students were allegedly soiled by just such experiments. And thereafter, such rectosonic vibrations — something close to 15 Hz — came to be known as brown sound.
Kersels‘ sculpture wasn’t, incidentally, potent enough to replicate 1968‘s L’Opera du Merde. And although we in Los Angeles may never live to experience infrasound‘s distinct charms — with enough power, it can destroy internal organs — we can enjoy the next best thing: subwoofer attacks.
At night, they awaken you as coarsely as any car alarm, but with dramatic aftereffects. You hear it, yes, but not nearly as much as you feel it, in your sternum. Heart attack? No. Pop music. A tangled, torturous, tedious throbbing, mush-bassed bubble-gum pop that churns at the bottom end like a bag of trichinosic pork rinds in a teenage colon.
Or in daylight, at the bottom of a multilevel parking structure, halfway through a headache and a long exit queue from which there is no escape: Terrorist bombing? No. Pop music. Junk Pop marketed specifically for its bass effects, its ability to elicit a gut response. Target audience: You’re supposed to dance to it. Until it owns you. Express yourself: Feel free. Feel free to express yourself by dancing to the most constricting, vacuous, masturbatory metronomics this side of a slave-galley drum.
You figure anyone capable of launching this sort of attack probably has additional armaments, so after you exit the parking lot (and idle, more or less headless, at the inevitably red light; for your head did indeed crack open in the parking structure, slathering your brains onto the dashboard), when the offending subwoofermobile pulls up beside you, you keep what‘s left of your eyes pinned forward. You know the equation: contact = death.
In the spring of 1945, my father was stationed at Navy Pier in Chicago, together with about 6,000 other young swabs, at the Navy’s Radar Technician School. Each weekday morning, the lot of them was summoned into consciousness not by a bugle reveille but by “Hey Bop a Rebop” and “Moonlight in Vermont,” two of the country‘s most popular songs that year.
A few years ago, my friend Daniel Lentz and I were talking about just such military music. Not “Anchors Aweigh” or “The Liberty March,” but the pop music that people in the military listen to while making the world a safe place for plutocracy. With nothing but our own arrogance to guide us, Daniel and I decided that the most popular popular music — the stuff marketed to those who prefer high-diving into the shallow end of the gene pool — is built around the same sort of blindly disciplined ritual that’s made the American military so much fun to dance to all these years.
So it doesn‘t surprise me when, for the fifth time today (I shit you not), the bumper sticker attached to another Junk Pop–overdriven subwoofer in yet another overtinted, overpolished sedan with an unlicensed Calvin (of “& Hobbes”) poised mid-ejaculation (or is it -urination?) onto the logo of a different brand of identical overtinted, overpolished sedan reads (no pain, no gain) “Marines.”
MAKE YOUR OWN SUBWOOFER POP SONG:
Preparation time: 10 minutes
1 Registered QuickTime Player (unregistered ones won’t play simultaneous files)
5 zipped WAVs:
1) An air-raid siren (http:forsite.netkimhmararaid.wav)
2) An M-16 (www.wavplace.comsndsm16.wav)
3) A .357 Magnum (www.stoutman.comsoundswarfare357mag.wav)
4) Someone torturing someone else in Stephen King‘s Creepshow (www.c3net.netmrgolfhelp.wav)
5) Someone torturing everyone else in real life, courtesy of K.C. and the Sunshine Band (www.geocities.comSunsetStripStudio8509ilikeit.wav)
Extract your WAVs from your Internet. Open them from within your QuickTime Player and set each one to Loop. Turn your volume all the way up and select Play All Movies. Dance till you dump.#
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