Recently, I went to the NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) conference in at KAIST in Daejeon, South Korea. Over the course of five days, I attended workshops in Web Audio, absorbed paper presentations on digital laughter and watched what could only be described as a pneumatic zombie duet. I also attended not one but three banquets. For those interested in the gaps between banquets, I offer this story.
I step off the plane. Location: Incheon. Body: Exhausted. Mind: Blank. Between the 12 hour flight, the 15 hour time difference and repeated exposure to the in flight movie, A Werewolf Boy, I can already feel my grip on reality starting to slip away. I make my way through the airport, down to baggage claim and onto the express train for Seoul. As far as I can tell the train was constructed in the year 2040 and brought back in time to the present day. The oleophobic seats conform exactly to every contour of my exhausted body. A flatscreen television unfolds from the ceiling above, presenting a promotional ad for a nearby civic development project. BUILDING, it promises, in blaring, positivist capitals. CIVIL. PLANT. HOUSING. Depictions of enormous glass and steel buildings, assembled by swarms of tiny robots, rise before me. Outside my window, we pass row upon row of small scale farms, sometimes running all the way up to the train tracks. Eventually the train comes to a small bridge connecting Incheon to the mainland. Rising up out of the water I can see huge mounds of dirt and grass, looking like the backs of giant turtles lumbering towards Seoul. I am very sleepy. I decide that they probably are turtles, and I write the following poem:
POEM FOR THE TRAIN TO SEOUL
The fog helps me see the tortoises
Grinding out low channels
And the speculative egrets on long stalks
The tortoises are my cold cows
Ruminating on the countryside
And other fictions
They roar silently
Like old men, or magma
Train tracks are humming
The sound of soft gray wool
And my eyes are as heavy as the tortoises
I decide that this poem is very good, then I fall asleep. When I wake up, weâ€™ve arrived in Seoul, where I must have boarded another train for Daejeon, though I honestly canâ€™t remember. Neither do I remember arriving in Daejeon, finding my hotel, or making my way up to my room. Probably all these things happened, but whether they happened to me or to someone who looks a lot like me I will never know. In the morning a straight line connects my backpack to my suitcase, to a pair of shoes, to where I fell asleep, face down on a still-made bed.
–> NIME, Day 1