Daily Archives: April 12, 2010

Soundtracking Neuromancer (HUM415)

Today’s pop quiz introduced some key characters and concepts for the study of William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Of particular note was the notion of the prosthesis— an enhancement of human capacities which, in its most general sense, could be something as simple as clothing or eyeglasses. With Molly, Case’s partner/lover, we see a radical interface between human and machine in the form of various prosthetic devices such as retractable razors in her fingertips, ocular implants, and surgically amplified reflexes. This marriage of technology and humanity– a key theme of Neuromancer– produces a new kind of being, a new entity, called the cyborg. Cyborgs differ from androids and robots in that they are natural as well as artificial, and to the extent that each of us uses technology to navigate the world we are, in a very loose fashion, cyborgs as well.

On Wednesday we’ll screen a few clips from fairly recent sci-fi films which could be grouped under the sub-genre heading of cyberpunk and talk about the world that Gibson has constructed in his novel. Some of the ideas we’ve already discussed in the course may come in handy– already we’ve talked about BAMA (the Sprawl, or Boston-Atlanta-Metropolitan-Axis) as a megalopolis (i.e. an urban conglomeration larger than a single city, as in the corridor connecting New York to D.C.). How was the world of Neuromancer built? Who built it? What kind of cultures reside within it?

As I said in class, I’d like you to consider what a soundtrack for Neuromancer might be. Take a moment and think about a track that might approximate the tone of that novel. Let’s call this critical-imaginative activity “soundtracking”.

If Neuromancer were a film script, what song/s might you use as background? Try picking a scene from the novel and setting it to music. For example, if I were going to shoot Case trawling Chiba City I might use a track I ran into last year, The Kills’ Tape Song, because of the counterpoint between the metronomic quality of the drum track and the rough energy of the guitar and vocals. It seems like a perfect song for a montage of shots of the city: arcade lights, hustlers and freaks, neon, the buzz of “Biz” as Case terms it, etc.