Immolate Recall

by Jeff Lewis © March 1990

This story is set in the not to distant future.

I hate it when she asks me to go to a music concert. I don't even own a TV.

There are few things more humiliating than the things a person has to go through at one of those things. Still, she sounds adamant and it's a sure bet we'll be going. She tells me that it's a "New Kids on the Block" retrospective. I don't think I've even heard of that group--then again, I suppose it really doesn't matter.

My parents tell me that there was a time when it was different. Parents are always saying things like that. You know. "You used to be able to live in the L.A. Basin", "I remember when you had to wear special glasses to watch three-d TV", that kind of stuff. The public reference bookpads on history say the same things as they do, so I guess it's true, but I can't imagine a time when I would have wanted to see a concert voluntarily.

"Are you ready yet?" she calls from the living-room. One thing that hasn't changed, women still think men take too long to get ready for shows. "Just about," I call back. I can't put it off much longer and pull on my coat. As I walk out into the room, she stands up and the room gets brighter. How can I say no to her?

She puts her arm around my waist and tells me to relax and musses my hair. She can be a real tease when she wants to be. She takes her coat, tells the house to be on guard and we leave. The car pulls up in front and we get in. I rest back as the car starts on the course the house has given it. She's too keyed up about the show to sit still and wants to turn on the radio. I beg her not to and she finally gives in on this one.

What bothers me is that the whole thing is a waste of time. The purists argue that it is the feelings you get, the emotions you feel while listening to the music that you buy. True, that's the part that lives on, but how do you connect that feeling with anything. you have to have more than just feelings.

I know some artist-types who agree with the whole thing. They would, their living depends on the laws, and they aren't going to bite the hand that feeds them. They argue that the purpose of art is to inspire emotions in the viewer, not to communicate a specific idea Perhaps they prefer abstractionism, but I get more out of a legal public reference bookpad than out of their "art".

Ever since the book and music industries merged with the computer industry, things went from awful to insane. I suppose if you think about it, we should have seen it coming. Publishers were always being driven crazy with photocopiers. The old music industry would only accept complete control over their products and their strong-arm practices often made Japanese terrorists look positively pacific.

It really started with something called a "see-dee". It was the first time a computer technology was applied to music is a widely available form. It was supposed to provide the perfect music, or at least that was held as true until the flaw in Shannon's Law was discovered and proved that sampled sound could never be a perfect representation of the analog sound because the sampling itself introduced artifacts.

Mind you, they managed to use the technology changeover to increase the price the music recording to about twice what they were before "see-dee's" in just a matter of five years or so. That was one real constant in the universe.

Then the Japanese invented the "Dat". This was a tape recording system which also used digital technology and provided the same capability of "see-dee's". The music industry went nuts. They wanted it all banned because it was possible for anyone to make "perfect" copies of any sound including commercial recordings.

Now, imagine if the American Artists Union had proposed that no artist be allowed to paint in any colour other than light blue so that no work could be photocopied. Pretty stupid idea, right? Well, not to the music industry. They even went so far as to propose that "see-dee's" be modified so that a small section ofthe sound spectrum was removed. The idea was that the "Dat" recorders would look for thismissing chunk and refuse to record anything with it missing.

Anyway, we pulled up to the auditorium and got out, telling the car to park itself. There was a huge crowd and secretly, I hoped that she'd change her mind and skip the show. Not likely, I admit. She was a sucker for these old classics. Besides, it turned out that she had tickets, so we were commiued.

At the ticket check, we had to sign the usual waivers and agreements and finally managed to get in and to our seats. I sat back in the heavily cushioned chair to watch the show, determined to at least enjoy it. The MC came out to explain our legal obligations and the procedure which follows the show. He also reminded us that we had signed our agreements and that if anyone was uncertain or had changed their minds, that they should leave now and they could get a half-refund at the ticket booth.

He paused for a minute or two as a couple of people up front left the auditorium. A group of wipegroupies in the front jeered them as they made their way to the back and exited. I honestly wished I could leave with them. A moment later, the lights dimmed and fireworks began.

There was a moment of excitement whena couple of bookpad bootleggers were detected and arrested. That I remember clearly. You'd think those clowns would know better. The chairs were rigged to monitor for any unauthorised electronic activity either external or because of internal augmentation. Recorders had to be check at the ticket office, or if built-in, you had to be licensed.

The next thing I clearly remember is stepping out of the wiper booth and meeting her in the lobby. I remember the feeling of the rhythm of the music, but I can't remember the music. I know the lyrics were sort of sappy, but I can't remember the lyrics. Forty-five minutes of my life were half-gone and only a haze of emotions were left.

You see, the music industry finally realized that the copyright law stated that it was illegal to translate any work into another form, including the chemical coding of the mind. They and their brothers in the other entertainment industries -bookpads and TV- realized that most people could watch a performance or view a book once and for the most part remember virtually all of it. So they finally brought in the toughest copyright licensing imaginable.

They declared our memories illegal.