“[...] akin to early Tangerine Dream [...] very beautiful it is [...] it’s an album made to help, got synths and sequencers doing the thing they did when they were all kind. [...] I can’t help compare this to early 70s stuff [...] It’s honest, beautiful and kind.”
– Alan Morse Davies in his I Heart Noise review of Encounters
Alquist wasn’t sure whether he was a human or a humanoid anymore. The rest of the crew passed away decades ago and it had been just him, the sole passenger of the spacecraft, since then. If his suspicion was correct, Sam “The Ram”, his final companion to die, had been the last living human in the Universe.
Although Alquist knew some of his organs were artificial, he initially trusted the core was pure man.
He had a digital library full of books at his disposal and he read a lot. He started when Sam got insane, signing his nickname, RAM, all over the ship’s interior. It was nine years after Sam had got honourably ejected to the outer space, when Alquist came across the book. It was a play and it was old, but…
He finished reading it that very night and Karel Čapek, the Czech writer who wrote it in 1920, became his favorite author. Alquist would read everything written by him. R.U.R., which was the play’s name, remained his most beloved book. It had both enlightening and destructive effects on him.
It was a story about a factory called Rossum’s Universal Robots, that made artificial people – robots. Čapek’s brother invented the name, which, from the future point of view, described replicants designed to work for people. Androids and gynoids who would finally kill all humanity and start a new civilization.
The crew’s original task was to search for intelligent forms of life. But three years after the explorers left, people destroyed the Earth with all its creatures, including themselves. Which left the crew alone in Space and with nowhere to return.
When Sam The Ram died, Alquist kept searching from planet to planet. He succeeded in finding forms of life able to communicate. Those were just encounters, though. He yearned for a company. Human company.
There were media for storing information from Earth on the ship. In several forms, for other civilizations to be able to understand. When remnants of Alquist’s spacecraft and body were found, the safety block of the ship, with the inscription “R.A.M. – Rossum’s Artificial Mankind”, contained Alquist’s journal. Apart from it three kinds of items were rescued, believed to include information: the Boards, the Cylinders and the Sphere.
In 2019 a team of scientists figured out how to read – which was actually to play – the medium supposed to be the most primitive one: the Boards. To the researchers’ surprise these contained something resembling music.
Musicologist Yuri Wiedermayer called the genre “ancient future” as it seemed likely that Alquist’s ship equipped with technology surpassing ours in many ways had got to our spacetime through a gateway leading from the future to the past, probably due to Alquist’s desperate attempt to find humans. However, his recording and archival techniques were – to make it easier for other civilizations to replay them – obsolete and low quality. They generated noise, hum, distortion, inbalance and warble.
Furthemore, the correct play speed hasn’t been agreed on yet, so it’s likely that the original recordings were made in other tonalities and tempos. But at least they give us basic notion or, rather, impression. It still remains to find their meaning.
It’s hoped in a close future someone will unravel the informational contents of the Cylinders, too. And perhaps, one day, even the Sphere...
Part Two: [binaural-space.bandcamp.com/album/farewells]