NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1963 __ « Simulacra »
Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
Comment : Richard Kongrosian refuses to see anyone because he is convinced his body odor is lethal. He has a phobic body odor, he believes the odor could be transmitted by telephone wires. Theorically, his phobic body odor could contaminate the entire world. Kongrosian has telekinetic abilities: he can play piano using only his mind. (Compiled from various sources)
Original excerpt : « The interoffice memo at Electronic Musical Enterprise frightened Nat Flieger and he did not know why. It dealt, after all, with a great opportunity; the famed Soviet pianist Richard Kongrosian, a psycho-kineticist who played Brahms and Schumann without manually approaching the keyboard, had been located at his summer home in Jenner, California. And, with luck, Kongrosian would be available for a series of recording sessions with EME. And yet -- [...] It was nine in the morning. Nat Flieger reflexively poured water into a cup and fed the living protoplasm incorporated into the Ampek F-a2 recording system which he kept in his office; the Ganymedean life form did not experience pain and had not yet objected to being made over into a portion of an electronic system... neurologically it was primitive, but as an auditory receptor it was unexcelled. Water trickled through the membranes of the Ampek F-a2 and was gratefully absorbed; the conduits of the living system pulsed. I could take you along, Flieger decided. The F-a2 was portable and he preferred its curve to later, more sophisticated equipment. Flieger lit a delicado, walked to the window of his office to switch the blind to receive; warm Mexican sunlight burst in and he blinked. The F-a2 went into a state of extreme activity, then, utilizing the sunlight and the water, its metabolic processes stimulated. From habit Flieger watched it at work, but his mind was still on the memo. Once more he picked up the memo, squeezed it, and it instantly whined, "... this opportunity presents EME with an acute challenge, Nat. Kongrosian refuses to perform in public but we have a contract through our Berlin affiliate, Art-Cor, and legally we can make Kongrosian record for us... at least if we can get him to stand still long enough. Eh, Nat?" [...] And if Kongrosian had learned to defy the ukases of the supreme Communist authority he could scarcely be expected to flinch from a showdown with EME; Kongrosian, now in his sixties, was a professional at ignoring the legal ramifications of contemporary social life, either in Communist lands or in the USEA. Like many artists, Kongrosian traveled his own way, somewhere in between the two overpowering social realities. A certain amount of hucksterism would have to be brought into such a pressing as this. The public had a short memory, as was well-known; it would have to be forcibly reminded of Kongrosian's existence and musical cum Psionic talents. But EME's publicity department could readily handle it; after all, they had managed to sell many an unknown, and Kongrosian, for all his momentary obscurity, was scarcely that. But I wonder just how good Kongrosian is today, Nat Flieger reflected. The memo was trying to to sell him on that, too. "... everybody knows that Kongrosian has up until quite recently played before private gatherings," the memo declared fervently. "For bigwigs in Poland and Cuba and before the Puerto Rican elite in New York. One year ago, in Birmingham, he appeared before fifty Negro millionaires for benefit purposes; the funds raised went to help with Afro-Moslem lunar type colonization. I talked to a couple of modern composers who were present at that; they swore that Kongrosian hadn't lost any of his pizazz. Let's see... that was in 2040. He was fifty-two, then. And of course he's always at the White House, playing for Nicole and that nonentity, der Alte." [...] Getting it out now, Kongrosian started the Theodorus Nitz commercial up, listening once more to its evil message. The commercial squeaked. 'At any moment one may offend others, any hour of the day!' And in his mind appeared the full-colour image of a scene unfolding; a good-looking black-haired man leaning towards a blonde, full-breasted girl in a bathing suit in order to kiss her. On the girl's face the expression of rapture and submission all at once vanished, was replaced by repugnance. And the commercial shrilled, 'He was not fully safe from offensive body odour! You see?' That's me, Kongrosian said to himself. I smell bad. He had due to the commercial, acquired a phobic body odour; he had been contaminated through the commercial, and there was no way to rid himself of the odour; he had for weeks now tried a thousand rituals of rinsing and washing, to no avail. How could he bear to have Janet detect the terrible body odour which the commercial had passed on to him? It was an impossible situation, and Kongrosian sat hunched over at the table in the corner of the room, clenching and unclenching his fists, trying to think what to do. Perhaps he could call her on the phone. But the odour, he believed, could be transmitted along the phone wires; she would detect it anyhow. So that was no good. Maybe a telegram? No, the odour would move from him to that, too, and from it to Janet. In fact, his phobic body odour could contaminate the entire world. Such was at least theoretically possible. [...] 'Hello, Richard,' Janet Raimer said. 'What have you put over the phone screen?' Pressed against the far wall, with as much distance between himself and the phone as possible, Kongrosian said, 'You shouldn't have tried to reach me, Janet. You know how ill I am. I'm in an advanced compulsive-obsessive state, the worst I've ever experienced. I seriously doubt if I'll ever be playing publicly again. There's just too much risk. For instance, I suppose you saw the item in the newspaper today about the workman in the candy factory who fell into the vat of hardening chocolate. I did that. »
Source : Dick, Philip K. (1963), “Simulacra”, Ace Books, 1964.
Source : Dick, Philip K. (1963), “Simulacres”, collection Dimensions SF, Paris: éditions Calmann-Lévy, 1973.

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