Silhouetted in a fog, Unsound in 2009. Photo (CC-BY-ND) andrej/asebest.

“This sounds crazy. I want to see this. I think I may have to see this to understand what you mean. But I want to see this.”

David Dodson, journalist, writer, and electronic musician (“Primus Luta” and, most recently at our Handmade Music series, Concrete Sound System), has just told me he wants to cover New York’s Unsound Festival, the Polish-based electronic and “advanced” music festival.

Only he wants to cover it … fictionally.

There’s a love story. There’s drama. There a bits of review, interwoven with a story. In place of the usual omniscient narrator that we find in music journalism, delivering pronouncements about the State of Music from on high and dissecting the programming, we hear reflections on the work the way you do when you’re actually there – snippets of commentary from friends outside the venue, internal monologue in your head. But these thoughts come out of the heads of made-up protagonists, who then rub shoulders with the real characters spotted at the event. (Warning: if you were at Unsound, you might make a cameo.)

It’s trippy, disorienting, frequently comical, and for me, at least, leaves me half-guiltily aching for more.

It’s worth reading all the excerpts in order in the blog format in which we’re able to present them, but a few examples to whet your appetite (or, if I’m lucky, give you some idea what the heck I’m talking about):

There are drops of sweat on her lashes when Gisella finally opens her eyes. She looks at Lil’ Man who is smiling like a man who knows he’s done good. She smiles back licking the presperation off her upper lip only slightly suggestive. Lil’ Man notices but turns to give an nod to Chancha for keeping her there with him on the dance floor. Only two other ladies, who probably arrived with Chancha, could keep up with the cumbia influenced rhythms. It didn’t keep others from moving to the beat, but even with her eyes closed, Gisella knew they had been the center of attention.
“Let’s go get some air,” she says into his ear before leading him through the crowd.
As they walk down the corridor where people are still waiting to get in, Lilo comes behind them from the back room.
“Oh my god,” she says. ”I don’t know who’s on now, but whoever was doing the last set in the back room just made my night.” There are more people outside waiting to get in and small groups gathered in nicotine circles. ”You missed him playing Madonna.”
“No way,” Gisella replies as they walk toward the curb where she recognizes Praveen and Sougwen.
“But did you see Dave Q voguing behind his laptop?” Praveen asks over hearing Lilo’s enthusiasm. The guy standing next to him responds by striking a pose.
“Do you know Dave?” Sougwen asks Gisella.
“Only by reputation,” Lilo says extending her hand.


Morton Subotnick at work in 2011. Photo: David Dodson.

“While I don’t feel cheated,” Lilo says between sips of wine, “I do feel like I missed something. I mean it was Morton Subotnick, the Buchla was there, and he performed Silver Apples on the Moon, but something was missing.”
“He didn’t patch live,” Lil Man says.
“Yes, that is it isn’t it?” Lilo thinks about it taking a sip. ”It’s funny how laptops throw everything off.”
“You couldn’t really see what he was doing,” Gisella chimes in. ”You could see it all working but you couldn’t see the work.”
“He had a controller near the laptop,” Lil Man notes. ”He was doing something with that.”
“Yeah,” Lilo says after another sip. ”I mean you have to think, why wouldn’t he use a laptop? Can you imagine how hard it must have been to create Silver Apples back in the sixties, let alone perform it. Even now with the technology we have it’s an amazing achievement.”
“Most def,” Lil Man affirms.
“But I do wish he had pulled at least one patch cable,” Lilo adds before finishing the glass.
“Most def.”


The sound of an ambulance trails off behind her. Suddenly a female voice moves in only to be accompanied by at least ten different iterations of the same voice. They are all being manipulated diferently and floating around the space. Gisella closes her eyes and could see the voices sweeping, like ghosts in a haunted house. It was clearly the Pamela Z piece, but the description didn’t really do the effect of it justice. The title and even the description made it sound out of place. What did “The Star Spangled Banner” have to do with horror? But listening to Pamela Z’s deconstruction and recomposition of voice in the surround space, at this point Gisella recognizes, Pamela is the first artist to truly create a scene from a horror movie. So why was she thinking about sex?

Author David Dodson explains the project:

I’ve been thinking of moving back into fiction writing for a few years now, but fiction that deals with real historical places and events. A few years back I wrote a novella entitled “The Moshi” which placed characters in the middle of New York during the black out of 2003. When working with fictional characters it’s always interesting to think about how they respond to ‘real life’ situations.

For “Above the Threshold” I wanted to really embrace that. Rather
than create a world in which the characters can do whatever I saw fit, I decided to create the characters and place them in our world to see what they’d do. I started out with a very simple premise – a female lead working in the music industry attends the 2011 Unsound festival. I then attended the festival myself and ‘observed’ how my characters acted within the settings that the festival presented.

During the course of the festival I penned over 50k words of this
storyline, and in essence watched the plot unfold. It will be some
time before the full piece is ready to go to print, but I’m offering
up some excerpts from it on the CDM partner Noisepages site. These excerpts may or may not end up in the final draft, but will give some glimpses of the characters, the festival and how the two came together.

I only wish fictional characters could inhabit all the events we attend. I suppose, in fact, they could.

The full work, emerging in blog form:

Above the Threshold