Around this time last year, New York-based producer nihiti helped us ring in the emotional roller-coaster that is Valentine's Day with an original essay on why suicide pact techno love songs are the best kind of love songs. Today, he's debuting an achingly melodic new song called "We Are Runaway"—along with a special "tractatus theologico-valentinus." That's nihiti-speak for five serious philosophical aphorisms proving why humans are genetically programmed to need love songs made my machines.
When trying to disentangle the cosmic mysteries inherent in the human emotions we are theoretically celebrating this February 14th, it will be useful to define some axioms:
I. Humans are born hard-wired for love. It's the best way our masters—AKA our genes—have found to replicate themselves through the long march of time. Genes lead a simple life; replication is both their purpose and their raison d'etre. It stands to reason that they would be extremely even-keeled judges of what works and what doesn't in the genetic arms race we call "existence."
II. Humans are born with an expiration date. It is in the hard shadow of this reality that our genes must build the erotic machinery that will one day, hopefully, get them replicated. Given that building anything—especially the complicated wiring of erotic machinery—without the benefit of clear light is rather difficult, it sometimes happens that this wiring gets a little bit… well, let's just say that sometimes wires get crossed. Some people get into leather. Some people end up in love with money, heroin, or their cats. And some people go more or less completely off the rails and end up being sexually aroused by things like having sex with goats while watching videos of Ronald Reagan in slow motion. The spectrum of bad outcomes is pretty broad.
III. Music is emotion made flesh. It's not a movie—with a story that illuminates the arc of your own life—or an actual object, like a painting or a sculpture. It is totally ephemeral, infinitely replicable, raw emotional content.
IV. The machines are taking over.
V. The KLF were right.
One of the few things humankind is pretty much in 100% agreement on is the fact that nothing could be so romantic as to find true love and cease to exist at the same time. Think about it—almost all the great love stories are straight-up tragedies. Osiris. Orpheus. The Iliad. Samson and Delilah. The Butterfly Lovers. Fucking Titanic, for god's sake. Pretty much everyone in those stories ends up heartbroken and/or dead, preferably both. Two of Monzaemon's major works have titles that take the form The Love Suicides at _____, and In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare manages to cram no fewer than three death scenes into the lives of two protagonists. Think about that for a second. Storytelling innovations like that go a long way towards explaining why he is considered a notable dramatist.
Thus, it is definitely not an accident that when the Western world decided to invent this lover's holiday, they named it after a man who was either "arrested, scourged, and decapitated" or "beaten with clubs and beheaded," depending on which of the many murdered Valentinuses you think inspired the holiday. In fact, the manner in which he was murdered is actually all we (sort of) know about this Valentinus character. The only sources we have for information on his existence are the Martyrologies—long lists of sad souls who ended up being fed to lions, boiled in oil, burned at the stake. What better symbol could we project all our hopes, fears, and overpriced Hallmark cards onto than the mangled and bloody corpse of some random medieval misfit?
Here, let us pause and contemplate some words from The KLF, immortalized in their 1988 manuscript The Manual: "The lyrics for the chorus must never deal with anything but the most basic of human emotions."
This is not the time and place to get sidetracked by a discussion of the sociocultural importance of the KLF, perhaps the most legitimately subversive act to ever repeatedly climb to very top of the pop and dance music charts. The Manual's lengthy digression on the lyrical content of Rick Astley's by now-classic single is well worth reading. The larger points, however, are these:
By Axiom I and Axiom II, love's close ties to death can be shown to explain why heartbreak is so universally compelling to our species.
From Axiom III, it follows that the powerful emotional energies at work in the struggles of Eros and Thanatos on the landscape of the human soul are transmutable directly into hit singles. Why else would your lovelorn roommate be booting up yet another rewind of the Joy Division catalog this weekend? Why else would your perhaps less discerning but no less earnest Aunt Martha spend days drowning in whiskey and the balladry of Celine Dion? Adele just sold like a trillion records with this premise. It's been this way forever, and forever it shall be.
And from Axiom IV and our previous theorems, we can see that the universal energies stirred up by Cupid's difficult interventions belong in the lyrics of choruses. Not too many lyrics, not too many syllables, not too much cleverness, though: Morrissey never had a #1.
This being 2016, we decided it was really high time that the machine intelligences take their rightful place as voicers of romantic yearning. Machines are already handling most other aspects of human existence—planting kale, building things for us to hide under when it rains, transmitting the entire Merzbow catalog through space and into our phones. Surely, if we could translate romantic mystery and songwriting formulae into their language and ask them to run with whatever is beating in their tiny silicon hearts, they could write an awesome chorus.
And so, it was that after a few simple incantations and the feeding of carefully encoded metaphysical data into various corners of the darknet that we were able to convince one of the hive minds straddling the man/machine border to write for us the the song you are now listening to. Honestly, we had expected something more concretely tied to the inputs we had given them; "Computer Love" and "I Am A Vocoder" were their last songwriting efforts, and they were just as direct and to the point as the KLF said they should be. But the artificial intelligence of the world showed that it has achieved new heights of emotional maturity since the tragic end of the romance with that foxy Japanese dot matrix.
"WE ARE RUNAWAY" they told us, in their chirpy circuit voices, asking and answering all the questions of existence in a mere three words. What more could one say?
"We Are Runaway" was written by nihiti and Katheryn McGaffigan. nihiti's next full-length, empirial, is out sometime this year. This track will not be on the album, but you can purchase it—along with other nihiti creations—over at lo bit landscapes.