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Author Topic: PC233: Study, For Solo Piano  (Read 2148 times)
Talia
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« on: November 07, 2012, 11:07:22 AM »

PodCastle 233: Study, For Solo Piano

by Genevieve Valentine

Read by Laurice White

Originally published in Fantasy Magazine. Read it here! (Fantasy Magazine’s podcast is at the same place.)

The Circus waits in leaking trailers while Boss takes her lieutenants through the house.

Then, her lieutenants are Elena from the trapeze, and Panadrome the music man, who presses his accordion bellows tight to his side to keep it from sharp edges, and Alec, their final act, who folds his gleaming wings tight against his back so he can fit through the hole in the wall.

Inside, the ceiling is waterlogged and sagging, but when Alec opens his wings even the nails sing for him.

Alec laughs, and the birds in the rafters scatter as if he’s called them down.

(Alec will be dead in a year; these are the last birds he sees.)


Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 09:22:28 AM by Talia » Logged
chemistryguy
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2012, 07:13:30 AM »

By all means, keep explaining what goes on behind the scenes of Podcastle.

With that in mind, I'd really like to hear the other audio version of this story.  Laurice White's reading hit the right emotional notes for me, but dangnabbit if the audio quality made it difficult to understand without a great deal of concentration.  Every time the audio levels changed, I was pulled out of the story once again. 

There were some parts I totally missed and that's a shame.  The writing was both otherworldly and down to Earth at the same time.  Panadrome!  What a fantastic name and character.  Near the end of the story, some of the audio issues quieted down and I was able to be immersed in his emotional conflict with the piano. 

I'll be spending my lunch reading this one.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2012, 01:04:07 PM »

I am not a big fan of Genevieve Valentine. I've heard a lot of her Mechanical Circus (I flatly refuse to even attempt to spell the proper name) stories, and they never quite seem to resolve into sense for me. They're very beautiful, lyrical even, and they just... don't... click. I also have to admit that Laurice White is very hit-or-miss for me, and this one was a miss. I loved her work on the post-Katrina-New-Orleans story (can't recall the title), but sometimes I can't understand her. I don't think it's her accent. I think it's... I dunno. She's a professional (website and everything!) so I don't want to blame her equipment... but I can't figure out what else it might be. Sometimes her recordings seem to pick up a lot of distortions.

I dunno. Maybe it's me.

Anyway, this story surprised me. I still wouldn't say I liked it, but I disliked it less than I usually dislike Mechanical Circus stories. I think it was the deep personal focus, and cyborg performer's regrets. I like the idea of choices that cannot be unmade and the consequences thereof. I like the idea of a post-apocalyptic circus that thrives, in part, because the performers agree to go under the knife and become something other than human.

I think the trouble is that these stories tend to be very slow. Not a lot actually happened in this story. They're also emotional stories that are driven by emotional... blankness. Many of the characters - basically, every character who isn't the main character - is driven by motivations that are never really explained. The boss, for example, is the consumate distant badass. It's one thing to make a character enigmatic, but I feel that these stories fall off that fine line and into the realm of characters who are total blanks.

So... not a hit for me. Sorry.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2012, 10:38:38 AM »

I'm generally not a fan of Genevieve Valentine either.  I heard one of her other Mechanique stories somewhere else... Clarkesworld maybe?  And just found it uninteresting.  Too distant, too slow.  It seems to be depending on my undying interest for the subject material of a steampunk circus but I just want something to happen, something to care about.  This one spent a lot of time describing the house in way too many words, and then on to the circumstances of the circus in way too many words, and then the piano in way too many words.  If this were concise, I feel like I might like it, but as it was, I just didn't keep interest past 15 minutes.  I love Laurice White's narrations, when the story suits her, but here I don't think it did.  In some ways her readings remind me of the Word Whore, slow and nonchalant that fits some stories perfectly, but combining a slow and relaxed reading with a story where nothing is happening and happening with great amounts of wordage, just makes it seem even slower I think.

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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2012, 06:42:07 AM »

Wow. I'm glad I'm not the only one with a lukewarm attitude to this story.
I got the feeling that there is a rich world out there, and chalked up my not understanding what was going on and who the people were (not to mention what their motivations were) to my not having read any of the other stories in this world. But now I see that while that is true, there is also room for improvement in this story, since others didn't like it either. When the story ended I had the feeling of "OK, that's over. What was it?"
As for the reading.... I liked White's previous reading, the angel's appearance in the shower, that was great. Memory tends to get hazy over time, but if I'm not mistaken the audio quality was much clearer there too. Here there was a lot of distortion, lots of volume changes and of course no way to tell that we were now listening to a new scene. (It's really not that hard to insert empty space in a sound file if the reader doesn't, that's one of the few things even I know how to do in Audacity)
I did want to like this though, I have a soft spot for steampunk. But technicalities kept getting in the way.

Best part (by far) of this week's podcast? Dave's intro. Let's have more intros (and outros) like that. We like hearing about the court room intrigues and intricacies that go on inside the great floating castle.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2012, 06:44:09 AM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2012, 08:42:11 AM »

With that in mind, I'd really like to hear the other audio version of this story.  Laurice White's reading hit the right emotional notes for me, but dangnabbit if the audio quality made it difficult to understand without a great deal of concentration.  Every time the audio levels changed, I was pulled out of the story once again.  

Same here. I really like this narrator, but there was something about the depth of her voice that sent it off the register (in the bass direction) in my car, no matter how I messed around with the levels on my phone and my stereo. Normally I'm willing to give that stuff a chance, but I am getting a little tired of "circus at the end of the world" stories. I realize that using a circus as a literary device is a way to give us traveling characters who are usually pretty colorful, but... I dunno. I think I'm just burned out on them for now.
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« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2012, 10:15:36 PM »

Not especially into steampunk as a genre, can't really say why, although every now and then one will hit my fancy.  This one was kinda meh; maybe a little too weird for my tastes.  I hard to work pretty hard at figuring out just WHAT the characters were and was kinda grossed out by the hands offered as "gloves."  On the other hand (so to speak) the musician in me was intrigued with just how the partially collapsed piano would have sounded - and wondered if a John Cage prepared piano piece or George Antheil's Ballet Mecanique would have been a better soundtrack for the story.
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« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2012, 08:21:02 PM »

I didn't mind the audio on this episode, having no problem following the story. I didn't actually care much for the story itself, nor did I find it steampunk it taste. To me this story was far more a fantasy tale...

It was very far from something I would have chosen to read. Perhaps that is a part of why I didn't care for the story itself. Hard to say as it was presented excellently.
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Talia
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« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2012, 09:54:22 AM »

As a musician, I found the story moving. The thought of losing the connection with something I consider an essential part of myself is chilling and it really made me ache for the protagonist.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2012, 11:49:17 AM »

Between the lack of introduction to a world that I'm not at all familiar with (but the author seems to assume that I am) and the mild audio issues, I had a really hard time, right down to basic comprehension. I took my typical approach, which is to listen about halfway and then start over with a better understanding of where the story is going. While this helped me to pick up a lot more, I still can't say that I really enjoyed this story. Perhaps this was a touch too surreal for me, I'm honestly not sure.

I did find the accordion's sorrow at finding and then losing the piano to be touching, but this was the only part of the story that made me actually feel for the characters.



Technical sidenote: I finally put my finger on something that's been niggling at me for a while now. As Dave mentions in his outro, the url here is forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]net but in the canned recording by Rachel she says that it's forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]info which makes a big difference in the page that gets pulled up. Thought I should mention it.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2012, 01:33:38 PM »

Technical sidenote: I finally put my finger on something that's been niggling at me for a while now. As Dave mentions in his outro, the url here is forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]net but in the canned recording by Rachel she says that it's forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]info which makes a big difference in the page that gets pulled up. Thought I should mention it.
I noticed that right away, the first time I listened (after I had been to the forums) that it was the wrong URL.
I even made a post about it somewhere asking if maybe it was time to change the boilerplate ending.
Maybe Dave'll listen to you ;P
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« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2012, 01:48:45 PM »

Technical sidenote: I finally put my finger on something that's been niggling at me for a while now. As Dave mentions in his outro, the url here is forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]net but in the canned recording by Rachel she says that it's forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]info which makes a big difference in the page that gets pulled up. Thought I should mention it.
I noticed that right away, the first time I listened (after I had been to the forums) that it was the wrong URL.
I even made a post about it somewhere asking if maybe it was time to change the boilerplate ending.
Maybe Dave'll listen to you ;P

Huh. I've never noticed that before. When I started at PC, I messed up the forum address in the feedback segments, until someone else pointed it out on the forum. But that's the first I remember anyone suggesting it didn't work with Ann's boilerplate. I don't think it's always been inaccurate, but I could be wrong.

Sorry, Max! Don't remember you pointing it out. FWIW, I do read all the comments here, but if you all want to make sure and grab my attention, PMs are always fine.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2012, 03:11:32 PM »

Technical sidenote: I finally put my finger on something that's been niggling at me for a while now. As Dave mentions in his outro, the url here is forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]net but in the canned recording by Rachel she says that it's forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]info which makes a big difference in the page that gets pulled up. Thought I should mention it.
I noticed that right away, the first time I listened (after I had been to the forums) that it was the wrong URL.
I even made a post about it somewhere asking if maybe it was time to change the boilerplate ending.
Maybe Dave'll listen to you ;P

Huh. I've never noticed that before. When I started at PC, I messed up the forum address in the feedback segments, until someone else pointed it out on the forum. But that's the first I remember anyone suggesting it didn't work with Ann's boilerplate. I don't think it's always been inaccurate, but I could be wrong.

Sorry, Max! Don't remember you pointing it out. FWIW, I do read all the comments here, but if you all want to make sure and grab my attention, PMs are always fine.

Two things:
1) Max, I have a vague memory of someone mentioning it was time to change the boilerplate (yay for new vocab!), but no recollection of it having to due with the url. If your toes feel stepped on, I apologize! There's certainly no reason why my comment should garner more notice than anyone else's.

2) That's Ann reading the boilerplate? Wow, I really can't tell her voice from Rachel's, even after listening to the entire backlog of PodCastle. /earfail
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« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2012, 05:49:47 PM »

2) That's Ann reading the boilerplate? Wow, I really can't tell her voice from Rachel's, even after listening to the entire backlog of PodCastle. /earfail

I have the same problem, actually, I can never tell which of the two it is.  I've met them both in person now, so I can at least have separate images (though that doesn't help with discerning the audio).
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2012, 05:43:30 AM »

Technical sidenote: I finally put my finger on something that's been niggling at me for a while now. As Dave mentions in his outro, the url here is forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]net but in the canned recording by Rachel she says that it's forum[dot]escapeartists[dot]info which makes a big difference in the page that gets pulled up. Thought I should mention it.
I noticed that right away, the first time I listened (after I had been to the forums) that it was the wrong URL.
I even made a post about it somewhere asking if maybe it was time to change the boilerplate ending.
Maybe Dave'll listen to you ;P

Huh. I've never noticed that before. When I started at PC, I messed up the forum address in the feedback segments, until someone else pointed it out on the forum. But that's the first I remember anyone suggesting it didn't work with Ann's boilerplate. I don't think it's always been inaccurate, but I could be wrong.

Sorry, Max! Don't remember you pointing it out. FWIW, I do read all the comments here, but if you all want to make sure and grab my attention, PMs are always fine.

Two things:
1) Max, I have a vague memory of someone mentioning it was time to change the boilerplate (yay for new vocab!), but no recollection of it having to due with the url. If your toes feel stepped on, I apologize! There's certainly no reason why my comment should garner more notice than anyone else's.
Oh, it's all in good fun. I'm not really offended, hence the winky-stick-out-tongue face in my post.
But maybe all this attention will cause some sort of change.
Change is good, right?
« Last Edit: November 21, 2012, 04:03:16 PM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2012, 02:18:54 PM »

2) That's Ann reading the boilerplate? Wow, I really can't tell her voice from Rachel's, even after listening to the entire backlog of PodCastle. /earfail

I have the same problem, actually, I can never tell which of the two it is.  I've met them both in person now, so I can at least have separate images (though that doesn't help with discerning the audio).

Ann's voice is slightly lower-pitched, and her accent is different. Also, in the beginning, Ann's sound quality was far better than Rachel's, although that was corrected.
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« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2013, 06:31:13 PM »

I think it'd be interesting to learn more about some of the characters, in this short format I don't feel like I got to know any of them quite enough to care, even if performers and circus atmospheres can be really fascinating. I've always thought that losing hearing would be worse than sight because of how much I enjoy music and audio-books, the spoken word has such a life of its own. That is how I could connect the piano bit to the story, while I have played trombone and a teensy bit of guitar they have been less a part of a life than I might have wished so the loss of an instrument doesn't quite hit me in the same fashion.

I think background noise was the difference I noticed between this and the New Orleans story, I gave up on the angel in the shower story about half-way through, it just didn't seem particularly interesting to me, even with top-notch narration.
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