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Ethan Peterson

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Friday
Jun012012

In Which We Would Do Anything For That Woman

Man and Woman

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Camille Claudel was only 18 when she met the greatest sculptor who ever lived. Auguste Rodin was 24 years her elder, and it was the first time she had ever been to Paris.

As a means of attracting students, Rodin visited a group of young artists at the rue Notre Dame des Champs. At the time, he could barely make his rent, and often had to beg his contracted students to pay their bills. Under Rodin's instruction Camille excelled as both a model and an artist. He was especially attracted to her limbs; casts of hands and feet were often the first things he showed his apprentices. He began consulting his new muse about every aspect of his work. The two would go on to collaborate on a number of projects that would bear Rodin's name alone.

By 1885 Rodin was completely obsessed with his young assistant: her feminine form, her unfamiliar accent, the mere scent of her. Initially, their affair was kept quiet, as Rodin continued his 20-year relationship with a woman who he also sculpted, Rose Beuret. Several biographies of Rodin exclude Camille altogether; one calls her "la belle artiste." She still lived with her parents, and her lack of accessibility was a major part of her charm for the older man.

in the studio

Rodin was a help and a hindrance in Camille's quest to finding herself as a young woman. In a questionnaire offered in a playful journal titled "An Album of Confessions to Record Thoughts, Feelings, Etc", she wrote the following:

Your favorite virtue
I don't have any, they are all boring.

Your favorite qualities in a man
To obey his wife

Your favorite qualities in a woman
To make her husband fret

Your favorite occupation
To do nothing

Your chief characteristic
Caprice and inconstancy

Your idea of happiness
To marry general Boulanger

Your idea of misery
To be the mother of many children

Your favorite color and flower
The most changing color and the flower which does not change

If not yourself, who would you be?
A hackney horse in Paris

Isabelle Adjani as Camille

Your favorite poet
One who does not write verses

Your favorite painters and composers
Myself

Your favorite heroes in real life
Pranzini or Truppman

Your favorite heroines in real life
Louise Michel

Your favorite heroes in fiction
Richard III

Your favorite heroines in fiction
Lady Macbeth

Your favorite food and drink
De la cuisine de Merlatti (love and fresh water)

Your favorite names
Abdonide, Josephyr, Alphee, Boulang

Your pet aversion
Maids, hackney drivers, and models

What characters in history do you most dislike?
They are all disagreeable.

What is your present state of mind?
It is too difficult to tell.

For what faults have you most tolerance?
I tolerate all my faults but not at all other people's

Your favorite motto.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Camille Claudel

The first time Camille left their cozy arrangement in Paris was a vacation to the Isle of Wight with her best friend. Free of her life in Paris and her intrusive family, she was on her own for the first time. She told her friends, "I have never had so much fun in my entire life."

Left to his own devices, Rodin was lovesick and upset, and he did not find his girlfriend's letters at all reassuring. He told her, "Don't let me be hurt like this by waiting too long." Their principal disagreement was over other women - Rodin's obsession with the female gender was all consuming. His friend Octave Mirbeau once said of him that "he could do anything, even a crime, for a woman." Once at a dinner with Monet he stared so forcefully at his host's daughters that they all left the table.

Unfortunately for Rodin, Camille decided to postpone her return to present one of her sculptures in Nottingham. She wrote him a savage letter that began, "You can believe I am not very happy here; it seems that I am so far away from you. There is always something missing tormenting me." This kind of behavior naturally only intensified Rodin's desire for her. In one of his typical lovesick letters, he wrote,

My poor head is very sick, and I can't get up any more this morning. Last night, I wandered (for hours) in our favorite places without finding you, how sweet death would be and how long is my agony. Why didn't you wait for me at the atelier? Where are you going? To what suffering have I been destined? During moments of amnesia, I suffer less, but today even the relentless pain remains. Camille my beloved in spite of everything, in spite of the madness which I feel impending and which will be your doing, if this continues. Why don't you believe me?

I abandon my Salon and sculpture. If I could go anywhere, to a country where I would forget, but there isn't any. Frankly, there are times when I believe I will forget you. But, in an instant, I feel your terrible power. Have pity, cruel girl. I can't go on, I can't spend another day without seeing you. Otherwise the atrocious madness. It is over, I don't work any more, malevolent goddess, and yet I love furiously.

My Camille be assured that I feel love for no other woman, and that my soul belongs to you.

I can't convince you and my arguments are powerless. You don't believe my suffering. I weep and you question it. I have not laughed in so long. I don't sing anymore everything is dull and indifferent to me. I am already a dead man and I don't understand the trouble I went through for things which are now indifferent to me. Let me see you every day; it will be a generous action and maybe I will get better, because you alone can save me through your kindness.

Today of course she would immediately post that on tumblr.

Mere expressions of love alone would not be enough to win Camille over. She was not involved enough to give herself over to a womanizer without some assurances. Eventually, Rodin was moved to draw up the following bizarre contract.

In the future and starting from today 12 October 1886, I will have for a student only Mademoiselle Camille Claudel and I will protect her alone through all the means I have at my disposal through my friends who will be hers especially through my influential friends.

I will accept no other students so that no other rival talent could be produced by chance, although I suppose that one rarely meets artists as naturally gifted.

At the exhibition, I will do everything I can for the placement and the newspapers.

Under no pretext will I go to Mme.... to whom I will not teach sculpture anymore. After the exhibition in May we will go to Italy and and will live there communally for at least six months of an indissouble liasion after which Mademoiselle Camille will be my wife. I will be very happy to offer a marble figurine if Mademoiselle Camille wishes to accept it within four or five months.

From now until May I will have no other woman otherwise the conditions of this contract are broken.

If my Chilean commission comes through, we will go to Chile instead of Italy.

I will take none of the models I have known.

We will have a photograph taken by Carjat in the outfit worn by Mademoiselle Camille at the Academie, day clothes and possibly evening clothes.

Mademoiselle Camille will stay in Paris until May.

Mademoiselle Camille promises to welcome me to her atelier four times a month until May.

Rodin

After the contract was signed, the momentum of the relationship shifted. Having agreed to her master's wishes, he possessed all the power. Camille deeply feared Rodin taking other women into his bed, especially the models that posed for him. Things were further complicated by the fact that Beuret, the mother of Rodin's son, found out about his concubine and began to loathe Camille. In response, he moved his mistress into an apartment near the Eiffel Tower.

The affair slowly fell apart after that. The last straw was Claudel's miscarriage; paranoid about the promises her lover had broken, the next decade found her destroying her own artwork and tearing down the presumably yellow wallpaper of her apartment. Although doctors would argue she did not belong there, at her brother's request she would spend the last thirty years of her life in an asylum five miles from Avignon.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about Battleship.

"Run the Banner Down" - Shearwater (mp3)

"Star of the Age" - Shearwater (mp3)

Thursday
May312012

In Which We Are The Last Of Our Kind

Home From Home

by RACHEL SYKES

There is a small tavern in the city of Veliky Novgorod known as “Sinbad’s Cave.” The sign above the front door swings low from two brass hooks, spelling its name in faded, gold Cyrillic. Its doorway opens onto a pitch-black staircase, warm with the smell of cucumbers and damp - inside the walls are crowded with fishing nets, plastic crabs, murky portholes and an orange tree. Although the walls are unmistakably cave-like and drip in the manner of their namesake, they are made only of the dankest plastic.

Sinbad’s is neither a cave, nor even partially underground. It sells discount perogis and high percentage beer by ambiantly manufactured cave-light. Locally, it’s infamous for providing its clientele with lighting so low that you can’t tell the colour or form of the bar food. As a drinking experience, this means that it probably rates lower than consuming a can of gin and tonic in a snow drift. But for seven months, Sinbad’s was the high point of many of my days. From work, it was a last point of contact before I picked up a kilo of dates from the elderly woman on the corner of Main Street and returned to my tiny bed, two streets further, to listen to my host brother sing “Material Girl” through the walls.

Seven years after the fact, I get told off for talking about Russia. This must be to do with what I returned as. A mass of hair grown to two feet in length, wooden beads around my wrist and neck, a Discman full of ripped CDs of Russian ska, I had Novgorod written across my body and was not afraid to force it into the eye line of others. In the months after I left, all my thoughts turned towards it, my entire body feeling like its reboot might need several years to take hold. For my even more luckless friends, it was the break-up I never got over. I would lie on student futons and talk obliquely about my “soul” and the “Russian winter” spent in Sinbad’s Cave, until the memories of this place, which I had seized in a moment but crafted only in retrospect, were formed out of the desire to make myself an other.

I remained in daily contact with a friend I had met there. It became strange how, more often than not, we did not recall the excitement of our time together. We didn’t mention the adventures around a city where everyone noted our privilege, the drug dealers who wanted to date us, the strange trips to the middle of Russian nowhere. It was the mundanity that we wanted back. The elaborate and immensely boring routine which we had carved for ourselves in what had seemed like a parody of the western world. This, to us, was what became remarkable.

My friend was a seventeen year-old Australian girl, shipped with me to Novgorod by a ramshackle teaching organisation and instructed to teach the English we quite obviously misunderstood. We met on our first day as teachers and fell quickly into friendship, the two of us very much in love with our dissimilarities. As teenagers, we were still shaping ourselves out of the shadows of others. We loved each other, for the cold winter in which we both turned eighteen, because being so very different made us ambitious for ourselves. We were friends because we were obsessed with our hormones.

“It’s spring,” she would say, scanning the men as we crossed the melting snow towards Sinbad’s. “All the animals are mating.”

I looked at her and would often nod very sagely, pretending to be neither British nor sexually awkward. I wasn’t quite sure that what she was saying applied to me, but I did know that I wanted her to think it did.

The city wall in Veliky Novgorod

So for seven months we sat together in Sinbad’s, or in a better lit café called only “GRILL” that sold chicken covered in cat hair. On bad days, we ate the chicken. But on good days, we drank vodka with a glass of peach juice, listing one hundred Australian terms for vomit and conjugating Russian on the side. On one of these good days, whilst constructing a manifesto on oral sex, my friend began a list of what she was seeking in The One. Bullet by bullet, we wrote each point painstakingly in English then translated into Russian, in the back of my teaching book, a bright notepad whose cover dramatically recreated the bedtime routine of a family of Russian mice.

“A former drug addict,” she said with the pen poised at her mouth. “That’s obvious. Also, a drug dealer swagger, a B.O. problem, and a disgusting amount of back hair. And I mean, disgusting.”

The only thing I knew with that degree of certainty was that I wanted to go at least twenty-four hours without falling over on the ice. As it was, I couldn’t imagine myself an ideal. I could barely conceive of anything to settle for.

As a reality that I was more comfortable with, we described our friends at home in exquisite detail. Eventually, there were no parts of our lives that the other did not understand. We could give a full description of every best friend we’d claimed since kindergarten, every boy we’d brushed the hand of, every pop song that made us feel mind-numbingly understood, as only good pop songs could do. We might never have left home; we made sure every part of it followed us to that cat-lined café.

Slowly, together, we wrote intricate profiles of our fellow teaching assistants. Pages and pages in length, it seemed as though missing any detail of their fledgling personalities would mean that their memory escaped us forever. We denied them the privilege in which we luxuriated, defining their personalities with damning solidity. Tearing off every sticker from every bottle of beer we drank, making blood brother promises to spend our lives meeting in countries halfway between our antipodean homes until the ultimate goal might be achieved: a tour of the Eastern bloc in our twilight years.

There was no doubt that this was the point to which our future would always return. And we had to remember every part of it for when we eventually came back, together, fifty years in the future.

Church of the Saviour on Blood, St. Petersburg

One of our Russian friends, Yulia, wanted to follow us back home. Yulia was infamous amongst our friends for her love of aerobics. Her infamy spread for one simple reason; when she introduced herself to strangers she began by saying: “I love to shape my body.” Repeated explanations of her body’s morphic qualities meant that we referred to her only as “Shaping” for six months. She claimed not to care. When we suggested she should visit us in either Anglo pole of the world, she would respond with a sigh: “Quite frankly, girls, this is the only reason I am being friends with you.”

Shaping had a game she liked to play. In the middle of crowded bars, she would tear us each a square of her plain white notepad and distribute pieces between us. “Close your eyes,” she would say, “close them tightly.” Then, placing a pen in our hands, she would ask us to draw a room with no windows or doors, the colour of a brilliant white. “This,” she would whisper in our ears, “this is what heaven will be like.”

As a party trick, it wasn’t a lot of fun. But if we didn’t play along, she would go off to her shaping class in a puff of anger, upsetting chairs and beer cans as she left. The game would last for about fifteen minutes and by the time we surfaced out of our trance, all we could see were white lights and phobias of death. Shaping told us that the aim was to find the most important thing in our lives, to focus our energies on what we cared for the most. She claimed her white room had to be some form of gymnasium.

In the back of one of our notebooks, my Australian friend wrote to me: “Here’s to a lifetime of meeting half-way between us, until the time we enter a white room with no windows and no doors.”

Months after we left Russia for the final time, we struggled to see ourselves in our notebooks. By the end of our short time there, I had fallen in and out of love enough times to feel, firstly, less British, and secondly, changed in a deeply fundamental but ultimately inexplicable sense that no-one at home would ever be able to understand. Outwardly I might look the same: same skirts, same woolly hats, same discount t-shirts with “MAKE TEA. NOT WAR” written across them in inoffensive pastels. But still, my world had expanded, unfathomably. If I was sure of anything, I was 99% sure of this.

The full terror of that remaining 1% was enough to ensure that my friend and I wrote to each other every day. Back in Australia, she felt like she was waking up from a seven-month hangover. I had half-heartedly started at university. Bulbous packages, some actually shaped like kangaroos, turned up at my halls of residence, spilling coasters of every Australian city over my textbooks. I sent back ill-formed letters, attempting to delicately balance first-year philosophy with explicit sexual content. I interpreted, revisited, cut and paste sacred parts of my diaries and scrap books, adding photos, CDs, and, unbeatably, excerpts from the five tapes of the dictaphone I had religiously carried. I had recorded impulsively and without discrimination, leaving me with tape upon tape of appalling in-jokes, accordion music, and depressing speeches from our superiors, whose job of teaching English expanded far beyond our seven month holiday in Veliky Novgorod.

In October, the month I started university, I got an email with the following writ large in the subject box. “ELENA SERGEIVNA,” it read, “IS NOT HAVING AN ASSISTANT THIS YEAR.”

St. Sofia's cathedral, Novgorod

Starting universities on opposite ends of the planet, we were running at everyday life with all the gravitas of an astronaut returning from space. About my year abroad I was casual and always cool in conversation. We had lived through a Russian winter, I would say, what can the north of England do to me? I was in danger of becoming one of the people that university guides warn you about. Empty bottles of vodka lined my tiny room, Soviet matchbooks lit the cigarettes of strangers, and a miniature accordion sat on my kitchen table. Sometimes, as if struggling for affectation, I still carried the Dictaphone.

In October, two months out of our English teacher guise, my friend told me that our role as teaching assistant no longer existed.

Elena Sergeivna was an English teacher who had married young to a man in the Russian militia. She taught the humanities pathway in our school in Novgorod, where the high achievers of the top year, we were told, would develop a fine grasp of English in order to become an economist in either New York, or Leicester.

“We expected poets,” we complained, “We get economists.”

As Elena Sergeivna repeatedly told us, teachers in Russia earnt as much as doctors. But doctors earned the least in the country. The teachers who did the most work still needed second jobs and would frequently ask us if we knew of anyone who needed a cleaner. Elena had finally decided to get pregnant. Now in her early thirties she would loop the following phrase: “I am only here until pregnancy.” We mourned the fact that a woman both so young and so unmotherly could soon be with child. She had assumed that two fully grown women would not need looking after; we, in turn, gave her no pity.

After we left Novgorod, we never heard from Elena again. But three months later, word somehow reached Australia that our former jobs had been done away with.

“We’re obviously not good enough,” my friend suggested, before rattling off an anecdote about the time we ate two litres of soup, ordered in a Chinese restaurant because we knew neither the relevant Chinese, nor the relevant Russian.

In England, I continued to tease and provoke relationships with my ex-teachers in ways that extended their every relevance to my world. I made sure if I had to leave Russia that most of the Russia I knew would come with me. It was inconceivable that I could be anything but the weirdest personality that my closest Australian friend had helped to cultivate through seven months in Sinbad’s Cave.

When I went on dates, I would say I was passionate about dried fruit and pickled cabbage. “As long as the dried fruit has been stored in two metres of snow,” I would add glibly. “I like ska-punk. And I like to pluck my eyebrows.”

I was nineteen years old. And Elena Sergeivna never had an assistant again.

Rachel Sykes is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Nottingham. This is her first appearance in these pages. She tumbls here.

"Too Tough (Saint Etienne remix)" - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (mp3)

"Strange (Totally Sincere remix)" - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (mp3)

Wednesday
May302012

In Which It Is Not A Foreshadowing Of Death

The Pendulum

by ISABELLA YEAGER

The following is pulled from research conducted by mathematician and historian Tacitus Dune in preparation for the lecture he planned to give at the University of South Edinburgh's 1985 "Techniques in Visualization" conference. It is not known whether the lecture was given elsewhere, but it was not, in the end, presented at Edinburgh. One possible reason could have been Dune’s declining health at the time of the conference – in 1982 he was diagnosed with a small lesion of the brain stem, and died on June 3, 1984. Another explanation, arguably more troubling, could be the fact that a quantity of information presented as fact has not been confirmed as true.

The text below – an incomplete timeline of the pendulum's development – was found among Dune's extensive collection of three-ring notebooks, into which he inserted reams of pages written on typewriter. 

CHINA, EASTERN HAN DYNASTY

The Chinese scientist Zhang Heng monitored the earth's stability with a seismograph comprising an urn, a lever, a ball, and eight frogs sitting open-mouthed at the eight points of the compass. Inside, an inverted pendulum that stirred with the earth struck the ball to rolling down, down a slope, into a gullet at the north, south, east, or west. The frogs waited while the earth slept, each dreaming of the day that his gaping throat might bear proof of the rod's tremblings and witness to the doom at hand.

photo by Marilyn Shea

17th CENTURY

Galileo Galilei came to understand that a small pendulum was a good visualization of regularity.

The time it takes a small pendulum to swing back and forth is its period and relies not at all on how far it has to go. So it is isochronous.

A part of the oscillator family alongside AC power, the pendulum operates in perfectly even time around a fixed point of stasis. Galileo and others found that this made a pendulum the ideal mechanism to keep musicians on tempo and to monitor the pulses of both anxious and unimpressed medical patients.

The regularity that Galileo made explicit with the pendulum clock anticipated another of the pendulum's known behaviors: the coupled oscillation that our Dutch colleague Christiaan Hyugens called "odd sympathy." Lying on his back in bed, at sea, in 1665, Hyugens observed two pendulum clocks strung from the same beam tend towards perfectly synchronized though opposing motion, and eventually guessed that this resulted from the accumulated influence of minute stirrings of the supporting beam. The pendulums became a mirror image of each other, each driving and being driven by the other. Under the influence of this same "odd sympathy," the two pendulums could fall still together, a phenomenon Hyugens, again slanting towards personification, called a "death state."

It was the realization that pendulum clocks swung at different speeds in different parts of the world that led to the discovery of Earth's oblatitude, or slightly elliptical shape. Records of gravity's strength collected at points along countless travelers' journeys combined to give us the correct dimensions of the earth. Via these measurements, Westerners came to understand lines of longitude and latitude (explicated in Isaac Newton's monograph Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica), and in so doing grasped the true meaning of the ancient Chinese expression "throwing a net over the world" – which they had until that point mistakenly used in conjunction with their own phrase, "The sun never sets on the British empire."

Galileo noted the pendulum's demonstration of simple harmonic motion, by which a system departs from and returns to equilibrium, and so determined that the pendulum performs both order and disorder. When this order-disorder relationship is visualized as a system acting in phase space, where all possible states of a system are shown, it yields this phase portrait:

18th CENTURY

Some say it is no coincidence that this portrait resembles a stylized map of the city of Paris: its dimensions, the assemblage of its arrondissements, and the placement of its main body of water. Using the same rationale that throughout literature attributes the presence of Indian burial grounds beneath remote American villages to sinister activity above, it's been well argued that the pendulum's model for departure from and return to equilibrium – more simply, for disorder – was built into the foundations of the city, and so can account for (and illuminate) some of Paris's major moments of political turbulence. 

One writer, taking this theory further than most, even posits that the careful reader can locate the pendulum's model for disorder at the heart of some of the French Revolution's better-known texts. Robespierre, he asserts, stumbled upon the idea for his treatise "Terror Is the Order of the Day" while gazing upon the family pendulum clock sitting on his writing desk.

It is not impossible to imagine a connection between the constant state of potential maintained in the pendulum and the potential energy (and a demand for the kinetic) found in statements like these:

Danton: . . . You have just proclaimed to all of France that it is still in a real and active state of revolution. Well, this revolution must be consummated....I therefore ask that you decree at least 100 million [francs] to produce all kinds of weapons because, had we all had arms, we would all have marched.

Despite steps taken towards grasping the nature of the pendulum as a timekeeper, scientists did not discover until 1721 that climate had the ability to interrupt the regular motion of the pendulum, as the rod expanded and shrank in response to changes in ambient temperature. It is believed that this margin of error may be the key to the odd circumstances surrounding the London-based Italian romantic painter Agostino Brunias and his three-year disappearance in the West Indies. Painting in the tradition of verité éthnographique, departed in 1770, after a spat with a fellow painter, for the West Indies, where it is presumed he remained until he made his sudden reappearance in Europe in 1773, bearing with him a great many oil depictions of Caribbean life and people, including the now-infamous "Barbados Mulatto Girl" and "Washing Clothes In a River."

Not long after Brunias's return to the continent, however, it became clear that he was himself quite disoriented, believing that only a few months had passed since his departure, and alarmed at the changed state in which he found his old haunts and the altered appearance of his friends. Thanks to the discovery of Brunias's journals, we now know that the painter kept track of time while traveling using an outdated pendulum clock that was not temperature-compensated, whose stem, in the damp heat of the Caribbean, warped and allowed almost two-and-a-half years to pass Brunias by unawares. With this information, it seems possible that any number of his contemporaries may have experienced similar phenomena, and that texts of the period ought to be examined closely for odd anachronisms that could indicate reliance on an uncompensated timekeeping device.

19th CENTURY

Edgar Allen Poe published his short story "The Pit and the Pendulum" in the 1840 edition of The Gift: A Christmas and New Year's Present. His interest in pendulums has to do not only with their narrative quality (as we see in "The Pit", the pendulum is the perfect prop for a slow-building horror tale), but also with their aesthetic relationship to duality and mirroring, of the sort present in Hyugens’ work. In the short story "William Wilson", in which a man kills his doppelgänger only to have his bloody reflection in the mirror inform him that he has slain himself, the partnership, or odd sympathy, that we find in Hyugens occurs in Poe’s use of the Double. Both William Wilson and the Double are mentioned in Borges's Book of Imaginary Beings. Borges writes, "Suggested or inspired by mirrors, the surface of still water, and twins, the concept of the Double is common to many lands." He goes on:

It seems likely that statements such as Pythagoras’ “A friend is another myself” and Plato’s  “Know thyself” were inspired by it. In Germany, it is called the Doppelgänger; in Scotland, the fetch, because it comes to fetch men to their death. Meeting oneself was, therefore, most ominous; the tragic ballad “Ticonderoga” by Robert Louis Stevenson recounts a legend on this theme. We might also recall that strange painting by Rossetti called “How They Met Themselves” – two lovers meet themselves at dusk in a forest. One need only mention other instances in Hawthorne, Dostoyevsky, and Alfred de Musset. 

For the Jews, on the other hand, the apparition of the Double was not a foreshadowing of death, but rather a proof that the person to whom it appeared had achieved the rank of prophet. This is the explanation offered by Gershom Scholem. A tradition included in the Talmud tells the story of a man, searching for God, who met himself. 

In Poe’s story “William Wilson”, the Double is the hero’s conscience; when the hero kills his double, he dies. In the poetry of William Butler Yeats, the Double is our “other side”, our opposite, our complement, that person that we are not and shall never be.

Plutarch wrote that the Greeks called the king’s representative the “other I”. 

-Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Imaginary Beings

The Double appears both as a catalyst of motion and development (Scholem) and as a herald of death (Stevenson, Poe). This tension recalls the symmetry of the coupled oscillator, which can both drive and halt the motion of its doppelgänger. If we label the two parts of the Double’s respective motion and stop with Hyugens's terms "odd sympathy" and "death state," the coupled oscillator seems like a perfect mechanical incarnation of the Scottish “fetch,” coming to fetch others to their death.

It was in Paris that Foucault suspended his pendulum from the dome of the Pantheon and showed the rotation of the earth in the first manner that didn't require celestial observation. Thousands flocked to see the device prove that the surface they stood on behaved in unseen ways.

20th CENTURY

In the late 1970s a progressive academy for advanced mathematics in upstate New York revised its assessment-based grading system in response to requests from students and parents. Until that point, the school had been using the simple pendulum formula devised by Galileo (see above) as means to appraise its students’ work, with T standing for the student's assessment result, 2π for the two-semester school year, L for ingenuity and g for net performance improvement. However, after pupils overwhelmingly complained that they felt unfairly limited by the use of a closed formula to judge the quality of their minds, the school issued a statement in their biannual newsletter to the effect that, considering the immeasurable and exponential capacities of the human brain, students should from that point forward be graded using an infinite series. Below is the infinite series developed by Galileo to represent the motion of larger pendulums, and adopted by the academy as an improved method for calculating its students' progress.

Here Dune’s timeline ends, and the entries following become highly disjointed. We can, however, gain a good deal of insight into his mental state from their content. Among the most coherent are these:

Tuesday, 5/29/84

In studying the pendulum I have come to appreciate in greater depth aspects that might fascinate anyone who stops to observe its regular motion, its elegant lines and its perfect, calculated weight; who considers its relationship to the eternal and the revelatory properties which have told us over time so much about the universe we inhabit. All these things drew me deeper into the study of its history but I cannot deny a growing alertness to a sinister quality that, when cast in a certain light, the pendulum might be said to possess. It is a generous instrument, providing much information to the onlooker about imminent disturbances in the earth, the passing of time, the shape of the globe on which we rest. It gives energy to its twin through the force of its own motion. It yields much. But in cases like that which Edgar Allan Poe illustrates so vividly in The Pit and the Pendulum, the device can also take a great deal from its viewer.

As the pendulum descends towards its victim in Poe’s short story, its destructive power lies as much in the blade fixed to its end as in its sapping the victim of sanity through its steady, repetitive motion. At its most extreme, hypnosis draws the watcher in, draining him of independent thought, of strength, and of motion. Oddly contrary to the mutually sustaining movement Hyugens described in his studies, this process is vampiric in the most classic sense. Considering this, I could not help recalling with some displeasure that Hyugens’ theories of were later disproved, and the two pendulums’ mirror movement attributed to other sources of energy, which, when sapped, caused them to fall still.

When I began delving into this history, I bought, for the purposes of research, a small pendulum that I placed on my desk and looked on daily. Seeing it there felt energizing, and my research and writing pushed ahead with a speed I had rarely felt. Soon I took to writing late into the night, having my meals at the desk, and finally to sleeping in my office, always with the pendulum angled so that even in sleep I faced it, since I discovered I slept more soundly – and often dreamlessly – this way.

Though was almost surely a result of close quarters and too many hours in front of the typewriter, I began to suspect my pendulum moved with a greater energy than it had in the past. But after a month or so of rarely leaving my study I myself began to experience a listlessness and, more disturbingly to me, an absentmindedness that made work difficult and sleep both appealing and unsatisfying. It was during this period that I reread Poe’s short story about the pendulum as a hypnotizing torture device and began to feel a sort of inexplicable chill when I looked at the one I had placed on my desk. I have now put it out of sight, on the bookshelf behind a row of books, but my energy goes on dwindling.

Saturday, 6/2/84

I cannot continue writing at this time. I have moved the typewriter to the bedside but will now pause for a few minutes to rest.

Sunday, 6/3/84

I have gotten out of bed finally to get some water from the kitchen. On my way back to bed I stopped at the bookshelf and moved aside some of the books I had placed in front of the pendulum. The pendulum has stopped.

Isabella Yeager is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She twitters here and tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about Rodin and Rilke.

"Hypnotized" - Spacemen 3 (mp3)

"Clamour" -  Glasser (mp3)