Ambient Music While Reading I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
I have difficulty sleeping on most nights for no real apparent reason. Last night, in particular, could’ve been a result of eating chips with mango habanero salsa too late or from chymifying too much media from YouTube right before. It doesn’t matter one way or the other; it’s my reality regardless. While struggling to turn the page into the night world for an hour or so around midnight, I decided to get up from bed and read.
Reading has always held a special place in my heart, coming in varying enjoyment waves throughout the years. Last night, I read the short story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison. I’ve never read anything from Ellison but knew he was an iconic figure for his prolific and influential work in New Wave speculative fiction. This story specifically interested me on a subreddit discussion pertaining to dark science fiction stories—my favorite.
Whenever I read, I have a tendency to throw on an ambient piece of music. It doesn’t matter if I read for twenty minutes or hours, there is always music playing. Sometimes it’s through the speakers in my room; others with earbuds and headphones. Last night, I put my earbuds in and threw on Brian Eno’s The Pearl from 1984.
The Pearl features subtly treated piano textures with unusual electronic treatments and nature recordings. It’s a beautiful, serene, and surreal listen—a perfect ambient piece to go along with the brutal story of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. The story revolves around the Allied Mastercomputer (AM), a supercomputer that brought about the near-extinction of humanity with five humans remaining alive under AM’s control. AM’s sole semblance of pleasure is derived from torturing the group on a daily basis, and it’s bleak, to say the least.
I applaud stories that push the envelope on what can be said and done. Rather than caudle the audience and make it a feel-good story, it takes a different approach of impacting the reader with an afflicted and dejected emotion. I loved the story, and without spoiling it, I can’t recommend it enough. Regardless if you’ve read or plan on reading I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, try listening to music next time you read anything. For me, it helps paint the scenario a bit more in my head and becomes a score for the literature.
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