If I cannot inspire love, I will use technology to get it…
(Frankenstein’s monster, if he were the protagonist of this story.)
Solilaside. It means part soliloquy and part dramatic aside to you, my audience. I made up that word because in certain circles in Princeton, I am called a genius; that means I can create words. Geniuses do so all the time. My area of ingenuity is in psychophysiomusicology (I created that word, too, and its corresponding acronym PPM). I have written books on the subject. You may have read my best-selling doctoral thesis: “The Rhythm’s Already Got You,” by James de Bartolos, Ph. D.
My profession, in part, is why I am in this predicament I share with you. Like Freud and Jung of over a century ago, I am the father of PPM. I explore the effect of music on people’s mental and emotional states. If you have read Sachs, or Said, or Jourdain, you understand this concept. They, however, mainly report on the empirical, the studies of others, their own conjectures, and what others have “proven.” I, on the other hand, will harness this phenomena for the good of mankind. To this end, my office and sound-proof lab in the Princeton University Woolworth Music Center is supplied with equipment to play high-definition sounds and measure the impact on people. I am afforded the latest in electroencephalographic devices from Emotiv, Burdick, and Olimex. I have countless databanks of music from around the world. I designed a software program that correlates the music that illicits from listeners a strong positive or negative reaction. Yes, brilliant.
At Princeton University I hold the Dorman T. Warren Professorship of Psychology and the William Shubael Conant Professorship seats, but I teach no classes; I am a researcher with access to campus concerts and an assortment of musicians – virtuosi, teachers, students, visiting performers. I have easy access to McCarter Theater and Richardson Auditorium. I am a member of the academic elite, or at least I was until this incident.
My status on campus has been enough to attract women. Sure, they might be drawn to my height, 5’ 6” and my professorial girth of 180. I am single and just into my forties. Heretofore, for most women, that was enough, but not for Sophia Santos, Ph. D.
Sophia is beautiful: long, thick, pitch-black hair; deep, intense eyes, and a permanent tan, as part of her New Mexican heritage. She is a near virtuoso pianist. She is taller than I, but my status on campus accounts for at least two inches in stature. She is not thin, but not plump. She has settled into her body with grace, and she has a penchant for wearing low cut outfits.
I first saw her, secretly pledged myself to her during the university’s music faculty recital. Her selection of pieces said, “Come and meet me.” The first, dreamlike, jazzy, yet mysterious: William Grant Still’s Summerland. Then she played Rachmaninoff’s Morceaux de Fantasie, Opus 3, but what bound our souls together was when she came out later accompanying Wendy Connolly, vocal instructor, on Manuel de Falla’s Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas. It was not all seven songs, mind you, that entranced; it was the fifth song, Nana. Her total emersion into the piece told me everything I needed to know. She was sensual; she was passionate, and she knew those would appeal to me.
At this moment, you, my audience, might think me delusional. Yet, if you have studied, as I have, how PPM passes reason and control, you would see (or hear) her unspoken declarations to me through her performance. In fact, this is a perfect time to demonstrate my theories to you; listen to these compositions for yourself; imagine Sophia playing these pieces, eyes closed, head back, and her hair, a charcoal waterfall down her back. Then, you will hear her message to me. Go ahead, listen to them. I’ll wait.
Now, you clearly see her intent and why I acted on her invitation.
Meeting her was easy. Given my area of expertise, I had to meet all of the music faculty. I accidently “ran” into her at the Frist Gallery cafeteria on campus.
I sat next to her and introduced myself and my work. She was immediately intrigued; who wouldn’t be. I learned she was not married — perfect. Yet, before I could invite her to my studio, putz…with a capital P, so it’s Putz, joined us. He, Lawrence Woodley III, teaches music theory and guest conducts the Princeton Symphony Orchestra.
Conducting? What kind of talent is that? All he does is keep time and wave his arms to the music. I could accomplish the same task with a metronome and one of those inflatable dancing men. What is worst, I could see that he had already established a relationship with Sophia. Those gentle touches – his hand on her shoulder, his arm leaning into hers as they ate. Why, then, did she reach out to me during her performance? I surmised she needed to be rescued from Putz. The more I think of it, it’s PUTZ! I realized she wanted me to deflate her over inflated dancing man, and I would!
Serendipanicity: this term, a combination of serendipity and synchronicity means opportunity meets brilliance. I decided I would serendipanicity her away from PUTZ. Given my prestige, I should not have had to resort to such conniving, but I did not know how far their relationship had progressed, and I did not want it to progress any further.
The Plan: Step one: I used my foremost knowledge on the impact of sound on the mind and body to help my dear Sophia liberate herself from PUTZ and into my arms. Given my research, I have a long list of songs that make listeners, how shall I say, more receptive to suggestions, songs such as Debussy’s Claire de Lune, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Weber’s Adagio for Strings, and Led Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven, even Louis Gaste’s Feelings (as sung by Morris Albert, naturally). Selections made, I skyped my long-time “aloof” associate, Porter Fisk.
Porter Fisk, an ex-Princeton fellowship student, worked with me a few years ago. His foot-long, greying beard made him look like a one-time member of ZZ Top, only exiled because he got too fat, and he does love his t-shirts and overalls. He is a classic “live in his mom’s basement” nerd. However, both of his parents are dead. They left him the house and a considerable amount of money, so he lived in his own basement playing on-line video games and watching illegally down-loaded movies. Geek though he is, next to me, he has the best privately-owned recording equipment on the east coast.
I did not have to explain subliminal messaging to him. Even you, I am sure, have seen these motivational recordings with subliminal messages to get people to stop biting their nails or lose weight. Some work and some don’t because the subliminal message producers don’t know what I know. They are lazy and not willing to individualize their products. Synching sound to body and mind is at the heart of my research, or will be as soon as I work out a few of the glitches I have encountered. Glitches aside and fortunately for me, by playing at the faculty recital, Sophia told me exactly what sound combinations to use on her.
For the verbal message to Sophia, I had to be direct. Subtlety does not work in such efforts. For example, if the message were: “Dr. de Bartolos is cute,” that spurs no action for a lasting, intimate relationship. Besides, she probably already saw me as cute. I started my message with my “What makes me special” qualities list from my bathroom mirror. Those words describe me perfectly. Now, the message had to be more direct, more sensual.
I sent Porter the music, the list of descriptors, and a message stating: “James, you are the most desirable man I know. I want you now. I will want you until you say it’s over.” That last statement was just in case things soured, for me.
Later, when he returned the recorded file to me, he assured me of its quality, noting he listened to it several times, and even he could not detect the synthesized voice of James Earl Jones’s stating the subliminal message.
Step two: In order for subliminal messaging to work, it has to be played on digital high-definition equipment. I have such equipment — in my home, my office, and my Jaguar XK, so I would have to get Sophia into one of these places. Serendipanicity. Within a couple of weeks I was scheduled to give a lecture at the Princeton Garden Theater at Nassau and Vandeventer. For my lecture’s theme, I needed a musician to demonstrate certain tonal combinations. Guess whom I asked to join me?
Step three: I cleaned up my house for company because I knew this would work.
So, there it was, the perfect plan.
Sophia lives in a duplex near the Princeton Shopping Center, the one with several restaurants. However, to thank her for helping me, I took her to an early dinner at Eno Terra in Kingston. The ride to Kingston and then to the theater would be far enough for the recording to have its desired effect.
My Jaguar’s XK’s Bowers and Wilkin’s 525 surround sound system is first-rate. As soon as Sophia sat in my car, I started the music. I slowly made my way through Princeton neighborhoods. She complimented me on my musical selections, not knowing she was responsible for my choices.
I had no monitor on her, but I could tell something was working. It started with her sitting back in her seat and taking deep breaths. Seeing this, I relaxed more. I was pleased with my own cunning. When she looked at me, there was a warmth that was pleased with me, too. Serendipanicity.
As we walked into the theater, I felt more than the quiet anticipation of the audience. Sophia pressed to my side as we walked. I walked her over to the piano and nearly hoisted her off my arm and onto the piano bench; I probably should have waited until after the lecture to unleash my spell.
I was introduced and began my lecture. Sophia was distracted throughout. Off center stage and away from the spotlight, the audience could not see her winking and mouthing flirtations at me, so her reputation is intact, I am sure. It is when I realized she was right, that I am desirable, and I openly said that to my audience, that my reputation was the one stained. When the moderator tried to bring me back to the point of my lecture, I insisted in front of all, that I was the point of the lecture. She politely ended the presentation before Sophia played one note.
I wish that I could tell you that all went well after that and that Sophia and I are together deeply in love, or in deep lust. Here is the truth:
Taking Sophia home, I inadvertently allowed the music to play. She invited me in, but I was far too sexy for her, so I left her, pining for me.
At home, all I could do was admire myself in the mirror. It was not large enough; I would have to buy more. Near midnight, my doorbell started ringing. Through the door’s peephole, I saw Sophia pacing, then ringing, then pacing.
I understood her state of mind, but I needed to be alone, with me. An hour or so later, the periodic doorbell ringing was replaced by heavy pounding. It was more disruptive, so I swung open the door. There stood Porter Fisk, saying: “James, you are the most desirable man I know. I want you now. I want you always….” He barged past me before I could close the door.
John Kizzie has a small business in Princeton on Nassau Street called the Guitar Lesson Spot. He also teaches guitar at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown. He and his wife have a daughter who lives in Rhode Island.