I press “play” on Soundcloud, then I press “play” on iTunes. There is a very quiet snare tap two seconds into the Flaming Lips’ Soundcloud stream that indicates when I am supposed to start listening to “Speak to Me”, the first song of Pink Floyd’s 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon. I crank the volume on my laptop, and I press “return” at the right moment. The recordings are synced.
High synth washes build with the first pulse of the record. They evaporate when the drums smash in, only to return a couple minutes later in the form of contrarian squeals. A few playful lines of bass wiggle around here and there as the song takes shape. I feel as though I am watching a very famous statue being decorated with silly string and glitter.
I’ve done the Dark Side of Oz thing before, but I’ll try it again: I bring up YouTube and scroll ahead a little ways in the video. I notice some coincidences. I wonder if I would notice some coincidences even if the movie wasn’t synced up correctly. I remember the time I watched Alice and The Wall, a video of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland synchronized with Pink Floyd’s The Wall, overdubbed with commentary from some witty teenage narrator. I wonder if I would notice some coincidences between this music and any movie ever made in human history.
What the hell: I shove Oz to the left side of the screen and fire up Netflix. I click on American Psycho. I mute the player. The drops of blood/sauce that decorate the title sequence fall more or less in time with “The Great Gig in the Sky”.
I feel like Oz has a greater affinity with Dark, while Flaming‘s brash synth blasts and uneasy bass lines fit more easily alongside Psycho‘s slow, voyeuristic camerawork. Both videos start to get choppy. I don’t think I’m synced up perfectly anymore, though there’s something serene about scoring Patrick Bateman’s morning ritual with a dementedly accessorized “Money”. It’s fun to imagine he has Floyd blaring on those cheap, plastic headphones. (Why are Patrick Bateman’s headphones so cheap?) There’s a moment where I’m not sure whether the Lips’ guitar line is supposed to be tracing the vocal melody ahead of time or whether I clicked “play” on iTunes too late. I’m simultaneously trying to figure out whether I’m looking at Freddie Prinze Jr. or Justin Theroux with a bad, slicked-back hairdo.
By the time I get to “Us and Them”, I’m starting to feel a little understimulated. I dig deep into my hard drive and find my four isolated full-album tracks of Zaireeka. I open all of them in separate tabs in Chrome. I scroll through the “gif” tag on Tumblr, lingering on those animations that fit the music best. The Lips’ infamous four-CD album starts hard. All three bass lines seem to be dueling blindly. The Netflix plug-in crashes.
I wonder how many people are syncing up Flaming Side of the Moon to Dark Side of the Moon right now. I wonder if there are enough people in the world that someone is always listening to Dark Side of the Moon. I wonder how long Dark Side of the Moon has been listened to continuously, if maybe it’s been playing somewhere, on different people’s stereos, since the ’70s or so. I wonder if there’s always someone watching American Psycho.
I bring up that one xkcd comic that blinks at different rates depending on how frequently something’s supposed to happen around the world. I see that human beings die at a faster tempo than the one at which “Brain Damage” is played. “Brain Damage” has approximately the same time signature as the rate at which airplanes around the world take off.
The album ends. My iTunes moves onto The Division Bell. Zaireeka‘s still cooing at me. Dark Side of the Moon takes up such a small amount of time compared to a human life.
Both Wayne Coyne’s voice and Pink Floyd’s piano settle into a melancholy key.
I watch the screen blink, hypnotized. I try to get my head around the fact that there are more births per minute than seconds. I wonder how many songs have as many beats per minute as there are human deaths per minute. I wonder how long recorded music has been playing without pause across earth. I watch the screen as “What Do You Want from Me” swells, and I notice that the human heart beats at approximately the same rate at which people get married. My computer runs out of system memory. The screen stalls and goes dark. I take off my headphones, shut the lid, think about going for a run.
Essential Tracks: the infinite and incomprehensible simultaneity of human life, “Us and Them”