BUST DOWN THE DOOR!: An Orchestrated Execution

[EPILEPSY WARNING]

Dak0ta was not the only piece by Young-Hae Chang.

The drums and fast-paced, flashing narratives of her work returns in a piece known as BUST DOWN THE DOORS! Unlike Dak0ta, BUST DOWN THE DOORS! is available in four different versions, each with their own soundtrack.  By changing viewpoints in the narratives and changing the soundtrack, Chang changes the feeling and interpretation of each piece.

drums

Drums play

In the original piece, Chang starts with an omniscient narrator, who describes a group of people bursting into a person’s room, dragging them from their bed with his/her neighbors watching, and executing him/her in a secluded spot at gunpoint.  The narrator informs the reader that “you” are the one they are going to execute, and that everyone believes you are a traitor.  Oddly enough, “you” do not struggle to escape, but go along with the captors.  “Your” top priority is trying to remember a dream you had about your lover, not escaping death.

While the text flashes steadily at the screen, there is a steady, slightly arrhythmic percussive beat playing in the background.  The story begins with a countdown, adding to the feeling of something momentous about to happen.  The sound steadily grows louder and louder as “you” draw nearer to your death.  By the end of the piece, there are three rapid drumbeats, almost like the sound of gunshots.  The piece then loops again to the begin, starting another countdown.

with drums

“With Drums” version

Contrast this with the Drums version.  Here, the story is told from the invaders’ point of view.  The captured person is portrayed as pathetic and shameful, “covered in spit,” and his/her dream is never described.  The captors do not care about the captive’s dreams.  The background music is a rapid hi-hat that matches the rapid flickering of the text, as though the invaders are excited by the thought of executing the captive.  The piece ends on one final, triumphant tap of the hi-hat as the deed is done.

with strings

“With Strings” version

This is drastically different from the Strings version, which is told from the captive’s point of view.  The text slowly crawls down the screen, and the music is a strange, cacophonic swirl of strings.  The slow pace of the text and the odd music suggests a dreamlike state, as though the captive barely realizes what is going on.  The text slows down even further and grows larger as the captive recalls the dream of his/her lover, lingering on every word and detail.  This is the most important moment for the captive – not the catcalls of the neighbors or the mocking tones of his/her captors, but his/her one moment of happiness with his/her lover.  There is no sudden sound imitating gunshots – instead, the music slowly fades out as the piece ends, as though the captive does not realize he/she is dying.

Victoria Hall

Victoria Hall version

Finally, there is the Victoria Hall version.  This version is also described from the captive’s point of view.  However, the music and tone change drastically.  The music starts off with slow smooth jazz, and a glitchy computerized voice reads the words out loud, slowly emphasizing each word as though it is savoring them.  However, as the piece goes on, the music grows faster in tempo, and the computer reads the words more rapidly.  The rapidly increasing pace of the words sounds panicked, as though the captive does realize that the invaders want to kill him/her.  Remembering the dream becomes a matter of survival, not a source of comfort.  The poem circles around so quickly that there is no break between the beginning of the poem and the end, causing the computer to immediately read the beginning of the poem in a smooth, calm voice right after recalling the dream in a panic.

I would also like to add that the reader cannot control the pace of the text.  He/she is forced to read it at only one pace.  Just like the captive, the narrative is out of the reader’s control, and they are forced along for the ride by Chang.  I believe this adds to the tense, tragic atmosphere of all four versions – after all, in most digital works, the reader is used to have complete control over the text.  However, the reader may walk away with very different interpretations of the same event after reading it (and listening to it) in four different versions.

  1 comment for “BUST DOWN THE DOOR!: An Orchestrated Execution

  1. sarahjoy
    April 17, 2014 at 9:26 am

    This was really interesting to see different versions of the same story. I found that in the original one, the pronouns will actually change if you let it repeat itself. It went from omniscient abductor and second person abductee to first person, third person respectively (once with male pronoun, then with female), then it went to plural pronouns. I thought it was really interesting to see how changing the pronouns gave the story a different feeling. When there were multiple people involved, it actually felt more violent than when there were only two.

    It was also cool to see how little visual changes changed the feel of the piece in the other versions. In Drums, the screen would flash black for the briefest of moments. I thought it was incredibly annoying, but also that it reminded me of blinking rapidly to try and wake up or come to terms with something. In Victoria Hall, the screen flashed red instead of black and that reminded me of how in some video games when you’ve been shot and the screen turns red. Also, the red text in Victoria Hall made the story feel more gruesome, and more confrontational.

    And just because I was curious, I opened all four of the versions simultaneously to see if the different soundtracks would mix well. It didn’t create anything special, really. The drums were the primarily dominant sounds, with the strings sounding a lot softer and intermittent. I could barely hear the woman narrator from Victoria Hall.

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