. issue XIII : vii .

by barathron

. artist : ronnie cramer .
. album : sine fiction vol. XV) out of the silent planet .
. year : 2006 .
. label : sine fiction .
. grade : a .


Another Sine Fiction release, this from cult filmmaker Ronnie Cramer, is the soundtrack to C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet, a novel with plenty of anti-imperial and god-is-everywhere gooeyness whose protagonist is a tweed-wearing, bitters-drinking philology don at Cambridge on a walking tour of the English countryside. But this soundtrack occupies a rich sensory space unattended to by Lewis’ prose. Planet is florid with blooming cheeps and howls, lush underbrush vigilance, terrestrial sentience and calculating, animals yawning in organic ravines, and it transforms its moods with paced deliberateness, sloughing between circumstances as with real-time experience and giving an often-absent aural sense to Lewis’ compelling Martian landscape. Few sounds are mentioned in Lewis’ entire text. (Here’s the not-so-full concordance: English moor sounds; meteorites tinkling against the ship’s hull; introductory Martian landscape sounds, e.g. burbling water; rifle blasts in the initial pursuit; atmospheric burbling and chittering as Professor Ransom both escapes and explores; hissing streams; the Hrossa language; falling water and a gong; the flitting of the eldil; tapping and hammering on the stelae; hissing whispers (of the eldil); eldil whispers and meteorites on the ship’s hull.) But Cramer’s soundtrack decorously corrects the mistake.

“The Stars, Thick As Daisies on an Uncut Lawn” is grand, busy, and sinister, accompanying Ransom’s disoriented survey of space — ‘the heavens’ — from Weston’s globular ship. “The Hunted Man’s Irrational Instinct” occurs after Ransom’s befriended Hross (alien species) is poached by Weston and Devine; Ransom flees, sad and resolved; the song plays like a surreal ballet, a parade, a mash, a caterwaul, with searching lights and imminent danger. “Luxury and Squalor” refers to Weston and Devine’s treatment of the manor they use as their base; it’s all acute angles and contained, chilled though humming with the bustle of Martian life that represents their plan. “The Anti-Climax of Fourteen Compulsory Cold Douches” refers to that very British scenario in which Weston and Devine (‘the bad guys’) are ordered (by a ‘divine being’) to be dunked in cold water until they speak sensibly; early in the song, the aural pressure replicates their punitive baptism … and, later, a disapproving rustle greets Weston’s quintessentially corrupt confessional declaration. “The Love of Knowledge is a Kind of Madness” represents the empowered Ransom, slightly dissociated, who approaches the rational Martian Hross to communicate; there’s a publicity about “Madness,” a matador’s incredulous showiness, and the Hross language is presented … like arboreal shrews clamoring busily and with wary eyes. “The Good of Humanity and All That” marks when Ransom is drugged and kidnapped; it’s slow and nervous, all aflutter with the ethereal, metallic language of technology; the tone verdant, with a foreboding edge.

Though it’s a curious decision to order the tracks … out-of-order, there is a full arc of listening experience in Cramer’s Out of the Silent Planet. It’s an excellently crafted and much needed contextualization of Lewis’ novel. Rational though alien communication is the central theme, and Cramer achieves this shocking dichotomy: the listener has the feeling that they’re comprehending only a fraction of this speaking sound.

by Brittany Tracy