1st place winner
From: "Ana Silva" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I think that the story behind the creation of the album "MACHINA \ the machines of God" is based on some main ideas, those ideas being Love ("the energy behind which all is created") as something divine, sacred and universal; evolution and self-improvement; unity and individuality; syntony with a Higher force; and a battle against a world that doesn't understand and rejects the truth, the enlightenment that these ideas may bring to those willing to hear them·in short, a superficial world. The story is about two main characters, Glass and June, yet it is universal, for their tale is representative of everymen's search for the truth, for meaning to their life, for guidance from a superior being and for a love that justifies their existence.
June and Glass are eternal, destined lovers (what many call "soul mates"). They complete each other, and represent the feminine and masculine forces within all things. They are one ("you're a part of me, eternal one") and even before they were cast into this world, they were together, in a perfect union, in a place above space and time as we can see in Plate I and read in "Glass and the Machines of God "their fates had intertwined long before they were lovers, their moment extending back before their eyes first met, and that bond was eternal".
The lovers' immortal souls incarnate and are cast into this world. Plate II, "The soul as living proof", is representative of the immortality of the soul. In nature, nothing disappears, nothing is lost, and everything changes. So why would the human soul be any different? The two lovers now live in this world, but separately, and they dream of finding each other. Love is what allows them to be wise, to perceive a deeper meaning in the Universe, to be closer to that superior intelligence that some call God, others Shiva, other Jehovah· Without June, Glass is Zero. He is lost, he is in pain, and he aches and longs for her. June also feels lost in agony and incomplete without her other half. She is faithless, she is hopeless; "she had no faith but that which destroys and she had only known herself in coarse mirror". Bur even before they met, they were spiritually connected. In plate III, "The chemist brings spark", we can see Zero living in a world that's torn apart, a world full of hate, emptiness, despair, frustration. However, he is above that world because he has faith, he hopes to find the ideal on perfect, absolute and unifying Love that he longs for. The idea of June is always in his thoughts (the girl above his head). He hopes to be saved from his pain ("because it is with faith and faith only that one justifies the reach") Without that faith, it would have never been possible for him to hold on, to keep going. That is why we can see the sentence "Nil sin Deo" (nothing without God) in Plate III. Without God, the faith in a higher force, in a divine Love, something beyond life, a purpose to his existence, Zero wouldn't have been able to hold on. Faith was all he had (could you believe in heaven, if heaven was all you head") As I said, Zero lived in agony. He had been unhappy since his childhood. But somehow that pain was making him stronger and preparing him to be unified with June in the future, even though be didn't realized it and the time.
Zero decides to make the best he can with his pain, so he shares it with those who like him suffer and are lost ("to curse one's very existence is a kind of powers, especially if you can decide to make the best of that hate, to fuel that anger with the necessity of resignation and purpose· to cloak your pain and fear in the language of sound, in the poetry of devotion·"). He sings out his despair, aching for June ("she's the one for me, she's all I really need out"), begging her to come and save him ("pick your pockets full of sorrow and runaway with me tomorrow, June"), asking her not to take too long to appear in his life (" Bye June, I'm going to the moon, hope you'll be there soon"); but also, he is seeking his identity, his true self. Zero is lost not only because he hasn't found June yet, but also because he hasn't found himself. So he sings: "I just want to be me". Zero goes on, sharing his troubled soul with the world, being "loved" by many who see their own pain in him, but he is bitter and full of rage. He cannot see or accept the beauty of pain (for both shadow and light can be beautiful), he is not in syntony with the superior force (he sings: "God is empty just like me").
But one day, it finally happens. June and her lover are finally reunited (as we can see in Plate V, "desire holds the moment still"). He finally found her, the "one for him", everything he "wanted and asked for", his angel, his savior, a love so true and pure· June, the purifying element that releases him from all the rage the world made him feel ("away with everything you've grown to hate").
And their divine love "catches the gaze of a supreme intelligence, watching them and nodding a silent approval". Now that they are together, a new path begins, a path that will lead them to enlightenment and fulfillment. Their love opens their eyes to a knowledge that they couldn't see before, they become able to see a deeper meaning to all things, and they become closer to God ("In you I taste God"). However, the path is still long and tough. What most people seek in others is nothing but a reflection of themselves, and to truly love another being, one must be entirely aware of ones identity so that the other being can be loved for what he/she truly is, and not for reflecting oneself. So the path that the two lovers had to follow was also the path of self-discovery. Before they discovered and fully loved one another, they had to discover and accept themselves. Only then would they be ready for a supreme Love, who would transform Zero, the lost one, the disenchanted, into Glass, the enlightened one. But changing is never easy, especially in a world that does not care for changes.
Zero was "loved" by a crowd of disenchanted souls who shared his former pain, who could relate to this anger. Now he wasn't Zero anymore, that he wasn't aching, but he felt a certain obligation to keep on singing for them, not to disappoint those who supported him. In plate VIII, "So empowered, the lovers negate the blinding brilliance of love", we see Glass holding the knife with which he used to "cut open his heart" and "bleed his soul". It his hard for him to evolve, to stop being Zero after a lifetime of pain, but he can't do it anymore, he can't fake it and he can't live to please a world that cannot be pleased for "the world is a vampire" insatiable.
He realizes that his followers didn't truly love him. What they loved wasn't real, for Zero was not real it was only a shadow of his true self. What they loved was their own reflection in him ("They saw him surreal but he was as real as they needed him to be"). Zero was just "humming someone else's favourite song". Glass also realizes that though he can't please them, he can try to lead them into the light and make them hear his new message a message of pure and universal love. Meanwhile, June is also having troubles in the path of self-discovery. She doesn't know just how powerful she is, and how her love is meaningful to Glass. She has lived all her life in pain, so she became addicted to it. She was addicted to her misery, addicted to the darkness she had lived in and she had to be released from it. Glass was the one supposed to save her ("first time that I ever saw you, cracking hard thru days of pain, you were one of Gods children, left to cry out in the rain, waiting to be saved again") But at first Glass was still connected to a past where he used to sing for the disenchanted so he couldn't devote himself to their love - not yet· June felt lonely and wounded by the world. In Plate IX we can see her lost in her agony. Her pain was like spiders "crawling up inside her", while she waited to be healed by Glass's love ("and every little spider that crawled up inside her was waiting for my phone call"). She had only known the dark side of life, but finally she found light and learned to accept herself.
Both Glass and June had been "fueled with anger", inspired by their pain. In Plate XIII, "Torn inside Machines of light", we see that though the two lovers are together; they haven't reached the light yet. They are still connected to the pain from their past. But finally they realize that the light, the wisdom they were achieving, can be just as inspiring as the pain the felt, only in a different way. After discovering themselves, Glass and June can surrender to their absolute and holly love, a love that heals the soul. Glass is "reborn as child" (pure) and "mystic sage".
However, the wisdom he achieved was only the beginning - The beginning of a new path. Glass became able to see life and the universe as a whole, to see the beauty of its unity and its diversity. And he felt that he must share his wisdom with those willing to hear his message, to those able to understand. He's a messenger from God (mercury), for his words can lead those who understand them towards the light even though one most walk such a path on his own, Glass can bring faith to those who listen. So he and his band (The machines of God) keep on singing for those who are able to understand them - the ghost children ("these words were intended for them and their only"). Their art is now very different once Glass was changed by Love and self-discovery, his art also changed. The message is sent out in an encrypted way so that it was only visible for those who really seek it, those willing to understand ("we spoke in rhyme and riddle· not for fear of detection (·) but rather that those who had secretly wished to be spoken to were"). Alchemical symbols are used as a metaphor in this story because the alchemists' main goal was to reach spiritual evolution, this evolution being achieved through the union of the feminine element (mercury) and the masculine element (sulphur). Also, the ancient alchemists would encrypt their work to hide them from those who couldn't possibly understand it.
So spreading this message becomes Glass's purpose. He believes to be guided by that superior force previously mentioned ("·everything I operate on is based upon what I believe God is telling me to do·"), a force that once perceived makes us realize that beauty resides on everything, that one must achieve balance between grief and bliss, shadow and light. Glass learned to accept life and he wants to show others that they too can learn it. He is "never alone" and finally "the sun is shinning on him".
But what is exactly this force? What is what so many call God? One cannot know for sure. Glass cannot define who this force/being is ("who are you, this time, are you one of us, flying blind·"), but he knows he is following the right path ("and if there is a God, I know she's watching me, she says she likes what she sees·"). But whatever it is, we are all a part of it. Maybe God is just as blind as us, maybe he cannot explain where life came from, or maybe he knows it all· But either way, his manifestation is within us. God is refered as both "He" and "She", what suggests that he/she is unity, is totality, contains both masculine and feminine forces, as well as all the opposite forces that rule the universe. Plate XI, "The I of the radio", is a reference to God. The radio is used as a metaphor to represent this supreme intelligence because its "waves" cannot be seen but can be received by each and every one of us. And it "always plays your favourite song" because you can decode that force, you can access that force in many many ways love is the supreme way, but even love presents itself in so many forms, has so many faces and most likely you will decode it in the way that means more to you, the one you feel closer to your favorite song. The radio is communication with a higher power that we all share. As for the dichotomy I/Eye of the radio· I think it contains one of the most important ideas of this play. The I of the radio· as I said, we are all a part of a higher power that unites us, but still, we are ourselves· we are unique. Even though we are a part of a whole the universe, mankind, God our true beauty resides on our individuality. That higher force resides on life itself, on nature, on every living being, and of course, within us. And the only way we can fully understand it, feel it, taste it is by finding how it manifests in us. Getting in touch with our own soul is getting in touch with God, and getting ready for Love, the holiest of all things. As we can see in chapter 6, "the I of the radio celebrates your individuality"; "you are important". As for the "Eye" of the radio, it means that we a part of that superior being ("I am the radio, you are the radio, we are the radio"). So it sees and feels the world through us, it looks at us as we look at ourselves and at each other's. God sees everything because His eyes are the eyes of each and every living creature, so when we see something, the supreme intelligence is seeing it too. We are all very different (individuality) but we also have something in common (unity). This idea is represented by the structure of the play. Just like we are all different but a part of something higher, also the several parts of the play (the chapters, the songs, the lyrics, the plates) have their own meaning and focus on their own ideas, but are a part of a higher idea that comes together as they all unite. But the I of the radio isn't the only "I" referred. There is also the "I of the mourning".
In my opinion, this means that pain (mourning, crying, aching) makes one get deeply in touch with oneself. Pain makes one feel more alive than ever. Whatever hurts becomes the center of the reality, the thing we focus on. When he was in pain, Glass got in touch with himself, and his mourning helped him to discover himself. Now he "makes a toast to life" because "he has survived", for his mourning is over and he learned through it.
Glass and the machines of God spread a message through music, according to what Glass believes to be what God is telling him to do the right thing to do ("I always assumed that the voice I hear is the voice of God"). They have a mission, a very hard one. Most people do not accept the new form that Glass's art has assumed, or care to hear his message. Those who used to listen to him are still wrapped in their pain, still lost, still unable to understand. Our world is a material and superficial one, who does not care for ideals. And the music industry that once seemed to support him is also rotten. Music, which was supposed to be a form of light, is becoming a shallow and meaningless thing. It is becoming a business, only. The industry only cares about profits, music must sell more and more and more and all they seam to be interested on now is boys bands with nothing to say or angry, lost, noisy and aggressive bands with nothing to say as well bands that seam to stand for destruction instead of creation, anger instead of love. Music is becoming an ordinary thing ("Everyone's gonna be a big star"). Glass realizes that the music business only wants to use him and his pain for their own profits, they do not care about him and want him to whore his ideals (""cause when you're hypnotized they'll spin gold and paint you black with the blood of your surprise").
Glass seams to be fighting against the whole world, for no one seams to understand ("yeah, nobody understands, yeah, that we've made our planes") or even care ("no one could or ever would hear the full secrets of glass"). And it is hard for him to keep his fait·has the whole world become plastic and shallow? ("Can anyone be true?"). Sometimes he doubts himself ("bracing against the inevitable doubt"). Does he really have a mission? "What if I'm insane?" It seams like the only thing he stands for is "a broken ideal for which no rewards are given but grudging respect". He fears the possibility of giving up in a moment of frustration and despair. But he must go on, he "kept swimming upstream", even knowing that he'll only be understood by few, that he won't be as adored as before. But that doesn't matter, that cannot matter, for he stands for something higher than that. "Vanity must die". He is afraid to lose control ("get on, get on, you've lost control", he is afraid of being used by the music industry. They wanted him to stay forever in Zero's shoes, because more people could relate to Zero· to being lost. Our society tries to use pain, disenchantment, hopelessness to make profits ("a culture and civilization that makes money on our differences to exploit what we want most To belong"). So society doesn't want the truth, society doesn't want enlightenment. The truth does not make money. Society pushes those who seek the truth deep down because they don't want the lie upon which its structure is build to be proven wrong. We are supposed to be lost and angry. They use our own agony as a drug to control us. They make us become addicted to it, and they make the discovery of the path of light even harder than it already is. But Glass fought against this lie, and he "betrayed" music industry ("all alone in my soul I betrayed rock and roll").
Fortunately, there are still those who listen, those who believe. The ghost children believe, care and seek the truth. They want to hear the message. And we give Glass faith, just like he gives us. Glass feels that since there are a few whose souls can be touched by his words, then the fight is worth it. The ghost children made him realize that this war is worth fighting, so they became "a part of him", even "if he falls", they already realizes how important the message is.
The ghost children haven't found the light yet· Glass can lead them towards it, but they most follow their own path. They are named "ghost children" for they are pure, they are receptive, they aren't adulterated, but they are still pale as ghosts, they still follow Glass instead of their own ways ("I am a stranger to you as you are to yourself they haven't fully discovered themselves yet). But once they achieve the full meaning of his message they will learn that they must follow their way and fight their own revolution.
And what is Glass but a reflection of what others see in him? He is once again a mirror that the ghost children used to reflect their own soul. But now glass is shattering ("shattering fast I'm glass I'm glass"). As the mirror breaks, the illusion is broken. Once the true meaning of glass's message is known, the ghost children will distinct his message from the reflection of their own soul. They will not only listen to the message but also perceive their own souls more clearly. They will no longer be "ghost" children.
Glass is not only a mirror, but also a vessel. He contains divine wisdom and must try to spread the message. Glass realizes that he is not the first one to have such mission and will certainly not be the last one ("the voice says you are one of many more to come"). He has done his work, he sung to those willing to hear, and it is now time for him to find peace. He carried the cross, he fought in this war, and now it is time for someone else to carry it on, for his mission has been fulfilled. It is time for him to walk away with his other half and "stand inside her lover" forever for their love is eternal ("I am one of many more to come, love is everything I want"). The love from those who listen to him may not be eternal· Glass knows that one day he may be forgotten. However, his words will last forever. "The echo rings forever on". His words symbolize some universal concepts that all should know, and maybe throughout time more and more will understand the message. The symbols he used are eternal.
In plate XII, "In all things the symbols reign supreme", we can see a symbol that is related to purification and contact with a higher force. We can also read the sentence "It is finished when seven are one". The number seven symbolizes a cycle that ends and another one that begins, and something that is concluded in perfection. The 7th album, Machina II, Friends and enemies of modern music (enemies being the rotten industry that is perverting music's true essence), is the closing of the cycle but also the coronation of a work. The message is sent; the cycle ends in perfection, but will repeat itself endlessly, for someone else will stand for the same ideals. We also have 7 chapters in this play· together they form one main idea. Once again, we see unification. Something that united is eternal. The symbol we see in plate XII is an universal one. Therefore, others can use it to transmit the same message or an identical one. All the concepts in this play can be seen from many angles, approached in many different ways. Perhaps some will see the symbol upside down, transmit the message in another way, but it is still the same. The symbols reign supreme, last forever and remain the same no matter how the idea they represent is approached. As I previously mentioned, Glass's work is done and his mission is fulfilled. Though he knows that many will never understand it, he also knows that some were deeply moved by his words. Some will carry on the revolution and though "he was a general leading them into war that him and they knew they could never win", because it is hard to fight against the masses, they still tried, because trying is making a difference ("still they fought to love·").
In plate VI, "As the machines resume", Glass and the machines of God are waving goodbye to the ghost children ("as the curtain falls we bid you all goodnight"). They are walking away but the machines of God will resume, will restart, for someone else will be the messenger from that higher power.
In plate XVI, Glass is walking away, into the light. He has come to the end of the path he had been walking, and now he will live in peace and love unified with June, knowing that "This echo rings forever on", knowing that his mission was accomplished. And maybe one day he will live again in a place above space and time, united with his other half, and near all those he loved ("that night he dreamed of his mother young and beautiful and she told him many secrets, mostly about love·"). This tale is an eternal one, for its story repeats itself over and over and over again. There is always someone who knows the truth, there are always those who won't listen, and there are always a few who want to find the light. And there is always Love. Love is eternal and universal for it is what everyone is meant to find. And in the end "only love will win". Hopefully, more people will find real love, and through it, be purified and find a profound knowledge. In the end only love can win.
2nd place winner
From: Charles Roig
A Simple and Eternal Story: The Meanings of Machina By Charles Roig
The story behind Machina/ The Machines of God is exactly as it is first introduced, in the excerpt of Glass and the Ghost Children included in the CD's liner notes: a simple and eternal story, long played out through human history. It is the story of human beings and their attempts to get through a mysterious and painful life, and dramatizes, through music and stream of consciousness excerpts, the perils and joys of existence. The plot can be drawn mainly from the excerpts of Glass and the Ghost Children, with needed information provided by the songs and art plates. The songs of Machina don't further the plot so much as provides a soundtrack to it, adding the emotional weight and the philosophical introspections of the characters. The story of the album depends upon a simultaneous appreciation and consideration of these three pieces of art. Excerpt 1 introduces the story as Glass' story. It is the story of a boy and girl, but it is mainly Glass' story. Glass sin in a band, the Machines, and the excerpt describes one of their performances. They are giving themselves over their love of music, a pure love of performance, and the gaze of God is drawn down. One of Glass' fans, June, is at the concert. She and Glass meet, and being their love. June is thus a particular character, Glass' love, as well as a symbol for all who would hear and are touched by Glass' music. June is very much a product of her times, aching to belong and scarred by materialistic society. She has no faith but that which destroys, a pessimistic fate that everything is eventually horrible. She only knew herself in coarse mirrors, in reflections not genuine that returned an image depraved that was not the truth but which she embraced nonetheless. She was fickle, giving her self unto whatever could incite her soul for the moment. She does not play herself, does not follow her true self; instead, she looks for completion, in earthly contrivances and societal machinations. One such machination is drugs, and she is opium eyed and gouge mouthed. She lived this way because she had bought into the idea that told her everything was dead in the world. She followed these dark ways in an attempt to find peace, but the darkness she had experimented with ultimately overwhelmed her. She was linked to Glass, beyond time and creation somehow. They were reflections of each other, begging reflections finally found but still eternally just out of reach. They had been predestined, and everything in their lives led to the formation of their beings such that they would come to this moment and meet. They were but machines of God, following his mysterious plan unknowingly. So it is with all human beings, all God's machines. The story of Machina is merely the tale of one machine, Glass. The plight of the machines is to raise their lights, their soul, in some manner to gain the approval of God, to draw his everlasting gaze. The gaze and approval come silently, and one can never know if it is being drawn; maybe when we die all the answers will be revealed, but who can say? There is not guarantee, so there is no proof that all we do is for naught. But there is faith, and faith alone sustains us through this life of pain and joy, alternating g randomly and unequally. Faith alone sustains a torn inside machine of light on its path to purity, for there is only faith alone and nothing else to confirm. Fleeting moments that beg awe and suspicions, fleeting moments of coincidence and dreams, voices heard inside and intuition, these fleeting moments, always questionable, are the only things a machine of God has to suspect there is some divine plan.
So it is with Glass. He had his voice, disembodied with no claim, but were the sounds his? Was this God speaking through him, to him, or merely his own delusional madness? And if the sounds were not his, was he merely a machine, with no will of his own? This is the question that plagues Glass, and it plagues all the machines in some form or another. The question forever lingers unanswered, of course. Meanwhile, Glass surveys his efforts and their effects. His grand schemes and sincere attempts of communication of his soul, reduced to mere ceiling thumbtacks and kids clamoring for more and more. He'd become a part of the machine that is materialist society, he'd become just another fad to which the hopeless kids tried to find meaning in. He was made a mouthpiece for what ailed them, singing for them, when all along Glass had been striving to sing to them, disintegrate all his life's travails in an effort to communicate himself. To belong.
Amongst these ruins, our hero dies zero, and finds a dead station moving static code. The radio, the medium always used to communicate with God, has gone dead. The voice inside tells him he is but one of many more to come, in unending time.
Excerpt II deals with Glass' actions following this revelation. Glass retreats, retreats from his failed schemes and the ghost children, his fans who would not hear his full secrets, seeing only him and his messages in a surreal light, filtered through their own needs. They used Glass to belong, while all along Glass was using them to the same end. Being the initiator of the communication, Glass could see it for the sham it was. His echo sent back, their love returned only obscured reflections of his own love for them. He was their leader, leading them into a war of sincerity and love against a materialist society that traded commerce on the exploitation of these very things. But the movement was revealed for the sham it was, and Glass was tired. He sought a place to once again call home. He retreats home, in exile, to ponder what went wrong. He listens to the radio, hoping for a guiding hand, but God returns only static. Still he waits, machine that he is, for the order that may never come. Signs pointing to the correct direction, signs such as the weight of his self imposed exile indicating that this was not what he should be doing, plagued him, but still he swam against the flow of current, against the radio static, like the dumb fish and rebellious machine he was. In rebelling against God's plan, he was stagnant, a lone hermit surrounded by the ever-increasing stench of his own refuse. Finally, the universe cries to him, "A mystery I am, and you must find me. First, if this game is ever to being, in faith there is all power, in love all faith, every action a pebble dropped into the clear pool of humanity, rippling forever on until the waves became indecipherable and unseen. What seems like confusion becomes order of the highest magnitude." And so the universe tells Glass, in clear terms, that he is not to reason why. The enigma that is the universe, that is God, the unraveling of that mystery, is the point of life. But the only means to unravel that mystery is in faith, in faith in God and following his plan. The ways to faith lie in love, love of another, love of life, love of dedication to your life. To live fully is to love fully, for in living without reservation or doubt, one loves life. Human action becomes meaningful, for every action we do, even in exile, has an effect on these other machines of blood and flesh. And just like the cacophony of waves a body of water becomes under a hail of pebbles, so is the pool of humanity a seeming chaos, acted upon by every particular human's action affecting the whole pool. Ours is not to reason why, for we are merely the machines of God, unable to see, being in the center of it, the grand design we are a part of. We are but the cogs and God the watchmaker. It is only ours to continue on our purpose, to play our part in the grand design, and to trust in faith in God and depend that all will turn out right tin the end. The seeming chaos of hour human interactions is really a preordained order construed by God, in his mysterious ways. Glass reasons and believes in this, and in that belief a mask of himself falls off . . . only to reveal another mask. Glass realizes how insignificant human men are, though they claim power and mystery over all. It was a sham, for human were but just another facet of the great mystery, mysteries even to themselves.
Part III reexamines the mystery of Glass, reaching into his childhood, showing how this life of pain is engineered to be part of God's plan. In the air of existence, there hangs an implied violence, a dull ache of life. This ache molds a person. The pain is such that tit forms dreams of future times, when all will be good and right. The dream is a sham, of course, a carrot tied in front of our faces, spurring us on, a preprogramming of sorts so that we will lead our lives. Glass describes himself, a little boy once so old in his shoes. For every indignity and scar of life that touched his soul, was crated a means to deal with that pain. " A boy, a zero, a hero, a goat, a ghost frozen glass" Glass is but merely a ghost made solid, still transparent, still fragile and immaterial. Glass is but one of the ghost children, elevated somehow by God's purpose to his role of rock and roll superstar, great eraser and disintegrator of life. The pain of life provides the fuel for human action; it is only in cursing one's existence, in trying to change, in making the best of that hate of life to focus one's purpose, that life moves on. Pain, then, is God's electricity, pumping into this grand watch so that we cogs will move and operate. If the machines/cogs were happy, they would not move. IT is that simple. But pain and only pain would prove too much, so we have the victories oh so sweet and pure, altogether too fleeting and intermitting, spurring us on throughout the pain to reach a victory once again.
A child will draw a perfect life, never to be achieved. IN the yearning for that perfect life, the child signs the contract that will spur on his life The desire to hope for that perfect life was made before he could even think, part of God's creation of him; it's part of his machine programming. Glass' purpose is to disintegrate all of life's travails for entertainment, to ease the pain and provide some of that joy of life for the rest of the machines. Glass is somehow integral to the working of the grand moving of the universe, but it is no glass particularly. It is merely his role as an eraser, providing joy for the rest of the machines. He does not even affect all the machines; Glass was made specifically for this moment of time to appeal to just these certain people. Glass is just as much a tool as any other machine. In teenage arms, he held a guitar and thought he could change it all. As a man, now disillusioned, he holds that same guitar now broken under the weight of his dreams still unfulfilled. His moment is over, and a new entertainer is ready to take his place. Glass was a machine specifically created for one segment of time, and now his purpose is done, his ability as a cog lubricator over. The above description of life might sound harsh, and we might seem mere slaves to God, but that is not the case. To work in this plan of God's is to give purpose to one's life, and one must have faith that it is all for ultimately a better end. And human beings still possess their free will, can still rebel against this plan. If not, why then have the pleasures of life? No, one can choose not to be part of this grand design, and then their lives will become stagnant, but that will be their choice. Glass is a machine himself, and he needs to be spurred on as well. That is June's role, as his love. The lovers had found each other, but the love was not completely satisfying. How could it be, for if it were, there would be no need to further proceed with life? Even mingled in the purest happiness of this earthly plane, love, is a lacking. The task that remains is to continue striving in that love, to work onward against the lacking to try to capture it. Or else, to accept the lacking and realize this is as good as it gets, here on earth. The love that brings people together is red hot with passion, but love always cools. It is subject to time. Hopefully it cools into a solid rock upon which to build a deep relationship, but in can often cool into so much slag, not good for much of anything.
June, as described above, was a soul always given to looking to whatever might mover her. Ultimately, Glass failed to move her as much as she needed. Instead of striving one with the love, in the faith that it would get better, she still gave herself to drugs and black holes of the soul. At his moment was when Glass underwent his crisis of the soul and existence. So empowered, the lover's negated the blinding brilliance of their love. The remaining excerpts don't provide much in the way as to what happens next, but an examination of the songs can lead to some conclusions, as well as a reinforcement of all that proceeded. As said before, in order to receive the full impact of this album, the above plot must be combined with the emotional and thematic weight provided in the songs. It is my opinion that the songs maybe the very songs Glass would write and sing with his band. The songs and their content rarely spell out the plot plainly, but one can interpret them as the songs Glass writes as he deals with the events related above. Looking at them in such a way, one can see how they plainly fit in with the life of Glass described by the excerpts. The first song, "The Everlasting Gaze", sets up the frame of the story very nicely, as it presents Glass' striving to be noticed by God. He sings, "You know I'm not dead", a protest to God that he is still alive, and not deserving to be forgotten, as he seemingly has. The song also presents the image of human beings as God's machines of blood and flesh. The human body is seen as a mere vessel for the soul, sometimes later referred to as light. The creatures, Glass' fellow humans, beg God to tear their lights from this painful existence of the flesh.
"Raindrops + Sunshowers" presents the twin themes of Glass' efforts to reach his ghost children and the futility inherent in that action. The song states, "I just send my echo out to get your love without obscured reflections of my love" This statement is enforced with the impossible image of trying to walk through raindrops. Glass is speaking of his desire to truly interact with his fans and to not just have his love and communication regurgitated to him; that is not true human interaction. Unfortunately for Glass, this seems to be what happens to him. Later songs, such as "Heavy Metal Machine" and "I of the Mourning" continue this theme of disillusionment in his art, while songs such as "Glass Theme" and "Dross" are comments upon the sham that Glass' career has become. "I betrayed Rock n Roll," Glass wails in the former of these songs. The excerpts provide an even more vivid image, of an artist discovering "he wasn't speaking at all, just humming someone else's favorite song", only "as real as they needed him to be. Discarded until he roared back into their vision" "But no one could or would ever hear the full secrets of glass." They don't truly believe nor have an artistic stake in his words; he's just a diversion to them.
In the excerpts, Glass also questions at times a disembodied voice in his head, the one that spurs him into action. He wonders if it is his at all. This voice is presented in "The Imploding Voice" The lyrics to the song are benignly instructive, telling Glass that all he has to do is play himself, be himself. In that sincerity, the voice advises, Glass will not be able to go wrong. And as the song ends, the voice says that no matter what occurs, it will always be there. Which leads into the climax of the album, "Glass and the Ghost Children". Glass' reflection on his purpose and contemplation of God reaches its height, as he reasons that we are all machines of God, doomed by our DNA to play out our lives inevitably to death, like preprogrammed automatons. Glass rebels and tries to reason with God, defiantly pleading that he doesn't want to die. Meanwhile, June is in the midst of her own rebellion, about to inject herself with drugs. The song breaks into an interlude of "Le Deux Machina", with Glass' description of this voice of God he hears within himself. The final coda of the song describes June's drug experience, hallucinating on the drugs as she hears Glass calling for her.
The plates for this song are also important, as they are the only two piece plates. Plate VIII shows Glass, enraptured by his music and listening to God (depicted in a headphone helmet Glass wears). Glass is in ignorance of June, in plate IX, who is about to overdose. The plate is called, "So Empowered, The Lovers Negate the Blinding Brilliance of Love" The lovers negate this brilliance by not seeking to solve their dilemmas in each their understanding love; instead, Glass grapples with certainties and questions that cannot be defeated, and June descends into earthly drugs. Around this point, June apparently leaves Glass to find her own way in the world. The lovers taking their leave of each other is described in the song, "Go", as Glass lets June go and find her own way in the world, while he himself continues to grapple with his uncertainties of existence. At this point, "I of the Mourning" dramatizes the exile of Glass, lisenting to radio static for a sign from God, while June makes her own way in the world. The song "Real Love" is important, as it discusses the problems Glass and June were having with the fading of their love. "Real love, or is it me your after? Is it time, cause it's now or never . . .We never listen, real love will listen and tell a fortune. . . .Real Love is painless. " Songs such as "Speed Kills" are testaments to the saving power of their relationship, and acknowledgements of their lives of pain. "First time that I ever saw you, crashing hard through days of pain, you were one of God's children, left out to cry out tin the rain, waiting to be saved again. .. Cause when I ride with you tonight, we can move at the speed of light" Other songs and the excerpts reinforce this image of love as the true means of dealing with life, as "This Time" proclaims that only love can win, while the excerpt state, "In faith there is all power, in love all faith, every action a pebble dropped into the clear pool of humanity." This last sentiment echoes the song "With Every Light", in which Glass comes to appreciate, too late, the true meanings of this existence. With every light he finds, with every person he meets, he feels a light shining down upon him. Everyone is someone sent from above, and we're none of us alone.
The song "Vanity" apparently describes June's return to Glass. It describes a girl, who lost the singer in a "haze of wine and cocaine" consumed by vanity, now standing at the singer's door. "She swears she'll turn around, turn around for good" Glass takes her back, as he sings, "You know you'll run around, run around for her" At this point, Glass' purpose as an entertainer done and Glass ready to go on with his life, he takes June with him to find a new place to call "Home". "We'll wander off through the dead of night . . .with an urgent wind upon my rolling heels to carry me along, my face so ghost that I turn to ruins past and home, home, let the words spill from my mouth, love, love is everything I want, I'm one of many more to come, love is everything I want" Here, Glass admits and accepts his place as just but one of many to come in God's plan, and reaffirms that he doesn't want to be special and the only one anymore. Love is all he wants now.
Acceptance takes over Glass, and the final song, "Age of Innocence", is his exit. He is no longer the eye upon his fans, no longer disintegrating life's travails into art form. With a last affirmation to love, he leaves, to find his own way in the world, with June. Plate XVI depicts this action, saying, "The Echo Lives on Forever" This is another recurrent theme throughout the album, of the unending nature of time. In several of the plates are the symbols of infinity, as well as depictions of snakes eating themselves. These images are echoed in the excerpts, as the voice within Glass says he is one of many more to come, and later his revolution is described as ending, another one ready to take its place. In the end, human ambition is deemed futile and unnecessary. We are all just machines of God, doomed to our deaths and lives of pain. It is in striving to deny that part of our existence that we do ourselves more harms. In the end, only love, faith, and acceptance of life can win.
3rd place winner
By Gabe McKinney
Wow, this certainly is a complicated set of affairs, now isn't it?! I've never thought people should idolize others, make "heroes" out of people. Because if you do, you can never get past them, you can never continue their work and go further than what they did. But, man, Hemingway sure wrote straight to the point, didn't he? It will be hard, but that's what I'm going to try to do.
Buuut seriously, folks....this story is complex and I make no pretense to understanding all the in's and out's of it. But it seems to me that there are reoccurring themes in the essays selected to this stage. Some of these re-occurring, fundamental themes even seem to contradict each other. But like I said, simplicity is always cornerstone. (Thank you Mr. Anderson) So what is the most simplistic, if not the most efficient, the BEST way to tackle seemingly contradictory ideas? Why, through dialectical reasoning, of course!
In any good correspondence theory, there is the thing in the mind and then there is the thing it corresponds to in the "real" world. Looking at Machina in such a light is advantageous. Obviously, this work is a musical recording, and all contests and hype and promotion and (here comes an understatement: limited) air-play aside, it is a work of art produced (that is, recorded, played, drawn, created, written, everything included) by real people in real time and it has a real meaning. And the real meaning of all art should, in fact does whether intentionally or not, correspond to something in the artist personally. With this being basic auteur theory, let me go on and PROCLAIM Mr. Corgan to be the auteur. (Messages put out by him also supports this claim, in that he claims it to be a collaborative effort, but mostly his vision primarily. Is this incorrect? Does it really matter? No, not really, actually.) The point I'm really going after here is obvious; MACHINA means something, at least to someone, at least to its authors. If not, why would the authors have wasted their time on it?
But before I begin to cash things out, let's cover a few things first. People have said, author included, that MACHINA is dramatically modeled. I can't speak for others, but when I think "plays," I think Jean-Paul Sartre. (And Christopher Durang, but, hey, who doesn't.) Sartre said that part of the "sucky" aspect of existing (besides the whole Îmy existing is completely meaningless' part) is "The Look" other people give you. I think this is important to getting to the heart of the work in question. "The Look" is when people look at other people and completely objectify them, making theme mere objects for the purpose and needs of the looker. This seems to be the concern, partially, of the subjects (that is, not only whom the story is about, but also the people in the story who are being looked at. The stars, the celebrities, you know.) I mean, the guy's name is Glass for heaven's sake. Glass is a good choice, because the word is so versatile. It implies fragility, and certainly that is part of who this person seems to be. However, Glass is a nice choice in that it works "double duty," implying also (and perhaps even more so, in light of the rest of the content of the piece) that the people who look at it can see themselves in the reflection of the Glass. This brings us back to "The Look." People guilty of giving "the look" are actually guilty of imposing themselves onto the person they are looking at, and in the case of Glass, this metaphor becomes literal. Very nice. BUT this would mean, when we take it and cash it out into the ever-precious reality, that we, the audience, yes, even the tried-and-true Smashing Pumpkins fan is guilty of this unjust and evil objectification. Yes, this is true. However·. As I mentioned, dialectical reasoning seems to pervade this work. And if this is the case, there must be an antithesis somewhere to be found and indeed there is. I will "borrow" (as it has been said) from Joe Lottino, and bring in another oh-so-important theme of the work, that of love, "pure love," as he put it very nicely. The intentions, at least, of the fans are good and based on this pure love, which cannot be defined, but only loosely described as a strange mutual understanding between yourself and a person you don't know and never will. There is a strange kind of reciprocity between the two. Perhaps it remains unsaid, or perhaps it is only communicated in terms of applause/performance, etc. Whatever form it takes, it exists nonetheless. So, there is a weird dialectic between fan and performer, the "looker" and the subject, the appreciative and appreciated. Does June = an appreciative audience? Perhaps, but I'll get to that later.
Might I say that I don't think Glass = Mr. Cogan, Smashing Pumpkins, etc., necessarily. At lease this parallel doesn't seem necessary to me, and to say that this is the meaning of Glass only complicates matters without cause. I don't want to be misunderstood; the album/story is about those Corgan and the other authors of the work, but only insofar as the story is about subjects in general who find themselves in an awkward place in terms of fame, society, history and, yes, TIME. Fame and the implications of fame, and the strange relationship the "famous" (that is, those who are given the look) is partly what this work is about. And in this case, it is as much about those who make others into objects (for good or bad), as it is about those made into objects.
Another piece of the puzzle seems to be the piece "an individual's place in the history of history." And this may be one of the lines that goes most directly to the core of what this is all about. As I mentioned in the previous essay, there seems to be the awareness on the part of the author to the fact that the author is being listened to. The authors are "speaking" by way of this album, and thus meaning that the album itself, not the person/author/listener is the Machine of God. And it seems that the author is speaking, though disjoined from the work, through the work with some air of authority. This idea certainly fits, if in fact the album is at least partly about what it means to be famous, and thereby achieving an everlasting status of some sort. The authors would, obviously, be speaking as authorities on this matter. This is where the whole business of "everlasting" comes into play, for as long as the work is in existence, there is still some piece of the author in extenstence, for, as we all know from Mr. Marx (WARNING: DANGEROUS TERRITORY) we are what we make. The author made something that will be around longer than they will, and thus the author is, at least to that extent everlasting. Not eternal, because eternality implies something outside of time, where as in this case time plays and essential role. For we are not talking here about rewards in some distant other world, but the role people fill here in this reality. Thus Glass, whom/whatever he may represent, is another "cog in the wheel," so to speak. The authors seem to be looking at the whole of the past, and extrapolating into the future somewhat and saying, "okay, look, we're not the final word in this area of human endeavor. But we do play a role in the history of this particular endeavor, and this position we fill and these works we have created will hold a place longer than our physical bodies will." This is indeed the case, as long as there are people around to consider the work and historic position of the author, and give that work and position "The Look."
And now, ladies and gents; God and art. The point was brought up in some of the essays, and I think it is applicable here and I guess I have already gotten into it somewhat. Okay, so if the work is the machine, the language through which the author(s) conveys his/her (or their) message(s), then who is/are the Author(s) exactly? Are they God? No, I don't think that is the message here. Maybe more to the heart of the issue is that the creators of the work are trying to imitate God, in that they involved in creating as well, a point raised in several of the essays. I think this is a good point, because it makes clear that the subjects are not God, and are not trying to be God, but be like God. Which God doesn't really seem to matter, because the theme of redemption and salvation running through this particular piece also runs through most religions, but I'll get to that in a sec. Okay, so, they are being like God in that they are being creative. Fine, but what exactly is the role of art in relation to God? The relationship seems to be, to "borrow" from another musical ensemble of our current time (who Glass also represents, see what I'm saying?), "self-serving with a purpose." This is also how people approach God in general. The relationship of God/art to the individual is partly self-serving; they want something from it, namely self-immortality. But at the same time, the relationship does have some more altruistic ends; to do some good for the rest of the world, to be "missionaries," to get ones message out. People do this in art as much as they do it in religion. While an attempt to parallel art and religion doesn't seem to be the main point of this work, but these themes certainly are found in the work. It isn't exactly a dialectic, but it is some kind of strange similarity that the two have with each other. Moving on, (Remember what I said about brevity? Forget that.) to the theme of Redemption, which also comes to the surface every now and then. This is plays into the Machina story, in that it seems to be the synthesis of the dialectic. It is how the subject saves himself from the look, but strangely, it is through the look of another, June. While this seems contradictory, it is no more so than Sartre falling in love with Beauvoir. It is a real love, one that loves a self as its self not as something to reflect upon.
Lastly, I return to Semiotics; the meaning of symbols, and how they confine that which they represent. If Machina is the language that the author is communicating by, this follows; the work can never fully encompass all that the author is about, and never represent the author's ideas completely or fully. Fully; now the circle motif. I don't think this work implies that this process happens over and over again to the same person, but it does imply that it happens again and again in history in general and to all those who hold some place in history. They come, shine, and slightly fade, and this is the cyclic activity to which this album speaks. The work contains symbols and we were asked to take into account the number 7, a symbol and a hefty one to boot. Sevens are everywhere. But could this simply mean that it is all over? Indeed this story does have an end. The end is now. The end of Machina is that it IS the end of the Machina, and there are going to be no more works by the author, no more attempts to communicate this way from the subject to the look givers. The subject is now facing the end with dignity, knowing that the work and the position secured by himself/herself is going to be everlasting, but that at the same time the author's word is not the final word and that things will continue and Glass will come again, and in the form of some new thing. And yes, it is somewhat upsetting when it happens, but it is going to happen and it has always happen and it won't stop happening. While the "powers that be" (i.e., the record industry) certainly speeds the process along, they are not the cause, for their time shall come as well, when all that is left of them is their mark on the world. And whether this mark is a good or bad one doesn't really matter, because the mark (that is, the synthesis of work and historical/cultural position-influence) will be everlasting.