“I get closer and closer to painting the questions I have about our world in a less horrific way. The existential dread of most of my earlier works stopped at the horror. Now I’d like what I do to function with a higher purpose in mind. Seeing that moment of enlightenment through and keeping it intact to offer solutions for our smart planet.”
— James Ferraro in an interview with Alexander Iadarola.
What does it mean to be human when so much is clouded by the suspicious claims of human subjectivity? Is the human story your story? The story of humans tromping along valiantly — the synthetic narratives of achievement and collapse; their epochs blurring into speculation, nostalgia, neoteny, marketphasia — are threaded with the immanent anthro- diffused again into a plastic ocean.
At last, Starbucks plastic burned in praise of the individual molecule and the cosmic human. Human bodies resonate with tones alight with the drama of the individual and the whole. Despite the philosophical horror, composer James Ferraro tone-paints the story as one filled with stubborn characters. Ants, avatars, human beings fabricate novel solutions as future lives become increasingly hybrid. The story reads clearly; we have always been continuously transforming into post-humans, alive in this drama within and without a story.
Human Story 3 reads at the privileged site of the human story — the oppressed site of other life and non-life registering as not entirely worthwhile within humanist paradigms of knowledge and power. Between these other things and the human, is there nothing except a perceived harmony that multiplies our happiness or exercises our destruction?
The statelessness and ferocity of the human is a common theme in Ferraro’s work, be it through his geographic and spatial depictions of fragged subjectivity walking ghost-like through dilapidated and sensational space in NYC or LA, or the diffuse and gorgeous suites of Cold, Suki Girlz, Sushi, and his object-oriented modern masterpiece Far Side Virtual. Ferraro mobilizes these works as transferable units of local/global frustration that sustain themselves with the force of human trauma — pan-geographical, psychological frameworks located in the metropolitan structures that haunt and dance wildly in their severe reality, in their dynamism and velocity within the human story. A thorough critic, with Human Story 3, Ferraro turns his compositional eye to the root of the pain centralized inside of the human virus and practice — a noble, evil core that rather thriftily expands and survives on a planet spinning through the cosmic vacuum. These are poems for the human, for individualism, for cognition, for human immanence within our savage and majestic world-building.
Ferraro’s focus has found a sonic malleability deviating wildly in these rigorous compositions. Human Story 3 bends sequenced tones and textures spilling over one another in sharp phrases, pointed gestures, and billowy textures. The aphoristic remarks of a child-ish computer voice accents the experience throughout: “Press play,” “Cloud security, with ambition and passion,” “IKEA,” “Starbucks,” “Collapse,” etc. are weaved into the album’s design for ill-affect. Opening track “Ten Songs for Humanity” triumphantly repeats a “beautifully overwrought and perfectly grandiose introduction” over an ascending theme reaching for great and impossible heights. Jaunty motifs of brass, pizzicato strings, and choirs give “Marketphasia” a momentous bounce operating as disgusting hymn for over-indulgence — a Giant Claw piece stripped of all biological and/or aesthetic swag, emptied of all edible tonality. These are gorgeous pieces full of a noble empathy that laughs at no one; rather, it’s stone-faced in its audacity to depict human assumption and consumption, a sick and gorgeous totem of creative and resilient life.
“Market Collapse” is the crown jewel of the album’s oscillation between empathy and apathy, a “return to plastic” that repeats gorgeous piano syncopations and shimmering textures nodding at Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joe Hiashi, or the work of those sorts of composers who tirelessly compose for the mesmerizing vistas of mundane, magical human activity. As Ferraro notes, “the way humans aggressively celebrate Pixar’s cloud-like performance of human emotion, building emotional relationships with CGI characters and accepting them as powerful vehicles of meaningfulness” is manifested in the warmth and sensitivity these pieces have for cold, imagistic forms — MIDI sequencing dancing in solidarity with the oft-empty plights of human sustenance and growth. The brilliant climax at the end of “GPS & Cognition” is bursting with this odd compassion. Changing forms and melodies shift like rendered bodies tattooed and modified, made ecstatic, animal, mineral, Pixar, through their decay and transformation; yet still, their plasticity is cognitively asserted as a joy for vicious humanity.
The monstrosity of these compositions is a wholly gorgeous celebration of the relationality of what it “means to be human” — the false and wrong exercises of liberty and contemplation that are firmly rooted in sickening exertions of power. Unafraid, Ferraro looks fondly upon this terror, locking it away in immanent clouds gilded with cloud security: “with ambition and passion.” Advanced, cerebral, and thoroughly horrifying, as much as Human Story 3 builds conclusive and thorough themes, it fragments them in pieces like “Neotenous Smart Car,” a truly virtuosic message to musical possibility still emanating forth from a composer making smart solutions for music into the infinite plain and toward the deep horizon.
The tenderness evident in “Immanent Cloud” is indeed a synergistic mode of Ferraro’s newfound optimism. High-minded and free, perhaps, with a little wishful thinking, Ferraro paints a picture of a new account of citizenship beyond the rules of the Anthropocene or the thin constraints of neoliberal citizenship hijacking the human story. Perhaps these compositions can assist in visualizing the ethical and the everyday as threaded into the post-human — a post-human humanism full of life and sentiment. Like his fascination with Pixar and all its mimetic devices, Human Story 3 has hope for the artificiality of humanity, maximizing its dance in the extra illusions produced through our interactive and shadowy narrative. With this, there lies something odd: a human spirit wavering aloft, suspended in the molecules that make our data-clouds. Thunderously present, this spirit authorizes itself into composition — drifting endlessly — a dangerous smile barely visible in the crystalized pattern.
“I think the complexity of 21st century life kind of requires a dialectical form. Generally, Human Story 3 is characterized by a tone of optimism with a few cautionary clouds hanging above, clouds of skepticism about humanity’s relationship to technology presently. Overall it’s a hopeful situation to me. I just dread the possibility of losing our human spirit in the process…”
– James Ferraro