We are so very pleased to learn more about this latest muse, “3×9”, a most intriguing take on cyberpunk and its implications on nature. “3×9” is a prolifically crafted universe where nature is embedded and thrives in the technological cyberpunk world. Tell us about how you happened upon this idea, that presents a stark contrast to the usual narratives of a cyberpunk world where typically nature becomes obsolete. What were some of your motivating concepts?
Seryozha Parshakov: Cyberpunk has always been the most appealing concept to me. I like how it never tried to compete with behemoths like fantasy or other sci-fi genres. And how it ventured into new territories and directions. In a fantastical setting of the near future, it explored human nature, causing a conflict within him and within society. Being impregnated with both audacity and inner freedom, with the spirit of fighting the system.
But its original bright paraphernalia is becoming more and more commonplace in real life over time. Many technological elements are already real and widespread, and those that aren’t are working hard to become so. And punk visual attributes became more mainstream, and became a part of fashion. Acid haircolor is now looking something more usual then in the times of cyberpunk rise, then it was a kind of a loud statement. All of the original magic began to wane in everyday life, and many sensations became tinged with nostalgia. And, for myself, I decided to keep the genre’s feeling in the way of developing its ideas into another reality, into a new universe.
You’re correct; in traditional cyberpunk, nature is either ignored or completely destroyed in order to create a more dystopian atmosphere, to put a symbol of ultimate irresponsibility and corruption on humanity (and this is the reason behind solarpunk creation). Wherein, the topic of the cybernization of human nature is being actively debated, and one of the conflicts is partially based on this. At one point, I wondered what if nature, by making this process natural and non-contradictory, would affect everything around us in a cybernetic way. What if it will evolve into a machine while appearing familiar to all us. And humanity will accept it as a given. How will things change? How will this change people’s perceptions of the world? In human interactions? On the city’s architecture? On punk? Even maybe if nature becomes a tyrant itself.
This film is just beginning to lift the curtain. It tries to look at these inputs in varying degrees of balance briefly. Nature or technology? Nature in technology? Technology in nature? Technology is nature, and nature is technology.
I believe Aeph and I were able to reflect these thoughts, look at everything from different angles, and maintain the genre’s overall familiar feel.
Nature is truly systematic and artfully complex at the same time. When building this world, how do you go about visually exploring the depths of nature while merging it with technology?
SP: Nature is truly picturesque and systematic, which is why it is so self-sufficient. Striking. On the same tree, you can always find something new and different. And it is already a machine in some way. As Maurice Maeterlinck wrote in his The Intelligence of flowers essay: ‘In a world that we hold to be unconscious and devoid of intelligence, we imagine at first that the very least of our ideas creates new schemes and relationships. On looking closer at things, it seems extremely likely that we are unable to create anything at all. The last to arrive on this earth, we simply discover what has always existed, and like awestruck children we follow the path that life had made before us.’
I sift natural elements through several perception filters. They are, in general, quite simple. First and foremost, materials that are not found in nature. Both synthetic and simply processed by man. I canonize and naturalize them. Second, the incorporation of technological elements, allowing them to form in nature without human intervention, such as the maturation of the central processor on the bark of a tree. And so forth. Every time I pick up a berry or a petal, the process of cybernization automatically starts in my head, haha. I like the naivety of this process, some kind of even childish immediacy.
Tell us how your collaboration makes this nature cyberpunk universe live and breathe its divergent life? Can you divulge any details about the collaboration between you two on this project? What was the process like when creating the sounds for this universe?
SP: Everything happened quite spontaneously, as it does with many fantastic and cool things. I landed on Aeph’s head, wondering if he had anything drone-like in his bins that could help spice up my in-universe footage. And I was very pleased to hear that he is willing to join the project and create something unique, as well as work on the sound quality and all the accents. As a result, we began working on this project.
I didn’t even have to go into detail about the concept’s essence. Each iteration on his part immersed me deeper into the atmosphere, and I drew additional inspiration from his ideas and corrected something in terms of the visual on the fly.
AEPH: I got hooked up by SP distinct aesthetic right away. it is unique, which is something very hard to find. Then once I got into the concept of the film, I knew it wasn’t just about adding a drone sound. I was emotionally invested by it so I choose to underline the story in a larger way.
In your personal belief, is there beauty in manmade automation? When thinking about nature, it is easy to behold the organic beauty and allure. But what about technology?
SP: Technology, in my opinion, is incredibly beautiful. All forms of technological advancement. From a visual perspective nature, even in its most aggressive forms, appears friendlier and more beautiful than a machine in our subconscious. It appears to me that this is due to many people being surrounded by the technological world without constant access to nature. Their world is a world of glass, concrete, machines in any form (starting with a coffee machine and ending with daily auto traffic, which is also essentially a system). Second, because of the speed of life, everything I just mentioned appeared in a variety of ways in order to speed up all processes and life as much as possible. As Chaplin said: We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Nature, on the other hand, exists in its constant rhythm, and this provides such a pleasant and warm feeling of contemplation and wide freedom, in which you can truly appreciate the beauty. However, if you stop and look closely, you will notice the beauty of machines and automation the same way.
In the “3×9” world, where nature thrives alongside technology, how does this relationship work sonically? Considering how manmade engineering can have some sort of mechanical noise, how does coinciding the organic essence of nature affect the way sound is perceived in “3×9”?
SP: In a world where synthetic materials become natural by default, where plastic grows like wood or can be rock, the distinction between natural and non-natural sounds becomes increasingly blurred. When you look at one of the elements of this world: Solowey-converter (don’t forget to turn on the sound on the right corner), you will see a stone, but in 3×9 nature, during its formation, it makes sounds similar to a bird singing. Is this sound artificial in this situation because our brain cannot distinguish the sound of the bird from its image? Or does it become natural because you can find this device in a forest and you know that it was not made by human?
I’d like to use the following hypothetical example to try to convey the feeling. Imagine a live bird making the sound of a traffic light for visually impaired pedestrians. It only starts making a sound when you can cross the road. You recognize that this is a bird, that it is a part of nature, even though it performs a routinely programmed function. In the opposite case, imagine you’re separating a mushroom from the ground in a forest and you hear a synthesized sound of detachment. Both are still natural in 3×9; people aren’t even used to it; it’s in the nature of things; it’s a given.
A: Technically speaking, most of the instruments used in this piece are acoustic, like trumpets, a cello or a fan noise, wind blowing or birds singing. Then I reworked them into external hardware modules or granular samplers to create a hybrid sound palette. Once I had all the new instruments ready, I wanted to make them sound like a ballet and convey the atmosphere of the two worlds together.
Is there a particular mood that you are trying to communicate in this world of amalgamated engineering through both sound and visuals? Is there a component of emotion in the glimpses and auditory experiences of “3×9” that we should know about?
SP: Personally, I like the idea of concept minimalism, a single emotion, but this works best in individual works. For example, in this film, I wanted to convey the effect of contemplation, slowness, contrast, and the penetration of polar in perception elements into each other. Otherwise, it appears to me that spreading a single emotion to the entire universe is unlikely, though it is possible. Even in a universe where corporations have taken over, street gangs divide the city into sectors, and there is a sense of social conflict and injustice all around, there are numerous maneuvers for a variety of sensations. The question is what the narrative emphasizes, what kind of framework the authors create, and how they attempt to engage the viewer in the work. A neon city at night can have a day, and if the authors can keep the universe’s atmosphere during the day, why not take advantage of it? It’s interesting; there are a lot of new and interesting stories. In terms of both visuals and sound.
A: There isn’t really from my side. Sometimes the beauty of getting involved in a project like this one is that you are just transported by the images, the concept and you express that emotional content without thinking too much about what mood you want to communicate. You just feel it and express it.
The theme of cyberpunk presents itself in some of its traditional ways in the “3×9” world. Can you explain the specific choice in choosing certain traditional elements of cyberpunk aesthetic while blending it with novel ones?
SP: I’m not sure about Aeph in terms of sound, but this is already a philosophical question for me. The visual and sound elements of any style at the time of its formation and popularization strongly cement everyone’s understanding of the original. This will be both beneficial and detrimental in the future. Can the viewer perceive cyberpunk as cyberpunk without the attributes of cassette futurism and the general 80s vibe? Can it remain true in the absence of buttons and cables? This is the research and experimentation path I am now taking. The line is surprisingly thin; it is critical to understand and work with existing canons in order to define some boundaries for yourself while also expanding them and smoothly turning in the opposite direction.
Everything should change and evolve while paying homage to the original and its ideas. I transfer traditional cyberpunk elements to my substrate, with different basic inputs, and it begins to look different: In the hope of intercepting their cybernetic properties, a person implanted oak twigs into his skin as implants; however, they turned out to be of poor quality and, when interacting with the body, greatly changed his appearance, possibly sprouting into his cyberbrain. The main difference is that in traditional cyberpunk, the main hero is a person who has implanted something artificial in himself, whereas in 3×9, the main hero is nature implanted in a person. The system is the main character in this story.
A: SP is right about how most of the people perceive the cyberpunk aesthetic and you can’t really escape from that. It is part of the genre. To completely avoid certain elements it would be like trying to make a death metal song without using electric guitars. However, you can add your own ideas and flavour into those elements and stories, or choose a different path. This is really important in order to keep growing the genre and support its message. Cyberpunk has mostly been seen like this slow and painful process of loosing part of our human and natural features against buttons and cables. It’s lowlife vs high tech. The story SP is trying to tell adds a unique variant to the formula.
How can our modern world be informed by the “3×9” universe? Is humanity operating and planning for a world without nature? Or are they doing enough to preserve it and develop future mechanisms?
SP: Unfortunately, it is impossible to speak for all of humanity in this matter. I believe that harmony must triumph, and that all technologies and industries must evolve with environmental sensitivity.
At the same time, I believe that current levels of environmental concern are inadequate. Solutions are being developed and implemented at a much slower pace than we would like.
So far, it appears that Achilles is chasing a tortoise.
Seryozha Parshakov (SP) — Creator, director and artist
Aeph (A) — Music and Sound Design