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The Argument from Sideways Music***

Written and Directed by Sayid R. Bnefsi

Reviewed by S. Fichtion for A Stationary Rock

Beware: this is not genre fiction. To be sure, it involves time travel. But if you’re looking for a rollicking time travel adventure this is not it. This is more of a vicious satire on the state of art and on the arbiters of aesthetic value.

At the end of the first film in the “Sideways music” trilogy, Ned had descended into madness with his attempts to get people to appreciate music ‘played sideways’ (i.e. played extended across space, but not time).

In this second of the series (by a different director) we follow Emmett, a friend of Ned’s, who is determined to show that sideways music can be as aesthetically pleasing as normal music.

Emmett, unlike Ned, recognises that one of the challenges of sideways music lies in how to listen to such music. Emmett sets about building a time machine. He travels back to the same moment in time multiple times, and, at that moment each time travelling version of him hears a different note in the great melody that is being performed sideways. Emmett therefore experiences the sideways music as though it were not sideways.

When Emmett returns, triumphant, to tell Ned of his success, Ned angrily tells him that art is not meant to be easy. If it looks pleasant, and as though it resembles something in the world, it’s probably a bad painting; if it sounds good, it’s probably bad music; if it is readable, it’s obviously not going to win any literary prizes. Art, he says, is meant to be discordant, unpleasant, and generally awful. If you want it in your house, it’s not great art. Sideways music is supposed to be an awful cacophony, and any true aesthete would appreciate it. People, he yells, are philistines.

Emmett, deeply saddened and ashamed, destroys his time machine and the last we see of him he is burning all his pet detective novels. Three stars.

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