A. G. Cook’s 7G and the Curious Case of Data VI.txt

A. G. Cook is a demon. I mean that in a good way, of course, in the sense of the Ancient Greek word "daimon/daemon" (δαίμων): “a semi-divine being... acting as tutelary deity”,¹ or a protector, patron, or guard of a culture. In the lead-up to the release of A. G. Cook's first of two debut albums, 7G (the other being the forthcoming Apple), Cook included dozens of cryptic files in a virtual pre-order bonus. One of these files was "Data VI.txt" in the _README folder; the other .txt files were ASCII wordart relating to lyrics and song titles, but this sixth was, curiously, a symbol-based portrait of 15th century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. This file, as well as the track titled “Triptych Demon,” made me assume that there was a concept album of The Garden of Earthly Delights to be had, and while it didn’t pan out quite the way I expected, there are many curious parallels between the works and the literary subject matter surrounding them.

ASCII art of Bosch's art

Graphic by A.G. Cook

Between 1490 and 1510, early Netherlandish oil painter Hieronymus Bosch started and completed his masterwork The Garden of Earthly Delights, which depicts the Garden of Eden (or Paradise), Earth, and Hell, and at 205.5 cm × 384.9 cm, the piece is truly larger than life. Its origination is unclear: the sexual/violent depictions of the center and right make it unlikely to have been commissioned for a church, however The Garden’s bold depictions “do not rule out a church commission”², as the liberties in the triptych’s second and third panel could have been requested by the clergy as a way to demonstrate immorality and the punishments thereof, respectively. However, Bosch never clearly condemned such so-called sins, which instead lead to interpretations of him as someone who celebrates fleshy indulgences, as an anecdotal Wikipedia source describes the lust in Bosch’s work as “music of the flesh.” Cook's overt use of septenary patterning and often-blatant connections to Bosch and his religious triptychs make it impossible to ignore. To clarify, seven is one of the most sanctified numbers in Christian mythology, and the degree to which Cook plays with this motif is not unlike Bosch's inversion of the mythos in his magnum opus The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Center panel, upper center detail of Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights

It's foolish and unwise to take Biblical numerology on its face as a scholarly source. However, I am foolish and unwise, so an exception will be made in this case, as all seven discs are available "on all 7 platforms" according to the 7g.click website. In the book of Revelations, there are seven each of churches, bowls, seals, trumpets, thunders, spirits, stars, and lampstands as various symbols for apocalypse, and there is also a seven-eyed, seven-horned lamb, and a seven-headed, seven-diademed dragon. G is also the 7th letter of the Latin alphabet; however, before the Roman conquest of Greece in the 1st century BC, the seventh letter of the alphabet, appearing as a serifed capital I, would be transcribed as Z in the Archaic/Early Classical Greek alphabets.³ This makes the opening track “A-Z” much more interesting to analyze, as one could initially be led to an “alpha and omega” signifier, and therefore evoke the idyll and inferno of Bosch. However, the notion that Z=7 makes someone who is looking for meaning in all this retrace their steps and start from scratch.

Sevenness is also displayed in Peter Glum's analysis of Bosch’s work: it is “divided into seventy-seven sections — for example, ‘The ice,’ ‘The giant birds,’ ‘The ears,’ and so on — discussing each motif in terms of many possible literary references.”⁴ Cook also cheekily plays with the signification of Christian imagery such as the cycle of seven days, including one day which is “The Best Day” (track 31), the presentation to his audience of an Apple, the “Gold Leaf” which relates to the fall of grace, and “Drink Blood” which has Cook denying himself of love. When he sings “Now I look in the mirror / I can't see my face... But I know I could quickly turn to dust” in the third stanza, perhaps he is referring to the “dust to dust” passage of Ecclesiastes 3:20, or maybe to him, drinking blood could be giving into unwanted urges (or even a sin by the literal sense, as seen in Genesis 9:4). Regardless of true artistic inspiration — (I’m definitely willing to be wrong on this) — a sense of divinity ties the work together. It’s probably just the heavenly synths.

Center panel, center detail

7G is not a triptych, but rather a septych of A. G.’s instrument-themed discs (though there’s nothing septic about it); to further complicate matters, a week later, it was clear to listeners that Cook was making a diptych out of it and Apple, his “two debut albums.” The energy in the central panel imitates that of a massive concert festival, and the music of 7G’s fourth disc, A. G. Piano, best represents the period of time in which Bosch’s masterpiece was created. The nucleus of the album, “Feeling,” has a carefree, joyous tone in its progression, and is carried by vocal arpeggios and a ripple-like delay, much like the swimmers. Cold and grand in scale, yet inviting. Beneath that in the Earthly Delights, and in the following 7G track, “Waldhammer,” there’s a sense of rambunctious energy, as if one were off to the races. We see Bosch’s caravan of creatures in a circular procession as it mirrors the supersawed-sounds of Cook’s arrangement of Beethoven’s Sonata No.21 in C Major, “Waldstein.” Is this to say that A. G. Cook is deliberately evoking Bosch? Perhaps not, though the sense of cavalier, savant artistry seen in both works reflects the surroundings of the time, such that the wide variety of subjects and tones attempt to encompass universality. To some listeners, the experimental grinding and whirring tones scattered throughout may be represented by the knife through the ears in the third panel. But I argue that there is a universal something on this release for listeners of all musical stripes, much like how every motif of Bosch’s Earthy Delights corresponds to various points along the gamut of brutality to bliss.

Upper right panel

A. G. Cook’s work also makes a valiant effort at squeezing as much of popular humanity in sonic form as he possibly can into this record, and for the near-most part, he pulls it off extremely damn well. YouTube commenter “toinfinity,” on an upload of 2013’s Personal Computer Mix (2013), described A. G. Cook's music poignantly through totality: “Music this unique and descriptive of the human experience is what makes life worth living.” That comment resonated with me. Not only is the commenter true — that PC Music indeed represents a large portion of everyday life in the Information Age to a resounding degree — but also that it is unique in the sense that being alive to experience such groundbreaking works being released realtime is sincerely the kind of emotional and inspirational fuel being thrown onto the fires popular art creation, and will ceaselessly continue to from this point forward, as the musical soil continues to rapidly shift, birthing new creative roots — sounds that even ten years ago would be unheard of, or indicative of staunch few pioneering examples (Venetian Snares' Rossz Csillag Alatt Született comes to mind?).

The audience on which Cook experiments is also that of his future contemporaries; where better can one demonstrate this than in the recent Battle of the Bands event he held? His music is like introducing an ancient civilization to alien technology beyond our comprehension. As a daimon, Cook is teaching through virtuosity, much like how he pays tribute to his Aphex tutelage on “Triptych Demon” itself; the sonic progression of the track is as strikingly reminiscent of Richard D. James’ “[Equation]” and “Omgyjya-Switch7” as it is of Cook’s own note-for-note cover of “Windowlicker.” In this song, the “triptych” is inverted, starting at brutal chaos and reaching level plains as it then ascends to airy, death-like bliss. Perhaps the "G" in 7G is hiding in plain sight, standing for "Garden,” as Cook’s daemonic suggestions and guidance toward the life and works of Hieronymus Bosch are too pestersome and numerous to ignore. The question that remains is whether or not our gardens of playlists are now overrun with 49 of these newly-blooming delights, with many more stems being planted by the wardens and ordermasters of the Apple Guild for us to discover.

Right panel; It’s not a Bosch article without BUTT MUSIC


¹Liddel
²Cinotti
³Shan
⁴Hutchison

Works Cited

Cinotti, Mia. The Complete Paintings of Bosch. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969, p. 99.

Hutchison, Jane Campbell. “Review of The Key to Bosch's “Garden of Earthly Delights” Found in Allegorical Bible Interpretation”, by Peter Glum. Renaissance Quarterly , Vol. 61, No. 3 (Fall 2008), pp. 964-965.

Liddell, Henry and Robert Scott. “daimōn”. A Greek-English Lexicon. 1996

Shan, Huijun. The Unicode Standard 13.0. Unicode Consortium. March 2020. PDF.

2 comments :

  1. Thank-you for this! This piece is really awesome. I haven't found too much writing about the album online, so this was very thought-provoking and appreciated!

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