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Terrible Resonance: A (Live) Episode of Here Be Monsters

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Last night, I went to my second live podcast event. I'm not sure how else to describe these.

The first, of course, was when I went to see The Investigators, a live performance of Welcome to Night ValeIf, by the by, you're a fan of Night Vale and you have the opportunity to see them live, do so. You won't regret it.

But this is not about Night Vale. This is about Here be Monsters, the podcast about the unknown. I don't remember anymore where I got turned on to HBM -- it might even have been while surfing for "Podcasts like Welcome to Night Vale", or possibly just surfing for "Best Podcasts". I almost think the latter. But I very quickly became a devoted listener; Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton (and their sound guy Joe whose last name I have completely forgotten) put together a show about things you'd probably not think about in ways you'd probably never think about them. It's deeply fascinating. (My first episode, in case anyone's wondering or even reading this, was Season 3, Episode 28: Jonathan's Cadaver Paintings.)

All of this is a very long way of saying: When I found out that the HBM team would be in Los Angeles for a live performance of something called Terrible Resonance, I had to go.

And the short review is thus: It was fascinating, A+, would go again. Yes, even to see the same subject matter because I have this sneaking suspicion that the acoustics will always be different, and that detail (in addition, of course, to the natural vagaries of live performance) will make every show unique.

The show opened with a disclaimer about what the infrasound we would be hearing later might do to us, and flowed into a live HBM podcast, which is not a negative. It was interesting to watch how Jeff and Bethany worked together to deliver information seamlessly, and it was clear they very much like working with each other and both have good stage presence. The first 45 minutes or so was all about the various ways infrasound has been "heard". I'm using those scare quotes because infrasound is, as we all called out in response to Jeff's "A podcast about...", "The sound we can't hear"; it is sound at such low registers that it can only be felt. And sometimes, the feeling is so subtle it has been dismissed as a hallucination, or called a haunting.

The podcast portion included interviews with a number of people who have worked with, felt, or generated infrasound, including someone Jeff referred to as "the anti-hero of infrasound." It was followed by a brief Q and A about the information we'd just heard as well as the podcast in general, and then Joe joined Jeff on the stage to generate some infrasound right there in the Silent Movie Theater.

I'm fairly certain there's an irony there.

I don't know how to describe the infrasound itself. I really don't; for one thing, I suspect it's a very subjective feeling; unique to each person feeling it. For another, I'm not sure the English language has words for it. The sound shook through my body; when it hit my "sweet spot" I almost felt like I were a piano string hit by a hammer (for me, that was at about 14 Hz). A terrible resonance indeed, and I certainly understand why they tour this piece as a live show rather than trying to reproduce it over the podcast air.

As I said with Night Vale above, if you have a chance to see the HBM folks put on Terrible Resonance or any other show, do it -- you won't regret it.