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Player Piano: 04/20/18
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is a post war story about out of control automation and the people whose lives are affected by it. I read the book as a narrative analysis dialog with the player piano that features so prominently in season one of Westworld.
Before I read the book, I also hashed out some of my ideas in an off the cuff proto-essay on my Tumblr: The OST of the Uncanny Valley. The opening sequence of Westworld shows skeletal Host fingers playing the opening theme. The fingers happened to be rotoscoped 3D animations of the show's composer which brings its own special level of uncanny valley into the experience.
The use of the player piano / Host / rotoscoped composer to play music in Westworld I still need to address in a fully realized essay. Suffice it to say it was the inspiration for me looking for books featuring player pianos. One of the titles that cropped up was Vonnegut's.
The title is a metaphor for the post war automation this particular town is experiencing. On one side of the river are the factories. On the other side of the river are the engineers. The factories, once employing people to build things now uses robots to do the same. Of course that has happened but these robots are more like player pianos in that they run on the recorded movements of the most efficient human employees.
Beyond the uncanny valley of half a town being given over to automation, there is a weird, racist pseudo-Arab sounding delegation that has come to learn about the automation process. Their presence happens to coincide with a laid-off worker rebellion.
Then on a more personal level, there is the failing marriage of one of the few remaining human workers in this town who ends up having an affair whilst out on an all night drinking binge.
The book isn't my favorite Vonnegut. Nor is it in the realm of my favorite. But it did serve as a way to think through the player piano motif of Westworld.