Rule of Three


Remedial Chaos Theory

directed by Jeff Melman

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A group of college friends settle down to a game of Yahtzee, only to be interrupted when the pizza delivery man arrives. A toss of the die decides who will fetch the food, with the six possible outcomes setting half a dozen different timelines in motion. We watch them in turn, following the aftermath of each throw. Some events repeat themselves, from the rolling boulder of an Indiana Jones diorama, to a strangled attempt at The Police’s ‘Roxanne’. Others differ depending on which character is absent: romances are kindled, existing tensions exacerbated. The taut structure serves as an experimental model, allowing various relationships within the group to be tested, while the action peaks with the chaos of the ‘darkest timeline’. Here, bullets are fired, bottles smashed, and Norwegian troll dolls somehow swallowed.

Words by John Wadsworth

We Real Cool

by Gwendolyn Brooks

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The epigraph of ‘We Real Cool’ sets the scene in the style of a succinct film script: ‘The pool players. Seven at The Golden Shovel.’ What follows is a series of eight sentences, each only three words long. The line breaks do not match up neatly with the full stops, but fall after the ‘We’ that opens every mantra. The effect is a staggered swagger, as each cleaved phrase creates a lurch in emphasis: ‘We / Lurk late. We / Strike straight.’ The players’ existences are distilled into two dozen words. Truants and underage drinkers, they are bonded by the poem’s first-person plural narration. Despite the solidarity on show, any optimism is shaken by the uncertainty of the abrupt conclusion: ‘We / Jazz June. We / Die soon.’

Words by John Wadsworth

The Shrunken Cathedral

by Claude Debussy

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When the sea is calm and clear, a Breton legend states, a cathedral emerges off the coast of Ys. On such days, a sharp listener can hear the faint pealing of bells and the incantations of clergymen. Debussy’s The Sunken Cathedral imagines how they may sound, warped by water. The composition opens with two pianissimo chords: one reaching towards the bottom of the piano keyboard, the other to the top. A series of further chords fill the gap, gently ascending through the notes of the pentatonic scale, the harmonies recalling plainchant or the clang of gamelan. The volume swells with the arrival of a grand pipe organ, depicted by a deep pedal and resonant triads. Then, just as gracefully as it arose, the cathedral sinks into an ocean of C major.

Words by John Wadsworth

Today's connection

‘Remedial Chaos Theory’ explores the idea of parallel timelines. ‘We Real Cool’ uses the poetic technique of parallelism. The Sunken Cathedral makes extensive use of parallel movement between chords.

More to discover

Community: Watch a video essay by Films & Stuff on the episode’s structure here.

We Real Cool: Read the poem here, and further information about the work here.

The Sunken Cathedral: Listen to the composition here (performed by Debussy himself), and download the sheet music from the IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library.

Question of the day

Which artworks related to the word 'parallel' would you recommend?
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