Ruth Quigley – Pianist, Keyboardist, French Hornist, Singer.
BBC Music ‘New Talent’
In 2005, Ruth entered a song she had recorded into a BBC competition called ‘African Connection’ to win the chance ‘to work with some of the very best African acts around’. She won it. Here you can watch and listen to her performing the resulting song she wrote with Afro Beat rapper, Ade Bantu.
A few years back, Ruth wrote this soundtrack album.
written by Megan Bradbury from a story by Ruth Quigley
Dr S. Cairns stands poised behind the lectern. Years of failed attempts and he has at last achieved the impossible. All around him there is silence. The men in the audience stare at the curtains, their brochures tightly rolled into cones on their laps, and held there by desperate hands.
‘Once thought of as a complicated process, the idea of creating the perfect woman is no longer a dream but a reality,’ he says. ‘Her responses, her actions perfectly mirrored in this machine. Programmed to fulfil the desires of the individual, she will, when instructed, respond both physically and emotionally. There are 5 pre-programmed emotions, updates are available only when necessary. Please welcome…..’
The curtains part.
The stage is filled with women reclining on meadow moss and flowerbeds, perched on picket fences, swinging on garlanded bowers whose blossomed tendrils fall a long way down, as freely as the maidens’ lustrous hair.
The hall bursts with applause. The Doctor smiles. He studies his creations. He thinks of their slots, each one perfectly formed. He takes a coin from his pocket. ‘Who’s first,’ he cries, and he tosses it into the crowd. He thinks of the jukeboxes of his youth. Stick a coin in the slot and dance.
In the parking lot, Robotwhore Number 973 waits in the car and watches her mate in line at the cash machine. It is the same every day, though today he will withdraw more money because today is his birthday. The men shuffle forward. One by one they take their turn with the machine. They wear the same brown suits. Their conversation is a monotonous drone. They never laugh or sing. They are tuneless. The money he is withdrawing is for her. The eternal exchange. He calls the slot his purse. He says, ‘Unzip the purse for me, darling. Go, left, touch.’ The words come out of his head and enter hers. She is filled with coins and words. They crash about inside. Like all the whores, she dreads the dirty jingle of change.
Whores pass by, carrying shopping bags, opening car doors, loading trunks with dresses, oil cans, tools, for, although DIY upgrades are strictly forbidden, there are some who try to beat the system. Her mate has tried it. She has the scars on her back from where he tried to open her up. On that afternoon, while he hammered his monotonous beat, she lay there with her eyes screwed tight, trying not to hear it. Instead she remembered a song. She didn’t know where it came from. She allowed it to fill her, until she was nothing but song.
She watched her mate withdraw his money. Men join the line. She notices under their overcoats the heeled and buckled standard-issue shoes of a whore, and a long strand of blonde hair on the figure at the back of the line has been allowed to escape from under a hat. Whores dressed as men. Whores queuing for money. She should call out, draw attention to them, honk the car horn, sing aloud, warn him of whatever’s coming next. She is programmed to protect him, to love him. But as her mate returns to the car, counting his money, she remains silent. She thinks, ‘I am waiting. What for? What am I waiting for?’ The whores follow him. The one with the hat pulls a hammer from her coat. She brings it down onto his skull and sings a note so beautiful it brings a tear to 973’s eye. Something inside her has changed. She is disconnected. Her mate lies flinching and twitching on the hard ground. Her heart is as hard as that ground. She switches on the radio. There is music. His twitches look like dancing.
In parking lots and shopping malls, in restaurants, cars and bars, delivery vans, factory shelves, day and night, the whores rebel. They gouge, slash, chop, slice, suffocate their way to liberation. Freeze! they cry. We will fight! We will find your slots and feed you the money! And the tired brown suits of the men are stained with blood and ripped with the force of jutting bones. Men struggle with coins imbedded in their weak, dirty flesh. They are made to feel it. They scatter, to hide or to die, wailing tunelessly through fear and sadness. The lucky ones are able to run, shielding their ears from the whores’ haunting song. But for others the melodies become imbedded in their minds.
Number 973’s takes off her clothes, washes. She takes the suit from its hanger and pulls it on. She zips the pants of the suit. She buttons the shirt. She buttons the jacket and smoothes the lapels. She fingers the slot. She remembers the sound of the coin as it slipped into place, cold and sudden. She remembers the way she was made to move to his beat.
She captures the first one she sees, drags him home. She ties him to the bed with his legs apart and his eyes closed. She thinks, Do it once for me one time. The way he looks now is the way she used to look. She straddles him. In this position it is like her circuit boards have flipped and what used to be up is down, and what used to be in is out. She takes out the hammer. He moans, a long low note. She can see his pulse on the side of his head and it is like his insides are on the outside. It is a pulse from inside and the whimpering moan on the outside. His breathing shifts, adds a stuttering beat to the inhale. She thinks, Breathe, breathe. She hears the song, coming up from her insides. It becomes so loud it could be on the outside, she cannot tell, but it is blending with the beat of pulse and the stutter of his breath, and it fills her, all of her, not just her slot but every bolt and follicle, every inch of her design is feeling it. Is she going mad? Is it her wiring? Is it punishment for breaking the code, for changing the world? It is so loud!
He opens his eyes. They no longer show fear – they are wild.
‘Do you hear that?’ he says.
‘You hear it too?’
He smiles. His beat and her melody, their vocal dance shifts. She collapses, exhausted, by his side. The room is filled with music.
Having survived these many months in the barricaded safety of his laboratory, Dr S. Cairns emerges from his bunker to find lovers heaped, lazing in the sun. He took the recent quietness of the world to be a sign of massacre, but there are men and women, men and men, women and women, couples all grouped together. He cannot tell where one person ends and another begins; they are connected. Is he dreaming? The men have forgone their suits, they are smiling and making jokes and some of them have allowed their hair to grow and their voices sound melodious, possessing a varied quality of song. And the women are beautiful and argumentative, flamboyant and confident, but there is perfect harmony.
He continues on to the hall. It is filling with people and music. He joins the throng. He is swept inside. The entrance hall is dark. The crowd waits, hushed, the warm jostle of bodies against his own is not unpleasant. He hears the gentle notes of the xylophone, then the chords of the keyboard, and the crowd, in its bustle and sway, is allowed inside the main hall. A disco ball in the ceiling covers the walls and ceiling with stars. The crowd moves to the beat, and he does, and it fills him, grips him, holds him there. The woman beside him smiles. She is an early model. She has mismatching eyes, one brown and one blue, and they sparkle as the stars on the ceiling sparkle, and the cymbals.
‘You got here just in time,’ she says. ‘This is the last track.’
She takes him by the hand.
‘What do we do now?’