NATE SCHEIBLE “Prions and Scrapie” (Unifactor)

Prions cause scrapie – well, probably, anyway. “Prions are misfolded proteins with the ability to transmit their misfolded shape onto normal variants of the same protein. They characterize several fatal and transmissible neurodegenerative diseases in humans and many other animals.” That’s from the internet – you can find it on there. Also on the internet is what “scrapie” is: “a disease of sheep involving the central nervous system, characterized by a lack of coordination causing affected animals to rub against trees and other objects for support, and thought to be caused by a virus-like agent such as a prion.”

I feel like I’ve learned so much today already!

But how to apply these ideas to Nate Scheible’s Prions and Scrapie tape on Unifactor? Scheible works within the idioms afforded him by tape loops and synthesizers, and we hear these loops disintegrate over a background of warm, ambient synth pads. If we consider the time we pass while listening as the same time it takes for prions to induce scrapie, then we can attach a sort of contemplative attitude toward the breakdown of a central nervous system. What happens in the head of an animal afflicted with scrapie? Are they attuned differently to aspects of nature? Do they ignore the breakdown occurring within them to focus on more philosophical matters?

Of course they don’t. They’re non-self-aware animals.

But if they were human? Sure. Nate Scheible is a human and so am I, and I empathize as a human with animals in distress, superimposing that distress to the human worldview (which, I realize, is pretty much the definition of empathy). So we’re given crystal lakes and vivid cloudscapes, sundrenched agriculture and brilliant prisms of light flaring through our optic nerves. All while the world – our bodies – break down around us. Talk about getting right into someone/thing else’s head!