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01 February 2013

The great musical coffin hoax

This story about the musical coffin has been carefully and elaborately faked, but it managed to get onto news sites and get heaps of free publicity. Why, asks CyberShrink.

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This story about the musical coffin has been carefully and elaborately faked, but it managed to get onto news sites and get heaps of free publicity. Why, asks CyberShrink.

News bulletins, blogs and media around the world have featured what appeared to be a news story, but, being lazy, they mainly just reported what they received: a smart and elaborate filmed advert, and a skeletal story. 

The story was so darn weird that it was surely hard for even the most naïve office junior to believe was serious. But nobody seems to have bothered to explore even a little or express an actual opinion. Times have never been better for Public Relations puffery, as increasingly "news" media reprint what they find elsewhere on the internet, and especially are keen to reprint any press release they receive, uncritically. 

This story has been carefully and elaborately faked, and a brilliant way for a small specialist dealer in sound systems of the highest quality, to get world-wide publicity fairly simply. 

They advertised a coffin costing only R30,000 containing a special sound system which enables your friends and family to create customised play-lists of music that would then be piped into your coffin eternally. That is, after you're dead. 

Play-lists and audio gadgets

This may seem ridiculous at first thought, but then it has long been customary in many cultures, to regularly place flowers on a grave, even though the dead person will not smell or admire them. We place pretty things there so they can die, too. In some cultures they also provide the grave at times with food and drink which the dead will not consume. Given the modern craze for play-lists and cute audio gadgets, is this really much more peculiar as a suggestion?  

Well, it does raise questions usually just ignored when they'd apply to flowers (which at least might give some comfort and pleasure to the mourners as they're displayed openly and outside):

  • What exactly is the purchaser assuming about the way this would work?
  • Do they accept that the deceased is indeed thoroughly dead, and that the music would be playing for absolutely no audience whatsoever?
  • Or do they somehow imagine that the deceased will remain able to listen to the tunes?
  • Doesn't that require one to assume a coffin-inhabitant with a considerable degree of consciousness and mental function, and wouldn't that be an appalling nightmare situation, without enabling others to make it worse by feeding a sound-track, condemning you to an eternity of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and (shudder) Boney M?
  • Would the compilation of this Final Play-List be intended to bring lasting comfort, or to exact revenge? 

Now, this whole story arises in Sweden, and I know from decades of experience that the Swedes can have a marvellously dry sense of humour and would be exactly the sort of people to create this as an elegant hoax.

The originating company, which does indeed include the Catacoffin system on its web-site, is Pause Ljud & Bild, distinguished Stockholm distributors in high-end audio equipment and systems. Take a look at the website here.

Three different components

There are three components advertised: CataCoffin, CataTomb, and CataPlay.

CataPlay will "manage your playlist online with the CataPlay application connected to the music service Spotify. Keep it private or make it collaborative, allowing friends and family to spare you a thought by adding tracks and keeping it up-to-date." 

CataTomb provides an "upgradeable music server with 4G-connection prepared to tackle whatever afterlife throws at it. The CataTomb features a 2,5 GHz Intel core processor and a 7-inch LCD-display showing what song’s playing." Frankly, even the idea of an afterlife throwing anything at all at your 4G connection strongly suggests whimsy. 

Finally, CataCoffin, "eEmploys a pair of 2-way speakers, divine tweeters with external cooling and one hell-of-a 8-inch subwoofer - fine-tuned to the coffin's unique interior acoustic space."  

Who gets to choose?

I was surprised that the suggestion was that it'd be up to others to select your eternal play-list, rather than encouraging you to select the coffin and the music yourself, in advance of actual burial. They have announced that the first model they made is owned by the company's own CEO, Fredrik Hjelmquist. We are invited to add further tracks to his initial playlist: Pause 4-ever", and the CataCoffin is available at their Stockholm store for you to try out.  

Feel more than free to add tracks to his playlist “Pause 4-ever”. To get a closer look at the CataTomb and try out the CataCoffin, simply head down to Pause store at Norrlandsgatan 14, in Stockholm. Many have already added their suggestions to his playlist. Some have obviously recognised the joke and added witty examples like his own initial list. Many really sad people, who have failed to get a life even before their burial, have suggested adding Gangnam Style. Has there ever been a view of Hell more horrible than being trapped forever with the manic and pathetic Psy?  

His list now includes many interesting recent tracks, selected tongue in chic. Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence might actually contradict the concept of everlasting Muzak, but there's "Cemetery Gates by The Smiths; Band of Horses' The Funeral; Wild Belle's It's Too late, Broder Daniel's Underground,  to name but a few. 

If one ventured a bit further back into popular music, there are even more possibilities - groups such as The Dead Can Dance, Rotting Corpse, Dead Milkmen, Dead World, Deceased, Buried Bones, and tracks like Dead Men Don't Smoke Marijuana.  

Let your imagination run. What tracks would you like on your own playlist?  And which would be the worst you can imagine having to listen to? 

(Professor MA Simpson, aka CyberShrink, January 2013)

 

 

 

 

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