Electric Cars and Electric Guitars

Electric Cars and Electric Guitars by Nerve Theory aka Bernhard Loibner & Tom Sherman

Electric Cars and Electric Guitars is series of 12 short Voice/Music pieces by Nerve Theory aka Bernhard Loibner & Tom Sherman. It was written, composed and recorded to run as a sound installation for Tonspur at the Museums Quarter in Vienna, Austria, from September until December 2019.

About the piece

The transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles will alter the soundscape of the city. Taking the act of driving away from people and turning control over to networked-artificially intelligent autonomous vehicles will completely transform the psychological nature of transportation. Nerve Theory delivers their audience to this radical transformation of space and time through “Electric Cars and Electric Guitars”, a spoken conceptual narrative floating in a sonic spatial construction designed to put the listener in the headspace of the next chapter of human terrestrial transportation. Walking through the unique acoustic architecture of the TONSPUR_passage to experience this Nerve Theory work will simulate the heady phenomenon of moving bodies cybernetically rather than simply physically. The flow of ideas will have rhythms and beats that will give the listening audience a sense that they have really gone somewhere—the experiential accomplishment of transportation itself.

After the presentation as a sound installation the piece was expanded and reworked for radio broadcast.

You can get the full stereo version here.

The realization of this piece has been supported with a composition grant of the City of Vienna.

Electric Cars and Electric Guitars

Text by Tom Sherman


Electric cars and electric guitars.
Electric cars are automobiles, vehicles governed by computers.
Soon electric cars will drive themselves.
They will appear to be autonomous.

Electric guitars are musical instruments.
Electric guitars are for playing, for making music.
Like electric cars, they can take us places.

Electric cars and electric guitars.


Traffic on the street or road is still noisy, a rumble and din.
But that will begin to fade as electric vehicles are introduced
to reduce carbon dioxide emissions
and let computers take over the streets and roads.
People will no longer be responsible for driving their cars.
They may sleep on their way to work
or play their guitars when they are going places.


At first electric cars will be driven by people.
Then the people will let the cars drive for them.
They will turn over the keys to computers and
machines will learn to drive safely and efficiently.
The people being driven around by computers 
can sit back and relax and do other things.
Blind people will be able to drive.
People too old or too young will be able to drive.
People too old or too young will be able to go places
without breaking the law.
The rules of the road will be enforced by computers.


Electric cars will be quiet but deadly to pedestrians and cyclists.
People walking or riding bicycles will be run over by electric cars
because people will not hear them coming until it is too late.
Electric cars will have to be smart enough 
to warn people on the street that they are coming.


Watch out and get out of the way when electric cars 
decide to cross your path.
Electric cars will accelerate and decelerate with
transmissions that have no gears.
They will not indicate that they are speeding up 
or slowing down.
They will not sound dangerous.


There is a subconscious pleasure 
in driving a responsive vehicle.

The artificial intelligence humming underneath a network
of autonomous vehicles pushes us to look inward
for a sense of velocity and progress in our journeys.


From the cabins of our vehicles
we invent the geometry of our mobility.
The cityscape swirls around us through windows and mirrors.
We no longer have to worry about hitting someone
or cracking up.


When we are walking we know which way our feet are pointing.
Heal to toe, our body’s gait unfolds in our walk.
When we drive or are driven
our feet are fixed on the floor.
It is time to dance in our autonomous electric cars.


Artificial intelligence is the system governing vehicular traffic.
AI takes driving beyond subconsciousness.
We will no longer wonder where we have gone
while asleep at the wheel.
We will dream about coming and going places in our transported brains.
From point A to point B via straight lines and curves,
stopping and starting in circles and squares
and ending in vanishing points on the autobahn.


Electric cars and electric guitars.
Autonomous vehicles go wherever they are told.
Internal combustion had quite a throaty run.
A mobile phone ad on TV made me think about texting.
Texting is the transmission of data about our bodies
Completely free and disembodied…
Texting is the connection of disconnected, disembodied bodies.


The problem is we cannot transmit our actual
flesh and blood bodies with radio waves
or quantum entanglement
or any supernatural scheme we can seize upon.
We are stuck on this planet as animals
Imprisoned in our skin and bones.
We wrap our bodies in metal cars
and speed around in our illusions of immaterialism.
Eventually our cars will have to fly.
Flying cars will be governed by artificial intelligence
and gravity.


Electric cars, like petroleum-powered vehicles before them,
are little houses on wheels, mobile homes.
These rolling houses contain the sound of their drivers
and passengers who mix their music
with those on the street
by rolling down their windows
or stopping and opening their doors.
Passenger vehicles, controlled autonomously by computers, AI,
are vehicles for delivering and mixing sound inside out
as an act of transportation,
as a means of getting somewhere, concretely.
Transportation thus simulates teleportation.


Don’t waste your time riding around when you can make music
and have a dynamic conversation with the environment.
Today’s transportation systems are articulations of mobility and location.
Try playing a song that tracks movement and creates inner and outer space. Performance is important.
Nobody wants to drive a pedestrian vehicle for any length of time .


Before we were relieved of the responsibility of driving
we could only listen to the radio and sing along.
Or use our phones.
In autonomous vehicles we can play our guitars or drums
or wind instruments in our mobile studios.
We can program our instruments with our very nervous systems
and improvise and exercise our heart and lungs and limbs.
We can rock our bodies to the forces generated by our rolling vehicles.


Soon we will all be passengers driven by our need to be with others.
We use our cars to be with other people.
We can send our cars out to shop for groceries themselves.
Autonomous vehicles can go out to have their brakes
and shocks and steering checked without us.
Their batteries drive the system.
They are happiest taking a good charge.
They are essentially batteries that keep them alive.
Lithium ion batteries are the heart of electric cars.
They crave electricity to stay alive and moving.


Cars are meta-musical instruments driven by lithium batteries.
Cars are electric devices for working and playing.
Lithium is a soft metal, a white powder extremely good at
holding and releasing electric power.
Lithium loves electricity and electricity makes the world go round.
Playing with electricity makes us happy.
A powerful lithium battery is a beautiful thing.


Electric cars and electric guitars are the sound of the city,
a sonic diagram of our desire to be with people,
to signal each other,
to realize how we feel and tell others,
to draw pictures with velocity
and conduct stops and starts
at visualizing music through windshields and windows,
expressing sound with motion in traffic
as we tell others we are alive.