Isle of Sky in Winter

Five a.m. – probably the most unwanted noise. Three, four times. What the hell? A hit on the snooze button. It’s quiet again – but the deep sleep is gone, leaving space for thoughts.

In 1928, Henry Ford initialized and opened Fordlândia, an industrial city in the Amazonas. He wanted to save money in the production of rubber for his automobiles. He also dreamed of a perfect American town in the middle of the jungle – including alcohol prohibition. His dream failed because he and his fellow workers lost their focus. They spent too much time and money on creating a beautiful, luxurious town and not enough on building the rubber plant. Fordlândia was a failed utopia.

In 2008, a musician from Iceland, Jóhann Jóhannsson, released a concept album focused on Fordlândia’s history. Jóhannsson plays several instruments, including piano, pipe organ, and electric organ. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and its Chorus accompany him on some songs. Most songs on the album have no lyrics, but the missing words create a situation when thoughts begin to flow in whatever direction. As a BBC music review says, the songs are providing “a most extraordinarily tranquil sense of pleasure, supremely calming without being in any way bland.” For me, the album Fordlândia is a perfect work based on a failed utopia.

Now, back to that early morning I mentioned above. The weather forecast for that day promised cloudy skies followed by rain. Instead, the area in front of me was cached by dense fog. The sun rose behind me, and the sky before me was touched by the first rays of sunlight. Then, the intensity of the colors in the atmosphere began to change very quickly.

What is this context between the rubber factory Fordlândia, Jóhannsson’s album, and what was happening in the sky that morning? The image shows a quiet world at this moment, the fog making everything soft, the atmosphere full of shades of blue and red, and clean, fresh air. I remember these minutes as a utopia; the word comes from the Greek: οὐ (“not”) and τόπος (“place”) and means “no-place,” a nonexistent place (Wikipedia). Often, utopia describes an ideally perfect place, one that does not exist in reality.

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