All sound on Voice originates from Maja Ratkje’sthroat…
Colin Buttimer 2003-04-07
Voice begins and ends with glacial figures from ambient Aphex territory. At the end these figures are succeeded by silence, at the beginning they’re interrupted by elfin voices. Events quickly become unpredictable, unsettling, scary, as if small creatures had stolen into your skull and were busying themselves spitting out stray words, oaths, nonsense. It’s as though Laurie Anderson’s vocoder had been infected by a gleefully disruptive software virus.
“Joy” continues and diversifies into a chorus of different voices; strong and gentle, idiotic and innocent, whispering and cajoling, humming and screaming. On one hand there’s evident joy in the sound of words, of sounds all made possible by one set of vocal chords. On the other hand, whole histories of persecution justified by accusations of insanity, witchcraft, etc are also conjured. There’s a sense of patrolling and transgressing the boundaries of the known, of questioning sanity (perhaps in the best traditions of Dada). Listening to Voice is like occupying the head of somebody experiencing multiple personalities.
“Trio” fires off explosive screeches and spits, spats, strangled laughter, duck quacks, raging screams, evoking human beatboxes, cartoon violence (think Carl Stalling cut up and reflected in a kaleidoscope).
“Vacuum” clicks and crackles in the emptiness. Whorls of sound grow in volume only to be interrupted by breathtaking breathlessness, breathiness, breath caught and expelled, the breathy, quiet sound of near tears, of trying to breathe which is succeeded by a passage of spooked, echoing beauty.
All sound on Voice originates from Maja Ratkje’sthroat, though it has been much manipulated, processed, torn, stretched, pitch-shifted and who knows what else. The human voice is as close to home as an instrument can be and the impression of this music is of naked immediacy despite its manipulation. But that immediacy does not result in yet another restatement of the known but in revelations of strangeness, of travels beyond the known.
The cover of the cdshows Maja Ratjke’s face. She might be assumed to be sunk in meditation but on listening to her music a new possibility arises: instead of peacefulness, the suspicion increases that the closed eyes and mouth signify containment or communication with spirits, or a state much stranger, less quantifiable still. I look at the picture and fully expect the face to animate at any moment into a grimace, snarl, cry, smile, plea…
Ok, so slowly progressing with OF, but realistically with the workload I have on at the minute its going to be October before I can really get stuck in. Have to earn the pennies to pay for the course – gulp…
The more I look into OF the more I realise that this is where I want to concentrate my efforts for my major project – 2 reasons – it will give me the flexibility and (very importantly) the performance that I’m looking for in the works that I envisage and secondly it fulfills my personal aims from the course.
In terms of content I’ve got a few things to read but have been thinking a bit more about AV content, and the most obvious relationship there is is waves – light and sound both consist of waves (well, light can be a particle as well but lets not look into this here) – how can looking at the fundamentals become building blocks for the type of performance I’m aiming for. If anyone has any reading materials to recommend for this that would be appreciated…
I’ve also been thinking about the performance / installation side of things. For me the ideal is to create a bespoke installation using multi projection and interesting surfaces, and this is what I plan to do for exhibition time, but I am also conscious of future use. The more complicated the set up the less likely the logistics can be covered at events/festivals. I’m very interested in site specific installations, mapping visuals to what is available as surfaces, and how sound can be influenced by the acoustics within a space, and as I see it there are a few ways to go with what I work towards:
1/ Stick to my guns and produce a set piece which has a bespoke spec – more like an installation
2/ Create works that are flexible enough to be adaptable for different situations
3/ Create different works for different installs
4/ Just keep it simple
Plenty to keep me going, working on the proposal right now – more to come…
Far far too long since I posted anything – summer, which traditionally is when we’d have a bit of time, has been bloody manic. All good though, lots of 3D Discos and other projects in full flow.
Which all means that my work towards my project has been put to the sideline, not ideal but how things pan out.
Had a really good chat with Jamie about my project, getting down to nitty gritty of what my aims are for the project as well as the course over all – I have always focussed on my masters being a pragmatic choice that contributes to my work in the ‘real world’. I guess my main passion is creating audio visual works which really are AV – I get sick of seeing work where the the visual element is a bolt of afterthought. I also have a ‘thing’ about the term ‘vjing’ – its a horrible word for starters – but never liked the automatic ‘art’ labeling. Most live visuals, especially in club situations, are not much more than moving wallpaper, and that’s how it should be for a lot of these situations – the context and environment is not conducive for displaying ‘artistic’ content. Many vj’s seem to want to introduce narrative or statements into this situation where is just does not belong.
If it is an artistic piece that is created this needs to be displayed or performed within the correct context and environment, if there is a narrative involved surely the audience needs to be able to absorb the piece and give it attention. I would say the majority of the work I do is design opposed to art, it serves a purpose, and it is important that work I produce that is artistic in nature is placed / performed in a situation that compliments it.
Apologies for this ranting post – but it does set the scene for what I aim to attempt in my project. There are two main strands:
1/ Audiovisual production of work. Working through my thoughts and talking to Jamie has made me focus on what I really want to gain from the course – the production of audiovisual works! Through his project I want to explore, through producing one or several pieces, how instead of audio + visual, where there is a hierarchical divide (usually audio comes first), a fully cohesive audiovisual work can be made. Golan Levin has talked about ‘audiovisual material’ and this interests me – could there be specific elements of the audio and visual make up that are very close in make up, could rules be created to work from?
2/ Instrumentation – This is what I have talked about in discussions, where there is a general frustration and almost backlash to the ‘laptop performer’ – what is demonstrably ‘live’ with modern electronic performance when the artist is behind a laptop? Working with Jon Hook has allowed me to explore creating hardware and software that could bring a gap and give the audience a stronger understanding and association with what the artist is doing and how this is effecting parts of the performance. Here’s a screen shot of an example that Jon has coded up – its a software that runs on a ‘heads up’ multi touch surface:
How it works is that the graphics in the background (at present the teapot) are coded up in OpenGL (fingers crossed OF soon) with parameters being coded in. each of the coloured ‘rings’ have nodes which assign a level to a parameter (so for example scale, position, rotation) and as the ‘radar pointer’ passes the node the value is assigned to the parameter. Quite simple but we think this will be effective in being able to work in an AV sense – it works almost like a step sequencer but rotational – bpm of audio can be set as the rpm of the ‘radar’.
A long way to go with this, at present I’m starting to develop graphics for it, so have to jump into OpenGL at the deep end. More updates to come…