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Archive for the ‘Audio work’ Category

Sounds carry historical and political significance, even when they are intended as pure entertainment. Alternative meanings shimmer just beneath the surface as accepted meanings—safer meanings—give way to the attentive listener. Consider the sound of fireworks. According to Wikipedia, fireworks “were originally invented in ancient China in the 12th century to scare away evil spirits, as a natural extension of the Chinese invention of gunpowder.”

In the twenty-first century, fireworks and other forms of explosive entertainment continue to fulfill their ancient mandate to scare away “evil spirits.” When we pack a blanket and join our family and friends on the beach to experience the fireworks, we banish loneliness, depression and tiredness, as well as our anxieties about the economy, our worries about the country’s values and the concerns we have about the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (more…)

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call-cuta-in-a-box-rimini-apparatI entered into the wrong room at the ornate Goethe Institut across from the Metropolitan Museum on 5th Avenue. I waited for the phone call that was apparently originating from a call center from India — a reversal of the dynamic in which one’s call to a U.S.-based corporation is rerouted to a cubicle located in India or elsewhere.

Perhaps it was deliberate on my part as I am more than reluctant to go to theatre pieces that rely on audience participation. I find them contrived, a kind of theatrical mad-libs: the audience is only there to fill in the blank, providing the performance with a verb, a noun, an adverb but never really guiding or transforming the narrative. I am fine with the fourth wall, and I like my experimentation on stage, not in blurring the distinction between performer and ticket-buyer.

But I’m a media studies person and a friend recommended the piece, regrettably entitled “Call Cutta in a Box.” The “intercontinental phone play” is devised by the German troupe Rimini Protocoll in collaboration with the Callcenter Descon Center Limited in Kolkata, India and coproduced in New York by the Under the Radar Festival and the Public Theatre. (more…)

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Photo by Marius Slaustas, cringel.com

Photo by Marius Slaustas, cringel.com

Do not underestimate the power of a single voice to make or break an election. The power is not in the words themselves; it is in the sonic experience.

Everyone has seen—and heard—mainstream media news reduced to pellets of information called “sound bites.” We rabbity news consumers meekly nibble on these empty-calorie hors d’œuvres because we are starving for the taste of real information. Performance artist David Letterman has famously turned the tables by subjecting past presidents, as well as our current one, to the sound bite test. FDR and Kennedy pass with flying colors; Bush ’43 mumbles and stumbles to failure. Sound bites back.

The current presidential campaign is delivered in sound bites. The ads, catch phrases, pundits and talking heads get more air time than the candidates themselves (except for the occasional TV drive-by, when the news camera swoops in on a candidate’s real-time delivery of a speech, then cuts away to more important matters before he has finished speaking.) Sound bites are the news media equivalent of Chicken McNuggets—looks good; tastes lousy; fills us up but leaves us hungry. (more…)

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"The Hat Makes the Man" (1920) Max Ernst

I’m taking my first sound environment course at Hunter College with professor Andrea Polli. Our major text is Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, edited by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner. Featured readings come from interviews, essays, magazine articles and manifestos written by theorists, musicians and sound artists like Pierre Schaeffer, Theodor Adorno, Marshall McLuhan, John Cage, Brian Eno, Glenn Gould and Chris Cutler. The readings have been a real eye-opener—or should I say “ear opener”?

I’m a visual specialist. My music knowledge is as shallow as my art background is deep. Sure, I took piano lessons as a kid. But after I learned to play Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” well enough to impress my father, I lost interest. Like a lot of people, I’ve accumulated a “personal soundtrack” based on haphazard exposure to radio stations, TV, advertising jingles, movies and live performances. Unlike most, my personal soundtrack hasn’t been transferred to an MP3 player. It resides solely between my ears, where snippets of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” bubble up through layers of B. B. King, the “Dr. Zhivago” soundtrack and Alka Seltzer’s “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz” jingle.  (more…)

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There are certain things in this world that just don’t seem to go together. Each is so distinct an entity that we cannot imagine one ever sharing common ground with the other. For instance, garlic and ice cream (though there actually is garlic ice cream). Or Rush Limbaugh in a yarn shop. Well, what about fresh vegetables and music? They don’t mix, do they? As it happens, they do! Introducing the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra. Yes, that’s right, an orchestra whose performers play fresh vegetables. Check out this YouTube video of the orchestra in action…

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