All Hail Effluvia

RALPH HOYTE: Battened down the hatches and got seriously down to the actual act of creation this week (impending deadlines always help inspiration, of course). I’m creating SYNCLINE in Fairy Cave Quarry with my frequent collaborator Phill Phelps (audio engineer, coder, musician). It all started with me saying to Phill, ‘hey, how about hanging autonomous speaker units off the rim of the cliffs and beaming sound into the quarry?’ (see earlier entries).

Fairy Cave Quarry - speaker locations general 1

So far we’ve bought most of the gubbins: 6 megaphones (more waterproof than conventional speakers, being made of metal), the mp3 player circuit boards, the wiring etc. We’re waiting on the bike batteries to drive the things – held up in China, I believe.

So much for the hardware. The software, in this case, is the poemscripts I’m writing. ‘Poemscripts’? The technology, that is to say the form, decides the content. Let’s say I wrote a conventional poem and simply divided it into 6 parts, or voices. You’d have 6 voices possibly overlapping each other. This would be mere cacophony. So the point is, how to compose for 6 ‘voices’ in this setting. I decided to set up 6 buckets, theme them, then simply dump all material pertaining to that theme into that bucket. Current buckets are:

  1. Fluid (refers to the nature of the material, not a description of the content. The voice is fluid)
  2. Geology
  3. Intelligence (on themes of ‘what is intelligence’)
  4. Lists (of relevance to the two quarries)
  5. Oracle (oracles lived in caves and prophesised)
  6. Quarries (related to these particular quarries)

No human voices were abused in the making of this work. They are all synthesised. Each ‘theme’ has a synthesized voice. The synthesised voices were virtually auditioned (which led to some rather amusing conversations, e.g.: Ralph: where’s Ana? Phill: she’s downloading. Ralph: tell her to get a move on, we haven’t got all night! Phill: OK, she’s downloaded – but whatiszname … Ralph: Oliver, English Oliver – Phill: he needs upgrading, that’s the old voice, let me get his updated voice…)

So far we’ve got:

  • Veena: Indian, female: lists
  • Moira: Irish, female:
  • Kate: English RP: geology
  • Alice (a-lee-che): Italian, female: Latin & intelligence
  • Susan: American: fluid
  • Chantal: French: quarries
  • Oliver: Standard English: Oracle1
  • Alex: American, female: Oracle2
  • Fiona: Scottish: possible fluid
  • Kyoko: standby

Each quarry/medium of delivery demands a different mix. SYNCLINE in Fairy Cave is fractured, often broken, gnostic, hermeneutic. Not only do we have a quarry, where things which were not meant (!) to be seen lie exposed to the sun, the air, the gaze; also things here were smashed up, pulverized, blown apart, make up our roads, we drive Mercedes GLA45 AMG 4MATIC’s on them; but also: SYNCLINE – the earth in her groanings moved, she fractured the rocks, they were made molten, or lay flat and serene whilst the millennia snowed calcium on them. So the words are fractured, groaning, the millennia have sowed inconformity in them, things have intruded on their reverie, the notes are incongruous, scatty, effluvial…

Delivery is ‘in progress’. The mp3 readers are just … mp3 readers, They don’t do fancy stuff, they just read file1, read file2, read file3. So we sow ‘blank’ (silent) files in amongst them. The amount of silence depends on the nature of the voice. So Veena, for example, takes 8 hours to finish her list, and only then loops. Susan is more vocal. But we have to sow enough silence in amongst the files so that the chances of cacophony are small (but cacophony is sometimes good). Then we simulated on Ableton Live. Then we turned some down so you get the effect of the megaphone nearest you is loudest (of course), and the others are at various distances (which they will be, depending on where they are aimed). Then we considered the level of each, so we’d know how close you have to get to a megaphone to hear it. Then we put an echo on some. Then we decided we were tired and there were too many variables to code, so we went and cooked supper and drank cider.

ANTICLINE in Westdown is for a different media: GPS triggered smartphone media. So people will walk through the quarryscape. Will you expect ‘a story’. Maybe you’ll get one, maybe Discobolous will eject his head from the bedrock and stagger forth. I don’t know, I’m currently writing it, I don’t know what he’ll want to do, say. Maybe nothing.  Voices? They haven’t spoken, yet.

 

Ralph Hoyte  16/7/15

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