The shadow of your dog

2018, 4-channel audio loop, duration 16′ 30″, printed text

Where is the emotional weight of a song located? How does it engage in pathos? This is a song that listens, lets the body take over, and moves to a transmutational engagement with what Roland Barthes called the ‘grain’ of the voice, or ‘the materiality of the body speaking its mother tongue’.

This work began as a collection of notes made in response to a difficult personal situation. At the same time, I was experimenting with non-verbal vocalisations in connection with an unrelated project. These vocalisations became mentally fused with my notes, and I began thinking of the relationship between them as kind of song.

We often carry songs within us, but here the intention is for the viewer to experience a song from within. The crux of the work is in the relations between voice, text and physical space.


(Stereo excerpt of 4-channel audio)

 

 

Installation views from Mountain Song (Master of Voice MA graduation show), Dokzaal, Amsterdam, June 2018

 

Beyond words, between ears
2018, Master of Voice MA thesis

This thesis examines listening as an active process in which meaning is made. It goes on to imagine a de-technologised / hyper-linguistic future in which communication develops into new forms following technological and environmental collapse.

Chapter excerpt from Beyond words, between earsdownload  

 

Daisy (broken throat)

2017, video with sound, duration 0′ 47″

A sore throat renders my voice alien, and its use as a marker of identity is thrown into question.

In one of the most affecting scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odessey, the onboard computer HAL 9000’s identity is pulled apart block by block after he begins killing his astronaut colleagues. As his voice pitches down to the infrasonic, becoming incomprehensible, HAL offers up his last conscious thought: a plaintive version of the song Daisy Bell. HAL reveals that it was one of the first things he was taught by his instructor.

The film’s take on HAL’s consciousness is rather anthropocentric, beginning and ending with a sentimental song. In HAL’s case, identity is contingent on his artificial consciousness behaving itself, playing by human rules which humans themselves do not always feel the need to abide by. Once HAL begins to take his own, admittedly murderous decisions, his identity as a conscious being can no longer be tolerated.

HAL’s voice is the only available ‘human’ representation of his identity. Without it, he would already be too alien for his colleagues to deal with. The emotional power of that scene is the power of a voice disintegrating in song, a reminder that reason and identity are not fixed and can melt away. It is an audio memento mori, and perhaps also a realisation that consciousness is not an exclusively human quality.

Beyond is all around me

2017, video with sound, duration 55′ 02″

This work combines found footage (a YouTube screen grab from the game Minecraft), with found voice (narration from the film Alone in the Wilderness). Both sources are in their own ways inauthentic constructions.

Alone in the Wilderness is a 2004 documentary based on film reels and journals made by the naturalist Dick Proenneke, who spent his last three decades living alone in the Alaska wilderness. The voice one hears narrating the film is like the proverbial wise old grandfather, dispensing hard-won wisdom with wry and wistful asides. It is natural to imagine Proenneke himself at the mic. However, Proenneke’s ‘voice’ in the film is a construction, in the sense that his journals were edited into a script by the film makers, and that the script is narrated by an actor. Proenneke himself died shortly before the film was made.

Minecraft is a hugely successful video game in which players build worlds for themselves in a graphically simple, highly stylised virtual environment. One could imagine a player spending decades within the game, building virtual log cabins and roaming a world which, unlike Alaska, is limitless.

In combination, these two inauthentic sources produce a weird sort of alternate authenticity, which is both liberating and disturbing. We have more world building tools than ever before. Yet data, facts and the voice itself are increasingly questionable, due to often deliberate obfuscation for political ends, but also because of the underlying, alienating effects of techno-capitalism.

A New Career in a New Town

2016, audio, duration 2′ 59″

Shortly after moving to Amsterdam in 2016, I was invited by London-based radio station Resonance FM to cover a David Bowie song of my choice. The title of this instrumental, from Bowie’s 1977 album Low, neatly described my position at the time and carries with it an invigorating sense of renewal and hope.

In this entirely acapella version the usually distinct categories of voice and instrument are merged. The voice, freed from the task of conveying language, becomes its own song.

Where am I?

2016, video with sound, duration 1′ 01″

drawings