Panel: Through the Roadblocks: Technology and Orality
In a world where worldwide immigration is increasing daily because of social instability and economic need, the issues of multiculturality have once more an acute impact on everyday life in many regions and countries. Besides the pressing problems of vital resources such as living space and other fundamental needs for physical survival, equally important, and inextricably connected, are the problems of cultural survival and of mutual understanding between groups of different cultural backgrounds. Besides the physical barriers of country boundaries or roadblocks, the intangible barriers of language, culture, habits, social status and mentality play just as important a role in this context. “Osmosis” explores the idea of cultural interchange and adaptation through an acoustic metaphor: It creates a sonic environment where sounds from three different sources “live” and change gradually by adopting each other’s distinct characteristics. In the purely acoustic dimension of the project, three groups of sounds are initially placed in different regions of the performance space. As idividual sounds start “migrating” from their region of origin to one of the other two regions, they experience the effects of cultural osmosis observed in multicultural societies: They impart some of their characteristics to the sounds of their new environment, while they themselves start adopting characteristics from the sounds of their new environment. Three very distinct types of sources were chosen for this piece: The flying calls of hundreds of swallows (marlins) flying above the city of Corfu in Greece recorded in July 2007 by the composer, the songs of Weddel Seals recorded in Antarctica by marine biologists, and the encoded messages broadcast by “Numbers Stations” for espionage purposes, recorded by short-wave radio amateurs all over the world. Orientation, mating, communication between peer groups and territoriality, are basic needs that lead to strikingly diverse, even alien sonic worlds, in the environments of a small town, the antarctic, and different countries during the cold war. When such different sounds are brought together, the boundaries between familiar and alien become blurred, and a search for new ways of discerning meaning in the maze of seemingly random meetings of different entities begins. The acoustic transformations of the sounds are performed in real time using spectral processing techniques implemented in SuperCollider, an object oriented realtime sound and music synthesis enviroment. This realisation of Osmosis is part of a larger project that involves realizations in interactive installations with different media (sand, water, graphics synthesis). In the installation version of the project, visitors can interact with the work via a multitouch surface, using cubes or other polyhedral objects whose surfaces are imprinted with patterns corresponding to sound samples and ways of processing them. The samples have been preprocessed by machine listening techniques ranging from basic amplitude, pitch and onset detection to psychoacoustically salient features such as MFCC (Mel Frequency Ceptral Coefficients) and other. The results of this processing are saved in a sort of electronic memory of the sound “heard” by the computer. The interaction of the visitors with the system provides an additional layer of memory, which modifies and complements the system’s “experience” of the sound world. In this way, a cumulative history of sound transformations is formed, an allegoric “cultural history” in this metaphoric world of sound exchange. Another layer of the work involves gathering of real-world environmental data connected to the forms of life and communication portrayed by the sound samples, and displaying these on video projections, together with a visual representation of of visitor’s actions. Thus, the purely metaphorical or poetic aspect of the work is linked to actual current “real-world” issues. This work is the result of collaborative work with graduate students and faculty members of the Department of Audiovisual Arts of the Ionian University as well as of the dialog with other scientists and artists.
- Iannis Zannos has a background in music composition, ethnomusicology and interactive performance. He has worked as Director of the Music Technology and Documentation section at the State Institute for Music Research (S.I.M.) in Berlin, Germany, and Research Director at the Center for Research for Electronic Art Technology (CREATE) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has taken part at numerous international collaborative Media Arts projects and has realized multimedia performances both alone and in cooperation with other artists. He is teaching audio and interactive media arts at the Department of Audiovisual Arts and at the postgraduate course in Arts and Technologies of Sound of the Music Department at the Ionian University, Corfu. Publications include: “Ichos und Makam” (Comparative Studies on the Modal systems of Greek and Turkish Music, 1994), “Music and Signs” (edited proceedings of the 1997 conference on Music Semiotics and Systematic Musicology), an a number of articles on Music Technology and Media Arts. Participation in artistice collaborations include (2000), with Martin Carlé programming of interactive sound for Eric Sleichim / Bl!ndman Quartet, and Ulrike and David Gabriel, 2005-2006: Cosmos-X – Multimedia installation with multiple audio and video projections based on the work of Iannis Xenakis, with Efi Xirou, and 2004-2005, with Jean-Pierre Hébert real-time sound programming for the installation series on “Sand”. Currently Iannis Zannos is focussing on how environmental issues as well as problems of multiculturality are reflected in media-art terms. earlab.org avarts.ionio.gr