Come Back - The App

Just when you feel like you're starting to make a comeback, sometimes things slip through your fingers.  What if there were an app that could give you a second chance?

Come Back - the app.  This product video is our final project in Video and Sound.  

Bloodworm: a response to Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild"

Lucie and I set out to make an audio response piece to Octavia's disturbing and thought-provoking futuristic short story "Bloodchild."  Choosing to reimagine the final climactic insemination scene, when T'Gatoi the many-tentacled worm protector inseminates the protagonist boy Gan.  

Butler describes in her afterword to the story that this was a piece in part about 'paying the rent.'  As Gan shifts from angry, resentful, and afraid of the giant maternal worm, he also realizes that he must play host to her eggs in the name of his family's safety.  As he resigns to pay the rent, he completes the narrative arc of his innocence-lost in "Bloodchild."  The theme of future human subjugation also plays nicely against the Singularity analogy, when humans may perhaps be ruled by their own technological creations.  

Here we recorded a variety of sounds meant to channel both of these images - the flesh and slime of the worm and the cold plasticity of the sentient computer.  I arranged the final scene's dialogue between the two characters into a slightly reimagined monologue from T'Gatoi, placing the listener into the role of the now voiceless Gan.  Field recordings were made of Lucie and I channeling our own inner child as we played with slimy toy gel balls, play-doh, yogurt, and stewed tomatoes.  A crazy bird from my backyard that sounds quite insect-y makes a few buzzing sonic appearances, meant to evoke T'Gatoi's stinger with the narcotic kiss.  This audio event also loosely structures the monologue into three separate sections, like the three acts of the Butler's story which we charted.

For the part of T'Gatoi we had TextEdit read the script from the scene, and recorded Lucie's performance of the scene three different times.  In each of the three sections of our piece, an additional Lucie is added to the mix, enforcing the idea that T'Gatoi's stinger/persuasive leverage become incrementally humanized to Gan as he concedes and is perhaps somewhat at peace with 'paying the rent.'  

I also made a piece of ambient electronic music to go underneath the field and voice recordings, somewhere in the vein of Fennesz meets Boards of Canada.  It's intended to add a sci-fi reference, an emotionally neutral yet utopian feeling.  

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+ I'd love to make a "Bloodworm" video piece to go with this audio.  I envision a one-shot, birds eye view of my hands typing out Gan's half of this dialogue on an iPad, while live worms impede my responses to T'Gatoi's verbal proddings as they crawl around the screen and my hands.  



Week 1: "Her Long Black Hair," a Central Park soundwalk by Janet Cardiff

I took the walk through Central Park on a warm Sunday afternoon, and absolutely loved Her Long Black Hair by Janet Cardiff.  The elegance of synchronization between narrator and participant, via the matching of steps and location - it added up to super impactful.  A very powerful simplicity to it’s themes of spatiality.  You look up and around, you even ‘look’ down when she brings up the graves of the WWI soldiers and the creeks that were covered by more recently constructed foot paths.  You look ‘behind’ (as the Greek myth tells us that Orpheus could not without escaping punishment), when she alludes to the violent American history we cannot disregard.

Orpheus was a singer.  in Cocteau’s Orphée, he was depicted as a poet.  In Her Long Black Hair, we intermittently follow the narrative of a woman who exists only in the found imagery of some acquired photographs, which serve as both the matching signposts of our synchronous journey through Central Park and alsoa symbolic story arc that plays on themes of memory, curiosity, and dimensionality.

The favorite serendipitous moment (of which they were a few) was on the final bridge of my walk, when a street performer playing solo jazz guitar mixed beautifully in key with Cardiff’s recording of the gondola driver singing a romantic tune.  Just one of a few very powerful moments of synchronicity that a strong piece of work creates when paired with such a classic and bustling location.   

Week 1 : Creativity / authorship

“Our creativity comes from without, not from within.” - Kirby Ferguson

“Art is sourced.” - Jonathan Lethem

I found Kirby Ferguson’s TED talk “Embrace the Remix” a sweet sentiment but rhetorically flawed.  Like Lethem, he attacks patent law, and supports this point through the perceived similarities of artistic works by major artists, yet i’m not sure many would disagree with him on this point.  That corporations and lawyers can behave in a self-interested, hypocritical fashion when they have much to lose seems obvious.  

I have a fair amount of skepticism for the tribe of people that believe we must embrace (worship?) the remix, the recontextualization, the recycling of culture.  Perhaps it is simply that the personal computing tools involved in these productions have become too accessible, too easy.  I’ve known a handful of young music makers abandon their pursuit of instrumental craft in favor of programming glossy, sterile remixes.  To point out that Dylan shared a melody with his previous generation’s folk musicians doesn’t pay the necessary respect to the number of hours he spent alone in a room creating his work.  To point out that Danger Mouse made a great remix record that helped launch his  gold-plated production career doesn’t change the fact that the Gray Album — while great — is a novelty piece of kitsch art.  Of the many successful records he’s made since, he’s never returned to the idea of making a mash-up record.  Projects like this show off cleverness, but can lack an authentic authorial voice.  

He quickly concludes that human creativity ‘comes from without, not from within’ -- a bit undersupported.  It lacks sensitivity and nuance as an argument.  Ferguson strikes me as a person a bit too pleased with himself to have landed a TED talk.

Lethem’s argument is more developed and wildly more poetic - Lethem is a top shelf creative thinker, unlike Ferguson it would seem - but in his conclusion he gets a little vague.  Lethem's a member of the current American pantheon of authors, and his piece gives no airspace to the rampant piracy and financial restructuring of the streaming music industry, for example, that cannibalizes the efforts of his cousins in that artistic middle class.  It reminds me of the current argument surrounding whether Pharell and Robin Thicke should have to repay damages from a legal defeat to Marvin Gaye’s estate is painfully boring.  — [Some pop stars repurposed a cool musical fragment to make the new Livin La Vida Loca, and now two years later we get to keep talking about it.  Fantastic.]

I enjoyed his section about the “undiscovered public knowledge,” and to a large extent agree that future originality is in some ways a process of discovery that results from changing the recipe of your influences.  But both Ferguson’s TED talk (in a theater full of eager and perhaps not unfair to assume like-minded ticket buyers) and Lethem in his upper academic echelon may exist in a bit of an echo chamber.  Ultimately I have a problem with these mens' definitions of human creativity, but in spirit I agree with a good portion of where they’re coming from.