Voice Range, Dialect, Genre

Sound. 2012
4:24 min

“Voice Range, Dialect, Genre” is a reworking of Canadian author Derek Beaulieu’s “Local Colour”, which is a reworking of Paul Auster’s novella “Ghosts”. “Voice Range, Dialect, Genre” is part of “Local Colour; Ghosts, Variations” published by In Edit Mode Press / Publication Studio Malmö.

My work is a sound piece, and the visual part of the video below is not part of the work (although it uses Beaulieu’s manuscript). It would be more correct to see it as this art work’s equivalent to a music video.


I thought the result should be something of a cloud or a cascade of sound, and I wanted to arrive there by approximation – taking cues from the manuscript without acting out an algorithm in a mathematical, absolute sense.
I remember an experiment I made about 20 years ago. In hindsight I realise it was simply ”hand-made” time stretch or granular synthesis, but I knew nothing of that then. In an audio sampler, I triggered a voice sample with a shower of ”note on” commands. The sample was set to a very short release time, so only a fraction of the sound was heard with each triggering. By moving the start point of the sample you got the curious sensation of holding the sound in your hands like lump of dough, moulding it, stretching it.
In order to have some sound material to work with I sought out The New York Trilogy in audio book format. I actually bought it, from Audible, who use their own uncopyable file format. That meant I had to re-record the piece in order to be able to work with it, just as with a physical sound carrier.
I cut out the colour words (BLACK, BLUE, WHITE, BROWN, ORANGE, GREY, GREEN, GOLD, RED, ROSE), and repeated the set-up of the manual time stretch, mapping trigger rate, sample start point and sample release time to physical controls. I then ”played” through the Local Colour manuscript as if it were sheet music, colour by colour, letting the number of occurrences decide the general intensity and presence of each sound sample. I decided the length of my piece by dividing the total length of the audio version of Auster’s Ghosts by the number of spreads in Beaulieu’s Local Colour.
The narrator of this particular audio book recording that I used is a voice actor named Joe Barrett (although the info embedded in the sound file credits a Christian Rummel). In an on-line profile on Joe Barrett these characteristics, or skills, are listed:
Voice Range: Teen, 20s-30s, Middle Age, Senior
Dialects: American English, British English, American South, Asian, Canadian, Cockney, French, German, Indian, Irish, Middle Eastern, Midwest, New York, Scottish, South American, Yorkshire, Maine/Boston, Southwestern, California, Long Island Lock-jaw, Maine/Boston, Southwestern, California
Genres: Children’s, Comedy, Drama, Mystery/Suspense, Nonfiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Western
Two more things:
There are several ”mistakes” with timing in my performances of each colour I did not try to correct.
Finally, the act of listening to the audio book and simultaneously trying to follow the Local Colour manuscript during the work process, with only the sequence of coloured bars as guides. It was a strange feeling, but perhaps a different story.
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