sonicTags: exploring the boundaries of new media activism
nextlab, tilos radio and the central european university
monday october 10, 2005
"Art is politics. Everything that takes hold of the flow of life for its own sake is politics."
[hans richter 1929]
The quotation from Hans Richter summarizes his pivotal role in the development of the early twentieth-century avant-garde [dada] and his political activism. When Richter's work is viewed in its historical and political context, he emerges as an artist committed to the power of art to change the fabric of social, political, and cultural affairs.
This text is used as a the conceptual starting point for the contribution of so-on/unamas to the Sonic Tags workshop, in the context of the Re:activism conference [Central European University, Budapest, 10/10/2005 – 16/10/2005].
The Re:activism conference addresses what role social activism can play in the broad process in which emerging new media technologies transform existing structures of cultural, economic and political power.
The Sonic Tags project is to build small FM-transmitters and place a bunch of them in the public city-space. Supplied with a street-map, a small radio-receiver and headphones, the public can discover a city-center tagged with sound-messages, sometimes poetic, sometimes activist, sometimes just informative.
For the production of the audio-content, so-on/unamas worked with data forthcoming from different media. Aspects of physicality [image] interact with and modify the audio-data [frequency, pitch] in the context of real and virtual environments. All speech is synthetic and was made in realtime with the MaxMbrola-object.
The aim of speech production is to exchange messages. For singing, the main aim is to use the voice organ as a musical instrument. Therefore a singing synthesis system needs to include various tools to control (analyze/synthesize or modify) different dynamics of the acoustic sound produced: duration of the phonemes, vibrato, wide range modifications of the voice quality, the pitch and the intensity.
By placing back these synthetic-speech-soundfiles into the urban space, we tried to explore different approaches to property extraction from objective reality of a city landscape.
The audio-interpretation is abstracting the text from its origin due to processing. Fed by the data coming from variable parameters [RGB, city-images] the phonemes parameters [frequency, pitch] are changed in a continuous way. By doing so, the city is changing the speech content in realtime.