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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Electro-acoustic Birdsong MP3s

The mix of birdsong and electronic synthesis that serves as the soundtrack to Ven Voisey‘s installation “Cuckoo Radio” (the subject of yesterday’s disquiet.com “Image of the Week”) presents light play between two distinct realms — between the animal kingdom and the domain of human musicianship, between organic and constructed, between field recording and composition. But those differences are less compelling, in the end, than are the delicate parallels that Voisey locates, how bits of digital information can be heard at play in the natural world, and how tones, fragments, and rhythms produce a memorable, if one-sided, series of collaborations.

Because the bird melodies are so, well, chirpy, and because much of the electronic material is more soundscape than song, it’s especially effective when the human side of the equation allows for something hummable. The track titled “2 o’clock: I love you,” for example (there are a dozen tracks in all, beginning at 9am and ending at 8pm, one per hour), includes a little burble of a tune, albeit just for a moment (MP3), before diving into something more along the lines of ruminative glass-harmonica drones, and “3 o’clock: isn’t it ironic?” has the plinky verve of a child’s toy (MP3).

There is also, throughout, a touch of Morse code — at times serving as tuned percussion (MP3), at others as a glitchy fissure (MP3). The Morse “dot-dot-dash” patterning seems appropriate, since it’s presumed that the birdsong itself contains some sort of coded data, though what exactly the birds are saying to each other we may never know.

More information on Voisey’s work at v—v.net.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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