Above a deep chasm of sound, a tiny whir comes and goes. It’s like a surveillance drone flitting here and there, keeping its eye — and, more importantly, its ear — on the surroundings, and only making its own presence noticeable when it gets just too close. At which point it veers away. Then human speaking intrudes, monotonic, initially sounding like the chatter of multiple telephone voice-mail menus heard all at once. This is the echo chamber that is a call center, and eventually one voice emerges from that chamber — a woman’s, Indian. It’s just her side of the conversation, as she politely, and with some discomfort, attempts to get information out of her English-language interlocutor (MP3).
The piece is by Mathias Delplanque. Titled “Call Center,” it’s recent a stereo reduction of a sound installation of his from several years back. It was part of an exhibition titled “Bombay Maximum City.” The sounds, he reports, were “recorded during the summer of 2006 in a call center in Gurgaon (suburbs of New Delhi).” The result is a half hour of sound that flirts with narrative, but also manages to transform the everyday into something sonically complex. That the source of the audio is itself such a quintessential emblem of technology, of globalism, of communication services, and of interpersonal mis-communication only adds to its impact.
More at the releasing netlabel, cronicaelectronica.org.
Chances are this is not what M.I.A.’s forthcoming “I’m Down Like Your Internet Connection” (reportedly based on her three-hour tech-support phone call, according to Rolling Stone) is going to sound like.