As mentioned here back in early February, upon the death of Denise Duval, the electronic musician Scanner is an especially apt choice for scoring radio dramas. Much of his early electronic music involved lending scores to real-life conversations plucked — well, sampled, really — from the ether. Commissioned scores allow him to apply that experience and those techniques to more formalized narratives. That February entry was about Scanner’s take on the Cocteau play La Voix Humaine, the opera of which starred Duval in its first incarnation. More recently, Scanner provided the score to a BBC Radio 4 story by science fiction author Geoff Ryman. The Ryman story, “No Point Talking,” isn’t currently online (bbc.co.uk), but Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud) has posted nearly 11 minutes of the score, a cooly atmospheric outing, with plenty of echoing synthesizers, though the main thread is a sequence of what sounds like electric guitar. Around the seven-minute mark, unintelligible voices intrude, passing as if by the window of the studio where Scanner is recording. The voices play an interesting third-party role. They are neither speaking parts from Ryman’s story, nor are they score. They are human presence as score, voices as sound design. And after they fade, the guitar proceeds forward, bending until it comes to resemble another voice of sorts: the call of seagulls.
Here’s the BBC’s description of Ryman’s tale:
Award-winning sci-fi writer Geoff Ryman’s new story for the BBC, imagining a future world where California has been split in two, each half with very different political outlooks.
His conservative hero finds himself in a place he doesn’t like or understand, where everything he holds dear is challenged: relations between men and women, and even the very definitions of ‘he’ and ‘her’.
This story was written as Geoff was investigating the portrayal of gender in utopian science fiction, as part of BBC Radio 4’s Utopia season. That documentary which accompanies ‘No Point Talking’ is called ‘Herland’.