State of Disunion

State of Disunion 3'54"

Celeste Hutchins 2004

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Program Notes:

The timbres of human voice, specifically, George Bush's voice began to fascinate me. His inflections are almost musical. While I disagree with nearly everything he says, he says it in a beautiful manner. Obviously, as he was born and raised in Connecticut everything about his speech patterns and elocution has been learned in adulthood. He is very talented and must have a fantastic elocution coach. His voice has the musical timbres of the south and the drawl of Texas. His speechwriter's careful word choices coupled with his pan-heartland accent make him seem immediately trustworthy. I did another piece with his voice in the spring of 2004. I took his weekly radio address from right before the state of the union. Approximately half the speech was made of up lies about Iraq. The second half was lies about domestic issues. (Our economy has been turning around for so long now, it must be dizzy.) I started by playing the file straight and then slowly added a sine-tone that was phase modulated with the same file. The sine was 480 Hz, a multiple of 60 Hz, the rate at which AC power oscillates in the United States. The second Synth creeps up slowly and being an octave of AC power makes it hard to hear at first. The friendly experiencer often confuses the sound for buzz from electric lights or other appliances nearby. Then, near the end of Bush's war lies, I fade out the straight sound file, leaving just the modulated version. At that point, explosive noises come in. Mostly because I thought that he kept talking about bombs, so I should include some bomb sounds. Then I played phase modulated just ratios over him. The ratios are 17/19, 19/19, 21/19, 23/19, which is an otonal series high up in a tuning lattice.

The results I got out were loud and of a different character than I expected. There was massive peaking, but SuperCollider uses floating point numbers for Audio, not integers, so it didn't clip like digital distortion normally clips, say on DATs or CDs. I tried in vain to find the error, but decided I liked the sounds and left them as they were. A side affect of this is that it was tricky to record the output straight to disk, since 16 bit linear aiff files use integers. Eventually, I discovered a typo in the SynthDef and fixed it, but it didn't sound as good anymore, so I undid the repair. The peaking and distortion gives it its character and seems ironically appropriate given the subject matter.

I'm not sure what the piece is about really. The explosives are kind of heavy-handed and I'm not sure about them. But I don't know what, if anything, the other non-Bush sounds might mean. Alvin Lucier commented that political pieces run the risk of being heavy-handed. People like this piece, though, so I'm keeping it.

I first played it at Open Mic Night at It's Only Natural Restaurant, where it was enthusiastically received. Since then I have played it at 21 Grand in Oakland California. It works well as a piece to bridge tonal content to word content.

[View/Post Comments]