Talk Back Pool

interactive sound piece for one or more computers
by Sonja van Kerkhoff, 2006

Talk Back Pool, made in MAX/MSP,
here demonstrated in a LIACS (Leiden Institute for
Advanced Science) Lab,
Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.

A constant flow of softly spoken words pour out from both computers.

"Think of a word
and press a key"

are the only necessary instructions.

Words come (in two ways) from James Joyce's "Ulysses".

When you press a letter on the keyboard, a word beginning with the same letter is heard softly and a message is sent to another computer to play another word from the same "pool of words" which sounds harsher and more distant. When two people sit at this work, they can interact by choosing the first letter and hear which words are created by their own actions and which are created by the other person.

Here are words from one speaker when just one person has pressed some keys.
The extra button adds extra layers of these random sounds which you can compose yourself.

This work is a play on meaning and abstraction. You hear softly and evenly spoken words streaming out in any order and you can listen to it like sound poetry or a meditation. When you press a key a louder word is heard in what seems an intimate space. You could hit the keys to make strings of words, units of meanings perhaps.

There is some level of control in that if you choose the A key, you will hear words beginning with the letter A, but my idea was that people would tend to play the keys like a piano keyboard, and listen for a succession of sounds affecting each other.

50 seconds on the 1st of February 2006, where you hear the results of performers at two computers connected to a network.

Here I took words from James Joyce's book, Ulysses because a main theme in his writing, as I see it, was to investigate structure and the random, or meaning and abstraction.

Ulysses starts out as a narrative set on Bloemsday (the second Thursday in June, a celebratory Irish Catholic festival of beds of flowers - which in the year I was born, was also my birthday, - coincidence or providence?).

The narrative then breaks down conceptually as much as it does linguistically.

So it seemed fitting to use his book as my source for this pool of words which are generated randomly after a human hand has first made a selection on the keyboard.

Talk Back Pool, made in MAX/MSP, February 2006, in a LIACS (Leiden Institute for Advanced Science) Lab, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.

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