Déjà Entendu, from Sonic Warfare: Sound Effect and The Ecology of Fear
Déjà Entendu is the sensation of thinking that you have heard something before. It is an illusion of having already heard something which in actual fact it is being heard for the first time. My final piece, hinged on the idea that familiarity breeds a sense of comfort or acceptance in the context of willingness to engage, in artworks or other media specifically, and something that has the capacity to overcome video/sound’s “relationship to the exhibition of pictures…which induces us to assume that can be grasped just by ‘glancing at it”. (Neumeier)
In this passage Steve Goodman examines the ways in which the phenomenon of Déjà Entendu comes about but more interestingly mentions a number of notable instances in which its effect seems to occur, or even when an attempt to replicate the effect occurs. “Film sampling in electronic music illustrates one aspect of this mnemonic problematic. A sense of familiarity, or déjà vu, is often experienced when you watch a film that contains a segment of sound – it could be a phrase or even merely a tint of ambience – that you experienced first in its sampled form in electronic music,” and “The more commonplace version of this involves accidentally stumbling across an original track when you are much more acquainted with its sampled riffs or vocal phrases.” [note, this isn’t actually déjà entendu, as the sensation of having heard the segment isn’t an illusion].
“An audio virology clearly opens up more questions that it can answer. How should it conceive of the relation between the body, memory, and perception? How does a (perhaps illusory) sense of sonic familiarity render a body susceptible to the sonic infection?”
The infection he speaks of is the “abduction by the senses”, a change in the state of experience rooted in memory, the actual sensorial equivalent of what we speak of when we refer to nostalgia. (Though nostalgia refers to the reference, or often carbon copy, of visuals and sound from the past, the realty of this phenomenon is rooted in the human reaction to it.) “A vague sense of familiarity…switches on your pattern recognition systemms, ‘presses record’ and intensifies your vulnerability to infection.”
With the restricted nature of the group show once again meaning I’m not able to test out a work in an immersive environment, rather than opt out as before, I’ve used the opportunity to take a closer look at an experiment I did a year ago – an extension of my ongoing habit of recording the audio of noise shows and sound performances – where I wore a go-pro camera clipped to the inside of my jacket to record the entirety of a live show (or until the battery died) by noise/power electronics artist Pharmakon.
The video is played in two channels to allow moments of action, which are slowed down, to sit alongside moments of inaction, which are sped through at 1000x the actual pace, and for those moments of inaction and of action to sit together for comparison. Other than this the video is relatively untouched in terms of editing.
The process and result were both quite interesting. Looking back, I realised recording in this way enabled me to fully experience what is meant to be at least partly an immersive show, rooted in the exchange between the audience and performer because there was no point at which I broke from this exchange to take a photo or video. What did break the experience, though, was observing others doing so – the glare of phone screens and camera flashes. The video did, however, allow me to take note of some of the subtle goings-on of the performance; where eyes and attention normally fall on the performer, I was able to see the other side of the exchange, the awkwardness, discomfort, amusement, etc. felt by those viewing the performance, as well as other things like the stillness of the crowd – largely awkward white men and some women in denim jackets and band tees – as well as how strangely bright the room seems.
This reminds me of research into the work of Bill Viola, that many aspects of his work and the nature of video are closely related to that of performance, and how my own intentions reflect those same connections – that the exchange with an audience are at the forefront, rather than necessarily the subject matter, which I’m realising more and more can be secondary, non-linear, and even the opposite, a littering of ideas through a central structure.
I think Vignette 4 / GIG, which I’m fast realising is very much paired with Vignette 1 / IWBYD in its lo-fi approach and live-performed presentation, would benefit from including this kind of footage – footage that explicitly focuses on the viewer – because the way in which they differ is the presence of the audience. My initial plan for this section was various viewpoints of the performer at almost ground-level in direct contact with the audience, and encourage more fluid interaction and actually enter the crowd, and capture this from numerous angles. I think what might be more useful, interesting and provoking in a way is to quite intentionally jump between focus on the performer and the audience. Not necessarily two-sided, but literally moments where audience are in focus and an out-of-focus performer breaks into the frame.
The observation of how the actions of the audience, for instance photo-taking, or even the light from checking a phone, seem like something to note here, though the inclination to attempt to control it with a ban seems counter-productive. Perhaps instead, it would be more interesting to do a subtle play of the viewer, in the way I identified with Elizabeth Price’s The Woolworths Choir of 1979 at Tate Britain, which made you aware via a countdown clock the duration of the video. By allowing you to come in at the beginning if you choose to, an informing you of how much time you’re dedicating, this set up seemed to have the potential to overcome what Neumeir states as our “relationship to the exhibition of pictures,” which “induces us to assume that can be grasped just by ‘glancing at it’.” My thought it a playful nod at a ban that acts as an entry point making the viewer aware of this exchange.
Though the use of Pharmakon in the previous video is only really in passing here, other than the suitability of her live performance in illustrating certain points, it has occurred to me this is an area I’ve not researched as much as other things, other than briefly into the birth of industrial.
As the musical aspect of the work, and specifically the opening with sound created by myself, which I’m beginning working on now, is so central to the piece, I’ve looked into some texts that help provide further insight and context (to be added to):
Pink noises: women on electronic music and sound
A brief history of new music
Sonic Warfare: Sound Effect and The Ecology of Fear
And additionally, continue reading materials I stated
Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music
Wreckers of Civilisation
For Vignette 6: Symbols and vignette 10: CGI I wanted to include computer-generated objects; in the former, a 3D circular object spinning slowly in the expanse of the concrete landscape, it’s rotation paired with a generator-style wurring sound, the latter, the same object appearing in the abstract CGI mood Film in various forms.
To test this I was required to choose a small object to attempt to make a CAD form of and I, intuitively, selected a double-ended chain necklace I wear. I had thought previously that I wanted an image that was immediately symbolic, such as the ouroboros, to be the image, and for the chain to maybe be an item that, alongside potentially a shared eye (or contact) colour, ties together all of the characters in each of the 11 vignettes.
My thought now is to combine these images for a more frequently occurring, but less symbolically obvious, motif. A chain, perhaps engraved with a small ouroboros if I’m able to arrange this, can be worn by each of the characters, as well as appearing in a more spectacular and suggestively symbolic way in the most elaborate and stylised scenes. For instance the CGI of the ouroboros can be replaced by a 3D rendering of the chain, coiled in on itself, and appear both giant and spinning in the expansive, iconography littered dystopian landscape of the Symbols vignette, as well as emerging from CG black water in the CGI video or a 3D Printed form of this object shot emerging from real water (perhaps via a slow-motion shot of the shape being dropped into real black water).
This image could then also be used as a basis to build on, both in terms of its aesthetic and the way in which symbolic imagery and iconography are mirrored in stylised versions of mundane everyday objects, to begin to build the visual narrative of album artwork that will appear in my square format zine.
I’ve begun to properly plan out the content of the video I’m going to present as part of my final installation. Having been stuck for some time on how to adequately create a narrative framework and hang the practical logistical details of having a number of different artists and productions on this, I’ve began working backwards; Using reference images I worked out a number of formats, scenarios, media, etc. I wanted to use and identified 11 different sequences that I was interested in pursuing. Assigning a different performer/actor/vocalist/etc. to each of these formats, I’m going to allow what, combined, will be 11 separate vignettes, to develop organically and apply a loose narrative thread to these as the process builds.
The 11 vignettes I’ve identified as wanting to pursue play with both narrative, documentary, a mix of both, and some totally removed abstract experimental video methods, and I’ve organised as below with a rough narrative structure, overall aesthetic and technical approach for each:
Vignette 1 – IWBYD
Possibly opening with some establishing footage of close-ups of brutalist architecture and an oblique reference to a dystopian-style landscape (without actually using and wide location shots) to give a sense of space, this vignette will otherwise entirely take place in a small, dark, garage-like space. It will also be entirely shot from two static angles – a front angle that’s very clearly a laptop camera in photobooth, and a side angle of a mini DV camera on a tripod (possibly in shot of the first frame), and possibly using the camera’s night vision setting for this part.
The scene will involve me, in the shadowy setting, singing (possibly into a microphone to make use of the actual vocal) a screaming cover of The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog over a pulsating, industrial backing track I’ll have pre-produced using a simple repetition of the track’s three main chords. As the track builds so will the intensity of both the music, and the vocal aggression and action. The room will be lit only by the light of the laptop, which may, as the song builds to an appropriate moment, switch to a YouTube strobe video.
Vignette 2 – VO
Opening with a shot entering an, again, brutalist-in-style building, but this time more residential-seeming, this vignette will take place in a minimal but reasonably conventional-looking domestic setting. Voiceover will begin to tell a story as a sweeping single shot enters the space, which is then intercut with static shots of details around the room – idiosyncratic but laden with symbolism – until we see the back of a male figure’s head lying in bed. He gets up and goes about a conventional morning routine as the Voiceover ends and a cover song begins to play as background music to the scene.
Vignette 3 – CAR
Opening with maybe two alternate shots giving context – probably a shot through a car wing mirror and another through the back of the same car as it drives through a rural landscape – this entire vignette will take place in a single shot looking straight on at a female character as she drives a car (using a camera strapped to the bonnet of a car).
The vignette will see the character drive and sing along to the radio – a well-known song but an odd version that leaves the performance resting somewhere between a sing-a-long and an actual track – which is then interrupted by a phone ringing. The character at this point pulls to the side of what we’ve so far ascertained as a winding country road through the out-of-focus background and reflections on the windshield, turns off the radio, answers the phone to what ends up being a heated discussion. This device will allow for the next part of the story to be communicated.
Vignette 4 – GIG
Beginning with both camera and phone footage of an actual gig – the vocalist’s real show in which his cover song for this project is planted at the end of the show – the character, with the sound of a band behind, violently performs, writhing on the floor, and reaching a maniacal state as the song climaxes. As the song ends a single tracking shot will follow the character off a stage and into a back room where a scripted, heated and wordy exchange will unfold – again, here allowing the next part of the story to be conveyed.
Vignette 5 – SEX
The climax of the story, a euphoric high before an inevitable crash, will culminate here in a provocative, sensual exchange – possibly a group. Shot in close up high definition, the intention here will be to present a documentation of a real sexual exchange, but captured and presented in a cinematic spectacle – blurring the line between reality and fiction. The graphic sexual nature of the footage will be unmistakably real, but its presentation make it seem less real, less intimate and more part of the narrative.
Vignette 6 – SYMBOLS
The biggest production out of all 11 vignettes, this will involve opening with a number of wide shots of monumental industrial and brutalist landscapes – for example, the Thames Barrier and Southmere Estate, Thamesmead – to give a wider
Vignette 7 – SET
Vignette 8 – URL
Working between London and Hamburg, where vocalist and producer DVDV who will star in this vignette is based, will inform the approach to this. Either the music she creates is used without her being physically present in the video, or the limited communication – and methods of that communication – could lead the presentation, creating visuals from a mix of screen recorded Skype calls, shared images, etc.
Vignette 9 – AIR
A paired back visual diary-type approach that presents nothing more than a series of shots of natural forms for Music, and possibly Voiceover, to back. This could include some more monumental landscapes that touch on the earlier openings, but this would essentially be devoid of narrative and more contemplative – a moment of pause in what may otherwise end up being quite a turbulent rollacoaster of chaotic peaks and intense dramatic calms.
Vignette 10 – CGI
For this I wanted to play with the blurred line between narrative and fiction and Ideas around the familiar that dominate a lot of my thinking for this and other projects, and extend it to something more literal and physical. I hope to create abstract visuals that present a series of ambiguous forms, textures that could easily be computer generated or live footage: the surface of water, black latex, etc.shot at extremely close range, and computer generated forms that mimic this. I also hope to inject here references to symbolic images from other parts of the project, perhaps by the emergence of a symbolic form from water, which, lamp lit, shot at an extremely allowed down rate and close up, might easily be mistaken for computer generated, or visa Versa.
Vignette 11 – CHAT
Here, in perhaps the most different and perhaps seemingly out of place, I wanted to present a static chat show type set up. A number of fixed camera angles in a set-designed studio set up will follow an over the top – but fairly empty in terms of actual dialogue – exchange between a central figure and an interviewer, possibly with the inclusion of canned laughter.
Though I’m still not sure whether I’ll go ahead with this, this is for a potential 12th vignette that takes place only in live performance.
As I’m drowning a little in the great mass of what I have to complete for my final project – 11 vignettes that I’ve realised will involve 11 different production set ups yo complete – I thought it would be useful to try and tackle something a little more manageable and less overwhelming.
For the physical takeaways part of my project I’d planned to dismantle the album object in a number of ways including a series of sculptural manifestations of the shape itself in various materials – 3D printed, concrete, etc. – digital audio in the form of a download and the paper artwork, which will take the shape of a square zine. I’m going to begin researching and collecting references for the visual nature of this, which I presume will go hand in hand with the video production, but also thought it might be useful to continue some practice-based research using an existing project.
Two years ago I went to photograph – just using my iPhone – Birmingham Central library as it was being demolished. The building was an interesting example of, and my first exposure to, brutalist architecture. Never meant to fall into that category, the original designs saw the building clad in marble, but after the council refused to foot the bill the building was finished in concrete. Described by Clive Dutton, the city’s then director of planning and regeneration, as a “Concrete Monstrosity”, the building has always been a contentious issue in the city, deemed by so many as something ugly to the point that no real effort was made to save it.
I’m going to put together a zine of the photographs I took whilst it was being torn down.
Now that Unit 1 is over, all focus now is on the final show and work made in response to my project proposal. Ahead of my tutorial this week, where we’ll discuss the next six months, I thought it useful to try and map out that time to better understand timelines and what’s doable:
Final Show: July 2018 – this leaves 8 months until the actual show, so 6 months to experiment, research and produce work directly related to the piece.
Rough plan for final piece:
PART 1: DIGITAL VIDEO
a film made up of 22 vignettes, with 11 different collaborating artists or vocalists (each appearing in 2 vignettes each totalling around 3-5 minutes). Each vignette is defined by the performance, inclusion or reference to a particular cover song.
PART 1 TO DO:
- Experimentation with sound – a key thing to begin ASAP as it will be the base the rest of the project sits on, and is something I have the least experience in experimenting with
- Begin experimenting with shooting vignettes – for practicality I may begin by videoing myself and make a couple of songs myself. I’ll also attempt to identify and reach out to a handful of potential collaborators to get the ball rolling, probably people from within my existing sphere.
PART 2: PHYSICAL INSTALLATION
This comprises of the physical presentation of the above film as well as any material artefacts.
PART 2 TO DO:
- Begin some intentional practical research into exhibition presentation using any exhibitions on show in London, Birmingham, Paris, etc. (wherever I’ll be in the next few months), adding to concepts explored in my research paper, to begin a proper practical plan of how the final installation may look.
- Engage in some practical, workshop-based experimentation.
PART 3: ONLINE PRESENTATION AND DISSEMINATION
This is the part I have the least clear vision of, in terms of how it will actually work. Instead I have some intentions which may help shape activity: rather than simply upload to a streaming/video channel or try to get (which may still be a useful tool) but think of a way that this presentation might become part of the work. Initial ideas I’ve had are to add a transient element, maybe a pair of vignettes that have to be performed live? However my intention was more the opposite, for the work to be as impactful online as in person, rather than making t even more clear the online is an incomplete version.
PART 3 TO DO:
- Again, building on some f the ideas explored in the research paper, begin looking at ways that the work can continue to exist online in a meaningful way – i.e. not just a static relic sitting in a video player.