oyster by Joe Diebes

oyster is both an opera and a surround sound and image installation by Joe Diebes that traces a surprising musical history of our algorithmically regulated society.  In the 1960’s, renowned American folklorist Alan Lomax developed a wildly ambitious system called cantometrics for coding and analyzing folk songs from every corner of the world.  Working with the BOTCH vocal ensemble, Diebes will reconstruct the folksong styles from regions as disparate as Bali, West Africa, and Central America using only the data from Lomax’s study.  This vocal experiment, further mediated by the ensemble’s distinctive extended vocal techniques, is accompanied by a video narrative that unravels connections between cybernetics, surrealism and ethnography.  

Sponsored by Harvestworks with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Grant for Film, Media, and New Technology Production.

oyster is both an opera and a surround sound and image installation by Joe Diebes that traces a surprising musical history of our algorithmically regulated society.  In the 1960’s, renowned American folklorist Alan Lomax developed a wildly ambitious system called cantometrics for coding and analyzing folk songs from every corner of the world.  Working with the BOTCH vocal ensemble, Diebes will reconstruct the folksong styles from regions as disparate as Bali, West Africa, and Central America using only the data from Lomax’s study.  This vocal experiment, further mediated by the ensemble’s distinctive extended vocal techniques, is accompanied by a video narrative that unravels connections between cybernetics, surrealism and ethnography.  

The live opera is structured as a public lecture demonstration of Alan Lomax’s science of cantometrics (the measurement of song).  The various parameters of folk song analysis are explained and performed by four singers who embody the IBM360 mainframe computer that Lomax used to correlate his vast amounts of data and cultural profiles.  The 37 parameters of Lomax’s system (things like melodic complexity, vocal blend, how nasal the voice is) are adjusted by the singers as they circumnavigate the globe from Arctic Asia to Australia.  The inevitable and often absurd gap between the sound of this American experimental vocal ensemble and the actual folk song recordings made in the field is meant to be a productive space within which to consider issues of globalization and a Western, technologically mediated, understanding of other world cultures.  Framing the live performance sections will be a large video projection, featuring a wide range of archival and original imagery drawn from the installation.

The installation (exhibited separately from the opera) incorporates projections, multichannel sound and works on paper. The viewer / listener is immersed in a never-­repeating montage of material drawn from the Alan Lomax archive at The Library of Congress. Diebes has already spent substantial time at the archive, and has been given access to use such artifacts as Lomax’s own handwritten journals, shelves and shelves of reel to reel tape recordings, 16mm film footage, and photographs taken on his many expeditions. Material from the archive will be combined with voiceovers and video shot with performers, re-­enacting cross cultural encounters.

Central to the work is its recombinant aspect. Using openframeworks, Diebes will create a state­of-the-­art software engine that creates a continually changing montage in real­time. This ‘brain’ pulls from a carefully tagged database of video footage, still images, text, and sound, juxtaposing them according to algorithms developed by Diebes for their musical and aesthetic potential. By making a narrator out of the computer the work emphasizes a digital perspective which profiles, analyzes, and compartmentalizes its subject.

The live performance and the installation features Christina Campanella, Michael Chinworth, John Rose, and Saori Tsukada

BIOS 

Joe Diebes creates operas and installations that combine sound, visual media, and the human voice in multifarious ways.  Recent projects include MY TROCADERO (Watermill Center), his broken-word opera BOTCH (HERE Arts Center) and the opera WOW (with Christian Hawkey and David Levine, BRIC Arts | Media).  He has exhibited his sound installations, video, and works on paper in galleries, museums, and public spaces including Paul Rodgers/9W (New York), the Torino Winter Olympics, The Noguchi Museum, The Hammer Museum, Yuanfen Gallery (Beijing), Prix Ars Electronica and the Liverpool Biennial. 

Scherzo:

https://vimeo.com/18565293

BOTCH Newscast:

https://vimeo.com/122276835

BOTH at HERE:

https://vimeo.com/47378201

http://www.joediebes.net

http://hyperallergic.com/96210/botch-joe-diebes/

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/14/girl-you-know-its-true-an-opera-inspired-by-milli-vanilli-is-set-for-brooklyn-run/?_r=0

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