Speak Up

Philippe Kocher

The speakers emit, one after another, abstract yet – in their speech-likeness – oddly meaningful sounds. It’s as if they were individuals attempting to express themselves. The appearance of this assembly of movable speakers evokes two different interpretations. On the one hand, we perceive the mechanical, scientific and inanimate nature of the devices. On the other hand, we easily tend to anthropomorphize them and regard the speakers as robots with a personality. The sound installation ‘Speak Up’ deals with this multiple meaning. It takes a playful, even humorous approach to address this contrast between the rational and the irrational understanding of such a technology.The sound production is entirely computer-generated: all sound synthesis parameters are controlled algorithmically, partly by random processes, partly by several determined cyclic patterns that run at different speeds. The musical foreground consists of phrases that resemble spoken utterances, or possibly bird calls, and therefore create a peculiar kind of expressiveness. Theses phrases are always assigned to one single speaker and coupled with a movement of “raising and turning the head”. This combination of sound and movement emphasizes in a simple but effective way the intended humanisation of the speakers. The musical background is a quiet, slowly changing but in itself fairly differentiated sound texture that is played on all speakers.

This is a stereo-downmix of the composition visualised in a simulated view of the movements across the speaker array. Please refer to the gallery videos for a more natural impression. However, neither of these videos can properly represent the enveloping and spatial character of the composition and the installation.