Otto's Notebook, p 37
audio digital literature work developed for Chercher le Texte conference and festival, Paris, France
listen to a city of light, sound and multi-layered movement
listen to its worlds, created by the people of The City and The City itself
a site-specific audio work of original recordings - jottings of observations, memories, significances and random connections
discover the extensions of computer, body, sense and mind by responding
reach out for The City that surrounds you
l i s t e n ...
Otto's Notebook, p 37 is centred on Paris but roams further - through space and time. Extracts from writings of the French Renaissance essayist Montaigne, contemporary ideas around the extended mind, abstract sounds made possible by digital technology, all and more take their place in jottings made on sonic journeyings through The City.
The Listener is in control of the route, with possibilities opening and deepening during each stepalong and across everythoughtpath of the way. The narrative, if there is a narrative, does not rely on order, but is something that can accommodate the unknown interventions of The Listener. In this piece, abstract thoughts about beginnings, endings and changings naturally lend themselves to fragmentary ways of being.
Performance, any performance, takes place in space and time. The invisible codes within microchips work in seconds splitsplitsplit into fragments unimaginable in previous ages. But culturally the speeding up of life has generated the 'slow' counter-culture - Slow Food as opposed to Fast Food, for instance - and the benefits of taking time for close reading of material still appeals to many. So this interface, using lightning responses of code, asks for something slower, as well as allowing speedy reactions if desired.
Audio works are currently considered as newer, more novel, because education systems train people to read sentences in books or on screen. But the interactive oral tradition is actually centuries older than mass book production and general literacy. Voice, ear (and all the other senses), and imagination co-create, linking, opening possibilities rather than tying down certainties. As Bachelard says in Air and Dreams (1988):
'Real mobility, the very essence of motion, which is what imagined motion is, is not aroused by the description of reality, even when it describes the unfolding of reality... What I would actually like to examine...is how the imaginary is immanent in the real, how a continuous path leads from the real to the imaginary.'
Presented on an 8x8 square grid matrix, designed primarily for a touch screen but also navigable by mouse, to be listened to with headphones so the quality of the sound is not overpowered by local ambient sound or the limited range of computer speakers, each square on the grid is linked to a sound file: Leona's original field recordings of Paris, her original texts written in response to the sites visited, extracts from scientific essays, amongst others. The work could be accessed through mobile devices, and walks around Paris or another city could add a further layer of interaction, and more than one square could be activated at once.
Each button can be played independently, offering the choice of start/stop or start/pause on each (the files returning to their beginnings once stopped or once they reach their natural conclusion). They vary in length and complexity, and the colours on the grid show a pattern of links than can aid navigation if so chosen. The goal was that each file could be played in combination with others, and files could be deleted or added to as wished by the Listener.
The project is a development of ideas begun in Madrid when Leona and Robert Kalman (Siegen University, Germany) worked together on a less complex digital site-specific project, (At Least).
Soundfiles and more details about the work were accessible on the Chercher le Texte website until December 2013, and conference papers and works have been stored in the Digital Literature archive in Bergen University, Norway.