The recording that you’re about to hear (or not) is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of ambience during the endurance marathon that is the show Eternal (seen by yours truly at the PUSH festival 2016 in Vancouver). Now, don’t get me wrong, I liked it. It’s a two-hour continuous take in split-screen of two actors method-rehearsing the same scene. After 1/4 of the audience filed out after the first 10 minutes, I must admit I felt thrilled and excited to be at a piece that inspires so much outrage. After having given a lecture on repetition (in audio recording and how exact repetition has influenced all manners of creative and commercial endeavours) I was struck at how non-annoying the repetition here was. Yes, our brains desire difference, the expectance of different lines makes you stand on the edge of your seat waiting … then registering that the lines are the same. Yet, so much about each take was not the same! Both actors, working off each other went through a huge range of nuance of expression, inflection, paralanguage, connotation and emotion in exchanging those lines. What was more, and the reason I’m writing this post is, I went through a huge range of interpretations of the exchange. Here are some of those in relatively sequential order:
- they are not speaking to each other, the recordings are totally separate
- oh wait, they are speaking to each other
- but some of the responses don’t make sense – so possibly the phrases are scrambled and our job as audience is to piece together the ‘real’ story
- is he talking about her? is she clementine? is she talking about herself in the 3rd person?
- wait, is it an affair that the guy had? or did they just meet?
- lots of trying to figure out where the story begins…considering each line as the first line
- maybe the very last take will be the phrases put in their proper places so that we get the real story – but I somehow doubt it we’ll get a resolution here
- maybe he is saying the female lines and she is speaking the male lines?
- this is a psychology experiment to see when they will crack
- it’s a psychology experiment to see when we will crack?
And then somewhere mid-way I started to think of this as really a John Cage kind of experience where the repetition of the scene serves to highlight the extraneous soundscapes. People started – increasingly vocally and confidently, to laugh, chuckle, even speak lines out loud with the authors. Shuffling and jingling noises of people getting up and coming and going from the room punctuated the continuous scene exchange. Sometime in the last quarter I recorded exactly 4 minutes and 33 seconds of the ambience as sort of my own performance art, being participatory – as the piece I think invited us to be – and now this performance lives on in this post, amplifying its meaning beyond my initial inspiratorial moment.