New recordings of the machine gently stutters ❏❐❑❒

Last week, I recorded and put up three new episodes -- I guess they're episodes, I guess this is a podcast, and if it's a podcast then they're episodes. Or maybe I should lean into this machine-minimal aesthetic and just call them recordings? yeah, that makes more sense, who wants a 2 minute podcast, anyway? -- three new recordings of the machine gently stutters ❏❐❑❒.

The first, to ease myself into it, is of Ranjit Bhatnagar's Wolf Proverbs bot. This had been on my list for ages - there's something about the physicality of it, the fact that they're dance steps or physical instructions, something quixotically non-verbal that seemed interesting to translate into spoken word. And that came through - it was interesting trying to put the emotions suggested, the wolf-like nature into the performance. There's questions about the extent to which this is anthropomophization, the extent this is real wolf-feeling and the extent to which it plays into romantic ideas of wolves instead, the place they play in culture. I am thinking of two stories by Saki, especially. It's also worth pointing out this is the second bot by Ranjit I've performed - the first recording was Pentametron, which has a completely dissimilar feeling. This wasn't intentional, they're just really good.

Last week, I came across this remarkable article about male shame about sexual desire. It really struck a chord with me - it's a really tricky path to walk, to talk about desire as a man and not come across as creepy, or overbearing or... I keep thinking of this horrific tweet. There's a clear example of this shame in the difference in how fleshlights and dildos are percieved. Or - I have a really interesting talk in me on the really fascinating bot-economies and game design you find on Chaturbate - but I definitely feel hesitation in talking openly about this for fear of being "that dude" (I feel hesitant writing these words).

So, with all that in my mind, it's not surprising I should decide to record my flatmate Kat Brewster's excellent erotica/botany bot, @sexwithflowers. I feel like at the core of this bot is a mixing of these allusive formalized metaphors for fucking (flowers), and explicit, tangible body parts, sensations and verbs. It makes them equivalent, it flattens them out, it makes both feel just as sodden with lust. And the fragmented, decontextualized utterances (encouraged by the lack of persistent state in CBDQ, the harsh character limits of Twitter, and Kat's decision not to track pronouns and body parts) matched the way sex can often feel, shifting from aspect to aspect and between liminal states of sleeping and arousal. What I am trying to say is: this bot is really hot.

I tried a bunch of overbearing things when recording this piece. I tried capturing foley of sheets, skin, mouth sounds, breathing (too much, too much). I recorded it in bed, lying down - and I knew I was doing a good reading if I felt my legs curl. I tried doing the whole thing in a whisper - this was also too much, but I kept the soft tone and closeness to the microphone (here learning from Jarvis Cocker on the Sunday Service). I added some steamy (get it?) rainy greenhouse ambience. And over the course of those readings (more readings than I hoped for, because technology is hard), I edited the script, imposing an order and a sense of escalation to the tweets. I had some reservations doing this - in some ways, it keeps the purity of the project to extract a text and run with it with no alterations - but also, it is an always an act of interpretation, and I am necessarily doing violence to the text by taking it from it's natural home, scattered among everything else you see on Twitter, and pinning it down into a linear script and audio file.

But -- it seems to have been recieved well? And I seem to have hit the right level of sexiness?

So the final recording was one I have had on my list for a long time - I emailed for permission back in the first half of last year. It's pushing at the coundaries of what could be considered generative poetry - I think it was likely compiled by hand. It is a reading of all the comments referring to crying on the YouTube page for Stephen Malinowsky's recording (with custom visualization of the notes) of Clair de lune. This song makes lots of people cry! And YouTube comments are a genre into themselves - easily mocked, but also often moving, a raw slice of humanity.

In this case, I've tried to enhance that juxaposition by setting it over his recording of Clair de lune, which is genuinely a beautiful and moving piece of music. And this was interesting to record - the first read through, I went fast and unsatisfyingly finished a minute or two after the end of the recording. So on this take, I went slow, and tried to hit the length of two recordings. I went over, but it worked out as a happy accident because it brought new focus to the words, just in time for that last, heartbreaking, story to hit. Performing on top of music was interesting - I couldn't really edit as freely as I usually do, because the words were timed to play with the music, to get louder and more emphatic as the music does, to wait for gaps where it felt appropriate.

I think I will continue making these recordings, or at least a few more. It's been a way to stretch new muscles, a fun outlet for curation and creation that fits within the span of time I have to work on stuff outside of work (so much has to be chopped up to fit the space available - but that's always the case). The next batch I think will be from my slight collection of actual paper books of poetry composed via generative means! Maybe I will have another go at katie rose pipkin's the one movie with the cowboy and his wound, the inital spark for these readings.

01 March 2017