A conversation between a partially educated parrot and a machine

A performance for augmented gramophone and computer,

Through the use of both original and digitalized birds recordings archives from the 1930’s, this performance explores the historical and sonic relationships between birds, humans and sound reproduction technologies.

In the late 19th century, Eldridge Johnson, head of Victor Records, said about the phonograph that it « sounded much like a partially educated parrot with a sore throat and a cold in the head” (Johnson, quoted in par Kenney, Recorded Music, 47). This is the same phonograph that Ludwig Koch used in 1889 to make the first recording of a bird in a zoo in Frankfurt. My aim was to unfold this comparison between an ill-behaved bird and a sound reproduction technology to tell a story where music is made together by historical and recent audio technologies, birds, and the humans that listen to them.

In A conversation between a partially educated parrot and a machine, I take turns interacting with ipads and a gramophone equipped with sensors. On the one hand, this emblematic historical audio technology reads the original shellac disks by Ludwig Koch in the 1930’s, on the other hand it becomes a physical interface sending data to live algorithmic processes.
The performance emphasizes on a dynamic back and forth between several kind of discourses (documentary, fictional, musical), technologies (computer and gramophone), and sounds (sounds of birds’ songs and sound reproduction artefacts).

Credits :
Research, Conception, Composition, Programming and Performance : Estelle Schorpp
Production support : La Biennale di Venezia - CIMM, Centro Informatico Musicale Multimedia
Main mentor : Miller Puckette
Mentors : Kyoka, Brigitta Munterdorf, Thiery Coduys, Oscar Pizzo, Gerfired Stocker, Ali Nikrang, Yoko Shimizu
Sound engeneering and diffusion : Thierry Coduys and Adrien Zanni
Light Design: Tommaso Zappon
Sound archives : BBC
All pictures Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia


© Lucio Fiorentino, Luca Gianfrancesco, Pasquale Sbarra. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia