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Si… No? An oblique look at Venice


A return to our heartland of Venice, and one of my favourite recent field recordings – the bustle of life, voices and aquatic activity at the Fondamente Nuove vaporetto station in Venice.

A recording that, for me, has a little of everything and which really conveys a sense of place. I was glad to hand it over to Madrid-based sound artist Kamen Nedev (AKA Acoustic Mirror), along with the Oblique Strategy cards Abandon normal instructions and Convert a melodic element into a rhythmic one.

As Kamen explains, he has a long working history with the Oblique Strategy cards, which attracted him to the project:

“I first came across Eno’s Oblique Strategies back in 1997, when I found a shareware PC desktop programme that would periodically flash them on my screen. I have played around and programmed little Oblique Strategies scripts and apps in anything from Emacs Lisp to Python ever since. More recently, I’ve been considering using them as a tool in soundwalks: the Oblique Strategy as a means to interrupt/confuse/derail the walk. But this is still in progress.”

He goes on to explain how he went about reworking our Venetian sound:

“The second instruction was reasonably easy. The simplest way to turn a melodic element into a rhythmic one is through repetition. I latched onto the phrase «Si… No?» spoken by a woman in the original field recording.”

“Despite the apparent contradiction, «Si… No?» is a common way of asking for confirmation in Romance languages, and is often used as a kind of question tag, similar to the English «…right?». A loop of the phrase, accompanied by the cadence of the waves on the Canale, helped me hold that together.”

“Nevertheless, the first card, «Abandon normal instructions.», is much trickier. In a sense, it could be interpreted as a way of cancelling the second card, or of interpreting it as freely as I wished. Confused about how to proceed, I decided to interpret the second instruction in reverse: to try to convert a rhythmic element into a melodic one. So, in the second half of the piece, the soundscape is dominated by extended sheets of granular decompositions of the «Si… No?» phrase that punctuates the cadence in the first part.”

“Luckily, I didn’t get the «Would anyone want it?» oblique strategy card.”

City version: 


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