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Utopia B1: Slavery in Utopia

Utopia section B1
Utopia section B1

Today’s Utopian theme is slavery, as explained by featured artist Michael McDermott:

Slavery in Utopia by Michael McDermott, Philadelphia, USA

“Utopia is a term often used to describe the imaginary perfect society. More’s actual description of Utopia seems like a well organized hierarchical society, that is, in my view, less than perfect.

My audio piece was about a section in the northwestern shore of the island that is mostly ocean with a little piece of non-Utotpia land above it. In that piece of land there is what looks like a church.

Using the over-arching idea of religious freedom as a starting point I used a sample of church bells recorded in my home town of Philadelphia.

Other sea, bird and wind sounds were recorded from the oceans on the west coast of Ireland.

Another shocking aspect of More’s Utopia is that each house owns two slaves. I used sounds of chains rattling and ships swaying.

With these sounds I imagined slaves being brought to Utopia. The piece has a very dark and ominous tone, trying to convey the notion of dread that a slave would feel being brought to Utopia.

I often think of Utopia as this perfect land where everyone is equal.

The realities of the modern world are that for a group to have the illusion of “perfect lives” an underclass of slave or near-slaves has to exist.

Aside from the processed real-world field recordings there’s a voice from a short opera I wrote in 2013.

The singer, Steve Quaranta, is singing in Latin about the creation story of a larger mythology I created for an on-going mythology project called Digital Dark Age. I thought his voice and Latin words fit in with More’s Latin story of the perfect society.”


Gravensteen Castle by Thomas van den Eynde, Ghent, Belgium

“For this recording I combined a field recording I made at the Gravensteen (a castle from 1180) + a digitally altered field recording of the harbour.

The ocean sounds you hear are actually produced with a Korg synth. The idea behind my soundscape was to create a sense of isolation and mysticism.”