Dada Sounds: beginning at the Cabaret Voltaire
Today we begin our journey around the world of Dada sounds, taking in one country at a time and exploring the project contributions.
Given that we’re marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Cabaret Voltaire, what better country to start in than Switzerland, and where better than on the doorstep of the Cabaret Voltaire itself?
Daniel Mackenzie therefore kicks us off, with a recording of a poetry reading outside the Cabaret. He describes his reimagined sound:
“The Dada principles applied to my alteration of the original recording concern the abstraction of sound and language, swapping the unconventional approach to syllabic form seen in the early 20th century for a contemporary alternative.
“I have misused a not particularly special piece of pitch correction software to dramatically alter the vowel sounds in the reading, almost removing them entirely from their source. What remains around these is most of the sibilance, and snippets of sonic ambience.
“Though famously anti facist, Dada sadly did very little to prevent the continuation of violence at the time. The effected sound hints at this in the subjective pointlessness of words stripped of substance, understandable by nobody, perhaps not even those responsible for their utterance.”
Our next stop is Europe’s highest railway station, the Jungfraujoch, otherwise known as the ‘top of Europe’. From a recording of a crowded train, DBPIT and XxeNA employed the following techniques:
“Sound poem – the voices and wailing from sample #1 repeat themselves, sometimes overlapping on the stereo channels as in a multiple-speaker live poetry reading, with different tones, without actually saying nothing
– chance – several blocks cut out from sample #2 were fed into a virtual synth that played them in random order.”
Our final Swiss sound is Tobias Gasser’s recording of the Gabelbach river, near Bern – a bucolic scene of birdsong at the waterside. Regular contributor Erik Gould describes his approach to the sound:
“I chose a recording from Switzerland for no other reason than that’s where Dada began. Because I was working on it over the Martin Luther King holiday I worked in units of 1.18. I laid a grid over the source recording breaking it up in 1.18 second segments.
“I used a random number generator to rearrange the clips until I had a length of 1min, 18 seconds. I decided I wanted to collage in sound that related to the moment in time that I was working on this so I randomly recorded a German language news radio station coming out of Switzerland at the same time I was editing the first piece. I took that recording and applied the same method to chop it up.
“On both recordings I used a second set of randomly generated numbers to apply a small set of effects (backwards, reverb) to a few clips. As an homage to Man Ray I wanted to suggest an aural layer of dust, so I stretched out the edited version of the first track and then I mixed all three together in a very un-Dada deliberate way.”