Florian Hecker & Mark Leckey Hecker Leckey Sound Voice Chimera

[PAN; 2015]

Styles: chimeric, spoken word, electroacoustic
Others: Alvin Lucier, Pierre Henry, Trevor Wishart, Björk, Russel Haswell, Iannis Xenakis

“For Hecker, chimerization is a systematic method of summing disparate elements — sound, image, and text — and of outputting a new, singular, and distinct object that retains the intrinsic aspects of all the unique inputted parts. Each of Hecker’s chimeras, specific to the format it is being realized in, is an investigation into the decomposition of visual, acoustic, and verbal meaning — an investigation that balances on the tipping point between representation and abstraction. This tipping point is where signs start to lose their ability to communicate meaning and our senses must recalibrate to continue to receive.”
– Ben Vida for BOMB Magazine

Hecker Leckey Sound Voice Chimera is an appropriately titled amounting of inter-tangled elements of sound and voice; more deeply, it is enmeshed in additional components: Florian Hecker and Mark Leckey. Both Hecker and Leckey are already acclaimed in their respective spheres, and both have exhibited a persistent traversing of music and art. For example, British artist Leckey is probably best recognized for his 1999 video piece Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, which stitches together found footage of underground UK music scenes from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, including disco, Northern soul, and rave music. It’s just one example of Leckey’s sentience for sound; in a recent print interview with Electronic Beats, he quotes the Victorian literary critic Walter Pater, who believed that “all art constantly aspires toward the condition of music.” According to Leckey, “there’s something about music that’s ubiquitous… It basically just goes everywhere… [and] art is much more restricted in that sense.” Furthermore, Hecker’s work precariously straddles the boundary between what is differentiated as music and as sound art.

The collaboration can be traced back to 2010, to a two-day performance entitled Push and Pull — a departing from the environment devised in 1963 by Allan Kaprow: Push and Pull: A Furniture Comedy for Hans Hoffman. This specific performance involved a marrying of Leckey’s GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction with Hecker’s 3 Channel Chronics sound installation, whereby visitors of the latter were responsible for reshaping the sounds across a three-way suspended speaker setup.

For the release of Hecker Leckey Sound Voice Chimera, the physical dimensions of that original instance are arguably contracted. In the context of sound art defined by its experiential environment, Hecker’s work indeed exists over dimensions of space, but his music in particular manifests a physicality that can be representatively construed. This is a sentiment shared by Ben Vida, who suggests that, in Hecker’s work, “the sounds he creates seem like they just might manifest as physical objects.” In fact, sound can reasonably be perceived on a sculptural as well as temporal basis — as a phenomenological object. After all, sound has its own contours and dimensions within those of its surroundings and can be discerned according to its frequency, density, consistency, etc. Alternatively, there is perhaps a difference: sound is morphed within a specific continuum, according to pitch and rhythmic parameters that are reliant on temporality. That said, sound can no doubt be appreciated as an object both independent and dependent of its evocative values. Take Iannis Xenakis, for example, a composer and architect-engineer for whom architecture and music were practically commensurate.

To consider the elements of the chimera as separate, Janne Vanhanen makes a distinction between two categories of sound in Hecker’s work. In this regard, sound can be distinguished as consisting of “abstract, digital creations… with no acoustic phenomena as their basis.” Vanhanen then points to the alternate, contrasting use of “recorded spoken word material that undergoes drastic manipulation by computer algorithms and results in ghostly fragments of speech mired in distortion and audio mirages.” Especially as the auditory incarnation of a text, the human voice features regularly in Hecker’s work. In this case, Hecker Leckey Sound Voice Chimera features the vocal track from Leckey’s 2010 artwork GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, described by Leckey as “a black Samsung stood on a green screen infinity cyc while I coaxed it into revealing its thoughts and actions.” In the general context of electro-vocal practitioners, Hecker can be considered alongside Alvin Lucier, Pierre Henry, Trevor Wishart, and Björk, as a pilgrim of the relationship between the human voice, technology, and meaning.

There are two characteristics of the voice of notable significance. First of all, use of the human voice is arguably always weighted, in that it contains a poetic precept — here, the fridge’s inner monologue. Trevor Wishart likens this aspect of the voice to a conceptual model of Shiva, constructing meaning from the super voice. For GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, Leckey compiled the fridge’s monologue from excerpts taken separately from the Popul Vuh, Calvin Tomkins, and Marcel Duchamp’s essay “La Mariée miss á nu par see célibataires, même” and the user manual of the Samsung fridge itself. The monologue presents a blurring of man and machine; on the one hand, the fridge appears to express its own being in the form of a first-person narrative as though it were in fact human. In the same vein, Leckey has spoken about how, for example, the Roland 303 is like a “cybernetic man-machine… somehow enchanted.” On the other hand, the monologue portrays the absorption of humankind into the realm of technology and its associative brands. It’s all a scenario that is increasingly adverted — think Princess Nokia, DJ Mastercard, DJ Paypal.

On top of that, next to the computer, the voice is the most adaptable instrument of sound. Tom Williams notes that “the malleability of the voice allows a vast morphological range of possibilities of electroacoustic interest in itself.” Hecker Leckey Sound Voice Chimera certainly realizes this potential, offering a substantial amount on the aesthetic front. Despite a copious conceptual depth, it also offers plenty of moments to simply satisfy — or equally agitate — the senses. Piece “I” begins with a flood of estranged piercing rhythms, later devolving to a more percussive pseudo-beat, all the while annexed by fragments of Leckey’s vocal track. There’s a degree of fogged familiarity, like a portal to the ne plus ultra of peripheral popular music — at its heights of rhythmic cohesion, not too removed from the more cryptic corners of club music. At other times, there are turbulent periods where it mutates into distressing aural tumult, but this too is aesthetically gratifying as long you’re into that kind of thing.

As a result, the distinction between sound and voice is blurred, and although retaining conceptual integrity, the result is radically unique. So too, it presents a mirroring of the conceptual underweight of GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction: through the technical transformation of the voice, Hecker’s processes similarly represent the melding of humanity and technology, and what it means to be both.

Links: Florian Hecker & Mark Leckey - PAN

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