KURZSTRECKE — AN INSTALLATION AND A 3-DAY PERFORMANCE PROJECT
This work deals with that which escapes translation. We engaged in a futile attempt to build a machine capable of exposing the elusive residues, within spoken text, that go beyond the literal. This machine is called Kurzstrecke, a German term simply translated as “short distance.” However, this translation loses the main meaning of this term as it is used in the city of Berlin.
The machine consisted of a multitude of speakers, subwoofers, triggers, videos, LEDs, software, a grand piano, four performers, ten musicians and three languages. The venue was transformed into a futuristic machine operated by the audience moving around the space.
The machine was fed a recording of a text (a rendition of “The Red Riding Hood” story into German legal jargon—“beamtendeutsch”). It then minced, squashed and filtered the text by analyzing various parameters of the recording, in an attempt to find the “spare meat” of the spoken text—the residue that gets lost in translation. The product of this process is pure musical matter.
The parameters measured and manipulated by the machine were rhythm, range, statistics of pitches and location of emphasis in each sentence (in German, emphasis is on the end of the sentence, as opposed to Hebrew where it is frequently in the middle), characteristics of breaks (location, duration, frequency), main tambours, main onomatopoeia and more. The recorded speech was also “transcribed” into a 12-tone musical piece, based on the “music” of the spoken text. It is surprising how much gets lost in this reduction.
The performances around the installation were concerned with issues of translation and power games within the structures of language and its symbolic nature. For example, a popular song in English was translated into Hebrew, then from Hebrew to German, and from German back into English. Consequently, many details were lost and new ones added. Another part consisted of an aria made of the melodies extracted from the recorded texts in the installation. Other examples were “Objective Melodrama”—a performance of plants and piano (Ashbel & Lewis), “Starlets”—a Cyborg duo performance of especially hacked digital objects and vocals and improv pieces, by myself and other leading improv musicians.
“Kurzstrecke” also exhibited in Province: Visitor Centre—The Exhibition (Tel Aviv), September 6, 2012.