Before I visit Vidarbha: a sound installation

Posted on June 28, 2008

Across last month at Khoj, I worked on a processing sketch titled, “Before I Visit Vidarbha.” It attempts to carry forward my exploration of urban food systems as a part of the PetPuja project.

Background: Some 90,000 farmers have killed themselves in parts of India. Many reasons have been ascribed to this. And the government has gone from denial to acknowledgment to offering limited solutions. The media has of course been following this extensively. Some deeply, some not. More can be read about here, here and here.

This project explores how highly complex issues like this could be experienced in some interactive sonic/musical way.

Description of project: This is a musical instrument which sonically interprets the farmer suicide cases reported in the English media. There are two two layers of sound, one a chant and the other a groan. The buttons at the corners of the red triangle can be pressed to add sounds to the soundscape.

The comment here is on the way grassroot situations are dealt with at macro/governmental levels it becomes a play, a game. The visitors to the installation were invited to similarly play with the situation. The way they want. The repetitiveness of the keywords which are picked up from news reports hints on the limited vocabulary the media works with to interpret this situation.

Technical description: RSS feeds of news reports of the farmer suicide cases are pulled in (thanks newsrack) keywords are extracted and built into a chant (using the text-to-speach for Processing: RiTa). The groan is built by chanting the same words very slowly (words/minute). The buttons manipulate Sine waves of different frequencies.

Documentation:

vidarbha-0001.jpg
the program starts. the green circles represent the character-lengths of extracted words.

 vidarbha-0003.jpg
more and more circles… (a lot of words)

vidarbha-0062.jpg
photographs of farmers and their families are pulled in from flickr

vidarbha-0421.jpg
when the red buttons on the triangles are pressed they become gray. you can add sounds to the soundscape by pressing the buttons.

monsoon.JPG
this is how it was installed. the canvas was projected on a wall and it could be controlled using a mouse on a “wobbly” surface

This is the recorded sound of one of the sessions: vid1.mp3

The project works best when run as a desktop application:

linux
mac os x
windows

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