Saturday, July 28, 2012

A ship adrift - erasure poetry

A ship adrift
I'm a fan and admirer of the internet artwork "A ship adrift" made by James Bridle. I return to its webpages regularly. I immerse myself in its aimless voyage and the ghostly chattering of its language bots.
The virtual ship is connected to a London weather station and it drifts around the world randomly. It travels the (lost) imperial periphery, being blown by wind from the (now powerless) governing center. But a much better description by the artist can be found here and here.

During its drift it collects random snippets of local data, ghost whispers of the internet. With its robot intelligence it tries to tell a story of the places it visits. It fails, but it's a very poetic failure. You can read its dream-like texts here.

Erasure poetry
Today I discovered the concept of "erasure poetry" on another blog I follow. This is how the concept is described by the writer Justin Taylor:

Erasure is a method of delving into the depths of a text to see what can be found there. But the eraser is liberated—as well as made anxious—by the knowledge that said findings are not discoveries but creations. The erasure-text is not a salvage: it has no reality independent of the search for it, the searching is in fact what made it real.

Somehow I started without consciously thinking. I copied a few "ship adrift" logfiles into notepad and started deleting. To my surprise something coherent started to appear. There was some vague shape. I deleted more and more text. I left the order and spelling intact. I added some punctuation. This is what was left at 00:17 AM. The text is culled from the logs of 27 July to 15 July 2012.

A ship adrift - erased

I released my grip and a spiritless ship in the shade of years should fail me.
I behaved with beautiful earth, flowed something Buddha.

I had light myself, belonging of a minute.
I day the sword and stared a man, ship of the names.
I held up foot, stamped here like the air.

Tell me, pray, tell me, and, indistinct, like a pair of shadow.
Do you know.
Some to endure, even beyond.

Villa Total in the rocky Monteresting.
Devil was the hammock, groans, blankets, horrors.
But into the path, with wooden loads, for meaning by expanding.
And the same upkeep with the pointinuous night.

Annoying I stave coming for him once.
He wastepec Maravines, miles farm and festive.
I felt gone people, August, sixty profound of them.
To kill something sides, nobody had end you.

Their loads inclosed three world to each others.
In Chiapas, chap with body of eyes.
Beforesting sunlight the men would get into.
Catching habited in the big river.

Wrecked over we came upkeep, is coming you, sir?
And in the interesting, at last bit of course.

Only too old, your unbuttoned uniform, catching that is to hear, he.
I came upon the paths, perhaps on the los.
Retrieved August, I know that you projected devil was.
Through burnt grass near, why did it in the cabin?

A steady glimmer of dange narcotic effectly.
Payton Bomb that brace you, white change narcotic, an effect of water.
I'm ready and the shielo name to explain bring over.

Very well, I am guilty.
Thou art my hiding over, I woke up each this.
But this become my communication:
"We arent and rise black, flat, over place The Funny Teens."

If you to smuggle your place and throom.
Monotonous frenzy, imperceptible order, so as me?
Speak Marijuana Drama! Amp a go water.

I'm real enough to give straight in fantation room.
God dare for kids!

I believed good offered, word in the fitfully droning.
Dance and really wanna say, some best to a nothing place.

I'm feelinger the ivory; but the hill dads kill me now.
In love with End, original fastened us in favor.
The black to easier forgot this, of many means even.

God Is Faithful, and had he came today.
And rise blackorean boring white.
Altamirano, he was haste to, and in beacon glimpse: Equator.
Some, perfectly here, yet.
Exploring perfectly ... well, we won't.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Night sounds and morning birds - Berlin

In June I visited a congress in Berlin. When visiting a large metropolis I try to make a night sound recording from my hotel widow. It's interesting to analyse the daily and nightly patterns of the city. I especially like the most silent period, usually somewhere between 02:00 and 04:00. This is the Berlin night in Audacity:
The spikes are cars driving below the hotel windows at the Anhalterstrasse. The solid dark area is the background hum of the city. Like William Gibson writes in Zero History:
“Good night,” Milgrim said ... He ... climbed into bed in his underwear, and pulled the covers to his chin. He turned out the light. Lay there running his tongue over the backs of his teeth. ... And listened to, or at any rate sensed, the background frequency that was London. A different white noise.
To filter out that background noise I edited the most silent part of the recording. I cut away all the car sounds leaving only the silent background. And then I cut away all the parts where "nothing" can be heard. This is the result:

It was a wonderful experience to listen to the recording and work with these sounds. I did it in my inexperienced way, but it deserves a better recording and better editing. I was surprised by two things:

  1. How early the birds start singing. Almost in the middle of the night.
  2. How the birdsong echoes through urban space. How wide and mysterious this space sounds.

The emptiness of urban space at night is breathtaking. I'm a bourgeois individual who goes to sleep at 23:00 so I never experience the spaces of deep night. But I'm tempted to try the very early morning.
But when I talked about this with my son, who is living a student life with occasional partying, he told me he had noticed the early birds and the echoes many times.
I don't know how far the birds were from my hotel window. Maybe they were quite near in the trees. But in the recording they sound very far away. And what kind of birds were they? I did some research on German websites and it could be this:

  • The earliest night singing bird is the nightingale. But the song of the earliest birds is much too simple to be nightingales.
  • Another early bird is the Robin. But the song of the early birds does not sound like that. It sound much simpler.
  • The earliest bird might also be the "Hausrotschwanz" the "Black Redstart". This is the most likely candidate, but I still think the sound on the recording is simpler than the song examples in the Internet.
  • The blackbirds are early singers but they start much later. And they are very easy to recognize. In the recording you can hear the first blackbird at 3:13.

Berlin recording - Freesound
German early birds
Robin song sample
Black redstart song sample
Early birdsong - podcast in Swiss language, with song samples
Distribution of "Black Redstart" in the Netherlands

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Anhalter Bahnhof - Tris Vonna Michel

A performance by Tris Vona-Michell has charged the area around the Anhalter Bahnhof with spy novel suspense. While in Berlin I explored the area and was transported into a pseudo-historical space by the mysterious ruins. I put a few quotes below, but to get the whole atmosphere you have to listen to the performance yourselves.
My father says: Tris, I've got this wonderful story. In Berlin 1945 imagine, the Anhalter Bahnhof, the biggest station in history. Huge. The idea was, in the 19th century, this tunnel could go to the Noth Pole, the South Pole. And in 1945 Hitler arrived and he said: "Lets make this idea a reality!"
It was bombed, and again and again. In 1945 the Russians entered the tunnels. And they called it "the expansive", "the never ending." And my father said: Tris, go there  and look for Ronald Hahn. And I said: Who is Ronald Hahn? Ronald Hahn was one of these four men probably. The Russians go into the tunnels and ... whoosh ... don't return.
Warfare ... nuclear, no ... biological. And the Russians, Americans said: we don't understand. And basically they say ... stop. No more lives. No more humans going through the tunnels and never returning.
They said to the Germans ... tell me ... or to what was left of Germany in 1945 ... why did you build these tunnels? And the Germans said: I'm sorry, that's a part of our history ... a legacy we have no access to. What do you mean? I'm sorry, this is actually biological warfare experimentation. I mean this is very deadly, do not go through these tunnels. Our only recommendation is to board off the tunnels, and place men with guns and masks at the entrance who say: Zurückbleiben bitte! And Ronald Hanh runs through and he dies. Depleted uranium. End of history. Over.

Now first listen to the performance by Tris Vonna-Michell. Then go to the site with the ruin at sunset with Les barricades mysterieuses by Francois Couperin playing on your iPhone. You will get an explosive mix of mystery, melancholy and melodrama that might be just as deadly as the mysterious tunnels.