By Ali Momeni, Artist-in-Residence
A New Interactive Sound Installation
In Conjunction with Listen: Making Sense of Sound
What You Said, How You Said It, is a new interactive sound installation based on accents and the spoken word, by artist-in-residence Ali Momeni. This multi-user interactive soundscape inside a dome-like structure is a new artwork commissioned in conjunction with Listen: Making Sense of Sound, a major new exhibit collection at the Exploratorium.
In the work, spoken words slowly transform from one accent to another using real-time signal processing techniques implemented in software. Visitors’ motions within the room dictate the choice of spoken words and animate the intonation and emotive characteristics of these voices. In this way, individual visitors walk about and explore different ranges of constantly varying dialogues and manners of speaking. Fast movements might generate interjections like “ahh,” “um,” “eh,” or “hun,” or breathing sounds and lip smacking. Slower movements generate whole words and sentences, all based on extensive recordings from the Bay Area – hundreds of nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs – as spoken by 30 people of different ethnicities and accents. A multi-channel 3D surround speaker array controlled by real-time interactive software allows precise positioning of each sound source in the room. In this way, as an Exploratorium visitor moves about the installation, that person is followed by a changing voice along the same trajectory in the room.
The literary subject to be discovered in the installation is the concept of non-violence, as it relates to both language and the day-to-day of life and conduct. The words following visitors are gleaned from spoken responses to provocative texts on the topic of non-violence including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Hugo Ball, Kurt Vonnegut, and Raj Krishna.
This work is made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts.
About the Artist
Ali Momeni was born in Isfahan, Iran in 1975 and emigrated to the United States at the age of twelve. He studied composition, improvisation and performance with computers at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at UC Berkeley under David Wessel and Edmund Campion. Momeni spent three years in Paris where he collaborated with performers and researchers from La Kitchen (Paris), Sony CSL (Paris) and CIRM (Nice). In the past few years, he has also collaborated with artists including Laetitia Sonami, Alvin Curran, Pierre Boulez, Atao Tanaka, Kent Nagano, Peter Mussbach and Shu lea Cheang. He is interested in interactivity in the arts, technologically mediated social interaction, gesture to sound/image mappings, data-driven search and synthesis techniques, and a world better suited to fair living. He also remains interested and active in improvisation, musical theater and instrument building.