Thursday, September 20, 2012

American Air: The Sound of the 20th Century

by G. Jack Urso



American Air: The Sound of the 20th Century is a 6 minute 18 second sound collage constructed from over 200 separate audio clips taken from approximately two dozen different sources. I prepared it for Professor Pierre Joris’ graduate-level poetry workshop class at the University at Albany in the Spring 2000 semester.

As a former radio news producer, I had experience with editing audio, but on tape, using a crayon to mark the tape, a razor blade to cut it, and splicing tape to put it back together; a laborious task even for an experienced hand. Fortunately, that semester I was also taking Producing the Historical Documentary, with UAlbany Professor Gerald Zahavi, which trained me in the use of audio recording and mixing software.

For this project I used Sound Forge XP and a free version of DDClip multi-track software. Between the two programs I was able to emulate cross-fades and other effects that otherwise would have required more sophisticated programs. The total effort required over 100 hours of work.

Taking a fin de siècle perspective, I wanted to create an audio collage with a clear narrative that would reflect some of the political and social anxieties I experienced growing up during the Cold War.

Using Microsoft Movie Maker, I warped an image of an eye from George Lucas’ film THX 1138 over the soundtrack. This creates a focal point as you listen to the piece, much as a mandala creates a visual space for meditation. Some may find the idea of an all-seeing, floating eyeball getting warped and twisted an unsettling image, yet that is what we are; observers whose point of view is affected by sounds and images, from the news, radio, TV, film, art, literature, politics, history, and even from the conversations around us.

American Air: The Sound of the 20th Century is my vision in sound of the America I knew and experienced.

 
SOUND ELEMENTS
Sound Clips:


·         Jim Morrison from An American Prayer (spoken word).


·         Beatnik girl reading poem from The Blackboard Jungle
            (film).

·         Conversations from a WNYC radio news documentary
            Footloose in Greenwich Village (news).

·         Computer god from THX-1138 (film).

·         HAL, the computer from 2001 A Space Odyssey  (film).

·         Patrick McGoohan from The Prisoner (TV series).

·         Robbie the robot from Forbidden Planet (film).

·         Radio Beijing announcement from June 3, 1989.

·         Allen Ginsberg, selected audio clips from America (poem
            recorded 1959).

·         Dr. Martin Luther King, audio clips from I Have a Dream
            speech.

·         President John F. Kennedy, audio clips from various
            speeches.

·         Herbert Morrison, WLS radio broadcast of Hindenburg disaster.   
 
Sound Effects:

·         Atmospheres by Gyorgy Ligeti from the sound track to
      the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Several minutes from
      the piece is inverted, distorted,  and reversed.

·         Guitar effect from the introduction to Joan Jett's Bad
            Reputation (song).

·         Signal from Russian satellite Sputnik (1957).

·         Sensor effect from TV series Space: 1999.

·         Computer crash from TV series The Prisoner.

Background Sounds:

·         Street noise from An American Prayer (spoken word).

·         Cafeteria noise, Cairo market noise, and office noise from
            Microsoft clip art files.

This is a list of the sound clips and the sources, in the order in which they appear:
Sound Clip
Source
Switching radio frequencies & telegraph
From Microsoft Windows 98 Theme “The Golden Era”
Jim Morrison
An American Prayer
Reverberating Sound (background)
Modified sound effect from Space: 1999
Edited conversations from 1950s radio news report
“Footloose in Greenwich Village,” The Beat Generation
Preacher/Cursing woman
An America Prayer
Poem: “My old man was a bread-stasher all his life…”
Poem from The Blackboard Jungle
“We know the biggest H-bomb button-pushers …”
“Footloose in Greenwich Village,” The Beat Generation
Commentary about society
The Prisoner Video Companion
Radio announcer’s observations about Beat poetry
“Footloose in Greenwich Village,” The Beat Generation
“Telephone, wrapped around my head…”
“Footloose in Greenwich Village,” The Beat Generation
“I can’t stand my own mind”
“America,” Alan Ginsburg, The Beat Generation
“My mind is going”
Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey
“That’s one small step…”
Neil Armstrong
“I Can Feel it I Can Feel it…”
Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey
Commentary about political freedom
The Prisoner Video Companion
“America… America… America”
“America,” Alan Ginsburg, The Beat Generation
“We today…have concluded an agreement…”
Nixon (mixed with above Ginsburg audio clip)
“I will not be pushed….”
Patrick McGoohan, Number 6 in The Prisoner
“If Freedom is a myth…”
The Prisoner Video Companion
Reverberating Sound (background)
Modified sound effect from Space: 1999
“You are a true believer…”
THX-1138
“I feel much better now..."
Hal 2001: A Space Odyssey
“Let us be thankful…”
THX-1138
“Quiet please, I am analyzing””
Robby the Robot from Forbidden Plant
“One can never escape…”
The Prisoner Video Companion
“You’re going to find that rather difficult”
Hal 2001: A Space Odyssey
“They cry put down pot, don’t think a lot…”
Poem from The Blackboard Jungle
“I’m trying to come to the point”
“America,” Alan Ginsburg, The Beat Generation
Switching radio frequencies & telegraph
From Microsoft Windows 98 Theme “The Golden Era”
“I have a dream/The world is every different now”
Speeches of JFK and Dr. MLK Jr. edited together
Switching radio frequencies & telegraph
From Microsoft Windows 98 Theme “The Golden Era”
“This is Radio Beijing”
Announcement by Radio Beijing during Tiananmen Square Massacre
Switching radio frequencies & telegraph
From Microsoft Windows 98 Theme “The Golden Era”
“Oh the humanity…”
Herbert Morrison, reporter at the Hindenburg Disaster
Switching radio frequencies & telegraph
From Microsoft Windows 98 Theme “The Golden Era”
“That is the voice and sound of our time…”
“Footloose in Greenwich Village,” The Beat Generation
Reverberating Sound (background)
Modified sound effect from Space: 1999



















































Monday, September 17, 2012

A Study in Blue

by G. Jack Urso

 

your cobalt-blue eyes

are delft on my sighs

shading my sight

with sapphire sheens

so that i think

in azure applications

of deep aquamarine
 
 
 


Sunday, September 9, 2012

NADSAT Natterings

by G. Jack Urso
 

Dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, December 1962. 

greetings my little droogies…
  

no doubt bog bellows choodessny chepooka

                spoogy vellochetted chellovecks

bolshy, bezoomny golosses

                clop…clop…clop

horrowshow crarks in me gulliver

 

                plenny in the staja of me rassoodock

slooshy this veshch

                gooly real quiet-like and kopat

these koshkas sloochating in glorious sneety-land

                interessovat the gloopy scoteenas

to firegold a bit of the old moloko-plus down the gorlo   

    radosty comes to this mesto

but snuffs it like the yahoodies

                in the bolshy bitvas of days long gone
  
what’s it going to be then, eh?

 
First edition cover, December 1962.