An installation and a 4-day performance project for Ausland artspace, Berlin. Supported by the Israel's Lottery Arts Council.
This work deals with that which escapes translation. It is a futile attempt to build a Machine that would expose the elusive residues within spoken text that go beyond the literal. It is called "Kurzstrecke", a German term which may easily be translated into English, as "short distance". However, this translation losses the main meaning of this term, as used in the city of Berlin. The work was created by musician, composer and sound artist Maya Dunietz.
The Machine consisted of a multitude of speakers, sub woofers, triggers, videos, LEDs, software, a grand piano, 4 performers, 10 musicians and three languages. The space was transformed into a futuristic machine operated by the audience moving around in the space. The Machine was fed by 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, says Dunietz, is pure musical matter.
The parameters measured and manipulated by the machine were rhythm, range, statistics of pitches, location of emphasis in each sentence by analyzing volume (in German, emphasis is in 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 onomatopeia 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, "Starlets" - a Cyborg duo performance of especially hacked digital objects and vocals, and improv pieces, by Maya Dunietz and other leading improv musicians.