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Jan Jelinek, "Seascape - polyptych"

Seascape - polyptychBack in 2017 Jan Jelinek created a 43 minute radio play called Zwischen featuring Alice Schwarzer, John Cage, Hubert Fichte, Marshall McLuhan, Susan Sontag, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Joseph Beuys, Friedericke Mayröcker, Joschka Fischer, Jonathan Meese, Jean Baudrillard, Lady Gaga, Slavoj Zizek, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Marcel Duchamp, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Miranda July, Yoko Ono, Ernst Jandl, Arno Schmidt, Herbert Wehner and Max Ernst.


He took speech from these 22 people and edited together their pauses into sound collages of silence. Each collage was also wired or programmed to control the amplitude and frequency of a modular synthesizer. The resulting electronic sounds were then mixed with the unarticulated words and silence to form twenty-two pieces. A shorter version trimmed to twelve sound constructs was released as an album in 2018.

If that sounds like a bizarre carry on then Jelinek's latest arguably tops it. For Seascape he has rigged up a way to have the speech patterns from Gregory Peck's performance as Captain Ahab in John Huston's 1956 film version of Moby Dick generate music. Ray Bradbury helped with the screenplay, but the movie—which also starred Orson Welles and Richard Baseheart—is chiefly remembered for Peck's portrait of angry deranged obsession.

Seascape is a hilariously cool concept (developed as an audiovisual software with Clive Holden) and the album is way more listenable as music than might be expected. My only gripe is that the first track is one of the least impressive so an impatient listener might ditch the recording right there. My attention was only fully grabbed as soon as the second piece "Ropes Sing in The Air" began, and I stayed with it and thoroughly enjoyed the rest. To be honest, though, I haven't seen Moby Dick recently, so if you told me that Jelínek had generated music using Peck's speeches from To Kill A Mockingbird I would accept that without a murmur. I can see Atticus Finch calmly wiping the racist spittle from his glasses even now.

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