I read about an acoustical phenomenon where when researchers divided up recorded speech so that each consonant and vowel sound was separated, and then played back the recorded speech with all of the parts in correct order, but with each sound reversed, listeners were unable to detect the reversal. I decided that it might be interesting to write a piece that would make people aware of this phenomenon by crossing the threshold of inaudible reversal and audible reversal. I used a short speech that George Bush gave on terrorism and destroying American culture. The speech was nominally about terrorism, but on repeated listening, it became clear that it was more about causing American culture to shift rightward, to criticize Hollywood and to push the idea of individual responsibility instead of socialized responsibility. Because of the repeating of the speech, which gradually breaks down, the friendly experiencer listens carefully, grasping at meaning. The subtext is brought to the surface in that way.
The second part of the piece uses this process but in reverse. It uses a lesbian separatist philosophy text, Lesbian Philosophy: Explorations by Jeffner Allen (Palo Alto: Institute of Lesbian Studies, 1987). I picked out four phrases related to violence and terror. The ideas expressed were as radical as Bush’s but from the opposite ideological spectrum. I run the algorithm in the opposite direction, because I take the opposite view of the words. Allen also talks about violence, terrorism and victim hood, but unlike Bush, her words are ultimately empowering to her reader, giving her readers freedom instead of taking it away. Her viewpoint is equally extremist, but exists in reaction to what Bush proposes.
I found that the second movement made the piece much more bearable. Listening to George Bush talk about destroying culture for five minutes made me very tense, but the soothing voice of Jessica Feldman reading about women uprising acted as an anecdote to Bush.
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