016 - Lost in Translation

- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE w/ Ben Opie - $7.00 - (110 minutes)


[Warren Burt sent me a copy of this review written for the Computer Music Journal via e-mail with an appended note saying that the review might be edited considerably before it appears in print. I haven't seen the relevant issue yet so I'm including the unedited original review here:]

to be From: "Computer Music Journal"


"Lost in Translation" (wiDEMOuth Tapes No. 16)

cassette tapes from wiDEMOuth tapes; 3809 Melwood AneNUe,

Pittsburgh, PA 15213, NUs@




reviewed by Warren Burt <waburt@melbourne.dialix.com.au>

tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, also known as Michael Tolson, also known as Party Teen on Couch #2, also known as tANGO, aLPHA cHARLIE, also known as anonymous, also known as Luther Blisset, also known as Karen Eliot (along with several dozen others, myself included), also known (again with several dozen others) as Monty Cantsin, also known as Tim Ore, etc. etc. etc. is one of the great eccentrics of contemporary art. A multi-talented artist, who works across media with the greatest of ease, tENT is active in the visual arts, in music, in media, mail art, performance and a host of other less definable activities. His hilarious self-published autobiography "How to Write a Good Resume, Vol II" [How to Write a Resumé: Volume II: Making a Good First Impression] is one of the crowning acheivements of artistic weirdness of the 1980s, and I don't bestow such praise lightly. Associated with a number of the more interesting contemporary art groups, such as the neoists and the Church of the Sub-Genius, he has also been active in the musical fields of free improvisation, live performance with low technology, and most recently, in computer music. Not surprisingly, given his history with extracting every ounce of creative possibility from low technology, his use of the computer searches out the possibilities in areas that those concerned with high fidelity and high powered processes pass by. In these two tapes [see the other part of this review, about "Speech Defect Synthesis Kit", elsewhere], for example, he's dealing with cheap speech synthesis, both with the cheap speech synthesis chips in home computers, and also with placing recorded phonemes into a sampler, and then sequencing them in unexpected ways.

From the above, what may not be obvious is this: tENT is also a very fine composer, whose works reflect deep thought about what he does and how it is realized. Some may find his work maddening - I find it enlightening and refreshing. He would probably agree with the Russian formalist, Viktor Shklovsky, who in the 1920s wrote "In art, it is our experience of the process of construction that counts, not the finished product." (in the essay "Art as Technique" in "Modern Criticism and Theory", David Lodge, ed. 1988, Longman, Essex, p. 20), and in "Lost in Translation" this is indeed the case. "Lost in Translation" is a work from 1997 either for tape or for tape and live performance, and the cassette presents both versions, tape on side 1, and live, with the sax and clarinet of Ben Opie on side 2. The work explores many levels of faulty contemporary technology. First is the premise of the work - the use of less than perfect translation programs to generate errors. Excerpts of over 50 English language books, either about Latin America or by Latin American authors were translated into Spanish using a not so good translation program. The output of this program was translated back into English and then back into Spanish. By this time, the errors had multiplied to the point where the translation program refused to carry the process any further. These texts were then realized with really cheap speech synthesis programs, but in quite a virtuoso way. (A number of people have been working with these cheap speech synthesizers recently, including Daniel Goode ("Juicy Cantata") and myself ("Racter and Eliza" and "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene". We're finding a rich mine of found objects inside these less than perfect machines.) The texts describing this process were also realized with the same speech syntheizers, and then were collaged with samples of various Latin American musical sources, from tribal and popular to political and high art. The result is a 48 minute piece [more like 53:30], in 13 sections, that describes itself and the process of its own making.

Some of the sections are quite brief and serious, while others, such as section 10, are extremely long and build to thick collage textures that remind me of Cage's "Roaratorio", while others such as section 6, are humorous, with its seemingly endless list of the books used as sources for the piece sung by a computer bass voice using, again and again, the opening phrase of Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King." There are some remarkable moments in all this - section 8's juxtaposing of a maniacally laughing computer voice with some pitch shifted tango fragments is macabre, while section 9's computer voice endlessly, mindlessly singing examples of the mistranslation damaged texts to the accompaniment of a thick bed of Latin American musical cliches is maniacal. Ben Opie's accompaniments on side two, at times sardonic, as when he stumbles in a deadpan manner thru a thrice-familiar bossa nova, and at times inspiring, as in his multiphonic accompaniment to part 10, make the piece worth experiencing again, not only to hear how the piece changes in live performance, but also to hear how he reacts to each different section. On this tape, tENT refers to himself as a "Hard Disk Jockey", and it's a description that well fits his clever mixing and manipulation of sources. [Aw SHUCKS!, Warren - I even forgive you for calling me an artist after that review!]



to V.C. home page - to KNEEHIGHS home page - to S.P.C.S.M.E.F home page - to N.A.A.M.C.P. home page

to A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..

to Widémouth Tapes home page - to Widémouth Tapes Catalog - to Usic Essays home page

Last Updated:

The reviews are not necessarily copied verbatim from the original. Usually, small apparent typos are corrected & obsolete addresses are removed. In some cases, I may choose to leave misspellings, misinformation, etc intact to demonstrate how sloppy the reviewer is. Of course, there may be times when the original packaging was confusing (deliberately or otherwise) which may effect the reviewer's comprehension. The more recent the tapes are, the less likely this is to be the case. Most of the recent tapes provide fairly extensive liner notes. In some cases, reviewers whose native language isn't English may be writing in English anyway for the sake of 'internationalizing' their reviews. Obviously, this may lead to what strikes native English speakers as 'bad' English. Hopefully, equally obviously, this should not be interpreted as a lack of intelligence in the writing. Editorial notes may be inserted into the reviews in [brackets]. In many instances, I (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE) replied to reviews that I disagreed with strongly. These replies are included here. In some cases, I may add additional retrospective comments.