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Talking Ears

by Ensemble Consensus

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about

The desire to share photos and videos on social media is an impulse that is commonplace among contemporary netizens. If we limited the shared content to sound, can we direct this impulse towards the sonic features of our lives? And further, how can we engage with a constant stream of shared content in a way that is intentionally and interactively facilitated?

These questions guided the design and facilitation of our Youtube-based Ear Talk project: an audio-visual virtual arena where people from remote locations share, shape, and form music. We invited people to share sound files onto a Google Drive folder, which were compiled and organized via MaxMSP into an audiovisual representation (a “score”) of the sequence of sound files. We held live-streamed “performances” via Youtube Live where we displayed the “score” while playing the sound sequence on a loop, where anyone who was willing and able could shape and interact with the sequence of sounds by commenting on Youtube’s live chat box using a certain syntax. Users/participants were able to play with the pitch, duration, loudness, color, and relative position of the sounds. For instance, commenting “Hey EarTalk, move sample 12 to the right by 10%” on the live stream’s chat box would result in the corresponding audiovisual change that is perceivable through the YouTube livestream.

By (mis)using Youtube in this way, our Youtube-based Ear Talk project offered a unique way to organize sounds; collaboratively and spontaneously “compose” with people from remote locations. Throughout 2019 and 2020 we held several public iterations of Ear Talk under the titles “Ear Talk: Sounds Worth Sharing” and “Ear Talk: Online Sound Gathering with SEAMUS 2020.” The latter was hosted in partnership with the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) as part of their 2020 conference, which was rendered virtual by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This album contains six snapshots from our public Ear Talk “performances”: we isolated specific loops from these collaborative sound-shaping sessions. We share these snapshots with you as an album in an effort to introduce you to the co-creative process that was/is Ear Talk through a different, familiar medium of musical listening. The track titles indicate the YouTube URL ID and timestamp from the Ear Talk performances (find the videos by copy+pasting our track titles after youtu[dot]be[forwardslash]).

credits

released March 12, 2021

We are releasing this album for free because we are not interested in claiming creative authorship over the sounds of these tracks: after all, this album represents the manifestations of a group of people’s collective creativity; only some were members of Ensemble Consensus. This is not to minimize the labor that went into designing and organizing Ear Talk, and hacking YouTube into an interactive, co-creative platform. Thus, if you wish to donate to our Ensemble’s future works by donating to this album, please feel free to do so: we very much appreciate your support.

Technological design and hacking by Toshi Tsuruoka and Oliver Hickman

Project design, facilitation, and organizing by Toshi Tsuruoka, Oliver Hickman, and Leo Chang

Members of Ensemble Consensus involved in this project: Taylor Arnold, Erich Barganier, Sasha Berger, Leo Chang, Oliver Hickman, Samn Johnson, Sam Kaseta, Andrew Koss, Charlie Kozey, Ashley Muniz, Cassie Parks, Damian Ponce de Leon, Toshi Tsuruoka, Peilin Wu, Lucy Yao

Mastered by Toshi Tsuruoka

Special thanks to SEAMUS 2020 organizing team

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Ensemble Consensus Brooklyn, New York

Ensemble Consensus is made up of artists who come together to co-create performances via what we call Group Listening: a practice that transforms creative prompts into music through collective group work and iterative improvisation. Through Group Listening, we seek a constant questioning and negotiation of identities and aesthetics, rather than definitions. ... more

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