I've been preoccupied with the pursuit of abstracting the human voice through electro-acoustic means for quite a while, using amplification as a microscope and keeping the qualities as close to the source as possible. Abstraction of the voice has popularly been horizontal (the speed of an expert cattle auctioneer), or referential (Michael Winslow, aka that guy from Police Academy). What's in common with these two examples is the breath. The fact that the voice has to breathe eventually creates intervals; these pauses birth cadence. We anticipate and depend on breaths in our comprehension of the voice.
I’ve also been exploring the vocabulary of 'virtuosity'; what signifiers are requested on the part of an audience in order to feel as if they are getting their art's worth? In my own voice practice I work with rather elemental and guttural sounds - not in opposition to any notion of vocal virtuosity, but because I can't sing worth a damn and was never trained to do so. But I love the voice, I think it's quite powerful, quite abused, and quite open to abuse.
This work is from a series of recordings I've been producing, recording one-microphone one-take voice studies (and by "voice studies," I mean blowing into a microphone) and then editing out breaths and pauses, so that what's left is one continuous, shifting phrase, where one interval of voice is stretched into abstraction. The textural and artifactual qualities of the voice remain (and are crucial to preserve), but the breaths–the elemental organizers of sound into language–become as rare as roadsigns on a remote desert road.
C. Spencer Yeh was born in 1975, in Taipei, Taiwan, he now lives and works in Brooklyn NY. Studied Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University, Repped Cincinnati OH for many years, and is now based in Brooklyn NY. He is recognized for his musical project Burning Star Core, as well as many other individual and collaborative activities with artists such as Tony Conrad, New Humans with Vito Acconci, Thurston Moore, Prurient, and Jandek. Current musical projects include The New Monuments (with Ben Hall and Don Dietrich), a yet-to-be-named quartet with Nate Wooley, Ryan Sawyer, and Colin Stetson, and ongoing collaborations with Okkyung Lee, John Wiese, Justin Lieberman, Lasse Marhaug, Chris Corsano, Carlos Giffoni, and many others.
Yeh has performed at events such as SONAR, Densités, All Tomorrow's Parties, No Fun Fest, and Frieze Arts Fair, and has also exhibited his visual and multimedia works at national and international venues including the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the New Museum in New York City, White Flag Projects in St. Louis, International Film Festival Rotterdam, La Casa Encendida in Madrid, and alt.gallery in Newcastle. In the music video form, Yeh has collaborated with artists such as Hair Police, Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, and LoVid.
Nominated by White Flag Projects
Image caption: Photo by Peter Gannushkin
This work is part of ICA SOUNDWORKS - www.ica.org.uk/soundworks