A Cappella

What reveals the difference between spoken language and music sung a cappella? What fundamental differences are there between oral sounds which form words and those which form a vocal harmony or music? The answer lies inevitably in the ear of the listener and in the interpretation he makes of these sounds. One could assert that codes which transform sounds into words and into language, largely refer to semantics and meaning. Whereas codes which transform oral sounds into music refer to harmony and beauty. Sounds interpreted as music do not name things, feelings, or atmospheres, they created them. What about an interior soliloquy which involves a single protagonist? This is what explores, in a playful way, the audio-video installation A Cappella.

Three television sets, side by side show two profiles of the same face. They face each other and they seem to hold a conversation. Each of the faces uses its voice to utter sounds which do not form either words or music. These sounds are rather similar to what we would imagine being prelinguistic oral gibberish. Video tapes, presented in synchronized buckles, begin in a certain cacophony: both protagonists express themselves without taking into account the presence of the other. Little by little, a certain order becomes established and both characters seem to agree to participate in the construction of an experimental language. Soon after, they try to find a certain harmony, in order to express each others desires. Apparently, the spectator is excluded from this conversation. He cannot participate because he does not possess the codes of the conversation. His interpretation of the performance constantly oscillates between semantic decoding, where he tries to extract words and sentences, and harmonious decoding, where he searches for harmony and rhythm. This ambivalence destabilizes the spectator who sees himself in front of what seems to be a schizophrenic verbal match where a man, in this particular case the artist, quarrels with himself. Who said that our internal discourse was harmonious ?

Eric Desmarais