Hezarfen Ensemble's performance of Part III as a standalone piece:
A Night of Music in the Uncanny Valley (2018-20)
40 minutes - for ensemble, narrator & electronics
Part III was performed as a standalone piece by Hezarfen Ensemble, March 10.19 - Ankara, Turkey.
Part II was performed as a standalone piece by Oerknal, October 23.19 - Ankara, Turkey.
“And – here is a thought not too pleasing – as the external world becomes more animate, we may find that we – the so-called humans – are becoming, and may to a great extent always have been, inanimate in the sense that we are led, directed by built-in tropisms, rather than leading. So we and our elaborately evolving computers may meet each other halfway. Someday a human being, named perhaps Fred White, may shoot a robot named Pete Something-or-Other, which has come out of a General Electric factory, and to his surprise see it weep and bleed. And the dying robot may shoot back and, to its surprise, see a wisp of gray smoke arise from the electric pump that it supposed was Mr. White’s beating heart. It would be rather a great moment of truth for both of them.” - Philip K. Dick
'A Night of Music in the Uncanny Valley' (for ensemble, narrator, and electronics) is a cycle consisting of five ensemble pieces in total. The setting created for this piece is based on a cognitive phenomenon named as the uncanny valley, a term popularly put forward by Masahiro Mori. This concept aims to explain the emotional responses which we give to objects in proportion to those objects’ resemblance to a human being. According to the hypothesis, the more an object resembles a human being, the more we tend to show positive affinity towards it, until there arrives a point where the object becomes almost human, but not quite. At this stage, our positive response suddenly tends to drop down to a remarkably negative level, as this object’s extreme resemblance to a human being causes an unsettling cognitive dissonance. This discomforting zone of transition from non-human to human is named the uncanny valley.
In 'A Night of Music in the Uncanny Valley', the uncanny valley is treated as a fictional setting as if it were an actual existing place. The work is written as the representation of a ritualistic ceremony held by the inhabitants of the Uncanny Valley, beings who are trapped on the thin line between the human and non-human. Every section of the overall piece depicts a different stage of the complete ritual in five parts.
Filtered and rounded frequencies matching vowel formants:
In his principles on 'Quadraturen', Peter Ablinger writes:
"...my main concern is not the literal reproduction itself but precisely this border-zone between abstract musical structure and the sudden shift into recognition - the relationship between musical qualities and 'phonorealism': the observation of 'reality' via 'music'."
I wish to parallel this statement by expressing that the goal of this work is not at all to create an acoustic simulation of recorded speech. In fact, a perfect level of phonorealism would defy the spirit of this piece, as the potential for the uncanny does not reside in the real, but rather in its distorted impressions. The areas of non-resemblance grant me the freedom to wander away from the source material, to play with different levels of abstraction, and simply to implement my own aesthetic choices within the composition. This way, the listener is constantly lead to make distinctions among sections of “pure” music, sections of actual human speech, and sections of speech that are instrumentally synthesized, until the act of labeling becomes irrelevant. From a broader perspective, the speech and its transformations act both as a musical and a subtextual ritualistic element in the piece.
Part III performed by Hezarfen Ensemble
Orhun Orhon - Conductor
Cem Önertürk - Piccolo
Kıvanç Fındıklı - Bass Clarinet
Kerem Öktem - Percussion
Müge Hendekli - Piano
Özcan Ulucan - Violin
Ulrich Mertin - Viola
Gökhan Bağcı - Violoncello
Recording and mastering by Engin Dağlık
March 2019, Bilkent Concert Hall
All five parts of the piece are built on a common musical material, that is, methodically selected data derived from the spectral analyses of the Narrator’s voice. Elements such as vowel formants, partials, phonemes, speech melody, consonant noise, and inflections are gradually added into the piece and a pseudo-organic speech-like quality starts to take over, transforming the existing musical structures. By implementing these vocal parameters, I intend the end result to sound almost human, but not quite. The constant shifting among the human and non-human form the gestalt of a human-machine; consequently creating an uncanny setting by obscuring the line in between.
Ex. 1, Part III
"The peat bog, for example, I knew it didn't belong there."
Excerpt from Part III
Art: Yugo Kohrogi
The concert version of the piece does not include any of the stage elements from the complete work.
Part II performed by Oerknal
Gregory Charette - Conductor
Susanne Peters - Alto Flute & Piccolo
Daniel Boeke - Bass Clarinet
Christian Smith - Percussion
Sophie Patey - Piano
Jellantsje de Vries - Violin
René van Munster - Violoncello
November 2019, Bilkent Concert Hall
Ex. 2, Part II
Crotales resonance blending with vowel shapes.