Audio: Choose Life, Choose NewsCorp
by Beauchamp Art
1 Choose Life
These audio works use the Choose Life internal monologue of the Renton, on of the protagonists in Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel Trainspotting, adapted to film by Danny Boyle in 1996. For this project I used the transcript from the film version, as the difference to the novel were minimal (I having read the book a within the last few years, prior to seeing the film), and the director worked closed with Welsh in its production, so is fairly accurate to the sentiment of the text.
Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?
(The cover design for this page uses the orange sampled from the Trainspotting posters, though the typeface used is Heiti TC, rather than Helvetica Neue, to make it correlate with the titles from the rest of my video works and of the other publications, rather than the film’s promotional materials.)
Audio: Choose Life
This audio track uses a text-to-speech adaptation of the monologue, rather than sampling it from the film, to produce a flatter, more monotone and inhuman tone. The full track was divided into short sections which played alongside the uninterrupted text, with the phrase ‘choose life’ repeated throughout, with the different sections shifting in and out of phase, with a grossly elongated version of the words ‘choose life’ stretch to the full length of the piece.
Audio: Choose Life [Feedback]
This arrangement took a more structural approach using the stereo placement of the different audio components create an intricate interweaving tapestry. With the speech broken into each sentence (set to a 120bpm rhythm) playing in the left speaker, ‘choose’ repeating in the centre, and ‘choose life’ in the right, and ‘choose’ being said rapidly (on every beat) in increasing volume, shifting between the left nd right speaker). The slowed down version of the phrase ‘choose life’ plays a more prominent role here, with the soundscape building to a slightly distorted (overdrive & tremolo) climax around the line “Choose life, now why would I want to do a thing like that?”
2 A List of Assets Owned by Newscorp
Whilst reading up on Rupert Murdoch and News Corp, I came across a full list of all the assets, organisations, companies and publications owned by News Corp.
A List of Assets Owned by News Corp [Publication]
A plain, A5 publication was created featuring the list in full, set in the relatively neutral Helvetica typeface, though it does carry with it the connotations of cigarette warning labels, road signs, and formal documents. It is a book without a narrative, but not without a message. By presenting the extensive list in one single document, the form communicates the sheer volume of material owned by the single corporation; the message of the medium is “the medium is the message” [McLugan, 1964: 129], and News Corp own (nearly) all the Media. The publication follows the logic of the database as the cultural form of expression for the computer age, over the novel’s privilege of the narrative [Manobich, 2001: 2018], and in doing so may embody the banality of the information it presents to the reader, who may be aware of the monopoly held by the Media conglomerate, but will not alter their behaviour as a result.
Presenting the information as a plain list seemed a logical and straightforward way of presenting the data, in such a way that contains as evidence of mediation as possible, in an attempt at forming “a transparent interface” “one that erases itself, so that the user is no longer aware of confronting a medium, but instead stands in an immediate relationship to the contents of that medium” [Bolter; Gruisin, 2000: 23-24]. This was done as a direct contrast to aesthetic of the individual publications owned by News Corp, such as their red-topped Tabloid papers like The Sun. But simultaneously this could be seen to communicate how News Corps dominance of media enables them to give the impression of transparency through ubiquity. They could be seen as like an odourless but noxious gas that passes through the air unseen, poisoning all those who inhale it.
Audio: List of assets owned by News Corp
In this piece, the List of Assets owned by NewsCorp is read by a text-to-speech program in alphabetical order for 4 minutes and 33 seconds (which, by pure coincidence, is the same length of John Cage’s composition, 4’33’’, the length of the audio was unaltered in this variation). This was originally intended to be monologue, the robotic voice gave a greater impression of neutrality.
3 Choose Newscorp
In theses experiments I attempted to combine the apathetic list of choices laid out in Trainspotting with the lack of choice evidenced in News Corps’ media monopoly; presenting the audience with the illusion of choice, but decisions without substance (further by the works exciting somewhat incorporeally as audio files, that only exist in potentia until the sound is played back.
Written: Choose Life, Choose Newscorp
In response to the production of the audio tracks, I wrote a short text, incorporating elements of Welsh’s text into a wider discussion around political choice and related issues. These may be consider an extension of these annotations, though it does not make reference to the technical production of the work.
Audio: Choose Newscorp
In this first attempt at combing the Choose Life speech and the List of Assets Owned by News Corp, I position the list in the left speaker playing at the default speed, with the lines from Trainspotting entirely panned to the right, slowed down dramatically so that both tracks were the same length.
Audio: Choose Newscorp [Reverb]
This variation used the same basic com potion of the previous, however, I applied a reverb effect to the sound to give the two disparate sounds a sense of shared space. This was then reversed, more of the slow echo was added, before being inverted once again and the effect furthered. This meant that the audio trail of each phoneme would prelude their utterance by the machine voice, and linger afterwards.
This produced an especially disorientating effect with the two contrasting monologues taking place, the slowed down sounds of Choose Life seem like a cinematic hallucination, alluding to the concluding remark “Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin”, an escape against the threateningly rapid utterances of the list of assets, like disquieting whispers. The dynamic interplay produced a schizoid soundscape, which could be considered an appropriate reaction to the cognitive dissonance caused by the doublethink of the presentation of choices (the various media alongside a job, a career, a family, and a fucking big television), and the real lack of choice that both these list embody.
Audio: Choose Life, Choose NewsCorp
The audio composition posited the metamorphosing stereoscopic Choose Life monologue, bouncing between the ears, with the word ‘choose’ slowly being pulled forwards, pressurising the listener into hastily contemplate the assault of illusionary choices, whilst the list of News Corp’s assets a speedily read through in the centreground, with the overall soundscape becoming more distorted as the piece progresses, reflecting the growing tension of the hectic information overload.
This was later used as part of the soundscape for TFHDR, though only the pulsating sound of ‘choose’ became distinctly audible, curtailed by the video’s split panel presentation, giving the viewer the choice between the left panel of protests and civilian violence, or the right panel, with the same selection of footage. This audio track, and the associated video works offer the viewer the same level of choice descried by Henry Ford when it came to cars: “any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” What trust in the integrity of the established media must the reader have to dismiss the ridiculousness of this lack of choice, this inherent absence of choice of media consumption.
With near-total control of the media, with how people experience the world en masse, comes near-total control of the people, as their potential “propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state”. They may use their vast canvas to paint a picture of of the world to the public that has only the remotest relation to reality. Or roll up the paper, every news paper they have produced, and use it to beat their readers like a dog to instigate “the manufacture of consent” [Chomsky, 1997: 1997: 21, 37, 18]. And with the current Prime Mister David Cameron personally affiliated with the upper members of the organisation, such as Rebekah Brooks, then that media control becomes state control, and may make the questioning of this authority unthinkable, rather than impossible. When “our epoch prefers the image to the thing, the copy to the original, the representation to the reality, appearance to being. What is sacred for it is only illusion.” [Feuerbach, 1970] So to be the master illusionist is to ascertain a greater level of control within society then any historical dictatorship could have permitted.
Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard. (2000) Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT Press. Paperback edition. London, England.
Chomsky, Noam. (1997) Media Control. Seven Stories Press. 2nd Edition. USA.
Feuerbach, Ludwig. Cited in Debord, Guy. (1970) Society of the Spectacle. Black and Red. Detroit, USA. Cited on Lippard, Lucy R. (2000) Too Much: The Grand Canyon(s). [Online] Harvard Design Magazine. Iss. 10: What is Nature Now. <http://www.harvarddesignmagazine.org/issues/10/too-much-the-grand-canyon-s> Accessed 1.6.2015
Manovich, Lev (2001) The Language of the New Media. MIT Press. USA.
McLuhan, Marshall (1964) Understanding Media. 1994 Edition. Routledge. UK.
Trainspotting (1996) [Film] Dir. Boyle, Danny. Writ. Hodge, John; Welsh, Irvine. Prod. Macdonald, Andrew. Channel Four Films. Cited on Wikiquote. <http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Trainspotting_%28film%29> Accessed 1.6.2015
Wikipedia. List of assets owned by News Corp
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assets_owned_by_News_Corp> Accessed 8.3.2015