This 26'54" video presents the complete performance of Jaap Blonk and Golan Levin's "Ursonography" at the Artefact Festival, in Leuven, Belgium, 18 February 2007.
"Ursonography" (Jaap Blonk and Golan Levin) is a new audiovisual interpretation of Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate, a masterpiece of 20th Century concrete poetry in which speech is reduced to its most abstract and musical elements. Dutch sound poet and virtuoso vocalist Jaap Blonk has performed the half-hour Ursonate more than a thousand times; in this presentation, Blonk’s performance is augmented with a modest but elegant new form of expressive, real-time, “intelligent subtitles.” With the help of computer-based speech recognition and score-following technologies, projected subtitles are tightly locked to the timing and timbre of Blonk’s voice, and brought forth with a variety of dynamic typographic transformations that reveal new dimensions of the poem’s structure.
Jaap Blonk's performance of the Ursonate is conducted entirely from memory. Likewise, all of the text in this concert is performed live, in real-time, using custom software. Tight synchronization of the text and voice was achieved by linking a score follower to a real-time syllable detector.
Nearly all of the video is of Jaap, but you can catch a glimpse of me working from 11'35" until about 12'20". My role in the performance is to catch and manually correct any mistakes in the live typography, whether due to errors in the syllable detector (which is only about 95% accurate), or (much less commonly) due to a divergence of Jaap's performance from the fixed poem. The computer system uses a crude rhythm estimator in order to plan the timely projection of text; the most common error in the performance happens when this estimator is too eager in anticipating the next line (as can be seen, for example, at 12'30").
This authoritative documentation of the "Ursonography" performance, edited by Michael Pisano, combines synchronous video from four cameras, the live computer projection signal, and the original mixer feed of Jaap's audio. We are grateful to the Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung, Hannover, for necessary permissions to use and reproduce our performance of Schwitters' poem. The interactive software for "Ursonography" was created in OpenFrameworks.