Draisine : The Speaking Clock

“I was feelin’ kinda lonesome and blue
I needed somebody to talk to
So I called up the operator of time
Just to hear a voice of some kind
“When you hear the beep it will be three o’clock”
She said that for over an hour
And I hung up”

Bob Dylan, Talkin’ World War III Blues

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I’ve been loving the speaking clock and its use in music for a very long time. VangelisPulstar or, more recently, Chris Smith‘s The Problem With Trouble are pieces that have haunted me, charmed me, hypnotized me. I wanted to give a nod to that, and make the final call to a device i’ve used, playing in Draisine, for more than a year : the US Naval Observatory Master Clock. I was also an easy way to play with the musicality of repetition (the way a voice falsely appears to get musical when put into a musical context) and the mantra-like power of speaking the same phrase over and over again.

I improvised a 50mn piece in a moment of idleness, in a concrete room with no windows. I thought it was worthless. Then I listened to it again and liked it. Added a recording of the USNOMC. I imagined it to be the sound of a minute, stretched out to an hour, as if one could delve into time and stretch it away at will to explore it like a space, up until the point when it will tear apart.

I make music like a deaf. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I can’t hear it. If it sounded like silence, then I’d be happy. Bands like Thuja or Birchville Cat Motel – music that’s like air, impossible to grasp or know by heart, music that makes you lift your head up and wonder, when it’s over, what it was that you actually just heard.

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