'The whale moves in a sea of sound:
Shrimps snap, plankton seethes,
Fish croak, gulp, drum their air-bladders,
And are scrutinised by echo-location,
A light massage of sound
Touching the skin'
- Heathcote Williams, Whale Nation
[whalesong] is a subversive, submersive sonic journey about the noise in the oceans. It is a sound play on choice, voice and our impending doom. It is a human-computer duet told between a performer and a machine learning system. It has a little whale balloon and a gargle-along theme song. Created by sound artist and technologist xvelastín, [whalesong] is unpredictable, passionate and moving. Its structure is inspired by the speech and song of whales; its content a mixture of mythologies, scientific research and intersectional research. It is a celebration of the diversity of the sound in the seas, and a challenge to humanity's desire to own the natural world.
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[whalesong] has been developed with the support of residencies in early 2020 with the Pervasive Media Studios at Watershed in Bristol and Theatre Deli in London. It was originally created in 2018 for the Camden Fringe Festival in London, where it showed at The Monkey House.
Obviously, the pandemic threw everything into the air, and it's hard to know what the future of performance is going to look like. We're also only beginning to understand the ecological fallout from the plastic and chemical pollution from PPE and cleaning products, and the opportunity governments had to hold corporations to account by conditioning bailouts with environmental sustainability actions is slipping away.
[whalesong] will be being performed across the country from August 2021, starting in Newcastle for Alphabetti Theatre's Newcastle Fringe Festival (more here).
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xvelastín is a British-Chilean sound artist focussing on voice, technology and climate change. He performs often in solo and collaborative works specialising in finding new modes of expression, usually using a mixture of experimentalism, musical training and computer programming. Visit his website for more about his work: xaviervelastin.com.