“We’ve got a song for you”, they said, as I walked into the studio on Curtain Road, and after the obligatory buzz of pedals being powered and the occasional hit of a snare, they played it: the form was fast and fragmented with gaps left for poetry.
‘As the law peals from the far edge of a glove darkly at night how everything turns/ In and to the white snow/ Turns’
Here’s the back story: Rumour Cubes, a band I’ve been working with since 2010, had been booked to play a gig on 18 March 2011 at an Arts Uncut event at the Bull and Gate (Kentish town).
That date, eighteenth of March, sound familiar? It did to me. The gig coincided with the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune. The show, not the Commune, featured comedians like Josie Long and speakers like Steve Hart, Regional Secretary of Unite the Union. It wanted to open up the anti-cuts movement to a wider audience and Rumour Cubes were going to help.
In 2006-7 I collaborated with Adam Stark (for the first time) to make the procedural poem (CODE_WORDS). The poem recoded a speech that was already highly coded: ‘On The Three-Part Comprehensive Settlement’. This was delivered by American Secretary of State Dr. Condaleeza Rice in Israel on the 31 July 2006 during the war between Hezbollah and Israel.
Some political commentators described Rice’s speech as a ‘coded message’ directed towards the Israeli administration, letting them know that they only had a limited amount of time until international pressure would make a cease-fire necessary.
In the poem/program (visualised above) pressing ‘Pause’ in the GUI activated a ‘replace’ function where the start word ‘birth’ was replaced with a pre-selected word from Rice’s speech. ‘Stop’ activated a ‘delete letter’ function, where letters from the previous word were deleted and then reordered to form a new word, and ‘Play’ operated a non-deterministic function where the computer chose, through psuedo-chaotic means, between two pre-programmed options where letters were added to the previous word, and then reordered to form a new word without any letters from the previous word being deleted. In other words, every word within the finite state machine had four other words leading from it.
(CODE_WORDS) can be downloaded here. It’s pretty lo-fi, and only runs on Windows, but it was 2006 and our first collaboration.