Project conceived and developed by Maar Colasso and Gabriel Vigliensoni.
Ñe’ê: Earwitnessing hidden stories from the South is a generative radio project and sound performance that seeks to unveil stories and historical events from the Latin-American South on the idea of disappearance and memory. By placing together sound objects from distant geographies, times, and cultures in a non-binding way—therefore allowing the interaction of their contexts, memories, and temporal densities—this project aims at enabling the audience to reflect and provide meaning to these events.
Our work combines sound sources from different imaginaries from South America to evoke memories and create a speculative aural world. Rather than the usual linear and monolithic treatment of historical events, in our work the narrative and meaning of those events are constructed in the mind of listeners. This experience is driven by a generative soundscape made up of two layers of sound. In the first, a classic, epic poem from Uruguay is resynthesized and told through a computer model learned from testimonies from human rights violations in Chile between 1973 and 1990. The fabled naïvety of the poem is recontextualized and resignified by the memories and verities encoded in the model. In the second layer, keywords extracted from the poem retrieve natural soundscapes of forests, seas, rivers, lakes, flora, and fauna from an online database. Also, rhythms in compound meter—common in traditional music in the global South but also intrinsic to contemporary music genre rhythms—are decoded from a computer model and rendered in real time. Together, all these elements serve as machinery capable of overlapping the fabric of space and time, where words, soundscapes, and rhythms are resignified and can acquire a new meaning in the audience.
This work is based on the idea that in many South American cosmogonies all entities have a soul. Stars, planets, humans, animals, plants, rivers, and even words have a spirit that energizes their semantic meaning. The Guaraní term that names and inspires the project,Ñe’ê, means word but also means soul. In shamanic rituals, we hear the word Ñe’ê accompanied by music. Musical instruments also have a spirit, they speak and teach. In the Guaraní creation myth, music, singing, and dancing are the activities and portals that help people to encounter and communicate with subtle dimensions, divinities, and their ancestors.
The Ñe’ê: Earwitnessing hidden stories from the South project is a portal to alternate aural universes. These universes are explored throughout a generative radio and a live performance will launch the radio portal. The audience will be exposed to sound sources in layers that will be spatialized in the space simultaneously. With this counterpoint of sound sources, the audience will resignify and transfer meaning from one to the other. Similarly, the generative radio portal will broadcast sound sources in parallel, belonging to two layers: palabra and alma.
Ñe’ê is structured as a non-linear, generative aural story. The generative radio is driven by a metadata pseudo score. Words and concepts retrieved from the ten different Cantos in Tabaré (i.e., sections) are used as metadata keywords that drive different audio scenes. The keywords are used as queries that retrieve sounds from Freesound for each audio scene. Additional arguments such as geolocation data and tags (e.g., “field recording”) are used to further filter the results. Probabilities and randomization will be used to further enhance different combinations of sounds. Like a spiral, it follows a cycle but does not have a start or end. Similar to quantum states, sound elements in the spire have a probability of happening, so the story is regenerated every time.
In the figure, we show a conceptual plan with the components of the live performance that will celebrate the opening of the generative radio portal. Different modes of participation are highlighted in red, different activities in greed, and content layers in blue. The arrangement of the loudspeakers and the placement of the stage within the performance space are explained in the accompanying document with the technical requirements. Colors in the map of South America indicate the territories of contemporary Uruguay (light blue) and Chile (red). The larger colored territory on the map (green) corresponds to the countries where Guaraní populations currently live.