Researchers: Erin Anderson, Kit Ayers, Courtney Harrell, and Rachel Brickner
This multichannel sound/video installation tells the story of Jake and Helen McCleary, an elderly couple struggling to save their troubled marriage. The story unfolds across a series of weekly therapy sessions in which Jake and Helen sort through the messy details of their relationship. Unlike a conventional audio drama, the characters’ voices are constructed from fragments of oral history recordings of two people who have died—and who never met. Using a manual process of concatenated speech synthesis, the archival voices have been digitally disarticulated and recombined to create a new, fictional story and an uncanny encounter between living and dead, human and machine. This project brings together an interdisciplinary team of set designers, librarians, writers, and audio engineers and invites the audience to enter a mock therapist’s office and inhabit the experience of the absent characters, with each character’s voice emitted from a directional speaker. A synchronized screencast of the multi-track audio session reveals the secret behind the drama’s construction, and individual headsets provide access to the original oral histories. This immersive experience offers a reflection on the precarious temporality of human lives and relationships and the paradoxical potential for reinvention that sound recording affords.