I am sitting in a machine – Hearing the science of digitisation

Created by Martin Backes, 'I am sitting in a machine' is a two part work algorithmic work consisting of a limited edition (30 unit) dubplate vinyl and a webpage. The work begins with a recording of an artificial human voice reciting a text which is then run through an MP3 encoder over and over again. With each iteration of the loop, one may hear the artefacts of the encoding process reinforcing themselves and gradually distorting the artificial human voice by revealing its data format. The final result is 32 tracks selected from 3000 successive iterations of the 128 kbps 44.1 kHz MP3 encoding available on the website and as vinyl.

For more than 10 years Martin has been fascinated with noise artefacts that result from accidents in both analogue and digital media, and especially with the MP3 file format. The work is an interpretation of Alvin Lucier’s “I am Sitting in a Room”, and despite not being the first to do so (even with audio compression codecs in mind), he wanted to give it a try anyway. The Lucier’s original work explores the physical properties of sound, the resonance of spaces and the transmission of sound through physical media; whereas Martin's work is more about digitised information and its artefacts, hearing science and telecommunications. He wanted to show how digitised information produces unexpected phenomena the same way physical environments do. In  'I am sitting in a machine', techniques are considered and developed, to make the digital artefacts of the encoding process audible, and to reformulate these sounding artefacts as art.

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