This is a collaboration with artist-designer Marguerite Humeau, who is fascinated with scientific experiments and their potential for many narrative opportunities. A presentation of the project from the exhibition in St-Etienne :
“Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures”
sets up the rebirth of cloned creatures, their wandering and their sound epic. They are seeking to evolve in our contemporary era.
The designer, who became the heroine of a quasi-mystic epic journey, aims at resuscitating the sound of prehistoric creatures by reconstructing their vocal tract. This is problematic from the scientific point of view: since the vocal tract is made of soft tissue, it does not fossilise. The only things that have been preserved through time are the surrounding bones. The inner parts have to be redesigned.
For more than a year Marguerite Humeau has been discussing with palaeontologists, zoologists, veterinarians, engineers, explorers, surgeons, ear and throat specialists, and radiologists.
Humeau had to overcome the difficulty of telling history, and prehistory; and also to create a work from non-existent, inaccessible, or lost data.
Design, fiction, science, speculations and phantasms serve the project ambition. Advices from experts as well as predictions are used to craft the roars of the new creatures.
The epic, as real as fantasised, gives birth to three semi-real roaring creatures: a Mammoth Imperator (-4,5 MYA), an Entelodont “Terminator Pig” (-25 MYA), and an Ambulocetus “Walking whale” (-50MYA).
The Saint-Etienne exhibition is set on a giant carousel platform and for practical reasons the sounds couldn’t be directly produced by an air-pressure system. Instead they had to be played from speakers inside the creatures. In order to deal with this constraint we made recordings of the original system that I combined with an audio synthesis engine to allow greater variation. Each creature can play a set of calls that are the result of an evolutionary process deriving an initial call into a tree of related sounds. Once a seed sound is designed, two clones are created with some random variation in their articulation and melodic structure. The process is then repeated for each cloned sound, creating a fast growing variety of sounds with each new generation. Here is a recording of the installation :
This project is part of the exhibition Politique-Fiction at the Cité du Design in St-Etienne, France. Curator : Alexandra Midal.
May 10th, 2012 – Jan 6th 2013
- Designer: Marguerite Humeau
- Sound Design & Artificial Intelligence: Association Phonotonic (Julien Bloit)
- Sound Design Collaborator: Charles Goyard
- 3D modelling: Hong Yeul Eom, Clifford Sage
The mammals sound synthesis program is based on a model by Andy Farnell.