Predators and polyphony - Jerome Lewis | Re:cognition

Season 8, Episode 5,  Oct 25, 2019, 01:38 PM

Conversations about language. Artist Nick Ryan presents an ontological adventure into voice recognition, language, semiotics, sensory experience, immersive sound and imagination.

In this bumper final episode of the series, Nick Ryan continues his search into the meaning of language with Anthropologist Dr Jerome Lewis, asking why and where language began. A Reader in Social Anthropology at University College London, Jerome has 25 years of research experience working with The Bayaka hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin researching child socialisation, play and religion; egalitarian politics and gender relations; and language, music and dance. Jerome takes Nick on Journey into the forest, tracing the origins of language, as he explains ‘radical egalitarianism’, polyphonic singing, survival from predators, ‘costly signalling’ and how to call fish with your voice underwater.

With thanks to the Pitt Rivers Museum and Reel to Real project for use of the Bayaka recordings used in this episode.

The series documents and delves into the research being undertaken by Nick Ryan and his collaborators for RE:COGNITION, an interdisciplinary project exploring the connection between the sound of spoken language) and meanings manifest in the physical world as sound or concepts otherwise capable of being represented sonically.

In connection to this Nick Ryan presents The Gulf of Understanding (Re:cognition) as part of BONDS until 05 Jan 2020 at Gallery 31, Somerset House Studios’ new permanent exhibition space. The Gulf of Understanding (Re:cognition) taps into the magic of making sense, exploring the sound of spoken language and its relationship to sensation and matter. Inviting visitors to speak a word into a microphone, the installation uses machine learning and natural language processing to automatically represent these words as sounds. Simultaneously, a visualisation displays the words and their semantic relationships to related vocabulary. 

Nick Ryan is a multi-disciplinary artist and composer exploring auditory representations of information, language, physical materiality and space through the creation of sound and multi-sensory installations, bespoke instruments and generative audio experiences. 

Re:cognition is commissioned by CASE Foundation and currently is in the R&D phase. 

Podcast produced by Nick Ryan and Jo Barratt for Somerset House Studios.