℗ Babil-on V2

Contemporary Performance

Abstract. Babil-on is a performance of augmented musical theater, which describes the imaginary destiny of the Speech. Starting with pure vowels, some more complex elements like the consonants or further, the semantic meaning, appear as disruptive elements. Babil surgically dissects speech to extract its emotional charge. The performer is equipped with a motion capture system enabling him to literally handle his voice in real time. In the context of a close-up, facing to the public, he cuts his voice, plays with it, spreads it in the surrounding space, catches it back, modulates it, multiplies it… The performance seems to stick to a technical demonstration , while an insidious truth appears. Babil-on is a metaphor of Human destiny that can not cease to grow, to accumulate, to complicate His situation to the point of not being able to enjoy it without causing His own ruin.

Résumé. Babil-on est une performance de théâtre musical augmenté qui décrit le destin imaginaire de la parole. Partant de voyelles pures et introduisant progressivement des éléments de structure plus complexe, comme les consonnes ou encore le sens sémantique,  Babil-on découpe la voix au scalpel, pour faire apparaitre son intrinsèque  charge émotionnelle. Le performer est équipé d’un système de captation du geste lui permettant de manipuler sa voix en temps réel. A la manière d’un close-up, seul face au publique, il découpe sa voix, la rejoue, la dépose autour de lui, la rattrape, la transforme, la module, la démultiplie… Tout se passe comme une démonstration technique si ce n’est qu’apparait, au fur et à mesure, une insidieuse vérité. Babil-on est une métaphore du destin de l’Homme qui ne peut cesser de croître, d’accumuler, de complexifier Sa situation, au point de ne plus pouvoir en jouir sans provoquer Sa propre perte.

From the imaginary destiny of the Speech …

Babil-on V2 draws an original portrait of the Speech, as if it was an individual. Mixing various scientific approaches to speech, inherited from various domains: phonetics, phonology, bio-philological evolution, language acquisition, speech processing, G. Beller composed a structure depicting the imaginary life of this particular individual.

Of a birth marked by the enjoyment of the phonation and by the purity of the vowel, the babbling gets excited in hiccup, then in crisis to laugh. An accident occurs then: the irruption of a consonant. By contagion, the voice complicates little by little in the sketch of a pre-language. Then, the semantic sense bursts as a new disruptive phenomenon. It drives the speech in a continuous stream of linguistic actions which will eventually impoverish the vocal material by exhaustion. It is the fall of Babylon. The wor(l)d is exhausted, only a pure singing will allow us a return in the original breath.

These three disruptions (the consonant, the sense, the noise) articulate four parts, the evolution of which are more or less systematic. Simple situations start from these anchors, where new rules are given. The performer starts by discovering what he can make in this new world with his new “power”. From a simple game, he slightly goes into some more complex situations, until he looses completely the control of the situation. The accumulation takes over and leads him to ruin. 

Subtly, this process of comparing the Speech to an individual, bring us back to our self condition of human beings. The constant growth underneath the structure of the piece is a direct translation of the evolution of the civilizations. Starting from simple and idealistic situations (Eden’s garden, for instance), we enrich a game we think we understand, to a point of no return, until the next disruption.

… to the real fate of the Human


Babil-on V2 started from research & developments made during the production of Luna Park, of Georges Aperghis, premiered in 2011. G. Beller, the computer music designer of the piece, invented SpokHands, a system to capture the gestures of R. Dubelski, who triggers pre-recorded voice sounds, by playing aerial percussions, during the show.

To play himself with the full range of the system he created, G. Beller then composed a first version of Babil-on, for R. Dubelski. This 15 minutes version has been premiered the 15th of October 2013, at Théâtre des Bernardines, Marseille, France, during CMMR’13, the 10th International Symposium on Computer Music Multidisciplinary Research on Sound, Music and Motion. In this pre-version, R. Dubelsky triggers again some pre-recorded voice sounds, but a step further has been done: The quality of the gesture modulates the quality of the vocal synthetic sounds.

G. Beller wants to go further. He wants to allow the performer for manipulating his own voice in real-time. Consequently, he started the Synekine project in 2014. This project brings together performance and scientific research to create new ways to express ourselves. By analogy in “synaesthesia”, the phenomenon in which two or more senses of perception are associated, the “synekinesia” would reflect our capacity to associate two or several motor senses.

One of the goals of this innovative project is to create new instruments which define new paths for vocal improvisation. Several Augmented Reality Sound Tools (no glasses, no video) allow the performer for manipulating in real time the sound of his voice. The names are evocative: Sound Space, Hand Sampling, Body Choir, Hyper Ball… For instance, with the Sound Space, the performer literary spreads his voice around him, creating an entire sound scene made of his voice, while interacting with it by the gesture.

Some of these new instruments have then been back-propagated into the structure of Babil-on to produce an extended version called: Babil-on V2. This 25 minutes version has been premiered by G. Beller himself, the 17th of August 2015, at ISEA2015, AV Disruption, Vancouver BC, Canada. To sum up, Babil-on V2 is a testimony of a 5 years research process that G. Beller constantly conducted through different projects. It is also the first performance of a beginning series. Other chapters are to be written by the upcoming SYNEKINE Company…

  • With the voice of Richard Dubelski
  • Dedicated to Georges Aperghis
  • ISEA2015’s AV Disruption Programer: Philippe Pasquier
  • Wong Theater Technical Direction: Colin Griffiths
  • Audio and Video Recordings: Rachel Boyce, Ash Tanasiychuk, Boris Kourtoukov, Kıvanç Tatar
  • Production: The SYNEKINE Project, IRCAM, ISEA2015
  • Special thanks to: All ISEA2015’s organizers and volunteers, Reese Muntean, Rachel Ward, Cie Corps à Sons, LunaPark team, N+N Corsino, Ubris Studio, IRCAM, Formes élémentaires

Please, contact me fo any additional information on this show. We are looking for other live opportunities…

Full Video from the Premiere: ISEA – AV Disruption, Theater Wong, Vancouver BC, Canada, SFU – Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, August, 17, 2015