Random Walk, Unmasking Talk – Ron Herrema

Ron is a composer and developer who combines algorithmic tools with a variety of materials, such as speech, field recordings, and electronic music. In so doing, he likes to apply randomness with a certain degree of control. In 2006 he composed a piece entitled “Let Freedom Ring”, which evolved into an 8-channel installation. In it, he combined voice recordings from the 2000 US Republican National Convention (culled from the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University) with recordings from telephone answering services:

To interweave these materials he used algorithmic techniques in the visual programming software Max/MSP, which helped him to convey his satiric intention of revealing the impossibility of choice that surrounds us politically and in everyday narratives as we interact with technology. He also folded in commercial radio adverts, and a meaningful phrase from American political discourse:


Ron explains technically how the installation worked and how he controlled the different banks of sound:

Fragments of speech were chosen to highlight various subtexts within the original recordings, which, as a semi-determinate layer, were combined with a completely indeterminate layer of sound within the algorithmic process.

The eight-channel installation was eventually rendered into a binaural recording for wider dissemination, which does not necessarily offer the same spatial dimension of the 8-channel piece, but does offer an approximation. Listen to “Let Freedom Ring” here.

Within the Sound Matters framework, he finds all the components to be integrated. For him the process of ‘Relational Playback’ is especially compositional. He imagines an interface that searches semi-randomly within multiple archives, using some kind of filtering. He says it’s like walking into a library with bits and pieces of material being thrown up to grab people’s attention, and enabling them to stop and dig deeper at any point, to listen to one as a departure for discovery.

Do you identify with Ron’s practice, research and technical development and ideas?

Use the ‘reply’ button on the top to leave a comment. Many thanks!


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