One of the most notorious hatemongers in movie history is Captain Ahab from John Huston’s 1956 classic Moby Dick. His manic monologues cast a spell on generations of viewers. Berlin based musician and sound artist Jan Jelinek has now turned the voice of Ahab into a musical instrument.
Faitiche presents Jan Jelinek’s soundtrack for SEASCAPE – polyptych, an audio-visual software developed in collaboration with Canadian new media artist Clive Holden in 2022.
SEASCAPE – polyptych is based on image and acoustic source material from Moby Dick. While Holden works on manipulating film sequences, the voice of Ahab plays a central role in Jan Jelinek’s soundtrack. The dynamic volume and tone of the captain’s speech control a synthesizer system that turns Ahabs voice into ten abstract soundscapes.
In this production the voice gives the impulse and controls things but is not the sound of spoken word itself that we hear. Only occasionally can snippets of speech be heard so that syllables or sounds are recognisable. Instead we hear compositions made of hissing, soundscapes and eruptive sounds. The atmosphere is dark and sinister. Still every piece has a clear sonic structure and follows an understandable dramatic composition. This music is abstract but not overwhelming. Quite the opposite, SEASCAPE – polyptych is an invitation to listeners to let themselves be carried by the stream of sonic events. Although part of a media art work, the soundtrack can be enjoyed without any of this connecting superstructure. It works with no previous knowledge. But what happens when one does know that it’s the sonic waves of a human voice that is controlling a network of synthesizers?
If you want to hear Ahab, you will hear a choir of Ahabs in every piece of sound. The subliminal threatening as well as the conjuring Ahab. Finally the Ahab who whips up his crew and tears them with him into their downfall. The majestic „on the quay now, waiting and watching“, the oppressive “drawn towards the whirlpools center” – they are all music as well as sonic discourse.