Voice Recognition: A Play

Voice Recognition: a Play (after Gertrude Stein, William Shakespeare and Rolf Harris)

In the winter of 1969-70 Rolf Harris had a number one hit in the UK and Ireland with ‘Two Little Boys’. Some time after this my cousin and I were pressed to sing the song together, to be recorded by a visiting American relation. The scene has remained with me. It was my first encounter with my recorded voice, and is wrapped up with questions of identity, difference, and becoming. It also raises questions of what may be found in the reproduction of spoken or sung text. What is this unique trace? Who do we hear here?

The performance uses Gertrude Stein’s ‘Identity: A Play’ as a base onto which is layered material around the relation of voice to self, of speech to body, and of the spoken or heard constructions of gender, sexuality or belonging. The Rolf Harris song ‘Two Little Boys’ is expanded and commented on, and the text draws from the balcony scene in  Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as well as from research into voice recognition technology, and local linguistic traces.

Link to the performance text here

‘Voice Recognition: A Play’ was commissioned for the event  Electronic Voice Phenomena at the Bluecoat Liverpool on Sunday October 16th 2011. Organised by Mercy with support from Mark Greenwood, the event  included performances and presentations by Holly Pester, Nathan Jones, Emma Bennett and Soriah.

An online conversation between Mark Leahy, Mark Greenwood and Nathan Jones is archived by Mercy here.

A revised version was performed as part of BLOP (Bristol Live Open Platform), a day-long event at Arnolfini, Bristol on Saturday 25th February 2012.

The work was also presented in Du Maurier Lecture B, Tremough Campus, University College Falmouth on Tuesday 6th March 2012.

A version was presented at Listening to Literature: a one-day symposium on soundscapes, University of Exeter, July 2017.