Babble is a performance created by Paul Litherland, and developed by Litherland and percussionist Alexander MacSween. They perform a series of verses on electronic drum kits connected to computer equipment.
For thousands of years, people, separated by many kilometers, communicated with each other through drumbeats. Loud, soft, with pitch bends and with timing, drums would send messages about travellers, invaders or celebrations. Today, separated by even greater distances, we are still sending messages with a percussion instrument: The computer keyboard.
As the performers play their electronic drums, the hits were converted to MIDI signals and sent to the computers, which in turn interpreted and transformed the signals. The performance was presented in five scenes. In three of these, each hit generated a 0 or a 1: in “Binary Buildup” the 0s and 1s were displayed directly on the screen; in “ASCII Writer” the performers used them to carefully build the ascii codes to display the letters of two texts: “I made a machine to speak for me” and “I want to speak for myself”; in “Binary Meltdown” Litherland and MacSween drum frenetically, which the computer displayed as a series of random characters. In two of the works, different ways of hitting the pads controlled a series of video clips: in “Stutter” this played video clips backwards and forwards of the performers’ mouths saying words; in “Sign Language” it played clips of deaf performers signing letters and words.
Babble explores the codes of various languages, the technologies of communication, and how these technologies transform our messages and often fail us in our attempts to relate to each other. Babble builds a bridge between old technologies and new ones. It is a multimedia perfomance about speaking and trying to send messages. It is about the need to be heard and understood.