From the Mouths of Monkeys, 2016

Halsey Burgund

  • From the Mouths of Monkeys is an 8-channel audio installation that combines music and spoken voices. The piece is an exploration of personal belief systems using the Chinese Zodiac – and the Year of the Monkey – as a jumping off point.

    I recorded conversations with a dozen people (from 0 to 84 years old) who were born in the year of the monkey and asked them questions about their beliefs and the origins of those beliefs, whether they be zodiac-driven, religious, scientific, etc. The topics ranged from fate vs. self-determination to linearity vs. cycles to life after death and many more.

    I then composed a four-part site-specific piece of music which acts as an environment within which the voices are arranged by various criteria, both semantic and aesthetic. The four parts are spaced along a leafy walking path in the Greenway, providing listeners with a journey of sorts as they pass by and through the piece. Every utterance listeners hear – in similarity and difference – comes from the mouth of a “monkey”.

    Materials: 8-channel audio installation

  • People say interesting things; and they say them in interesting ways. The voices I collect from otherwise uninvolved individuals become the raw material as well as the inspiration for both my installations and my musical compositions. The nuance of the spoken human voice has a unique ability to communicate much more than the words themselves, and I try to tap into this power and enhance it with the music I compose using the voices.

    As I develop my pieces, I like to create a balance of control over the results between myself as the artist, the individuals who have contributed their voices, and the directed randomness of the algorithmic systems I have designed to evolve the musical elements over time. I am drawn to results which surprise even myself as the creator; there is something extremely exciting – and somewhat nerve-wracking – about never knowing exactly what my own work is going to sound like, look like, or feel like.

    In many ways, my work is a combination of socio-anthropological ‘research’, musical documentary, and participatory experience. I try to collectively represent various human experiences and ultimately my own artistic voice through the personal expressions of a myriad of participants.

  • Thank you to those who lent their voices:

    • Heinz, Year of the Monkey: 1932, born in Germany, lives in Boston
    • Jeff, Year of the Monkey: 1944, born in Cambridge, lives in Brookline
    • Susan, Year of the Monkey: 1956, born in New York City, lives in Cambridge
    • Tim, Year of the Monkey: 1968, born in Worcester, lives in Arlington
    • Curtis, Year of the Monkey: 1980, born in Boston, lives in Boston
    • Sarah, Year of the Monkey: 1980, born in New Hampshire, lives in Boston
    • Kevin, Year of the Monkey: 1992, born in Philadelphia, lives in Boston
    • Mia, Year of the Monkey: 1992, born in Framingham, lives in Framingham
    • Sarah, Year of the Monkey: 1992, born in Memphis, lives in Boston
    • Elsie, Year of the Monkey: 2004, born in China, lives in Arlington
    • Darcy, Year of the Monkey: 2016, born in Boston, lives in Boston