Chris Cobilis With Kenneth Goldsmith & Spektral Quartet – “This Is You”

This is the first orchestral work I have been sent to review – There seems to be a lot of good things coming from the label, Room40, that this album is released on – so I was quite keen to hear it.

“This Is You” is about the feedback loop between home video shows on the television. It is an album about a broadcast system. Using the birth of user generated content as the starting point, the work traces the 25-year history of the television programme Funniest Home Videos “in an attempt to describe the prism of existence as solar vanity.”

rm477_frontIn many ways, “This Is You” meditates on the desires of the self; bathed in light and rawly exposed without any more intent than being itself – it is a hymnal to the basic biological urge ‘to get on TV.’

In 1989 American TV producer Vin De Bona launched a TV special inspired by two Japanese programs: Kato-chan Ken-chan Gokigen TV & Waku Waku Animal World. An open call was made in the local newspaper for amusing home videos, that would later be edited together with music and sound effects to produce a collage of amusing mishaps and spectacles interlaced with commentary from a host (then Bob Saget).

The resulting special was later transformed in 1990 into America’s Funniest Home Videos and is regarded as being the birth of user-generated content for Western television. In many ways fashioned similarly to blooper-reels and Candid Camera, the Funniest Home Video format placed the content-making (or indeed harvesting) with the audience.

Even today, as unfiltered user-generated content permeates every corner of society, royalties continue to be paid to Tokyo Broadcasting System for use of style and presentation for America’s Funniest Home Videos. What did TV producer Vin De Bona, under the influence of Japanese TV, do … to us all?

Australian composer Chris Cobilis set about transcribing episodes of both Australia’s and America’s Funniest Home Videos to develop and animated graphic score and accompanying script which conceptually speaks of the feedback loop “This Is You” proposes.

The work was performed live by Chicago’s Spektral Quartet and American poet Kenneth Goldsmith – engineered by Steve Albini. The script acts as flarf poetry – what Goldsmith recites is perplexing as it is relevant – it acts as a call / response to the music within the album. A self referencing of a self referential album.

The call / response of Goldsmith’s Flarf Poetry and the Spektral Quartet make this a jarring, quizzical look at the nature of the self. The album “This Is You’ can be pre-oredered from here and is released on October 28th 2016.

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