I have read Samuel Beckett’s play “Krapp’s Last Tape” several times looking for themes for my students to elucidate with sound.
Krapp, Beckett’s protagonist, is a failed writer/artist. Each year since he was 24, Krapp records his impressions of the year’s events into a tape recorder. We meet him on his 69th birthday listening to a 30-year-old tape of himself, preparing to record a new summary on the exact anniversary of his birth.
There are three notable features of “Krapp’s Last Tape” I want our piece to realize: the conversations between one and one’s former-selves through recorded media; that our contemporary-selves are unique as compared to our former-selves; and the symbolism of polar opposites.
We will be using six pieces of software in our piece to realize these objectives: ReacTivision, MacCam, Osculator, Ableton Live, and an as yet undetermined piece of video software. This list is for the actual installation. It does not include the use of iMovie, GarageBand, Audacity, Soundbooth, etc…programs we will use to construct the pieces.
The installation will be a glass table illuminated from below. On top will be two objects, symbolic polar opposites of each other, that will serve as speakers. Cassette-tapes and other objects from Krapp’s world will be in nearby cardboard boxes. Each object is tagged with a fiducial. When placed on the table, the fiducial will trigger the associated sound design. Moving the object closer to each of the “speakers” will pan the sound towards that speaker. The sounds are modified apropos to the symbolism of each speaker. One speaker will present the tape as it recorded. The other will present the tape as heard through the distortions of time. The distortions will be both digital and acoustic.
The next step is to create an interpretive/symbolic framework as a model or template for my students. They will then be responsible for creating sonic analogs to Krapp’s tapes from their own lives.
As this is a music appreciation course, my students will first study musique concrète and familiarize themselves with the three modes of listening by Michel Chion, as well as sonic-installations by Bill Fontana. Music by Alvin Lucier will serve as models for the digital and acoustic manipulation of their sound-designs.