02 December 2010
'What have I done to deserve this?'Melbourne. Day off.
I have taken to traversing the lobby with my ears closed, whilst loudly humming a few bars of Ravel. The alternative is to face what might laughably be called 'reality' of the psychotic Christmas displays and crowds of gold-fevered gamblers. At least the hotel rooms here are fabulous, but the journey to and from is borderline traumatic for a sensitive soul such as myself.
Despite being a 'day off', I went into the gig with Dec and Luke to take the opportunity of working on some of the show content in relative peace and quiet. Once we€™re out of production rehearsals it becomes increasingly difficult to spend quality time on such things €“ either the gear you need is in a truck somewhere or the people you need are being pulled in several directions at once, or it€™s so bloody loud you can€™t hear yourself think.
One of the goals for the day was to have another go at the €˜Questions€™ audio visual sequence. Regular readers may get the impression that I€™ve been working on this piece since the dawn of time and they might not be far wrong, however, for the reasons stated above, finding time to really finesse these things is tricky and I€™ll admit that the perfectionist in me keeps me prodding away ad infinitum.
The sequence consists of a babble of spoken and written questions contributed by U2€™s audience via this very website. The basic idea has been there from the start but I have been noodling with it ever since its first appearance, not to mention making thirteen more versions (count €˜em!) to incorporate the various languages and dialects that we encountered across Europe.
Being back in what at least claims to be an English speaking region gives me the chance to nail a definitive English version. For the audio questions there are a couple of factors that make it something of a balancing act to produce a satisfactory result. There are the questions themselves, which range from the banal to the profound, and then the spoken inflection of the speaker which can make or break any given question. If someone asks a very interesting question but happens to sound like they are on parole for indecent exposure, it rather takes the edge off the odds of it making the show.
Today€™s breakthrough was experimenting with the idea of beginning the piece using the real human voices, then gradually having them be taken over by computer voices asking the same questions. This turned out to have a very interesting resonance. Hearing a computer ask a question such as 'What have I done to deserve this?' or 'Will you ever be able to trust me again?' puts us in a whole new territory. Some of the computers repeat questions asked by humans, which (maybe?) adds an almost mocking tone, if it falls upon your ear in a certain way. It all adds up to something very powerful, and I confess to being delighted with it, so have high hopes that this might be the final round.
We worked until the early evening, under gradually increasing temperatures in the airless stadium building, cooled only by an absurdly over-sized (and over-noisy) fan. Upon escaping we headed our various ways and I ended up on something of a social whirlwind, having three events to drop in on through the course of the night. The last of these was in the hotel bar. The generic term for the bar of the hotel in which the tour is staying is 'losers lounge', and this one was the very epitome of its genre. However, the saving grace was the €˜bar band€™. At first I hadn€™t realised that the music was live, but gradually noticed that the background tunes were being provided by a duo in the corner. A young male/female couple were singing soft pop and rock cover songs but, rather charmingly, they turned out to be full on Goths. Honestly, they sounded like the Carpenters but looked like Green Day. I just loved them €“ the first sign of actual humanity in this soulless casino complex. They were hardly a match for the psychedelic lobby pageant, but it was great to see at least a small sign of dissent somewhere in this giant sterile place.