Rumors uses elements of parameter-mapping, indeterminacy, and digital media to sonify the data and experience of a recent study of Twitter rumor life cycles.
Performers are grouped proportionately with one of the two playlists below: for every three people using the True Rumors playlist, two people use the False Rumors playlist (see below).
Equipped with a mobile device and headphones to hear the randomly chosen track’s information and some form of aerophone (traditional wind instruments, cans, etc.), the ensemble cues the start and randomly selects a track from their playlist to perform. Each performer moves about the space stage-whispering the rumors they hear from the headphones in real time. When the rumors they hear have an echo-like or stereo-shift effect, the performers speak their rumors into the aerophone.
At some point in the life cycle of the rumor they are spreading, it is resolved as true or false, represented by repeated phrases such as “it took a while but we figured it out” and “it turns out, I was wrong.” When this begins, the performers, who are always “quiet” and theatrical, stage-whisper the resolution phrase in a steady, rhythmic fashion into their aerophone while deliberately seeking out other resolved rumors. As the piece concludes, ideally all resolved rumors return from wherever they have traveled in the performance space to create a cluster.
the piece is always quiet and the words are always sharply articulated. There is no quotidien clamor in this rumor.
Because of the randomization of the tracks and the multiple tracks available on the playlists, it is possible to perform Rumors as a one five minute-long piece (using the study’s proportion’s to divide the ensemble), or as a multi-movement work that uses different groupings for the movements that are still based on 3:2 proportions as per the study.
Notes on what is sonified:
The study’s data points and differentiation of rumors that were proven false and proven true are “set” with randomized audio tracks that are weighted by the number of rumors with similarly long life cycles. All life cycles’ lengths have all been scaled to fit a five minute total duration rather than the 25 maximum hour duration in the study.
I have tried to pivot my sonification choices to engage the social nature of rumors. By reducing performance needs to devices many people have and tasks that are relatively simple, we can capture the mass effect of rumors. They can be messy, highly misinformative, and even rub up against or drown out the truth right next to it. This is why some of the rumors I chose contradict each other (I have replaced historically proven-false and historically proven-true ideas in the place of the timely but controversial rumors profiled in the study. I am more interested in sonifying the social nature of rumors than the obviously outrageous political side in this work).
The choice to have no set number of performers other than a proportional division of them is not only meant as a practical way to allow different sized groups to perform Rumors, but to embrace the potential for different realizations of the specifically weighted rumors.