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The Automated Prayer Machine
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Automated Prayer Machine

by Annabelle Chvostek and Anna Friz
live from the ORF Studio RP4

The radio is often a harbinger of bad news - i.e. political upheaval, corporate evil, wars abroad, wars at home, hateful official speeches, overly sensationalized accounts of people dying in crashes, bombings and fires, wives murdered by spouses, dogs run over, etc. - violent death and violent speech spill incessantly out of the receiver. We in the West can experience the worst of world events remotely, and the listener response to this aural bombardment is not one of outrage or action so much as depression, powerlessness and political apathy.

With their radiophonic piece, the Canadian artists Annabelle Chvostek and Anna Friz want to propose a change in attitude: from apathy to empathy, from indifference to generosity, and compassion, thereby contributing to change by the transmission of sound that creates a space for unfolding human hopes and aspirations.

The Automated Prayer Machine posits the radio as antidote to despair. The artists aim at transforming radios from squawkboxes to prayer wheels, shifting the programming from the nightly body count to vespers. The automated prayer machine itself is the radio receiver at home, automated for prayer in the way that a spinning Tibetan prayer wheel does the praying for you. The programme will animate the radio-as-prayer-machine for a time, so that the prayer machine functions as long as people leave their radios on.

In their live performance at the Funkhaus, they will compose a radiophonic space working with multitude radio receivers. By tuning into numerous stations and overlaying the countless sounds and voices, they create a noisy babble. Into this, they intend to mix a requiem, played on violin and accordion and accompanied with overtone singing, as well as multiple layers of of vocal samples of prayers, live and pre-recorded.

Some AM radio samples taken from material gathered by Emmanuel Madan. The artists gratefully acknowledge the generous support of Canada Council for the Arts.