Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Conceptual Crank-Calls of "Conversations"

Brandon Locher's "Conversations 2012" is a near-20 minute tour de force that does for prank phone calls what "The Velvet Underground & Nico" did for rock 'n' roll, uncovering unexpected depth and scope in what had been dismissed as childish nonsense.

What he basically did was call a store in a Johnstown, PA shopping mall and then did not speak. The "Hello? Hello" etc. response was recorded and then played to another shopkeeper in the same mall. Then their bewildered response was recorded and played for whoever answered the phone at yet another store in the same mall, and so on, until this game of tag went throughout the mall.

It does what a crank call is supposed to do - makes ya laff! - but there's much more going on here. It's ingeniously constructed, a well-edited piece of sound-collage, if nothing else. It's also a snapshot of corporate retail culture - jeez, the long greetings they make these poor kids say when they answer the phone! 

Then there's the fact that no-one answering the phone knows that they're speaking to a recording.  Everyone thinks that they're having a real conversation.  Between guffaws, Mrs Fab said to me that this is somewhat of an illustration of the cold-reading method that con-artists use to convince suckers that they have psychic powers, based on the fact that people generally say and act in very limited, predictable ways, even tho we like to think that we are very free-thinking, unique individuals.

Best of all - it's really funny. Listen/download here:

Brandon Locher "Conversations 2012"

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