Introduction to BLISS for Two Voices with Chorus, by Imogen Stidworthy

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A sound composition based on a conversation between Judith Langley and Tony O’Donnell around the question: Can there be a truly visual language? The conversation was presented as an improvised performance in four chapters, at Tate Liverpool in May 2014, accompanied by two chorus groups of low and high-range voices. The voices were channelled live by the artist using four-channel sound and mixing techniques in relation to two parameters: place and presentness. This edited version of the live recording is rendered as a binaural composition for headphones.

In the conversation Judith Langley and Tony O’Donnell discuss Tony's grammatical system for Blissymbolics, in terms of the relation between concept and image, the possibilities for a purely visual language and his experience of the effects of aphasia.

Tony O’Donnell studied philosophy and later worked as a head-teacher, until he suffered a stroke in 1991, which left him with aphasia. The condition affects his language and communication in terms of a loss of connection between thoughts, words and things. Shortly after his stroke he was taught to use Blissymbolics, an ideographic language for people with severe communication difficulties, but was frustrated by its limited capacity for complex nuancing, and for the past twelve years he has been developing a 'picture-grammar' for this language.

Judith Langley is a speech therapist who specialises in working with people who have aphasia. She worked with Tony O’Donnell as his speech therapist following his stroke, and they have continued to discuss questions of language and language loss. Over the past three years Judith has been working with Tony to develop his explanation of his Blissymbolics picture-grammar for future publication as a book.

Chorus: students and graduates of Hope University and Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, Liverpool: Rosie Gossage, Nuala Maguire, Craig Macdonald, Tahlia Norrish, Natasha Patel, Matthew Rice, Lydia-Grace Searle, Jade Smedley.

Stefan Kazassoglou: sound production and binaural rendering. Stefan Kazassoglou (kinicho.com) trained as a musician and sound engineer, he works with software programming and audio mastering with a special focus on developing spatial audio applications and systems.

Imogen Stidworthy is an artist based in Liverpool (UK). Her work addresses aspects of language and communication, in installations, films and sound works. Using the voice as spatial, sonic and linguistic material, she reflects on how we locate ourselves in social and cultural space through our voices, and how we are positioned by them.