Monday, September 26, 2011

Listening to John Oswald's "Pretender (Dally Proton)"

High pitched, fragmented sounds shift and change fancifully as they are sped up and slowed back down, dramatically lowering in pitch until Dolly Parton’s famous voice takes over the focus. Her voice is gradually altered, and the breaks make it seem as if she is stuttering on the ends of her words, slowly deepening her voice to a rich, soulful bass and eventually to masculine depths of pitch. As the frequency slows so does the speed of playback; the background music and singers lag operatically. About two and a half minutes in, the track reaches an pivotal point and begins to speed up again, rapidly, as the vocal layer returns at its original pitch and speed. Finally, three minutes in, Dolly’s voice is split, or doubled, in a schizoid alteration that allows her a concluding duet with her bass alter ego. Most of the final minute is a quiet and consistent vocal loop. What could be the intended meaning of this piece adapted from Dolly Parton’s already-distinct cover of the classic song from the 1950’s? Is there a self-referential play on words here between the content of the song and the changing vocal identity of the singer?

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