Delphi Rationale

Video (12min)

Medium: 4k Video, 5.1 Sound
Director: Philipp Lachenmann
Produced by: Filmbase GmbH, Medienboard Berlin
Sound Artist, Technical Implementation: Anders Ehlin 
Exhibited at: Schering Stiftung Berlin, Halle 9 Leipzig, ACE Gallery Los Angeles

The sonic concept of Delphi Rationale is based on the collocation of a live sarod performance and 3-dimensional sound design. In his video work Philipp Lachenmann juxtaposes ancient cultural history with contemporary scientific progress, by staging a raga performance in front of the huge cable mesh of the Delphi particle accelerator at CERN in Switzerland. While being a pinnacle of technology, the machine takes on clearly organic qualities through its animated response to the musical performance, and also its resemblance of a gigantic eye.

A collection of analog toys and mundane kitchen appliances were accumulated for foley recording, to create a sonic representation of small movements made by a huge entity slowly waking to life. Recorded at ultra high resolution, the material retained high definition also when pitched and slowed down several octaves - tiny tinny sounds turned into howling metallic cries, a squeaky wooden wheel of a 1950s toy car became a gigantic steel construction slowly rotating around its axis. The air passing through the nozzle of a bottle of detergent turns into an uncanny rumbling whoosh. Recorded human sighs were contributed with sourced animal sounds, notably elephant seals.

In order to separate the sound design of the machine from the noisy sarod recording (due to the fan system inside CERN), the decision was taken for 5.1-sound, and to keep the sarod alone in the centre speaker for greater separation. The centre speaker was replaced with a guitar speaker in order to narratively plant the noise but also enhance the reference of a performance. The six channel sound composition was mixed on location for its main exhibits at Schering Stiftung Berlin and Halle 9 in Leipzig. For the opening at Schering Stiftung a dedicated 5.1 PA system was developed based on 12” co-axial cinema speakers and an 18” sub woofer.

During this 12-minute post productional tour de force Lachenmann opposes The Oracle of Delphi and the Delphi accelerator, the former seen as the prophetic navel of the world during the Hellenistic era, the latter located on the very spot the Higgs particle was found,  essential for our understanding of the origin of all matter.