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>Last Whispers

Extinction of Languages

Last Whispers

An immersive AV experience, Last Whispers Oratorio (45 min), is simultaneously a spatially-designed sound composition and film. Dedicated to the mass extinction of languages, the project was created by Lena Herzog, and features sound design by award-winning sound designers Mark Mangini and Marco Capalbo.
Presented in an immersive sound environment under the stars, a chorus of spoken and sung extinct and endangered languages, punctuated by sounds of forest, wind and translated gravitational waves registered by LIGO, will envelop the audience, while black and white video and photography poetically link image and sound. All languages featured in this immersive oratorio are endangered or extinct.

At an unprecedented speed, faster than the extinction of some species, our linguistic diversity—the very means by which we know ourselves—is eroding. Today, a majority of the world’s population speaks only 30 of the 7,000 languages remaining on earth. It is estimated that at least half of the currently spoken languages will have died by the end of this century. In fact, a language dies every two weeks. By definition, this loss occurs in silence, since silence is the very form of this extinction. Last Whispers is an invocation of that which has gone extinct and an incantation of those that are endangered.

Mario Kenyon, producer, will share his journey on this project and a unique illustration on the strength of XR to raise awareness.


About The Speaker

Mario Kenyon

Mario Kenyon is an immersive media (VR/AR/XR) researcher, teacher and producer. He has also produced several domestic and international feature films including his most recent features, The Gasoline Thieves, which premiered to critical acclaim at the 2019 Tribeca International Film Festival and the project took home the award for Best New Director. In addition to producing feature films he is Head of Production at Furious M and is invested in helping create and tell new and unique stories in immersive media. His first work in this field was on the revolutionary VR series DEFROST in 2016. In 2017 he hosted the World VR Forum in Crans-Montana Swizterland and it was there that he linked up with the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at the École Polyechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. With the EPFL lab he constructed experimental paradigms that tested how presence and character embodiment in VR narratives affect the physiological and cognitive mental states. He is currently working with artist, Lena Herzog on her Immersive Oratorio, Last Whispers which is a multi-format immersive art piece that is designed to raise awareness surrounding the mass extinction of languages. Additionally, he teaches a course on immersive media at UCLA which focuses on immerging trends and topics.


In exhibition

Last Whispers

Simultaneously a film projection and a choral pre-recorded composition with immersive (either 8.1 or binaural*) sound design, resulting in a 46-minute long visceral experience—an immersive oratorio. The video consists of 3D animation, video drone footage and stills (all in black-and-white) poetically linking image and sound. The audio in the Oratorio is a chorus of extinct and endangered languages, both spoken and sung, composed from the historical recordings (speech, recitatives, incantations, songs and ritual chants) punctuated by the sound of interpreted (made audible) gravitational waves of the collapsing stars and supernovae recorded by LIGO “The Listening Ear.” Last Whispers is, in essence, an immersive experience of film and spatially designed sound composition of extinct and endangered languages (spoken and sung) . Running time: 46 minutes.
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