James Hoff is a New York-based artist which works with sound and performance since 2003. Now he’s back with a new audio/visual project titled HOBO UFO (v. Chernobyl), out via PAN music, which utilizes a modified version of Google’s Street View to explore Chernobyl and its surrounding environs.
According to the press release, The artist (with the aid of coder Reuben Son) has hot-wired Street View so that it is audio reactive, creating a first-person viewing experience completely dictated by music Hoff has created.
Originally commissioned by Unsound Festival, Hoff began working on this version of HOBO UFO in 2017, creating over an hour of music that had the hallmarks of his work on BLASTER: noisy, intense, and chaotic. After spending dozens of hours on Street View while composing, Hoff decided to visit the zone of exclusion in 2018 and his experience there prompted him to scrap all the existing material and start fresh with a less conceptual approach that could respond more emotionally to the zone and his experience there. In particular, he focused on Pripyat, which prior to the meltdown, was a grand city and a “triumph of Soviet urban planning.”
Hoff sought to reflect this moment as well as that of the valor of the people affected by the accident and the tens of thousands of workers who fought to contain it. The resulting 14-minute work employs woodwinds, brass, double bass, and synthesized GPS signals, which Hoff recorded on site—reflecting a turn away from his earlier conceptualized and deconstructed sound towards composition that is neo-classical and ambient in nature. In it, we hear a melody that is both uplifting and melancholic, punctured by lurking static and Geiger-counter like pulses.