Correspondences (2007)

an audiovision, for video and 5.1 surround sound

sound & image by Butch Rovan

Click on the image below to play the video.

Correspondences from Butch Rovan on Vimeo.

Commissioned for The Flowering of Baudelaire Conference on the 150th anniversary of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, Brown University, October 2007.


Sonic Rain Concert Series, University of Oregon, Eugene
BEAMS Festival, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA.
Vassar College, New York.
Autumn in Zero (month-long exhibition), GaleriaZero, Barcelona.
Sounding Out Festival, Bournemouth UK.
Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium, Toronto Canada.
Electronic Literature Organization conference, Providence.
The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival.
Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia, University of North Texas.
University of Central Missouri.
Simon Fraser University, Canada.
Pixilerations Festival V.5, Providence.
International Computer Music Conference, Belfast, Ireland.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
SEAMUS 2008 National Conference, Salt Lake City.
11th Biennial Connecticut College Symposium on Arts and Technology.
McGill University, Montreal.
Texas A&M University, College Station.
Baudelaire Conference, Brown University, Providence.

Program note

Correspondences is a work for video and computer music that acts as a translation of Charles Baudelaire's famous sonnet "Correspondances” from Les Fleurs du mal. I call this work an audiovision because the translation deals with sounds and images rather than words. My reading follows the poem’s structure and overall gesture, pivoting around certain formal elements, especially the white spaces separating the strophes and the expressive dash punctuating the first tercet. But form encloses meaning. The sonnet as a whole serves as the basis for a more extended meditation on time, memory, and the materiality of poetry itself: something both written and spoken, though often half-remembered, like a dream.

Text & Translation

Correspondances — Charles Baudelaire

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.

II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d'autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,

Ayant l'expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l'ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l'encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens.


Correspondances — translation: Keith Waldrop

Nature is a temple whose columns are alive
And sometimes issue disjointed messages.
We thread our way through a forest of symbols
That peer out, as if recognizing us.

Like long echoes from far away,
Merging into a deep dark unity,
Vast as night, vast as the light,
Smells and colors and sounds concur.

There are perfumes cool as children’s flesh,
Sweet as oboes, green like the prairie,
- And others corrupt, rich, overbearing,

With the expansiveness of infinite things,
Like ambergris, musk, spikenard, frankincense,
Singing ecstasy to the mind and to the senses.