I was pleased to learn that The Babel, the “sounds lab” created by the musical partnership of pianist Arabesque Choche and vocalist Juliet Heberle, finally re-opened to the public on March 21st, 2020.
Originally conceived by the duo in 2009, The Babel was a fascinating interactive setting whilst available through until 2013, when it was closed and removed from the grid. More recently, and as I found myself reporting in May 2019, it looked as if all of the couple’s regions looked set for closure, the couple believing the builds had run their course. Fortunately, they were encouraged to reconsider their decision, and in October 2019, it was announced that the Chouchou regions would be remaining in SL under the auspices of the Second Life Region Preservation Society (SLRPS) – with the promise that The Babel would also be returning (see: Chouchou set to remain in Second Life – and there’s more).
Well, it took a while to fully open but The Babel made its official public re-engagement on March 21st, 2020, and I took time out to jump over and visit after a somewhat hectic weekend, and am pleased to say that it remains an engaging visit for the musically minded.
To call The Babel a place would be a mistake; it is an experience, a musical construct comprising boxes, elements and levels, which may at first glance appear completely random – but there is order. Each box is a sound – a note or chord – which is played when touched. Some will play once when touched, others work on a toggle – they will play until touched again. These boxes are in turn grouped into elements, or collections of notes / chords / voices. By touching (and re-touching) the boxes around you, it is possible to create tonal harmonies and even “compose” your own pieces, although it takes a combination of practice and a quick eye / hand. Climb the stairs to play the upper levels, and you’ll find some of the steps also play notes, adding to the complexity.
If all this sounds confusing, Chouchou produced an introductory video to the build back in 2009, which once again has relevance.
Two books on the elements and boxes can be found at the foot of the spiralling stairs, but given the ambient lighting, these can be hard to read.
Climbing to the top of the stairs will take you in a room with piano notes and chords set out in two grids around a series of Julia’s voices, which some may find easier to “play”.
As conceptual now as it was in 2009 (or 2012, when I first visited it!) The Babel makes and interesting return to Second Life and once more rounds-out the trio of Chouchou regions in-world.