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Peter Gabriel Gains Some Virtual Steam With CD-ROM, Web Site

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Peter Gabriel fans have suffered a long musical drought. Gabriel’s last proper studio album was 1992’s “Us,” and his last tour was in 1994. Nonetheless, admirers with home computers have found an oasis with an adventure CD-ROM called “Eve,” a companion Web site and limited-edition magazines with enhanced CDs.

These interim projects come care of Real World Multimedia, a branch of the respected world music label Gabriel founded. The Real World “campus,” in a rustic corner of England near Bath, includes recording studios, the record label and a design and multimedia division. That small-scale synergy shows strengths where monolithic record labels have stumbled: mixing technology and music.

Although artists like David Bowie and the Rolling Stones have made disappointing interactive discs, Gabriel gives the stale CD-ROM genre a breath of aesthetic life with “Eve,” a lush work of music and art. Four accomplished modern artists created original works for the disc, which correspond to four previously released Gabriel songs: “Come Talk to Me,” “Shaking the Tree,” “In Your Eyes” and “Passion.”

Snippets from these tunes and others are sprinkled liberally throughout the experience. Users traverse fantastic landscapes, clicking on flapping fish or dried squares of mud to collect pieces of music. They encounter galleries of art, video snippets from psychologists and click-and-drag puzzles. Click on a bright work of polka-dot art by Yayoi Kusama and the cursor will add to the image while controlling the tone of the music.

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The mixing booths let users add backing tracks, along with vocals by Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor or Youssou N’Dour. They can also switch to video mode to manipulate various figures and objects in an organic melange not unlike Gabriel’s animated music videos. All the while, they can record or overdub using the crude controls, giving a glimpse into the enigmatic singer’s creative process.

Unfortunately, users can’t pick what to see or hear and must play the game in a relatively linear style. That means getting stuck from time to time, though a handy hints guide helps. The disc’s story is vague, though swimming sperm cursors, “lonely hearts” video clips and wandering geisha girls give a notion of relationships in flux, a theme reminiscent of the “Us” album.

The Radio Real World site at https://realworld.on.net helps clarify things, with the “Eve” logo spelled out as standing for “evolutionary virtual environment.” More immersion than Garden of Eden, perhaps. Users can also learn more about the production of the disc and about the visual artists.

They learn, for example, that Helen Chadwick, infamous for her “Piss Flowers” sculpture made from urinating in snow, died of a heart attack last year after working on “Eve.”

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Also available are biographies of the various scientists and performance artists who had a hand in production, including Orlan, whose face is itself an artwork of plastic surgeons.

Hard-core fans can also find information online about Real World Notes, a glossy fanzine that comes with an enhanced CD. A recent disc came with world music tracks, as well as a multimedia behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Eve.” A story in the ‘zine about Gabriel’s charity work is counterbalanced by a pitch for the Adam Swatch watch.

“I believe that in the next few years kids will develop their own multimedia language--free of the barriers of text and translation--that we will all ultimately adopt,” Gabriel writes in Real World Notes No. 3. His fans are sure to be early adopters.

Mark Glaser is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and critic. You can reach him at McGlaze@aol.com


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