for string octet and pre-recorded electronics
duration: c. 12' 30"
Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000), often referred to as “the most beautiful woman in film”, was one of the most popular actresses of the 1940s and 50s. Few are aware however, that though she received no formal training, she was also an inventor. Among her inventions was a radio guidance system for American torpedoes that used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technologies in order to avoid being jammed by enemy frequencies.
She worked with composer George Antheil at the beginning of World War II to fully patent this invention, but their patent was seized as Lamarr, born in Austria, was considered an enemy alien of the state. Hedy was told she would better serve the war effort by selling war bonds. The U.S. Navy did not adopt this frequency hopping technology until the 1960s, and the principles of the technology were later used for the creation of Bluetooth, GPS and Wifi technology, among others. Though it was used by the Navy, Lamarr never received compensation for her work, and also never received recognition for her work as an inventor until her induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. She also endured several unhappy, traumatic marriages. She produced a movie entitled The Loves of Three Queens in 1954, the subject of which was beauty and how it got in the way of love for the great women of history. At the end of her life, after suffering from drug addiction that was an unwitting consequence of her work in the industry, mental health decline, and botched plastic surgery, she became a recluse. In 1997, the Navy, Milstar and Lockheed Martin gave Hedy an award for her contribution, but she did not attend the ceremony as she did not want to be seen. As a woman in possession of intellectual gifts that were never recognized, she often referred to her beauty as her “curse”.
The electronic track in this piece is made up entirely of clips of a 1969 interview of Hedy Lamarr on the Merv Griffin show alongside Woody Allen, Leslie Uggams and Moms Mabley.