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Points of Listening #4. Magic and Loss: an evening with David Toop

Review by Cheryl Tipp

On a sunny Wednesday evening a group of listeners came together to join David Toop in an auditory exploration of mystical objects and ancestral sound. The event itself was the latest in a new series of monthly gatherings, organised by Mark Peter Wright and Salomé Voegelin, which seek to encourage and promote collective listening through workshops, soundwalks, screenings, readings, debates and listening sessions.

The chosen venue was London’s Swedenborg Society, established in 1810 with the primary aim of translating and disseminating the works of Swedish scientist and philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg. As the  group gathered in the society’s bookshop, thumbing through titles and catching up with friends, a sense of anticipation and excitement began to drape itself around us.

At 19:00 the doors of the lecture theatre opened, the darkness within calling silently to our curiosity. As a natural hush descended over the audience, Toop took his place at the helm, turntable and vinyl at the ready. Watching Toop in the dimly lit room, the only source of illumination coming from the warm glow of a table lamp and a few shards of light breaking through the heavily-blinded windows, it felt as if we were watching somebody at home, moving between their favourite records as the weather raged outside or sleep remained elusive.

The ethereal song of the Rufous-throated Solitaire, taken from Jean Roché’s fabulous 1971 collection ‘Oiseaux des Antilles’, was a perfect bridge into the world of ritualistic songs, whispers, chants and music that was to come. For the next hour we sat and listened, individually and mutually fixated by the rhythms that snaked their way around us. With no playlist to hand, our imaginations were left to roam free and follow these sounds wherever they might lead us. Toop’s movements were equally ceremonial; a table of contents at the front of the stage was slowly constructed as he worked through the recordings, embellished with instruments, literature and the discs themselves. A subtle hint of incense caught at our nostrils, making us question whether this was real or just an olfactory hallucination summoned up by the imaginings of our minds.

Aside from the natural enjoyment experienced by an audience such as this, with hungry ears that are never sated, the practicalities of the event itself made me consider afresh new approaches to collective listening. How commentary or formal introductions are not always necessary, how a lack of information can help focus the ear and inspire complete immersion in the sound, how conversation post-event can be just as effective and complimentary. Information could be gathered and questions answered once the needle had been lifted for the final time and the lights came up, but for me I was content to go away with just my sonic memories, collected during one of the most fascinating listening sessions I have ever attended.

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David Toop website
Points of Listening website

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Espèces d’espaces.
RYOKO AKAMA, BRUNO DUPLANT
(Suppedaneum 2014)

 Review by Patrick Farmer

I went outside to record any birds today, coal tits, as it turns out, not something I often do, with a tape player. I rarely want to write about what I’m listening to directly. I want to write about what listening makes me think. Not just about what I’m listening to, but about listening, which could be anything.

I’m typing this paragraph last, the disc has finished, and George Perec’s novel, Life a User’s Manual, is lying open to my right, next to the loudspeaker – moments ago a page fluttered against the cone. The scores that are part of this release, four in all, are all over the place. My left speaker is upright. Perec’s architecturally small book, Species of Spaces, from which Akama and Duplant’s scores are farmed, is propped open at page 60. On page 60 Perec includes a quote from his friend, and fellow member of OuLiPo, Raymond Queneau. The roofs of Paris, lying on their backs, with their little paws in the air. I don’t know, it seemed apt.

This release has given me a lot of joy, it tickles. I laugh happily when considering the four pieces included in «Espèces d’espaces» as one, not one piece you understand, but one act. I’ve spent time with them in whatever permutation best suits at the time. This produces a wooden hose that runs through the object in equal measure, and does not kink, because it can’t.

As interesting as the recordings are on this disc, and they really are wonderful, I’ve spent most of my time playing with the scores themselves. Gingerly curious about any correlation I might find between what I’m listening to and what I’m seeing.  I don’t think it necessary to find a correlation you understand, not on any level, but I thought it’d be fun, which seems very much in keeping with the release.

I’ve listened to this CD a number of times, not as much as the CD deserves I should add, just like I have gone back over Perec’s Species of Spaces – which is always a pleasure, and always teaches me something when I’m least expecting it. Perec’s words are full of other light words, some of which are almost transparent. I can’t read French well enough to experience him in the original, so I realise what I say is tenuous and somewhat low.

Perec was, by all accounts, a materialist, not in the philosophical sense of the word, but linguistically. He considered language raw material, to be shaped, and worked on, as something that could be remodeled time and time again. The surfaces of his objects were almost always simple, but the layers that were affected underneath retained a highly sophisticated degree of awareness and intelligence. I’ve thought, like I’m thinking now, that this consideration has had some bearing on my treatment of this release as a whole, rather than a part. I tried listening to the first piece, or the third, etc., in isolation, but it felt confusing. Like I was standing on a map and couldn’t see below my nose. I could hear it, but not see it, and there’s so much to see here. I feel that this whole thing is a pattern, not, a sum of elements to be distinguished from each other, rather one in which no single existence, listening experience, or visual experience, precedes that of the other.

I put all the jigsaw pieces that come with this release, jigsaw pieces that when assembled constitute a score, or a reaction, I’m never sure, by Duplant, on the cone of the left loudspeaker. As I played the recording of «Espèces d’espaces» 01, it was, as Perec says, the double crosses, that held tight. During playback of the other three recordings, it was, exclusively, the little chaps, that enjoyed vibrating the most. With their little paws in the air.

Written on the inlay of my copy of Perec’s, Life a User’s Manual, a work whose structure, like a large number of globes stacked against a window, denotes a different reading depending on the angle of approach, it says:

Eileen & Ian

Merry Christmas ’93

With loads of love

Brian + Sylvie

x              x

Truth be told. I wanted to transport my CD player, amplifier, speakers, speaker wire, etc, to every room of the house, affording me the opportunity to be literal. I like how white noise sounds on reflective tile.

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[Ryoko Akama, Bruno Duplant]

Ryoko Akama website
Bruno Duplant discography
Suppedaneum website

 

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The MoKS Residency

 An article by Jay-Dea Lopez

During November-December 2013 I had the privilege of staying at the MoKS residency in the small village of Mooste, Estonia. This part of the world was only known to me through the recordings and words of John Grzinich yet the sounds presented by him were unique enough to pique my interest.

After almost 12 months of saving the money needed to fly out of Australia (and having gained the strength to sit in the economy section for nearly 30 hours) I boarded the plane to Estonia with a set of goals and targets. I especially wanted to record the sounds of a northern European winter landscape: the sounds of ice cracking, snow falling, microscopic life forms burrowing beneath the frozen earth – all of these being absent from my own sub-tropical region in Australia.

I also hoped to be granted a space in which I could work undisturbed on a number of projects not related to Estonia. To borrow a phrase from Virginia Woolf I imagined myself having “a room of one’s own”, a creative space free from the demands of work and other distractions.

I will admit that before my arrival I needed to educate myself about Estonia. There were little things to learn such as its location on a map; the food (did the thousands of images of blood sausage mean that as a vegan I would starve to death … and therefore avoid the 30 hour flight back home?); homophobia  (did its close proximity to Russia mean that the locals would chase after me with pitchforks?).

Upon my arrival it turned out that these were to be the least of my concerns. My luggage with my recording equipment and warm clothes were lost in transit (thanks Air Berlin!) so my first experience in Estonia was to fill in a lost luggage claim at Tallinn airport at midnight. Although I was slightly MORTIFIED at the time it did allow me the opportunity to wander around Tallinn without feeling the pressure to record anything. I felt uneasy about how much I was enjoying not recording anything, as if I were not a true field recorder. Oh well.

Days later at the Mooste residency (reunited with my now slightly battered luggage, thanks again Air Berlin) I realised that my recording objectives needed to be reassessed. Due to a late winter in Estonia there was a lack of thick snow and ice. What I had hoped to record simply didn’t exist. This meant that my microphones needed to be directed towards other sound-sources. Turning from the natural world I instead focussed on the telecommunications infrastructure within the village of Mooste. It was with these objects that I filled my time at MoKS.

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Massive towers dominate Mooste’s skyline – their support cables vibrate at a frequency that would go unheard if not for the placement of contact microphones on their metal bodies. The cables hum hypnotically, eternally, providing an experience that is uniquely exhilarating and disturbing. Local farmers watched (suspiciously?) from a distance. I fumbled nervously with the microphone cables.

The ease of access to these sounding objects was a highlight of my stay in Mooste. Listening to them filled me with wonder at the unexpected tones that can occur when the natural elements interact with the manufactured; I learned the value of listening within the moment without a sense of anticipation; I was also filled with admiration towards the technology that has made this type of listening and recording possible.

Although living in Mooste wasn’t always easy the majority of my experiences made the time and expense to get there worthwhile. Field recordings made during my residency can be listened to here.

Jay-Dea Lopez website

 

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‘Strata’
Exchange between Richard Pinnell and Patrick Farmer

The fifth part of an ongoing exchange between Patrick Farmer and Richard Pinnell, the first can be found here, the second here, the third here and the fourth here.

Part V

Richard:

Again I struggle to disagree with any of that, though now find myself wanting to go and get the Cornford disc back down from the shelves and give it a better listen. One point you make that really chimes with me is the way you outline the sheer joy in just listening to things, without any real intention to use the sounds for anything. At work in my day job there is a machine used for compacting cardboard down so it can be sent away for recycling. Occasionally the machine is overloaded, or filled with particularly tough cardboard boxes, and then, when put into motion it gives out the most incredible straining sounds as half a ton of stiff cardboard is reduced to a small cube. Every so often I find myself walking past when the machine is started up and more often than not I am stopped in my stride by the extraordinary sounds. I make no attempt to record them, but they brighten up an otherwise ordinary day.

 That mere enjoyment of sounds I do share with you, and also with Lee Patterson, of whom I have my own pondweed tale. A few years back, probably actually around the same time you mention first meeting Lee, I was one of a little party of people that had been at a series of concerts in a tiny village in Derbyshire. The organiser of the events, who lived in the village had mentioned a stagnant body of water nearby, and so during a break between performances Lee, with the rest of us following, set off to drop his home made and self-invented hydrophones into the pond to listen to what lied beneath. Though we all got a chance to catch a glimpse of the incredible world of activity in the pond, all I remember was Lee disappearing into a world of his own, knelt obliviously and somewhat precariously in a puddle over the edge of the pond as he was captivated by what he heard. The rest of us near enough disappeared to him. The recordings Lee made on that day, along with the many thousands of others he has captured down the years did not all get released on swathes of CDs. He makes recordings for his own enjoyment, fascination and research. He shares that sense of a “hobby”with you, which I would translate as an intense joy at discovering the world around us. The crucial point to add here however, is that Lee does not let his inherent capacity to just enjoy capturing sounds impact upon his decision making when it comes to releasing music publicly. All too often the ability to gather up recordings in such a manner then translates into CD releases and downloads of ill thought through material. Knowing when something is really worth sharing and when it is not seems to be an issue that affects field recording more than it does other genres.

 Anyway, Patterson anecdotes aside, I truly think that illuminating the act of listening for the sheer pleasure of listening is always a good thing to do. Ultimately, (and clearly I take the side of the non-musician here!) I think it matters not whether there is any supposed authenticity to a recording, or even if a recordist suggests there should be any. What matters, as you have alluded, is how the listener perceives the presented sound, which will of course be different for every listener. Certainly some will think they hear cicadas in Stephen’s earbud recordings, and whether this is a figment of their imagination or not probably doesn’t matter. How we perceive music of any kind is mostly as much about our own imagination as it is about what the musician intended, and should that ever change the act of listening to music will become an impoverished thing. A few years back, again at work in my day job I played Lee’s fried egg recordings to a few work colleagues, asking them to tell me what they were listening to. Very few identified the sound of something cooking. Most thought they were hearing running water of some kind, but the recording proved popular even to those that weren’t told what they were listening to. The pleasure came from the detail and texture of the actual sound, not from identifying what it might have been. Of course I contradict myself here as I often talk of wanting to know as much as I can about a musician’s intentions and working practices when I try and make sense of a piece of music, but this tends to be only when I am trying to commit words to paper about a particular CD. I tend to always start with whatever fanciful ideas I may have about a piece of music and then seek to clarify or replace them when it comes to trying to write about it. The initial naive exploration of music is usually a lot of fun. Trying to look like you really know anything about it is often quite the opposite!

 So to Cévennes. I have really enjoyed listening to these two CDs of field recordings over the past couple of weeks. These pieces, by Marc and Olivier Namblard are what we then could loosely call unprocessed field recordings in that the brothers have not deliberately sought to alter the recordings they captured around the rural Cévennes region of France. The recordings are significantly different to Tarab’s Strata in that we are to take enjoyment as listeners merely from the natural features of what they have captured. There is none of the arrangement and recomposition of the materials as with Strata. A few fades from one recording to another aside, the only composition here consists of the Namblard’s choices of which recordings to use and how to order them.

 I think two things attract me to these recordings where other similar works have often failed. Firstly, the clarity and recording quality of the recordings is remarkably good, so bringing the sounds to life much more easily, but technical prowess alone is never going to be enough. The recordings manage to mix familiar sounds (birdsong, thunderstorms, running water etc) with other less easily recognisable sounds, and it is these other recordings, sandwiched between those that we understand that give the album a sense of mystery and even a nervous sense of danger that seems to draw on our imagination. I feel, having listened, that I know something about the Cévennes region of France, but then also there is plenty I do no know, and am left to imagine. The curious, animalistic, and frankly frightening sounds that briefly pierce the darkness on Disc 2’s Présence for instance offer a sense of the unknown. The liner notes on this particular track, in contrast with the detail on some of the other pieces seek to heighten the feeling of drama here, offering us just the line;

 “Black night. At the heart of the pine grove, attentive and hesitant, a presence.”

 Here the Namblard’s seek to engage with us as listeners, draw us into what we imagine the dark forest to be like, relying on our own fears, fascinations, childhood stories and previous experiences of such places to paint pictures in our own minds. This degree of interaction with the listeners occurs often across the two discs. The Namblards seem to want to directly interact with the listener rather than just present us with a set of aural photographs. Different to the use of material to construct something new as with Strata, nevertheless there is an attempt at narrative composition here as the choice of recordings do not just show us how Cévennes sounds, but they seem to try and place the listener in the centre of fanciful situations. The sense of place within these recordings is actually not as acute as the sense of atmosphere. The swirling winds and wailing storms of the track Bisa could probably have been recorded anywhere windy, but coupled with the character of the album as a whole, and the feeling of encroaching danger presented by the other tracks around it that storm becomes part of the narrative. The vibrating wire fences caught in the storm feel foreboding and oppressive rather than just ingenious and beautiful as such recordings on other albums have sounded. The Namblards have cleverly made an album that plays with the mind and invites fiction as much as it offers up simple documentation. For some reason though I suspect you have heard the album very differently?

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[Konrad Lorenz]

Patrick:

You said:

Knowing when something is really worth sharing and when it is not seems to be an issue that affects field recording more than it does other genres.

 I think that that so much of that is leveled squarely in the mind of the listener. I can well imagine that if we were to tally up all the recordings of, for ease of use, EAI, and all the releases that could in some way or another be categorised as field recordings, then the former would surely outweigh the latter, perhaps even twice over. When these two transitory categorisations are held up to the same light, which, you and I will obviously do from time to time, field recording, regardless of how many releases are actually put out, will always suffer because part of what draws you and I to this particular world of sound worlds is our disposition toward the unnamable. So much of what has been released and subsequently experienced by the two of us over these past few years will have in no small way lent itself to (beyond the terse moniker of EAI) concepts that are beyond our ability to express, partially if not on occasion wholly bereft as they are of a nominal everyday association – what do either of us see in our minds when we hear such things? Field recording will always suffer, regardless of how many people send you recordings of rivers, good or bad in your mind, in comparison. Because of its sheer everydayness, it will stand out in ever starker contrast to the areas of music we profess to admire, and so it makes perfect sense that we would both generally prefer those releases and ideas that seek to incorporate the two in ways that will push further the bounds of the unnamable into areas that are even harder to write about.

Beyond description, this is how I have heard Cévennes…. I shown signs of a struggle when considering notions of sentimentality within this thing here. It’s a very strong feeling, but not one I entirely understand. William Carlos Williams said that no part of a poem is sentimental, that each part is as vital as the next. Perhaps that’s part of it. But that’s what Williams thought. Perhaps against my better judgement I will admit that I possess an inherent distaste for the classification of natural recordings, especially ones that align themselves with elements of conservation and thus overt dichotomies of seperation. This is not a simple premise by any means, I am terribly conflicted. Do I have strong opinions about say, fracking? Of course I fucking do. Would I enjoy a CD release of the sounds of fracking? Beyond the sounds themselves (met with morbid intrigue) I doubt it. I am tempted to proportion blame squarely at my feet. To treat this as a failing of mine and mine alone. The message this imaginary CD heralds is potentially one of both importance and integrity – so is it the reductive and uncanny element that bothers me beyond the inherent message? Maybe.

I’d bring to mind Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness, made in 1992, a documentary concerned with the decidedly mythical symbolism and its absurd manifest reality in the burning oil fields of Kuwait. Within this method of documentation, which is of course able to develop and portray a large multiplicity of angles there is a possibility of a telling and showing of sensual experience and conveyance that is able to reside closer to the margins of totality, and as such is able to benefit from multiple marked digressions (Herzog’s voiceovers for one). These digressions are in essence, narrative supplements, and so as cause to the many fluctuating patterns they serve to reinforce the document and that which it is attempting to capture, in part creating a moment of the sensual politic of an aesthetic object.

Do I think then, that recording need by necessity be passive? Of course not. Likewise I would tend to disagree with an individual claiming that field recording cannot be political. Perhaps I should stop looking for resolution and it is better to accept that it really is as complicated (or simple) as being a matter of time and taste. These are matters close to both heart and experience, intrinsically bound to personality. Sound will always carry its own message beyond the parochial concerns of individual disposition.

I suppose this is just one of my many contradictions. I love knowledge but within so many strains I am loath to think of its origins. My concerns with ‘nature’ and its representation can, I believe, boil down to distance. So often said concerns, in their manufacture, present the human race as being separate from the natural world.

I grew up in the country, we moved around a lot, but an average distance between our home and a town or village was around 9 miles. I spent most of my youth up trees watching badgers, disrupting fox hunting parties, listening to echoes in abandoned quarries and erecting bridges over streams.

In essence I don’t think I’ve changed much. And so my beef with those who are essentially telling of careful, personal observation feels like nothing more than petty and projective infighting with different versions of myself.

The more I look and listen, the more time I spend in deliberation of such matters, the less certain I feel and the stranger it all is. Don’t get me wrong, I revel in this, but on occasion it does begin to irk me. When confronted with such matter-of-factness in a field I profess to adore – I can’t help but feel that I am back in my youth, listening to the transient reverberations skimming the surface of the quarry, rattling around the rocks in endless disparity.

A lot of this has risen in the wake of Cévennes – as Yannick Dauby so aptly states in his liner notes – it isn’t so much about collecting sounds as surrendering to your listening. I take that to mean, treating listening, and in this case, what you are listening to and that which has enabled this particular letting go, as an opportunity to stop thinking. What is also interesting to me however, is what one thinks about the moment one stops listening and picks up on the thought that has essentially been temporarily realigned to the seemingly silent background. Cévennes, like many of the albums we’ve discussed in our little conversation here, is an enigma. It could so easily have fallen into the hands of dogma, the recordings themselves are incredible documents of place that would lend themselves perfectly to such a regime (though perhaps they are a little too perfect for that / so good that they have become somewhat alien) but the words that accompany this release are generally so light that could so easily have not existed.

Whilst, by necessity, wishing to avoid making bold statements, I feel that this is one of the most accomplished and quietly passionate field recording releases that has also managed to avoid its own pitfalls I have yet to encounter. I can’t bring myself to talk directly about the recordings therein, they are so far beyond my experience that I feel my words would flop to sleep as soon as they were imprinted onto this document. The fact that, due to spending so much time with Cévennes these last couple of weeks, I have found myself reaching for one of my old books, written by one of the founders of Ethology, Konrad Lorenz, says it all and will hopefully say more than we have said here.

End

Richard Pinell’s The Watchful Ear
Patrick Farmer website

 

 

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Cévennes
MARC NAMBLARD, OLIVIER NAMBLARD
(Kalerne 2013)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

Where to start? With the premise, the content, the quality, the beauty? Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. To the set the scene for the delights that await every listener who purchases this wonderful set.

Walk, wait, wander, return and remember

 ‘Cévennes’ is a stunning collection of field recordings from the Massif Central region of France, an elevated expanse of land that runs from the centre to the south of the country. Informed by familiarity, memory and fondness, these selected sound portraits were drawn from a much larger archive of recordings from respected “audio-naturalists and listening wanderers”, Marc and Olivier Namblard. Add to this the curatorial expertise of Yannick Dauby and you know you’re in for a treat.

The recordings themselves are varied, engaging, perfectly judged and expertly implemented. Spread over two CDs, this fine collection offers over two hours of the most exquisite listening. Birds, mammals, insects, amphibians and  environmental phenomena take their seats in this most fabulous natural orchestra, each track a movement in the overall symphony that celebrates the sounds of this spectacular landscape.

It’s so difficult to highlight particular recordings when all are equally worth of mention. Some are particularly special though. ‘Bouldras’, for example, is an absolute triumph. The wingbeats of Griffon Vultures as they congregate around carrion are reminiscent of heavy sails unfurling in the breeze. You can almost hear each individual feather.

Immerse your ears in a bouquet of heather…

The minuscule delicacies of stridulating grasshoppers and the purring wingbeats of hawk-moths, featured in ‘Adreit’ and ‘Poussiels’, are great ambassadors for the sonic potential that lies within the invertebrate domain.

Even the steady footfall of the humble cow is transformed into a work of art. Conversations within the herd, feeding in the soft grass, are joined by the “fleeting acid verse” of a nearby Corn Bunting and the churring advertisements of a bush-cricket, creating a pastoral scene of the highest order.

The collection closes with the ethereal ‘Bisa’. The gusting adventures of a powerful wind sweeping across the plateau are gradually accompanied by the hypnotic Aeolian drone of vibrating wires and fences.

As I listen to the collection again I realise that words alone cannot do justice to ‘Cévennes’. I could easily sing the praises of each recording but it still wouldn’t be enough. You need to hear these recordings, to sit back and revel in this faultless tribute to a land that holds a special place in the hearts of these two exceptional recordists.

reno--2

[Olivier and Marc Namblard]

Olivier Namblard discography
Marc Namblard website
Kalerne website 

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LL
PARTIAL -Joseph Clayton Mills, Noé Cuellar-
(Another Timbre 2014)

Review by Patrick Farmer

Written during a stint at the 03 Gallery in Oxford, with David Stent and Neil Chapman, where we wrote our occupation. Note the occasion to write outside of ones spaces.

Against the partition.

  1. Straw hats.
  2. A sky blue cloche hat.
  3. A TV set.
  4. Numbered pegs against a wooden board.
  5. Instructions for a central heating device.
  6. A black and white photograph of a Bavarian family fancy dress.

On top the third shelf from the right.

  1. Various life-sized models of ball and socket joints.
  2. 2.      Springs taken from a 20th century hotel lift. Made in Prague.
  3. Several faces of Parisian pneumatic clocks.
  4. Bergman’s Persona on VHS.
  5. A garden fork.
  6. FBI finger print card codes.

LL . . . . . Noteable of an interest in Proust.

   . . . . . . An obsession he had toward owning of a photograph of the people he loved.

Pings an inside of a violin; in terms of my Marcelism.

Firstly, behind the bead curtains, and down (I assume) doubtless through a door left half open, a flight of stairs quacking like ducks; a milieu re-creating activity, grounded in steam and hum.

It didn’t ping straight away – of which I am grateful, I doubt I’d have been listening directly. Behind the bead curtains is an apt involuntary memory and I am excited as always to be able to speak of a confluence of choices underneath the recall.

Noted above, a stretch at the 03 Gallery (part of a former prison closed in 96). I had attempted to write a little about Proust and Wagner before I began to write a little of this here. Proust’s adoration of Wagner, it seems to me, was akin to statues rolling downhill. That’s all I got. There is no cause when listening, this operates a slight imbalance between review and reaction – operating under the condition that it occupy as large a surface area as is necessary.

…………………

The ping drove into me in the form of a Boston Terrier called Marcel. I doubt I would have recognised him had it not been for Cecil, another Boston Terrier I had the pleasure to encounter whilst touring around North America several years ago. Cecil lived in Nashville. Marcel strayed around Brussels. Cecil humped every item of luggage, no matter how large he’d find a way on, that was made available to his tremendous horn. Marcel bumped into my left leg whilst I was out walking on the expansive Koolmijnenkaai / in all the time stared into this, our first meeting, a houseboat came and went, perhaps some Egyptian bean geese, and the lights of a vending machine blew. Marcel then slowly took to his heels, which I followed without thinking.

…………………

I can’t quite remember where we ended up, he’s dead now. As is Cecil. Wherever we did go we went there several times. Each day I would wait for him to pass me on the Koolmijnenkaai, and taking leaf, I would trail happily in his slow wake, rarely looking up. He was left alone, and didn’t bother anything. It’s remarkable to think that such a small and aged dog could have walked the length of such an obstreperous city whilst avoiding harm. Though as I type this I find myself doubting its validity.

…………………

The marks made initially harmonise with the bell of a typewriter. I am hastily running to the end of the line regardless of footwear or of how much I have to say in relation to where my listening is.

Our speed dislocates and there are several distinctions walking on its chippy veneer. Tonalities of species wander in a negligible side effect of cross-pollination, seeds and bolts fallen from a postulate of height. Likewise, several cups of water fall unchecked onto an impermeable exterior – pilling up and filling up the visible specks out in the distance.

 …………………

 I like to think of a partial hesitancy in the postproduction, lending a hand to a conception of playful clay making. An upper limit sound of I love speech emerges that primarily thinks of bodily function, a matter of the void that all coffee drinkers learn to recognise.

 …………………

 I followed in Marcel’s wake for the remaining week of my visit. Bypassing all sorts of exotic birds, grand renditions of the former colonial jerk, ruin and debauchery, miles and planks and estates of cedar – at any rate, I behaved myself in this game of cops and robbers, a-cock-and-bull-story of countless reproaches.

…………………

In truth I had no say in the matter. His moves were so calm and assured, content to be subject to my object swathes of anthropomorphism. I could think of little else during my stay and struggled to put it all away months after the event that would keep repeating.

…………………

On my last day we sat together in the doorway of a deteriorating greengrocers – the ledge hanging over our heads like an old man roused begrudgingly from his bed – for a long time, he said, I have been incapable of laughter. Marcel turned round and nonchalantly yawned in my face. Our ears beringed with fuzz.

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Another Timbre website

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Cricket, Tree, Crow
STEPHANIE LOVELESS
(Audience Editions 2013)

 Review by Chris Whitehead

Cricket, Tree, Crow is a DVD containing two versions of the composition: An uncompressed stereo mix and a compressed 4.0 DTS surround DVD. Due to a lack of the necessary technology, this review is of the stereo version.

The first thing to say about Stephanie Loveless’ Cricket, Tree, Crow, is that it contains no field recordings whatsoever. Instead it is made up of Stephanie ‘s vocalised reconstitutions of field recordings, which are in turn informed by deep listening to recordings made in nature. As a self confessed city dweller surrounded by the built, the broadcast, the electronically reproduced and the wholly human, connection with other forms of life, particularly their secret languages, was something she decided to address.

Cricket, Tree, Crow is a short (18 minutes) recording consisting of three movements in which Stephanie has layered and processed her vocals, often using extended techniques and utilising all the rattles, scrapes, croaks and drones that hide away in the human voice. Things we rarely use in speech or singing are pushed forward to create a pre-verbal, primeval choir of phantom voices, a ghost chorus.

As David Dunn, Director of the Art and Science Laboratory in Santa Fe, puts it in his illuminating essay (Voices of the Others: A Few Considerations for Listening to Cricket, Tree, Crow) that accompanies this release: “This kind of sensory empiricism is similar to what humans must have always done to commune with and – in some sense – acquire ‘non – human language’ as a way to counteract the power of the external environment, share resonance with these other living systems, and give credence to an experience of a greater collective mind.”

Cricket begins with a rising mist of chirruping and summer heat rhythmically layered over constant Orthopteran chatter. Recreating the familiar with the strangeness of dislocation produces an eerie meta-world. There are no environmental sounds in the background. The rustling of dry grass, a passing bee or a plane overhead would have located this work in reality, but instead it is isolated and preserved like a pinned out butterfly.

Stephanie occasionally takes a breath, and the human based engine behind this reproduction of nature becomes suddenly apparent. To reiterate, rather than being a pinned out butterfly, this is more like an artist’s rendering of a pinned out butterfly. It is hyperreal, clearer and more brightly coloured. A memory of nature as something that is trying to communicate with us, something we maybe once were.

At first the wind that shifts the branches in Tree is a purely hypothetical catalyst for movement rather than the physical transition of air. We are concerned here with the straining fibres of huge Maple trees and the frictional abrasion of branches rubbing together. The rhythms are those of monumental things, creaking and dense. Stephanie’s voice rasps over itself and maps out extended skirls of collective timber groans. Later we seemingly move further into the upper limbs where leaves rustle and the breeze becomes breath.

Crow brings a metallic, frightening talon of a voice scraping across the tympanic membrane. For me crows and their corvid kind are the sound of the redness in tooth and claw that underpins nature. They are the sound of the celluloid, rural England of Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan’s Claw. One is of course the cursed conveyor of the word ‘nevermore’ in Edgar Allan Poe’s doom laden poem The Raven.

Unlike the previous two sections, Stephanie is actually performing the language of another creature here, as the sound of the crow is its actual voice. The cricket communicates by rubbing its legs together and the tree through the agency of wind, but the crow brings its cawing up from within the body and out into the air. Like a choir of reincarnated souls these sit and call from trees, puncturing the daylight with their embodiment of night, or they cry and take to the sky en masse in a black cloud.

So the artist has stripped back the encumberence of words and locked into a purity of expression informed by the song of the environment. She has then recreated this world as perfectly as possible using an imperfect tool, the human voice. At once unsettling, dislocating, brave and fascinating, Cricket, Tree, Crow is without doubt a unique addition to the documentation of the tension between man and those whose planet we share.

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[Stephanie Loveless]

Stephanie Loveless website
Audience Editions website

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