Archives for category: Acousmatic composition


A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago
(3Leaves 2014)

 Review by Cheryl Tipp

Recording the “active sounds of history”. This lies at the heart of John Kannenberg’s ongoing interest in the sonic environments of cultural heritage institutions. As contemporary visitors interact with historical objects, how do these fleeting relationships manifest themselves in the soundscape? How do they lend themselves to the overall “sound” of a museum?

Following on from his 2011 release ‘A Sound Map of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo’, Kannenberg puts these questions under the microscope as he turns his attentions to the Art Institute of Chicago; one of the largest and oldest art collections in the United States, representing over 5,000 years of Human artistic expression and holding 300,000 works. As we move through the sound map, a 1 hour collage of recordings made in various galleries throughout the building, we get a real sense of the scale of this historic institution. Though not able to visualise or hear the historical artefacts themselves, the recordings succeed because they allow us to imagine. To envisage the space and the design based on our own experiences of similar museums around the world. The accompanying insert gives location pointers, much like a traditional museum map – Ando Gallery of Japanese art: Gallery 109, American Gothic: Gallery 263, African Art: Gallery 137 – helping to feed our imaginations even further. A series of floor plans reinforce the sheer magnitude of the building.

Kannenberg also focuses on the sounds of the building itself; clunking elevator doors, squeaking floorboards, a buzzing fluorescent sign, a humming exhaust fan. Akin to a rumbling stomach or a clicking joint, these little sounds remind us to think of the structure, stoically guarding various cultural treasures for future generations to experience, question and enjoy.

“I found myself drawn to situations in which I played an audible part”

For me, this sentence represents the greatest success of the sound map. The fact that we can hear Kannenberg, walking through the galleries and interacting with the staff, gives the whole piece a welcoming, familiar feel. Almost as if we are walking at his side, taking in the paintings, sculptures and photographs, pausing every now and then to listen to a gallery talk, observe a drawing class or have a spot of lunch.

‘A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago’ is a well-curated sonic journey that instantly engages the listener. Detailed and varied, the composition has reminded me not only of my own love of museums, but also of the huge potential they offer the visitor. Through his work, Kannenberg is beginning to explore a fascinating aspect of the museum experience, bringing sound to the forefront and encouraging others to tune into the sonic delights that these mighty institutions have to offer.


[John Kannenberg]

John Kannenberg website
3Leaves website






The Hebrides Suite CATHY LANE
(Gruenrekorder 2013)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

 ‘The Hebrides Suite’ is a multi-layered collection of composed works that reflect Cathy Lane’s ongoing fascination with the Outer Hebrides. A mixture of field recordings, audio diaries, conversations, interviews and oral histories drawn from archives across Scotland, these six pieces explore the history, traditions and ways of life of these ancient islands.

How does history – past lives and past events – leave sonic traces and how do we hear them?

Each piece is based around a particular theme pertinent to island life, be that weaving, local transportation, crofting or religion. All are complex patchworks of sound that have the power to take your breath away. Each one a fascinating vignette that encapsulates its subject in an engaging, imaginative and sophisticated manner. The multifaceted nature of these compositions creates an intensity that is almost tangible, demonstrating once again the power of sound to evoke a feeling or induce a reaction.

‘Tweed’ is a captivating interpretation of the weaving industry of the Outer Hebrides. The clatter and hum of machinery is embellished with disembodied voices that develop their own rhythms, akin to the lyrical nature of the looms used to produce this famous cloth.

The only piece not to feature any spoken word is ‘Gaoth (Wind)’. It’s a beautiful homage to the ever present wind and coming in at the middle of the CD, creates an effective natural break between the more intensive arrangements before and after.

‘Watch Over Us All’ is a sombre conclusion to the suite, acknowledging the central role religion still plays in the lives of the island inhabitants. Community is everything here and the church is at the heart of this. As the singing and the sermon gradually fade, the delicate song of a Skylark takes centre stage, pointing towards the rich biodiversity that exists here.

A huge amount of time, thought, emotion and effort has gone into ‘The Hebrides Suite’. Each work is wonderfully intricate, comprising snippets of recordings that must have been painstakingly researched, collected, analysed and brought together. It demands and deserves attention.

‘In 2006, I sat looking through the misty soft rain towards the ruined chimney and listened to a ship motoring into the sea loch below, almost right up to the whaling station, lifting lobster pots. A little further up the road is the spot where on two separate cycle tours from the south to the north of the Outer Hebrides I was defeated by a mixture of horizontal rain and a ferocious headwind and gratefully turned around and headed back towards Tarbert and the gentler south. On one of those journeys I remember the sound of a weaving loom from inside a shed as we passed it on the road.’
-Cathy Lane


[Cathy Lane; photo courtesy of CRISAP]

Cathy Lane website
Gruenrekorder website


Tracing a boundary. DEVIN DISANTO
(Task 2013)

Review by Flavién Gillie

Que devient le groupe quand il ne joue pas?

Devin Disanto publie un disque audacieux, à la forme surprenante, ainsi sur la pochette peut-on lire la liste des artistes et leur rôle instrumental, Trompette, trombone, ukulele et j’en passe.

L’artiste enregistre, ils sont bien là, mais ils ne jouent pas encore, ils s’affairent dans une pièce, fenêtre ouverte dont on entend la circulation de l’extérieur. Des harmoniques de guitare apparaissent, quelques ultra-sons, une voix indique des durées, peut-être le temps qui passe, peut-être le compte à rebours. Et tout s’agence, vers une impossible mise en musique, comme un travail documentaire préalable à la création musicale, ce document sonore éliminant de par son existence la nécessité de jouer.

Une situation d’intimité se crée tout le long de l’album, l’écoute est dynamisée par la mise en forme des déplacements des musiciens autour des microphones, chacun devient son instrument, souffle de l’air ou corde effleurée, tout prend sa place dans l’espace du lieu.

Le disque fini nous nous retrouvons dans notre environnement, avec un sentiment de sérénité, l’impression d’avoir été à l’essence de la rencontre, au coeur de la vie.


[Devin Disanto]

Translation to English -by Sismophone-

What becomes a band when it does not perform?

Devin Disanto issues a daring album, with a surprising form, as one can read on the sleeve a list of artists and their instrumental role, trumpet, trombone, ukulele, and so on.

The artist records, they are there for real, but they still do not play, they wander nearby in a room with an empty window through which one hears outside circulation. Guitar harmonics appear, some ultrasounds, a voice drones durations, maybe the time flying, maybe the countdown. And then all builds towards an impossible musicality, as a preliminary documentary work previous to musical creation, and exactly because it exists, this sound document eliminates the necessity of playing.

A situation of intimacy is created all along the album, listening is dynamited by the shaping of musicians moves around microphones, each becomes it’s own instrument, blow of air or brushed string, everything is placed in the place’s space.

At the end of the disc, we are safely back in our environment, feeling serene, an impression to have gone to the essence of the meeting, at the heart of life.

Devin Disanto website
Task website


Between dawn and dusk
(self release 2013)

Review by Daniel Crokaert

Settled in Brussels since about ten years, Sabri Meddeb, from Tunisian origin is not exactly a newcomer…he has already mixed with some other well-known artists, notably Michael Northam, and Sachiyo Honda with whom he collaborated in the common project Hokuro. Other than that, he is an autodidact musician very concerned with the cultural melting pot and keen on the input of other art forms in his own music…

Blessed with a sort of tranquil force coupled with a nonstandard sensitivity, his musical universe is the result of a work on himself leant on the memory resurgences, a perpetual search for this fragile balance between the inside and the outside via a series of questionings…

“Between dawn and dusk” is of course supposed to suggest a slow transformation, a passage from dawn to dusk, but it’s the night which prevails…

to which journey does Sabri invite us ? To the one of introspection through a quasi Symbolist Nature…

like a sharp walker/listener, he leads us into the centre of some primordial rocking movement which all at once saps our wakening,
and stimulates it to something else.

While the first piece Between dawn and dusk “cycle of night-twilight” opens, one captures the quivering of vegetation, the trembling of leaves on the dry structures of the wood, and the nagging nocturnal chant of cicadas…but also, the chirping of a few birds and far away barks which give depth of field to the scenery…

Nothing is more difficult than to abstract ourselves from what surrounds us, to simply be in the flux, in this vibrancy of life.

And here, Sabri Meddeb manages to captivate his audience by grasping the strength of a moonbeam, an ounce of wind, the carrier air, of all those murmurs of plant and animal life…

If only we surrender ourselves to it, the resulting landscape is of a resounding truth, not so much in its fidelity to the real, but in its content, its introduction to the world…

The second central and much shorter track is also the most musical one…

it uses the same ingredients, while weaving on the top of it an ethereal drone made of delicate manipulations of singing bowls, and progresses in waves which end up dying naturally like a breath going out…

Then returns the atmosphere of the first composition in Reflection contemplation where modelled on a large natural orchestra, emerges a blend of a firmly cosmic scope which dwells at length on the weighty Mystery of Life without ever piercing it…


[Sabri Meddeb]

– Translation to French-

Sabri Meddeb, d’origine tunisienne et établi à Bruxelles depuis une dizaine d’années, n’est pas tout à fait un nouveau venu…il s’est déjà frotté à quelques autres artistes de renom, dont notamment Michael Northam et Sachiyo Honda avec lesquels il a collaboré dans le cadre d’un projet commun sous le nom de plume Hokuro. Sinon, il s’agit d’un musicien autodidacte très impliqué dans le métissage culturel, et féru de l’apport des autres arts dans sa propre musique…

Doué d’une sorte de force tranquille doublée d’une sensibilité hors norme, son univers musical est le fruit d’un travail sur lui-même appuyé sur les résurgences mémorielles, une recherche perpétuelle de cet équilibre fragile entre l’intérieur et l’extérieur à travers une série de questionnements…

“Between dawn and dusk” semble évidemment suggérer une lente transformation, un passage de l’aube au crépuscule, mais c’est la nuit qui prédomine…

A quel voyage Sabri nous convie t-il ? A celui de l’introspection au travers d’une Nature quasi-Symboliste…

comme un promeneur/écouteur aiguisé, il nous mène au centre même d’une sorte de bercement primordial qui tout à la fois sape notre éveil, et le stimule à autre chose.

Lorsque s’ouvre la première pièce Between dawn and dusk “Cycle of night-twilight”, l’on capte le frémissement de la végétation, le frisonnement des feuilles sur les structures sèches du bois, et le lancinant chant nocturne des grillons…mais aussi le pépiement de quelques oiseaux et de lointains aboiements qui donnent une profondeur de champ au décor…

Rien n’est plus difficile que de s’abstraire de ce qui nous entoure, de simplement être dans le flux, ce pétillement de la vie.

Et ici, Sabri Meddeb parvient à captiver son audience en saisissant le pouvoir d’un rayon de lune, d’une once de vent, de l’air colporteur, de tous ces murmures de la faune et de la flore…

Pour peu qu’on s’y abandonne à son tour, le paysage sonore résultant est d’une criante vérité, pas tellement dans sa fidélité au réel, mais dans sa teneur, son introduction au monde…

La deuxième piste centrale et beaucoup plus courte est la plus musicale…

elle se sert des mêmes ingrédients, tout en tissant par dessus un drone éthéré fait de délicates manipulations de bols chantants, et avance en ondes qui finissent par s’épuiser naturellement comme un respiration qui s’éteint…

Puis revient l’univers de la première composition dans Reflection contemplation où, à l’image d’un grand orchestre naturel, se dégage un mélange résolument cosmique qui s’appesante sans le percer sur le lourd Mystère de la Vie…

Sabri Meddeb website


Blank tape positive
(Contour Editions 2013)

Review by David Vélez


from the liner notes:

‘Blank Tape Positive focuses on the modification of magnetic tape and playback machines as a substantial material for sonic sources. This exploration has been ongoing for many years in Richard Garet’s studio practice by applying extended techniques to magnetic tape and extensively deconstructing the physical playback object, with methods that not only manipulate the natural conditions of the machine, but also its constrained mechanisms. These approaches tackle the playback device as material in itself by turning it inside out, by decontextualizing it, and by mutating the capabilities of its functionality. In due course the magnetic tape is modified, the machine is also modified; subsequently nothing plays properly or does what it was built or designed to do.’


There is something about the physical manipulation of matter that allows for an artist to imprint his emotions into something irreversible, tangible and personal.

There is something poetic about the appropriation and reinterpretation of obsolete objects and devices that helps an artist to materialize his research and instrumental processes into something where he can genuinely project himself.

Today many of the sounds and images that are presented to us establish in some way a material and perceptual bridge to the past, they evoke memories that are loaded with extict experiences and dissapeared things.

Obsolescence gives to things the possibility to be reutilized while exploring unwanted and unnecessarily elements product of the shortcomings of dated technology.

Obsolescence also means imminent disappearance and today there seems to be a great praise of working with rare things of which they aren’t many left and this paradoxically occurs in an actual formal quest for the novelty…

On the late 80’s and early 90’s there was an obsession with the future, an obsession with the XXI century, an obsession with computers and software and the possibilities they offered…

…and now that we are there, that we are in the future, we are interested on things that we can find on junkyards, garage sales, pawnshops or antique shops…

In sound art the contemporary times can present a nostalgic approach, an interest in dated processes and media that when brought back acquire a complete new meaning.

The future is now the archeology of our memories.


The thoughts presented in the previous chapter came to my mind while listening to ‘Blank tape positive’ and reading its liner notes.

‘Blank tape positive’ illustrates in its final result this media and material exploration of the obsolete. The textures, the volumes, the reverberations, the rhythmic patterns…they present a nostalgic character that gives to this work a strong aesthetic value.

Here process and result go hand-in-hand as a way to achieve formal success. Here the exploration of history and archeology of media and the subsequent personal appropriation pays off, offering to the listener an incredible experience full of signification and profound emotional content.

But of course, there is substance behind the surface; on ‘Blank tape positive’ Garet also does a great job when it comes to construct emotional structures and formally work with tension and expectations, keeping the listener attentive and immersed throughout the entire release.

‘Blank tape positive’ joins ‘L’avenir’ and ‘Silver’ as the works of Garet that have left the bigger impression on me in terms of my sensible experience.


[Richard Garet; photo courtesy of Mandragoras Space]

Richard Garet website
Contour Editions website


Vaccabons et malfactours
FRÉDÉRIC NOGRAY -working with recordings by Cédric Peyronnet-

(Kaon 2013)

Review by David Vélez


There is a strong level of intention in the action of recording environmental sounds. This intention is expressed in aspects like the subject of the recording, the kind of microphones used, the place where the microphones are placed in the field, the hour of the day chosen to record, the time of the year where the recordings were made…etc…etc….

But at the same time recording environmental sounds is a very contemplative action; on every environmental recording we are capturing seconds, minutes and hours of incidental randomness.

But, what makes for random and organic textures, patterns and structures to be so potentially appealing? This is a good question that Psychoacoustics have in a way answered, linking for example the songbirds with the origins of human language. I personally think that the lack of communicating purpose and intention that we find in these random forms is actually what makes them appealing and even meaningful. The absence of ideas and words in their forms allows the listener to explore things in a different way, leading him to bear a more universal and yet personal sense of things.


‘La Rivière CD series…Using the sound bank designed by Cédric Peyronnet, who recorded the nuances of Taurion River and its valley for 3 years, in Limousin, sound artists offer their interpretations through a series of compositions. Artists were asked to work on the composition of a sound piece created using the provided recordings or on the composition of a sound piece inspired by listening to the sound provided and consultation of the accompanying documents.’
-From Kaon’s website

Frédéric Nogray has established today as one of the notable sound composers working with untreated recordings of wild life and other natural areas, but in ‘Vaccabons et malfactours’ (part of ‘La Riviere’ series) Nogray limited to equalize, edit and layer preexistent recordings captured by Peyronnet six years ago.

This is a very nice release that, despite of the potential layering, presents itself in an austere documental manner, sounding very realistic and believable.

The area around the Taurion river is probably very quiet and soothing as most of the recordings suggest but Nogray also included recordings that show a louder and harsher aspect of this location; the noisy captures probably belong to heavy rain or a fast-flowing part of the river and these sounds add a great sense of contrast to the piece. There is always a level of eeriness and darkness to a quiet place that, when taken into account, offers depth and mystery to the listener’s experience.

The quality of the sound here is noteworthy, the fine sounds captured by Peyronnet were greatly worked by Nogray who managed to bring out the textures to a very bright and crisp level that I greatly enjoyed; a great work for those interested on environmental recordings with a little fictional twist.


[Fréderic Nogray]

Frédéric Nogray website
Kaon website


Strata. TARAB -Eamon Sprod-
(Unfathomless 2013)

Review by Caity Kerr

‘Strata’ is described as having been created from recordings made in a series of vacant lots and their immediate surrounds in the north-west of Melbourne.

The first thing that strikes the listener is the range of well-chosen sounds, all easy on the ear, nothing too harsh or unpleasant, no frequencies that strip the enamel off your teeth, no subs which threaten the cones on your precious speakers. In contrast with the locations used to gather the sounds, the overall impression is of a very ‘clean’ album, highly polished. The balance of dynamics, attention to pace and flow, all the orthodoxies of good composition, make the album almost classical in a compositional sense. Add to this various crossfading techniques with some well-crafted staggered dropouts and you have an effective tension between what I’d call thoroughly contemporary environmental sound gathering and a measured and conventional approach to putting the sounds together.

The sounds are easy enough to describe to the inner ear: a variety of recognisable or almost recognisable continuous sounds, some with lots of human agency, others resembling trains and the like, and occasionally sudden intrusions in the form of metallic timbres for example – one would imagine that these timbres are derived from objects found on site, activated for their rich sonic properties.

As with many other examples of this kind of work, the soundscape is visually evocative. Such work lends itself very well to the entertainment of audiences who like to relax, listen deeply and let the mind wander to the music. So the real question for me is how else can we hear this kind of music other than on cd? It’s fine to be able to relax in one’s domestic environment and to listen on one’s chosen equipment, but I’ve always thought that the potential strength of this kind of work, apart from pleasing the ears if it’s good work, is to be found in the possibilities for uplifting and even edifying in a social listening context, situations where people can discuss and share impressions after the listening event. Certainly not the concert hall or the grungy club (so I’m already going against the grain by asking for something which isn’t so fashionable but is eminently human and probably timeless), something approaching an appropriate and rewarding listening environment. I think we need to be asking where and under which conditions we should be looking to improve the opportunities for composers of this kind of work, composers who offer well-crafted good new non-instrumental, non-genre or trend-driven music of this era.


Eamon Sprod website
Unfathomless website


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