Ján Solčáni – Listening to “In-Between” – Notes from Terrain or Trash Methodology [Spolka, 2019]

Original photo by Marek K. Misztal

PCC Note: Ján Solčáni is the founder of Skupina, a Czech-Slovak collective that engages in a multitude of projects concerning listening, sound, event, and object. Ján’s work as curator and incubator can be experienced by visiting Skupina’s website or bandcamp. Recent projects include Unseen, an incredible online platform and web archive that presents new approaches to listening; like the text below, their work is inspired by Pauline Oliveros’ practice of Deep Listening. This text is originally from Mapping the in-between: Interdisciplinary methods for envisioning other futures, published in 2019 by Spolka. Full attribution and links to the original text and publisher can be found at the bottom of this page. With many thanks to Ján for generously giving permission for this text to be republished here.

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The following text will introduce a few simple tools and methods of tuning into ‘in-between’ space through one’s own hearing and body as a tool of a better understanding. These one-person listening exercises are based on my field notes written during Never-never school 2019, in the ‘empty spaces’ of Košice country around the river Hornád. They are loosely inspired by ways and methods of deep listening practice (1) of the composer Pauline Oliveros (2005). For the purpose of the universality of the text and its better understanding, the technical language has been changed into functional style. Thus, the following guidelines and procedures should be more understandable to the readers, who are not familiar with the listening procedures and their forms of realisation.

The exercises are divided into two parts. The first part is soundwalk. It focuses on tuning into the sound landscape and ways of walking through the space in order to understand it through its sonic qualities. Before I start to practically apply each method, it is important to define the physical space in which the listening will be done. The ideal environment is the vague terrain (2) and mass of the city that bounds it. This terrain is understood as ‘place between places’. The place that is a part of the city, but presents itself as created unexpectedly in the inside, outside of the organisation process of the city and its official structures. It can be, for example, the place between urban development, the railway and the river Hornád. A strip of unorganised green landscape and abandoned objects that are gradually taken over back by nature. A place that looks like functional structure only at the moment of the risk of its loss, for example, when it is transformed into a shopping centre, a building site of apartment buildings and other substances of the capitalistic organisation. I choose my starting position at the outer boundary of this place. My goal is to be able to tune into the sound spectrum of the city that will be slowly, during my walk, replaced by the ‘in-between’ area. From this collision and the following change of state I will form the logic of the following exercises.

In the second part I focus on my own immediate analysis of heard. I am keeping a record of my experience and feelings from the listening process in my notebook. The way, in which my experience and understanding of the sound is formedreflects my cultural background, knowledge, memory and experiences. In this way, the record can be an ideal bearer of my personal memory with the ability of analysing the past ones.

Soundwalk (3)

I find a starting point located in the dynamic urban environment, such as a café, square, or a bench in a busy street. It should be a place and location that is a part of my everyday social reality and in which I feel comfortable, safe, and natural. With three full deep breaths I try to calm my body and my thoughts. These breaths are calm, characterised by the inhalation into the abdominal cavity, then through the expansion of the ribs into the rib cage, and up to the throat and clavicles. Such breathing calms my nervous system. I remember that stress and restlessness is often caused by the lack of oxygen in the body. A calm body and mind are the ideal state for the listening practice. Firstly, I try to listen to the sounds of my body, focus on my breath, my heartbeat, and gradually turn to the sounds near me through my hearing. I remain this way. I move through my hearing to the sounds further away from me. I analyse them and recognise them. I am trying to define the space I am in through my own listening experience. I find the sound that is the closest and the one that is the furthest away from me. I do not necessarily try to give meaning or find their physical source, I can listen to the sound itself. I try to tune into the dynamics and structure of the sound that I hear and to find its tone and depth. If I get lost in the process, I am not afraid of going back to my breathing. I am not in a hurry, I devote enough time and space to this exercise. The point of reference is a complete tuning to the sound landscape around me. From passive hearing, I move to listening, where I process and recognize the meaning and context (Sterne, 2003, 2012). Learning this method will guide me through the rest of the exercises. 

~

Now I am fully prepared to set on a journey out, into the ‘in-between’ space, where organised human structures are slowly being replaced by the logic of nature. Slowly, I leave my starting point. During this process, I make sure that I leave as little traces as possible, whether audio or visual. I try to be invisible. I walk slowly, calm and at my own rhythm. Again, I move slowly from the sounds near me to those further away. I listen to my own steps and how the environment reacts to them. How does the surrounding interact with my walk? Where does it stop, or which sound is absorbed by the echo of my footsteps?

~

My phone is turned off or put in the flight mode. The same is done with all the other devices that can distract me or limit me. The only guideline for me is the sound and space that defines it. I do not let my duties, or anything and anyone else, to distract me.

~

For orientation in space I do not use exclusively paths defined by urban space structure, such as pavement or road. Urban infrastructure is only one of the possible ways of movement. I try to leave the usual while walking, and get off the sidewalks and roads. I leave the visual and determine my direction by listening. In the space, I follow the sounds that attract me, I try to get to them as close as possible. I am fully focused on listening. I am not afraid to stop and look for the sound that calls to me from the wide spectrum of sounds. In the process of choosing, I do not focus solely on loudness and intensity, but I try to perceive the offered sound structures as a whole and I divide them after this. I do not create hierarchies. In this way I move forward – I find the sound source – I get closer to it and I explore it by hearing – I find a new sound source.. How did the sound change as I approached it and recognised its origin? Did I feel and hear the same thing? How did I work with my own focus and tuning to this sound? 

~

I change my tempo from time to time. I stop and stay that way. I go back to the first part and tune in the breathing for a moment. I start listening from the start.

~

If I get to an intense source of sound while walking, the one that replaces the entire sound landscape with its noise, I am not afraid to face it. Such a source can be, for example, a busy road for motorists, a railway, or a crossing, or even a nearby factory. I let the mass noise take over me and I remain in this state. I try to find structures in this great cacophony and slowly move between them by listening. This experience provides an important reference point to my further activities.

~

As soon as I leave the sonic landscape of urban structures and head to explore the sounds of the ‘in-between’ place, I focus on the differences between industrialized part and the place that is not affected by the human activity, or is abandoned by people. I follow all small sonic details that surround me and those over the horizon. I walk of the road and I follow the sound. I let myself to be absorbed by the sound landscape hidden in the tall grass and untreated surfaces. I listen to the structures of communication between crickets and other insects living in these places. The ʽin-betweenʼ places usually offer a wide biodiversity that only shows itself gradually. I find a place, where I stay for at least twenty minutes. I limit my movement and sounds of my body to the minimum. The land in my immediate proximity has to get used to me, calmness and patience will help. At the beginning, this place was defined as empty and un-structuralised – it only appears that way from one point of view, that of the organisation defined by human activity. If I stop to see this perspective as the only possible, different organic and inorganic structures appear right in front of me.

~

In the process of listening, I leave the position of a human being and I try to tune into the site through its inanimate actors. I try different positions – I lie down on the grass and perceive the sound that surrounds me from its perspective, I climb up the tree and I listen to the landscape from the position of the birds. I am not afraid to play with the place without the need of organising it. I silence the inner criticizing voice. No one is evaluating me; no moral judgements are formed and neither is anybody looking. The well-known and established gestures are just one of the possible ways of understanding the world. I put away the social structures, expectations and narratives and I replace them by my own or simulated structures of non-human actors. I swap the theory for action. I am not afraid to be naive. I experiment. I focus on the process as such, without the need to expect any results. I am open to everything that I can listen to. Instead of the position of the designer of the situation I choose the fusion with the surrounding sonic landscape.

~

I try not to think about the time spent by listening during my exercises. Time is not an important factor in listening and the attention I give to it can only pointlessly lead me away from what is important – the sound. What is important, is to listen and not to be afraid of getting lost in this process.

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If it is possible, I try to walk the same way in the different times of day; early in the morning, or late in the evening. Or I repeat the same route in different seasons, and I observe how the sound landscape and my associations change.

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These exercises can be also done in a larger group of people, but I must insist that the listeners should keep a certain distance between them. The process of getting lost within the sound of landscape shall not be interrupted by the presence of other elements.

~ ~

Notebook

I write my personal experience and findings into my notebook. Also, I record my feelings from the terrain. I try to avoid the classical linearity of notes. It is not important to record the experience in detail, but to give a large space to your own imagination and associations. I leave the typical forms and I create an imaginary map, graph, fragment, haiku, doodle drawing. I take a small object from the ‘in-between’ place and I draw it in, I create my own herbarium. I am the one, who defines my own methodology and ways. It is not necessary for the notes to reflect the truth. I add my own meanings to the sounds. Not knowing is welcome. I give space to my imagination and I am not afraid to dive into it. I create my own stories and I add more than expected. I am not afraid to be silly at writing, or to ask myself stupid questions in the notes. I want to be naive!

~

In my memory, I go back to the starting point, where I began with my breathing exercise. In my mind, I slowly move from this point through all the sound moments that I experienced during my walk, or to those that are stuck in my memory. I record the moments in my notes, and I mark them on my map. I work with my own logic in organizing these moments on the map, correct placing is not necessary. Geographical view is only one of the options. I draw a map based on different principles, such as the intensity of the sound, its harmony and dynamics, or associations evoked in me. I create a few maps like this and compare them. The fascinating feature of sound is its ability to take me back to the place and situation, where I experienced it. My sound memory is very strong and it can completely recreate the experienced situation. The sound experience is, unlike the visual experience, linear and lasts over time. 

~

The way I experience sound is constantly shaped under the influence of my experience and knowledge. After a while, I go back to my notes. How did my memory of the sound change or update? 

These exercises helped me to understand the meaning of soundwalks. Through the empirical methods, I learnt the procedures of tuning into the sound landscape that surrounds me and its individual components. The methodology of listening allowed me to identify and understand one’s own experience with sound in acoustic urban environment, where the senses are primarily accustomed to work with the visual perceptions. I will try to introduce these methods into my everyday practice and make them into full-fledged elements of social reality at a time, when it is still possible to focus on the invisible that does not speak to me through the image, but through sound. The near future brings much more noise into our lives that emancipates from the human organisation of time and it becomes autonomous. Until the mechanisms of capitalism gain independence from manual human labour, they overcome temporality and never stop. The crickets in the ‘in-between’ space between the river Hornád [4] and urban matter will probably sound still the same way, but no one will be able to hear them anymore. Organic noise producers have to sleep, but their technological counterpart will never get tired and quiet and will keep me in the constant tension through the noise that will be very difficult to tune into.

Translated from Slovak original by Katarína Petrusová.

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(1) The term Deep Listening represents academic discourse defined by theoretic and composer Pauline Oliveros (2005: xxi) as a practice with its goal set on developing the scope and awareness of an individual in the terms of sound in time and space through the listening process. Oliveros deals with this practice, its positions and outcomes in the publications such as ​Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice.

(2) The concept of vague terrain is discussed in more detail by social anthropologist Radan Haluzík (2016). He defines it as an empty space in the system, as an invisible, excluded space outside space and time, which has at its disposal social, biological and other living form and is an unintended consequence of urban planning

(3) Soundwalk is an exercise focused on listening to the surrounding environment. Such a walk favours hearing over vision in order to rediscover and activate the natural sense of listening. It helps to realise the presence of the immediate sonic environment we are surrounded by. (Westerkamp, 1974)

[4] Hornád is a river in eastern Slovakia and north-eastern Hungary. Link.

______________________

Original text from:

GREŠÁKOVÁ, Lýdia, Zuzana TABAČKOVÁ and SPOLKA, ed. (2019). Mapping the in-between: Interdisciplinary methods for envisioning other futures. Košice: Spolka. (Link to publisher)

Paperback, 144 pages
Language: English and Slovak
ISBN print: 978-80-973580-0-6
ISBN online: 978-80-973580-1-3

© This publication – with the exception of quotes – is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA). Published on postcapital.club with permission from the author.

Skupina (b. 2016) is a collective of actors with specific interest in cultural phenomena that are perceivable and expressible through sound. The collective considers events occurring in the audio dimension (or convertible to this dimension) as objects – working via listening, sound work, sociological imagination, recording, reinterpretation, oral and aural history and acoustic ecology. Through the process of materialization and dematerialization of the original statements, Skupina attempts to look for and deconstruct the borders of possible metamorphoses of the researched phenomena in our lived reality, both on the abstract as well as the material level. Their work oscillates between curatorship, publishing, education, installations, research and listening practice. http://skupinaaaaa.com/https://skupina.bandcamp.com/

Unseen (b. 2021) is an online platform and web archive that presents different approaches to listening and cultivating the relationship between our bodies, space and sound. It is loosely based on Pauline Oliveros’ practice of deep listening, which it updates through the perspectives of selected artists. Through a series of exercises, methods and video guides, we are invited to focus on sound as a tool for relieving feelings of separation and isolation, as a tool for imagining better futures. These tutorials vary in length and difficulty, are intended for bodily and non-bodily, individual and collective practice, and intend to activate different parts of our bodies and lived realities. They represent artistic practice as a tool for the everyday, as a set of mechanics and procedures operating outside the institutional frameworks of art. These are methods and manuals which we can activate in our own way and apply them to our everyday life. https://www.unseen.help/ 

Ø Ring Card (Cassette)

This double o-ring card (ø ring) for cassettes is designed to be printed, folded, and glued from a single sheet of Letter paper (8.5″ x 11″ / 216 x 279 mm), the standard paper size for most printers. Although not difficult, cutting and assembling this ø-ring requires some care and crafting. The old advice of “measure twice, cut once” applies here. A straight-edge paper cutter is ideal; however, the presence of lines on the template should allow for a slow and careful cut with scissors if necessary.

Pictures of examples, template, and guide below. There is a download to a zip file containing the template and the guide at the base of this post. The guide shows instructions for when and where to cut on each line. Printing on cardstock is highly recommended. I have used 110lb (199 g/m^2) weight cardstock for these templates and it holds up well. Be aware that many printers will attempt to scale the image down to ~96% by default–print at 100% scaling to ensure that the dimensions are correct.

When setting up the artwork for a release, I recommend opening the template as a layer in GIMP or similar. Be aware that some (if not most) printers will not print all the way to the edge. Using a white background and insetting images from the edge is highly encouraged; but even more encouraged is that you experiment and find what works best for your needs. This design intentionally shows the guiding marks for the cuts and folds, to reveal the process and structure of its production visibly and transparently to the viewer.

These templates (CD-R and 3″ CD-R forthcoming) are designed to seize and gift the means of production directly to artists and audience. This template was designed for a (forthcoming) release project that requires the purchaser of the cassette to assemble the case themselves, as a way to alienate or disassociate the idea of a release as a product purchased in its final form; instead, requiring effort and care on the part of the buyer to engage with the production of the work to ‘complete’ it as a physical object.

Post last updated 05/15/2021.

Ø Ring Card Template & Guide Download

This work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You are permitted to remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.
Above: Ø Ring Template
Above: Ø Ring Template with Instructions

Essai: A First Explanation

This new category, Essai, is an open-ended exploration into yet-unknown horizons. The idea is to present thoughts on theory, approaches, and writing related to art, aesthetics, politics, architecture, poetry, etc. that does not pertain to a particular sound release. This may be indulgent; it likely is; but in trying to make sense of the world, for me at least, there is no way to do so but by doing–and no better education than to try.

The title, Essai, is an attempt to capture something from the etymology of the ‘essay’. In the sense that the essay is an attempt (from old French, essayer, to attempt, hold to task), not a lecture. The work here (as well as in all PCC’s reviews) is intended to be experimental in its approach, and therefore, open to failure as much as success–but as is true of the experiment, to succeed by spinning out a hypothesis to an end; to attempt to explore some new ground, for the author if not the audience. So everything contained here is subject to change, to revision, to deletion (if the author so wishes), to pretention, to naiveté, and should be especially subject to criticism. Although a website is rarely a good forum for discussion, the hope is that these writings engage some broader conversation, and through the help of dialogue with others, to broaden horizons, chart new lines of flight, and ultimately escape the stagnant comfort of a solidified line of thinking.

Like all Post Capital Club posts as of late, expect this to be highly occasional and subject to the authors’ time; though I hope not too long a time passes before something is written.

Abhilasha Chebolu and Ishmael Ali – “Many Calmly Ordered Rules of Death” [Lurker Bias, 2020]

Abhilasha Chebolu & Ishmael Ali
Many Calmly Ordered Rules of Death
Lurker Bias, 2020 (LB_142)

https://lurkerbias.bandcamp.com/album/many-calmly-ordered-rules-of-death

Noise as a genre has the power to unsettle and overwhelm, I think, effectively re-contextualizing the listener’s relationship to sound. At its best, the raw canvas of the sound field can paint a new representation of the world that stimulates the ear, and, through differentiation, can even provide a new and radical mode of listening to all the other everyday sounds around us. But too often, in my opinion, the potency of noise is undercut by an artist overindulging in the brutal, relentless side of the genre—and in the dense miasma of its harshness, it can lose its effect. The sounds can wander and get lost in an aimless over-saturation. As a listener, I sometimes find myself less affected by this kind of unrelenting noise, and it slips into the background self-defeatingly despite its confrontational approach; like a white noise machine covering tinnitus.

This is not the case with Abhilasha Chebolu and Ishmael Ali’s 2020 release “Many Calmly Ordered Rules of Death” on Lurker Bias. Here, silence is an operative quality. There is noise, to be sure— familiar and skilled uses of short delays, feedback, white noise, contact-mic scrabble, and electronic buzz—but there is a silence and space between irruptions that gives each iteration its own power and effect. Sources are panned lightly to either side of the stereo field, giving a space and identity to the interplay between the two, defining the territory of its engagement. 

There are no track names, weighing any context heavily onto the title of the release. And the title is apt: there is a calmness and discipline in the ordering of textures that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts. Over the 25 minutes, I sense a tension at play between the human intention of the authors and the inhuman abstraction of the musique concrète-like pure sounds. The quality of intention encourages me to listen into the silence between bursts, listening for the living hand of the artists as they make their decisions for action—and, when these actions occur, to listen into the pure sound in opposition, as primally inhuman, inacoustic, unliving, and absolute.

But importantly, as counterpoint to this abstract palette, the subtle sound of breath underpins the release, halfway between white noise and embodied voice; in a certain way, the release as a whole comes together through an inversion of its own title. As example, about halfway through the second side a brief but clarion voice is heard: “oh, that thing, oh, OK, um…” — a sudden, human clearing in the noise, a playful reification of life behind the ‘death’ that abstraction gestures toward. Deeply expressive. To my ear, there is nothing indulgent here. Many Calmly Ordered Rules of Death is an exceptional context for listening into abstraction through silence.

TVE – “Street Calcium” [Hologram Label, 2019]

TVE
Street Calcium
Hologram Label, 2019
https://hologramlabel.bandcamp.com/album/tve-street-calcium

I love TVE’s oblique nihilism. The sound of nothing, disintegration, incidental sound, and the byproducts of raw mechanisms. A study in negative space. I think their main tool is the reel to reel, likely broken, likely with spliced and degraded tape, shuffling barely along against the head. They have a talent for toeing the line between sense and non-sense, comprehensible sound and sound so warped it’s abstracted from any context. Every now and again, a clearing opens up to reveal the source—a brief 20’s jazz snippet in track 1; clouded voices in track 3; etc.—but is quickly pulled apart again into hiss, burble, and near-silence. I do find it odd that this was released on CD. It feels so germane to magnetic tape that I would think a cassette would be the better medium—but then again, maybe it’s exactly this strange differential between media that wounds me and keeps me coming back.

youtube user ‘nadia’ – “somebody else” by the 1975 but you’re crying in the bathroom of a party [youtube, 2019]

youtube user ‘nadia’
“somebody else” by the 1975 but you’re crying in the bathroom of a party
[uploaded May 23, 2019]

https://youtu.be/lDaFFUov1uE

This is likely old news to everyone, but I only recently discovered the trend of pop songs, “…but you’re crying in the bathroom of a party”. It’s a simple technique: take a pop song, low pass filter it to mimic being in another room, and applying a little reverb to wash out the sound. Some variants include a crowd, some include the door close as the listener enters the bathroom, etc. 

I don’t often listen to pop music (my own failing), but to me this speaks to the essence of pop music. Pop music isn’t there to make some radical claim about the world; it’s there to give voice to a feeling, experience, sentiment. The cynic in me wants to say this is due to marketability, but I don’t think that’s entirely the case; there’s a real value in providing approachable, pleasurable songs that speak to something of the human condition. And I think one important effect of this is to give guideposts to memory and history. I can still recall songs from when I was younger that I associate with a time, a place, and an emotion. When the song comes on, I’m immediately thrown (usually unconsciously, even against my will!) back to that moment. Not just as a distant memory, but in that moment I become that person again; I feel that joy, pain, whatever emotion I associate with the song, as acutely as if I were actually there again.

I think this video, and others in the genre, encapsulates this ephemeral phenomenon, using sadness and melancholy (in addition to nostalgia) as the vessel of the emotional response. To me, it gives voice to something I have a hard time explaining or capturing in words. And although at first blush it seems to indulge in a certain depression, we don’t listen to sad songs to feel sadder—sometimes the opposite. Not that it heals, necessarily, but it forms a solidarity or understanding between the song and the listener. “This song speaks to me”. And I think this solidarity is reflected in the comments of these videos (a screenshot below). There is a common understanding, a common thread through individual and disparate experience. Who hasn’t felt the sting of being spurned, or of making a mistake?

A close friend of mine said this about the video above, and I think it’s too beautiful not to include here:

“No room for interpretation. You are listening to this outside with a cigarette and you’re sad. Great power in that. Weird how our understanding of that space is so unrelated to the song. It’s from where we stood when we listened to it. Outside, alone, having it forced upon you in this semi-safe space. Like a skylight for your heart. …”

screenshot taken May 8, 2021

Francesco Covarino – “Luce / Mantello” [wabi-sabi tapes, 2021]

Francesco Covarino
Luce / Mantello
[wabi-sabi tapes, 2021]

https://wabi-sabi-tapes.bandcamp.com/album/luce-mantello

Field recordings capture a specific time and a place. The sounds of a recording define an entire field of symbols and markers that delineate a precise event within our world. The sound of a particular birdsong native to a region or the city streets in different continents define the specific markers of that location for the listener; we hear the mockingbird, the Citroen, not arbitrary sounds and timbres. And more, we hear the mockingbird flying overhead specifically, the Citroen slowing and passing down the road; we hear each sound as an object and action with causes, effects, contingencies, histories; as a part of the entire complex network of activity within our world.

In Luce / Mantello, Francesco Covarino presents a percussion and field-recording based work on wabi-sabi tapes that is both sparse and complex, engaging the listener in navigating between conceptual layers with minimal tools and playing with our fundamental perception of object, action, and the external world. There is a rawness and immediacy here that bears close and repeated listening.

In the opening track, Luce I, the sound of birdsong and the organic buzz of a rural location outside the artist’s home permeates the stereo field alongside the quiet rustling of metal objects against a hard surface, establishing a disciplined palette within which action takes place. And in these first moments, on a close listen, I found that I was guided into reorienting my mode of engaging with these raw sounds. At first I formed a contrast (even opposition) between the ‘natural’ and organic activity of birdsong and the ‘unnatural’ and artist-imposed percussive elements. I initially was split by this difference between the flow of the natural world and man’s imposition upon it. But as my ear settled into hearing the subtle timbral changes in both, a sort of synthesis between the two sound worlds occurred; a kind of leveling between the two layers, each reduced to their shared and fundamental frequencies, noise, rhythms, and timbres. Between the two disparate sound fields of the natural world and the artist’s percussive hand, a correspondence and counterpoint begins to take shape.

The series of Mantello I and II begins with the close sound of something like footsteps through rough material set against the far-off sound of dogs and the faint call of the mourning dove. The metallic sounds of the first track are contrasted here by a dry snare and floor drum; a deeper, more earthy sound that develops the role of percussive objects while continuing to find subtle correspondences in the field recordings. The scattered, responsive rhythms of the drum mirror the topographies of the field recordings, presenting an accompaniment that draws out and develops detail through patterns of abstracted call and response, and reflexive kinesthetic movements across the drumhead. In the closing piece, Luce II, Covarino returns to the active external world of birdsong; but here, the initial metallic layers are complemented by the floor tom, stick work, and disengaged snare that flowed through the middle pieces, creating an interplay between formal and sonic elements that stimulates imaginative listening into difference, repetition, and variation.

There are no electro-acoustic tricks or special effects here; the percussion is simply and phenomenally recorded with actions taking place across the stereo field such that one can imagine being ‘behind the kit’. But the percussion is situated perfectly against the backdrop of environmental recordings such that it sounds both ‘inside’ the recorded environment and ‘outside’ and in contrast to it. I found that projecting oneself into the sound world of Luce/Mantello is a complicated affair; the dry-recorded percussion does not have added reverberation or the obvious sound profile of a room associated with it, no clues for the listener to situate themselves. The field recordings, on the other hand, situate the listener in a very specific time and place. And this difference between the two roles of sound, to my ear, stimulates a phasing between conceptual layers in the mode of listening. The listener projects themselves simultaneously–and incongruously–into the specific embodied world of the field recording and the spatially alienated world of the percussion. There is a tension between the two; a friction that forces the listener to resolve this incongruence in the activity of listening to the work.

And at its core, for me, this release mediates a fundamental tension between human action and the natural world. By capturing and re-contextualizing the layers of action–in the cosmic scale of the natural environment (birdsong; dogs barking); in the manifestation of humanity’s relation to the world (a car passing; footsteps through gravel or snow; the distant sound of children playing); and in the close, focused, interpretive action of the artist striking a surface, Covarino opens up a moment where we can renegotiate our relationship to the world. The sounds of the everyday enmesh with the sounds of the artist’s movement. Our own footsteps sound like percussion playing patterns on the world.

Luce / Mantello was released on wabi-sabi tapes on January 22, 2021 in an edition of 50. Artwork by Yann Rambaud.

Releasing: Longform Editions: rousay/Deupree/Jensen/Strategy

claire rousay, Taylor Deupree, Clarice Jensen, Strategy
[Longform Editions, 2020]

https://longformeditions.bandcamp.com/

A new batch of releases from the exquisite Australian label “Longform Editions”, available the week of October 12th, 2020. Not to be missed. Below, the message from the label to their followers:

“We’re pondering on how this feels like our darkest edition yet. This hasn’t been by design, though the majority of these pieces were created in the midst of our year of near-stasis and it feels to some extent that may have left its mark. Maybe it’s just us, but among other things, these can speak and respond to our moment – the stillness, the discord and how we are get closer to our core as human beings.
Coming next week.”

ESS: The Quarantine Concerts [Streaming, 2020+]

Experimental Sound Studio + Various
[Live/Streamed, 2020+]

An incredibly vibrant and busy schedule of performances from around the world, covering the spectrum of experimental and free improvised music. Astonishing variety, and so much content it can make your head spin. Luckily, there are series and festivals to help orient the wealth of material. It’s operated by good people and it sounds like it has raised a significant amount of money that goes back to the artists in an otherwise desolate performance landscape. As time goes on, you can expect to see more reviews of ESS/TQC streams while in-person gatherings are on pause.

https://ess.org/the-quarantine-concerts/

Scrappers Film Group draws back the curtain behind the team at ESS that pulls the Quarantine Concerts together.

sammie – “sound squirreling” [New Art City, 2020]

sammie – “sound squirreling”
[New Art City (virtual installation/navigable media), 2020]

https://newart.city/show/sam

Sound, visual, and new media artist sammie creates an immersive, navigable virtual installation. It’s absolutely captivating, with a balance of recognizable in-the-world objects and abstract geometries. A walk through an uncanny valley of rendered mesh, blinding silhouettes, and an eerie resemblance to the ‘netart brut’ of early 2000’s computer graphics experiments.

There are clear instructions on the page, but this virtual space allows you to explore the environment using the arrow keys, slipping ghost-like and disoriented through walls, planes, colors, and objects. Suffice it to say that there is a rich, infinitely complex experience at play in the combination of sound and visuals, whose juxtaposition, transversal, and interpretation is left to the viewer. The work as a whole is written in fairly ‘broad strokes’, and it certainly presents the material in the raw. The minimalism is effective. I am eager to hear, see, and experience the next virtual environments sammie brings to the world.

Access to the work is free, but there is a donation button on the page. This is a huge amount of work in an exciting direction–support the artist if you’re able.

One location within ‘sound squirreling’, by sammie