Tuesday, 29 April 2008

recording diary - April

most of March & April has been taken up with researching & testing some new recording equipment. Now, I have to say that my approach has always been simple is best - I'm not really that interested in taking hours to set up before I press record. However for 'in place' I really wanted to capture the audible silence of various buildings & so the time came to think about getting some nice microphones that would allow me to fully explore...Rode mics came out as amongst the best - in terms of build quality, low self noise levels & are reasonably priced too.

I've always taken my time when it comes to buying new bits of equipment, preferring to make the most of each item that I aquire rather than always rushing to get the newest, latest bit of kit. So a few months ago I started to feel that I wanted to explore further than the minidisc recorders I mainly use (& will continue to use - there's nothing like them for ease of use & always having in your pocket). So, after much advice, research & listening Sound Devices seemed the way to go - again thier build quality was a major factor, along with quiet pre-amps & a range of options that should keep me busy for the quite a while !

So, now it's down to hours of fascinating reading of manuals & trying to get my head around having to know what i'm doing with this new set-up - always has to be done, but I look forward to the day when I can be as intuitive with this equipment as I feel I need to always be...

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Julien Skrobek - temporal windows

Temporal Windows

When I was studying to become a teacher, a doctor came to tell us about the best way to help our future students learn. The question was: why are so many students unable to learn even among those who spend a great amount of time over their books ?

The doctor's answer was: because they let the temporal window opened by the teacher close before they open another one.

When you are given information, its memory fades until you kick in the same information again, and thus reinforce the initial information. The overlap of memory is where the consolidation takes place, and consolidation allows the student to take things further.

I could not refrain from making an analogy with sounds, and this analogy led me to many questions which I have just started to tackle:

-if I hear a note of music, when do I need to hear the next one in order to be able to build upon its trace ?
-If I play with very little overlap between the memory of the sound, is it "music" ?
-is the memory of sound another sound ?

Julien Skrobek

Paris 04.06.08

Julien has a cd available through the freesoftware series - 'Le palais transparent' & also a download release on desetxea - 'Membra disjecta'

Saturday, 5 April 2008

four questions # 3 : Jez riley French

going through the process of asking other artists the four basic question has raised several suggestions that I should answer them myself, so to read this self-interview click here.

Matt Davis - 'Rain'

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute)

Back in my early teens, when my ears were being bombarded with the fast & furious overloaded anthems of the first new wave / punk boom, it was a scratchy old LP of Shakuhachi music from the library in town that offered up an alternative more alternative than all the alternative music I was being sold as alternative ! I ended up buying the LP along with one of Shomyo chanting (click here for a very interesting essay on Shomyo by Hiroshi Nakagawa) when the library had a sale (using them in some early attempts at what I later discovered was called 'tape music'). It wasn’t world music to me, it wasn’t ethnic music – these were terms that didn't register with me at that age & I just thought of it as music. I didn’t see the point in restricting myself to definitions. In a sense I feel that that released me from what seemed to be heavily weighted cultural arguments that would no doubt have sent me running in the other direction at that time. It was that freedom that eventually allowed me to find my own way to look deeper into various traditional forms. I remember being struck not only by the sound of this instrument, as struck as I was by the image on the cover of the player with a round woven basket covering his entire head (the Tengai), but by the spaces & by the way that each piece contained so few notes & yet no more or less than was needed. The sense of space possessed a commanding and intense power that was a revelation to someone who was at that time firmly under the influence of a music industry that had led me to believe that volume equaled power, speed equaled precision.

The shakuhachi tradition has always valued equally not only the notes produced by the player but also the spaces between them and the sound of the environment in which the music was played. It is also one of the most successful at that very difficult balance and despite the band of tie-dyed mysticism junkies attempting to reduce it to nothing more than background music, it is a music that resolutely exists without concern for the transitory fads and fashions of our time.

For those wanting to explore further, releases featuring 'new' or non-traditional music for the instrument are still fairly limited, however the essential starting point has to be: 'in an autumn garden' - Toru Takemitsu (DG). Featuring works for Shakuhachi, Biwa & gagaku orchestra composed between 1966-1973, Toru displays consistant evidence of his unobtrusive, subtle yet deeply inspiring musical language. I could go on & on about these pieces & Takemitsu in general, but i'll save that for another time. All that's to be said about this cd in particular is that it comes very highly recommended & well, just buy it !

In recent months there have been two releases issued on the ‘another timbre’ label featuring the Shakuhachi in both composed and improvised settings:

At03 – Frank Denyer – ‘Music for Shakuhachi – played by Yoshikazu Iwamoto’
At08 – Clive Bell & Bechir Saade (Ney) – ‘An account of my hut’

The Denyer disc is notable for the inclusion of the 45 minute solo composition ‘Unnamed’ which has been something of an elusive landmark in new music for the instrument. Shifting from the barely audible to occasional, somewhat jarring vocal interjections (perhaps destined to unfairly date the work in some circles), this is a composition that stretches the space around the notes to breaking point and leaves one with a distinct sense that Denyer put into this piece only what was essential for him at that time. A master of the instrument, Yoshikazu Iwamoto was also a member of Such, alongisde John Tilbury & Eddie Prevost, whose 1998 double cd on Matchless marked an important step for the Shakuhachi's inclusion in contemporary improvised music.

On the 1991 continuum disc devoted to Denyer’s music, ‘Monkey’s Paw’ (now deleted) , the pieces featuring shakuhachi are strong, but there is much to be gained in devoting a complete cd to this aspect of his output and for that alone another timbre should be applauded.

Kamo no Chomei, the 13th century Japanese poet and buddist monk wrote ‘An account of my hut’ in praise of the isolation and tranquilty he found living in a small hut on Mount Hino as compared to the turbulence of city life. Who knows what he’d have made of an album named after his most famous text & yet recorded in the less than tranquil surroundings of Ealing, London ! (not that one can tell, thanks to the quality and clarity of the recording). Regardless of that the combination of Ney & Shakuhachi is, on paper, not that suprising & with two musicians of this calibre the pairing leads to some nice interplay in these improvised pieces. Bechir is also featured on the earlier ‘Hum’ album, also on another timbre, alongside Rhodri Davies, Matt Davis and Samantha Rebello – well worth checking out. Clive, for those of you who don’t know already, has been playing the shakuhachi (along with the Khene and other Asian wind instruments) for many years and also writes for The Wire. I have to say though that this isn’t an easy disc by any means and will need several more plays to finally reveal all of its intent (nothing wrong with that !). There was something strangely familiar about it on first hearing and due to the almost scientifically precise close-micing (I assume) I found that listening at lower volumes allowed the 'music' to emerge from within the sound of the techniques employed (which are, of course, interesting in thier own right). This is one of only a handful of releases that places the shakuhachi, & the Ney for that matter, firmly within the current flow of improvised music. It makes one eager to hear more.

So, two more interesting releases from this new-ish label, however I’d like to finish this post with some other personal recommendations for those who are unfamiliar with the shakuhachi:

Takemitsu‘In an autumn garden’ (DG) – essential cd of Toru’s music for Shakuhachi & Biwa
Yoshikazu Iwamoto – ‘The spirit of wind’ (Buda)
Yoshikazu Iwamoto – ‘The spirit of silence (Buda)
Such (Yoshikazu Iwamoto, John Tilbury & Eddie Prevost) - 'The issue at hand' (Matchless)
‘Japanese masterpieces for the Shakuhachi’ (Lyrichord)
Various – ‘Music of the shakuhachi’ (JVC/Victor)
Kohachiro Miyata – ‘Shakuhachi – the Japanese flute’ (Nonesuch)
Goro Yamaguchi & Judo Notomi – ‘Le shakuhachi’ (Auvidis)
Goro Yamaguchi – ‘Great masters of the shakuhachi flute’ (Auvidis)
Katsuya Yokoyama – ‘Zen – classical shakuhachi masterworks’ (Wergo)

Eric Cordier - extract from 'Osorezan'

interview with Eric below....


Polenta - March 2008

recording diary - March

this month has been far too full of writing applications and planning this years 'seeds & bridges' concert series, hence I haven't done much recording.

. i've finally started work on the 'audible silence' release, which features recordings of engraved glass (windows, bowls etc). Both the title of this disc & indeed the name of the label I run 'engraved glass' come about via my long standing liking of the work by poet & glass engraver, Laurence Whistler. Hopefully this 3inch cd will be released in the summer after I record further some of his windows in Cambridge & Oxford.

. A drive in early March led to two local nature reserves & I tested out a new Hi-Md minidisc recorder. To be honest though the main thing that came from this session was it reminded me just how little space there is in the UK. Both these reserves are simply flooded with road noise. That adds another dimension of course, but it makes one long for the wide open spaces of the dales & moors (& even there it can be hard to escape the sound of traffic).

. Food ! I really enjoy cooking (well, most of the time that is) & decided mid-stir to record a particulary audible batch of yellow polenta. A clip of this recording is posted above.

. In preparation for some works for trio & quartet later in the year, I also attempted some more fence wire recordings out at Faxfleet, close to the river humber. There's a nice stretch of long wires running alongside a small pond here & the location means that there are few passing dog walkers to add thier own sounds ! + a rather nice metal fence post on the drive to the old farm house there (which I have recorded a fair bit & was looking forward to doing so again until I found that it is being 'redeveloped' !).

two horse-themed trips were foiled: one to record a point-to-point meeting that I abandoned when I saw that they were charging £30 to see it (!) - bloody liberty, in these here parts 'point-to-point' used to mean a fairly casual & free country pursuit. The other trip went ahead but I forgot my microphones !

o.sone - 'Passerelle' (and/oar and/29cd) - for mp3 extract click here

Documented on this CD is a site-specific sound installation / performance given by °Sone (pronounced "osone"), a project of Yannick Dauby, Christophe Havard & Hughes Germain. The only sounds used were from within the walls of the building where the event took place, channeled and recorded using large transducers and then mixed and broadcast back into the main space of the building. Further mp3 extracts can be found at: http://o.sone.free.fr/passerelle.html

Angharad Davies & Tisha Mukarji - 'endspace' (another timbre AT05cd)

The line between improvisation and certain forms of composition has often been blurred and hard to define. Are those terms mutually exclusive? Are they sometimes just semantics? Well, for many the term ‘composition’ should never extend to anything not written down, not set in stone. However equally it could be argued that improvisation means without prior knowledge, without elements of the compositional process (shape, form, outcome, etc).

There are examples out there of
music that has such a coherent structure, such a successful musical arc that it extends way beyond the most widely referenced definitions of that term. Of course these definitions aren’t always important, except that many people rely on them in order to decide what to listen to, what recording to purchase or what performance to attend. So, in that context, if you’re interested in improvised music, contemporary composition, both or, more to the point, music of artistic quality, with the ability to challenge and bring pleasure - that indefinable thing that can be examined and analyzed but never fully explained, buy this recording, live with it & allow it to exist in your listening.

Angharad is one of those rare musicians who uses space with an uncanny ease and liquidity that makes it as much a part of her music as the sounds coming from her violin and bow. In recent years she has become one of the most understated, under represented (compared to the slurry of releases some artists produce) but vital improvisers around. Actually having just written the word ‘improviser’ in reference to Angharad it has reminded me how this term seems to be becoming less able to sum up certain artists output. Anyway, that’s another discussion.

Tisha’s playing of inside piano / square piano frame had previously been documented on her solo disc for Creative Sources ‘D is for din’ and I’d say that listening to the solo disc & then ‘endspace’ would serve as a good example for how highly successful interaction can influence each participants individual contribution dramatically. These two artists have such a lyrical and tangible respect for both the space and interplay between them that the performance is as precise in its musical success and ability to communicate its creative impulse that it seems destined to become a milestone recording for this area of music.

‘endpace’ is an album that inspires and no doubt will increase the number of musicians attempting similar feats, but which at the same time instantly pushes the music forward and away from repetition.

In the coming weeks there will another post on the music of Angharad Davies & one on Tisha too hopefully. Meanwhile a link to Angharad's website & that of ‘another timbre’ can be found in the link list.

additional comments (added 21-3-08): following two conversations about this release & indeed this blog in general i've decided to add the following:

1) I use the term 'space' in reference to Angharad's playing & it has been pointed out to me that this recording features very little 'space' in terms of silence. Well, I believe the use of space doesn't have to just apply to moments of emptiness. It can refer to stillness and the use of 'space' in terms of placement for example. I think it has, over the course of the last 50 or so years, become a more explorative musical term in itself and both defined and challenged by current developments in improvisation and composition.

2) emotions: I was asked 'do I talk about my emotions on the blog' & it occured to me that I haven't done this much yet. However, for me emotions are at the heart (!) of why I do what I do, enjoy what I enjoy & indeed why I decided to create this blog. So, in the context of this post i'd like to add that whenever I put this recording into the cd player there's a sense of excitement. A sense of sheer pleasure - pleasure at the simple act of listening to music that inspires and creates an engaging musical pressence in my living room & a pleasure at listening to music that adds to my daily life in different ways. At the very core of why I value this release, this music is that it has a positive effect when I listen to it and I know that it will continue to offer things to me for a long time to come. It's a recording that will sink in, that extends beyond its surface and that continues to offer new details on each hearing.

Eisuke Yanagisawa (Japan)

- I recorded the water dripping in my hotel bathroom, Kontum, Vietnam. The sounds seemed to be come from the broken water pipe. I like to record the water dripping sounds because it always contain random rhythm, delicate melody and subtle overtones which differs depending on the physical contact surface and the spatial size. In this recording the bathroom surroundings added the small but good reverberations - Eisuke Yanagisawa

Further field recordings by Eisuke (Japan) can be found at:


eisuke bathroom mp3.mp3

noid interview (+ mp3 extract) - click here to read....

'Septet' (meenna-333cd) - click here for link to MP3 extracts

Let me get my personal view of this release out of the way first - I like it !

The history of the use of 'space' (defined in this context as sections of a performance that contain no conventional music) within non-classical music has largely been about dramatic pauses or compositional effects. In more recent years there has been an increased use of said space as an equal part of musical structure or in 'sound art'.

This release is perhaps the most extreme example of space as structure in performance yet documented. There are very, very few sounds coming from the six artists listed (all of whom are well established in thier own right) & those that do emerge are often more to do with thier movements rather than the effect they have on thier instruments.

Takefumi Naoshima: mixing board
Hirozumi Takeda: guitar
Utah Kawasaki: guitar
Mitsuteru Takeuchi: flute
Toshihiro Koike: trombone
Takahiro Kawaguchi: remodeled counters
Yasuo Totsuka: compressor

My own experience of using space during improvisation or intuitive composition has been influenced by my enjoyment of making field recordings, in so much as when there are periods of 'no music' I have always been aware of the sound of the venue or surroundings then filling that space. In fact, by & large, that has been a large part of my reason for having that space as part of what I do.

I dare say there are as many different thoughts about this release as there are listeners. I've heard people discuss it as an example of conceptual sound art & i've heard others describe it as a new form of music. For me I have to say that when I listen to this recording I do simply that - just listen, let the sound, the music tell me about itself (jesus ! that sounded a bit new age !).

If you order this disc direct from IMJ you also get the bonus disc of the Septet's live performance at Mitaka city arts centre & this adds massively to the enjoyment of both discs. One can hear the difference in the ambient sounds of the two locations (the main disc is a studio improvisation) & for me at least this aspect is really interesting.

I was tempted to contact some of the members of this septet and ask them questions such as:
'has the experience of playing often very quiet improvisation led to being more aware of the sound of the performance area & does this recording represent aspects of that in some way ?'

& then I got a grip & remembered that these artists have said what they want to say already by releasing this work + that, even though i've started this blog to write about music / sound, it is of course just as important (more so if you ask me !) to not seek explanations or ask questions.

That said, I did want to include this release here in order to highlight the fact that the term 'field recording' shouldn't be defined too strictly by certain people. I know there are many who regard it as 'the capture of natural sound' & actually mean the sound of nature. Well, regardless of whether it is what motivated the members of this septet, on this release we do hear the natural sound of artists and thier movements and indeed some elements of environmental sound too.

forthcoming on the blog

first up will be a short interview with Arnold Haberl (Noid) + a review of his Hibari disc 'you're not here'

& then there will posts relating to work by:

Yannick Dauby, Hughes Germain, Christophe Havard, Dale Berning, Yamagisawa Eisuke, Kiyoshi Mizutani, Benedict Drew, Eric Cordier, Julien Skrobek, Daniel Jones & more....

the area covered by this blog extends to aspects of 'space' within music and sound - the way in which the architecture of a piece is influenced by those spaces, silent or filled with the ambient sound of the listening environment....

keep your eyes and ears open....

this years work....

June: residency at Skolska 28 gallery / open studios - Prague, Czech republic + performance in Brno (with Ivan Palacky)

July: 'in place....' recording at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge & the Jacqueline Du Pre building in Oxford.

July / August / September: works for strung trio & quartet (dates tbc)

September / October: collaboration with Heleen Van Haegenborgh (piano) - tbc

throughout 2008: various 'in place....' recording sessions, performances & workshops across the UK, including work with in collaboration with English Heritage and the Humber Bridge Board.

Jez riley French - 'field recordings volume 21'

Jez riley French - 'Field recordings Volume 21' (engraved glass - egcdfr021)

contains recordings of river life, sluice gates, marina jetty, tables, fence wires & fence plates. The tracks were all recorded in the UK at various location except for the tables, which were recorded in Vienna.

pressed, high quality cdr £7.99 inc p&p (order by paypal to tempjez (at) hotmail.com or via IMJ, Sound 323, and/oar etc.

Review (Richard Pinnell, Bagatellen):
Its far from an original analogy, but I tend to think of field recording in a similar manner to photography. A good recording can capture a familiar moment with skilful clarity, presenting the natural beauty of what surrounds us as an object to admire. However it can also reveal hidden detail, a moment captured and framed that maybe we hadn’t previously noticed, or something out of the normal reach of the human ear.

Along with his contemporaries, the likes of Toshiya Tsunoda, Lee Patterson and Jeph Jerman, Jez riley French’s recent work has focussed on the latter category, amplifying tiny vibrations and uncovering small details often found at the point where natural forces meet man-made objects.

The subject matter of the recordings on Field Recordings Vol.21 ticks many of the appropriate boxes for this area of music. The wire fences, hydrophone recordings and working marinas and jetties presented here are all current favourites of the modern field recordist, and so some of these recordings do sound vaguely familiar if, like me, you listen to a lot of this kind of material. Despite this however, the majority of the other-worldly sounds still grab the attention, and their capture and presentation is very well executed. Peculiarly, their form and shape occasionally resembles the familiar patterns of improvised music, drones intercepted by sharp sounds, and prickly little details nestling amongst distant, repetitious echoes. In general these recordings portray a sense of unsettling awkwardness, a feeling of slight removal from our normal perception of everyday hearing. The naturally occurring beauty of the sounds suggests we should be more comfortable with them, but their alien qualities make that difficult.

riley French can often be found improvising live with field recordings forming a part of his music alongside closely-miked objects. Here though all of the material comes straight from untreated field recordings, and it is his ability to track down sites to make recordings of such intriguing detail that transfers into the key feature of this release, the continuous state of wonder at the sounds found out there just beyond our normal listening threshold.... should definitely be on the shopping list of those interested in the creative use of field recordings, and probably a few other people too.

generator pieces 2727807

Jez riley French - 'generator pieces 2727807' (engraved glass egcdgp001)

pressed, high quality cdr can be ordered by paypal to tempjez (at) hotmail.com (£6 inc. p&p) or via IMJ, Sound 323, and/oar.

‘generator pieces 2727807’ consists of three intuitive / improvised compositions using a series of field recordings made during my residency at Generator projects, Dundee.

Each of the ‘onsite’ pieces focuses on different aspects of the various spaces, structures and objects within the building – as follows (in the order in which each sound is introduced):

‘onsite one’
– the door of gallery 1
– the ambient sound of the gallery 1 space
– the internal electrical sounds of various objects in the office
– alarm box
– rain as recorded via the roof poles
– sink piping
– kettle

‘onsite two’
– seagulls walking on the roof
– various recordings of the roof poles (these include both naturally occurring sounds recorded by attaching contact microphones to the poles and also recordings of the poles being rubbed and lightly struck by myself)
– the ambient sound of the gallery 2 space

The ‘offsite’ piece focuses on sounds recorded using handmade hydrophones in the waters of Dundee & Broughty Ferry – as follows:

– river (plant life, insects, small fish)
– broughty ferry beach waves (recorded under the sand)
– otters and (unexpected !) dolphins
– river (plant life, insects, small fish)

the photographs:
during my residency at Generator projects I also explored the space by taking photographs of small, overlooked details. The six images used on the cd cover are of a ladder splattered with paint. I feel that they sit well alongside the music and the idea of this release.

I have always made field recordings using simple methods and without much preparation – that, for me is the joy of discovery and I prefer to not focus on the process of attempting to make the ‘perfect’ recording by means of extensive preparation. After all the concept of what is perfect must always remain personal and not something imposed on others by any individual.
Every space, environment or object reveals its own nature and its own set of quirks. With these recordings made at the Generator projects building and around the local area there were several problems that resulted in my having no choice but to allow these quirks to directly affect the resulting pieces. After all what happened at the time, happened at the time. Equipment making new noises, contact microphones breaking, hydrophones being displaced by strong waves – these have lent unexpected elements to the music on this disc. As I have been an improvising musician for many years I believe my ears & instinct naturally is tuned towards a more intuitive way of working and accepting the elements of chance. To control each recording situation is not my aim and indeed, seems to me to overlook one of the most joyous aspects of field recording – the element of unexpected discovery.

Review - Richard Pinnell / Bagatellen:

Generator Pieces 2727807 is a quite different album. Described by riley French as “intuitive / improvised compositions” the three compositions here were constructed during his residency at a Dundee, Scotland art gallery entitled Generator Projects from recordings he made in and around the space.

The sounds used on Onsite One the first of the three pieces vary from rain on the roof of the building to the electronic emissions of the gallery’s office equipment. Roughly speaking we are presented with a series of vaguely industrial sounding layers, mostly extended droning tracks that are brought in and out of the piece as it progresses. The way riley French builds the sounds to a considerable roar, only to peel them back slowly, revealing the details beneath is nice, like stripping wallpaper down through its various layers of colour and texture. As the track progresses on through its twenty seven minutes however this technique wears a little thin, and the basic structure of the piece doesn’t evolve enough to retain my interest.

Although beginning in a similar manner the second piece recorded onsite at the gallery is given an extra dimension as riley French added direct human input to the recordings, tapping on poles on the roof that were hooked up to microphones to bring a distant, echoing percussion to the composition. The most interesting part of the piece however comes around halfway in as a recording of external sounds from the roof begins to drift up from the lower reaches of the mix, briefly coming into the foreground as the cry of seagulls can be heard. The juxtaposition of this familiar intrusion with the abstraction of the other sounds works well, reminding the listener of the origin of the material used at the same time as reconfiguring it into new forms.

The final, much shorter track on the album blends four field recordings made away from the gallery at watery sites, local rivers and the beach at Dundee, where the crashing of waves are captured by a mic placed under the sand. Plant and animal life mix with the sounds of rushing water into a nice little piece that somehow manages to take a different, refreshing slant on what might on paper not seem the most original of subject matter. The sparkling details within this last track, Offsite kept me captivated, and ironically on this occasion I wanted the piece to last longer.

the music of places....

I wanted to briefly clarify that this blog is not about the science or theory that explores the relationship between space & sound. That is best left to others whose interest is in the discussion of theory and the measurement of sound.

My starting point stems from a long standing, joyous and explorative approach to listening to the spaces I find myself in & the emotive aspect of that 'music'.

The relationship between architecture and ambient sound is indeed fascinating and an area that is generating some very interesting research, however I am concerned here with how we can imagine music and, for me at least, the process of listening to sound in a musical manner offers a rich and rewarding range of experiences. Any theory that stems from that is of course valid and valuable, but the intention of the 'in place....' project is to retain that initial and emotive response.

I find increasingly that the pure sound, the pure music of environments is somewhat becoming lost under the weight of the scientific approaches applied and in some circles is being taken hostage by the term 'sound art'. The problem with that being that that term comes with a history and a whole suitcase full of definitions, anti-definitions, structures & non-structures. Each piece of 'sound art' exploring this area stands on by it's own merits of course, however I believe that we have to be careful not to lose the simple and equally important, equally artistic experience of listening, recording and drawing inspiration from the un-defined, un-catagorized act of opening our ears & of hearing music.

Yui Onodera - 'Suisei' (and/oar)

'Suisie' (and/oar)

released at the back end of 2007, this peice for field recordings and pump organ is well worth checking out.

click on the title of this post for more info + MP3 extract

Francisco Lopez - 'Wind (Patagonia)' (and/oar)

click on name of this post to read notes submitted to the blog by Francisco & for further info & reviews:

There's a branch of field recordists who's interest is in recording the sound of nature. That's great, except very few seem to approach this area without blinkers. Many regard the sound of 'nature' mainly as the sound of living things and water & most will gladly discuss for hours the problems of wind noise. For these folks 'wind' is something to be avoided, to be prevented & not part of the sound of nature. That argument doesn't hold up - it is more to do with thier wish to control the environments they record.

On this release (part of Francisco's trilogy of the Americas) the entire composition is made up of untreated recordings of wind across the plains of Pategonia. Here we have a true sound of nature. One that we can't control & one that, given the view of it as a problem for sound recording for so long, has retained it's sense of power and natural complexity.

Yannick Dauby - Fevrier (Cherry music)

Yannick Dauby - 'Fevrier' (Cherry music)

As an artist (whatever definition one applies to that term) the most difficult struggle is to not struggle- to simply create.

Gathering pace, the use of field recordings in music or as a presentation of pure sound is subject to the same pressures. However, somewhere between the endless stock of bland new age environmental recordings on the market and the plethora of releases showcasing artists who apply heavy, rough, unskilled hands to natural sounds, there are a few who’s subtle, imaginative approach to field recording is creating an art of lasting importance.
Following the outstanding ‘in drawing’ cd, Cherry have added another fine release to this small, select area.

Having said that, I confess that I struggled with the intense, almost brutal deluge that emerges from the thunder storm of the first (18 minute) track on ‘Fevrier’. The ferocity of sound seems designed to remind us of our inability to escape the power of nature. So, I suppose, Yannick has indeed succeeded in capturing the sound with its power intact.

The 5 tracks on this cd are all based around field recordings – some are obvious and some are more to do with the search for hidden sounds in our environment. Yannick is one of the few who can also apply various technical processes in order to ‘compose’ pieces from his recordings without the results sounding like electro-acoustic / phonographic garbage.

The combination of his respectful skills when using natural sound and Cherry music’s high level approach to the quality of their releases makes ‘Fevrier’ a fine addition to it’s catalogue.

review by Jez riley French

'in drawing' (cherry music) review

‘In drawing’ (cherry music – cherry001)

The word ‘small’ is one I like. For me I always think of something subtle, with shape and a pleasing form that can be held in some way. Of course it can mean ‘without substance’ but in terms of music, for me it is a word to be used to convey an piece that fits, that we can take in and does not involve force. Music that communicates without unnecessary elements.

The label’ Cherry music’ is a small label….one that aims for a creative balance between the music on the disc and the physical object itself. ‘In drawing’ is the labels first non cd-r release and it features unprocessed field recordings by 6 artists who clearly find the music and sound in their everyday life is something to be treated with an enjoyable respect.

What makes this cd stand out from the countless other collections of field recordings available is that the choices made by the artist remain, for the large part, inspired by the simple joy of discovery. It is a very fine line between a recording that celebrates the sound itself and one that exists to illustrate an artist’s theoretical outlook.

The pieces on ‘In drawing’ are all very different of course. Some contain gentle hums from air conditioners as in the piece by Asuna, the sounds of café music and crockery that feature in ‘La grande illusion’ by Yasuo Totsuka, the water and wind around ‘Isla Genovesa’ captured by Chris Watson or (and I’m guessing here) the effects of placing a microphone inside a hollow metal tube on the opening track by Justino (ruidobello). Only the track by Takahiro Kawaguchi ruffles your ears slightly with animal sounds that are strange and somewhat daunting.
Then there’s the track by Ami Yoshida’s who adds to our understanding of her artistic outlook by contributing the quietest piece on this cd. For an artist who is known for her ability to raise the smallest sound into something of amplified detail, her recording is simply impossible to represent in mere words. For me that is the sign of truly inspired and authentic field recordings. If these sounds could be captured in a written language there would be less point in listening to them and sometimes we should put aside our human need for things to have an explanation and simply let them be what they are. The temptation with all of these pieces is to listen in order to try to work out what made these sounds. Do yourself and the artists a favour and resist that temptation because you might end up missing the essence of these pieces.

As someone who has also been recording natural music / sound for many years I can honestly say that Cherry music have approached the concept of field recording in a way that any artist would find a rewarding experience.

All of the pieces on this highly recommended disc should be simply allowed to be what they are: fascinating, rewarding, subtle and therefore powerful pieces of natural music.

review by Jez riley French

Noid - 'you're not here' (Hibari-12 cd) - click here for mp3 extract

I met noid (aka Arnold Haberl) for the first time in Lisbon during 2006 and had a chance during that visit to perform with him in an improvised concert. If memory serves there were at least 10 people performing in the group that night, yet it was noid's minimal contributions on cello that stayed in the memory. So when I received the info about this release I had no hesitation in ordering up my copy.

Writing about music is always a delicate balance between conveying the nature of it and keeping hold of the simple pleasure of being a listener. ‘you’re not here’, released on Taku Unami’s Hibari imprint features recordings of empty rehearsal rooms and concert halls. Throughout the main 65 minute composition it's possible to experience that all too rare thing in field recording, having a music drift in and out of ones conscious perception. In this way noid has managed to produce a work that does indeed retain something of an architectural presence, a work that can be listened to closely or can mingle in with the ambient sounds of our surroundings, wrong footing our perception of what we hear.

Of course all of the ‘empty’ spaces recorded are far from silent and like all good field recordings this cd allows us to re-listen and to experience aspects of these environments that one can often filter out.

‘you’re not here’ is essential listening.

mp3 extract: http://www.ftarri.com/cdshop/goods/hibari/yourenothere2.mp3

Interview by email – March 2008

JrF: firstly, some background info. Until the release of this cd I knew of you mainly as a cellist. Can you briefly explain when and why you started to make field recordings ?

noid: In fact I was experimenting with field recordings since I started to work with dancers which was around 1995. I was using it first as material for this work, not being satisfied with samples I could find on my very small music-collection or in other available resources. Also it became clear quickly, that sample collections are not an option, focusing too much on special effects and acoustic clichés. Also these samples are always way too short and soon I discovered the great field of using microphone and headphones as a listening experience, as a tool to understand better what I hear, to research differences in listening directly or using technical equipment, or remembering a scene and listening to a recording of this scene...

JrF: Do you see a connection between the highly focused listening process of playing contemporary improvisation / composition and your interest in listening to spaces ?

noid: definitely! as I see it listening is the only base for music you can rely on, not only for contemporary / improvised music, but for any music.

JrF: Indeed. So on 'you're not here' you have captured the sound of empty rehearsal rooms and concert halls - what, for you, is the importance of the spaces you chose to record ? Were these, for example, chosen because of their sound or because they were spaces that you knew already in their original context ?

noid: I don't think the selection of the spaces is important, it could be any. I didn't really choose them, I made this recordings when ever I had the opportunity. More important is that I know these places, I was working in most of them. This is also not important for the listener, it was only important for me in the compositional process. Also I can say that I wouldn't know how to choose, the recordings were surprising me every time. It was more the curiosity of "how is this one" rather than a specific searching.

(note from JrF: this way of recording, a sense of exploration appeals to me very much too and I can say that noid has managed to capture this element of his approach in the finished composition)

JrF: This sense of exploration and surprise is, as far as I’m concerned, very often the difference between good and not so good field recording works. I wonder if, as a cellist too, you can see a parallel between the process of ‘learning’ an instrument and the occasional need to allow that learning to subside in order to move forward as an artist and the fact that as we spend more time recording we, of course, become more knowledgeable about the possible results but for some aspects of ones creative work we perhaps endure those times and wait for the sense of discovery to return naturally ?

noid: well, yes, I think learning processes are pretty much the same everywhere, but i don't have anything against skills and knowledge. Also I think a perfectly predictable result can still be a very good result. Curiosity can take place in various layers of a project. the recording process itself can be totally functional, that doesn't mean anything for the quality in the end. As well as the playing skills on an instrument can be the matter of interest or just a necessary tool, in the end it's all about composition.

JrF: Yes, I guess the aspect of explorative suprise is a fine balance and of course not always part of the process. It is perhaps an obvious question, but was your idea on this recording to capture the sound of empty spaces or to highlight the fact that no space is empty ?

noid: There were quite a lot of ideas crossing my mind during this work and I found the complexity of the setup fascinating. There are a lot of possible readings, but I didn't work on the readings, I was working on the text. The reason for starting the work was pure fascination for the recordings themselves, for the variety and complexity of the sounds where I didn't expect them. Also the really nice balance between perceptibility and abstraction that offers various layers for imagination.

JrF: In you liner notes you state that your aim was to 'construct an imaginary building' - alongside the sound of this building did you have in your mind a visual picture of it ? If so how did this effect your approach to the recording process ?

noid: This building was the key for the composition and I am in fact referring to a real building from which I saw the reconstruction. It's the Mies Van Der Rohe pavillion in Barcelona. In the composition process I was mapping the sounds and the silences to specific areas, spots or views of this pavillion and then following a path along that. I have to admit it's a very traditional way of composing though...
I was even thinking of mentioning the reference in the liner notes, but I don't think it is important for the listener to know, and also i'm more interested in the idea that listeners can construct their own building.

JrF: I find listening to this cd a joy & in many ways it's hard to ask you questions about it. I wonder if you had any hope for how it would be heard ? Did you have any idea of what you were creating by releasing these recordings to the public & did that act transform them in any way for you.

noid: as mentioned above I don't think I can predict readings or listenings of what I produce. I'm only offering an object. The only thing I can do is be as clear as possible in the object itself. I'm happy that people find something like joy in approaching this object as well as they find things, that for instance, that make them ask me interesting questions.

For further artist info + a great selection of mp3’s take a look at: http://noid.klingt.org/

releases by Jez riley French

forthcoming: Jez riley French - 'audible silence' pieces based on recordings of engraved glass (2008)

egcdfr021 - Jez riley French - 'field recordings volume 21' (2007)

egcdgp001 - Jez riley French - 'generator pieces 2727807' (2007)

gruenrekorder release - 'Rhythm' (compilation) (2007)

gruenrekorder download release - 'Autumn leaves' (2007)

Moar (and/oar) MP3 release - Gogooo (featuring Jez riley French) - 'a cote' (2007)

rain music download release - 'rain is pretty music' (2007)

egcdr0041 - Jez riley French - 'two events #1' (2007)

egcdr040 - Jez riley French - 'Church flower stand # 2' (3in release) (2007)

egcdr (no number) Jez riley French & Lee Patterson - 'live at seeds & bridges' (2006)

egcdfr020 - Jez riley french - 'field recordings volume 20' (2006)

egcdr (no number) - Jez riley French - 'photo film' (compilation) (2006)

egcdr (no number) - Jez riley French - 'book series # 1' (3in release) (2005)

egcdr (no number) - Jez riley French - 'book series # 2' (3in release) (2005)

egcdfr019 - Jez riley French - 'field recordings vol. 19' (2004)

egcdr (no number) - Various - 'ime compilation' (2004)

egcdr (no number) - Sudek (Jez riley French) - '60 short pieces for guitar' (2004) - out of print

egcdr (no number) - Brzeska (Jez riley French) - 'maybe everything you hope....' (double cdr) (2004)- out of print

egcdr (no number) - Jez riley French - 'clear inputs vol. 2' (2003)

egcdr (no number) - Jez riley French - 'field recordings vol.18' (2002) - out of print

egcdr (no number) - Jez riley French - 'clear inputs vol. 1' (2001)

egcdr (no number) - Brzeska (Jez riley French) - 'with a coney' (2000) - out of print

Jez riley French - ‘brzeska than capra’ – engraved glass (1999) - out of print

all earlier releases are out of print.

Francisco Lopez - 'Wind (Patagonia)' (and/oar)

click on the title of this post for more info & reviews etc.

Francisco passed on this text of the liner notes for this release & gave permission for them to be reproduced here - thanks Francisco !. it should be pointed out however that, as some of the reviews have mentioned, no amount of writing can capture the nature of this release (which is a good thing if you ask me).

Wind [Patagonia] is a work that has been created under the same perspective than La Selva (V2_Archief V228, 1998; featuring sound environments from the Costa Rican jungle) and Buildings [New York] (V2_Archief, V232, 2001; featuring inner sound environments of buildings in New York City). Non-processed, not mixed environmental sound matter from a certain ‘reality’. An appraisal of the richness and essential qualities of the original sonic material. A non-referential intention. An extreme phenomenological immersion led by anti-rationality and anti-purposefulness. A world devoid of human presence. A passion for drones and their inner universe; that perceptually ‘invisible’ matrix of broad-band noise that is constantly flowing around us, both in nature and in man-made environments. A tour de force of profound listening in which every listener has to face his/her own freedom and thus create.

In Patagonia, vastness and solitude are shaped and reinforced by the constant presence of wind. Contrary to the stereotype of barren empty spaces as ‘quiet’, wind creates there –as in many other places- a relentless environment of sonic strength. Wind is an invisible force that most of the time is hearable through transducers such as plants, rocks, sand, snow or ice. It affects the perception of space, distance, weather and even our own body. As sonic matter, it seems to be made up of an outmost simplicity and gives the illusion of uniformity. That is why its richness is so astonishing and engaging. Wind recordings are essentially a broad-band substance that reconfigures itself in its spectrum composition and its dynamics at every instant, very often with sudden shifts and turns that simultaneously change the virtual space of the recording at an unpredictable and complex pace. Because of these particular features, and of its lack of traditional tonal or rhythmic character, wind might be the ultimate challenge for those seeking ‘music’ in nature in the naive thrill of similarities between natural sonic events and human-made structures.

Francisco López, November 2005.

The Sublime and the Sonic Life of Nature

Christoph Cox

Wind [Patagonia] marks the final installment in Francisco López’s “Trilogy of the Americas,” the sound artist’s magnum opus. Geographically, the trilogy covers the western hemisphere, from New York City to the southern tip of Argentina. Temporally, it spans López’s career, from his emergence in the mid-1990s to his current status as one of the world’s leading sound artists. In this and other ways, the trilogy offers a kind of intellectual and artistic biography of the Spanish-born artist. Trained as an entomologist, López’s initial attraction to the world of “broad-band sound” and “acousmatic listening” was prompted by his fieldwork in Central American rainforests, spaces dense with sound, the sources of which, however, remain largelyhidden from view. The first disc in the series, La Selva, openly acknowledges this provenance of López’s art. On first hearing, it might seem to be a traditional nature recording that archives the characteristic sounds of a particular place, in this case, the Costa Rican rainforest preserve that gives the disc its title. Yet, inspired by musique concrète pioneer Pierre Schaeffer, López affirms the fact that the every recording casts itself adrift from the contingencies of source and place, and that this separation and abstraction allows the listener to hear this material differently: as pure sound matter.[1] <#_ftn1>

Dedicated to the exploration of such pure sound matter, López is unconcerned with the distinctions between nature and culture, the organic and the inorganic. He is as interested in the squawk of the Red-lored parrot as he is in the hum of air ducts and the rattle of boilers. Indeed, the trilogy’s second part, Buildings [New York], demonstrates that the fabricated soundscape of New York City is as rich, varied, and delightful as the lush life of the tropical rainforest. The city’s architecture reveals itself to have a sort of inorganic life, to be a collection of oversized bodies built of steel, concrete, plastic, and glass the mechanical arteries of which pulse with air, water, electricity, and binary code. The final piece in the trilogy, Wind [Patagonia], brings this trajectory full circle. The simplest and most elegant of the three, it further explores the non-biotic sound sources that intrigued López in the rainforest, in this case the sonic power of air gusts and currents.

Of course, López makes it clear that none of his recordings are neutral presentations of sonic environments. Rather, they are compositions, the result of a series of artistic decisions that include the choice of material and its framing. Wind [Patagonia] highlights one such choice, a sine qua non of field recording: the choice of microphones. The distorted blasts foregrounded in the first few minutes of the piece remind us that the perception of sound involves not only a source of vibration but also a receptive surface—the vibrating membranes of the microphone and eardrum. Anyone who has taken a walk on a windy day knows that the sound of wind is as much in here as it is out there. And, just as, in La Selva, we do not hear rain itself but the impact of rainwater on leaves and soil, so, in Wind [Patagonia], we hear the wind only as it flutters—and occasionally overloads—the microphone’s diaphragm. Beyond its documentary status, then, Wind [Patagonia] draws our attention to the very nature of sound, hearing, and recording. The composition focuses on the very medium of sonic transport (air). It highlights the fact that wind and sound are simply the results of pressure changes in that medium. And it provokes our awareness that hearing is the translation of that pressure into electric signals in the microphone and ear.

Aesthetically, Wind [Patagonia] references the ancient tradition of the aeolian harp and aeolian flute, musical instruments constructed to be played by the wind. Yet, like wind chimes, such instruments domesticate, humanize, and musicalize the wind. López is interested in something else: in the intensity and impact of the wind itself, its elemental force and non-human power. The difference between these two sensibilities is captured by a distinction that became prominent in the 18th century and that has been revived in postmodern aesthetic discourse: the distinction between “the beautiful” and “the sublime.” For theorists such as Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant, the beautiful offers a positive pleasure, the aesthetic enjoyment of tones and forms that are determinate and harmonious, operating within the scope of the human imagination.[2] <#_ftn2> The sublime, too, offers pleasure, but a pleasure mixed with pain, the tension and agitation that arises from forms that are indeterminate because they exceed the human grasp. To exemplify the sublime, Burke and Kant draw examples from nature: the awesome scale and power of mountains, storms, and volcanos, for example. López’s Patagonian winds have just this ferocious beauty and immensity. Periods of calm are followed by the most violent eruptions. Delicate whispers combine with wild swarms and eddies undergirded by deep bass punches. And all of this produced by an invisible force that endlessly sweeps the surface of the globe. With this, we are no longer in the tidy world of human music, but have entered the sublime domain of natural sound.

The philosopher Gilles Deleuze presents a materialist description of nature not in terms of things but entirely in terms of self-directed flows and processes. Ignoring the disciplinary boundaries between geology, biology, linguistics, economics, sociology, etc., Deleuze describes all these flows as the results of dynamic, intensive processes of difference and differentiation.[3] <#_ftn3> López offers a similar description of audible nature. For López, the world of “broad-band sound” is a ubiquitous and endlessly fascinating world of forces, flows, and complex systems of interaction and self-regulation. Wind, for example, is simply a name for differences in air pressure and temperature that generate currents, streams, fronts, and bursts on the earth’s surface. Wind [Patagonia] makes these forces and flows fully audible and draws our attention to this general feature of the natural world. The flora and fauna of the Costa Rican rainforest, the inorganic life of New York City architecture, the turbulent winds of Patagonia—all provide different aural openings onto the perpetual flow of broad-band sound that constitutes the sonic life of nature.

Christoph Cox, May 2006.

[1] See Francisco López, “Profound Listening and Environmental Sound Matter,” Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner (New York: Continuum, 2004), pp. 82–87.

[1] See, for example, Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful [1757] (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) and Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987), §§1–29.

[1] See, for example, Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994) and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987). For a development of these themes, see Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (New York: Zone, 1997.

[1] <#_ftnref1> See Francisco López, “Profound Listening and Environmental Sound Matter,” Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner (New York: Continuum, 2004), pp. 82–87.

[2] <#_ftnref2> See, for example, Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful [1757] (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) and Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987), §§1–29.

[3] <#_ftnref3> See, for example, Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994) and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987). For a development of these themes, see Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (New York: Zone, 1997.

July 2008: 'in place' (Cambridge & Oxford)

July 9th - 12th: recording Jacqueline Du Pre building (Oxford) + free night time, informal workshop / field trip around the city. If you would like to take part please email me by clicking here.
July 9th - Oxford - solo piece + possible collaboration - Oxford improvisers @ Port Mahon 8.30pm. for more info click here

July 13th - 16th: recording Kettle's Yard, Cambridge + free night time, informal workshop / field trip around the city. If you would like to take part please email me by clicking here.

July 19th - Bloc Space, Sheffield - all day workshop event featuring sound spotting, sound walk & workshops in making contact mics & hydrophones + live performance & a chance to present / discuss your own work. emial me by clicking here for more details - spaces are limited.

June 2008: 'in place' in Prague & Brno

residency at Skolska 28 in Prague. During this time I shall be undertaking private research and field recording plus:

. workshop / field trip: There will be at least one, informal night time field recording workshop / field trip. If you are interested in taking part please email me by clicking here.

. recording the spaces of Skolska 28, Open studios & the Josef Sudek gallery

. Performance in Brno (with Ivan Palacky) - details to be announced

. June 19th: public performance at Skolska 28 + transitory new work by Jo ray