Friday, 30 May 2008

link of the month - June 2008

cartographie sonore autour du Taurion - a sound blog by Cedric Peyronnet exploring the Taurion river & its surrounding environments. Packed full of interesting MP3 files, maps, images & text (in French) this is one of the best specific location sound blogs out there.

new release of note: Daniel Jones & David Papapostolou

Daniel Jones & David Papapostolou - 'Leaving room' (adjacent recordings)

I've had the pleasure of collaborating with Daniel on a few occasions now & seeing him perform a couple of great solo live sets too. To my mind he's one of the most interesting young players in the UK right now.

David I have only heard on record - his 'one and two' cd is worth checking out. That disc features guitar, cello & sax - however in recent months he has concentrated on mixing desk and other electronics.

So, this first release by the duo (on David's new cd-r label) is most welcome. The 6 sections were recorded in February 2008 & one can almost hear both musicians moving forward on this recording. Daniel I feel is cutting a more instinctive path for himself, whilst David is searching for his own voice using his new approaches.

The music here is sparse, occasionaly punctured with the hard-edged tones of David's mixing desk but only once is the surface tension of the music overly distrubed. I believe there are more instruments being used by Daniel than the cover states but as usual he manages to show a restraint that is both carefully balanced and natural.

For a debut duo release this is a good start. Personally, i'm keen to hear Daniel solo & likewise I await another solo disc from David that confirms his own voice with his current set up, but here is a new label getting off to a good start !


Rhodri Davies, David Lacey, Dennis McNulty - 'Poor trade' (Cathnor)

Perhaps some folks viewing this blog understandably get the impression that it's only about 'field recording' based music / sound. Save for the post on Angharad Davies & Tisha Mukarji's 'end space' cd & the one on aspects of the Shakuhachi, the content here has indeed been fairly fr !. However, for me at least aspects of fr connect to the exploratory way I have come to listen to most sound & most music, not in a contrived or theoretical manner (though I have no doubt there are plenty of theories to be stated) but in the sense of the way my own ears have grown (!) & how my emotional reaction to music has been influenced by my enjoyment of sounds not generated by the human hand for example. That said this cd does include some field recordings (via David & Rhodri I believe) & some sounds occurring around the church in which the session took place. In that respect it is 'recorded in the field' & the quality of the recording (by David Reid) leaves many a studio standing.

From the first few minutes of the opening section 'Tried in the scales and found wanting' on this new Cathnor disc it's clear that this is a confident outing. There's no awkward finding of feet - all the players respond to each other with an obvious sense of shared purpose, whilst retaining and imposing their individual voices. Speaking as a listener and a performer myself, this interplay is the thing that makes improvisation a vital and expressive art form & it sets apart the successful groupings from the rest.

I have to admit that I often struggle with computers in improvised music (due in part to the heavy handed or lazy way in which they are often used) and I also find the term 'electronics' a rather obtuse word in this context - perhaps that is why some people use it. The music that emerges from Rhodri Davies's collection of minidisc players, ebows, electric fans and other gadgets, not to mention his adapted harp, doesn't suffer from any such lack of clarity or from the grey, restricted confines the term can imply.

This issue with terminology is, of course, just my own bag of shoulder chips ! and this trio also features Dennis McNulty - one of the few improvisers who can use a computer in a manner that moves it away from purely technological possibilities. The sounds he adds do not stick out, awkwardly digital and seemingly unresponsive - rather they sit within constantly developing sections that both carry their own momentum and find places in which to slow down and cut a different channel.

David Lacey, another who uses electronics, this time to augment his percussion, applies his usual subtle approach to the structure, often seeming to hold back but with timing that is on target throughout. The field recordings he uses, some using hydrophones, blend seamlessly into the whole and make one keen to hear more of this aspect of David's interests.

Perhaps when one thinks about the methods each player uses it's possible to see one drawback of a cd release of improvised music - there is only the music & given the highly coherent ensemble playing on display it's near impossible to visualise from whom some sounds come. However this actually shows the strength of the music here, exposing the clear need for contemporary improvisation to be supported when it is released & to be witnessed live. Of course the removal of the obvious visual element of a performance serves, as it has always done, to free the music from those constraints, resulting in a wider, more individual and creative landscape being available to us when we listen, when we hear. In that respect I see a correlation between a constant appreciation of the sounds in my everyday life and music - each has a wide vista, one for us to explore as we wish.

So this fifth release from Cathnor further strengthens its already solid reputation as a label that brings us music that retains its sense of pleasure in a scene currently often far too dominated by a rather clinical, elitist approach.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

favourite places # 1: Kettle's Yard, Cambridge (house)

Kettle's Yardwas the open home of Jim & Helen Ede. The site now also includes a very good gallery but for me the house itself is the treasure here.

Four terraced cottages were renovated & transformed by Jim & Helen with the help of architect Roland Aldridge in the mid-1950's, providing a home & living gallery for thier art collection which featured works by artists, many of whom were or became friends of the Ede's, such as Miro, Gaudier-Brzeska, Laurence Whistler, Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Brancusi, Gabo, David Jones, Barbara Hepworth, Kenji Umeda & many more. The entire house & all of it's contents were given to the University & is still as the Ede's left it.

So, why do I like it - well, firstly there are the personal memories of my first visit with my Mother. I knew little about it before visiting & somehow expected, perhaps, something similar to other gifted houses - sterile & often more of a museum than a welcoming place, created with inspiration and still 'alive'. Kettle's Yard is the later - apart from the pressence of the discrete guides who are on hand for any questions (some of whom knew the Ede's & have some great stories to tell of the artists who stayed there) it is still like walking into a lived-in house, with a collection of art & books that is still added to from time to time. One is free to sit on the chairs, read the books on the shelves & spend hours just sitting and looking at the works of art. For someone brought up in a country seemingly obsessed with trapping and moth balling history when it comes to buildings, Kettle's Yard was & continues to be a revelation. Every time I visit I discover something I had missed before - both visually & in terms of the sound of the place.


Although it is close to a fairly busy road, there is a sense of space & calm, especially if you visit mid-week & out of season when there aren't too many visitors (though they do have a system in place to prevent crowding). That's also the best idea because one really needs to have no time limit to fully appreciate the atmosphere.

Thinking back, it was also one of the first 'public' buildings that gave me a sense of audible silence - i'd been in many quieter structures before of course - country churches, remote houses & barns etc - but to be in a building in the heart of a thriving city, without sound proofing but able to retain a sense of quietness was stricking - perhaps because it confounded ones expectations on that level.

If I had to pick the best place in the UK to see modern art (mainly from the 20th Century) this would be my choice. It's a unique place, not only because it allows us to see the works of art in a non-gallery setting, but also because everyday objects (pebbles, glasses, books, plants etc) can be viewed as special objects too (without that becoming a heavy, enforced ideology).

As for the sound of the place - of course there's a huge variety - each room or living space has it's own character. The use of wood and flat white surfaces, along with glass surfaces and textiles all play thier part no doubt - but for me this has always been a building whose whole character and personal relevance illustates the relationship between what we see and feel and what we hear - the way our ears do not work alone.

As part of the first section of my own work on the 'in place' project i'll be recording the entire house & some of its contents during July & will no doubt post a few sounds from those sessions on the blog.

new feature on the 'in place' blog

a favourite place:

what with all the interviews with fellow artists & reviews of field recording based releases, I feel the blog is becoming too focused on the end result of what we hear that inspires or moves us. So there will be a new post series in which individuals can submit some words / an image / a sound of a favourite place - the emphasis being on describing the emotive reasons for liking the location. This post series is open to everyone - those who record & those who don't. So get in touch if you'd like to contribute - it would be great to build up a diverese range of these inspiring places !

four questions interview series:

I've been having a few interesting conversations about this series - most recently with Zoe Irvine (her interview will be up on the blog in the coming weeks) & I think it's time to look again at one of the questions. So far I like the fact that asking the same basic questions results in such different answers & overall paints an interesting picture of how different people feel about both their own practice & the questions themselves. However I think question 3 might need re-wording as it could give some the impression that there is an agenda behind it. So look out for any changes !

(the forthcoming interviews with John Grzinich, Goh Lee Kwang, Emmanuel Mieville, Yannick Dauby, Marc Namblard & Zoe Irvine were all initiated prior to any changes)

Thursday, 15 May 2008

extended field recording...

The phrase 'extended technique' has so far been mainly used when referring to unconventional or unorthodox methods of playing musical instruments & has been a prominent aspect of musical creativity since the early 1900's. Of course many unconventional techniques had already been invented prior to this date - various methods of bowing stringed instruments, breathing techniques for winds etc. The entire history of music is one of perpetual invention anyway.

However, it has become useful at times to adopt the term 'extended technique' as a bridge between experimentation and the method in question becoming more established and therefore adding to the store house of knowledge and experience.

I started occasionally using this term a couple of years ago to describe my approach to field recording & as with most descriptive word choices it came down not mainly to something I felt was important for me to state in every circumstance but rather that there were situations where using the term could lead to a more open and flexible view being taken of what my work involves (in performance, installation, written proposals or applications for example). Furthermore it can be a useful way to actually re-discover the more conventional aspects of field recording, by looking a new at ones own methods and then finding a natural method slowly returning.

FIELD RECORDING (fr) can be traced back to as far as the late 1800's and for most of the time from then until the 1950's it's prime purpose was to capture elements of oral history, folk traditions and latterly as a means of recording natural sounds.

However many recordists have now moved into new areas - using the full creative range of the basic equipment to explore previously overlooked sounds or to form artistic impressions of environments they encounter.

Many of the methods that could arguably be termed extended field recording techniques have actually been in use for many years now, but the use of such an artistic term has often been at odds with the technical, scientific terminology used by the majority of people involved in fr. For example the use of contact microphones to capture vibrations, forcing the equipment beyond it's intended use (feedback), internal methods of sound capture etc etc.

There is also the use of fr in terms of music to be considered. There are now many examples of thier use in composition, improvisation, sound art, live performance, installation etc etc. This too can be seen as extended technique in relation to the original intention of fr technology.

It is this ever expanding sense of exploration, discovery and a deeper, more personal way to capture the natural sounds that exist that adds to my interest in fr as an art form - it is a source of occasional revelation side by side with the constant need for ones own development to take a natural and uncontrived path.

Patrick Farmer - 'Aerodrome' (extract)

Sunday, 11 May 2008

recycled cassette release

brzeska - 1991-2002 (click for more info)

early improvised pieces for clear inputs / internal sounds - limited edition recycled cassette