Monday, 23 March 2009

instamatic series editions on engraved glass

new releases by Jez riley French

the first editions in the 'instamatic' series. Releases feature mainly one take recordings capturing simple moments in each location. The recordings were made on days when recording was initiated for my own pleasure & without any advance preparation or pre-concieved aim. It's often the case that one ventures out with ones equipment & spends several hours recording only to return without any recordings that hold the attention. The instamatic series was concieved to present recordings that were pleasant, simple suprises.

Each release comes in a folded card outer sleeve containing the cd & an original, limited digital photographic print.

instamatic # 1 - Bridlington harbour & Thornwick Bay
hydrophone recordings made in June 2008 egcd024
3inch cdr - folded photo print sleeve + photographic print

click here to listen to extract


instamatic # 2 - Vienna
binaural recording made sitting by the Danube waiting for a train, September 2008 egcd025
3inch cdr - folded photo print sleeve + photographic print

click here to listen to extract


instamatic # 3 & 4 - Ghent

# 3 - Ghent bird market

# 4 - Ghent beguinage
recorded with binaural, contact & stereo microphones in Ghent, October 2008 egcd026
3inch cdr - folded photo print sleeve + photographic print

click here to listen to extract


Falter Bramnk - 'Three field recording compositions'

Three field recording compositions Falter Bramnk
Gr 059 Gruenrekorder

1. "Even the birds left us # 0" Krakow/Auschwitz/Birkenau, Poland, 2005

'Even the birds left us # 0' is the main part of a trilogy. The two other versions include spoken words from texts by Primo Levi and Jean-Claude Pressac. The first part is recorded in the Jewish area (Kazimierz) of Krakow where I could take in the same time the sound of the street and klezmer music from an outdoor loudspeaker. Most of the sounds were recorded in Birkenau (inside and around the concentration camp). Trains were recorded in Oswieczim, the knee deep in snow. Drops were recorded near the Auschwitz camp in a disused factory. The two polish workers’ voices heard while they were changing a bulb were recorded in the Block 11 known as "the death block". The title is taken from words by a Polish woman prisoner in Auschwitz.

2. "The city of the doges" Venice, Italy, 2006
"The city of the doges" is a specific phonography about Venice which depicts the passing of a day, from the twice-daily agitation to the intimate song of the water in the night…

3. "Buona notte" Sicily, Italy, 2004
"Buona notte" is a sound diary through different places in Sicily (Palermo, Siracusa, Piazza Amerina…). The title is taken from "Vecchio frack", a song we can hear at the end in a karaoke night and wich is sung by Domenico Modugno, famous Italian singer.

3 Tracks (57′03″)

Recorded and edited by F.B.
Field Recording Series by GruenrekorderGruenrekorder / Germany / 2009 / Gr 059


01 Frans de Waard VITAL WEEKLY

The name Falter Bramnk sounds quite unusual it seems to me. I never heard of him, but on the Gruenrekorder website, we read: ‘Falter Bramnk is a french composer and an improvising musician, and occasionally a photographer. He works for dance and animated short films. He has released various multi-instrumental cd projects, both on solo and compilations. He is also involved in sound portraits (artists, friends…) and fieldrecording compositions. Influenced by the cinematographic art, he plots his soundscapes like narrative sequences rather than single long takes.’ The latter remark is of course of interest for us, since we are dealing here with ‘Three Field Recording’ compositions. I usually start playing a CD without noting what is on the cover, press text and such like, to start from scratch. In the first piece I heard a train passing but throughout it seems to be rural life. Churchbells. Doves. Italian voices. That’s all later on. Bramnk likes ‘quiet, rural’ life it seems, but then I started investigating what he was doing, and it seems that he recorded two pieces in Italy - Venice (the church bells, doves) and Sicily (rural life) and on the first piece he uses sounds recorded in Krakow, Auschwitz and Birkenau, which gives the train sound an entirely different dimension. I am not sure what the narrative sequenced plot is here, in these three pieces, but I must admit it all sounds wonderfully recorded, and especially the longer ‘Buona Notte’, recorded in Sicily is a nice piece, depicting quiet life and ancient history. For the ‘Auschwitz’ piece ‘Even The Birds Left Us #0′, I hear there will also be a version with texts by Primo Levi and Jean-Claude Pressac - which seems to me a good thing.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Massimo Magee - 'Strange fruit' (free download)

STRANGE FRUIT - Massimo Magee

1: Strange Fruit 19:50—————————–

Massimo Magee: Amplifier with headphones and preparations, Ukulele, Wooden Flute, Field Recordings, Sopranino Saxophone, recorded to tape

A ’still life’ in improvised sound

[AR08] is called ‘Strange Fruit’ because it is, at least in part, about choices. Choices and the consequences of these choices. These consequences that flow on from our choices and our attempts (successes/failures) to control them - the pursuit and relinquishing of control. The amplifier feedback is in some parts controlled, and in some parts set up and then left to its own -punintendeddevices to play out as dictated by forces outside of human control (vibrations in the desk, in the air, etc.). The fierce rain outside which can be heard on the recording is not controlled. The field recordings - momentary portals to another place and time - are set in motion, but not controlled. The ukulele, flute and sopranino saxophone are controlled. Thus the pursuit and relinquishing of control as well as the entirely uncontrollable are all happening at the one time. Many elements of the life of the capsicum in the image on the cover, no doubt, were controlled right from where it was grown, likely designed to produce a round, red, perfectly healthy specimen. Many aspects of its presentation in the supermarket, in a specially designed area placed in with lots of other round, red, healthy-looking capsicums [capsicae?] were also, no doubt, controlled to enforce this impression of a normal round, red capsicum. Somehow, however, other forces outside of control conspired to produce this strange, but strangely beautiful vegetable, and a relinquishing of control (nay, quality control) on the supermarket’s part led to its being placed on display in the capsicum basket for the hungry (and forgiving) consumer to find and photograph. This intertwining of the pursuit and relinquishing of control and the uncontrollable, unpredictable forces of nature led to this strangely beautiful object being created and put in a position for its strange, individual beauty to be observed and enjoyed by others who would otherwise not have seen it.

This piece is intended to be listened to at very low volume, with the sounds of the rain on the recording just at the very edge of hearing, and the other sounds very faint, so that they are subsumed into the sounds of the room around them.

-Massimo Magee

this interesting release can be downloaded here

Monday, 2 March 2009

undercurrents event / Brighton

Simon Whetham
Daniel Jones
Joseph Young aka Field
Mike Blow

Friday 20th March 2009

Grey Area,
Lower ground floor,
31 Queens Road,

this will be worth going to just to see Daniel Jones playing solo again.

Michael Pisaro - 'transparent city'

Michael Pisaro – ‘transparent city volumes 1 & 2 / 3 & 4’
(wandelweiser edition - 2 x double cd)

The use of field recordings in composition is still a young tradition. This despite the fact that it is the everyday, natural or man made sound world that is the source of all musical expression in one way or another. What's more there are still very few successful examples of unprocessed field recordings being used as a key element in contemporary composition. More often they are used as a mere novelty or altered beyond recognition. Hovhaness attempted to incorporate the already over used sound of whale song into an orchestral setting in his work ‘and god created great whales’ in 1970 and indeed in its own way the piece worked – after all the mountainous orchestral palette that Hovhaness generally used matched the whale song & thankfully ensured a distinctly non-new age experience. This is just one example of course & indeed there are others.

For me the most enjoyable compositions in this area come from the pen of Toru Takemitsu. From the beginning of his long and close relationship with visual art forms Takemitsu created many works that made extremely successful and inspiring use of environmental sound - from the dramatic use of various sounds that he was required to incorporate when composing for radio & theatre, to his removal of ‘music’ from many parts of the soundtracks he was asked to compose for films, leaving instead the sound of the actors breath, the movement of cloth and the ‘empty’ air of the studio – genius is the word for Takemitsu, no doubt about it.

‘Field recording’ (whatever that terms means these days !) has moved on dramatically in recent years and Michael Pisaro is a composer whose work is clearly both artistically rigorous in terms of that forward motion and also imbued with a pleasing clarity. His ‘transparent city’ pieces appear on paper to be simple in the extreme – each is a ten minute unedited field recording from a single location in Los Angeles, with sine tones added by the composer at the editing stage. Each is then followed by a two minute silence.

When one comes to attempt to put into words the experience of listening to the 4 cds that make up this series it is perhaps helpful to come at the task from a similarly uncluttered stance. Firstly the field recordings themselves have a quiet and yet highly active quality that fits well with the ‘transparent’ element of the title. They come across as thin films removed from the surface of each location. If your interest is simply in intriguing and enjoyable field recordings then these discs offer a great deal on those terms alone. However, as with Michael’s compositions for conventional instrumentation (there are several discs on wandelweiser including the ‘harmony series’ cd & the ‘an unrhymed chord’ double cd set) his placement of similarly discreet and well judged other sounds – in this case sine tones employed in various pitches – somehow shift the pieces without one being fully aware of how or when this transition actually occurs or indeed returns the listener to the silence that follows. Many of these tones are placed at a level and range as to be easily mistaken for elements in the landscape recorded, whilst others calmly appear above the surface. The placement of these tones and the decisions on how they should impact (or not) on the listener is clearly an important part of composing with this amount of focus.

The use of sine tones (sine waves – single pitched tones, played here in constant strands) has become an accepted method in contemporary music – most actively employed in improvised and electro acoustic music. I’ve heard all kind of views on why this should be the case & indeed opposing views on whether it is actually music at all. To debate that further here would serve no useful purpose (does it even need debating any more ? I hope not), however I will say that my feeling is that there is a link between our willingness to accept these sounds and the momentary tinnitus that we all suffer from – those few seconds which grab our attention and appear like unusual events in even the most routine daily life.

When one attempts to compose using untreated field recordings as a main element of the work there are always those who believe that the skills or inspirations employed are not the same as with ‘proper’ (!) instrumentation or methods of transforming the actual recordings. I’m not sure how long it will take for this view to totally disappear but works like this can only serve to expose further the benefits of the sound world available to those of us who choose to accept or work with this form of compositional language.

Listen to these discs at a ‘normal’ level ( keeping the level the same throughout) – as indeed the composer suggests – and their transparency becomes apparent as the sounds combine with those of one’s own surroundings. I quite often found myself checking to see if a piece had actually shifted into its silent coda or trying to work out whether I was listening to the a flight path over San Francisco or actually above me.

We should always remember that in spite of all the technology available to us the fact is still that all that matters when one approaches music / sound & indeed our daily audible enviroments is having open ears, humility and the essential simplicity of ones inspirations or interests.