Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Patrick Farmer - 'Apis mellifera, moved to & fro'

simply & nicely packaged (as always with this label) we have three pieces based on bee hive recordings. Patrick sent me versions of these pieces awhile ago but it seems to me that a distinct transformation has taken place. At first I wanted to dig out the earlier versions to see if I could work out what exactly has changed (if anything) but then I though better of it & instead I keep sitting back & simply enjoying these new versions.
I have some ideas as to what is going on here - track one I suspect features the core bee recordings being filtered through cymbals, resulting in a shimmering and highly resonant atmosphere - but I think it's important with Patrick's work (& indeed a great deal of music / sound) to stop trying to work it out on those terms. The sound of the bees themselves are obvious for the first 5 or 6 minutes & in a slight return at the very end but most of this track is given over to various tones generated by the filtering methods employed. There's a rough edit at around 4.31 which is a bit of a shame, simply because the piece itself runs an otherwise fluid and engaging path in it's 17 minutes 36 seconds.
The second piece is a dense swarm of conventional bee sounds - recorded in a manner that serves to highlight the fast and fractured nature of thier behavoir patterns. At just 5.08 this track is, as the titles 'and' suggests a bridge between the longer, more abstract pieces.
Track three rumbles and flitters - the sounds here coming from contact mics attached to the hive. There's a strange parallel here with some of the sounds Patrick produces when performing live - with various objects scratching and scraping across snare drum heads and branches moved by small motors. At 14.06 this track is all too brief. However, as he does often in his live performances Patrick plays the part of the entertainer, leaving the audience wanting more.
Impossible to sum up the sound of this disc in words. Buy it, listen to it and be reminded that we can always say a great deal about music & sound & indeed most things, but we simply scratch the surface in doing so.

Patrick Farmer

'Apis mellifera, moved to and fro'

cdr, limited to 140 copies.
recordings of honey bees made at an Apiary in Harpenden, UK, in 2007

1. moved to2. and3. fro

*1: honey bee recordings played back through metals, drums, surfaces, bottles, rocks*2: stereo microphone*3: contact microphones attached to the underside of the hives, assemblage

Patrick Farmer is part of the younger generation of musicians blurring the boundaries between the use of "pure" environmental documentation and the direct involvement with natural materials and situations. As a musician he deals with regular or prepared drums, natural objects, phonography, ampilfied drum heads, wood and whisks. He has been curating -together with Sarah Hughes- the Compost & Height music blog and label promoting "work focused upon our responses to the surrounding environment and the development of awareness".

While much of Farmer's recorded work can seem systematic in its presentation, his diversity in approaching sonic material allows him to treat each situation differently, thus staying close to the truer qualities that define each of his subjects. In this recording he presents three views of honey bee hives found at an Apiary in Harpenden, UK. The second track, ”and”, is a straight stereo recording of bee sounds,”fro” consists of sounds picked up by contact microphones attached under the hives, while ”moved to” finds the stereo recordings reprocessed in a way best described by Farmer himself:

A process of indirect diffusion that by means of various materials, bass drums various cymbals rocks and minimal circumstances, attaches to the original Honeybee recording a sense reflected by other objects.

The original inspiration behind this process came from a passage in the book 'Six memos for the new Millenium' by Italo Calvino. Whereupon the author sets out to explain the work of the Italian Poet Giacomo Leopardi:

"For Giacomo Leopardi maintained that the more vague and imprecise language is, the more poetic it becomes. I might mention in passing that as far as I know Italian is the only language in which the word vago (vague) also means 'lovely, attractive'."

As our view of the subject is fragmented, the sounds move freely between what is perceived to be presented as musical and in turn non-musical sound. And while it is never unclear what process is employed each time, our ears are free to approach the recorded material in an open-ended manner.

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