Tuesday, 7 April 2009

two Gruenrekorder releases

The latest field recording series release from Gruenrekorder raises questions.

Micheal Peters brings us two lengthy recordings made in Barbados:

track one, clocking in at just over 25 minutes, captures whistling tree frogs in Bathsheba on the east coast of Barbados. Recordings of ‘nature’ very often end up falling into either the scientific camp or the tree-hugger idea of what the natural world is – you know, it’s all very warm and the animals are our friends etc etc. Michael’s recordings escape those traps by their sheer visceral quality. The length of this audible onslaught (25.21) takes the listener into an experience that renders the environment a puzzling and strange place, which is after all the truth of the matter.

The second track features the sounds of giant bamboo trees being moved by the wind. The recording also captures various animal, insect & bird sounds of course but it is by focusing on the sounds of the trees themselves that one can appreciate the track in full. Anyone who has stood amongst a reasonably sized group of trees and listened to the veritable symphony that emerges from their movements will know just how varied the sounds can be. Again the length of the track (also 25.21) is of importance. If the track were 5 or 10 minutes long it would simply be a documentary recording of the environment but here we can listen past the initial interest in the specific sounds and allow the landscape to emerge on its own terms.

As far as recordings of the natural world are concerned the key is not to provide us humans with a safe and sanitized version but to remind us that we are no more than one small part of this planet & for all our supposed knowledge we have no real understanding of the way it works. It is this uneasy realisation that can in the end provide us with the most satisfying and empowering way to listen. The cover & sleeve notes on this release could lead one to believe this is one of those ‘safe’ examples, but the artist has used both the duration and the intensity of the tracks to safely sidestep that trap.

Gruenrekorder is a good label, deserving of support & anyone with an interest in field recording will no doubt find most of their releases well worth purchasing. Buying a cd should never be about only buying work that one is 100% sure of anyway – we only learn about anything through trial & error. Only that way can we begin to enjoy things that are specific to our individuality – only then can we appreciate aspects of work that doesn’t tick all our boxes & that, in this context, is where ‘respect’ for others work originates.

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