Treading on Political Terrain (MP3)

“Bits & Pieces” by sound artist Timo Kahlen is an exercise in political noise. It’s an exercise not just in the sense that the word is often applied to actions whose initial parameters are succinctly defined, but also because some exercises yield unintended results, and thus the piece leaves open-ended whether or not the listener will come away with an impression of Kahlen’s stated intended subtext.

The track is a steady sequence of rattly noises, and by Kahlen’s description, that unsteady ground is meant to depict “an acoustic metaphor of current political and economic crises.” Whether it does or not is up to the listener, and whether it does or not is not simply a matter of whether or not the listener is made aware of the political intent. Even with full knowledge of Kahlen’s politics, the sounds of broken glass and stray debris being tread upon are so richly detailed that they can distract from any tangential or metaphoric meaning. They are, simply, beautiful in their roughness, and it wouldn’t be the first time that beauty distracted us from more pressing concerns.

More on the piece at the website of the great radio show and podcast for which it was composed: Kahlen is based in Berlin, Germany. More on him at

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