Le Carré sets the scene
A passing moment from the novel Agent Running in the Field, John le Carré’s latest. It was published late last year. (I’m of the belief that le Carré, now 88 years old, should be in the running for the Nobel Prize in literature: for his gifts to the English language , for the formidable character George Smiley, and for the unmagical realism of his writing.)
A crossword clue
On the one hand, the answer to the first clue in today’s New York Times mini-crossword is self-evident. On the other, I do like to think there’s a varied plethora of nuanced onomatopoeia options beyond the one that is expected here.
Courtesy of Jimmy Kpple's Patzr Radio podcast
The shifts in sound seem too sudden to be happenstance. The way the audio cuts from left to right to silence to stereo, and alternate wayward transitions within, doesn’t merely shape and direct the sound. It create voids your ear can feel. Don’t put this on headphones. Play it at room temperature on a pair of speakers, your head comfortably in between. Let the found sounds — all white noise and public-address mumble, not to mention echoing high heels and distant whistles — of the field recordings dance around your skull as well as within. This is the 176th entry in Jimmy Kpple’s ongoing Patzr Radio podcast, “noise and a relative or friend can hold,” a great ongoing musique concrète wonder.
Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/patzr-radio. Get the feed directly at patzrradio.podbean.com. More from Kpple at twitter.com/jmmy_kppl.
[ Also tagged recommended stream
Succumb to Sekunder, eoner from Snufmumriko, of Gothenburg, Sweden
The atmosphere is so thick on “Kasta loss,” the opening track of the Snufmumriko album Sekunder, eoner, that your ears may not pick up on the emergent rhythm until well after it has set a determined pace for what feels, at its heart, more windblown than metronomic. Blurry, static-dabbled white noise gives birth to EKG pulses and pin-prick hi-hats, and then subsumes them again well before the track is over, at which point vinyl surface abrasions are working in parallel with sustained, woodwind-like drones.
There’s a stately quality to Snufmumriko’s music. Take “Jordeliv,” which has pizzicato strings, redolent of their synthesized origins, alongside aquatic field recordings, and yet the main impression is made by the hush that serves as both the track’s background and foreground, the thick, warm noise that envelops the other sounds. The way field recordings are treated throughout the album is Snufmumriko’s greatest accomplishment. Close your eyes and listen to the closing track, “Drömmens tassemarker,” which doesn’t merely suggest a walk in the forest; it takes you on one, crumpled leaves yielding to echoed, scattered fragments of birdsong. To be clear, this isn’t all hyper-naturalism. The title track, for example, features throaty robospeak before its club beat kicks in. But it is the dreamy, slightly-altered-reality quality that is the album’s greatest accomplishment.
Sekunder, eoner, six tracks in all, was released on the Moscow-based Dronarivm label a little over a month ago, in early December 2019, at dronarivm.bandcamp.com. More from Snufmumriko, aka Ingmar Wennerberg of Gothenburg, Sweden, at soundcloud.com/snufmumriko and twitter.com/snufmumriko.
[ Also tagged recommended stream
From his 2014 book, Bumping into a Chair While Humming
Finished reading the book Bumping into a Chair While Humming: Sounds of the Everyday, Listening, and the Potential of the Personal, a slim yet rangy 2014 collection of thoughts by the musician Ezekiel Honig. Honig is based in New York City. I bought the book from someone in Boston, only to find that a friend here in San Francisco printed the letterpress cover. It’s a small world.
It’s also a world filled with sonic potential. The way that everyday sounds can become raw material for music is the subject of Honig’s book. The title uses the experience of knocking into something physical, such as a chair, for the happy accident of being struck by sound in a way that registers with you personally. The book is written with musicians in mind, but the concepts are more broadly applicable and accessible. Four things stuck with me on an initial read:
How Honig characterizes an emphasis on the value of listening: “We become so concerned with what is in front of us that we forget about what is around us.” He’s referencing “the degree to which our hearing communicates the contours of our world.” That framing of listening’s geographic, spacial, and temporal qualities is a helpful reminder.
My favorite chapter is the third, “Hidden Expressions of Objects.” In it Honig uses a specific example (sampling paper related to his father, a former professor) to show how the source material that provides audio brings with it contextual information, including personal feelings, anecdotal experience, and history, which is infused into the work, even if at a level of detail that isn’t conscious on the part of the musician or self-evident on the part of the listener.
“It isn’t mimicking a space. It is one.” Tools such as reverb and delay can provide a sense of space, and yet have become so ubiquitous that the space is more conceptual than physical. Honig asserts that using the echoes and other qualities of actual physical spaces, such as hallways and rooms and the outdoors, shouldn’t be neglected.
“To finish is to essentially abandon a relationship that you’ve built up with the work.” There’s a whole section toward the close of the book about, naturally, the difficulty in finishing something. This is a subject I don’t think about a lot in the context of music, in large part because my own music-making is purely exploratory, with no particular intention on my part to perform or record, and because the Disquiet Junto music community is expressly focused on starting things, and on finishing them only in the context of having a deadline, not in the context of the work in any way feeling completed.
Side note: I occasionally misplaced the book while reading it because it has no print on the spine. I realized I have several books with blank spines. I rounded up a few and I’ll start keeping them in one spot on my shelf. Right now this includes, along with Honig’s book, two exhibit catalogs: Bill Beckley: An Accidental Poet (1968) and Sound: An Exhibition of Sound Sculpture, Instrument Building, and Acoustically Tuned Space.
More on the book at ezekielhonig.com. The physical edition was limited to 300 (I got number 101), but helpfully there’s an ebook version, too.