Like many of us, I often work with music. My dad recently described observing a gardener working for hours to the pitch of a strident political talk show, as if soothed by the cadence of a righteous anger. More understandably, a friend of mine can write almost exclusively to Brian McBride or Do Make Say Think. Music makes a new environment which we can enter into. It can inform the conceptual space of work. For me, this has become an intentional part of my studio practice. Certain musicians, albums or pieces become unwitting collaborators. One day I hope collaboration with musicians will involve mutual exchange. For now, here are pieces from a few albums which informed, aesthetically and conceptually, my Formation series.
Pantha Du Prince is Hendrik Weber, a producer and DJ living in Berlin and Paris. I first heard his collaboration with The Bell Laboratory, Elements of Light, on a 2013 top-ten list over at WNYC New Sounds. I loved the slow, sub-surface build of this song, "Particle," and the grainy texture of its beat. Then I found Aram Lintzel's writing on Pantha Du Prince's website, meditative writing on sound, natural disasters and beauty, and my enjoyment became a sense of kinship. He writes about an earlier Du Prince album, "Black Noise is not about an anarchical liberation of sounds or anything of the sort, but rather about how much alienation is possible before the listener loses his nerves and his orientation. On this album, rifts, fractures, and digressions are not flaws in the system but acoustic micro-vectors that drive the narrative. The intros serve to present the source sounds recorded “out there”—knocking, barking, ringing, tinkling which are then soon caught in the currents of vaguely psychedelic mutations. [...] The most diverse acoustic sources and moods are folded into one another and bathed in an imposingly well-composed continuum. Pantha du Prince is still a Romantic Conceptualist. And the message we hear him murmuring: beauty is possible even after the disaster." Read the full piece here.
I grew up knowing "Once In A Lifetime" and little else by Talking Heads. When I was introduced to the whole Remain in the Light album a few years ago, it quickly became one of my favourites. Often, working late in the printmaking studio, I would listen through the album and then return again and again to this song. Maybe because I associate Talking Heads with the landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, I feel a spacious, dry quality in this album. Sombre cultural and political commentary is embedded in odd, sometimes eery, but always vital sounds. In "Listening Wind," fear of foreigners and love of the land intertwine in an almost sentimental, ballad-like song.
Silfra is a rift in Iceland that is part of the divergent tectonic boundary between the North American and Eurasian plates. It's also the name of an album of improvisational music by Hilary Hahn and Hauschka, recorded in Iceland. I spent a lot of time listening to the album this semester, and thinking about the poetic weight of enormous rifts which divide the earth in a way that is far more potent than national or territorial borders.