Phonography meeting 070823. SCOTT SMALLWOOD, SAWAKO, SETH CLUETT, BEN OWEN, CIVYIU KKLIU
(Winds Measure 2011)

It’s always nice to get in the mailbox Winds Measure releases and one of the reasons is their packaging: visual design is clean, austere and sober, paper is nicely textured, booklets are pressed with relief printing and in general every detail has been carefully and tastefully taken care of.

“Phonography meeting 070823” is the product of a performance at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, NY on August of 2007 when the artists gathered and used unprocessed field and or location recordings in a 10 minute person to person performance/sequence that sums for a 47:14 final piece.

The result is quite heterogenic, it ranges from raw phonographic archive to what seems like more processed material. The order of performance was Scott Smallwood, Sawako, Seth Cluett, Ben Owen and Civyiu Kkliu and you can find a folded paper sheet with text and images by each one of the performers.

Scott Smallwood has a very nice text about field recordings where he talks about the frustration of the field recordist when the sound produced by the object of his recording is interrupted by other “unexpected / unwanted / hidden” sounds and how this experience works as a door to a universe of thoughts and images that the recordist encounters while recording. This beautiful text  is reflected during the first minutes of the piece where the juxtaposed sounds create this focus / distraction effect as the more environmental and natural sounds seem to clash with the noisy droning sounds of noise pollution as they come to the sufrace and disappear. Scott Smallwood is very effective at creating a sequence with such strong instrumentation and still draw this level of articulation with the text; this writings are something everyone with a reduced hearing experience can relate to, but it goes deeper and further into our experiences with the unexpected, the unpleasant, the misleading and the distracting.

After minute 9:40 a sound emerges, it seems like some sort of machine that fades out to and a series of watery sounds and panned voices that arise and develop. Sawako’s artwork part is a handwritten text where she talk about parks. She talk about them being some sort of calm relief in the middle of the noise produced by the big cities. After minute 10 the piece acquires some sort of introverted character, as it feels like we are in the middle of something overwhelmed and dazzled by the presence of sound. Again a very interesting and effective articulation between the sequence and the text.

On minute 18 the sounds of what seems like church bells are revealed. Sett Cluett’s is featued on the artwork with some really interesting text about memory and imagination and about how the recordings of sounds and the playback of those sounds triggers the imagination on the listener with the help of the memories imprinted on the recordings. This text leads to very interesting questions and reflections towards the act of recording and the use of the recordings when played back.

On Minute 22 starts a very powerful sequence built up with juxtaposed sounds that are not easily recognizable while revealing this fascinating sound object withs a strong rhythmic and narrative character; around 27:40 these sounds fade to another sequence of a sounds with rhythmic patterns produced by what seems like a single object being physically manipulated either by man or nature.

Ben Owen’s presence in the artwork sheet is a series of six treated photographs of what seems like landscapes. At minute 32 a series of harsh textured sounds emerge. The sound image of this sequence is beautiful very immersive and tactile; this part has as noisy / artificial-like nature that develops through uneven organic patterns which reveals a beautiful formal analogy. Another very strong perceptual experience for the listener.

Civyiu Kkliu is from Japan and on the artwork sheet he played with words in some sort of conceptual exercise. In the last ten minutes of the piece the sound becomes more artificial and abstract. More than phonography this part is reminiscent of electroacoustic sound as it gives to the whole work an unexpected twist that leaves the listener surprised and wandering. Very strong ending.

“Phonography meeting 070823” is a work that rises interesting questions and reflections towards the act of recording and towards the listening experience while revealing beautiful sound images so strong and full of sense that could work equally effective with and without the images and text.

– John McEnroe

Scott Smallwood website
Sawako website
Seth Cluett website
Ben Owen website
Civyiu Kkliu discography
Winds Measure website