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Four objects. JEZ RILEY FRENCH
(Engraved Glass 2011)

Jez riley French’s Four Objects is an exploration into the amplification of sound miniatures. Over the course of forty minutes French directs his microphones towards four different objects, including: a piezo disc microphone, a teasel plant, a slate window, a tea flask. These pieces are strategically presented without any compositional intent, each of them being unmodified field recordings. As stated on his website French questions the use of processed sound, concerned that it is removing our ability to listen. Four Objects can therefore be read as an exercise in listening, a form of anti-composition which challenges the audience to become fully immersed within its microscopic worlds.

When French isn’t releasing his own material he is well-known for creating microphones.  Four Objects showcases them well. The first track, a piezo disc slowly breaking, captures the tiny crackles and pops of a microphone in its death throes. For ten minutes we listen to the various sounds associated with this process. As with the ensuing recordings the piezo disc is presented without any external ambience. In light of French’s raison d’être this sole focus upon a single object enables the audience to be absorbed into its sonic realm without any other distraction.

A teasel plant on a windy day takes us to the surface of this prickly plant as it sways in the wind. A contact microphone amplifies the plant’s fast irregular rattles, each with its own pitch and wooden resonance. Listening to the recording we are drawn into the plant as it moves from side to side.

A slate windowsill  captures a low drone-like vibration emanating from the surface of a sill. While the other tracks feature variously recognisable tonalities and slight moments of silence a slate windowsill has a relentless propulsion that is at once mesmeric and disturbing.

A flask at q-02 is the final track in the release. Here French presents the sound of hot air as it slowly escapes from a tea-flask. The track’s placement at the end of the release seems critical, reminding us that a world of sound lies before us in the most mundane of objects.

French’s Four Objects is as much a celebration of sound as it is about the act of listening. The duration of the tracks requires the audience to listen beyond the limits of their usual attention span. It also obliges the audience to forego the anticipation of listening for climactic sound-events. Instead French invites us to lose ourselves within the moment of listening and to recognise that music naturally exists around us.

-Jay-Dea Lopez

Jez Riley French website
Engraved Glass website