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A measure of ground
STEPHEN CORNFORD, PATRICK FARMER
(Consumer Waste 2013)

Review by David Vélez

A pursuit for a form that works on an emotional and intellectual level acquiring some metaphoric and poetic power when effectively mediated. Exploring sounds, exploring the way we hear them, exploring the way we imprint them, exploring the way we forget them, exploring the way we remember them.

This series of random thoughts came to my mind when listening to the Side A of the first tape of ‘A measure of ground’. They also came to my mind the sounds of a sword fight on a Wu-Tang Clan album sampled from a dubbed  martial arts film…a strange sounding sword fight.

Now I have nothing to say…and side A is over.

From the liner notes:

‘Using a single piezo contact microphone and cassette dictaphone, they scoured the site for materials to produce these recordings in a two day period. The necessary translation of these recordings from cassette to computer and back to cassette has endeavored to retain the quality of the original cassette recordings reflecting their interest in the abstraction of source materials through the recording process.”

Old recording technology opens a complete new sonic universe. Things sound weird, bizarre, different. The recording device becomes part of the process, it does determines in part the resulting sonorities. By choosing a recording device with its own limitations and features, the composer is taking a defining  formal decision, he is is giving to what he is going to record a sound universe, a formal context.

Sometimes the main role of the composer is methodological. About producing ideas to explore sound in novel, interesting, unlikely and meaningful ways.

I assume that in the field of recording sounds they are two main approaches to technology. One who pursues the most ‘accurate and reliable’ recording. Other that pursues the most unique and interesting sounding capture.

I find both approaches equally relevant but I feel that ‘A measure of ground’ presents questions and reflections about the action of recordings sounds that are particularly relevant on a contemporary context.

Questions and reflections about the media itself. The media appears as an aspect of strong relevance and not only attached to a high-end approach, but attached to poetic and aesthetic approaches.

..and finally Side B of Tape 2 (Side D), presents a really beautiful fragment that I associate with a train, or a train station. Beautiful soothing break from 3 tape sides of pleasant and accomplished harshness.

‘A measure of ground’ is a successful example of how contemporary sound capturing-artists can respond to the frequent question of what to do to avoid doing what one has been doing knowing that one still will do what one always does.

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[Stephen Cornford: left, Patrick Farmer: right; photo courtesy of IATO]

Stephen Cornford website
Patrick Farmer website
Consumer Waste website