Environments 1: Psychologically ultimate seashore.
(Atlantic 1974 / 1987)

‘The music of the future isn’t music’. This bold statement made almost forty years ago becomes quite interesting when we actually read it ‘in the future’, in 2012. The author of this sentence is probably Irving Solomon Teibel the man behind ‘Environments’, a series of field recordings based releases that were quite successful through the 70’s to the point that fragments from some of their many volumes are featured in the golden disc that travels on the Voyager spacecraft launched on 1977; this disc contains large amounts of data and documentation from the earth and the life that inhabits it, like some sort of “message in a bottle” that drifts through the cosmos.

Forty years into the future the interest towards culture and in particular music has changed. The fact that journals like A Closer Listen or The Field Reporter are busy reviewing newly released phonographic based works on a regular basis, means that there is a lot of people recording and using those recordings to make ‘albums and EP’s’. What Teibel was doing on 1974, musician Ludwig Koch did it too on the 1930’s and now -probably more then ever- loads of people are doing it too. An interesting fact about this is that a considerable number of the people that today captures sounds with musical and artistic purposes are desserted visual artists and rock, pop, jazz and classic musicians…for me this is a sign that the power and effectiveness of the visual image is in crisis. Also that the ability to put a big emotional and political input to to rock / pop is useless. Also this means a crisis of instituions like the academy and the conservatories in general. This is the poetical and political power of a man with a microphone, a recorder, an editor and access to media.

Back to Irving Teibel‘s interest on publishing field recording based material in vinyl discs, it started when he was working with multimedia artist and member of The Dream Syndicate Tony Conrad on his movie ‘Coming attractions. Teibel became strongly fascinated with his recordings from waves captured in Coney Island, NY. The interest of Teibel in publishing the captures from sea waves generated tension between him and Conrad to the point Teibel will later quit the movie crew after Conrad refused to join Teibel on Syntonics Research, the project behind the Environments series.

The utilitarian and commercial character that Teibel wanted to give to these recordings is obvious through the liner notes; I could guess this situation made impossible for Conrad and Teibel to continue working together: while Conrad was more of an avant garde artist and composer, Teibell seemed more of a sound producer interested on the therapeutical aspects of psychology.

Anyway Teibel indeed deserves a lot of credit: he published several albums of field recordings sounds on a major music label like Atlantic (Led Zeppelin) back on the mid 1970’s, when recording equipment was expensive and Chris Watson was on Cabaret Voltaire.

Teibel died on 2010 and on his obituary it reads:

‘Irv is most notably known for his recording series, Environments (TM) which was the first publicly-available psychoacoustic recording series. His company, Syntonic Research, Inc. was the first corporation to use the concept of acoustic noise masking via recorded sound, utilizing the myriad subtle sounds of nature.’

‘Environments 1’ is very strong work on its formal aspect. His psychological not to say ‘therapeutic’ approach barely addresses the more profound, artistic and poetical sense that can be found on the waves that Teibel recorded, a sense that can be found on the many things we can ‘hear’ while in resonance with the ‘white noise-like’ effect that a disappointed Teibel was pursuing when he entered the studio with the wave recordings. Teibel was highly frustrated towards the recorded material he captured for “Coming attractions’, but with the help of Louis Gerstman and an IBM 360 computer he managed to process those sounds making them ‘more real’ and satisfying to the point he finally published them.

One the most fascinating fact about ‘Environments 1’ is that in a safe bet some of the sounds featured here are pressed on a disc that is traveling through the space looking for ‘somebody’ who will listen to them in one of the most utopian and poetic efforts in the history of mankind. On this album we can hear what fascinated Teibel about those waves, we can hear his world and the noise it produces. In this sense noise appears like the new mirror in terms of the creation of images; images are created as a result of the resonance we establish with the sounds of our environment, with the world and with ourselves looking outside for our interior .

Dr. Snaut: ‘We need a mirror. We struggle to make contact, but we’ll never achieve it.’
-Solyaris. Andrei Tarkovski 1972

Teibel died two years ago but some of the sounds he recorded could be the last documented sounds to prevail in time. The work of Teibel and the story behind it presents really interesting and poetical questions towards the act of recording..towards the need of man to retain the present time like when we want to grab liquid water that slips through our hands (in another over-used figure); what happened with Teibel is about the impossible, the utopian…a memory made eternal when its imprint drifts through the infinite vastness of universe where sometimes we expect to metaphorically find ourselves; the poetry and importance of Teibel’s work and figure lies is the utopian effort behind capturing sounds and printing them on a lasting medium on our quest for eternity, of finding ourselves beyond the irreversible catastrophe of death.

* Environment 1 on its CD edition presents an extension of the Side A of the original vinyl album.

-John McEnore

Syntonic Research on Discogs
Sounds featured in the Voyager’s golden disc