A Quiet Position. VA – curated by Jez Riley French-
(Impulsive Habitat 2012)

“A Quiet Position” is a sublime new release of field recordings poetically capturing the subtle sounds that exist in common areas. Curated by Jez riley French “A Quiet Position” showcases the way in which field recordings meditatively transport us into the present moment, where the passage of time exhibits an elasticity that cannot be found in another art medium.

“A Quiet Position” features nine field recordists from a diverse range of countries including England, Iceland, Norway, and Japan. Despite differences in regions “A Quiet Position” is unified through each field recordist’s approach to their subject. Sounds which quietly envelope us are amplified, placing the miniatures of life into a more prominent stance.  Any amplification is done with absolute sensitivity, without endangering the delicate quality of the sounding object or its environmental context.

Each of the tracks in “A Quiet Position” offers something unique for the listener, however for the limited space of this review only a few standout tracks will be mentioned. The first of these is by Jez riley French. “An Upstairs Landing” features the sound of air reverberating inside a glass jar.  By using lavalier microphones French captures an otherworldly tone slightly reminiscent of recordings of the sun’s electro-magnetic energy. There in his room in Cambridge French reveals a sound that could be easily dismissed by those without the patience to fall into its sense of wonder.

Duncan White’s recording titled “Array no.13” illustrates the variations that exist in the tone and pitch of wind. Recorded at Rampisham Transmission Centre in the summer of 2011 White’s track embodies the way in which R. Murray Schaffer described the musicality of the world around us. It exudes a sense of timelessness and isolation that is slowly unveiled to those who close their eyes to listen.

“Hitre” by Signe Liden is a deceptively simple composition made by layering field recordings of a bridge squeaking with the movement of waves on a Norwegian island. In the distance wolves can be heard, adding spatial depth and a haunting tone to the work. “Hitre” effectively demonstrates the way we respond to quiet sounds and the use of silence. By listening to the quiet that surrounds us we become more attuned to the spaces in which we live.

Running at just over fifteen minutes Elin Oyen Vister’s recording of a dawn chorus in Iceland’s Ytribaer Forest is “A Quiet Position’s” longest and most straightforward track.  “Ytribaer Forest” brings the uninitiated listener close to the experience of traditional field recording. Listening to the quiet warbling call of the male Common Snipe in Vister’s recording is a pleasant challenge that confronts our ever-diminishing ability to slow down. Entrenching ourselves in the sounds of the early morning forest we are absorbed into “the moment”, our sense of time realigns itself with the natural flow. It is this serene connection between sound and time that is the common thread between each of the ten tracks in “A Quiet Position”.

Jez riley French has successfully curated a collection of works by field recordists who allow us entry to their sonic discoveries. The recordings were taken in regions we may never visit, however they are from acoustic spaces available to everyone. Recordings presented in “A Quiet Position” open us to the sonic possibilities of everything from bottles, trains, kerosene heaters, and bird nests. Familiar objects and places lie before us in quiet positions. It is our task to open our ears and listen.

[Jez Riley French]

-Jay-Dea Lopez

A quiet position project website
Impulsive Habitat website

Jay-Dea Lopez

Sound artist and journalist at Sounds Like Noise.