The Darkness and the light. SETH COOKE
(Compost and Height 2012)

For ‘The darkness and the light’ British artist Seth Cooke captured recordings on Leed’s underground parkin lot ‘The Light’, and on ‘Dark Arches’ a stretch of brick-walled tunnels beneath Leeds train station. It’s possible, after reading the liner notes and listening to the piece, that for ‘The Light’ he played a sinusoidal wave in site that will appear on the recordings as part of the environment. On ‘Dark Arches’ he recorded the tunnel while it rained on a Monday morning.

An interesting fact is that, due the hour and wheather circumstances, no cars moving where recorded on the parking lot and no trains moving where recorded on the train station. This fact probably gave to the work a complete different outcome and again, sometimes being left to the derive and the surprise is a big poetic part in the artistic documental process.

‘The light’ is a strong piece in terms of the tensions that arise through the 31 minutes. The idea of making the ‘montage’ on site on real time by playing a sinusoidal wave on location pays off as a rare and beautiful sense of environment is established merging the incidental with the action. The listener’s potential tendency of converting ‘noise’ into some sort of pleasant soothing ‘lullaby’ is dealt with here with big success: the lullaby is already there instrumented through the sinusoidal wave allowing for the incidental sounds to retain their exogenic and external environmental character. Through the beginning of the last third of the piece the listener can notice the presence of some sort of rising drone that strongly affects the piece’s tension and structure. Cooke wrote that the origin of this rising ‘drone’ is unknown. The loud grave sound after a few minutes acquires this lullaby-like character turning into a soothing sound that finally fades away.

“The dark arches”, the second piece, presents a more uneven structure as the rain seems to have moments of more and less pouring intensity. A detail that I find quite interesting in this piece is the eventual sound of water dripping recurrently appearing; these are the only times on this work where the ‘detail’ is formally dealt with. Through the end of this second piece the dripping water is left alone while ‘silence’ and quietness surounds it. This is a very intimate moment that brilliantly closes the release.

Another fact that I would like to point out is that sometimes we can hear a ‘breathing’ sound through different segments of the work. Is it Cooke? I’d say it’s very possible that is him; now I ask why? Why the sounds of the artist breathing are there? Was it accidental? Really doubt it. Was in on purpose? Probably. For me as a listener and reviewer, this breathing sounds establish an observer in location: is not only the sinusoidal waves or the rain but it’s Cooke there recording and being there making it all to happen.

From the overwhelming sounds of parking lots drones and pouring water to the detailed, intimate and textured sounds of leaking water ‘The darkness and the light’ is a very effective release in terms of the emotional content that can be found on location sounds when an additional element is added into the scene, in this case the rain, the sine waves and him Cooke, breathing reminding us that without an observer there is no subject.

[Seth Cooke]

-John McEnroe

Seth Cooke website
Compost And Height website