(Impulsive Habitat 2012)

Review by James Davidson

Sounds are layered upon each other in what might initially be considered a random manner in Darius Ciuta and Chris Whitehead’s collaborative work titled “Ch-da (d – 2)”. Here interiors and exteriors, industrial and natural zones blend into a collage-like dreamscape of floating sonic memories.

A natural response when listening to field-recording-based compositions is to form a narrative that threads the individual sounds together. Another approach interprets a work through its examination of place. Yet listening to “CH-da (d – 2)” in these traditional manners will fail. An explanation of the methodology behind the composition explains why.

“CH-da (d – 2)” was born from an abstract approach that arranged Ciuta and Whitehead’s field-recordings according to a numerical system. After making 30 field recordings in their respective countries Ciuta and Whitehead sequenced the tracks following the pre-arranged system. Each track was reduced to one and a half minutes, including a thirty second fade in and fade out. What ensues is a collection of field-recordings that are detached from their original geographic space with little or no relationship between one another. However something quite surprising results from this. In this apparently random collection of sounds we are able to hear a sense of cohesion and continuity.

Even after several listens it is difficult to understand how the sixty unrelated field recordings on “CH-da (d – 2)” work together so seamlessly. It may be due to the familiarity of many of the sounds that have been selected, such as voices, birds, engines, teacups being stirred, sewing machines and the gentle bubbling of streams. The cohesion might also stem from the way that our brain seeks to make sense of what enters our auditory system, our brain visualising a unified world from apparently random sonic matter. Regardless, the listener is left with a pastiche of modern life, a sonic document of the industrial and natural worlds.

This experiment by Ciuta and Whitehead could have resulted in a clinical and abstract composition whose cleverness outdid its own listenability. It is to their credit that they didn’t allow this to happen. Instead we are able to sit back and dream with the sounds as they wash over us, the juxtaposition of contrasting elements curiously blending into something quite organic. Although the sequencing of the field recordings was based on a numerical system, “CH-da (d – 2)” has an extremely warm human touch, a gentle portrait of the sounds that surround us and pass through our psyche on a daily basis.

[Darius Ciuta, Chris Whithead illustration by Chris Whithead]

Darius Ciuta website
Chris Whitehead website
Impulsive Habitat website