(Treetrunk 2012)

Review by Chris Whitehead

In field recording It’s traditional to pack a bag full of hi-tech gear and head out to a jungle, mangrove swamp or desolate snowy moorland to capture the sounds of the environment as they unfold before the listener. David Nemeth however has done just the opposite. He’s closed his front door and retuned his listening to the frequency of the sounds in his domestic domain.

Nemeth’s perfectly proportioned (less than 15 minutes) piece reminds us that fields of sound are constantly emanating from the various appliances and fixtures in our living spaces. These fields overlap and interact as we move around our houses. We traverse between clouds of vibrational radiation, crossing thresholds of intersecting soundfields as we pass from one room to another. In a sense the very act of walking around in a living space, or even rotating ones head, is an active method of composition. Careful listening and movement constantly changes both the stereo balance and the varying flow of pitch and timbre from the sources; in this case electric lights, microwave, refrigerator etc.

Nemeth explains his fascination with interior emissions thus: “I was listening to Oriol Rosell’s Per Fly on Audiotalaia which I found to be a very good minimalistic drone album. The first track of Per Fly reminded me of a bank of lights in my home which I don’t use due to their annoying emission of a faint high pitch tone. With this as a starting point, I began to think of what other drones were in my home soundscape.”

These are effects we filter out in everyday life. We either train our minds to consciously discard their influence, or we simply become accustomed to them being there all the time in the background. It’s like being at a party where, despite conversations taking place all around us, we can tightly focus on the person we’re speaking to at the time and push to one side the tide of competing voices we’re immersed in.

The future may bring a silent home as everything is geared to noiseless operation. Perhaps this is another environment at risk. Perhaps technology will eradicate buzzing electrical appliances, noisy central heating radiators and the requirement for automatic built-in cooling fans. Perhaps this is a document of domestic sounds that will slowly be phased out of our lives like the hum of valves in old televisions or the ticking of mechanical clocks.

Nemeth leaves us clothed in each sound long enough to appreciate its contours before introducing the next. The first transition is between a steady drone (possibly the sound of heating pipes?) and a more rhythmic, regular output brought into being by the flick of a switch. This ends abruptly at around the 2 minute 20 second mark and everything is stripped away down to a bare, bristling electrical emission. The composition continues in this way bringing in new colours and textures. Each is given stand-alone prominence and no processing takes place.

If you listen to Home Drones, which is incidentally free to download, on speakers your house might play along. The central heating may kick into operation or perhaps you could add a microwave part to the sound of David Nemeth’s noisy electrical light unit? Just think, you needn’t even go outside.


[David Nemeth]

David Nemeth website
Treetrunk website

Chris Whitehead

Sound artist.