The great silence. JAY-DEA LOPEZ
(3Leaves 2013)

Review by David Vélez

‘…deathlikedismalgloomy and appalling…’

These are words used by British colonialists to describe the sounds of Australia in the 18th century as it can be read on the release’s liner notes. ‘The great silence’ is a composition by Jay-Dea Lopez based on sounds he captured on Australia -where he lives- and that is published by 3Leaves.

After some listening I could guess that Jay-Dea Lopez did some substantial editing and layering to his untreated recordings but I might be wrong. Anyway sometimes I care more about the environment I perceptually create rather that about the environments he might have originally recorded. At certain point point with phonographic-based composition I formally treasure the myth over the fact.

‘The great silence’ is of one of the most fortunate releases of its kind of the year and one of the reasons of its success is how it manages to create a really strong and effective emotional sense of tension in every moment and throughout the entire piece. I refereed to this once as ‘compositional coordinates’: one established by the illusion of depth and another established by the illusion of change that links punctual events on a timeline; in this composition Jay-Dea Lopez exhibits a very complete understanding of both coordinates making this work not only deep in the singularity of every moment but deep as an emotional universal structure.

Time -just like sound- is intangible: we can’t grab it or even see it…all we can see or grab is its imprint, the emptiness it leaves. From skin wrinkles to metal rust we only can see what time does to objectual visible things, but time itself is nowhere to be seen.

But why I talk about time while reviewing ‘The great silence’?

Because I believe that acousmatic composition (in this particular case phonographic composition) is the essential art / musical practice when we are creatively and objectively interested in the emotional aspect of time perception. The invisible, intangible and mysterious nature of sound reflects like no other media the equally mysterious nature of time because it reflects it in its own invisibility and mystery; in this regard Jay-Dea Lopez presents us a time that is dark and somber, a time of doom where the presence of a future catastrophe is subjacent on every single moment as it happens on nature.

‘Anything in history or nature that can be described as changing steadily can be seen as heading toward catastrophe.’
-Susan Sontag

Phonographic composition that includes edition, layering but no treatment makes use of documentation (of traces from reality) to create a fictional narrative, a fictional story that is strongly believable because its ‘pitch’ is natural and is perceived as real. To pitch up/down or not to is a very important decision that have strong repercussions on the finalized work; in this case the use of a natural pitch puts the composition on a context where the sound object that the listener could perceptually create is still subtly linked to its causality which helps creating a stronger emotional sense of location.

The deathlike, dismal, gloomy and appalling aspects that the colonialists described is present throughout the release and it also can be found in other Jay-Dea works that by no coincidence were also composed with environmental sounds from wildlife Australia. In a way his work reminds me of Werner Herzog’s movies ‘Aguirre, the wrath of God’ and ‘Fitzcarraldo’ where nature is seen as something menacing, haunting and merciless. On Lopez’ work the environmentalist moral discourse presented by many phonographic releases where nature is seen as weak and vulnerable when confronted by men is replaced by an actual sense of respect and fear imposed by the way nature sounds like. This is a nature that not only resists human progress, but a nature that eventually could prevail and corrode the structures of human progress.

‘The great silence’ is a work to be reckoned with in the crowded world of phonographic composition.


[Jay-Dea Lopez]

Jay-Dea Lopez website
3Leaves website

Jay-Dea Lopez

Sound artist and journalist at Sounds Like Noise.