Presence. YANN NOVAK
(Hiberante 2011)

Preface. I advice to listen to this work on loudspeakers (stereo on quadraphony or octophony works very very well)

Presence is the most recent release by Los Angeles based american artist Yann Novak on UK label Hibernate.

On the text regarding this release it says that Yann Novak used sounds captured on a cellphone, sounds that he refers to as “chosen for their ability to altered ones perception”. As a reviewer I don’t expect to know anything about the sound sources but when you read about “perception altering sounds” and the text doesn’t elaborate on that any further it makes for the text to seem no fully developed. Although as a reviewer and listener I moslty care about the sound experience that I have with the piece the text is important when it has a close relationship with the creative process as it can help articulating ideas and formal concepts.

Perception seems to work like some sort of “perceptual matter” that the sound artists work with: The effect that sound has on a perceptual level is very strong in part because of this double-hearing process where the experience becomes two. When the artist is working with sound he is working with the perception of sound and Presence is a great example of the capacity of sound to “play” with our conscience having the listener surrounded and immersed in a space and time created by sound.

This work is improvisation-based as originally worked with other performances on an event at the Torrance Art Museum in California on June of 2010. On the liner notes I found this text regarding the release: “Presence explores the trajectory from uneasy to breakthrough that can happen when unknown variables are combined…Presence moves smoothly through the a number of emotional and physical states.
Evenly paced passages drift slowly from one into another, beginning in dissonance and slowly shifting into complimentary over the duration of the piece.”

As an artist myself I believe that a sound piece is like a seed that the artists sows on the listener’s conscience where it develops into an individual sensible experience. Anyway there is a subjacent connection, mostly on the improvised piece, since the performer is also listening to his performance as it occurs; This connection is the artistic, is the the individual specific concerns becoming general and universal through the sensible experience established between the artist, his perception, his method, his work and the listener’s perception.

On a  review for Age of insects by Mem1 and Stephen VIitiello I mentioned that sound improvisation has this unique capacity of dealing with time because the performer is working on real time having this strong sense of the “now” that is immanent during the performance and on its documentation. The importance of the “now” in a perceptual level is very strong on Presence, the listener fields that something is happening but he is also very aware of change, of many things happening simultaneously and on a ephimereal way.

The interest of the artists about perception and the final formal result of this project are completely coherent, Presence works on a level where the physical surrounding of the listener becomes secondary as he is immersed on a perceptual time and space that has no relation with his physical notion; the artists establishes a personal notion of time and space that the listener inhabits with his imagination. Very successful work in terms of how the main thematic considerations of the artists are formally dealt with through the piece.

– John McEnroe

Yann Novak website
Hibernate website
Torrance Art Museum