Sunday 1st FebruaryFebruary 2, 2009
Today the temperature fell below zero here and we had a sprinkling of snow, with more threatened for overnight. So no walking today. After Julie called to say she was off to her mother’s for the day I decided to spend it tidying up, hoovering, dusting, matching stray CDs to their sleeves etc, and with only a couple of breaks (to cook dinner and to listen to a football match) I listened to music all day. As I tidied I also wrote about some of the music I was listening to. My thoughts on those discs should hopefully appear elsewhere so I won’t mention them here.
I listened to a lot of other stuff though. Breakfast (scrambled egg and smoked salmon, very nice) was taken along with Shostakovich’s Violin Sonata op.134 performed by Gidon Kremer. A lovely, rousing way to start the day. I played the Jason Kahn / Takefumi Naoshima disc again early this morning though, and it is also playing now as I type this. I’m intrigued by this release, mainly because its not always clear what is going on, who is making which sound, or even which sounds are actually intentionally part of the music or not. In a room (the title of the piece) sounds to me like it is a recording of a very quiet concert, somewhere along the lines of his two CDR releases with Yasuo Totsuka, plenty going on but all done very quietly. However it then sounds like the gain on the recording has been turned right up, so that the small sounds are amplified, but also so a loud hum is heard right the way through, roomtone for want of a better term. This trick is similar to that used on the Septet disc released by one of the Improvised Music from Japan label a year or two back, a recording that also involved Naoshima.
This recording then captures the sound of passing traffic alongside the clicks, creaks, whistles and scrapes of the musicians, but all engulfed in this shroud of grey hum hanging across the recording. Its hard to assess the music on the same terms that I might consider many other improvised music recordings. The noises made by Kahn and Naoshima seem to creep out from behind the veil, sometimes staying around for a while, sometimes not, but its very difficult to work out who is doing what, how the sounds relate to one another, and which sounds belong to the room alone rather than the musicians. At one point running water can be clearly heard for a minute or so, but where does it come from? Is one of the musicians pouring it onstage? Are we hearing a played-back recording of the same thing? Or did someone working at the venue merely run a tap behind the bar?
As I type this, just before midnight, a thin fall of snow can be seen through the window. Looking back across the town street lights look a blur seen through the haze of the cold. This image is a good companion for the music that has just stopped playing, murky spots of colour seen through the greyness. Trying to make out the details is a futile experience, but overall everything comes together to form a very lovely view. In a room is like this. If you work hard to try and connect with any communication between the musicians, or to separate their sounds from those in the room or those caused by the recording process you will probably be frustrated. However if you take everything you hear as one field of sound and allow it to just mingle with the sounds in your own space then it works beautifully well.
Incidentally I found In a room a difficult disc to experience on headphones. As I suggest above it worked best for me when it was not listened to closely, but when it was allowed to exist in the room amongst everything else already there. Listened to via headphones the music felt claustrophobic and contained. The hum that sits in the foreground throughout the recording felt louder, almost oppressively so, whereas when allowed to play free in the room the sounds behind this were more obvious as the hum seemed to dissipate more given the space to breathe.
Anyway its a good CD. Available here.