Cassette Reviews

Friday 21st October

October 21, 2011

Another tape from Windsmeasure tonight then, and a really lovely one too. It comes from the duo of Stefan Thut, the Wandelweiser member, composer and cellist, and Taku Unami, of whom regular readers here will be aware. am wind, dd±50 contains two pieces, one on each side of the tape. The first side contains Thut’s solo realisation of his own score am wind while the flip side contains a duo version of a piece by Unami named d±50 that sees Thut play cello and Unami sine wave.

What I assume to be the score to am wind is printed onto a beautiful little letterpress card tucked inside the tape’s sleeve. The simple, poetic text score is as follows;

at night
close to the wind

(as a field recording: unprocessed)

For this particular realisation of the work Thut has placed a microphone in a position to catch the wind, and has then set the recording down as follows:

am wind 17:00
silence 1:32
am wind 17:00
silence 1:32

So we have a seventeen minute field recording, a break and then another recording of the same length, followed by a contemplative silence and then the end. Its hard to know if there is a purpose for this work other than to create something quite remarkably beautiful, but certainly this much has been achieved. Thut has placed a microphone or two in an urban sight during high winds. For the first part we hear the rush of the wind, strong, picking up even further into billows here and there, I think blowing through trees, maybe in a park or something similar as the song of a few hardy birds can be heard buried amongst it all. Every so often other sounds impact the recording, a distant hum of traffic, other, closer vehicles, the occasional car door closing, dogs barking, and at one point a loud overhead aircraft, the dull roar of which blended beautifully with the wind.

The silence comes with a jolt, and we have time to reset our ears before the next windy recording, this time less dense, with what sounds like a sheet of microphone gain hissing thinly on top of everything. The recording this time may not be out of doors, but somewhere quieter. The wind sound smote muffled, and while external sounds can be heard- more aircraft, maybe even a train, they are buried deeper and it is harder to tell them apart from the sound of the wind. This piece of music is really lovely, the kind of thing I can happily play all day, though being a tape, to listen to it several times in succession as I like to do when reviewing means rewinding it each time. I can’t just press Play again… Thut is one of the most interesting of the newer names working in this area of composition right now. His scores are usually quite beautiful works in themselves, but here the realisation is also a thing of great beauty- a thoughtful and calming work indeed.

On the other side, Taku Unami’s dd±50 is quite different, and yet very attractive in another way. The recording has been made somewhere indoors, but somewhere quite noisy in Tokyo in 2009, with traffic, emergency sirens, various knocks and crashes,footsteps,  doors opening and closing and more all impinging on the recording. The music itself sees Thut play continuous tones on his cello alongside which Unami allows heavy, bass tones to swell up. Every so often one or the other stops playing, and the impact is quite stunning when the thickness of the music is suddenly halved and either the textures of the cello, or the softness of the sidetone is left alone. Occasionally they both stop,  and the sounds of the locale flood in, and those familiar concert-like sounds appear, not only the identifiable ones but those creaks and taps that seem to fill every room when an audience try and remain quiet. There is activity all through the recording of this kind. I don’t think any of it came directly from the musicians as an intentional part of the work, but you never know.

As we have come to expect, Unami does not include his score with the release, so it is a little more difficult to ascertain the details of how the piece works, and we can only just listen, and immerse ourselves in the sounds placed before us. Both of the works on this cassette are really very lovely indeed, each quite different, but wonderfully poised, delicate and a perfect match for the packaging they come wrapped up in.


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