cdwhon006, released in october 2000, 3 tracks, 61'16",
in september 1998, i assembled the sound installation "filtering the
current" for the AMORPH98! festival, held on suomenlinna island off the
coast of finland. with the help of students from the sibelius academy in
helsinki and organizers of the festival, i installed seven aeolian harps
on the sod roof of an old and heavily fortified gunpowder bunker named
"kaponieeri coyet." each aeolian harp consisted of a wire strung between
two planks of wood that focused the wind across the wires, inducing
harmonics that were picked up by contact microphones and subsequently
mixed and amplified in the interior chamber of the bunker.
over the course of the weekend exhibition, i spent many hours adjusting the sounds and the wires, working late into the night within the massive stonewalls and on the roof. i was listening into the darkness of the sea through the wind that was courting my wires. the bunker was located on a peninsula at the southern extreme of the island, facing the gulf of finland; during the day, i explored the peninsula and made recordings of the rocky coast, the resonant interiors of great cannon barrels, a kite flying in heavy wind, and the grass of quiet little nooks between rolling granite forms that made up the body of the island.
more than a year later, the transmuted sounds and memories of suomenlinna island have evolved into :coyot: -- a sound journey through mnemonic debris blown by winds from a distant place.
mnortham, july 2000
François Couture, All-Music Guide
This disk is based around one of his installations - a set of aeolian harps over an old gunpowder bunker on an island off Finland. These fed down through contact mikes to a studio chamber in the bunker. During the weekend festival mnortham adjusted the sounds and the wires, recording the harps and also some local sites and animals, and a year later 'composed' them into this piece.
Emerging gradually out of the silence 'Observations of wind at molecular states of evolution' harmonically growls at us - a constant granular drone of the long wires in strong winds with hints of over and under tones and subterranean variations - singing tones and light touches. An organ playing a single note in a subway/underground tunnel, on a geological scale a slow-melody flows, as all the while the notes are shifting, the shape of the sound evolving. And there are active points, where the wires sing together, and movement through louder, fuller passages into more restrained (less windy?) almost silent periods, before growing again to its end.
'Effects of atmospheric pressure on air-born particles of solids and liquids' (aka the second track) introduces a percussive element tapping behind the droning wire - probably rain where the growling in the first was the wind. The resonant wires are more prominent, giving the piece a subtle restraint. At times sounding like a sustained piano note, the overall mood is gentle, and leads to a wonderful long fade. Here is a good a point as any to note that earphone listening gives access to some of the smaller gestures and components in the music, which can get lost in a room and speakers.
The final piece has perhaps the most complex layering of string-drones as its focus. As you listen to them in 'The copulation and subsequent conception of vacuums between wires and winds' voices seem to emerge from the interaction of the notes. Again the work ebbs and flows with some quite intense periods and others which are more restrained and simpler. The difference in mood between the three parts of ':coyot:' underlines mnortham's skill in selecting which moments to work on. Also, while the booklet suggests that some of his field recordings on the island were incorporated, they have become so integral that I couldn't distinguish them.
The form that mnortham works in imposes tight constraints on the resulting music: the wires themselves have limited range though atmospheric affects expand the sound palette. And yet these pieces are compelling and mesmeric - the small changes in texture or timbre, the development over time (whether real time or due to seamless editing) are earcatching and maintain your interest. My experience of this form of soundscape places Alan Lamb high on the scale, and this recording is up there with him. (There is also a booklet containing a typically obtuse acheologicallinguistic essay by G Toniutti - see &etc v1.8).
&etc v3.8 - Jeremy Keens - Ampersand Etcetera - Volume 3 Number 8
Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly 249