… a stunningly vivid piece of uncanny metarealism… — 5:4, UK
… this “transcoding” process is — believe me and my headphones — really impressive… — Chain DLK, USA
- Composer(s): Jonty Harrison
- Cover image: Luc Beauchemin
- Mastering: Joseph Anderson
CD (IMED 16139)
- 1Espaces cachés (2014), 13:54fixed medium
- 2Going / Places (2015), 59:55fixed medium
- Label: empreintes DIGITALes
- IMED 16139
- UCC 771028213924
- Total duration: 73:58
- 125 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
- 50 g
On the web
Download (IMED 16139_NUM)
- 1Espaces cachés (2014), 13:54fixed medium
- 2Going / Places (2015), 59:55fixed medium
- Label: empreintes DIGITALes
- IMED 16139_NUM
- UCC 771028213986
- Total duration: 73:58
About the Ambisonic UHJ Encoding Process
In April 2015 Jonty Harrison visited Seattle (WA, USA) as part of a DXARTS concert presentation of his work. This was an ‘in transit’ visit, a stopover in worldwide travels on the way to making Going / Places. He mentioned a conundrum regarding ‘properly’ expressing multichannel pieces in a mix suitable for CD reproduction. My short answer was: ‘you need Ambisonics!’ It’s been a pleasure stepping up to the challenge of representing the impressions found in Jonty’s diverse material — something he has described as creating new “spatial arrangements.”
Joseph Anderson, Seattle (Washington, USA) [v-16]
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In the press
Best Albums of 2016 (Part 2)
10. Jonty Harrison — Voyages
“[…] large-scale tapestries that exist at the delicate liminal point between authenticity (raw and untouched) and artifice (clearly juxta-/superimposed). The latter is emphasised throughout the fourteen minutes of Espaces cachés, something of an essay in qualitative shifts and jump cuts between assembled groups of sound sources. […] As its modest but ambitious title suggests, Going / Places doesn’t simply expand this idea, it explodes it […] Harrison’s moulding of the recordings into complex fabrics turns Going / Places into a stunningly vivid piece of uncanny metarealism that encapsulates both the physicality and the psychology of the present experience together with aspects of memory and anticipation.” (Reviewed in December 2016.)
In Espaces cachés and Going / Places, two recent works by Jonty Harrison on a CD called Voyages from empreintes DIGITALes, the ‘actual’/’virtual’ interplay emerges entirely from Harrison’s use of field recordings. Specifically, the way he shapes and positions them into large-scale tapestries that exist at the delicate liminal point between authenticity (raw and untouched) and artifice (clearly juxta-/superimposed). The latter is emphasised throughout the fourteen minutes of Espaces cachés, something of an essay in qualitative shifts and jump cuts between assembled groups of sound sources. The effect is cinematic, the episodic nature of the piece resembling a sequence of discrete ‘scenes’ — which somehow declare and defy their artificiality at the same time — demarcated by brief moments of disorientation. As its modest but ambitious title suggests, Going / Places doesn’t simply expand this idea, it explodes it, resulting in a 60-minute soundscape in which the structural divisions are no longer clear-cut and often themselves feel like an integral part of the activities captured in the field recordings. At its world première at HCMF 2015 I wrote about the “transparency of Harrison’s methods of collage and juxtaposition”, resulting in music that “certainly isn’t ‘electronic’, and one even hesitates to call it ‘acousmatic’”. That’s even more the case in this two-channel version, which sounds awesome through headphones (in no small part due to the fact the sounds were recorded ambisonically) and has the effect of turning one’s listening space into a vivid kaleidoscopic whistle-stop tour of the globe. But it’s more collage than reportage, and Harrison’s moulding of the recordings into complex fabrics turns Going / Places into a stunningly vivid piece of uncanny metarealism that encapsulates both the physicality and the psychology of the present experience together with aspects of memory and anticipation.
I imagine that some atheists or rationalists could get captivated, after they’ll listen the overlapping of farming animal sounds and field recordings grabbed in some mosque full of praying devouts and in an Italian church while reciting the rosary in a moment of Espaces cachés, the first 14-minute lasting track of this collection, assembled by an impressive quantity of sound samples, which got premiered on June 7th, 2014 during the Klang! électroacoustique festival in Montpellier under commission by Maison des arts sonores. Similarly, fans of nautical themes or seaside places could get entranced by a group of tracks, belonging to Going / Places where many sounds got grabbed nearby harbours and quays (including underwater echoes of the quays and floating strain at their moorings caught near Sidney Opera House, barnacles found in Sydney Harbour, in the surroundings of Great Barrier Reef, and on the beaches of the isle of Corfu — Greece —, recordings of boats, swifts and harbour activities in Corfu and Poros, boats straining taken at the yacht club in Boston, Massachusets) and lovers of Iceland — I met many people devoted to that chilling place in the recent times (hoping it’s not a mass phenomenon following the funny way by which Iceland football team used to greet their supporters at the end of matches at the recent European football championship) — would be delighted by the sounds of bubbling waters taken from geothermal pools at Seltun, the buzz of radio cables hanging from Hellissandur radio masts in Snaefellsness overlapping the sound of melting ice and subterranean glacial stream, taken nearby the Solheimajokull glacier. Besides the evocative sonic collages that Professor Jonty Harrison provides in this huge selection, the aspect that could interest in sound explorer like us and most of our readers is the way by which he transplanted field recordings into stereophonic channels, particularly in the above-mentioned Espaces cachés, initially a 30-track tape for multichannel sound system, which was entirely produced and mastered by Joseph Anderson in the first months of 2016 at the Sound Lab of the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media of the University of Washington in Seattle by means of stereophonic Ambisonic UHJ Encoding. The final result of this “transcoding” process is — believe me and my headphones — really impressive, while the most relevant aspect of the 23 tracks by which Jonty split a selection from his massive sound archive, collecting a plenty of recordings grabbed during many journeys all over the world, is the criteria that he mostly adopted to group together those recordings. Most of the tracks manage to assemble events that could be related to similar or sometimes identical phenomenon or cultural happenings, where the aggregating element is mostly aural, and these aural manifestations are similar to colors depicting the same event according to more or less mysterious rules that vary by different cultural environment! For instance, you’ll hear bells from four different places (Chartres, Venice, Berlin and Corfu plus the Montaione clock in Tuscany), sounds from four different railway station (Florence, Pisa, Rome and Castelfiorentino in Italy), interlacing of pipes and drums from many different sets and settings (ghaitas in Marrakech, Morocco, piccolo bands parading during the Carnival of Bael in Switzerland, bagpipers in Morelia, Mexico and aural entities such as firecrackers and the noise of coins in offering bowls in a religious procession nearby the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok) in single tracks. Harrison’s collages define an engaging way of matching audio travelogues and field recordings. (Trained audiophiles should check these guidelines for a really immersive sound experience: http://www.ambisonictoolkit.net/publications/2016/06/22/harrison-voyages.html)
Sometimes, arguably at its best, music has transportative qualities, either by capturing the essence of a place, or by triggering a memory which takes the listener to another time or place. On Voyages, Jonty Harrison marries these elements together.
The field recordings collaged to form Espaces cachés are eclectic, from birdsong and passing traffic to distant voices, the wash of waves, and creaking doors. Lifts and tannoy announcements, trains and miscellaneous, extraneous sounds bring the city and countryside together over a low-level hum.
Going / Places takes the travel and transportation theme further, having been inspired, Harrison explains in the accompanying notes, by contextualising the work thus: ‘One day, nearly 25 years ago, when I was recording a journey on the London Underground, a lost overseas visitor asked me directions: that incident gave me the idea for a piece based on the broad theme of travel…’
And, essentially, Going / Places, is a collection of field samples which documents a journey, or a succession of journeys, literal and mental. Because geography is a state of mind. It’s perhaps worth taking into account the fact that while the sounds were gathered from around the globe, the listening experience — even on a mobile device — is likely to e rather more fixed, geographically speaking. And the location is the context, is a way.
Although the track listing shows this as a single track with a running time of 59:55, the disc is mastered to twenty-three individual tracks, all segued, with some of the segments less than a minute long. Along the way, Harrison takes sounds from different countries, and gives flavours of myriad different cultures. Ringing bells on trams, marimbas, chatter of a bustling market, birds and insects, myriad sounds of life, and life on the move. The sense are vivid, vibrant, recorded in full colour (so to speak). There’s a palpable sense of movement, of motion here, and Harrison describes the segments as ‘scenes’. In his ‘rough guide’, he lists the locations and sound sources. The notes, in their way transport you there.
With this album you may never need to leave the house to cross the oceans to explore the world. But after hearing it, you may want to.
One of the big beasts roaming the electroacoustic savannah, Jonty Harrison combines technological sophistication and psychological subtlety with insatiable hunger for sound. His hour-long Going / Places ranges far and wide, quite literally, grazing materials from around the globe: railroad horns from Ohio; bubbling geothermal pools in Iceland; calls to prayer in Istanbul; Mexican bagpipers; frogs in Borneo; market callers in Melbourne. A travelogue of bewildering discontinuities, it rushes on with the uplifting fluency of a dream. Voyages also features Espaces cachés, a series of scenes and apparitions also crafted from found sounds. Originally conceived in 30-track expansiveness, the piece is here condensed into unusually vivid stereo. And Harrison never allows studio expertise to sideline potential for enchantment.
Der zu Birmingham emeritierte Komponist und Elektroakustiker Jonty Harrison hat auf Voyages (empreintes DIGITALes) zwei aktuelle Stücke für das Stereoformat der CD aufbereitet, ohne wesentliche Abstriche in der klanglichen Raumdimension eingegangen zu sein, die seine auf Multi-Kanal-Repräsentation ausgerichteten Werke prinzipiell mit sich bringen. Dank Ambisonics, einem bereits in den siebziger Jahren entwickelten Verfahren zur Aufnahme und Wiedergabe von Klangfeldern, eröffnet diese Veröffentlichung Welten aus der Welt.
Das 2014 in Montpellier uraufgeführte Espaces cachés (13:54) kompiliert imaginative Sachverhalte, die wohl dem Leben an sich „abgelauscht“ wurden und dennoch eine davon unabhängige Meta-Existenz konstituieren. Insbesondere wird das Spiel mit dem Erinnerungsvermögen und seinen Trugbildern exemplifiziert. Inszenatorische Aushöhlungen oder Auffüllungen spielen allenfalls eine marginale Rolle, wenn „die Welt“ mit natürlicher Konsistenz und Resonanz poliert wird.
Der zweite Track, Going / Places (59:55), kompiliert und strukturiert in 23 Episoden die Welterfahrung des Komponisten, wie sie aus seiner in über 25 Jahren gepflegten Sound Library nun auch zu uns spricht. In der Gesamtheit eine Weltreise, im Detail eine Einladung zur Fusionierung aus (eigener) Lebenserfahrung und dem Abgleich mit der geradezu fantastischen Grenzenlosigkeit des akustischen Vermögens. Vielleicht gehören die Voyages zu jenen Veröffentlichungen, nach deren Genuss man von der Welt nicht nur mehr weiß, sondern auch versteht.
Zaglądam do katalogu kanadyjskiej oficyny empreintes DIGITALes, gdzie pojawił się album profesora Jonty’ego Harrisona.
Brytyjski kompozytor i muzyk studiował w latach 70. m.in. fortepian na Uniwersytecie w York. W 1980 roku dołączył do Instytutu Muzyki Uniwersytetu w Birmingham. Dwa lata później założył BEAST, czyli Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre. Jako kompozytor otrzymał szereg nagród.
Wydawnictwo Voyages pomieściło dwie elektroakustyczne/akuzmatyczne kompozycie: Espaces cachés (2014) i Going / Places (2015). Ten pierwszy utwór miał swoją premierę na festiwalu Klang! Électroacoustique w Montpellier oraz powstał w oparciu o różne odgłosy związane z podróżowaniem i naturą. W Going / Places Harrison także nawiązuje do zjawiska podróżowania. To nagranie zostało stworzone na taśmę w formie 32-kanałowej instalacji.
Since the UK bought a one-way ticket on the trans-euro (political) express (but has yet to punch the ticket and actually make the journey) the country’s in a state of psycho-political chaos and music hardly seems important — and yet — where else can we gain a sense of beauty / truth / escape / relief but in that which gives us pleasure? So the train as metaphor for escape from immediate reality is obvious, excuse me…
Pierre Schaeffer famously recorded a train for the first example of musique concrète (Cinq études de bruits) in 1948 and Jonty Harrison must surely have had that in mind when making his own extended version of that pioneering work. He does, however, travel much further along the track, sometimes to the point of simply allowing train horns to ‘speak’ for themselves, which on paper sounds dull but proves strangely captivating. A master of sound manipulation, he treats concrète recordings so as to blur the lines between what we think of as ‘real’ and ‘created’.
These are not just train recordings, but sounds captured from all over the place, one example that leaps from the speakers being part 11 of Going / Places, made from ‘Floating quays strain at their moorings near Sydney Opera House (Australia)’. Bagpipes, frogs, a street demonstration and other recorded events are woven into this magical journey. Espaces cachés is a separate 14-minute piece which fully explores the wonders of acousmatic sound composition. Escapism may not be freedom but in these times Jonty Harrison’s captivating sound world does, at least, offer blessed relief.
As far as I recall the only other time the name Jonty Harrison came up in Vital Weekly was when I reviewed a release by a student of his, Peter Batchelor (Vital Weekly #929). Much of the work composed by Harrison is simply not designed to be played on a stereo system, but to be experienced in places; places where they have a whole bunch of speakers, anything from a couple more than two up to an immense lot. Harrison is aware himself of the problem that presents this when reducing it to stereo for a CD release. Joseph Anderson suggested to use Ambisonics, which “is a full-sphere surround sound technique: in addition to the horizontal plane, it covers sound sources above and below the listener” (and you can read lots more on wiki, I’d say). Much of Harrison’s work deals with field recordings and ever since the 90s he’s been carrying around devices to do these recordings, usually when traveling. On this release we have two pieces. The fourteen-minute Espaces cachés and the one-hour long Going / Places. The first piece seems to be overlapping field recordings together, so that multiple sounds come together and create a new place; one recognize some of the sounds, and sometimes we don’t. There are cicadas, city sounds, farmyard and nature recordings — and no doubt lots more. It seems to be having mild processing, but surely it hasn’t.
The other piece, Going / Places contains [twenty-three] separate pieces of music, which create the sense of journey. There is lots of railway stations, tourists, harbours, boats in here, along with a geothermal pool in both Iceland and New Zealand, crickets, people playing music, a call for prayer and many more. Here too some of it is cut together, but then sounds that are from a similar group, like the aforementioned pools, or bells from various countries at the same time. It makes indeed a wonderfully [sound journey], across continents, from cities to nature and back. Sometimes it seems there is some kind of processing going on but I’m sure there is none. This release works best when one uses a pair of headphones in order to hear this ambisonics work best; in a more normal situation with speakers it worked a bit less in that respect.
If ‘music is organised sound’, then this new album by Jonty Harrison is far more than a collection of seemingly unrelated field-recordings. It is a composition (or two, actually) in its own right, created by selecting sounds from a variety of locations, spaces, places, scenes and vistas ‘which we may or may not have experienced, but which we somehow recognise’.
The first piece of this acousmatic electroacoustic collection, Espaces cachés, is a 14-minute ambisonic trip created from the original 30-track commission from Maison des arts sonores.
The second piece, called Going / Places is a one hour journey divided into 23 parts. The recordings come from all over the world and are often combined in such a way that they could never have existed on one location simultaneously.
The scenes, ‘one implying imminent motion, the other more restful and tranquil’, take you all over the world — unpredictably jumping between Europe, Iceland, Australia, North America, North Africa and parts of Asia.
“Sounds reach us as they would in everyday life, as if we were ‘there’: from multiple locations in different positions and at different heights and distances. In this sense we are closer to reality; but even the bounds of reality can be stretched by the agencies of motion and memory — unreality, surreality and hyper-reality are but steps along the route that can be taken by the imagination…”
Save yourself an expensive holiday this year: buy this album, put on a quality headphone, close your eyes — and let professor Jonty Harrison guide you to some unexpected corners.
- Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, October 14, 2017