El Parque Está Situado En Su Propia Casa
LINE_061 | Digital | open edition | February 2013
LINE is pleased to announce the upcoming digital release of a vivid new field recording work by UK sound artist Simon Whetham.
El Parque Está Situado En Su Propia Casa (the park is situated in it’s own house) is the result of a residency I participated in through March 2012 at Campos de Gutierrez, Medellin, Colombia where all 8 artists-in-residence exhibited works in one of the city’s more central art space, Plazarte.
My piece began as a performance on the exhibition’s opening night, using objects and recordings from Campos de Gutierrez. During the performance, and using transducers, I played sounds through an old guitar from Campos de Gutierrez and an oil drum found at Plazarte, both suspended from the ceiling. For the remainder of the month the piece continued to be exhibited in this way, playing subtle sounds captured during the performance and around the residency house through the objects.
The piece presented here is a composition which represents a combination of the two.
– Simon Whetham, October 2012.
composed from field, performance and installation recordings from Campos de Gutierrez and Plazarte, both in Medellin, Colombia, March 2012
Thanks to Andres, Chris, Alejandro, Bjork, Luke, Elisabeth, Aurelie, Juliana, David, Miguel, all at Plazarte and Campos de Gutierrez and Richard.
cover image: ‘Exterior’ by Chris Wolston
Over the past eight years Simon Whetham has developed a practice of working with sound recordings as a raw material for composition. These are often environmental sounds he has captured employing a variety of methods and techniques, in order to obtain discreet or obscured sonic phenomena.
In removing sound from it’s source, sometimes amplifying it significantly, it becomes abstract—familiar yet otherworldly. More recently, when presenting work in a performance or installation, for him the space and the objects within become instruments to be played.
Whetham has a large number of works published through many specialist organisations, including: Touch Music, Cronica, Dragon’s Eye, Monochrome Vision and Entr’acte; has performed extensively internationally; collaborated with artists from musicians to performance artists, painters to video artists, dancers to poets; has run listening and field recording workshops in UK, Colombia, Chile and Australia; and received commissions and awards for projects and installations—notably Active Crossover. Supported Arts Council England and PRS for Music Foundation, the project comprises sound installation, performance, collaboration and workshops. Active Crossover has toured six cities in the UK, and also been hosted in Estonia, Argentina and Australia, with future residencies in Chile, Colombia and South Korea.
Field recording is a surprisingly difficult technique to master – all too often we end up with a few grunts of a car exhaust or some birds in the distance badged as art, and it casts a shadow on those who actually do something more nuanced. One of those creative souls is Simon Whetham, and over the course of forty-five minutes he takes us through a range of the possibilities of field recording. From the delicate environmental sound of the opening section, through the haunting tones and drones of the album’s central piece we end up on the crystalline and pristine recordings of bells and gongs. It would be far too easy for these recordings to sound haphazard or sloppy, but Whetham deals with them with an immense restraint, mirroring the devotional music that clearly served as an inspiration. Haunting, beautiful and not as minimal as you might think, it's a gem of a record from Line, a label that's having a fine run of form at the moment.
"Field Recording" soundscapes come in as many colours as nature itself. Some try to stay as close to the original natural sound as possible (and thus are in fact more archival recordings than compositions), at other times the natural sounds are used and reordered to create a collage-like composition - often created an environment that does not really exist: "Familiar yet otherworldly"... One of the unusual aspects of this 45 minute recording is that the climax appears to be at the beginning. 10 Minutes into the composition you'll risk being blown away by the sounds of what seems to be a gigantic storm. But from there things get quiet and quieter, allowing you to explore all details of this alienated in-house garden.
If you were curious, the album’s title translates as “the park is situated in its own house”, and was produced in Campos de Gutiérrez: an international residency program for contemporary artists, designers, curators, and art historians housed in a 19th century coffee plantation in the foothills of Medellín, Colombia.
Well, that sure sounds nice: go down to an artists’ retreat at an old coffee plantation in the countryside with a few other creatives and relax, cook, critique, communicate, maybe find connections and collaborators across disciplines and above all, simply make work. Distraction-free, unfettered, undisturbed capital-W Work. Sigh. Like make field recordings and then assemble a composition and put together an art installation from there? Don’t mind if I do… where do I sign up?
The final product of Whetham’s stay is an enjoyable listen where over a single 45-minute track, birds, bugs and other local wildlife meander about in the stereo field as local weather, room sounds, struck objects and creaking floorboards wander in and out of the mix. There’s an impressive attention to detail, pacing and fidelity, with each small sound event happening for just the right amount of time before welcoming another. Upon closer inspection, it’s a series of well-constructed tableaux, leaving room for the imagination to travel. It all occurs without the disengaged sedative feel you expect from the ambient sounds of a country idyll: there’s tension, resolution, flow and all those other good things. At points you can feel the heat and want to swat away bugs.
Now, I’ll be honest: I’m coming off of a vacation week spent in warm, sunny climes, so maybe I’m nestling in a little easier than I usually would into something so relaxed. Maybe the normal workaday pace and accompanying cantankerous mood would, by default, seek to liken the work to some background noise relaxation app. Or perhaps, go for low-hanging fruit in terms of criticizing phonography as a medium itself: a saturated medium and all that. But that would just be the pink noise of crankiness drowning out the finer details of a compelling listen. It happens more often than I care to admit. Aloha.
With the understanding of a good stretch of downtime spent in any Walden-esque idyll, you can sense how the artist was able to unspool and slow down enough to listen and let things speak for themselves. The fact that there was recording gear rolling seems secondary, and in terms of composition and structure, the material is guided with a deft touch. Overall, Whetham’s opus gets richer with every listen, new details pop out amidst unfamiliar species of birds, ringing percussion and rustling leaves. He manages to capture the feel of agitation-free days, similar to a well-curated a slide show, offering an invitation to one of the simplest of pleasures: hearing one thing giving way to another.
Juegos espaciales, sonidos transportados, búsquedas fortuitas en el paisaje sonoro. Desde insectos hasta resonantes drones o campanas. “El parque está situado en su propia casa” es un fascinante recorrido sonoro delicado y cambiante donde las formas audibles crean secuencias vibratorias especiales y de momentos bastante peculiares.
Simon Whetham realmente sorprende, en un trabajo de un estilo no muy usual en la casa Line, donde por lo general se encuentran sonidos más reducidos y estructuras donde la grabación de campo existe con determinada forma, pero por alguna razón, esta composición de más de 40 minutos cabe perfectamente en el catálogo del sello, a mi parecer por una cuestión de detalle y delicadeza no solo a la hora de capturar los sonidos escuchados sino en la composición misma, en la organización de las diferentes formas sonoras y la grandiosa exploración de sutiles y cambiantes timbres que se encuentran gracias al proceso de manipulación de las capturas del ambiente sonoro ya existente en un lugar.
Es realmente interesante como se juega con el silencio, los cambios, entre una experiencia que se situa entre la acusmática y la narrativa, para crear un entorno de la mente basado en una exploración de sonidos de una casa situada en Santa Elena, Colombia. Es realmente interesante como fluye en el tiempo este barrido de sonidos que nos entrega desde intensos momentos de cascadas y sonidos del campo, hasta microsonidos naturales obtenidos a partir de maravillosas capturas de eventos reales cuya sutileza se presenta para los más exigentes oídos.
Una composición perfecta para una noche de tranquilidad, para conocer paisajes de la conciencia y recordar la raíz de los oídos. Aunque en algunas partes la composición manifiesta paisajes sonoros más abundantes, es en su mayoría bastante silenciosa y sutil, dedicada a crear paraísos de pequeñas formas y meticulosos detalles de sonidos. Una experiencia simple pero abundante, tranquila pero intrigante. Un disco con una visión fresca de lo que se puede lograr con grabaciones de campo.