|At the port
|In the grass field
»Landscape and Voice« is a radical new work (and rare vinyl release) from major Japanese sound artist Toshiya Tsunoda. Undoubtedly one of the most influential artists working with location recordings since the 1990s, Tsunoda’s work possesses a rigorously searching quality that sets him apart from his contemporaries. Tsunoda is known to many listeners for the subtle atmospheric poetry of his early Extract from Field Recording Archive series, which focussed on vibrations recorded in various indoor and outdoor environments in his native Miura Peninsula, often inside pipes, bottles and other vessels. In more recent years, his work has explored the implications of his claim that field recording should be seen as ‘depiction’ rather than ‘documentation’. He has explored disorienting editing and processing in his works with Taku Unami, and, perhaps most radically, represented Maguchi Bay as a kind of kinetic sculpture for shaking speakers by removing all but the inaudible low frequencies from a field recording (Low Frequency Observed at Maguchi Bay).
One of the recurrent concerns of Tsunoda’s recent work, as he explains in the crystalline liner notes accompanying this release, is ‘exploring how I can establish a subjective relationship with an environment, rather than seeing it merely as an object to be recorded’. This has taken various forms, from documenting simultaneously an outdoor environment and the blood flowing through the listener/recorder’s body (captured with a stethoscope) on The Temple Recordings, to representing his own experience of the landscape as made up of ‘grains of space and time’ by inserting looped fragments into field recordings in Grains of Spring.
On »Landscape and Voice«, this meeting between subject and object becomes an almost mystical union between the natural and the human. As with all of Tsunoda’s work, a relatively simple concept leads to compelling, thought-provoking results. »Landscape and Voice« combines vowel sounds spoken by six voices with short, looped fragments of field recordings, their noise character suggesting consonants: voice and landscape thus join together in something like words. The record consists of three pieces, each using a different, richly evocative field recording, which periodically freezes, catching on a looped fragment to which is synchronised an abruptly looped spoken vowel sound. The lengths between these interruptions vary, as do the tempi of the loops. The interruption of these lushly immersive recordings of the world – bristling with bird song, rushing water, distant traffic, and clinking metal – only serves to intensify them, as if the depicted environment itself had been returned to the listener each time it abruptly reappears. At the same time, the constant interruption creates an uncannily frozen effect, as if the recorded environment were an object rather than a stretch of recorded time. When combined with the bare human presence of the vowel sounds, the result is both austere and magical. Pressed on 45RPM for maximum fidelity, in a gorgeous sleeve designed by Lasse Marhaug with liner notes from the composer, »Landscape and Voice« is a radical proposition from one of the deepest thinkers in contemporary sound.