In the spirit of Luc Ferrari’s “Far West News”, I recorded everywhere I went on a Baltic Cruise, August 2018. I recorded over 4 hours of sounds in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia and Amsterdam and edited out and used the sounds that brought to mind the strongest memories. I then preceded, film style, to make a “dialog only” track – just voices, speaking, of which I had many. Also recorded in all these countries were musicians playing outside. From a variety of them I made a “music only” track. Then of course a “sound effects” track from all the unexpected sounds you find, everywhere, when you push record. There is an endless supply of sounds in our world. Mixed together I created “BALTIC Film 1” – a movie for the ears made from the sound up.
In the 1980’s I discovered the music concrete records of the INA/GRM label in France. I bought them all and Parmegiani was a God to me. I listened carefully and tried to figure out what he was doing to the sounds so I could apply that to my day job as a fledgling TV sound editor. I bought all the records in the INA/GRM catalog, all of them I thought. But oddly I missed, of all things “Presque Rien” by Luc Ferrari. It hid from me is my guess. I noticed this in 2015 believe it or not and bought everything I could find of Luc Ferrari (it’s a lot) and was immediately struck by the similarity of what I was trying to do today and his sound. I was amazed. I studied Ferrari and really thought I would have made a great engineer/assistant to him. And then last year I was one of the winners of “The Luc Ferrari Presque Rien Competition” organized by his widow, Brunhild Ferrari. Weird, right?
[Editor's Note: You can stream John's piece, "Taken sound" at the Presque Rien link].
When I first heard Viscera in the early 1980s, I wrote to Hal and kidding, I asked if they “recorded outside”, or with the windows open? So much ambient sound. Now we all record outside. We hear our lives in our environments in so many ways and use it to communicate, something. We record and manipulate it easily because we can and it always sounds familiar. It’s almost an ecological movement today; to record the sounds of whereever on Earth you are (on your Zoom or Tascam) and let other people somewhere else in the world experience it. I hear Hal’s life on his new CD (“microcassettology”) and on my new CD, “The Listened To Sound”, you hear MY life. Really. Isn’t that what every great composer tries to do? “Hey, listen to what’s in my head, listen to what I hear all the time”.
I am VERY lucky I get to do this. I feel like I’m a documentary filmmaker, filming a subject or event (recording), then editing it together and mixing it – I love the sound, sonic image, cinema for the ears. There has to be something in sound that draws me in all the time. Makes me hit the record button. I’ve spent my life recording things and I know everyone reading this has also, and also listens. Really listens. You all do and our “sound art” is as radical as serialism or any other breakthrough in music. Just keep pushing record and listening.
is an award winning sound designer for TV and films