www.seaoftranquility.org - David Sylvian "When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima"


It would appear the David Sylvian has been listening to some of the installations by Chartier-Deupree and others working with the still (comparatively) largely unexplored idea that sound is the stage. This commissioned work might strike those expecting the David Sylvian of Plight and Premonition, or the David Sylvian of The First Day, or the David Sylvian of Blemish as the soundtrack for a diorama in its startling ability to create the sense of motion and event within a setting of largely inanimate or once-animate objects. When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima incorporates instruments and voices with the apparent goal of avoiding any traditional musical conceits while instead pursuing an almost musique concrét compositional approach. As such the work relies on juxtaposition and treating any audio source as if it were as pliant and musically familiar as the vibration from a string, the strike of a key, the stroke of a bow, or breath moving through a bell-shaped piece of metal. For those of you familiar with Paul Hillier, When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima seems to take literally the idea implied by the name of his ensemble, “Theatre of Voices”. Sylvian and his ensemble – many years and ideas distant from the Early Music discipline of Hillier – do impart a primary and abstract sense not of typical listening, but of the way in which hearing ultimately orients each of us to our own sense of place and of being. As such, the installation takes into account the sounds of people and nature that would normally occur while present on Naoshima. If one were in situ, it is not hard to imagine the recorded and spontaneous sounds intermingling and creating a heightened sense of place.

Sylvian avoids the trap of literal interpretation by evoking the impressions of storm and aftermath as named without resorting to the typical Romantic Era of Film Score clichés. The sounds range from recognizable and unrecognizable field recording sources, treated instrumental sources and human voices, articulating that which at some distance only implies rather than confirms speech. If anything else comes to mind it might be a somewhat kindred spirit between this work and Blegvad / Partridge’s “Orpheus, the Lowdown”, an emphatically more literal piece of work that never-the-less accomplishes the old ideas of “word painting” with a very different sort of paint box.

Naoshima is an island in the Japanese archipelago, home to many galleries and museums dedicated to contemporary art and artists. Out of the ambient, drone, space, prog and a thousand other categories of written, performed or recorded works, When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima belongs to a small and still relatively obscure family of sound art. If you’re wondering where music might next proceed, When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima both instructs and illuminates.


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Website design and build: Rebels In Control, after cover art by Chris Bigg. Art direction: David Sylvian. Banner images from the Hypergraphia book.