Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Something strange has been unfolding recently. Acousmatic music, memory and academia have been appearing as motifs in my everyday speech and nightly dreams. Since leaving for France, spending three days in Paris, and then one week in the North East of England, I have been occupied – inevitably, I feel – by questions surrounding my own ambition and function. This, in honesty, was prompted by over-anticipatory acts on my part regarding the new album. For around a minute I indulged myself with the possibility of the new release being some sort of break, some sort of release from my monotonous, challenging inner voice. This is it, I thought.

The notion of a idiot. That moment or this are no more likely to be breaking moments than any other, seeing as such moments are only ever validated in retrospect. They become gilded with that act of reverse looking, gleaming as golden domes sitting, surrounded by plain brick buildings as far as the eye can see. Perhaps this view of the past is my reason for all these retrospect posts, where I write on a given day and then throw the ideas back into weeks or months hence, falsely date stamping them and then hiding them amongst the archives. Surely I am allowed more than one thought a day?

Aki Onda is a name that has been mentioned to me numerous times, although never before arriving in Berlin last summer. It appeared again recently in Paris, in the university flat down by the river where we were invited by two fantastic sound artists who had attended the show the night before. They cooked us pasta and conversations turned to mutual recognitions of influence within the work of another. In fact, I had forgotten this conversation took place until a recent mail sending me a link to Onda's work.

On opening it, I felt that sensation I have known a thousand times before – the entirely consequent, hollow rise of an unknown familiarity. On listening to Onda's work, but even more evidently, on reading his interviews, I found a signpost pointing in the direction that I had just begun to walk.

One of Aki Onda's main premises regarding his cassette diaries is the capturing of connection through recorded sound material. These instances of documentation are left, forgotten, rerecorded, layered, remembered and left once more until they become stripped of latent meaning. The end result, a discontinuous collage of both sound and meaning, whose architecture, whose backbone is provided by the recall of the artist himself.

It is worth recalling the liner notes for my new release, and worth reminding myself that I knew nothing of Onda before writing them. The album, Beautiful Was The Time, was the product of 100 cassettes and microcassettes found, borrowed and bought. Over a period of one week, sets of coincidences emerged from the tapes' contents that identified themselves as structures previously hidden. Using simple equalisation I began to uncover more ghosts, sounds from old recordings by others and patterns within the tape hiss, before layering my own sounds onto the tapes.

The resulting album, so sayeth the blurb, is an archive of sounds that should have been lost. That they weren't is the fault of memory. And so encountering Aki Onda through the internet became like the gentle stirring of a memory too, the meeting of a never-acquaintance. Schaefer, Henry, Perrey, Stockhausen – each movement has its lineage and I am as ignorant and indebted as any other individual. Nothing is heard in a vacuum.

The ambivalence accompanying the reading of this man's ideas is entirely natural then. Something of a sadness approached, not that I was not there first (Onda was not there first also, no-one was), but perhaps that my work would not be approached without thoughts of his. Those people who came up to me and said Aki Onda over and over again, were viewing me in an unassailable shadow.

And yet what of influence? Does not both our work deny authorship? Does it not focus on the nature of finding, the establishment of conditions for chance, rather than cause and effect or the long lines of influence? But what use is all this preparation if, after concerts, people utter Aki Onda at me or Pierre Henry at him? What use is it if journalists question his approach, question his production over his conceptual rhetoric? (The common argument is that his live performances, in which he manipulates and loops tape sounds goes against his process of found-sound and coincidence.)

Aligning myself with Aki Onda, he and I, the struggling misunderstood – what a joke! What fun! Interestingly, Onda does not deal with the contradiction presented above too well. When pressed on the relationship between emotional searching within the work and then the production, the acousmatics of his music, he simply attempts to separate them. I try not to control music, just control sound, he proclaims. I read this as a reverse argument, one led by the question, a valid attempt by a non-academic to provide academic reasoning to something he simply does. There is no contradiction between creating provisions for chance and then shaping the outcomes. Like damming a river and then using the resultant stored energy, harnessing the potential of the water, Aki Onda's music makes its own luck.

Once more though, it leads me to think of context, of written context specifically. How necessary should it be to understand a work? An audio work? And what of the context for this moment of writing? How will this indeed be lost in the annals of a weblog archive, with a false date, with ideas from way before, remembered and merged with recent thoughts and then dispatched again into the past. Who will record these voices?

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