The crystal at the lips
Will Montgomery is a London-based maker of music, sound art, and field recordings, often using the latter to create compositions that explore aural texture and narrative. His first release for the label Organized Music From Thessaloniki consists of two tracks, the first of which is a realisation of two scores by Manfred Werder. Werder’s text-based scores frequently direct the performer to pay attention to and make use of the sounds of a particular place or places (see the series of realisations of ‘2005/1’ gathered by Another Timbre , for example), and Montgomery’s take on ‘2012(2)’ and ‘2012(4)’ makes a number of audibly different places palpable.
When trying to guess which sounds belong to which location, which ones were recorded ‘in situ’ and which were added later, things become less clear. As far as I can tell, there are two single-take field recordings, one seemingly rural and the other urban, one for each score. There are also other sounds that may belong to one of the recordings or may have been added later. Two features are particularly ambiguous: a patina of electrical fuzz, like the noise made by loose wiring in audio equipment, and a voice, presumably Montgomery’s, that repeats a nonsense word from the middle of the first score to the middle of the second. Both of these sounds connect the two Werder scores and announce the presence of the performer; the voice also marks the passing of time at a steady tempo, a function echoed by the high-heeled footsteps in the second score.
Update from Will Montgomery: “the voice is actually [label curator] Kostis [Kilimis] — he’s saying a Greek word, which is on Manfred’s score. It means ‘voice’.” Not a nonsense word at all then!
Second track ‘Filtrate’ takes a piece by label curator Kostis Kilymis incorporating field recordings and electronic tones and radically filters it so that only intermittent bursts of sound are heard. The original material is distilled and crystallised into something quite different: high ringing, low rumbles, and much silence. Something about the ‘roughness’ and complexity of the sounds hints at an origin in field recordings, but I found it very hard to discern this context prior to reading the album description on the label’s website. It is as if the initial work had been erased to leave only vague traces, like Robert Rauschenberg’s erasure of a Willem de Kooning drawing. (Interestingly enough, Vanessa Rossetto has contributed a piece along similar lines to the Experimental Music Yearbook, calling it after Rauschenberg’s work.)
Both tracks on “The crystal at the lips” evade and elude description in different ways, causing standard identifiers such as original and derivation, piece and score, and location and imposition to break down. Both are ways of getting pleasurably lost. Montgomery has produced an album that is both conceptually and aesthetically beguiling, encompassing the rigour and complexity of a contemporary sound practice in which field recording is only one movement in the sensuous unfurling of a place of thought.
http://selvageflame.com/ (Will Montgomery)
http://thesorg.noise-below.org/ Organized Music From Thessaloniki