How I Keep Falling Into Rivers
I’d recommend turning the volume of your music system down to about half the normal listening level before playing this new tape from Patrick Farmer, at least if the mix of the digital promo is anything to go by. Farmer’s recent activities have included organising performances of works by Michael Pisaro and Makiko Nishikaze, but these two 10-minute pieces, despite being book-ended by silence, are about as far from the typical Wandelweiser aesthetic as one could imagine. By which I mean they are loud.
Improvising on the motors of a reel-to-reel tape deck, Farmer induces a relentless stream of screeches, hisses, and squeals, producing a cacophony perhaps not too far away from the recordings of pigs heard on his recent release with David Lacey, “Pictures of Men”. Other relevant similes include rainfall, a server room as imagined by a Fifties futurologist or B-movie foley artist, and the experience of being attacked by a particularly aggressive vacuum cleaner. Side two shows less variance than side one, which to my ears makes it a little less interesting, lacking as it does the proliferation of micro-details that can transform an otherwise continuous sound.
Wandelweiser this ain’t, but Farmer is clearly operating within the parameters of a broader post-Cagean approach to compositional practice, one led by listening rather than creative intent: the starting point is not necessarily what the artist wishes to express, but rather how two or more objects together wish to sound. Attempting to extract the value of an individual release from the development of this practice is tricky business. Farmer describes the tape as “almost like a sketch”, but in terms of a developing practice this is either a very superficial resemblance, or all releases are “almost” sketches. Micro-processors wish just as feverishly as cassette decks, which is why it’s a shame that the release isn’t also available digitally — music this good deserves to be made accessible to a wider audience.