Tiny Portraits are small renderings of place and memory in sound, collected from artists living and working all over the world by Flaming Pines label curator Kate Carr. Pieces from the series are displayed on a helpful globe map on the Tiny Portraits website. The latest batch focus on street recordings, and are a diverse bunch both sonically and politically: there’s a mix of approaches ranging from clearly recognisable recordings of streets through to the absence of any identifiable traces of environmental sound, and from direct, explicit political challenge through to the implied politics of personal introspection and quiet observation.
Josten Myburgh’s piece “blessed, Very blessed” is his homage to a wall in Perth, an attempt to portray its “amusing austerity” verging on the “surreal”. Gentle electronic hum and crackle is interjected by piano chords, long string notes, and silence — a blank piece for a blank wall. The pattering of rain and wistful female singing usher in 9T Antiope’s “Brobdingnagian”, but this quickly gives way to a rhythmic industrial clanging and a heavily distorted, mostly unintelligible monologue. aag’s “The City Was All Lip / All Cocoon” presents the sounds of protest — voices shouting through megaphones, crowds chanting and whistling, the singing of a protest song. At times, however, these sounds are strangely muted, overlaid by snatches of pop songs or filtered by various effects, as if the listener was in the midst of the crowd while at the same time being one step removed from it.
Probably the most intense moment across the four pieces comes in Jacqueline George’s “The Same Sun”, in which the chanting of a religious congregation is gradually drowned out by a huge crowd of shouting protesters, only to resurface as the crowd fades away. In fact, the whole piece would seem to auralise the increasingly fractious clash of ideologies and perspectives that characterises global societies in the second decade of the 21st century, pitching the conflicting demands of the moment against traditions that have survived and competed through many upheavals. Everyone under the same sun. Together, these four sonic portraits offer open windows through which the tumult and the ordinariness of the world’s streets can be heard.