“Listen: your twenties go fast, your thirties go faster, and your forties go even faster,” warns the middle-aged lady on Vanessa Rossetto’s “Adult Contemporary”. “Once you hit forty, whaddaya got to look forward to?” Accordingly, the following white noise and squealing wheels race furiously, a rocket burning at full speed towards the sun, whining with acceleration as the miles zip past faster and faster, until a sudden cut to silence. Art imitating life. We already know from the pained rendition of ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth’ with which the first of the album’s two tracks opens that Rossetto isn’t as interested in traditional musical values of virtuosity, harmony, or tunefulness as she is in the life that fills the sounds she records and uses. But to infer therefore that her work disdains skill or musicality would be to miss the point.
Rossetto is an avid listener to the world around her, collecting the hubble and bubble of voices in crowded places, the screaming and kick-drum thumping of a pop concert, the rumble of city traffic, and many other sounds too ambiguous and vague to name, and stitching them together into unique sound collages. All the chaos and aural detritus of contemporary culture is here, not merely presented but also transfigured — transformed by a compassionate care, an intuition for form, and sheer hard work. A key strategy in this approach is bringing the background into the foreground — the quiet hum of the city, the hissing of fans and heaters and resonant air, the murmur of other people’s conversations. These sounds bind the album together in the same way they bind the modern urban aural environment together, creating an unexpected continuity.
So what does this world sound like through Rossetto’s ears, through the filter of her subjectivity? Would you understand what I meant if I said it sounds profoundly unjudged, free from moralising or prejudice? That what initially sounds like voyeurism upon closer inspection more resembles empathy. Everything’s chaotic and fragmented and rough round the edges, and yet loved. (Even the guy singing ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth’ tunelessly.) The many different types of static, noise, and faint tones and chords only underscore the raggedness and the beauty. I want to keep listening, if only to find out what this world is capable of, what surprising patterns can be wrought from the cacophony. In this sense, Rossetto’s music offers an attitude to living as much as an event to be admired and enjoyed.