First performed by Apartment House as part of composer Vitalija Glovackyte’s Sound and Music residency with the ensemble, “We Are For A While” is a quietly moving ode to recycling and to the potential hiding within broken and discarded everyday objects. Most of the sounds heard in the piece come from homemade instruments constructed out of junk salvaged from skips, waste bins, derelict buildings, and recycling centres. Unlike the comparatively brash and direct sound of Kinder Meccano, Glovackyte’s duo project with Michael Cutting, “We Are For A While” is a muted and sometimes elusive affair, less fireworks and more slow-burn.
The piece begins with gentle hum and the intermittent plucking of strings, soon joined by a meandering melody on what sounds like an accordion or melodica. A big, fuzzy chord gradually emerges, over which a pair of buzzing bumble-bee melodies dance. Quiet twinkling, then an enchanting melodic refrain, with hissing and whirring in the background, all slowly enveloped in warm fog before everything dissolves into glittering fragments. Sometimes the piece’s different sections do veer into noisier territory, such as a dull tapping as if from a muted typewriter, scratchy distortion and scraping, or a fuzz that fills every available space and eventually pushes all other sounds out of the way. But for the most part things are muted and tentative, with small sounds punctuating the silence or background hum at irregular intervals.
Then there are the magical bits, like the melodic refrain already mentioned, or the plinking and plonking over lazy late-night chords just before the outro, or (especially) the bleating, wavering voice singing David Bathos’ poem to close the piece. These rare moments are like clearings in a forest of quiet, and sometimes, when I’m finding it especially difficult to concentrate, I wish for a bit more clearing and a bit less forest. The liner notes (in a nice handstitched booklet) give credit to a number of other composers for ‘recycled’ music, but I can’t really tell how and where these scavenged harmonies and refrains fit into the piece, apart perhaps from the wandering accordion which could belong to Lucie Vítková — a fitting ignorance, really, given how frequently we are oblivious to the past histories of all the recycled and second-hand objects that fill our lives.
And it’s this connection with the everyday experience of living in a ‘developed’ economy, with its staggering amounts of waste, mountains of accumulated consumer goods, and little thought for the origins of objects or their environmental impact, that is perhaps the most powerful thing about “We Are For A While” — its commitment to finding value in the discarded, and music in the trash.