Wildfires rage. Temperatures rocket. Greece has been set on fire. So too is California. Germany experienced flooding on a massive scale. July 2021 was Earth’s hottest month on record. This is not normal.
Climate change has become an imminent threat and a very real issue, so A Mirror Holds The Sky, with its stunning sounds of the Amazon rainforest and the ecological message contained within, arrives at the right time. In what is a pivotal era for the future of the planet, and for life all over this spinning rock we call home, English has produced a timely record. Created entirely from field recordings taken deep within the Amazon rainforest, Australian composer Lawrence English’s A Mirror Holds The Sky is music of and created by the world: true music, coming from the Amazon – a temple and a place where life is celebrated.
‘…the jungle…captures the ubiquitous calls of the Screaming Piha, the demonic growls of loudest mammal on earth, the Howler Monkey, and the hydrosonic rumblings of the Amazonian Boto Rosa dolphin. There are rhythms, melodic phrases, dense textures of sound – none formed by musicians, but by the jungle and its inhabitants’.
Recorded on location back in 2008, A Mirror Holds The Sky records the vitality and sheer volume of life within the rainforest. It’s 100% immersive, where the chirping of insects, the buzz of mosquitos, the diversity of its birdsong, and the nocturnal mating chorus of literally thousands of frogs all create their own music. The jungle comes alive at once, the entire ecosystem a jewel of uninhibited, thriving life. The complex, multi-layered rhythms and different calls, cries, and songs are spectacular to listen to; they surround the listener completely.
With consideration and humility, Lawrence English steps aside to not only allow the Amazon to speak, but to sing. On this record, he is an observer, an active listener in a passive role, and a curator, allowing the natural orchestra to do what it has always done, unfiltered and without human interruption.
Over three million species live in the rainforest, making it one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. 2,500 different species of tree – equal to one-third of all tropical trees that exist on the planet – also call the Amazon home; it’s a vibrant place, a pantheon of collective life. Awe is a natural reaction, as well as a deep respect and, one may admit, shame for the way in which we continue to treat the planet. But, listening to this, one realises that the Earth does not need a guardian, or a hand to hold; in fact, one could argue that it would be in a much fitter, better state without the presence of human footsteps treading upon it, for all the evidence points to our species as being extremely destructive towards it.
For millions of years, from dawn to dusk, a chorus of song has shone out from the rainforest. The rainforest has the power to gently but firmly remind us of our place, resizing our perspectives by its sheer breadth and diversity. The jungle is never silent. Continuously, there exists action and reaction, arrival and departure, the emergence of new life and the finality of death, a never-ending circle, and the raw and bloodied dance between predator and prey, interspersed with the violence of thunder in the air and a deluge of rain. Everything is linked.
‘The reason this place made such an impression is simple; the Amazon dwarfs us. This is not some vulgar display of power on its behalf, rather it’s a tangible reminder of our place in, and on, this planet. Once you step into the Amazon it prompts us (strongly) to refocus the perspective we hold of ourselves, of our ways of being, of our understandings and it (not so gently) reminds us that we are but one very minor function in an equation that extends in all directions across time, and space’.
The entire record has been thoughtfully compiled, collected, and distilled from over fifty hours of recordings; the levels of careful consideration and contemplation that have gone into the making of this recording cannot be understated. Both spatially and in terms of volume, the record is extremely dense. Occasionally, though, the insectile traffic decreases enough to allow some space to enter…but it is never silent, and there are never obvious gaps. There is nothing passive about it.
‘To listen in the jungle is to listen in close relief – in every square metre, thousands of insects cry out, their voices reducing the horizon of listening to a matter of centimetres at certain times of the day (and night). The sensation is sensorially disorienting and frankly, overpowering. In those moments where you can get a sense of dimension and depth, the dynamism of the environment comes to the for. The abundance of birds, mammals, beetles, flies, ants and so many other creatures are a source of constant and evolving fascination’.
The record comes with a book of photography, taken on location.