Francisco Lopez, untitled #281
Francisco Lopez, untitled #281 [31:49]
released on Störung
created by extreme transformation of bird calls from all over the world between 1995 and 2010.
untitled #281 is a finely structured album which makes good use of its limited resources, and which, typically for Lopez, offers original transformations resulting in some fascinating sound objects.
The album is structured as a series of episodes, each dealing with the source material in a specific way. You can guess at the sound sources for the most part but there’s a virtuosic turn here and there as Lopez transforms and sculpts his representational material into various abstractions. For example there’s a very fine effective passage of dynamic whooshing and rushing sounds, which recalls the sound world of a previous Lopez album WITH/IN, a collaboration with dancer Valentia Lacmanovic. This in particular contrasts well with the interesting but largely recognisable organic sounds (birds and insects). Always one to try something extreme (in previous releases, long silences, long crescendi and diminuendi) Lopez introduces digital clipping alongside complementary iterative material, a clever musical decision in keeping with the morphology of the accompanying material.
Another memorable passage makes use of a long decrescendo and low ambient pedals. Then sudden intrusions, various environments, thick drones and dense layers of noise. There are also classic electroacoustic moves, for example big dropouts falling to little sounds at the very end.
There’s another side to this kind of music-making which often leads to heated debate in some circles who offer a specific critique of artistic practice. A lot of air miles have gone into the making of this work over the years. If the artist was making the point, as some do, that we should celebrate and treasure these pristine natural environments, one might take issue, as I do, about someone running up enormous carbon footprints in order to showcase and benefit from these same pristine environments. But to be fair I can’t say that this is the case here as I don’t know how much the overt celebration and treasuring of these environments is a part of Lopez’ project. I’m not aware of this as an over-riding agenda. Continuing with the digression then, for those who do take the hypocritical stance of celebrating the natural environment by actively assisting in its destruction, media figures and sound artists alike, their attitude is at the core of the environmental problem today and relates to personal ethics. On the other hand should we be telling people what to do or suggesting that they’re behaving irresponsibly? Can we do as we please without consequence? Of course a lingering trace of modernist artistic cynicism will justify everything in the name of art but not for much longer. Neutrality is no longer an option.
I suppose then we’re left with the question – could you make equally good music at home, in the bird sanctuary or at the zoo?