Sounds of the City

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Daniel Blinkhorn
Terra Subfónica
GERMANY GRUENREKORDER GRUEN 117 CD (2013)

With Terra Subfónica, composer and sound artist Daniel Blinkhorn has created a futuristic collection of sub-sounds designed to focus on what we hear in our subconscious. The result is a striking collection of recordings that are combined with Blinkhorn’s instrumental material to create a piece of work that is at once familiar and bizarre. Or, as Blinkhorn himself says, the CD presents a suite of ‘19 dramaturgical, radiophonic miniatures that map a sonic sub terrain’. Phew.

The CD is divided into several series and triptychs covering such terrain as seascapes, tones and timescapes, machines and cityscapes. Other pieces focus on such abstract themes as sonic spaces and even children playing. Some of these tracks, including ‘(sub)urban mantra’, focus on the instrumental; others, such as the seascape triptych, highlight the sounds of nature; and some are just plain weird, like the robotic, machine-inspired, ‘corpus sanus – computare’. On other tracks, the sounds are brought together in a way that combines field recordings, electronic music and experimental sound techniques, manipulated into a radiophonic cacophony.

Blinkhorn also wanted to explore the medium of radio; something that comes across quite clearly on several of the tracks, in particular, ‘place/space threnody’. He’s pushing the boundaries of sound on ‘toy bagatelle i’, which utilises a stereophonic/monophonic/stereophonic structure to accompany the sounds of children playing. The overall feel is certainly one of an artist and relishing the opportunity to experiment in order to present something totally unique.

The result of all this experimentation means that, at first listen, the recordings seem diverse and random, as the ear struggles to reconcile the instrumental work with fragments of the familiar and the alien sounds Blinkhorn has merged. On repeat listens, however, a pattern starts to emerge and the brain starts to get tuned in to these sub-sounds.

It must be noted that while the end result of Terra Subfónica is certainly interesting, it seems more a piece of work to be admired than one to be enjoyed repeatedly. More than mere background, the work demands attention but is quite a challenging listen; especially to those not familiar with this type of sound manipulation.

Overall, Terra Subfónica is an ambitious and highly original work of soundart that has the potential to open listeners’ minds and ears to a whole new world going on beneath what they usually hear.

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