The Compositions of Roots

Fab piece of field-recording meets musical composition on the split LP Notes From The Forest Floor / Line Of Parts (SN VARIATIONS SN6) by Chris Watson and Georgia Rodgers. The item is released on Adrian Corker’s label SN Variations, and we heard from him with his fine LP Music For Lock Grooves in 2019.

Good to see that Chris Watson is still producing quality work with his powerful microphones, and that he continues to work on BBC wildlife and nature broadcasts. We’ve liked his work since his very earliest releases for Touch. For me Watson set a very high standard for phonographers to follow, not just with his meticulous documentation of locations, but his appreciation and sympathy towards nature, animal life, oceans, the weather, and indeed the entire environment, and his imaginative interpretation of same. He’s here with ‘Notes From The Forest Floor’, which dates from 2015. It’s actually an art installation requiring a multi-channel set-up, and has been reconfigured somewhat (with new recordings and added developments from Watson) for this stereo version. Interestingly, the work was part of a much larger exhibition about the Italian modernist Scelsi, who’s another personal favourite of these old lugs; I love his music’s severity, its dryness and concision, and its aura of deep mystery (rarely does he deign to “explain” his work to anyone). Watson used insect recordings and other environmental captures from a tropical rain forest, explicitly aiming to generate microtonal sounds that a listener could align with the music of Giacinto Scelsi. One thing that Adrian Corker points out, and is evidently enthused by, is the way that Watson works with tremendous precision, yet produces music-sound that is very diffuse, hazy, and atmospheric. The work builds beautifully, somehow bringing you gradually into a semi-magical state of dreaminess without you noticing how it happens, and at 16:15 it is somehow just the “right” length.

Georgia Rodgers studied at Edinburgh and is an award-winning composer who makes instrumental and electronic music. Her ‘Line Of Parts’ was first heard in 2019 at the Huddersfield festival for Contemporary Music, where it so happens the organisers had a special programme to showcase the work of female composers. She too has a gift for detail, and has drawn praise for her “painstaking spectral dissection”. On ‘Line Of Parts’, we hear recordings of rainfall, insects, and geese, but also electronic sine waves, and voice parts; the voices arrive at the end, creating a ghostly impression of an angelic choir that almost forms a major chord. The triumph here has been to not simply to edit and overlay these diverse parts together, but to get them to inter-react and affect each other, in a process that is accurately labelled as “interference patterns”. I’m assuming it tales a highly-trained ear and mind to conceive of such things, let alone devise a means to being them about; and of course the technical skills required, in which department she was aided by the hardware available at Huddersfield – the immersive sound system which has 48 channels and 66 speakers, a dream piece of kit for any acousmatic-leaning composer. An intense, deep piece is the result, which compellingly draws the listener into the middle of a vivid world of sound; especially praise-worthy is Georgia Rodgers’ light touch, her acute sensibilities in gently coaxing her sources to work together in harmonious manner. There is nothing abrupt or violent going on here, the work is profoundly moving, and she may share with Chris Watson something of the same sympathetic understanding of our environment, the same imaginative perception of it. Beautiful. From 20th July 2020.

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