Title: Five Chapters
Artist: Sound Awakener
Release Date: 2014 Oct 4
Genre: Experimental Classical Piano
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Sound Awakener is Nhung Nguyen from Vietnam. She formally studied classical piano for five years, and has been experimenting with her own style for another five years. The Five Chapters of Sound Awakener is the first release under this name on Petroglyph.
Five Chapters of Sound Awakener
Nhung states in the release notes: “Five Chapters” refers to the endless search in life. I have to admit I am uncertain which belief system the ‘five chapters’ are derived from. However, Buddhist’s organize their beliefs into quadrants of the mandala, and there are many belief systems that refer to scrolls, or books so I am able to accept this idea without reservation.
For this work Sound Awakener has recorded five improvisations using an upright piano. The process of recording and producing are part of the compositional process as are the sounds being made on the piano itself.
This is made clear with the opening of ‘Vibrate’, a piece built on soft swirling of strummed strings with the sustain pedal held wide open, and occasional fragmented lines of notes played against the soft swirls This is sharply contrasted by ‘Gather Eternity’ with it’s wandering melody engulfed in recorded hiss with the gain set to a level that all of the notes come out distorted.
The most experimental work is ‘Remembering all passing things’ which employs a series of looped vocal field recordings set behind under a wandering melodic improvisation. The suggestion being that the relationship between the current (in the form of the improvisation) can be modified by the repetition of things that are remembered (the field recordings). This is an idea that has been explored by other artists, but not quite in this manner.
This is a work that is simultaneously fascinating and frustrating. There are aspects that are quite listenable, and yet the artist is challenging the listener to accept the ideas that the medium (ie, process) is as much a part of the listening experience as the music itself. Certainly this is an argument that has gone on in academic circles for years (going back to the works of Stockhausen and Cage, and some of these elements have found their way into works by Zappa and other modern composers.
This work succeeds by not calling attention to the process so much, as challenging the listener to accept it at face value. The listener is challenged to accept that the methods used as much an exploration of the “Five Chapters” as the music itself is.
The Five Chapters of Sound Awakener is a fascinating work in the way it moves past the idea of debating the idea that recording methods are as much a part of the composition process as the music itself. In exploring the piano’s range through traditional and non-tradtional methods, along with recording and engineering techniques we are given a glimpse into the world of Nguy?n H?ng Nhung. It is a fascinating place to occupy through this sonic journey.