Robert Curgenven – Silent Landscapes (Recorded Fields)

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Robert Curgenven is a Northern Territory sound artist who spends as much time recording and performing in and around Sydney and Berlin as in his beloved top end. These recordings have been collected over the last ten years in as many of the deserts, wetlands and rock formations around the most remote parts of Australia that you’d care to name. His ideas about “the dislocation of the remote” (in my case, moving the edge of the desert to a city terrace packed with filthy students) and the quietly layered manipulations of textures and sound pressure are all set out in Silent Landscapes, the first of many in a projected field recordings from Italian label, easily and fittingly titled, er, Recorded Fields.

“Silent Landscapes No. 1” takes its own quiet time to open: the sound of fire, which, without context, could be mistaken the usual electronic hiss until the tiny pops and cracks that could only be generated from an natural source appear and give way to soft, tinny tubular bubbles that stretch eventually to a searing point then dropping out to let cicadas whistle and cry. Each of the separate recordings is slowly tweaked and turned to let in the surrounding natural forces. “Silent Landscapes No. 2” describes an arc across the eastern, northern and central parts of Australia; the swishing of dry grass, the hum and whine of thousands of kilometers of power lines. All moving in one after the other to create the sound and tension of impending rain, which, when it does come, is brief but welcome, Curgenven making sure to keep all the insects and birds still layered through.

Other recordings/settings include the once-every-ten-year ritual “cleaning” of a German forest as well as the windy city seascape around the city of Sydney. Curgenven’ attention to the quietest of tiny natural sounds as well as the areas that are there to shape them surely marks him as one of Australia’ finest in the art of field recording/manipulation and this work, whilst describing wonderfully still and quiet landscapes, proves that it is anything but silent.

Joel Hedrick

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