There is a whole line of field recordings that are not “found” at all; that is, they are not the result of psychogeographic wanderings, but, on the contrary, are carefully prepared and have well-defined places and situations as their object. During a three-month artistic residency in the summer of 2019 in Glenfiddich (Dufftown, Scotland), Marla Hlady and Christof Migone chose to record the sounds of a whiskey distillery, starting with two large copper stills that were recently removed. The operation to remove the stills was not the simplest, given the decidedly large dimensions of the two containers, which required the use of a crane to extract them from the roof. The swan-neck portions of the old stills were then cut by a master coppersmith and used as the main components in a kinetic sound sculpture. When moving into the spaces adjacent to the sculpture, sensors activate a series of electronic mechanisms that rotate thin metal rods on circular axes. Through these two swan-neck components, the recordings made throughout the distillery are reproduced: the water flowing through mounds, the noise emissions arising from the barrels during normal work sessions, the bottling noises and those of the liquids being moved from one part of the warehouse to another. The two ends of the tubes act like a pair of giant gramophones that amplify each of the recordings made. Some of these recordings are also superimposed and mixed. The sounds obtained by a choir composed of the distillery staff are particularly important, voices grouped according to the years of service of each of the participants. Each member of this improvised choir was asked to produce two sounds, one as loud as possible and the other extremely quiet, maintaining the vocal emission for as long as possible. The overall effect is truly impressive and the ultimate indecipherability of the sounds makes us reflect on the work and materials that come together in often surprising and inscrutable ways, distilled with great care, skill and passion. From this ingenious project all the materials, sound and physical objects were subsequently used for an installation at the Christie Contemporary in Toronto.
• Revue & Corrigée (Septembre 2023), review by Pierre Durr.
L’association entre l’artiste sonore Christof Migone et sa compatriote Marla Hlady, sculptrice cinétique, nous propose un curieux chant du cygne. Parce que ces cygnes, ce sont les restes des tuvauteries, en forme de col-de-cygne, de vieux alambics d’une distillerie de whisky provenant de Glenfiddich, à Dufftown en Écosse. Le lieu a dailleurs son importance, puisque ce matériau est justement mis en situation à l’intérieur de la distillerie, en usant d’autres sources sonores : la captation des eaux du Fiddich, le cours d’eau local, le passage de l’orge à travers ses différentes phases de fermentation, le remplissage des bouteilles, l’atelier de réparation des fûts, et même un chœur de 16 employés de la distillerie, du DRH au directeur de marketing en passant par des techniciens, chacun offrant deux courts enregistrements le plus aigu et le plus grave possibles), voix utilisées ensuite selon leurs années d’ancienneté dans l’entreprise (?). La mise en œuvre de ce travail résultant d’une résidence de trois mois, elle donne lieu à un rendu sonore en trois parties. Un premier CD, davantage centré sur le son des cols-de-cygne, munis de fines tiges de cuivre tournoyant dont les sonorités sont contrôlées par des interrupteurs motorisés, couches complétées par les voix humaines plus ou moins perceptibles. Des sonorités plus variées sont introduites dans le deuxième volet. Il est vrai que chacun des titres se réfère à diverses captations sonores, retra-vaillées, s’intéressant tantôt au brassage, à la captation de l’eau ou à d’autres activités de la distillerie. Accumulation de couches sonores, effet de bourdonnement (« Process/ Mechanic »), effets plus bruitistes, parcourus de rythmes (« Beat »), maelstrom répétitif (« Mash1 », « Mash2 »), écoulement des sons (« Source »). Le troisième volet, uniquement disponible à travers lachat numérique*, ajoute d’autres propositions : une autre version de « Swan Song » plus dense et d’une trentaine de minutes, l’exploitation de sons issus des fûts (« Cask »), et un « Spirit II » plus onirique (les vapeurs du whisky ?), en finissant avec une pièce vocale (utilisation de la voix de la personne chargée des visites ?). À écouter avec modération ?
• Foxy Digitalis‘ The Capsule Garden (Vol 2.11: March 29, 2023), review by Brad Rose.
The concept behind Swan Song initially drew me in, but the sonic entanglements, beyond any concept, are the real show. Click through and read the full description for the full story, but the ‘swan neck’ portions of two old whisky stills were turned into sound sculptures, and that’s the general basis for Swan Song. Musically, an incredible range veers from hauntological by nature but is also infused with a transient, searching spirit. Shaded resonance blooms into full-blown sonic ecstasy, where voices are stretched into gilded forms and vibrant shapes. Electronic pulses skitter across the surface, creating oddly hypnotic patterns. There are so many different elements to Swan Song. It’s overwhelming, and Hlady and Migone show no concern for boundaries. Liminal whispers feel pointed in one direction, sweeping across long distances while sprouting glacial, discordant tendrils spinning in a thousand directions. This is massive and highly recommended.
• Vital Weekly, number 1365, week 50, review by Frans de Waard.
A swan song is a metaphorical phrase for a final gesture, effort or performance given just before death or retirement (thanks, wiki). In this case, the swan song is for two stills from a whisky distillery in Scotland. From these stills, two swan necks were cut, used to play the recordings made by Hlady and Migone during their three months residency in 2019. The whisky, glad you asked, is Glenfiddich and Balvenie, if I got this correct. The sounds are from the distillery, but also its surroundings, as water is an essential source, of course. Also recorded was a choir of the staff, from the highest to the lowest pitch they could produce, for as long as possible. The first disc contains three versions of ‘Swan Song’, and the second has eight pieces, which I believe could be source material. There is another version of ‘Swan Song’ in the digital extras and more source pieces. That is a lot of music. As usual with Migone’s work (which I know better than that from Hlady, even when they have worked together since 2015), there is a solid conceptual side to the music. Still, as usual, I found the music equally intriguing without a lengthy explanation. The choir is used extensively in the three (four) parts of ‘Swan Song’. The first part was unprocessed, but in the other two, some processes took place. Knowing this duo a bit, no doubt the sound is fed through pipes at the distillery, altering the sound more acoustically. This all leads to fascinating results. First, maybe fairly traditional humming but in the subsequent versions, mysterious and spooky. In what I think is source material, there is also a strong emphasis on the minimal side of the proceedings. The microphone’s position is significant, adding another dimension to the sounds instead of applying digital processing. Maybe the titles give away something about the origins (‘Mash’, ‘Spirit’, ‘Beat’, ‘Pump’ etc.), but none seemed very recognizable. That makes this a fascinating listening. I don’t know what it is, and I continue to be intrigued by it. Maybe there has been an additional layer of transformations, but somehow I doubt that was the case. It is, at times, mysterious and drone-like, which should appeal to any fan of the genre. Great music all around.