Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Howlround - Torridon Gate (A Year In The Country)


'Sounds must play for we don't play with instruments, we play with soundtrack, with editing, filtering, reverberation. These games must use all kind of possibilities. It's about transformation, the magic of transformation of sounds is important. I've always thought of music as a way to let things come out. Many sounds, and also many ideas. It's an animation, an animation of sound talk.' - Pierre Henry

"The creaking gate lasts longest", my dear ol' Mum used to say - well, Robin The Fog and Chris Weaver have ensured that the sound of a gate on Torridon Road in London is immortalised.  They mic'd up the metalwork and processed the results on reel-to-reel tape machines. Whilst the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop are often (justifiably) name-checked in relation to Howlround, Torridon Gate's obvious predecessor is Pierre Henry's Variations Pour une Porte et un Soupir (1963). Maurice Béjart created a ballet based on it...


...the dancers are obviously a little more flexible than me...the sounds which accompany their movements are reminiscent of those made by my joints first thing in the morning.

Henry's door recordings may be simple compared to Howlround's, but their strangeness stems from the very fact that we can tell what we're hearing. Howlround's recording succeeds by obfuscating the source, rendering the 'real' unreal and transforming the ordinary into an other-worldly phenomenon. The simple metal gate becomes a portal to...the spirit world of inanimate objects? Or can we hear the ghosts of all those who have passed through 'the gate' to life beyond this one we know? The gate as metaphor...if you like. Wherever your imagination takes you, Torridon Gate is an urban source response to the dark moors and haunted woods mythology of modern folklorist music-makers. In that sense, it is more 'homely', but the resulting sounds take you very far away indeed.


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