Thursday, April 17, 2014

place and presence

My suggestion is that we must recognize space as a vibratory system.
Toshiya Tsunoda, liner notes of O Respirar da Paisagem (2003)

I am confident, after spending time with Donato Wharton's 2013 release Place and Presence, that  Wharton concurs with Tsunoda's notion. The four pieces here are made of deftly threaded sine tones, high and low, and the sparest of location recordings. A restrained harmonic series is heard across the pieces, and whatever the shape of the wave, or its density, heard as the lightest of tracings - faint, translucent, and, until we reach the conclusion of the final track, without crescendo or capstone. I immediately thought of  two referents upon first hearing Wharton's sonic mizzle - Michael Pisaro's brilliant Transparent City cycle (although Wharton foregrounds his sine waves in a very different mix, to very different ends, than Pisaro), and the effect of faint impressions on fibrous tracing paper (as in the work of artist Ida Lawrence, above).

Putting forth some of the familiar plaited elements - airplane thrum, piercing sine skeins, spiraling turbines sounding like a radically reduced electronic variant of Ligetti's Lux Aeterna, electric white mist - might understandably evince a been there/heard that response. That is why I generally avoid trying to convey much about materials and their assemblage in blow-by-blow reports of sounds, and the like. 

Which brings us to presence - that is, Wharton's presence, which makes all the difference after all. He is guided here by what Howard Skempton called the virtuosity of restraint, offering both place and presence as tracings that draw us to listen more keenly for whatever details we might recognize. A lovely work.


Drawing: Ida Lawrence, untitled/2009, pencil/folds/light on tracing paper

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