Clocking in at exactly sixty minutes, Snowfall is a shorter version of a six-hour Los Angeles marathon performance. Yann Novak used photographs and field recordings to replicate the experience of a snowstorm, which must have been a fun experience for residents of the famously warm city. While the cold temperatures and slick surfaces are missing, the aural element evokes a winter event as experienced from inside one’s house; safe, yet wary, knowing that conditions can change at any moment.
In a manner similar to that of Novak’s Blue Hour, Snowfall develops in slight increments. Due to the nature of the subject (a storm rather than a sunset), the newer piece is more active than the former. The single-track work starts with the sound of light sleet on solid surfaces, but by the tenth minute folds in a pair of drones, one light and one dark, like slow winds and quick gusts. A drone artist fascinated by noise might have developed the work into a wild maelstrom, but as an ambient/experimental artist, Novak is more concerned with subtle sounds: freezings, crackles, shifts in the temperature and wind that lead to different-sized snowflakes. This particular snowfall seems like the product of temperatures just below freezing: neither the wet snow of the freezing mark nor the powder-like dust of the sub-zero. One watches this snow in fascination rather than in fear. Snowfall is a fitting title, as this storm is more of a dusting than a whirlwind.
After the first play, one realizes that the meters will remain within the black. This changes the listening experience. Anxiety disappears, and one is able to settle into the rhythms of the event. Some may choose to concentrate on the upper or lower drone; others may prefer the sound of the snow itself. No matter where one’s attention is drawn, the effect remains the same. This is a storm, and yet not a storm; it’s an aural diagram of a storm that captures the element of slow movement within the weather system. By abbreviating the story for the home listener, Novak highlights the ways in which one might begin to understand a storm’s development through sight and sound, instead of forecast and radar. Ironically, the manipulation of real sound in created time brings listeners closer to the real thing. (Richard Allen)