Where can one go to find silence ~ or at the very least, to encounter sound free from human interference? This is the topic of Pat Collins‘s 2012 film Silence, which finds an aural reflection here in collaboration with Tadhg O’Sullivan. The original film tracks a field recordist returning to his Irish home, plunging into the most barren of lands in search of something even he cannot fully name. This stunning soundscape (which is not a soundtrack) offers a different take on the subject: both melancholy and meditative, it revels in natural sound while restoring faith in the human voice as welcome accompaniment.
Much of the film is contained in this soundscape, but the settings and order are subtly altered. At times the field recordings are front and center: the lovely avian morningsong, the boots traipsing through the grain. At others, Collins’ own notes are augmented by unexpected conversations. Soft drones, songs and reed instruments join these partners from time to time, although at least once they are cut short by the pressing of a cassette button. Still, listening to this album is a different beast, in this case all the film we need. The original (available in the U.K. and streaming on iTunes and Amazon) is a gorgeous meditation, but still a visual meditation on an aural subject.
Unexpected guests appear here: Chris Watson, Damian Valles, Akira Rabelais. The list of credits is expansive. The irony is that so many human guests have been enlisted to tell a story that starts with a flight from humanity. O’Sullivan weaves sources together so expertly that one begins to feel like the protagonist: yearning for connection, yet concentrating on one potential source while eschewing the other. In this case, it’s hard to separate the artist from the character, who bears a different name.
The beauty of this recording is that it succeeds on multiple levels: as an engaging soundscape, as a philosophical treatise, and with one exception (a particularly caffeinated commentator) an exercise in spiritual centering. One’s reaction will vary based on one’s personality and receptivity. After the recording ends, some may seek silence, some nature’s solace, some an additional serving of sound, either pre-recorded or human. Silence/Sound holds an aural mirror to the listener, inviting thoughtful engagement. All of the right questions are asked, with space in-between to allow for reflection. The snatches of song and conversation tug us back from silence into something messier, yet ultimately more valuable, as proven by the very presence of this sound-centered recording. (Richard Allen)