Forests and woods are recurring themes in fairy tales, speaking not only of innocence but of potential danger. Today we travel to England’s Fairy Glen with Josh Semans and the Bohemian forest with Ká, only to discover to our shame that the real danger is us.
Running water is the first thing we hear in Fairy Glen, recorded in Parbold, England. Josh Semans‘ composition captures a rich variety of sounds, natural and human. As one travels deeper into the glen, one hears the rush of falls, the twittering of birds, intense calmness and a sense of serenity. One can imagine fairies making their home here, hiding under rocks, washing in brooks, nesting in trees, speaking to the local foxes and other fauna. A dog barks ~ likely a visitor ~ breaking the reverie for a moment, but the water remains impassive, as does the rest of the sound field when human intrusions appear. This is not their glen, and the true sounds of the location remain constant despite efforts to overwhelm them. When one considers each in turn, one wonders about sonic pollution, and comes to the conclusion that a place such as Parbold is best experienced when entered quietly. The respect shown by Semans underlines the beauty of the area ~ we suspect this is why the fairies allowed him access and enabled him to capture such a pristine recording. But when construction equipment is heard in the final minutes, we begin to suspect that a war may be coming.
Das kleine Märchenbuch (Small Book of Fairy Tales) is advertised not as a collection of fairy tales, but as a response. In this album, Ká travels deep into the heart of the Bohemian forest where fairy tales are birthed, underlining their magic and mystery. This time, the sound of motorists intrudes in the opening track, conjuring anger in the listener. Are there no sonic spaces left untouched? If we lose the purity of the forest, do we not lose something in ourselves as well? And what happens to fairy tales? Do they give way to urban legends, a lesser and more brutish form of story? Dogs bark in “Walkers”, seeming wilder than before, a descendent of the wolves who populated earlier tales. But when farm animals greet the day in “The Drink of Nepenthe”, a bit of sanity is restored. One thinks of simpler times, in which farmers feared and respected the forest, milking their cows with one eye to the trees, wondering at night at every strange sound. Unfortunately, one of these happens to be a plane. While listening to such sad juxtapositions, one experiences a sense of gratitude for younger days spent in fantasy, wandering the fields and woods, investigating hollowed stumps and glittering river leaves. In “Before the Storm” an enchanting, Pied Piper-esque tune whispers of wonders beyond comprehension. Perhaps it is the sound of a passing minstrel, perhaps music from a passing car. “Underflow” contains a more straightforward musical recording. Will future fairy tales incorporate both ancient and new, and if so, will they retain their awful, awesome power? (Richard Allen)