Surroundings first emerged as a site-specific sound performance commissioned for the Hamon Observation Tower at the de Young fine arts museum in San Francisco.
Yann Novak used the museum’s striking architecture to shape a spacious world of glistening, natural sound, and Surroundings explores its clean atmosphere. On top of that, a quiet array of field recordings, captured nearby in Golden Gate Park, bleed into gently layered synthesized drones; it inhabits a carefully balanced, settled space.
The light drone is inflated with a spell of liberated, risen air. Up above, a soft breeze blows against the cusp of the tower’s glass, and a kinder, barely-stirring wind blows through the park, rustling silent blades of grass. The music is glass-like, mirroring the tower. It somehow curves and is clear to the point of being translucent. It provides a great view – one of the best – of a city and its emerald stripes. Distant murmurs hint at a breathing city lying just on the horizon. Sounds quietly enter the music’s inner circle, passing through like a passenger jet on final approach, just a tiny blip on the radar, but instead of distancing itself from the noise, Surroundings chooses to embrace it. San Francisco’s heartbeat is here, with her admirable liberal qualities proudly displayed, accepting people from all walks of life.
The unobtrusive field recordings flow quietly, a streamlined source of sound surrounding the drone in a completely natural way. Everything is co-existing, all living in harmony with each other. A hundred lanes of grinding traffic converge and split, and a vast network of tributaries dissect the concrete blocks. Despite the downtown deadlock, Surroundings is a beautifully meditative piece, gazing upon the city with adoring eyes. It echoes the symbiotic relationship existing between the museum and the park, and between the park and the rest of the city. All is one – one unified state, one unified drone. (James Catchpole)