Zoë Mc Pherson ~ String Figures

Turkish horses, French bees and Inuit throat singing are only a sample of the String Figures connected by Zoë Mc Pherson on her love letter to the concept of connection. No stranger to strings, the artist has also done extensive research on the history of Cat’s Cradle.  In the opening track she whispers, “it’s not just a child’s game, but a weapon for restoring harmony.”

String Figures represents a philosophical continuation of, and a sonic break from the concept of world music.  The sounds of this album were collected from around the world and across time.  Field recordings and music are blended into something more than the sum of its parts.  Mc Pherson finds a framework in which they can all flourish.  But unlike other recordings placed in this genre, String Figures is futuristic in timbre, remaining distinctive while not sacrificing its rhythmic nature.  The old sounds ~ some recorded half a century ago ~ sound new again.  The music feels vibrant and alive: not a homogenization of influences but a collection of disparate sounds; not a melting pot, but an expression of diversity.

This is never more apparent than in the use of Inuit throat singing, last encountered on Molecule’s -22.7°C.  Mc Pherson is more purposeful drawing attention to the language and practice of the Inuit, highlighting the importance of cultural preservation.  By giving the Inuit expression (not simply using them as a sound source, but as a continuing thread), she underlines their value.  You are important to me, she says.  I hear you.  One might claim that the TV adaptation of Dan Simmons’ The Terror has the same goals in mind, but few would mistake Simmons’ warning about disregarding indigenous people as the main story.

The combination of dance beats and throat singing is reminiscent of something ancient and shamanistic:  the tribal dance.  Without words, Mc Pherson implies that our current club culture originated in the practices of those who danced to weave webs both within tribes and between people and gods.  She echoes the teaching of Chief Seattle, drawing nature and beast together as one.  By integrating international sounds, she suggests the possibility of new tribes, new alliances.  While this does not seem to be the direction in which governments are headed, it does seem to be the direction in which artists are headed, testifying to the power of art as social force.  The forward-thinking direction of this music suggests the possibility of forward-thinking politics.

In the video for “Inouï (and free),” Alessandra Leone offers images that seem like telephone wires, introducing the human (albeit dehumanized) element late.  While we are connected, we have lost our awareness of that connection.  The visual element of the multi-media album hammers home the point.  While a puppet (and later an android) might rejoice that there are “no strings on me,” and a common desire is to have “no strings attached,” there is strength in woven fabric.  As John Fawcett writes, “blest be the tie that binds.”  (Richard Allen)

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