Each Morning of the World ~ East Asia PhoNographic Mornings

Another half-year has passed, and another series of soundscapes from Stéphane Marin‘s Each Morning of the World project is complete.  This year, the series has continued its slow, thoughtful trek around Asia, moving from the Southeast to the South to the East.  But there’s something new this year as well, as our way of listening has changed.  Six months ago, we were pre-pandemic, and enjoyed the sounds of morning as a respite from a busy world.  Post-pandemic, we receive such recordings as reminders that life is still vibrant and colorful despite our imposed black-and-white existence.

Given this context, the raucous nature of the opening track is shocking ~ few of us have been around so many people for months.  Dickson Dee’s piece combines the sounds of multiple streets, in what we glean is the heart of a Hong Kong protest movement.  The immediacy is a reminder that there are other troubles in the globe apart from COVID-19, and that some lockdowns are not about disease.  After this, Sun Wei’s “Two kinds of winds in Kangrinboqe” marks a sudden comedown, creating sharp contrast: the chaos v. the centering.  Then Juan Carlos Vasquez combines forms in “A Chinese Triptych,” including sounds from “the rural, the industrial and the digital China.”  One of the most intriguing soundscapes in the project, this piece invites the listener to hear not contrast, but synthesis.  Yet one seemingly innocuous sound – a cough – seems like foreboding.

Diane Hope’s “Korean Temple Dawn” is a real treasure: the sound of a ceremony welcoming a new monk.  The artist writes that the surrounding gravel is meant to announce the sound of assassins, which makes field recording a challenge.  But the pride of the ceremony shines through.  The joy of kindergarten song rubs against the tranquility of ceremonial chant and cicada in Georg Klein’s “Myohyang,” producing a sense of multiple mornings.  A less comfortable, but equally engaging practice is captured in Simon Whetham’s “8 hour day.”  This morning follows a night of hook-up rituals in Busan, South Korea, which left the artist emotionally overwhelmed, looking forward to the quietude.  While most of the set meets this desire for peace, “Moganshan Lu Pile Driver” and the end of the track by Torturing Nurse head in harsher directions – although in the latter case, the moniker is a tipoff.

Nature sounds abound: constant reminders of the natural world that surrounds us, and is affected by us ~ although it knows little of protest or pandemic.  In marshes and ponds, parks and ports, we hear frogs, carp, birds (in C-drík’s piece, lots of. birds), and eventually the gutting of squid (glad there’s no video for that) and a destructive wind.  We remember that the world lies in delicate balance.  Humans can knock it off balance, but ironically humans also pursue experiences in nature in order to restore their own inner balance.  This seemingly incongruity lies at the heart of this thought-provoking set.  (Richard Allen)

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