Tomáš Šenkyřík ~ Jaro (Spring)

A short while back, we reviewed Kate Carr’s false dawn, a celebration of the dawn chorus recreated through children’s toys and percussive instruments.  We expressed concern that one day we may only be able to recall the dawn chorus through tapes and recreations.  Thankfully this is not yet the case, and we still have approximately one decade before the planet reaches the global warming threshold.  So for today, we invite our readers to relax and listen to the sound of a Moravian morning, recorded in April and suitably titled Jaro (Spring).

Czechia’s Tomáš Šenkyřík is no stranger to field recording. Holubníci is a study of pigeons and pigeon houses, while Voda investigates water in a variety of permutations.  Jaro is an explosion of life, captured while the artist’s son was asleep in his bicycle seat (see cover).  Are there better ways to start a day than in the heart of a floodplain forest?  The sounds seem unaffected by competing noise, save for a circling plane that at first annoys, then fascinates the artist.  When anthropophony intrudes on biophony, one seldom notices harmony; but Šenkyřík is a gracious listener.

The ten-minute “Nad Zakopanicou” is incredibly lush, an avian miscellany, ripe for identification.  In the sixth minute, a woodpecker (or another wood-pecking bird) provides a backbeat, nearly a tempo, exposing the thought that humans define “music” by arbitrary standards.  As the pecking increases, one thinks, “the tempo is picking up,” but it may be that the bird is warming up, or the ants are beginning to exit the holes: a breakfast buffet.

“Stromy” introduces a stream surrounded by creaking trees.  Each bough seems nearly ready to break, a foreboding timbre, at 1:40 remarkably similar to an un-oiled door.  We hope Šenkyřík was not standing directly beneath the branches.  The running water reappears in “U potoka,” sounding clean and bright, with a crackle like rain on leaves.  Were it not so early in the season, one might be tempted to wade in this stream.  Then the highlight, perhaps the raison d’être of the recording: the “Bombina bombina” – or fire-bellied toad – with plane drone.  The plaintive cry of this amphibian is as unique as its orange spottings.  One wants to bring it home to cuddle, although this would be terrifying to the little creature so we don’t recommend it.

By “Luh II,” the forest seems supersized.  The biophany is so lush, dense and dynamic that the recordist is forgotten.  One wonders what it would be like to awaken on the back of a bicycle to hear such a cacophony.  An emotional letdown follows in “Silnice 590″ (Road 590)” in an array of passing cars, which only underlines how close people pass to some of the world’s most incredible sounds without hearing them ~ or even knowing that they are there.  This juxtaposition is crucial to the recording, released on the first full day of spring, a reminder that for now at least, spring is not just a new season of television or fashion or sports, but a new season for the wild, wondrous, natural world.  (Richard Allen)

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