Rodolphe Alexis: field recordings
It is not that arduous to separate the praiseworthy and the unserviceable in the world of location recordings. Rule of thumb: treat any environmental assemblage as an actual composition, and understand how it unfolds and works. The rest is explicated by a splendid phrase by Robert Lynd: “in order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.” Substitute to “birds” the word “life”, and you’re pretty close to the feelings induced by Sempervirent, published in 2012 and retrieved by mere chance inside a box lying in Touching Extremes’ dusty archives. The lone expression coming to mind after subjecting myself to three successive days with this marvel is a somewhat abused “balance of the self”. I’ll just leave it at that; words are not a requisite in most circumstances and I want to remain, first and foremost, one who learns rather than “teaching”; and, in this case, I did learn. A lot.
You can easily read anything about Alexis’ activity as the conceiver of critically acclaimed installations, or check for yourselves the list of animals, natural sources and technical means utilized for composing this gorgeous suite in the heart of Costa Rica’s protected areas; databasing what is manifest in a review is quite futile. Instead, try and approach the record as a concerto: overtures, interludes, main themes, virtuoso soloists, impressive crescendos and quieter segments. In the sphere of principled listening, there is much to acquire from hypothetically non-evolved species passing along signs of existence. A barely whispered awareness – usually departed during the verbal exchanges involving humans – defines echoes and silences, intensified by atmospheric changes or by the endless chant of insects. The qualities of the single voices, their sheer musicality, do the rest: people might be amused by a howler monkey’s grumble and dog-like barks, or astonished by a recording clarity that nearly allows to sniff the forest’s scents when a rainstorm breaks the constitutional calmness. But if forced to choose favorites, the laughing falcon is a creature that, at long last, could make us get the (aural) picture of lyrical synthesis, whereas tree frogs emit pseudo-synthetic signals of which Thomas Lehn would be envious. We feel richer with every new spin.