JOSEPH NECHVATAL – Selected Sound Works (1981-2021)


Suffice it to say, for starters, that Joseph Nechvatal is the author of one of the very few intelligent articles I’ve read in the last couple of years mentioning COVID-19’s connections and implications, with particular regard to present-day creativity. The short essay adds to what’s already obvious to anyone who analyzes this man’s body of work, and discovers the improbable amount of data that a forward-thinking brain can contain and express. Artists like Nechvatal represent for yours truly what little hope is left to concretely interact on rational levels. Namely, aiming at superior categories of communication as opposed to sweeping the dust of ordinariness under carpets decorated with hints to low-budget quantum-related metaphysics, probably the second most dangerous virus nowadays.

As usual, this writer must relate mainly to the sonic issues of an impressive artistic wholeness. But even for this lone aspect, an unprepared receiver could get lost. The way Nechvatal approaches the juxtaposition of aural matters goes far beyond mere abstractionism, or randomly organized chaos. The response triggered by this 28-track cassette anthology rather resembles a quick revisiting of diverse existences compressed in a single cell, whose space-time dimension contracts and expands according to the frequencies (more or less transfigured) and mnemonic reverberations that one’s able to decode. 

Fragments of mass knowledge mingle with mysterious disembodied voices; television or film sequences are intuited, but you can’t put your finger on them. A death knell rings out, its pitch altered several times without a reason before an abrupt interruption. Rock music is dismantled, reduced to its tiniest splinters, as if destroying a transistor radio had made all the microscopic musicians who were playing in there jump out of it. Men curse; orchestras liquefy. Suggestions of Oswaldian plunderphonics. It’s a wide-eyed delirium. And it’s splendid, as we reacquaint ourselves with elements that have always been within our vibrational core, only dormant until now.

The apparent contradiction in the parallelism of musical and human expressions with what appears as “noise” reveals in Selected Sound Works a thorough metamorphosis into the state of sound art. The continuous surprise becomes a coherent textural patchwork, an involuntary composition of fears, anxieties and joy submitted to the treatment of a deforming and multi-reflecting mirror. Recognizing or simply ignoring the sources does not change the result in the mind of the listeners: subjected to a training of memory, they’re also urged to instinctive reaction by the constant shifting of the acoustic stimulus.

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  1. Pingback: Massimo Ricci review of Selected Sound Works (1981-2021) | Hyper-Noise Aesthetics

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