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João Castro Pinto | panaural
TRB.034 | 2012/05/25 | CDR

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PANAURAL
interspersed soundwalks and soundscapes

    PANAURAL is the term that expresses Cage's idea of panaurality, i.e., the formal practice of incorporating any typology of sound into a musical piece and, in a synthetic conceptualization, the consideration that any sound can be considered music. Douglas Khan's approach to this concept can be defined as the "musicalization of all sounds", being the world a vast depository of significant aural events that can be captured, manipulated and composed. This idea of bringing extramusical sounds into musical composition (noises or concrete sounds) firstly gained form with Russolo's futurist experiences (intonarumori) and was further developed and established in contemporary music, and currently in sound art (phonography, soundscape composition, field recordings), by many other composers such as Schaeffer, Stockhausen, Xenakis, Schafer, Truax, etc...

    PANAURAL is a collection of soundwalk and soundscape pieces that encapsulates the main determinations of this concept, not only in a theoretic approach but also in an objective praxis. What this means is that these pieces are composed with sounds that were collected from multiple sound sources (concrete, synthesized and d.s.p. altered) as they are also composed in a non-orthodox way, concerning the attributed categorization of the pieces, i.e., as soundwalks and soundscapes compositions. Hence, the techniques used for the advent of the pieces have intertwined and interspersed approaches such as tape / acousmatic music & electroacoustic techniques, which generally intend to abstract the main morphologic characteristics of the portrayed sounds, rendering their identification a defying listening task, as they were also composed using techniques of soundscape composition which, in an opposite intentionality, try to preserve, and / or enhance, certain recognizable aural particularities of the natural environments from the locations where the sounds were captured, displaying both the sound events and the aural context where the sonic interrelations occur.

    This album presents three pieces: two of them were exhibited in soundwalk installations and one is an inedited soundscape composition.

    "INVOCATIO - ascribing soundImages into Silence" is a soundscape piece based on the idea of invocation (from the Latin invocatio / invocare), as an act of desire and prayer for the presence, on the profane plane, of the sacred arché, the unveiling of the primeval existential principle. This piece is inspired by Goethe's great work Faust and intends to establish itself as a short sonification of some of the most compelling passages of the book. This is a meta-soundscape composition, as one did not elaborate on / or sonically depicted an actual aural location but throughout imagination one tried to create a sonorous interpretation of the work, ascribing soundImages into Silence. This piece is a tribute to the majestic and complex hermetic symbolism encrypted in this magnum opus. Far from being a piece with a figurative narrative, concerning the book's contents, the work which is here presented constitutes an intent that recreates environments and moments that reveal transmutable and quasi-alchemical sound-plots, accordingly with the main purpose of Dr. Faust : the call for the mysterious beyond, the thirst for knowledge as an attempt to contact the Self and, moreover, the profound craving for initiation and for the achievement of the Lapis Philosophorum. Field recordings from natural locations, some objects (matches, dirt, wind microphone pops, etc..), a berimbau, sounds of furniture and synthesized / resynthesized sounds were used in this piece.

    "WATER-DREAMT-BY-FOREST: a binaural oneiric-walk" is a soundscape piece inspired by the fascinating sounds of the forest. This piece intends to figure the aliveness and aural richness of forest and countryside soundscapes, as it magnifies some of its characteristics through complex electroacoustic processes and soundscape compositional techniques. This piece is an oneiric statement, as it figures the forest as being capable of dreaming about water and humans in search of this precious existential liquid. Water is considered as the fertile symbol of life, thence, the forest also reaches towards it, craves it, dreams of it as humans do. Field recordings from crackling wood, water, wind, stones, animals, insects, walking humans, quiet soundscapes, etc... were captured by the author and used as sound sources for the creation of an immersive binaural oneiric-walk. The field recordings used for this piece were captured in the countryside in Alentejo and in Sintra's Forest.

    "CATACHRESIS" is a soundscape composition focused on the complex idea of the ambiguous denotative and connotative character of metaphors, not applied to linguistics but to the sound world. Meaning, literally, abuse, CATACHRESIS is defined as a kind of misapplication of a word, in terms of its utter significance, frequently portraying the function of referring to a concept that linguistically has no definite term or word to state its reference, that is: its denotative conceptual definition. The term CATACHRESIS is a conceptual frame to strengthen the aural ambiguity of meaning, reference and its perception. This piece presents a selection of aural events and geographic locations that explore the ambiguity of recognizable and contrasting / conflicting sound plots, by suggesting complex sound canvas fulfilled with contradicting and improbable events and juxtaposing sound frames with the intention to create a flow of intrinsic sonic unity.
    "CATACHRESIS" actually intends to forge a real soundwalk, as it tries to convince the listener that the perceived sound output corresponds to an actual linear soundwalk, i.e., a walk that could have happened exactly the way the piece is composed and presented sound wise, as one would be walking and freely recording natural landscapes. This long piece is essentially based in field recordings captured along different and contrasting natural locations as: urban sounds of the city of Lisbon; natural sounds from several locations of Tagus river (the harbor of Cais do Sodré; near Belém Tower and on the verge of flowing to the Atlantic ocean); natural sounds captured in several locations of Sintra's forest, Canterbury's Cathedral (UK) premises and inside its buildings, including recordings from instrumental music (a pipe organ) and a mass choir. In order to constitute the idea of a feasible soundwalk, the piece was composed as a continuous mix, so there is no absolute silence between its 7 parts. Minimal sound processing techniques (equalization and mixing) were used in this piece (a few electroacoustic processing occurs in the latest parts of the piece), for the main idea here is to reveal a soundscape compositional approach.

01 INVOCATIO - ascribing soundImages into Silence (2009)
soundscape piece, sonification of Goethe's "Faust"
selected and premiered at "Música Viva Festival 2009" Soundwalk Installation in Lisbon, Portugal

02 WATER-DREAMT-BY-FOREST: a binaural oneiric-walk (2011)
soundscape piece inspired by the magical sounds of the forest and countryside (locations: Sintra's Forest and Alentejo)
selected and premiered at "PNEM Sound Art Festival 2011", for the WOODWALK Experience, a Soundwalk event through the Forest; Uden, The Netherlands

03 CATACHRESIS (2012)
1) intro - searching for a way out (00:00 - 04:38)
2) immersive train journey (04:39 - 05:27)
3) flowing where the river meets the ocean (05:28 - 07:25)
4) shades of wood, metal, stones and water (07:26 - 11:41)
5) the tunnel of Ahura Mazda (11:42 - 14:37)
6) reaching the temple (14:38 - 16:45)
7) initiation (16:46 - 20:47)
soundscape composition inspired by sounds of the city of Lisbon and Tejo river (Tagus), Sintra's forest, Canterbury's Cathedral buildings / premises (UK)

total duration  30:53

all field recordings, samples, electroacoustic processing, mixing & mastering by João Castro Pinto

graphic by Themistoklis Pantelopoulos and João Castro Pinto (Paulo Urbano, source picture)

Heartfelt Thanks to Rogério A. Pinto, Maria João M. S. C. Pinto, Pedro M. S. C. Pinto, Sofia A. Carvalho, Filipe Vieira, Joana Serrão, Pedro Romano, Pedro Vistas, Manuel Magalhães, Karlheinz Essl, Bernhard Loibner, Koji Asano, Emanuel Dimas Pimenta, Paulo Raposo, Carlos Santos & Themistoklis Pantelopoulos

dedicated, in Loving memory to Helena das Dores Maia de Sampaio e Castro


reviews

    For this, the Lisbon-based sound artist's debut full-length release, João Castro Pinto has provided several hundred words to articulate both his compositional philosophy and approach. Given the sensorial delights held within the disk, the dry, academic descriptions talking about sonifications and meta-soundscapes create a barrier to what is, essentially, dream-like collages of field recordings creatively enhanced here and there by synthetic sounds and processing.
    The opening piece, 'Invocatio', is subtitled "ascribing sound Images into Silence" - which could describe pretty much any recording, but upon listening you get the idea that Pinto is literally viewing silence as his canvas on which he arranges his sounds. Deep, earthy hisses and gushes, fizzing and flowing liquids, teeming radio signals and sudden synthetic sprays all surge in and out of the sound field unpredictably, in the way heated plastic can twist, curl, bubble and burst. It's apparently a tribute to the hermetic symbolism in Goethe's Faust, its rapid alchemical alterations of found sounds perhaps reflecting the protagonist's unquenchable thirst for 'hidden' knowledge.
    Similarly, 'Water-Dreamt-by-Forest' is tantalisingly short in its quick walk through the sounds of a forest that become less recognisable and more processed the deeper into the woods we go. The rich ambience of distant wildlife - dogs, birds, crickets and owls - is filtered through the dense trees to diffuse quickly, increasingly eroded by processing to highlight the pitches within the panoply as the deathly roar of fire and life-giving flow of water together maintain a natural equilibrium.
    For Panaural's closing track we're rewarded with a much longer piece that allows its sounds more room to be fully appreciated. Deftly using the significance of a range of detailed field recordings, Pinto takes us on a fictitious journey from an urban maze to a rural shrine. Starting off amidst busy street activity, the stern chatter of men at work is followed by a train journey that terminates bizarrely on a tide. Bobbing up and down on the slow ebb and flow, tools striking wood and metal suggest a fence is being erected channeling us towards an island filled with exotic birdcalls and mysterious chimes gently provoked by the wind. Here a rising church organ gradually grows portending the final segment's 'initiation', filled with the deep, persistent sonorities of bell-ringing that grow in intensity as choristers close the rite.
    By carefully revealing synthetic and processed sounds from within vivid sequences of recognisable natural sounds Pinto has created a set of imagined journeys as rich as a film or television drama, yet one where the images come from within the listener. As such it is a brightly lit, enthusiastic display that, in its brevity, leaves the listener wanting more.


    Enhanced field recordings, sometimes drastically so, sourced largely from forests and featuring the kinds of sounds one expects, especially insects. A lot of electronics wends its way through and there's a refreshing kind of "rudeness" to some of it, a blatant aspect that can be a welcome tonic to the more typical, subtler approach. There was clearly a good deal of thought involved in constructing the three pieces here (totaling only about 1/2 hour) and the accompanying text goes to some lengths to point out the ideas behind the work. All well and good, yet why do I not hear the same magic as in, say, the most wondrous pieces of Ferrari? Still a vexing question for me: why some augmented field recordings work so well, why others languish. Pinto's works aren't bad, they're perfectly listenable, but don't leave the same lasting impression on me, don't have the same dreamlike impact. The 20-minute "Catachresis" comes closest, especially in the mix of PA announcements, birds and sine-like tones, almost up to a Pisaro level but elsewhere, loud church bells and birds sounds heavy-handed.


    Talking about the formal practice of incorporating any typology of sound into a musical piece, John Cage is named in the very first line of the press sheet of 'Panaural'. But this is just one of the illustrious names mentioned throughout the presentation of the work. Douglas Khan, Russolo, Shaeffer, Stockhausen, Xenakis, Schafer, Truax are all figures that are recalled in the introductory words about this new record by João Castro Pinto.
Interesting indeed. Pretentious maybe. What does the listener should expect from such flattering description?
    All the fears and doubts disappear after listening just the beginning of the first track. Paraphrasing the description of the piece, the listener is brought into a meta-soundscape composition that ascribes sound images into silence. The compositional degree of complexity of the audio material is extremely high revealing the artist's great confidence with what we could easily describe as concrete music. The soundscape is always in motion, the boundaries between the audio materials are constantly blurred by means of rapid shifts, sudden silences and subtle morphing of the sound sources. Everything is recorded and edited with great care and attention. Very effective use of all the traits of the recordings, even the smallest and somewhat insignificant aural detail is here considered as a fundamental block that characterizes and carves the resulting soundscape piece.
    The second track is as effective as the first one, yet different in terms of structure and intents. Here the audio material consists of field recordings from crackling wood, water, wind, stones, animals, insects, walking humans, quiet soundscapes that were captured by the author and used as sound sources for the creation of an immersive binaural oneiric-walk.
    For the third track I will literally make a "copy and paste" of the description provided in the press sheet as I find it extremely well crafted and it lets us understand perfectly the direct intentions of the sound artist himself without any personal and subjective interpretations:
"Catachresis (the title of the third track) is a soundscape composition focused on the complex idea of the ambiguous denotative and connotative character of metaphors, not applied to linguistics but to the sound world. Meaning, literally, abuse, Catachresis is defined as a kind of misapplication of a word, in terms of its utter significance, frequently portraying the function of referring to a concept that linguistically has no definite term or word to state its reference, that is: its denotative conceptual definition. The term Catachresis is a conceptual frame to strengthen the aural ambiguity of meaning, reference and its perception. This piece presents a selection of aural events and geographic locations that explore the ambiguity of recognizable and contrasting / conflicting sound plots, by suggesting complex sound canvas fulfilled with contradicting and improbable events and juxtaposing sound frames with the intention to create a flow of intrinsic sonic unity. Catachresis actually intends to forge a real soundwalk, as it tries to convince the listener that the perceived sound output corresponds to an actual linear soundwalk, i.e., a walk that could have happened exactly the way the piece is composed and presented sound wise, as one would be walking and freely recording natural landscapes. This long piece is essentially based in field recordings captured along different and contrasting natural locations as: urban sounds of the city of Lisbon; natural sounds from several locations of Tagus river (the harbor of Cais do Sodré; near Belém Tower and on the verge of flowing to the Atlantic ocean); natural sounds captured in several locations of Sintra's forest, Canterbury's Cathedral (UK) premises and inside its buildings, including recordings from instrumental music (a pipe organ) and a mass choir. In order to constitute the idea of a feasible soundwalk, the piece was composed as a continuous mix, so there is no absolute silence between its 7 parts. Minimal sound processing techniques (equalization and mixing) were used in this piece (a few electroacoustic processing occurs in the latest parts of the piece), for the main idea here is to reveal a soundscape compositional approach."
    It should be clear by now that João Castro Pinto knows exactly what he is doing with sounds even, and maybe foremost, from a conceptual point of view. Nothing is left to chance. In these pieces the artist shows no fear to be compared with the names listed at the beginning and the listener should rapidly give him credit for what he has made on these pieces. 'Panaural' is not an easy listening, it requires attention to be thoroughly appreciated. But once you get into it, you cannot deny the objective value of this record: artistically, conceptually and technically one of the best episodes of the Triple Bath catalogue.


    Panuaral is the term that expresses Cage's idea of panaurality, i.e. the formal practice of incorporating any typology of sound into a musical piece and, in a synthetic conceptualization, the consideration that any sound can be considered music". I am sure I heard music by Joao Castro Pinto before as he had released on Sirr-ecords, Creative Sources, Grain Of Sound, Variz and Useless Poorductions, but I simply don't see to recall what it sounded like. His three pieces on 'Panaural' deal with soundscapes and sound walks, and perhaps Pinto uses a lot of - interesting - words to say that he creates music with field recordings and computer technology. And as such he does quite interesting things with it. It's not strict field recordings material, and sometimes even hard to recognize, but more a matter of musique concrete/electro-acoustic music, which is for a great deal based on field recordings. Pinto uses the collage form and as such is quite related to people like Marc Behrens or even more so, Roel Meelkop. In 'Water-Dreamt-By-Forest', the movements are a bit too rapid perhaps, but the slower constructed (and much longer) 'Catachresis' is quite nice and very Meelkop like. Excellent, perhaps a bit short release.