::: periodic exercises in (f)utility
[homework 2016-2022] :::

::: murmer ::: periodic exercises in (f)utility [homework 2016-2022] :::
2CD+DL, kokeshidisk [tâalem], 2023

::: liner notes :::

  1. the docks sing in strange tongues 20:44
  2. echo surveys: viljandi (reimagined) 15:49
  3. water, oil, grain 15:48
  4. nail down your ghosts 10:30
  5. echo surveys: nuti (reimagined) 23:24
  6. thaw and timber 24:13

i work slowly, and sometimes i work not at all. so having an open invitation from taâlem to create work at the end of each year, especially as winter is setting in and it is beginning to feel like i’ve done nothing all year (i haven’t, but it can feel that way), comes as an energy boost, a reassurance, and an opportunity to resurrect some confidence, and a sense of worth. so i push myself to take that opportunity – and have done so each year since the project began (aside from the year in which my father died, explaining the 2019 gap) – and i thank jean-marc for providing it. in many, in fact almost all, of the years represented here, my piece for homework was the only work i published. indeed, this collection is sandwiched by my two most recent (physical) releases: songs for forgetting was released in late 2016, just before the docks sing in strange tongues appeared on homework 1, and tether was released in early 2023, several months after thaw and timber was published on homework 7. so this collection could be viewed as my complete sonic journey over those 7 years, digging in archives, showing off newly discovered sounds, and all in all attempting to prove to myself that it is all for something, that the tape should keep rolling, and that i must pay attention, because my homework will soon be due.

track notes:

the docks sing in strange tongues (2016)
objects and situations found in rovaniemi, hamburg, mooste, põlgaste, tallinn, and bordeaux between 2003 and 2016. title found in the poem of the same name by panos panagiotopoulos.

echo surveys: viljandi (reimagined) (2017)
echo surveys is an ongoing series of activities including performances, workshops, installations, and compositions that consist of site-specific sonic interventions; all sounds heard are produced and/or recorded in a chosen space, using only materials found therein. this ‘reimagined’ work adds a new layer; it is based on a live performance at the noisy november festival at supersonicum in viljandi, estonia on 2017.11.17, and is composed from the initial field recordings made in the space for use in the performance, as well as from the recording of the performance itself. also participating in the performance and therefore in this composition were erik alalooga and taavi suisalu (the event organiser and other performer on the bill that night, respectively) and a number of members of the public.

water, grain, oil (2018)
water, fingers, and nylon string (france, 2008); disturbed ants (finland, 2014); panelia mill grinding wheel (finland, 2009); empty oil tank interventions (latvia, 2008)

nail down your ghosts (2020)
source material recorded in an abandoned and now-demolished house in the estonian town of valga in october 2019. sonic interventions performed, and elements subsequently reworked, by liisa hirsch and patrick tubin mcginley, 2019/2020. composed from those elements in june 2020. originally created for the short film to crumble into clouds above your living room by anna hints, commissioned as the estonian contribution to the 2020 venice biennale of architecture, postponed to 2021 due to the covid-19 pandemic.

echo surveys: nuti (reimagined) (2021)
in november, 2020 i participated in an event curated by shawn pinchbeck for BEAMS (the boreal electroacoustic music society) in canada entitled together apart… an evening of audio wonderments. it was to be another online concert in response to the covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, but due to the time differences for artists spread throughout north america and europe, we were given the opportunity to pre-record our performances. this allowed me to create a piece in our half-renovated farmhouse in the estonian countryside, from which a live stream would have been impossible to organise. the piece streamed online on the night of november 21st, and was then briefly archived on BEAMS’ twitch page. i then made this ‘sound film’ available permanently online (murmerings.com/2021/01/echo-surveys-nuti/). for this release i reimagined this work for sound only, editing a piece together from the original live performance recordings and the sources used therein.

thaw and timber (2022)
dripping woodshed roof (estonia, 2022); railings at the bfm (estonia, 2022); thawing earth (estonia, 2022); water heater (france, 2008); toddler making feedback (estonia, 2020); sodablasting log walls (estonia, 2020); inside kreenholm (estonia, 2017); baltijaam wall (estonia, 2011)

photographs by patrick tubin mcginley
design by désaccord majeur
mastered by flavien gillié

a kokeshidisk release – kodi 14 – september 2023

::: reviews :::

As Taalem sees a restart (see elsewhere), so is their sub-division Kokeshidisk. The mothership Taalem releases a yearly Bandcamp digital-only, pay-as-you-want compilation called ‘Homework’, and for seven years, they have been doing this every year, resulting in a massive album (always announced in Vital Weekly). I am unsure why they selected Murmer to collect his pieces from six (one year he was absent because his father died) and someone else. Other, of course, then they think these are good pieces. Murmer likes to submit relatively long pieces to compilations, hence the double disc. Patrick Tubin McGinley, the man behind Murmer, isn’t the most active musician in the releasing CDs (cassettes, vinyl) department. He’s a man of words, and for each of the six pieces, there is a list of sound sources and inspirations for titles. For many years, he has lived in Estonia and is very active with field recordings, which he incorporates in music, installations, workshops, etc. His primary interest lies in finding sustaining and minimal sounds. ‘The Docks Sing In Strange Tongues’, the first piece here, collects sounds from various harbours and in the mix, it all makes a very coherent, minimalist music piece, which reminded me of Ingram Marshall’s ‘Fogtropes’. This piece sets the tone for the other five. In each of his works, Murmer uses a limited set of sounds, different sounds, that is, and these are cleverly woven together. Nothing stays for very long in the place, as Murmer uses a variety of lengths, so there is never the same overlap. In that respect, he reminds me of the sadly recently deceased Steve Roden. It bears the same tranquillity, the same effective sparse use of sound sources and working within limitations to a significant effect. His field recordings are usually entirely obscured, which adds to the beauty of it all. In ‘Echo Surveys: Nuti’, there are wind chimes, and in ”Echo Surveys: Viljandi’ birds, perhaps. Water sounds in ‘Water. Grain. Oil’, maybe, but whatever else? I don’t know. Murmer uses quite a bit of filtering (at least, so I believe) and prefers darker sounds. This, too, adds to the ambient quality of the music. It is an excellent release, which begs the question: why isn’t there more of Murmer available?

frans de waard, vital weekly 1403