::: murmer ::: tether :::
LP+DL, the helen scarsdale agency, 2023
::: liner notes :::
sounds found over a 20-year period (1999-2019) within a 1300 kilometer radius
(estonia / finland / france / slovenia / uk).
mastered by james plotkin.
design by helen scarsdale. photography by adrian dziewasnki.
::: artist notes :::
In 2006, I made a collection of recordings at a mobile phone mast in Mooste, southeast Estonia. It is a guyed tower, 80 meters tall, affixed to 3 support points with heavy cables. I attached my self-made contact microphones to these cables with poster tack, and spent many hours over several weeks recording the various wind and weather variances (it was summer), and the birds that passed or settled on the tower or cables. This was one of my first visits to Estonia, where I now live, and one of the things that marked me about that experience was the access: the tower had no fences or protections around it (I have not been back there recently to answer my own question of whether or not this is still the case); it stands in the middle of a field of tall grass along a dirt road in the countryside, just out of view of the few nearby houses, and during all the hours I spent there I was never disturbed or shooed away.
For more than 16 years, I have been thinking about this location and these recordings, and have made several attempts to work with them. I have used the sounds in installations a handful of times, and uploaded one short edit to the Aporee Soundmaps, but have never managed to use them in any composed work. They always seemed too big for any structure I could provide them, whether I left them on their own, or partnered them with other sounds. Finally, in 2019, after putting them down and picking them up again repeatedly over so many years, they seemed to allow me in, although it took me another few years before they were happy with what I could offer. They stand now not quite alone – the majority of the layered sounds in the piece come from various edits of those cable recordings, but I added two other contrasting sounds, related to one another: one is snowflakes landing delicately on a plastic cakebox with microphones inside it, and the other is a frosted field of grass thawing on a lightly warming autumn morning (both these recordings can also be heard on their own on Aporee).
Coming back to those cables brought to mind so many other wind-driven sounds that I had spent time with and recorded, but never returned to, that I began digging through my archives looking for them. I ended up with a pool of sounds from resonant wires, cables, fences, poles, fans, and vents, which became the basis for the 2nd work on this release. One of these sounds is among the first sounds I ever recorded, possibly within a month or so of buying my first microphone and minidisc recorder: the rhythmic fan of a beer cooler in a pub where I worked in North London in 1999. Other sounds in the piece include another phone tower, recorded on the northern coast of France in 2008, a telephone pole recorded in the Beaujolais region in 2010, the drone of ventilator fans at a factory in Tezno, Slovenia in 2012, an electric sheep fence in the Scottish Borders in 2013, a hanging wire in a storage space in Rovaniemi, Finland in 2016, and, with no relation to cables or wind at all, calcium deposits being cleaned from the inside of an electric kettle here in Estonia in 2019.
I offer these two new pieces as my first solo publication since 2018, the first release on a physical medium since 2016. No one has ever accused me of working too fast, or being too prolific. I have a need, it seems, to leave a physical space of time around my work, before I can consider it ‘finished’. Perhaps it is a simple need to forget how I did something, or that I did something; perhaps I have a need to be able to hear a work as a first-time listener would, before I can consider it ready for such an encounter. In some part of my mind I have to forget it before I can let it go. Well, I’ve just about forgotten that London beer cooler now, and that walk in the Beaujolais (with my father, who has since passed away), and that sheep fence next to our campsite in the Borders, and that kettle that is now leaky. So I guess it’s time.
Patrick Tubin McGinley, february 2023
::: label notes :::
murmer is the long-standing project of american/estonian field recordist and composer patrick mcginley, and with tether, the helen scarsdale agency welcomes murmer back to our roster, over a decade since he graced us with his last production for the agency. his field recordings often center upon the amplification and activation of resonance from a particular space, landscape, or object. such sounds emerge from a condition as being fleeting, inconsequential, or ephemeral and explode into that which is alien, sublime, and profound. here lies the tremendous prowess of the contact microphone, as wielded by an accomplished musician! the source material cited by mcginley includes cables, fences, wires, and vents.
there is a heft to many of these sounds as heard throughout all of “taevast” with deep throbbing pulsations from arctic wind generating subharmonic patterns upon thick high-tension wires. elsewhere the subtle dissonance from a rasping cooling fan blooms into a brooding ambience that is sublimely rich in its metallic timbres and complex reverberations. mcginley has long been an exemplary artist in the field of phonography even as he is less prolific than others. on tether, he has produced a majestic if occasionally foreboding work on par with the mythic wire recordings of alan lamb, jacob kirkegaard’s haunted resonance from chernobyl, and much of the touch catalogue for that matter!
::: reviews :::
The contact microphone never seems to properly disengage itself from its environment the way that other field recording devices do – booms, mics in the wild, etc. – which makes manipulating its results all the more challenging. For how to disarticulate the vibratory from the vibration, the sound wave from the pulse that it measures and generates? There is never quite enough distance to squeeze between source and signal, and that is the strength of the two, long compositions that make up Tether by Murmer (Patrick McGinley). Whatever we hear, and how that hearing places us in turn, is routed through the rather humble appearance of metal objects in a field – fences, poles, and other intrusions within a statically charged landscape, which continue to draw Murmer’s attention over the past three decades of work.
It is enough to say that these devices form a kind of stubborn attachment for the contact microphones who amplify their otherwise inaudible echolalia, sending and scrambling all at once, wrangling and churning out an invisible miasma of noise and disturbance. What makes Tether so compelling, with or without intimate knowledge of its source material, is the way that McGinley apes and doubles this hazy field of sonic phenomena, not just playing back to us its effects, but miming and reproducing its logic and structures. How truly remarkable, then, in the closing minutes of the final cut, “maale”, that a subtle but unmistakeable pattern emerges, as if a stringed instrument were fashioned from the slow-moving swarm around it, a brief interlude, or the beginning of a language that Tether first teaches us how to recognize.
For fans of field recording, open composition with contact mics, and anyone who wonders what those machines are talking about while we sleep. Very highly recommended!.colin lang, musique machine, 2023.05.09
‘Tether’, the latest release from composer Patrick McGinley, uses recordings of a phone mast near his home in Estonia, an electric sheep fence in Scotland, and a beer cooler from a North London pub that he worked at in 1999. By manipulating and fusing these diverse sounds, he creates rich, industrial-tinged soundscapes that are full of minute detail. ‘Taevast’, the most dramatic of the two long-form pieces here, becomes a brilliant cacophonous assemblage of atypical rhythmic sounds from about seven minutes in. Wonderfully untethered, despite what the title implies.MS, electronic sound, 2023.05