amnionic site

seth nehil – amnemonic site

As many know I have collaborated for more than a decade with Seth Nehil and what follows is a collection of impressions upon listening to his most recent release for Alluvial Records.

I’ve been big on text the last few years… There are no liner notes on this release, no accompanying images (an original drawing on the cover?), no profile of the artist, not even any technical credits. The only extraneous info we find apart from the artist name, album title and label is “composed 2004-2006” and a short and direct instruction at the end of the circular inscription on the disc, “play loud”. Now normally I don’t encourage instructional use of a listening object, but in this case if it were the only piece of information relating to a CD release it can be something of an essential link to the work itself. But it’s not the only piece of information. We are also given a time frame and I’m actually wondering why. While this work may have technically been “composed” (not more?) from 2004-2006, it certainly contains a conceptual and emotional depth accumulated over a much greater period of time. Lets say Amnemonic Site is a work that has matured (fermented?) from an array of elaborate exercises in sound experimentation.

I had the pleasure to hear earlier versions of some of the tracks on this CD as well as other compositions in progress by Seth over the last few years. My consistent comments were along the lines of “slow down… its too much… the density is extreme… are you trying to prove something?”. These comments were not meant to introduce conservative measures in the musical sense. These comments were to raise more difficult issues concerning what, in this case, was the composer trying to express to the listener? Even as a colleague of 10 or more years I still felt left out and wondering at some essential message beneath the barrage of sounds. I was hearing a variety of repeated gestures and impacts, not only of various materials sounding out within a plethora of internal and external spaces, but of an author who wished to reveal the very idea of what the sounding object means to those who open their ears to listen. I was hearing layer upon layer of dense intertwined tonalities weaving endlessly in layers that age with the feeling of life and death of organic membranes. I was hearing hearing hidden voices buried under echos of distant urban spectacles as well as instruments that exist only in the sphere of electronically manipulated signals. I was hearing layered treatments of these elements drifting in and out of cognition, then recognition. I was brought beyond a threshold that seemingly was insisted upon.

At the same time there was the outside world of the potential viewer. There is my space and your space mingling with the emerging web of local, national and international identities and the formless sticky glue seemingly holding this together, electronic media. One issue that guides all perspectives in this brave new world is that of saturation, where ones personal threshold is targeted relentlessly by the weapon with the strongest signal. Too add density, even in the artistic sense, to a potentially over-saturated mind  is a risky thing. My concern with the composer was over a struggle all too personal to make a “statement” beyond the work itself in the ensuing world. In the sound world one never knows exactly how to make a statement unless its an accent to something else or an added piece built upon an already existing genre, style or class of music. While this is always an accessible potential for some it my be a threat, to face the pressure of having to make a statement when none may be inherent in the work, even if its for the sake of a mere sense of recognition.

My hope is that this work will get “recognized”, not by status or qualification but by those who seek to “listen”. May these listeners not get lost within the sea of sounds that pervade our senses in the most contemporary way (in the most formless way). I also will give one lone instruction like that of the one found on this disk, “listen”, however loud or soft you want. Without listening you will not hear. If you do not hear, you cannot act. You will be unable to react to any phenomenon beyond the limitations of the ordered world, where objects are dead and music has little meaning (other than a label to attach to a fragmented lifestyle sold to you as mold of what you endlessly desire to be). You will not know what it means to visit the Amnemonic Site of Seth Nehil, a place wholly apart from the world of reason and reference, and a place entirely immersed in sensual feeling and tactile expressions of Sound in the widest sense. However personal this “site” is, it is a place to be shared as openly as the energy of sound itself, unrestricted from borders of immediate space. Its presence  comes from lived experience, collected objects, material actions and a dialogue with the immediacy of space. The path to this site reveals a structure that is connected as an embodied being of living tissue as much as the discarded remains of the past…

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