What Are The Roots That Clutch
CD HMS 022
A Closer Listen
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish? Son of Man, you cannot say, or guess, for you know only a heap of broken images ….
T.S. Eliot’s words ring true in this Wasteland; although the dry stone (gives) no sound of water, the sound of water can still be extracted, as can those of fire and frogs, drawn from a parched earth, coaxed from their environs, scattered and re-gathered like Eliot’s heap of broken images, a fallen deck of cards, shuffled by happenstance, a modern reflection of John Cage’s I Ching manner of composition. In this project, planes and birds co-exist, although they may not have been recorded together. This is an experiment in sound management, a question not of taxidermies, but of seemingly unrelated, complementary tones.
The whole thing started with a ventilator duct. Patrick McGinley (Murmer) fell in love with its sullen sound and wanted more. And so his quest began: hunting and gathering the finest of field recordings to throw into his toybox, a heap of sounds, yearning to be sorted through, individually recognized, cherished again. Little did these sounds know that they would be re-contextualized. What Are The Roots That Clutch tackles relation through juxtaposition. Dragged metal meets drone. Sleet meets signal noise. The crucial factor is not the who, what, where, when or how, but the with. What branches grow out of this stony rubbish? Branches of cold, dead leaves, impossibly appearing amid the mass of frequencies, stretching veins toward a sun that never rises. Natural, unnatural or hybrid? Only McGinley knows for sure; for the rest of us, this genome has not yet been mapped.
Murmer is the proper name for McGinley’s project; in the third movement, a gentle murmur surfaces, barely beyond the realm of comprehension, enough to make the listener lean forward. Is a message buried in the words, or hidden in the fluctuating timbres? By the closing piece, the rock has been overturned, and the artist’s quietude gives way to extremely active tones. Suddenly, the speakers are alive with chains, scrapes and melodic tones, a potpourri of immediacy. The broken images have been made whole. Voices (sing) out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells. -- Richard Allen