MAP010 /// Simon Whetham – Open and Closed Circles

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released March 28, 2018

Mappa invited me to make a work for cassette release. At the time I was putting finishing touches to a work for CD that was the result of 3 years of collection, distillation, presentation and consideration. I had made a conscious decision to stop composing in favour of making work for installation and performance.

However, the idea struck me to make a ‚format-specific‘ piece. For many reasons the cassette didn’t excite me in the same way as vinyl or CD. But then I considered the compact cassette as medium and artefact in various ways – mechanism, magnetism, friction, rotation, failure, repetition, fragility, ephemerality… these keywords instigated a composition process that became ‚Open and Closed Circles‘. SW

Simon Whetham (Bristol, UK) is a sound artist in a constant creative movement. During his sonic journeys, he is focusing on field recordings and through the concerts, workshops, sound installations and soundwalks he is presenting unique approaches to music composition, spatial exploration and the act of listening itself. The result is a kind of global and expanding fictional sound map without GPS coordinates.

„Using site-specific recordings does not necessarily mean one is documenting a location, but merely uncovering sounds or vibrations that surround the listener on a daily basis that they are not normally aware of or appreciate.“

Whetham is not interested in the documentary frame and visual representation of the recordings, but rather in searching for a listening space, defined by specific acoustic qualities, unknown object resonances and fluid atmospheres. Assemblage of sonic magnetism, friction, rotation, failure and repetition of the cassette medium with the environment sounds (industrial and natural) from various parts of the world reminds the process of acoustic archaeology. Context is hidden under the ground, and we hear only raw material, exempt sounds linked by unstable and abstract connections.

„Some sounds are instantly recognisable. However, each person who hears that sound will have a different image or scene in their mind that the sound has conjured. Once you accept this, you should not try to explain exactly what the listener is hearing, as they will already have something personal to bring to the piece.“

We are presenting ‚Open and Closed Circles‘ collections by Simon Whetham, which is the tenth edition in our mappa catalogue.

simonwhetham.co.uk
simonwhetham.bandcamp.com

Fifteen Questions with Simon Whetham: lnk.sk/vJZ5

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recorded and composed by Simon Whetham

mastered by Alan Jones, Laminal Audio, USA

artwork and design by Jakub Juhás, Richard Čecho

photos by Nina Pacherová, Zoltán Czakó

released by mappa as MAP010 in 2018

I would like to thank the following people and organisations for opportunities to gather the material, inspiration and energy for the work: Yujun, Tom, Ham Wall Wetlands Reserve, Birgit, Alles Kunst, Fernando, Tsonami, Open Arts Project, Sung Baeg, Amanda, Yatoo International Project, Won Gil, Mitsuko, Takashi, Bibou, Anaïs, John, Eamon, Miki, Mireya, Treasure Hill Artist Village, Goli, Kairon, Ibrahim, Titarubi. SW

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REVIEWS

2018 – 9 essential experimental field recording albums

At times “Open and Closed Circles” seems archaeological in its methods, as if undertaking the excavation of sounds buried deep within the machine. Sometimes the sounds unearthed are recognisable, such as the brief bursts of a woman’s voice speaking in Spanish in ‘Tracing the Edges’, or the clicking of buttons on old-fashioned cassette players in ‘Singing, ringing’. Most of the time, however, we’re invited into a rumbling, clattering, rushing space that exists with no other identity or meaning other than as a place for listening. Whetham’s complex and carefully considered arrangements make that listening engaging… Nathan Thomas (Fluid Radio)

There is a fine amount of crackling sounds, electric charges, magnetic sounds from electrical devices, all from around the house but also there are, so I believe, sounds from outside, machines, fences in motion through vibrating objects adding a sense of space to these recordings. While there are six pieces on this cassettes I must admit that the medium of the cassette gives the listener a hard time identifying each individual piece and I for one wasn’t paying that much attention where a track starts and stops, and simply enjoyed the whole thing as two side long collages of sound… Frans de Waard (Vital Weekly)

It’s these qualities I suppose Simon Whetham is trying to turn into virtues on the mysterious suites that occupy Open And Closed Circles, probing the skinny musculature of the medium and seeing what makes it tick. Now we must point out that he does not, in so doing, call attention to the mechanics of the situation at all, as for instance Andy Birtwistle did on his series of cassettes. In fact I’ve already mistaken these sounds as field recordings from a strange dimension, so natural and well-formed on their own terms they do be. Far from being process art, grinding tapes into dust and rubbing motors the wrong way for the sake of just doing it, this album instead emanates subtly unusual sounds possessed of an eerie charm, everything fingerprinted with Whetham’s wispy personality. I think this means we can account this experiment, even if it’s probably not a major one, a success… Ed Pinset (The Sound Projector)

Open and Closed Circles is full of scraping, grinding, churning, creaking sounds that are sequenced and layered in bizarre ways. Whetham’s compositions haphazardly but purposefully bind the timbres of unrelated objects together, creating brashly physical soundscapes that are unpredictable and erratic. But there is also a clear rhythm to the album, a subtle rotary pulse that mirrors the turning of cogs, the repetitive motion of a mechanical loop; and even though I wasn’t able to actually listen to Open and Closed Circles on cassette, it’s impossible to deny how crucial the format is to its identity… (Noise Not Music)

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