Peter Blamey – Forage: the sound of Kafkas Burrow.

The short blurb on the back of the beautiful Avant Whatever disc by Peter Blamey, Forage has this to say:

On these recordings, eight salvaged computer motherboards and tangled bunches of exposed copper wire form a feedback network with the aid of some small amplifiers  Moving the wire by hand makes and/or breaks any number of possible circuits, which produces and /or changes the sounds heard along the way.  As such, these recordings document a forage for signals from this small electrical environment. 

I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of this CD a few weeks back. To watch Peter at work is exciting, the large tangles of copper wire sitting almost cloud like over the computer motherboards to produce a sound that is anything other than a light touch.  However, it was after the performance, when I was able to take the time to read and listen properly to the disc, that the strength of this work was able to hit me. Of course, being a Kafka fan, it was impossible for me to not think of the creature in the burrow while listening to this music. I revert here to the work of Henry Sussman who brought The Burrow to life for me when I heard him speak earlier this year. The connection between Kafkas creature in the unfinished story The Burrow, and the work of Blamey as Forager for sounds as each is gouging a place for themselves in the endless morass of what it is to be human, becomes apparent in the realisation Kafkas creature is building a circuitry of loops which are feeding back onto itself – a motherboard if you will, that keeps it alive and more importantly gives rise to the anticipation of its own enemies. According to Sussman, “every passage of “The Burrow” is, then a textual loop of unmarked and sudden transpositions between isomorphioc strings, between unwieldly associative strands on the one hand, and that which can be reckoned, between, in other words, the calculable and the incalculable.”  This sentence may indeed be describing Blamey’s work, the man who gives the foraging sound. Note this quote from the creature in the Burrow:

I listen now at the walls of the Castle Keep, and wherever I listen, high or low, at the roof or the floor, at the entrance or in the corners, everywhere, everywhere, I hear the same noise. And how much time, how much care must be wasted in listening to that noise, with all its little pauses…

…yet it cannot be a single animal, it must be a whole swarm of little creatures, which, as they are audible, must certainly be bigger than the small fry, but cannot be very much bigger, for the sound of their labours is very faint. It may be, then, a swarm of unknown creatures on their wanderings, who happen to be passing my way, who disturb me, but will presently cease to do so.

The extended passage not included above is structured by an overarching isomorphism connected by extended chains of association from Parallel notation-systems according to Sussman. It is this that reminded me so much of the work of Peter Blamey. Its the wandering from one parallelism to the next with the same compulsive abandon employed by the creature as he explores sound through the tunnels and systems of his burrow. Just as the passage above begins with a specific identifiable noise, so Forage begins with the electronic noise seemingly distributed with a certain sort of proportional consistency  However, like the burrow itself – indeed like foraging itself, the sound soon gives way to incorporate every sort of “difference and disturbance  each one distributed on both facets or flanks of isomorphism, therefore eventuating on one side of the rift at least, in a quantitative reasoning.”  (Sussman)

At the heart of these sounds is a circuitry of reason, a convoluted intelligence network feeding back into the circuit of coding and decoding as Blamey deliberately and accidentally together allows what has been found, to be, through sound.

These notes only begin to touch on the depth of this sort of work. The sound itself is so interesting, before one even contemplates where it came from which is its own act of artistic creation.

You can still purchase copies of this remarkable disc at the Avant Whatever webs site here.

The paper I quoted Dr. Henry Sussman from is called The Calculable, the Incalculable, and the Rest: Kafka’s Virtual Environment.