Miki Yui, Silence Resounding
Japanese artist Miki Yui's Silence Resounding is filled with the sounds of sprinklers and static. That sounds boring, right? Who wants to listen to 40 minutes of sprinkler and static sounds? Well, I do, if they are (as in this case) interesting. Any sound can be interesting if it is framed properly: that is, given a context and positioned in such a way that we, the listeners, hear not individual sounds but entire worlds. That's music: the creation of a world of sound. That's what Miki Yui manages to create on this recording.
What kind of a world is this? Well, I'd like to imagine that it's a world made up entirely of gophers that hate sprinklers. These are clever gophers, like the one in Caddyshack . Across the many decades of battles against sprinklers, these gophers have managed to devise technologies that can disable these sprinklers. The technology uses radio signals, which, when tuned to the correct frequency, cause the sprinklers to vibrate and, eventually, to break apart.
The album, then, tells the story of the struggle between gophers and sprinklers, the gophers' discovery of this radio technology, and their eventual victory over their metallic foe. The first two tracks ("Ancienne" and "Smoke") mix watery waves and sputtery sprinkler sounds with plodding, increasingly menacing crunching and rumbling noises. To me, these are the sounds of battles fought between animals and sprinklers, battles that take place on lawns all over this world. The next two tracks, "Out in the Dark" and "Small Fish," feature random assortments of radio static sounds; this is the development of the radio technology that will defeat the sprinklers. Next comes "Atomu," the silent, sobering interlude where the gophers mull over the coming battle (think Henry V on the night before St. Crispin's Day).
Let's keep going: "Garden" is the early morning hours, where the first salvos against the enemy are launched. It features Morse code shortwave signals that fluctuate in and out of the ether (obviously, the first attempt wasn't too successful). "Golden Dropp," however, is the tiny story of the first successful hit, where a sprinkler becomes so much wasted metal. "At A Harbour" features long, plodding waves of radio signals moving in and out of range. These are the sounds of the decisive battle. Like all battles, it's a long, hard struggle. Some radio signals hit their targets, and some do not. At times, the sounds of grumbling, decaying sprinklers can be heard, bits of metal corroding into mud.
And then there's "D.Rain." At first, everything's silent, save a few bird and water sounds. But there's no sprinkler noise-just a strange hissing, whirring sounds (reminiscent of the radio static from "Harbour") that floats in and out of this natural landscape. The war seems over. To prove it, there's "Atmos.phere," where we hear the sounds of sprinklers being torn apart, ripped of their evil force (think the end of T2 , as Ahnold drops himself into the boiling heat). At times, this track roars with the echo of sprinkler noises, but they are the last, dying gasps of a once horrible foe.
And so the album ends with "Tele," a track of rumbling, radio hiss and natural sounds. The gophers are in charge now-their technology dominates the landscape. Is it a better world? Only time will tell.
Yes, it's a stupid story, but it's Yui's and mine. She provided the soundtrack; she created the mysterious, otherworldly sounds. She gave me something to listen to-and I responded, and I imagined, and I enjoyed. Isn't that the whole point of music?
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